There are two little beaches on either side of the St Andrews Arts Centre on the River Thames in Gravesend.
Even though men and women gave up smoking clay pipes many years ago it is still possible to pick up sections of the stems of the pipes. The tides and the rise and fall of the river – along with the movement between the stones and sand of the little beaches - have rubbed the stems smooth and shiny. We have collected a wide variety of stems over the years – and one day will think of something to do with them.
All those years ago the beach would have been covered with little discarded clay pipe stems – from the tides, passers by and ships going up and down the river.
The building was originally a tavern but then became a school for poor children. I should imagine that facilities were limited and books and paper much in demand. One to one or small group tuition was the preserve of the very rich.
Think of the opportunity available to our eleven plus children today. Our children have access to eleven plus books and papers. The children can ask their teachers at school, pick up the telephone and phone a friend, look answers up on the internet and refer to their parents or tutors.
Our libraries are readily available with knowledgeable and well trained staff to try to help to answer every question.
One hundred and sixty years ago, well before the eleven plus, there will have been able children with a thirst for education. These children will have seen education as a way out of poverty and lack of opportunity.
So the next time you detect an element of dissatisfaction with the `lot of an eleven plus child’ take the opportunity of reminding your child of the effort that bright children one hundred and sixty years ago had to make to learn.