On Friday 28th June, the Rumble Museum was delighted to welcome back alumni from Cheney Technical and Cheney Girls School, as well as some alumni from later eras, to share their stories and objects from their time here. Cheney School's site was once two separate schools which arrived here in the 1950s. Cheney Technical School came here in 1954 from St Ebbe's area of town, and was originally founded by John Brookes in 1934. It occupied the area of school now called W block after Arnold Wainwright, the head teacher who oversaw the move. Cheney Girls School started life as a Sunday School in 1797 and then became Oxford Central Girls School, and moved to New Inn Hall Street. It moved to Cheney's site in 1959, and occupied the area called C Block, named after Louisa Chadwick, a much-loved head teacher of the Oxford Central Girls School.
Alumni were greeted by a team of trained Cheney students, who welcomed them, and interviewed them, writing down some of the fascinating stories and memories of how the schools used to be. Alumni told stories about old teachers, and Arnold Wainwright was often described in the stories, with a gown and mortar board, walking the corridors, or speaking in assemblies (then held in the space the Library now occupies). Some alumni bought in old school magazines and photographs, year books and even an old piece of equipment called a slide rule.
Students were especially thrilled to meet Susan Mortimer (nee Bannister), who had been the first girl to join the technical stream at Cheney Technical School in the 1950s. Until then, it had always been assumed and expected that girls would choose the arts and commercial courses only, so her decision to join the technical stream was a groundbreaking one! (you can see Susan second from right in the photograph below, and at the far left of the one beneath that, with her fellow students from the technical stream in the 1950s!).
The old boys and girls of the school were also able to have a site tour, and discover how the buildings are now used, as well as to see the many new buildings. Many were amazed at how large the school site now was! They were also able to spend time with each other over coffee and tea, renewing old friendships, and looking at some old photographs from their time at the school.
We are very grateful to everyone who attended to share photographs and stories, and to all our student helpers for looking after our guests so considerately. We will eventually be putting all their stories and photographs online so people can explore them, and we warmly welcome any stories and items people might want to add to the digital collection we are hoping to grow on the History of Cheney.