A Brief History of St Martin’s School
When St Martin’s school originally opened in 1903, it was divided into three sections: infants aged five to seven years, girls and boys. There were 339 children on roll. The schools were built by the Dover Church Schools Company Ltd , to provide necessary accommodation demanded by the Board of Education.
The inauguration of the schools was such a significant occasion that it was attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Randall Davidson and the Mayor of Dover, FG Wright J.P. There was such a large gathering that over three hundred visitors had to be turned away.
The headmaster of the Boys’ school was Mr E. Smith, headmistress of the Girls’ school was Miss E. Cook and Miss E. Joad headmistress of the Infants.
The infant school was closed in 1907 and merged with the girls’ school and in 1952 the girls and boys finally joined together and was led by headmistress Miss Clipsham. Control by then had been handed to Kent Education Authority and the school was known as St Martin’s County Primary Junior Mixed and Infants.
The school has stood through two World Wars. School logs show that the children were allowed a nap for part of the afternoon because the bombing raids were disturbing their sleep.
In 1914, members of the Boys’ school staff were enlisted and the first woman teacher was appointed to teach in this department. One of the masters Mr A. T. Eaves was killed in the battle of the Somme on 7 October 1916. Eaves Road is named after him.
During WWII , lessons were taken in the air raid shelters built underneath the playground. When the alarm went, children were hurried into the shelters, with gas masks and books. The boys were taught at one end of the shelters and the girls at the other end, divided by stable-like doors.
In 1940, St Martin’s children were evacuated to Wales. The entire staff moved and the children attended local schools.
After the war, many old traditions were lost and new ones introduced. Open days and Consultation evenings were introduced but the celebration of Empire Day ceased. School logs recall occasional holidays granted through the years such as Regatta days, Trades Holidays, Harvest Day, St Martin’s Christmas Tree and Bazaar Day. Whenever important personage or Royalty passed through Dover, the school was taken to the seafront or dismissed early.
Other reasons for school closure included medical reasons such as diphtheria, measles, influenza and scarlet fever. In 1908, many pupils left the school as parents were forced to find work in other areas, due to the scarcity of employment in Dover.
In 1963, the school’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated. The entire school was gathered in the playground to see a presentation of an ornamental weather-vane by the Old Boys Association to Mr D. Birtwhistle the Headmaster.
In 1976, the school hall was built and opened. It was no longer necessary to use the Church Hall for Christmas parties, assemblies and plays.
In keeping with links to important personage, in March 2000, St Martin’s pupils were honoured to be invited to the Dover Museum to meet H.R.H. The Prince of Wales to talk to the Prince about their studies of the Bronze Age Boat.
Under the headship of Mrs Viv Hayward in 2003, the school celebrated its Centenary. Throughout the year, the children participated in re-enactment days of eras of the Edwardians, the Twenties, Wartime and the Sixties and enjoyed guest speakers and past school pupils re-telling tales of the school’s history. The year culminated in a nine hour celebration on 11 July involving pupils performing in a pageant, hosting school tours to a succession of visitors throughout the day and evening. Exhibitions and luncheons and teas were provided in a marquee set up in the grounds with past pupils travelling from as far away as Canada.
More recently, St Martin’s pupils have continued to be involved in community projects. In 2010, St Martin’s was fortunate to be chosen to participate in the Unknown Warrior Project, where pupils showed their energy and enthusiasm in creating and performing a musical based on the 90th anniversary of the Warrior’s homecoming to Dover.
St Martin’s school was also represented in the Pass the Passion project which was Kent’s campaign for the Olympic Torch to arrive in Dover and last summer pupils followed the eventual route closely by mapping each step of the way. To foster their keenness and aspirations further, the pupils had the privilege to see, touch and run with one of the torches used in the Olympic relay.
I wonder if we have a future champion in our midst ?
In August 2016, St Martin’s School, became part of the Whinless Down Academy Trust with Priory Fields Primary School. Vale View Primary School joined the Academy in January 2018, with Whinless Down then forming an Academy of three schools within a very localised community. Collaborative working across the three schools has brought new opportunities for the staff and children of St Martin’s; shared working and learning has improved the provision for all.