New exhibition looks at history of Longsands School

Former 1960's needlework students at Longsands School.

Former 1960's needlework students at Longsands School. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

An exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of the opening of Longsands School, In St Neots, opens this week.

Celebrations to mark the occasion were due to take place last year, but the pandemic meant they had to be cancelled. The St Neots Museum opens its exhibition on June 9 and this will run until August 7. 

Curator Liz Davies said: "We are still collecting information and photographs for the exhibition, so if you have items that you would be willing to lend, please get in touch."

Bushmead Secondary School, in Eaton Socon, opened in February 1958, serving the the Eatons and many local rural villages in east Bedfordshire, but many families in St Neots felt St Neots needed a more central secondary school.

Longsands School was still being built as the first 11-year-olds were welcomed to their classrooms on a grey rainy day in September 1960.

Longsands School opened in September 1960.

Longsands School opened in September 1960. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

"Some past pupils still have vivid memories of the day that Longsands School opened. They told us it was a rainy day with water everywhere and pupils had to gather on the tarmac outside," says Liz.

"They said the school was noisy with building work still going on and it was muddy as part of the school was a building site and it was several months before it was finally finished."

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One former pupil, Rodney Todman, recalls: "Starting as a pupil at the brand new Longsands Secondary School, in a smart new uniform, was the dawn of a new era."

The school also impressed many local students who had come from the St Neots Council School as it had warm air central heating and roller blackboards.

The first headmaster of the the new school, a Mr Whiting, also made a strong impression with some pupils describing him as "a rather frightening man". He wore a black academic gown which would flow out behind him as he marched down the school corridors and pupils would stand aside, backs to the wall, to let him pass.

Longsands staff in 1967.

Longsands staff in 1967. - Credit: ST NEOTS MUSEUM

Longsands football team which includes John Gregory who went on to play professional football.

Longsands football team which includes John Gregory who went on to play professional football. - Credit: ST NEOTS

Another teacher recalled by early pupils was the needlework teacher, Jill Handley, and pupils can be seen in photos modelling clothes made in her classes.

Discover the story of the school from the opening day to more recent times in this new exhibition at the St Neots Museum, from June 9. 

More info about the museum at:  www.stneotsmuseum.org.uk.

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