‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Firsts – First School – Stainbeck Preparatory School – Stainbeck Lane near Chapel Allerton. Growing up in Leeds in the 1950s-60s.

This is likely to be my last blog until the New Year as I will be busy with visitors, but we shall see. My grandchildren will be staying with me over Christmas and it is only when I look at them that I realise how quickly they change and develop new skills. When I was young I certainly wasn’t aware how rapid these changes were and with my own children we tended to be so exhausted that each day was a challenge and we didn’t have the time to reflect as much. In my own past there were some landmarks that I remember well. The first was learning to read.

Bank View-5 blog
I believe this is the house that was Stainbeck Preparatory School

My first school was Stainbeck Preparatory School and it wasn’t far from my grandmother’s house in Chapel Allerton. My mother valued education and wanted the best for her sons. My older brother had changed from a school near Oakwood that closed and somehow she found Stainbeck. I think there was a recommendation from one of her friends who lived in Ladywood near Oakwood. The school was small and  occupied one large old house off Stainbeck Lane. It was owned by the Headmistress. I thought it was Mrs. Genge, but I have been told by a reader that she was a Miss. There was a uniform and it was a bright red blazer for the boys and a cap. The badge was a shield with the interlocking letters SPS. I think the girls wore a dark blue pinafore dress in winter and a lighter check dress in summer. We had to change our shoes when we came in and named pumps were stored under the staircase. I started this school at four, which was a year earlier than most schools at the time. There was no playground, but a flat paved area at the back of the house and then a rockery that led down onto what would have been the garden. I remember there were some old apple trees. The lane, I think it is Bank View, that led down to the school was unpaved and there was a large hawthorn hedge on the right hand side and lovely big houses on the left. The school had high ceilings and a big staircase and in its day must have been quite an impressive house when it was a home. As a school, the floors were bare or linoleum covered at best. Classes were small and I remember two teachers. One was Miss Cowling and she and I came to blows at one point and the other was Miss Shepard and she was quite young for a teacher and I liked her. There was no space for gym or any other activities and we used to go out of the school up the hill a little, cross the road and use the small community hall for country dancing and other activities. Being my first school and having my older brother there, I loved it.


Bank View-1 blog
One of my classrooms. The advent calendar was to the right of the window with the tree in the alcove.

We were living up Easterley Road way at this time and we caught a bus down to Harehills and then had to catch another outside the Yorkshire Penny Bank that took us up the hill past Potternewton Park, past Chapel Allerton Hospital, to Chapel Allerton and then left onto Stainbeck Lane. It was quite a journey for an eight year old brother leading a four year old, but in these times there was no alternative. My mother needed to work and so we made the journey twice a day. I was always a little scared of the double decker buses with the open backs and when stressed I would have nightmares where I was on the bus and somehow I would be pulled towards the open back. It didn’t matter how hard I held on to the bars, but eventually I was pulled nearer and nearer to the back and eventually off. This was the point I woke up. My older brother always did a good job looking after me and I don’t think there was ever any problem. I loved the ticket machine and for some reason the big red bell buttons that said ‘press once’.

A page from the exercise book I put my name on the wrong side. The Ys don’t look too bad on this page. (1961)

I do remember being taught to write and for some reason we were taught to write in block capitals and then cursive writing. We were never taught printing and I had to teach myself when I started teaching many years later. I remember always writing my capital Ys backwards. (I had to explain to my wife how this was possible. I used to do it with one long line on an angle and one short one joining it.) Stories were wonderful and we learned about Brer Rabbit, Aesop’s Fables and my favourite, The Little Red Hen. I was given the book as a prize for learning to read. Janet and John was the scheme for early readers.  Who could not have been enthralled by the story telling? ‘Run Janet run,’ ‘Run Spot run,’ Run John run.’ Maybe a little limited in the art of the narrative, but it worked and soon I was hooked by the excitement of the written word. The pleasure that can be gained from sharing the thoughts and adventures from other people’s imagination is still  amazing, and, for me, one of life’s real delights. Teachers seemed to read stories a great deal at this time and Enid Blyton was very popular. Her books went out of fashion for many years, but have returned in recent years.  The ones I loved the best were the Faraway Tree Stories.

Appletree Farm book and picture 1961

One of my first memories was going on a walk with the teacher out of the back of the school garden, along a lane to fields. We were told the fields belonged to Mr. Bean’s Farm. I am not sure if there was a Farmer Bean or whether it was a convenient name, but we looked at the hedgerows, the rich brown earth and when we returned to class we had to draw pictures of what we had seen. The class made a model on a painted board using toy farm animals, tractors and other items to recreate the farm.

Bank View-3 blog
The rockery where my friend and I built little mine shafts with sticks holding up the roof as supports.

I only remember a couple of bad things happening at school and one was my run-in with Miss Cowling. At the start of the day, as we entered school, we had to take our outside shoes off and put on our pumps. They didn’t have laces and were the black slip-on ones. I got ready and we waited to go into the classroom. Miss Cowling was in a bit of a fluster as one girl couldn’t find her pumps. She searched the collection of pumps under the stairs and for some reason decided that I had the wrong pumps on. As a four year old, I was quite put out and indignant at the suggestion I had anyone else’s pumps. I was told to take mine off, which I did angrily and threw them at the teacher. I am not sure who was more surprised, Miss Cowling or me! When she checked, they were mine, but I don’t remember any apology, but I similarly don’t remember any reprimand.


The second upsetting incident was getting my first exercise book. Up to this point we had only used pieces of paper, but we must have been deemed good enough writers  to have an exercise book. The books were thin and had plain pages alternating with the lined, dotted third pages. We were told to write our names on the cover, which I did. The mistake was that the books had no indication which was the front and which was the back and, as a result, I wrote my name on the back with the book upside down. The teacher I had then didn’t worry, but I did. This has stuck with me all my life, as has the book. I didn’t realise it, but my mother kept that book and I still have it and I have scanned the evidence for public shaming.

I do recall one Christmas concert that we did. My older brother and I were both in it, I believe. I can’t remember too much but we had to dress as red Indians in it. My father brought sacks home from Cattons Foundry for mum to turn into Indian costumes. The sacks were washed and dyed brown and with a bit of work were turned into tunics with a belt of rope. We then had headbands and a feather. I do clearly recollect the uncomfortable nature of rough hessian sacks on the skin. They were very itchy and we both suffered for our art. The performance was in the evening and we were driven over to Stainbeck Road to a church hall, I think, for the concert.Untitled

My older brother took his Eleven Plus four years before me and he left Stainbeck for high school. I stayed on until I was seven, but my time there was cut short by the sudden death of the headmistress and the subsequent closure of the school. For all its shortcomings, as far as qualified teachers and facilities were concerned, the school had taught me to read, love learning and set me up for life. The last couple of years from the age of five I had had to travel on two buses to and from school on my own. This made me independent and self-assured and when Mr. Harold Wilson, the new head of Harehills County Primary, asked me to read to him, and the only book he could find, as he unpacked in his office on his first day, was the Bible, I read with confidence and clarity. From this Mr. Wilson placed me in the top class, much to my mother’s relief. I believe a friend of mine from Stainbeck Prep School, Paul Banks, also started Harehills  and eventually we both moved on to Roundhay School.

I was given an autograph book before I left Stainbeck Prep School and I remember Miss Blackmore signing it for me. She wrote ‘a few lines from a poor poet’ and then ruled three straight lines and signed it. As a seven year old, I didn’t really understand it, but at least she did it for me, which made me happy.

I came across a couple of reports and my exercise books from Stainbeck Preparatory School after I wrote this blog. My mother gave me a pile of things she had saved. I was looking for the books as  I knew she had kept them, and came across  the reports. The pictures of the house, which I believe is the school, are from a real estate site.

Something for those who want to think summer.

34 Replies to “‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Firsts – First School – Stainbeck Preparatory School – Stainbeck Lane near Chapel Allerton. Growing up in Leeds in the 1950s-60s.”

      1. Hi David, I was over the moon to read this. I attended SPS Oct 1949 till July 1956 then Lawnswood High because we moved to Adel. As far as I remember, albeit a long time ago, “Miss Genge” was a divorced Mrs. Howarth who reverted to her maiden name 0f Radcliffe Genge as having her adopted daughters Felicity, Yolanda, Roxanna and Deborah would, in those days, be embracing to be titled “Miss”
        I’m no technophobe so I hope this reaches you. Best regards Janet Ball who lived at 210 Stainbeck Lane in the ’50’s

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you Janet. I hope it brought back some happy memories. I got an email from a lady who was there and it turned out she was then, Miss Blackmore. She had been my teacher and she had attended as a student. I still have some more memories from then and I have copies of the school reports. Lovely to hear from you.


      3. Hello again David

        Now I know my e mail worked I’ve more to say.

        I suspect you are probably younger than me, I’m 75 in October. In my day, Miss Cowling was in charge of the kindergarten and it was held in the Methodist church hall on the opposite side of Stainbeck Lane. I think she may have been something to do with the Girl Guides too The older girls were assigned to taking her a Thermos of coffee mid morning.

        We also had assembly in there but I’m not sure if it was every day as getting that lot across the road, which I think was a bus route, and back would have been a nightmare. I presume the shoes under the stairs were the those leading up to the stage as I don’t recall us doing that in the main school.

        I may be wrong but I’ve a feeling there may have been 2 houses as Mrs. G and her 4 daughters lived on site and she also had an office. Mrs. G had a vision which she was able to realise. I think she was only about 50 when she died, if that. I had elocution lessons from her for 6 years. I’ve had tongue cancer and part of my tongue was removed in 2008. My speech is 99% perfect, unless I’ve drunk too much wine, and I feel I owe that to her wonderful teaching.

        I made contact with Felicity, now in Canada, when Friends reunited were up and running, and she told me that when their mother died, Mrs. Johnson, who taught Geography, took Roxanna and Deborah into her own home and looked after them. I also remember Mrs. Heaviside, Miss Peel (nature) and Miss Parker, we all went to watch her get married.

        WHERE did you get that photo of the house, especially the interior one? I left Leeds in 1974 and have lived in West London ever since, but think that the school building may have at one stage been a trendy restaurant.

        I remember when we got to school we passed the boys toilets on our right when we came in. Haven’t a clue where the girls loo was but I must have used it.

        I also remember those steps to the playground which the school bully ran down 2 at a time yelling that he’d passed his 11+. I think several of us were secretly praying he’d fall and break his neck!

        I recognized Mrs. G’s signature on your report as I won 2 books as prizes, Pilgrims Progress and Children of the New Forest. I’ve still got them but never read them!

        I cant picture her but I knew Carol Blackmore!! I think she lived on Stainbeck Road, possible 80 now? I also contacted her via Friends reu. She remembered me and, now I come to think of it, she did say she’d gone back to teach.

        Right well thank you so much for rekindling my memories which were very happy ones. Are you still in Leeds?

        Your article was absolutely fantastic and if you wish to use any of my memories at any time you are very welcome to do so.

        Kind regards


        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks Janet.
        Yes you would have been there before me. Miss Cowling was my teacher and I threw my indoor shoe at her as she said I had someone else’s. The photo I found on a real estate site. I live in Perth Western Australia now and have been here since 1992. I was back in Leeds in May. I loved Stainbeck Prep School and it was a shame it had to close. I thought it was two houses. I will share some more memories in the future. Very best wishes, David


  1. I love these, being a kid of the same generation. While you were at Stainbeck, I was attending East Keswick County Primary, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get around to writing about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew East Keswick quite well as a friend of my older brother had family we visited there. Have a go at writing. It is very therapeutic and I had some lovely comments and conversations. You might get the odd person who can also get a bit nasty, but that says more about them.


      1. Hi David, I have just come across this article and ypu have brought back some amazing memories. I actually do remember you as we eere in se class and had similar experiences. I left at same time as you and had to learn to print . Went to school by bus on my own too. I was ill with appendicitis whilst there and was off for a while. My name was Linda Norton. I still live in Leeds.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Linda, It is great to hear that we shared the same experiences at such a young age. I loved my time then and I am so glad that they were good times for you, apart from the appendicitis. I don’t get beck to Leeds as often as I would like and it may be a while before I can again, but I always enjoy myself when I’m back. The parks, countryside and history are wonderful, and of course the Yorkshire folk! I hope that you enjoy some of my futeure memories of Leeds and growing up.


  2. Hi David
    Fantastic blog. The pics bring back more memories.
    I used to live at 195 Stainbeck road as a child.
    I mentioned in the other comments someone being tied to a tree. It could have been a lad called Barbalett. But who knows.
    I was 4 when I started and left so need the memory jogging now I’m 62.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Paul
      I’m 64 and the memory sometimes has holes. I am so pleased you enjoyed it. It seems that so many of us shared such similar experiences growing up. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family. From a very hot Perth Western Australia.


  3. I have just come across your wonderful blog, My name is Jacqueline Bunce (Swann was my maiden name)
    Went first to the Kindergarten across from the school, I think I was three and a half, so 1950.
    It was a wonderful school, when I first went to SPS I lived in Meanwood, then we moved to Floral Avenue just off Scott Hall road. Remember the tuck shop very well, black Jacks and Fruit salads, liquorice sticks and sherbert.
    I had elocution lessons, and ballet lessons.
    Seemed to think the cloakroom was downstairs like a cellar, may be wrong, I had my first kiss down there, think he was called Michael Morris, could be wrong it was around 65 + years ago.
    Left in 1958
    Will look for some class photos, and post them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes the girls toilets were down some steep stairs in the cellar.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello. Very interesting blog. My name is Gary Cairns and I attended the school in 1962 when I was 4. I was only there a few months so my recollections are a bit vague to say the least. One thing I will never forget though is sitting next to a teacher reading the class a story ( I think is was the female head teacher) when she had a heart attack. All the kids in the class ran into the next classroom to summon help. I think she passed away and the school closed shortly afterwards. It happened in the ground floor classroom to the right of the door in the photo. A few months later I went on to attend Fir Tree Primary School in Moortown. Happy days…….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gary, Mrs Genge was the head and it would not have been a pleasant experience. I was at school that day, but not in that class. Mrs Genge’s daughters have also read the blog and another teacher. A lovely little school. I have many happy memories of being there.


    2. I was at that school too but fortunately did not witness this event. I was told she had fallen down the cellar stairs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Linda, Unfortunately she had a heart attack. It was such a shame as it was a lovely school. At least one teacher and one of her daughters has commented to me about what happened. I was there on the day, but didn’t witness anything.


  5. You are not going to like me. I went there to Genge’s school when I was 4 years old. I remember the jacket being grey in colour with a grey cap. I looked quite intelligent and even had a photograph of myself (upper body and face) wearing such. Went there because I had a speech impediment (stutter) which they helped correct. Whilst I have them to thank for that I hated the school. Thought it was only for “stuck up” people who paid even at that tender age.

    As soon as I could leave I did. Then I went to Alwoodly Primary School Headmaster Mr. Dorney. who liked using the cane. Again I remember a teacher called Miss Prince and she was nice. But still could not avoid the cane from time to time. When Coco the clown visited the school everyone was given a badge but I was not why because in some way I was naughty. I hated Coco not his fault.
    They put great emphasis on this 11 plus I hated it.

    Then came Allerton Grange Secondary School. Lower/Middle school and more cane. Because I was independent a free spirit. Headmaster of Lower School was Mr. Husler. and he thought it was the answer to everything. Middle School was better. I left at 15 thank goodness. I remember a teacher keeping us, the class, in after school before the last bus left I walked out and caught it. Was sent to Husler and he said he did not know whether to expel me but put me on report instead. The school system failed me from start to end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vincent,
      Not sure why I wouldn’t like you. Everyone has their own experiences of schools,. For some it was a good time and for others a dreadful time of their lives. I spent almost forty years in education as a teacher and headteacher and the system suited some of the children and others, not at all. Certainly in the past, some fairly dreadful things were done to children, the slipper and the cane, to name just two. The insideous side, was probably more harmful, not being picked for teams, being excluded from things. These were the things that damage and from discussions over highschool sites, I know some were greatly harmed. I spent the last fifteen years in a very unusual school here in Perth, where the children call the teachers by their first names, no uniforms, encourage individuality, creativity and free thinking. Parents were encouraged into the school and we had a wide range of children, some with bad experiences at other schools. I loved the school and so did the children. It is a shame that there aren’t more schools like it.
      Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to reply


      1. Vincent’s comments are interesting. Just wanted him to know that when I attended the school I lived in a council flat in Little London Leeds. My mum worked just to buy my uniform and pay the fees. It must of been very difficult for her but she wanted me to have a better education than she had. We were certainly not posh.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That was my experience too, Linda. I loved Stainbeck and Harehills, but Roundhay was more of a mixed experience. Life and schooling is not always fair or easy. Thank you for your comment.


  6. Fascinating memories. My elder brother David and I were at Stainbeck from 1946 to 1950, when David moved to Leeds Modern School and I transferred to Talbot Road. We were living with a family called Nattee in Chapeltown at the time and came to school with the daughters Frances and Hillary. Memories vague, but I do remember Miss Genge and also learning to write using slates! Does anyone remember the school song (sung to a tune not unlike The Grand Old Duke of York) The very imaginative words were: “The Stainbeck Preparatory School, The Stainbeck Preparatory School, Honouring, as We Sing, The Stainbeck Preparatory School”. Woe betide anyone who added Pom Pom after the last verse!
    Abiding memories of Leeds in the late 1940s: Bomb sites, Anderson shelters, trams, gas street lights, dense yellow fog, black buildings like the Town Hall (I believe because the millstone grit held the soot). Still proud to be a Loiner!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were there before me, Peter, but I am sure much was similar. My older brother was there as well. I don’t remember the song for Stainbeck, but I am sure that it was still on the go. Happy times.


  7. Hi All. My name is Hector Garden and my elder brother Sandy (Alexander) and my sister Judy were both at SPS. I’m 74 so I guess that I was there In 1952 until I passed my 11+ and went to Roundhay Grammar. I could write you a long list of all the friends that I knew at SPS at that time. I was in love with Roxanna RG (birthday 6.12.49) and also Lynn Cawthorne.
    One particular episode was in the hall across the road with Miss Cowling. She pointed to a capital letter “G” on a huge alphabet board and asked me what it was. I replied that I needed a wee and was told I could go as soon as I answered the question. Sitting on the floor, I didn’t wait and watched the puddle appear in front of me. My little shorts were dried on the radiator! Hey Ho.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hector, It appears you and I enjoyed Miss Cowling. I fell out with her after she accused me of having someone else’s shoes on. I enjoyed my days at Stainbeck and was there when the school closed.


  8. My name is Deborah Capaldi (nee Toplis) and I attended Stainbeck Preparatory from around 1954 to 1960. Both of my older sisters attended too (Rosalind 5 years older and Margaret 4 years older). Interesting the different remembrances. Unfortunately I have no schoolwork or reports. It was definitely two houses. the one on the left looking from the garden/playground was a school in both stories. the one to the right was school downstairs and Miss (I thought it was Mrs.) Genge’s flat upstairs. I once stayed with them the night before an upper school day out — to Filey I think — high excitement! I lived in Alwoodley. Have a number of remembrances — such as my sister Margaret tumbling down the old brick stairs into the cellar cloakrooms and hurting herself quite badly (she was rather accident prone). Her holding my hand and running me up Stainbeck Lane so we wouldn’t miss the bus home and me shutting my eyes to run faster and crashing into a lamppost and knocking myself out (maybe we were both accident prone!) I recall having a class in the lower floor of the community hall across the street and being made to stand on my chair for talking in class — a habit that I continued all through school. Also we had ballet lessons over there — definitely not my forte (I recall “Deborah tries hard” on my report card — enough said!). I have done fine so cannot complain about the teaching, but I was behind the other kids when I went to comprehensive school and had to catch up. I don’t think the school dealt very well with children with learning issues. I can remember a couple of boys in my class who never did master reading well, and having to read out loud to the class, which we did in turn, must have been agony for them. My most traumatic remembrance was that I hated cheese — it made me sick, and when given the choice of plain mince or mince with cheese for lunch I had asked for plain mince, but they ran out and gave me mince with cheese. I was told by the teacher that I had to eat it. I sat there for about an hour with tears dropping onto the plate, until the lunch lady finally took pity on me and removed it. I also recall eating lunch outside in the spring/early summer when the weather was nice, and poking my spring cabbage through a hole in the hedge! Now I would love it. Definitely recall the nature walks (don’t think there was a farm, just open land) and performances in a church hall. I sang “Singing in the rain” wearing an apricot plastic pak-a-mak and a matching umbrella. Doesn’t get much ritzier than that!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely memories, Deborah. I knew her as Mrs Genge, but I am not sure she was married. Her daughters have read my tales and Miss Blackmore (my favourite teacher reads them. I believe she was an ex-pupil so you may have known her. My older brother was there before me and you may have known him. I loved my time there and remember the cloakroom cellar. It is funny what stays with us over our lives and people have to only mention something you had forgotten and it all floods back. I hope that my memories brought back good ones of your own.

      Best wishes


  9. Unfortunately I don’t recall your brother. Thank you so much for the stories and blog.


    Liked by 1 person

  10. As I understand Felicitys father died from injuries he suffered in the war prisoner of the Japanese. About 1957 he was a teacher before the war I met Felicity while serving in the RAF spent a couple of weeks at her home 1960+

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello David. I started at SPS at the age of 4 or 5 in 1942 or 43. My sister, who lives in Qld, sent this to me and I was quite fascinated by it all. I left in 1945 and then went to Headingly Council (later County Primary) School in Bennett Road. I moved to Leeds Modern School from 1949 to 1954 when I left to join the RAF. Education complete!
    I must have been at at the Stainbeck school which I recalled from the story of Miss Genge and from the descriptions of the school from you and your correspondents though I wouldn’t have recognised the building from your photo. I can’t locate it on Google Maps but it certainly seems to be in the right place. I was called Lionel then from my selection of Christian names. From my failing memory, we used the hall of what is now the United Reform Church at the junction of Stainbeck Road and Stainbeck Lane. It was there that I was taught to tap dance, not that it made any difference to my career. The two shops opposite, now Sainsbury’s local, was then a Co-op, groceries on the left and butcher’s on the right. I also took piano lessons from Miss Heavens at 201 Stainbeck Lane for several years.
    At that time my family was living in Parkside Close, in a property owned by Meanwood Park Hospital where Dad worked as a mental nurse. There were only 6 houses then and all were occupied by members of the Hospital staff.
    I now live in retirement in Harrogate and look forward to following your blogs.
    Best wishes
    Peter Bullock

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Peter, The school was two of the terrace houses and it took me a while to track it down. I got the photographs from a realestate site as one of the houses was for sale. You were there before me. My older brother Andrew and I attended for most of our primary schooling and I loved it. Mrs Genge’s daughters have commented on my blogs and Miss Blackmore, my teacher, has also commented. I remember going to a little hall across the road for dancing, and a large hall at the bottom of the main road for performances. A friend of mine worked at Meanwood Park as a nurse, but that has long since closed. You seem to have had an interesting life and I hope you will enjoy my blogs. They cover a range of experiences from my life. Best wishes, David


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