From the Thorley Archives

Evacuated to Thorley 1940

In 1940, at the height of the London Blitz, Michael Teitz, together with brother Peter David and sister Betty, were evacuated to Thorley. In June 2008 Michael returned to Thorley to revisit some of the childhood places in which he grew up some 68 years ago. First impressions were that most of the buildings he remembered hadn't changed much but that the whole village was 'greener'. St James' church was exactly the same and Butlers Hall Cottages, where he lived during the war, were much the same. The wall around Thorley School though had mysteriously shrunk because now he could see over it!

Michael Teitz at Thorley Church and Thorley School, June 2008

The Teitz family were initially billeted at Thorley House with Mrs Wolfson, Pamela Finch's mother. Later, Michael's sister moved on to Kings Lynn whilst Michael and his older brother went to live with Mr and Mrs Clark at Butlers Hall Cottages.

I had previously made contact with Michael in 2002 whilst gathering material for 'The Book of Thorley, Chronicles of a Century'. He readily supplied me with fourteen A4 pages of vivid wartime memories of living, playing and of his school life in what was then the rural hamlet of Thorley.

Whilst the freedoms to roam and to experience country life were to play a major part is his formative years, Michael writes that his future career was influenced by his junior education at the village school. 'Thorley School was part of a revolution in primary school education, combining old styles and traditions with the beginnings of fundamental change'. Thorley School was an all age, 5 to 14, two room school, infants and juniors. The person responsible for Michael's excitement for learning was the Headteacher, Miss Edith Moorhouse. Her philosophy of education was a combination of activity and interaction based upon a good grounding in reading, writing and mathematics. Besides having a 'shop' in the corner of the classroom the desks were arranged in groups instead of rows. Part of Miss Moorhouse's experiences of 'teaching by doing' was to allow the junior children to be responsible for making a school vegetable garden. Here they also kept chickens and a goat which provided valuable supplements to their war time diets. Miss Moorhouse would involve parents in producing plays, parties and visits to the farms for the older boys. A summer Rose Queen pageant raised 300, 200 of which went to the war time Red Cross and 100 started a school fund equipment and books account.

In 1946 Miss Moorhouse was promoted to be the Primary Advisor for Oxfordshire where she pioneered community based primary schools using ideas developed from her experiences gained as the Headteacher at Thorley. Thorley School itself was soon to close after the war as part of the consolidation of village schools.

Miss Edith Moorhouse, 1985

After the war Michael's family returned to 'the grim schools of London'. 'My five years at Thorley, with such a sharp beginning and ending, live more clearly in memory than any other years of my life.' After graduating from the London School of Economics with a Geography degree, Michael won a Fulbright scholarship to teach at the University of Wisconsin. He was awarded a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. He is now Professor Emeritus, University of California. From his recent conversations he attributes much of his love of geography to the inspirations gained from his time at Thorley.

Bill Hardy
July 2008

From the Archives