»  Far Cotton CPS

Mortimer's Class


Far Cotton CPS was the primary school I attended from ages 5 to 11 (1950 to 1956). "CPS" I remember as standing for "County Primary School." Northampton was a "county borough," a town reporting to a county authority. I suppose that was the significance of the word "county" in the school's name. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense otherwise. That "C" may, however, have stood for "Council," which would be more logical, as the town council supervised local schools (cf. "council house"). "County Primary School" is how I remember it, though.

The school was approached from the Towcester Road through Alton Street. Its premises were bounded on the north by Main Street, on the west by Letts Road, on the south by Clinton Road, and on the east by Alton Street and Alton Terrace. See the bottom center map here.

Within these premises there were a lower school for infants, and an upper school for the older children. I don't remember where the exact division was made by age. So far as the buildings were concerned, though, the northern and eastern buildings were lower school, the rest upper school.

Lower SchoolVisiting Northampton in November 2013, I took this picture of the lower school. (Click for a bigger picture.) The short stretch of railing that can be seen at far left leads to my very first classroom. I remember lining up there to go in. The railing, which borders an accessibility ramp, was not there. Neither was the ramp. We went up a step.

[By 2013 the premises had long since ceased to be a school. It was a "community center," given over to clinics, road safety instruction classes, and such.]

Cyril Mortimer was my teacher in my last two years at Far Cotton, 1954-56. My school reports for those two years survive here. The headmaster was Fred Adams, an unflamboyant man perfectly suited to his job, liked by everybody. (Especially, was my impression, by his teachers, as he mostly kept out of their way.)

For 1953-54 my class teacher was a fellow named Elliot, I think — and that was not at the Alton Road premises, but in an overflow annex on Abbey Road next to St. Mary's church. This was the baby boom; England was bursting with kids.

Mr. Elliot was strong for reading. He had a library in his class, and gave over whole periods to just letting us read. I read Coral Island there, and (though I think in a simplified children's version) Pilgrim's Progress. Before 1953 my memory is very vague; though I recall the infant school being in charge of a Miss Cracknell.

The buildings shown in the "Far Cotton School Tour 2006" here are all lower school. The little door part-visible in the third picture of the slide show led to a cloakroom smelling strongly of varnish in the fall of 1950, when I showed up for my first school experience. My coat peg was identified by a little picture of a pig.

That varnish smell still, decades later, conjures up the pig picture, and the crabbed visage of irascible Miss Cracknell, whom we all disliked, and my first class teacher, a younger and sweeter lady whose name I have forgotten (love less enduring than hate), and a classmate who wore a woollen hat all day because her head had been shaven on account of ringworm …


The group photograph shows Cyril Mortimer's class, 1955 or 1956. A key to the photograph, with as much as I can recall about my classmates, is in the "Photographs" section of the Virtual Attic, here.


The street whose backs are visible behind us is I think Letts Road.


[Added somewhat later:  After posting the above, I had very touching emails from Cyril Mortimer's daughters Jane and Anne, filling in some details.

Cyril MortimerCyril Mortimer was a Far Cotton native, born in Clinton Road. His father was a leather worker, his mother a stalwart of St Mary's church. Cyril was bright but left school at 14 and went to a technical college to study to be an electrician. He then volunteered for the RAF which took him to Canada for his initial training. Due to a major crash (12 months in hospital with broken femurs) he became a navigator and survived, by missing bombing flights.

He returned home at the end of the war, well travelled and educated. Like many of the teachers of my time, men who had been officers in the war, he went on an accelerated teaching programme. He was eventually headmaster of an elementary school in Northampton.

Cyril Mortimer died in 1989 at age 67, the day he was diagnosed with cancer. Mrs. Mortimer was still alive in late 2013, aged 85. Cyril left three children, all of whom are well-educated and well-traveled and speak at least one other language well. One of his grandchildren attended the university of Cambridge; others have gained degrees from Imperial College, Queen Mary College and Loughborough University. Sadly Cyril didn't live to see their success.

A good man; a life well lived.

Tom Elliot, who was my teacher 1953-4, was a strong Christian. He was a close friend of Cyril Mortimer's, and stood godfather to Cyril's daughter. Like Cyril, he was eventually a headmaster. He died of throat cancer sometime before Cyril.

Fred Adams was succeeded by one Mr. Pritchard in the 1960's. Pritchard scandalized the town by running off with the school secretary, having embezzled school funds for the purpose. Cyril Mortimer was deputy headmaster at the time, and took on the post of acting head, with Mrs. Mortimer acting school secretary, until a new appointment could be made. The new appointee was John Bedford.]