Doncaster Open Air School

aka Balby Open Air School



The following memories of Doncaster Open Air School were sent to us by Brian to whom we are very grateful:


“Yesterday was my 76th birthday so my memory maybe hazy in parts but …


“I was born in Balby, Doncaster in 1937 and by the age of four had experienced three operations in Doncaster Royal Infirmary. The first was for a hernia and the second was to repair the poor first. The third was for strangulated hernia and, in order to keep the stitching intact I was ‘sandbagged’ ie. I was covered with sandbags (very readily available in wartime!) to prevent my infant body from wriggling about.


Do you have memories of being in Doncaster open air school?


Or do you have a photograph of it we could share?

We would love to hear from you.



“At the age of four or five, I started at Waverley School, Balby in the Infants section and moved on to the Junior section when I was eleven. But, and this is where I cannot remember which year(s), I was sent to the Open Air School in Balby somewhere near the end of St Peter’s Road, for about twelve months or more. I know that I was back at Waverley by the very bad winter of 1946/7.


“I was a ‘day patient’ if that is a proper description of my status.  My home was less than two miles away and my attendance was Monday to Friday.


“I am sure that the open Air School must have been purpose-built since the fourth wall of every classroom was designed a bit like a garage door. It could be, and was, opened for much of the school time, summer and winter. No heating was available but blankets were provided on very cold days.


From memory I think we had several ‘classes’, boys and girls mixed, and maybe between 15 and 25 in each class. Additionally, and I think linked to my period in the Open Air School but following it was a weekly visit to a clinic in Doncaster for ‘sunlight treatment’. For this I had to wear nothing but a little pair of trunks and dark goggles and was then exposed for a few minutes to UV light. I think it was cutting edge technology at the time.


“Every day, from about 1pm to about 1.30pm we had to lie down on little fold up (camp) beds and sleep, or try to!


“I cannot remember that lessons were any different to ‘normal’ school but did include things like gardening, but since “dig for victory” was both common and commendable at the time it probably wasn’t unusual.


“I have read several Google items on the subject but not one has mentioned one thing that did set it apart. We were quite well fed for wartime but all of our vegetables were never cooked but all eaten raw. Raw vegetables was not a choice but was what all the children got at and for the midday meal. The only other food would be milk or hot drinks containing milk.


“I don’t remember it to have been an unpleasant experience but my abiding memory of my time there was – my father named me Alfred Brian and I loathed the name Alfred (still do!) but all the teachers insisted on calling me Alfred – I hated it.


“I must have shown some fairly rapid improvement because I stayed there for not a lot more than one year. Whether I benefitted from the experience I am not sure. I have managed to get to 76 and I have no plans to stop just yet.”



A photograph of the sunlight treatment Brian mentions can be found here. [external site]



These memories have been sent in by Barbara:

“I too, like Brian am coming up to my 76th Birthday and I attended Doncaster Open Air School. I had TB and it was decided that I go to that school to get stronger. I remember having to have a 'nap' on camp beds after lunch, yes it was of raw vegies, between lunch and the nap, I was given huge dollops of cod liver oil and malt, a thick treacle-like substance.

“I loved my time there, about 2 years, the only downside being that some friends were sometimes never seen again, I suppose they were either too ill to come to school or they died.

“We used to go on walks to Hexthorpe Flats and had to go through a tunnel where there were bats, that used to scare me to death, though I never did see a bat, maybe the boys told us about them to hear us squeal as we ran through the tunnel.

“I used to be driven to school by bus provide by the council, I think, the lady who drove the bus was Doris Landers, a lovely lady.

“I had the 'Sunshine Treatment' also, which is ironic now because you will see that I live in Australia, have done for the past 45 years and we try to spend as little time as possible in the sun to prevent 'Skin Cancer'.

“I enjoyed reading Brian's comments and hope that my recollection of the school will be of help.”


We have received these memories from Sandra:

"I remember being sent to the open air school when I was 3 years old. I lived on Weston Road in Balby at that time.  I remember a green and cream bus used to pull up outside my house and I went on the bus to the school every day.  I remember very little of my time there, I remember the smell of the soap used in the toilets. When I smell carbolic soap I am taken back to my time there in 1955. I'm not sure why I was sent there. Maybe it was a nursery? I know at that time my dad was in hospital and my mum had to visit and work.  I also remember being given a spoonful of something that tasted malty every day and milk. I also remember having to lay down for a rest in the afternoon and been given a scratchy grey blanket!"




If you would like to share your memories of an open air school on tjhis site, please get in touch