Historic mural find

17th June 2005 at 01:00
At our Surrey school, a spectacularly well-preserved air-raid shelter under the school has been uncovered, which literally paints a picture of life for pupils more than 60 years ago, during the Second World War.

The discovery of this hidden gem is largely due to the intrepid investigations of ex-pupil and local historian, Alan Moore. Alan was researching the history of the school when he came across an old Pathe newsreel clip about the school. The film described the ingenuity of an art teacher and his willing accomplices (the boys of the school) who very carefully painted their air-raid shelter with cartoon murals.

Under Alan's persuasion, it was decided that the air-raid shelter would be reopened this term - a real "Howard Carter" moment, according to the headteacher. Probably because neither light nor human hand had infiltrated the shelter for close to 60 years, the murals were as vibrant as if they had been painted yesterday.

I felt privileged to be the first teacher to take a class down to the shelter, 60 years after children last set foot inside it. Our pupils were fascinated by the pictures (mostly of cartoons popular at the time, such as Robin Hood and Robinson Crusoe), but they also displayed quiet reverence in the shelter, perhaps reflecting on the importance of the site as both an educational resource and a historical artefact.

The shelter appeared in the local newspaper and on BBC local news, and we have been able to get in touch with a few of the people who actually helped to paint the mural. The school is hoping more ex-pupils will come forward to share their experiences of the shelter, and the school is holding an open day in July when people will be able to visit it. We are also arranging for pupils to interview former scholars and record the interviews for future generations. And we hope the shelter can be visited by other local schools, to share in our rich historical discovery.

Adrian McGreevy Year 4 Class Teacher, St John's Primary School, Redhill, Surrey

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