St Nicholas Nursery – ‘A Lovely Place’

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The nursery stood on the site of Beckworth House that had been demolished.  Originally a private residence, the house had accommodated the ESCC Youth Employment Service and Area Education Office.  Previously it had been a boarding house for children who attended what is now Oathall Community College and during WW11 it had been home to the Hostel of God, a hospice evacuated from Clapham.  The site behind Lindfield Primary School is now St Nicholas Court.

St. Nicholas Nursery was opened, in purpose built accommodation that is understood to have cost £36,000, in January 1966.  East Sussex County Council ran it for children taken into their care from birth to normally age five.  Eighteen children were transferred on its opening from Horsgate at Cuckfield.  The matron was Miss Whitmarsh.

In a departure from previous arrangements, the children lived in small ‘family’ like groups of four to five children.  There were four groups and each had its own day room on the ground floor with their bedroom and bathroom upstairs.  Likewise they were looked after by a senior nurse and two trainee nursery nurses dedicated to each group.  Many of these staff slept on the premises.  The children and nurses took their meals together in their day room, which had doors opening onto a patio and play area.  There were sandpits, play equipment and a large  brick built paddling pool.

Continuing the aim of treating each child as an individual, the children had their own clothes.  They were taken on shopping trips to buy their clothes in the village or Haywards Heath.  Ladybird items from Woolworths were a popular choice with shoes often coming from Pranklins.

Each summer a fund raising fete was held, usually opened by a well-known local person.  One much remembered celebrity being Derek Nimmo, the popular actor, perhaps best known for ‘Oh Brother!’ and ‘All Gas & Gaiters’.

St Nicholas is remembered by those who attend as ‘a lovely place’ with a happy and caring atmosphere.

In 1974 the county boundaries were changed and Lindfield came under the control of West Sussex County Council, however St Nicholas remained with East Sussex County Council.  The bursary continued in operation until it closed in about 1979.

 

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