Sunday, 27 July 2008

A journey into Lenton history

This Lenton story has been waiting since the Friday before last (18 July) when I went to Lenton Primary School with Patsy Shaw. It is an update to my blog dated 13 July, which was about the open day and exhibition organised by Patsy to mark the closure of Lenton Primary School after some 140 years. The school actually said goodbye to its last pupils on Thursday 17 July. The next day the building was being emptied, with vanloads of furniture and supplies being taken off to neighbouring schools.

So I was I at Lenton Primary School and inside it for only the third time with Patsy? We had gone to collect the last of the school's records and photographs and take them to the Nottinghamshire County Record Office at the other end of Castle Boulevard. When we arrived at the school there were still people standing by the gates as if it was just another school day. The future had arrived, the school was closed, but the past was lingering on, for another day at least.

The playground was empty. Eerily so, something said this was different to all the other days through three centuries when it had been this quiet. Then, the walls knew the children would be back, but not this time.

In the entrance hall, the in/out board had been wiped cleaned and bar one, all the tags showed 'out'. The staff names had gone. Only ghostly shadows remained.

If one had any doubts about what had happened, then the view through the door of the one room which still contained tables and just one chair told you it had finished. Some time, soon perhaps, the building will take on a new life, serving the educational and personal needs of another group of Nottingham youngsters. Well, this is what they say, but it seems vague to me, so we will just have to wait and see.
Patsy and I found the collection of old photographs and school records and carried them out and placed them in the boot of her car. As I lifted one box, two sheets of paper which were stapled together fell onto the table in front of me. I then saw that they were the minutes of the last School Governors' meeting, with a little note attached, asking Patsy, as the Chair of Governors to check them. Did it matter I wondered? They will never be signed as 'a true and correct record'. It had never occurred to me before that the last minutes of any organisation are the nearest one gets to 'history in limbo'.

It took us less than five minutes to reach the County Record Office (better known these days as 'Archives'), where we unloaded the boxes onto a trolley with the help of a member of staff from the Archives.

Inside the Archives the records of Lenton Primary School were taken to a holding room, where they would be sorted, catalogued, given record numbers and archived, so that future researchers can find them and ask to see them. In little more than an hour, the school's records completed their journey and had become, officially, part of Lenton's History. We will never know the Lenton of 2508 or 3008, assuming humankind makes it that far, but I am sure that so long as there is a Lenton there will be local historians who will want to re-discover and re-interpret its history and I like the idea of local celebrations across the centuries to mark this or that local historic occasion and I am sure that the history of education in Lenton will be an ever-recurring theme.

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