ONE of the country’s oldest nurseries faces closure as consultations are held into the future role of a Furness institution which played a part in winning the Second World War.

Bram Longstaffe Nursery School, on Farm Street, Barrow Island, could say farewell to its last classes of two to four-year-old youngsters on August 31, so we are taking a look at happier times through pictures in The Mail’s archive. The nursery was put in special measures after an Ofsted inspection in December last year and has had a budget deficit for some years but even if the nursery closes, the building is set to continue as a community hub.

An article in The Mail, on Monday, January 3 in 2000, gave a taste of the school’s remarkable history. It was said to be one of the first in the world and was the idea of Bram Longstaffe, a Barrow Labour councillor for 23 years, mayor and chairman of the education committee.

It opened as Barrow shipyard was in full production for a world conflict against Adolf Hitler’s Germany which many politicians hoped could still be averted by negotiation. Women workers were needed in huge numbers as the Second World War started and men were called up for military service from any job not deemed essential. Nursery places helped families to cope as mothers went to work to assist the war effort.

The article noted: “The nursery school was once the biggest of its kind in the country and opened on July 3 in 1939 - at a time when Barrow was a heavily industrialised town. Families were large and poor and when the school first opened, the intake was only allowed from the Barrow Island tenement flats. Railroad tracks ran down the middle of Island Road and the docks and there was nowhere safe for youngsters living on the island to play. The nursery was once described as ‘an oasis of green among the bricks’ and is still a haven of play and education today. The Department for Education and Employment designated Bram Longstaffe Nursery School as a Centre of Excellence for Early Years in 1999 in recognition of the good service it has offered the Barrow community for 60 years.” In February 2000 the school held an open day to let parents see the facilities and find out about projects - including weekly coffee mornings with speakers and a shared learning group with parents and teachers working together with babies and toddlers.