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Annie Meadows, a ‘formidable lady of Banbury’

Annie Meadows' association with Dashwood School spanned nine decades

Annie Meadows' association with Dashwood School spanned nine decades

1912 Annie Meadows exercise book
1922 Miss Meadows class
1923 Miss Meadows class
1944 Annie Meadows letter head teacher
1992 Annie Meadows 90th anniversary
Annie Meadows' association with Dashwood School spanned nine decades

In preparation for a meeting of the reminiscences group at Banbury Museum, former pupil Sheila Evans has been in touch to ask whether we have any material on Annie Meadows, a ‘formidable lady of Banbury’ whose association with Dashwood School spanned nine decades.

Annie was born in Adderbury on October 2nd, 1900. She started school at Dashwood Road when she was five, then living at no. 8 Castle Street East, Banbury.

The archive contains a photocopy of Annie’s school exercise book which she started on October 27th 1911. On February 14th 1912, she wrote a composition entitled ‘My Friend’: ‘I have lived in Banbury as long as I can remember, and I have had on the whole a very happy life. I have many friends but the one I like best is Kathleen Smedley.’ The uniform at the time would have been uncomfortable and heavy, and the lessons dauntingly serious and formal, but Annie seemed to thrive. She received a certificate in 1909 for two years’ continuous attendance, and wrote later that she would have been to school ‘three years without staying away once if I had not had the measles’.

By 1919 Annie Meadows had returned to Dashwood to work as a teacher. The archive contains photocopies of two class photos, one marked Class II Miss Meadows 1922 and the other 1923 Miss Meadows.

Annie moved to teach at Dashwood’s Infants’ School on Britannia Road in the 1930s. In August 1939 the school building was designated as a wartime First Aid post. With all the other staff on holiday, Annie and the headmistress Mrs Castle transferred the entire school operation to the Methodist Sunday School room in Marlborough Road, packing books and furniture to be carried on an open lorry.

Although normal school activities were pretty crowded in the new accommodation, Annie sometimes played the pipe organ that was in the improvised school room, while the children hopped and skipped up and down the aisles playing ‘follow the leader’.

In our school history book Dashwood School 1902-2008, the focus for early wartime is on Annie Meadows’ experiences placing evacuees from London in homes on the streets surrounding Dashwood. These memories are recorded in a document she wrote, a copy of which was kindly sent to the archive by Judith Macey. On Gatteridge Street, Annie found some households reluctant to take in any children, until she explained she was taking two in herself. Peter Driscoll and his brother John came from Poplar and stayed with Annie and her parents for three years, attending St Mary’s School. These times were fondly remembered by the boys, as in adulthood they kept in touch with Annie and continued to visit her each summer for the rest of her life.

In the spring of 1944, Annie took on extra responsibility at Dashwood Infants’ School. Mrs Castle had been ill, and according to a letter in the archive, Miss Meadows ‘the senior Certificated Assistant Mistress’, took over her role as head for a period of three months. Mrs Castle resigned later in 1944 after continued ill-health and the new post-holder was Miss Jolly (later Mrs Barron). After retiring in 1962, Annie attended the closing ceremonies of the school in 1983, when, as Britannia Road School, it amalgamated permanently with Dashwood Road School. A picture in the archive shows former heads and long-serving staff including Fred Riches, John Proctor, Mrs Jones, Miss Upton, Ernie Underwood, Maisie Malcher, Julia Scroxton, Mrs Barron and Annie Meadows.

Annie played a part in celebrating many of Dashwood’s key dates. In the archive is a Banbury Guardian press cutting from the school’s 80th birthday celebrations in 1982, with Miss Meadows, then aged 81, surrounded by a cloud of smiling children.

Headmaster Fred Riches said ‘An 80th birthday is quite a milestone for a school’, and so he must have experienced even more pride when Dashwood’s 90th anniversary arrived. The celebrations included an Old Tyme Music Hall performance including many local acts and the Dashwood School Choir. Now aged 92, Annie Meadows returned to school again as a special guest, speaking in an assembly about the old days at Dashwood. Mr Riches pointed out that Miss Meadows was older than the school itself, before the children sang happy birthday to Dashwood, and candles were blown out on nine cakes.

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