Over the years there have been six schools in one form or another on the Mile Cross estate.
Dowson Infant School opened on the 6th December, 1926 and received it’s first 66 students from a small and temporary, School off Brazier Road. Then on 27th January 1928 the Dowson Primary School opened next door
, bringing in a further 193 pupils, aged 7.5 to 10.5 years. This number grew to 442 pupils by July 1934, which is quite a lot when you consider that the by today’s standards the two connected schools were fairly small.
I only have this one image of the school in my photographic arsenal and it is of one of the two School halls. It’s taken after closure, but the school can still be found on some of the older versions of Google maps. This shot is of the Mile Cross Middle School Hall. In here I used to do country-dancing (against my will), play rounders, partake in gym (in your pants if you’d forgotten your kit), rearrange the words to various hymns during assembly (can you believe we were forced to sing hymns?) and later on wear out the knees of my flecked-trousers skidding along the floor to the ‘Final Countdown’ by ‘Europe’ during many a 1980’s school disco. I always used to think it was a replica of Noah’s Ark when sat cross-legged on the hard floor listening to the Head Master, Mr Keene bang on about something or other. Looking at it now, it did look a bit boat-like.
Back then this larger amalgamated School was also known as the ‘Drayton School’, because this part of the estate: everything to the South of Drayton Road was originally called The Drayton Estate. You can jazz it up all you like, but it always has been (and still is) Mile Cross.
Alderman Witard, the Lord Mayor at the time visited the school on Empire Day 1928 to watch the children perform a ‘Building the flag’ pageant and after his speech granted the children the rest of the day off which I’m sure was much appreciated by all involved.
During WW2 the playground was dug up to install an Air-raid shelter for the Pupils and Teachers. This shelter took a direct hit during the subsequent air raids, but luckily the school was empty at the time. Can you imagine it had it been packed full of kids? Doesn’t really bear thinking about. An entire family living a few doors away at number 69 weren’t so lucky.
As you can see, the school no longer exists; however there are hints of its existence still dotted about the area. The School zigzags can still be made out in the tarmac, the speed table that covered the entrance gates is still there and the massive playing fields still sit, unused, on the other side of the road. The nature garden sat next to the field looks as though it is now being used by the Mile Cross Primary and one of the new buildings, home to a community room of sorts and its brickwork has some of the names of some of those very first students inscribed on the outer wall:
The design of these houses isn’t very sympathetic to the rest of the estate and for this reason this area has now become another of those little pockets of estate dubbed ‘not of historic value’.
Being my First and Middle Schools, I have far too many memories to even contemplate getting any of them into any sort of relevance. The only real thing that strikes me, now having kids of my own, is how much School has changed over the last 30 years. Unchecked bullying was a big problem at this school. Some of the nasty stuff that happened was quite depressing when you think about it too much.
In 1929 the Mile Cross Primary School opened in Peterson Road for the estate’s 271 younger children and later becoming the Norman School in 1971. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the school as it was, only this picture of the recently-built replacement Mile Cross Primary on its site:
Next up was the Mile Cross Senior Boys School and it was opened in 1931 along with the Dowson being renamed as the Dowson Secondary Girls . It sat nestled between Bignold and Brasier Road until it was finally closed for good in 1971 during yet another shake-up of the estate’s schools. It reopened shortly after to become the well equipped and much-loved Norman Community Centre:If you look at the picture above you can see the clues to the building’s former past in the very school-like architecture.
The Schools were at some point renamed as the Dowson Infants and Mile Cross Middle at Valpy Avenue and the Norman Infants at Peterson Road. The Dowson and Norman both feeding into the Mile Cross Middle. I remember another child telling me that the ‘Chocolate Custard’ served up with the afters in the Dinner Hall at Mile Cross and Dowson was only brown because it was sent down in a pipe from the Norman School at the other end of the estate. Although I believed him, I still happily ate too much of it.
In 2007 the Dowson, Norman and Mile Cross schools closed down and demolished before being merged into the current Mile Primary School (pictured further up) built on the site of the former Norman School.
As it is, it’s a bit of a rarity in Norwich as it’s yet to be academised. How long it will remain as such in today’s political climate remains to be seen, but for now it is rated as a ‘Good’ school by Ofsted, which; hopefully, will ensure that it’s kept under the jurisdiction of Norfolk County Council for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading,