Tag Archives: CFS


My sister and I in Ely 1939

I was not quite 8 years old when I was evacuated to Ely near Cambridge in September 1939, together with my middle sister, who had just joined Central Foundation School for Girls – then in Spital Square, East London. We were first evacuated to Littleport and then moved to a billet on the outskirts of Ely, where CFS was set up.

Before the Education Act of 1944, Grammar Schools were fee paying, unless you won a Junior County Scholarship, which all children sat for aged 11. You had another chance of a free place aged 13, and my middle sister had won one of these Supplementary Scholarships that year.

She had her sights set on becoming a doctor, but it was not to be. We were very unhappy in our billet and when my father came to visit just before Christmas, he took us home. Unfortunately, there were no grammar schools left in London in 1940, and as my sister was now 14 (the leaving age, she officially left school, while I went to a temporary primary school in Toynbee Hall. She trained at Pitman’s to become a shorthand/ typist, which she hated, and left home at 17 to work on a farm. She later emigrated to live on a Kibbutz, where she died aged only 60.

I joined CFS in 1942, having returned from evacuation in Dawlish in South Devon. I know that some of my contemporaries are still alive and wonder how many alumni who went to Ely with the school in 1939 are still around. I am 89, going on 90, they would be at least 92/ 93.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

CFS – My old grammar school

Our lovely old hall -derelict
Our lovely old hall – derelict when I went there in 2011
Now a post restaurant
By 2014 it had been converted into a post restaurant

Founded as a Charity School for boys in 1697, by 1715 the school also accepted girls – 6 girls to 30 boys. In 1892 the Central Foundation School for Girls girls’ school was opened in Spital Square just by Spitalfields Market. When I went back in 2011. the main school building had been demolished and the beautiful old hall was derelict. When I returned in 2014, like much of the district, it had been gentrified and the hall was now the Galvin la Chapelle restaurant.

I was delighted to find that my neighbour in my Art History class had not only been a CFS pupil about 10 years after me but like me had learned to play the cello. She’s had similar experiences carrying her cello through what was then an active Fruit and Vegetable market.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

The school allowed me take the cello home to practise. My walk through Spitalfields Market, lugging the heavy black case, brought roars of laughter from the market porters.

It was ‘Give us a tune then.’ ‘Can you put it under your chin?’ ‘I’ll carry it for you if you give me a kiss, Miss.’ and ‘Can you put that big thing between your legs?’

Their catcalls followed me all the way to school.