Alresford Preparatory School (APS)

Affectionately known to older generations of Alresford residents as “Apples, Pears & Sausages” or even “Alresford Pears & Sausages”, Alresford Preparatory School was a small private school off West Street, which taught up to 25 pupils from the 1890s until 1968. This description was prepared and written by Godfrey Andrews, of 

APS was a small private school in Alresford, known to have been in existence from the 1890’s. It was located on the west side of what is now named Bay Tree Yard, off West Street, in Alresford.  This yard was sometimes referred to as Doidges Yard: Frank Doidge was a local Alresford Builder, living in ‘Westholme’ on West Street.

The original school, now a residential property, can still be seen directly at the rear of No 33 which is currently (2019) the Delilah Boutique. The original schoolmistress is thought to have been Emily Lavina Elizabeth Stevens, who was born at No 33 Broad Street in June 1859.

Illustration 3

The old school building in Bay Tree Yard off West Street, seen in February 2019    Photograph © Godfrey Andrews –

The school was subsequently taken over by Miss Ann Eliza Dorey, born 1872, who lived with her parents at the family farm in the Dean, Alresford. Her father was a farmer and watercress grower. She was the schoolmistress who steered the school through the period around the First World War, up until 1929: Miss Dorey died in 1935.

Then the school was taken over by Dorothy Curtis, born 1908 in Alresford. Dorothy had been educated at Perin’s Grammar School and then started work as a pupil teacher at the Dean School: she had subsequently been a teacher back at Perin’s. Dorothy lived on the family farm at Ladycroft with her three sisters and four brothers. Her older sister Daisy helped her at the APS from the late 1930’s.

Under Miss Curtis’s patient but firm guidance, up to 25 children each year learned the “three Rs” using traditional methods. These were so effective that the places at the school were in steady demand throughout her tenure. Until 1944, prior to the introduction of the 11-plus examination, the children were educated to a sufficient level to gain a scholarship place at one of the nearby Grammar schools.

The school day

The pattern of daily routine changed little over the years, every day beginning with a hymn and a prayer. Exercise and play being taken in the small cobbled yard next to the school. The fixtures and fittings of the schoolroom remained much as they had been for decades. In the 1960’s, the wartime black-outs still hung above the skylight and the desks still contained the long dried-up porcelain inkwells.

For a long period of the school’s history, music and singing would be taught one afternoon per week on the school piano by Miss Cobb (Louisa Dyson Cobb 1896-1969).  She was born in Ontario but her family moved to Winchester. Miss Cobb would cycle to Alresford from her home in Winchester: she also give private piano lessons.

IllustrationIt was not unusual that years later her former pupils would send their own children to this school, encouraged by the high rate of success in getting pupils through the 11-plus. The school finally closed its doors for the last time when Dorothy Curtis retired on 19th July 1968: she had run the school very effectively for over 35 years.


The illustration shows the commemorative certificate presented to Miss Dorothy Curtis on the occasion of her retirement on 19th July 1968.  Illustration © Michael Hedges.




Memories of a former pupil who attended APS around the time of the First World War.

(an edited extract from the book by A.Godwin, entitled ‘Alresford Remembered … looking back with pleasure’, published by New Alresford Press, 1996)

The little school run by Miss Stevens in West Street, was taken over by Miss Dorey and I went there. We sat on forms at tables and wrote on slates. I’m sure Miss Dorey fostered and inspired my interest in natural history. Hers was a happy school.

Memories of a former pupil who attended APS around the Second World War

(an edited extract from ‘Reminiscences of Alresford 1930-1950’, a document written by Peter G. Turner)

Whether I started school before or after the Jubilee [May 1935, Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary] I don’t know. Anyway at 5 years old I went to school at Miss Curtis’s Alresford Preparatory School in what I shall call Doidges Yard.

The schoolroom in those days would never have been allowed now. On looking back it was a death trap. The only window (apart from a skylight) was barred and the room of fair size was atop a wooden staircase – the only access.

The heating was a paraffin stove, or perhaps two, and standing at the end of the room was an open fire.

There were probably 25 children aged 5-11 all taught by Miss Dorothy Curtis who had a good reputation of getting her pupils through the “scholarship” which would enable those successful to attend Peter Symonds for boys, the County School for girls at Winchester or both sexes could go to to Eggars at Alton.

I was sent to school and on the first day I went wearing a blue beret with the red APS badge on it. The other children laughed at a boy wearing a beret and I went home crying.

The schoolroom was fairly large and the new pupils sat at little desks nearest the door and the bigger children were on bench type desks with seating attached further up the room. After a while I learned to read and write, grew in size and moved up to the bigger desks.

Among the boys there was Derek Curtis (probably the teachers nephew). He was older than me and was adept at crawling under these large bench desks. He would then return to his own seat and tell everybody what colour knickers the girls were wearing, eg. Margaret’s got pink knickers today or Sybil’s got white knickers. I can’t remember him being caught in the act.

I learnt pretty quickly and we had a smattering of geography, history and nature study. We also did PT and had music and singing with Miss Cobb who had the monopoly of piano tuition in Alresford.

Miss Curtis suffered a nervous breakdown (unsurprisingly) and when she came back she was then assisted by her sister Daisy Curtis.

I was 9 and a half years old and still at APS when War was declared.

Memories of a former pupil who attended APS from 1959 to 1964

(an edited extract from ‘Memories of Alresford Preparatory School (APS)’ written by Mike Hedges, February 2019)

I attended Alresford Preparatory School (APS) from 1959 to 1964. It was run by two of my great aunts, Dorothy Curtis (1908 – 2002) and Daisy Curtis (1901 – 1977), who lived with their sister Violet at Ladycroft Farm for virtually their whole lives. None of the three ever married.

APS was located on the west side of Bay Tree Yard, off West Street. It was a fee-paying school (approximately £11/term in 1964) teaching children aged 5 – 11. There were up to 25 children in the school. Dorothy tended to teach the older children (branching out into French lessons in my last year there), while Daisy taught the younger ones.

On entering the door off Bay Tree Yard, we turned immediately right up a set of wooden stairs into the single schoolroom, which was above the entrance door, and had a large window looking out onto Bay Tree Yard. At the foot of the stairs was a door to the lavatory, alongside another door to the rest of the property, occupied by Mrs Sherwood and her daughter Mavis. There was a fire escape from the schoolroom leading down a second staircase to a separate door on to Bay Tree Yard. At the opposite end from the entrance door was another door, which was never opened, but must have led into Mrs Sherwood’s house. Mrs Sherwood would bring Dorothy and Daisy a cup of tea in the mornings and afternoons.

The school day began at 9am with a hymn (with no piano or other accompaniment) and a prayer. The younger children sat at smaller desks at the northern (entrance door) end of the room, and older children sitting alongside and at the other end. At morning break we had a third-of-a-pint bottle of milk to drink, as was provided to all schoolchildren at that time. In summer, Dorothy would buy vanilla ice creams and wafers as an end-of-term treat for each pupil.

We learned the alphabet from a set of pale blue cards each bearing a letter, a word it stood for and a picture, starting with A for apple through to Z for zebra. When learning the alphabet, we recited each card aloud in full, ie A for apple, B for bucket, C for cup etc.

We learned vocabulary from cards kept on a mantelpiece just inside the entrance door. Each card contained eight words in alphabetical order which we had to study for a while, then the card was taken away and we had to remember the words and write each one down with the correct spelling. I can still recall one such card more than 50 years later (it’s called learning by rote!), ie Bough, Crystal, Debt, Delicious, Doubt, Emerald, Foreign, Grieve. Each word was selected to exemplify differently spelt constructions of common English words.

The mathematical tables were learned by rote as well. On the mantelpiece by the door was a stack of old tobacco tins covering the 2 times table up to the 12 times table. Each tin contained loose cards, for example for the two times table: “1 x 2=” up to “12 x 2=” and separate cards for “2” up to “24”. We had to arrange the cards in the correct positions. Then we would recite the tables out loud.

One afternoon per week, Miss Cobb from Winchester would teach singing. We sang traditional songs, such as ‘Dashing away with the smoothing iron’, ‘A smile is quite a funny thing’ (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne). Miss Cobb was a large, no-nonsense woman, who always arrived in her green coat and hat. Apparently she had a very musically talented sister named Primrose Cobb, who also lived in Winchester.

We did very basic exercises in the schoolroom twice per week, by simply standing on the spot and doing eight arm exercises, starting with both hands on shoulders, then arms raised vertically, then hands back on shoulders, then arms stretched horizontally at our sides, then back on shoulders, then horizontally ahead of us, then back on shoulders, and finally by our sides. We recited the numbers one to eight as we did this.

There was no grassed playing area at APS. At break times, we simply played on the cobbled Bay Tree Yard, often resulting in grazed knees. At the far end of the yard was a wide, open barn and in front of it a large puddle about 25 feet across would form after rain. This left a dry perimeter where we could play, but there were quite a few wet feet too! It was unusual for this puddle to ever dry up completely.

Illustration 2

Photographed here in front of the school are the last class of pupils. Sitting on the left is Daisy Curtis and on the right is Dorothy Curtis, the schoolmistress.            Photograph © Michael Hedges.

At the end of break Dorothy or Daisy would come down the stairs and ask the nearest pupil to call time, upon which came the loud call ‘T-I-M-E!’, which would often be turned into a rhyming couplet by children shouting “Katie’s got fleas!” or similar.

During break times, we could simply have walked out of Bay Tree Yard and into West Street, but no-one ever did.

There were 15-minute morning and afternoon breaks and at lunchtime (12 noon to 2pm) all children were collected and were either taken home or went off the premises for lunch. On our return from lunch we would play in the yard until time was called. Dorothy rode her bike home to Ladycroft for lunch and back, while Daisy caught the bus. Dorothy cycled to school in all weathers, two round trips totalling 4½ miles each day.

Discipline was never a problem, the worst thing being a rap over the knuckles with a wooden ruler. Normally it was enough for Dorothy to suddenly stand stock still and adopt a long, sinister frown at a miscreant, with her eyes narrowed to slits. Daisy would simply shout loudly at a misbehaving pupil or shake them by the shoulders; another of my great aunts used to say that, when West Street traffic was light, Daisy’s shouting could sometimes be heard from the post office on the other side of the road!

The schoolroom was little changed over many decades. Around a high shelf at the West Street end of the room were various objects, such as a stuffed green woodpecker in a glass case and a large globe. On one wall was a framed map of central Europe with the Caucasus Mountains in the centre. In the ceiling above was a skylight still equipped with a World War 2 blackout.

APS had an excellent record of getting pupils through the 11-plus exam. We went to Perin’s to sit this exam, a rather daunting experience after being used to a small schoolroom for the previous five or six years. Those who passed usually went on to Eggar’s Grammar School (boys and girls) in Alton, or Peter Symonds’ (boys) and The County High School (girls) in Winchester; those who didn’t went on to Perin’s, then a secondary modern school for boys and girls.

In 1968, the school finally closed, mainly because of the lack of suitable recreation facilities; a cobbled yard could by no stretch of the imagination be described as ‘suitable’! By this time, Dorothy was 60 and Daisy was 67, so they would not have been in harness for too many more years in any case.


One response to this post.

  1. As a former pupil of APS from about 1957, I’d be interested in any other photographs. I do at least have some of the professionally taken annually of myself, which bring back find memories. One recollection I have: we were provided with a straw to drink the one third pint of milk (I can still remember the taste). On one occasion I wanted to see what would happen if I blew rather than suck through the straw… The result was epic!


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