The Leas School,  Hoylake

Big Freeze: Dec 1962 to Feb 1963

contributed by Adrian Stevenson

The school's heating was severely tested during this extended cold spell. Les Quilliam, the caretaker, must have been all day and most of the night shovelling coal into the furnace, and wheeling out cinders to the vanished track around the blanketed field.

The yellow buildings had no central heating: the shooting-range, the boot room, Mr Wareing's art-and-science room. Mr Wareing's room had a standard cylindrical army-barrack-room stove, which would be stoked up and made to roar; the stove would get red-hot, but no-one who was more than a few feet away felt much heat from it.

Inside the school, the Boys' Entrance Hall had both heating and a fireplace. Between lessons, the fireplace was usually monopolised by staff; once a few of the staff had gone home in the evening, there was more space for boys to squeeze up to the large fireguard. Smaller boys were possibly more wary, thinking of the roasting in "Tom Brown's School Days".

We became used to having ice in our milk bottles (one third of a pint, free from the government). The ice would hardly melt during morning-break despite all our efforts, cradling the bottles in our hands, stuffing them under our jackets, or placing them on heating pipes round the gym. Even when the ice did melt, the milk-solids would never properly go back into suspension, so you would drink first almost pure water, then a glutinous strong-tasting creamy sludge.

There were good aspects: on at least one occasion, a few weeks into the Easter term, when continuous frost had made the ice good and thick, Mr Wareing (and no doubt a few other staff) walked most of the school to a local big pond. (The April 1963 school magazine clarifies that this was the large pond then existing in the private grounds of Seafield House, Darmonds Green: the Lear Home of Recovery, now Abbeyfield Lear House care home.) Anyone with skates (probably very few of us) went zooming out into the middle, and up and down the length of the pond. The rest of us had been encouraged to take our house-shoes, because it was reasoned that their smoother soles might glide more readily; we stayed round the edges, sliding through the weeds and shrubs where the experts would not want to skate.

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