Independent Secondary Schools
West Downs academic results
Schools to which West Downs boys and girls went
Scholarship statistics at West Downs
Andrew and Liz Morrison
Reg and Gill Severn
Portraits of Staff
1. Richard Austin
2. Eric Back
3. Alan Bartlett
4. Vati Carrère
5. James Christie
6. Guy Eddis
7. Peter Erskine
8. Jeremy Fisher
9. Jim Fitzgerald
10. Dorothy Glover
11. Roger Greenwood
12. David Howell Griffith
13. Marcus Hinds
14. Paddy Holman
15. Francis Irving
16. Roger Jacques
17. Lionel Kay
18. Clare Lawrence and Libby Merriman
19. Chris Maxse
20. Colin Morrison
21. Robert Moss
22. Claudie Phelips
23. Gerald Potts
24. Hugh Rawson
25. Maisie Richardson
26. Humphrey Salwey
27. Michael Sanders
28. David Shears
29. Barbara Spibey
30. Sue Taylor and Ellen Nicoll
31. Anne Thurley
32. W.J. Tremellen
33. Arthur Turner
34. David Watkins
35. Judith Whiticar
Meteorites and some part-time teachers
Sisters and Matrons
Cooks and Kitchen Staff
The Pantry Staff
The Grounds and their Custodians
Numbers and buildings
Statistics on Day Children and Girl Boarders
Class and West Downs
Honest Brave and Pure – the West Downs Motto
Changes in the routine
Television, Comics and Books
Scouting at West Downs
Crime and punishment
West Downs and the World Outside
The West Downs Leaver
Chapel at West Downs
The Demise of West Downs
These papers are in amplification of Mark Hichens’ excellent “West Downs, A Portrait of an English Prep-School”. The Book naturally deals more fully with the early history of West Downs because this is of much greater interest than the story of what it was in its later years. Nevertheless, after reading Mark’s book and encouraged by Nick Hodson’s suggestion that there should be a permanent folder of Contributions to it and about it the following texts are appended. The material about the Buildings and Grounds and the names of the Teachers, often with brief comments on their contribution to West Downs, was available to him in the West Downs Magazines; but there was much too much detail to interest the general public. And also I did feel that, for obvious reasons and without in any way criticising the thrust of his Portrait, less than justice was accorded to the wonderful men and women who were my friends and colleagues from 1954 to 1988. It has been a labour of love to delve into the Magazines and to refresh my memory in their regard; and, on the academic side, I wish to stress that our remarkable Public Exam results are nothing to do with me. LH, I believe, and certainly KT taught major subjects and more of them, whereas I taught less and my subjects, History and Scripture, were of less importance in the Public School examinations.
Any Prep-School Headmaster who scans the attached list of Schools to which West Downs boys went during the period 1954-1981 and during the School’s last years will understand, without the need for any further explanation, that during the first mentioned of these periods West Downs was in the first ten or twelve Prep Schools in the Country. For those who are not “in the trade” some background material may be useful.
1. First of all during the whole of that period the Public School to which a boy went mattered. Maybe this will not be the case in the distant future. It certainly does not matter in the USA, France, any of our Dominions, Japan or, I suspect, anywhere else on earth. The important thing in all these countries is the University or Haute Ecole at which you studied and how well you did at that level.
2. In England it is also desirable that you should have been at a good Independent Secondary or Public School. Clearly it is in the first place advantageous that you should have attended a Headmasters Conference (H.M.C.) School, but there are now 276 of them in the UK and six in Europe and some fail many more boys in Common Entrance than others. Anyone with any knowledge of Public Schools will recognise this.
3. By common consent the best schools are Eton and Winchester, the former because it has much the highest Common Entrance failure rate and the latter since it has a more difficult Entrance Exam. The history behind all this as set out in Bamford’s the Rise of the Public School is that prior to 1861 there was no clear definition of a Public School. In that year the Clarendon Commission was told to report on nine schools, two day, St Pauls and Merchant Taylors and seven Boarding or mostly Boarding i.e. Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester. They reported in 1865 and in 1889 the first Public Schools Yearbook was published. It comprised 25 Schools – Bedford, Bradfield, Brighton, Charterhouse, Cheltenham, Clifton, Dover, Dulwich, Eton, Haileybury, Harrow, Lancing, Malvern, Marlborough, Radley, Repton, Rossall, Rugby, Sherborne, Shrewsbury, Tonbridge, Uppingham, Westminster, Wellington and Winchester. It omitted Merchant Taylors and St Pauls presumably because they were day schools.
4. In 1993 it is reasonable to add to that list three Catholic Schools, Ampleforth, Downside and Stonyhurst; three Scottish Schools, Glenalmond and perhaps Fettes and Loretto; two Special Schools, Gordonstoun (in the Book) and Millfield (not in); two new schools Stowe and Canford; and also of course Merchant Taylors and St Pauls. No other Public School is as worthy as these, for they are often local schools, mostly day, except perhaps Oundle because of its early interest in Science.
5. There are certain other Schools in the 1993 Handbook under the heading Society of Headmasters of Independent Schools. They are not H.M.C. Schools because they do not have a large enough Sixth Form studying for A level. The most sought-after School in this League is Milton Abbey and the best for those with reading problems is Stanbridge Earls.
6. There are also other non-listed Independent Secondary Schools not affiliated to any organisation. Clearly they are for boys who are less academically gifted.
7. There is considerable misunderstanding about the Common Entrance Exam. Many think that it is like O levels (now GCSE) or A levels. It is not. The pupil’s scripts are sent to the School for which he is entered for marking and all prep-school Headmasters know that the A awarded to the candidate by, say, Dover College may be as low as C and certainly no higher than B accorded by the Eton examiner. The point is that the Dover A entrant is that much better than the Dover C entrant and the same applies at Eton. It is not possible to equate the two. Furthermore it is impossible to fail if a boy is entered for certain Schools. There is a vacancy which must be filled. I have known a boy whose mark in all papers was D or E, and yet he was accepted.
8. Pursuing this matter further, in the Twenties, when I was a boy, I never heard of a Common Entrance failure and it is my belief that this was the case in the Thirties and Forties. It was only after the dust had settled following World War II that demand exceeded supply. There were Common and Winchester Entrance failures because at certain schools C.E. was used to weed out applicants rather than to place them on arrival. Eton is a perfect example. There was a time, and it may still be true, that Eton was failing up to 30% of C.E. candidates, having already screened some of them. I will explain. Up until some date midway through the Sixties an Old Etonian (or anyone else) entered his son for a House 13 years ahead at birth. The House Tutor’s 2006th list might be full this year (1994). Clearly there will be wastage over those 13 years. A boy might die or be obviously unfit to go to Eton for health and other reasons, the father might emigrate etc, etc. Up until the mid-Sixties all that happened was that the House Tutor contacted the parents of boys whom he had refused earlier and told them that an unexpected vacancy had arisen. So the 2006th list changed from year to year until the final test, the C.E. exam. But now, and this has been the case for many many years, the House Tutor is not allowed to vary his original list in such a haphazard and favouritising way. When you apply to the Tutor i.e. a certain Eton house and are refused, he tells you “Don’t worry. Your son may still arrive with us through the General List”. Many are the boys whom I have driven to Eton for these General List Intelligence Tests. There is a very high failure rate. The boys on its Roll A are certain of places, subject to C.E. results, though not necessarily to the House of their choice. Those on its Roll B stand a good chance of getting a place since these Tests are taken when a boy is 11 and there is wastage between then and when the boy is 13. There are usually about 20 on each list and applications for a particular year may be as many as 300. (I should explain that nothing like that number are tested. There are applicants “from China to Peru” whose addresses have changed without trace, who have decided that in the end they don’t want their son to go to Eton etc). At a rough guess there are 200 genuine applicants for 40 places: Here is a genuine and generally successful way in which Eton has opened its doors to those who are not Old Etonians and who may come from any class or background.
9. In my time West Downs had failures in Common Entrance, most often for Eton but also for other well-known schools, but they were rare and all who taught the boys who failed and I, as Headmaster, felt guilty and ashamed. We had failed to judge the height of the hurdle which the boy had to jump. Wherever possible we pressed the Public School to allow the candidate a second chance in the following term and so on. It was very rare indeed that a boy failed to go to the School of his parents’ choice though that choice might in the end be for a School whose C.E. requirements were lower than those of the School originally chosen.
10. Finally, a brief word on Westminster and Winchester entrance. The Westminster comment is that for years the School set its own entrance exam, the syllabus for which was harder than that of the Common Entrance schools. For a long time now they have fallen into line with all other Schools except Winchester. Candidates do not have to sit special papers. Winchester entrance requirements are still completely different. In the first place their papers in all subjects demand that entrants should be tested much more thoroughly and covering a wider syllabus. History, though a minor subject as in C.E., is an example. In the C.E. papers there is such a wide choice of questions that, for example, a boy who has only studied English mediaeval history can get an A. The Winchester paper has questions covering the whole of British History from 55 BC to the present day, though a boy who has but a nodding knowledge of, say, the Plantagenets and their life and times can get away with it. But, as their teacher, I and Gill Severn after me felt bound to sketch out the main events of each century. So at West Downs we had a special form, S.D.II, higher than U.S.I, the Common Entrance form, for our Winchester candidates. From 1954 to 1988 we only had one failure and that was in my first term. I did not feel responsible, specially since he passed in the next term and I felt no sense of shame. I will explain. The Winchester College entry procedure is quite different from all others and in my opinion not all that clever. (It surprises me that they have not seen this.) When the candidate is 11 or slightly younger, i.e. just the same age as the Eton candidates seeking entry through the General List procedure, the Winchester College Housemaster demands a Report from the boy’s ’tother. I had to certify that in my opinion the boy would pass their exam two years later, if possible indicating how well he would pass, as well as reporting on his moral character, his potential talent for games etc. etc. When I first became Headmaster I felt worried about this. If I wrote slightingly about a candidate I would ruin his chances of acceptance, for the Housemaster concerned would have many more applicants than there were places. Was this fair on the boy and his parents? Did not I have a duty to promote a boy’s interests in writing up his potential? I sought advice from a Winchester College don who is still a special friend. He said “Jerry, if you have said that a boy who is obviously not up to standard two years hence will pass you will not be believed in future. It will become well known that ‘certificates’ about West Downs boys should be discounted.” I heeded his advice and you can see now why I was not ashamed when our 1954 candidate failed. I had not furnished the ‘certificate’. I also came to see that the Winchester College procedure certainly favoured the ’tother. Their exam papers were harder than the C.E. equivalents but the failure rate was far less than that at Eton. They were like Poker players who have thrown away their Aces before the hand is played; for clearly they can’t afford to fail too many at age 13 for fear that they will not fill their vacancies. If I was honest it would never happen to us. And indeed it did not, though on several occasions I had to warn an Old Wykehamist parent well before his son was 11 that I would not be able to give the “certificate” on the boy’s academic potential. He would have to lower his sights.
1. If there is one thing which West Downs has been proud of it is their academic results. Long before I became a Headmaster it seemed to me that a Prep-School essentially has two functions: One is to provide a setting in which each pupil can make the most of his talents, become self-confident, learn to live with others and generally increase in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man. The other is that he should get into the next Independent School of his parents’ choice. Comparisons are odious but it could perhaps be said that L.H. laid more stress on the first of these objectives and that KT was more aware of the importance of the second. I was fortunate enough to inherit both “traditions.”
2. We are concerned with the second in this paper. I was myself very proud that over the period 1954 to 1988, i.e. covering the last years when I was only titular Headmaster as well as those when I was Executive Head, not a single West Downs boy failed to pass the Winchester Entrance Exam. I know of no other School with such a record, certainly not Horris Hill or Twyford. And we had very few Common Entrance failures. When you consider that we never had any Entrance exam or test, accepting all comers if there was room, it becomes all the more remarkable. Our almost unbelievable success over Winchester entrants stems in part from their peculiar entry system described in the previous paper.
3. But how could I come up with irrefutable arguments about the best next School for a boy? Simple, as I will now explain. One of the great strengths of the West Downs Form structure, designed I believe by KT, was that it was geared to the needs of the least academic boy i.e. someone who would need to go over the same ground twice to master the syllabus, of which more below. There was a ladder. A boy entered at the normal age would have 12 to 15 terms at the School. He would need to go from Lower School II to Lower School I, thence through three Middle Schools and Upper School II to finish in Upper School I, the Common Entrance Form. This Form and its equivalent Maths Set was the domain of our strongest teachers and a stupid boy would have to be in it for three terms, remembering that the dreaded C.E. exam was always only halfway through his last term. It could be conclusively proved that such a boy simply had not got the time to reach the Winchester Entrance Form, Senior Div II, let alone the Scholarship Form above it, S.D.I. Upper School I was the final goal for the two termers. The clever boys passed though it, just as they had passed through lower forms, in one term. Mastery of the syllabus was tested at the end of each term by examination and the results were published in that term’s Magazine. (The published results tactfully and purposely did not give the ages of the boys, but these and the “average age” of each Form were shown in the boy’s confidential report to the Parent.)
4. Before describing the Syllabus and in continuation of a description of the Form structure it should be noted that as from 1904 entry to all Independent Secondary Schools (with two exceptions) has been governed by the Common Entrance Examination. I have explained in an earlier paper how this works. The Winchester Entrance Exams in all subjects demand that those who sit them have covered more ground in Mathematics, Languages, Science and even History but they are generously marked, for why see above.
5. Given the premise that a second requirement of a Prep-School is to enable the pupil to enter the next Independent School all our Schools “cram” or ought to “cram” for the Common Entrance, Winchester Entrance and/or Scholarship papers previously set. In History, for example, it is wrong to study French History or Russian History, interesting though such studies may be. In French, once more emphasis was placed on oral work, it was and is wrong to emphasise practice in Composition. We certainly always “crammed” i.e. we geared the work to the Syllabus laid down by the Common Entrance Board and ordered copies of all the past papers. It was the same with Winchester Entrance and on more than one occasion a candidate found to his delight that a somewhat idle Wykehamist don had repeated a piece for Translation which had been set 30 terms or 10 years before and which his Teacher had happened to go through with the Form in the previous week. Theoretically it is less easy to cram for Scholarships but through study of the previous recent papers a Teacher can often get a shrewd idea of the sort of questions which would be asked. It follows that much of the work in Upper School I was on Common Entrance previous papers, in Senior Division II on Winchester Entrance papers even though most of the members of the Form were not going to Winchester and in Senior Division I on Scholarship papers of different Secondary Schools. Furthermore, since most boys left for their new Schools in July and most Scholarship Exams are in the first weeks of the Summer Term all potential Scholars and all the weaker Common and Winchester Entrance candidates were given the opportunity to come on an Easter Holiday Course of about 10 days specifically to prepare for the Exams. The parents had to pay for this and they did not mind. The boys positively enjoyed it since they had such fun in their spare time with their chums. The meals were specially good and subsidised.
6. Now, at last, we come to the Syllabus or rather the plural thereof. Let us take Latin as an example. In Lower School I at one time, later Middle School III, when a boy started to study the Language, there was our own vocabulary of words which he had to know and a prescribed list of grammatical practices which he had to learn. For this reason, to take another example, the pupil was introduced to the Passive voice of verbs much earlier than in most text-books. Curiously, though there are many examples in English, the most difficult concept in Latin which a pupil has to grasp is Subject and Object. It takes weeks and sometimes months for some to understand that Mensam Amat Puella and Amat Puella Mensam and Mensam Puella Amat all mean the same; and, further, that the Passive amounts simply to the Object becoming the Subject. We had no Set Books for Latin. Teachers made up and passed down the Sentences or longer pieces on which the pupils of their Form had been tested. Even in the Scholarship Form there would be pieces for Translation devised by a Teacher to illustrate a certain construction. In this connection I think specially of Jeremy Fisher’s amusing accounts of the adventures of Jacobus Bond. In the end of term exams only words in that form’s vocab. would be used (it was offside to require them to know any more) and only the syntax of that form and forms below it was tested. The first fortnight in the next form up was used to revise the syntax and vocabulary of the form below.
It was exactly the same for French, though in this subject the Whitmarsh and Tricolore books were used for grammatical work; but we still had our own vocab., devised for a very long period by Mlle Vati Carrère. About 200 words had to be learned in each Form. Boys were tested on, say, 30 of them each week. There were six periods a week and they were used, roughly, for Translation, listening comprehension from cassettes, sentences in French, vocabulary testing, conversation and reading from Tricolore or in the higher forms from Les Evasions, Trois Heros and Jules Verne simplified extracts.
In English there was not quite such a rigid Syllabus and more books were used but a common weekly programme of six lessons would be comprehension, going through the results of their endeavours thereon, grammar including synonyms and antonyms and metaphors in the higher forms, poetry and a reader; and an essay was written each week.
In Maths a single book, Munir, was used throughout the School and again each Set’s work was structured, for example Venn Diagrams and Pie Charts being the principal work in one Set, Fractions and Decimals in another, Binary etc in a third.
In Science the structured Nuffield Course was followed. In History and Geography there was no Syllabus but in the former, since there is a vast choice of questions in the Common Entrance and since for some inexplicable reason children seem to like beginning at the Beginning the prescribed course ended with the Tudors and Stuarts in Upper School I. More recent history was usually taught in the Senior Division. Astonishingly, West Downs boys and girls did just as well in the ‘minor’ subject Scripture. It was taught by the Headmaster to all Pupils in Forms from Middle School III upwards (Lower School being taught from a simple Bible Story book for years by Maisie Richardson) in Chapel for a maximum of 50 minutes a week (the Saturday morning 10 minute session being a Congregational Choir Practice). A summary of the ground covered each term was distributed a few days before the Exam and there was a half hour weekly test which was, of course, marked. K.T., I and Reg Severn have always insisted that the Syllabus should include the Acts, even though it is hardly covered in Common Entrance, on the grounds that it would be absurd to end the story of Our Lord Jesus before Pentecost and its sequel, the outreach of St. Peter and St. Paul.
7. That was how pupils were taught at West Downs. It was remarkably successful. It stood the test of getting stupid boys into the most academic Second School in which they could survive. It also enabled clever boys to get to the top very rapidly since there was promotion at the end of each term and, in emergency, to enable boys to get into Winchester even more quickly e.g. in one case in one and a half terms, in another with a scholarship in two and a half. The Teachers knew what was required of them, very often taking a boy individually for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes after Lunch and before Games or Afternoon Periods. They were on their mettle as well as the boys. And, contrary to received opinion, most boys are eager for knowledge at Prep-School age (otherwise the Guinness Book of Records would not be as popular as it is) and they are competitive. There were sticks and carrots too. Boys and girls who showed that they had been industrious got a Plus point for their Patrol through the weekly Brown Boards. Those who were idle were put on a Slack Report which each Teacher signed one way or the other after each period and the boy had to show it to the Headmaster each day. Put briefly, thanks to K.T., Course Books were never used at West Downs and we never followed the crowd in chopping and changing our Syllabuses.
1. The marked difference during the two periods between the Secondary Schools which we served is readily apparent but before I explain the reason for this I will add a word about a few schools hardly mentioned in the previous papers. Glenalmond is the leading Scottish School which is Anglican rather than Non-conformist. Millfield is bracketed because it is a good school but Rogue. The Girls Schools are listed in order of the number sent to them but the pecking order of the Schools to which we sent only one girl is probably St Pauls Girls, Roedean, Sherborne Girls, St Marys Calne, Downe House, North Foreland Lodge. The others are not in any particular order. They are less well-known. It should also be observed among the Ones in Boys Schools that those who went to Stonyhurst, Tonbridge and Lancing all gained scholarships. Perhaps they would not have been sent to these Schools if they had not been scholarship material.
2. The period 1954 to 1981 is 27 years and it will be observed that, on average, we sent over 7 boys to Eton each year and 5 to Winchester College. The Schools to which we sent nearly one a year or slightly over one are all very well-known Schools except perhaps for Bradfield, a small but good School whose Headmaster was for long an O.W.D. Some of them went there because their father was an Old Bradleian, Others when it was felt that they would do best in a smaller school. Three of the boys went to the local Comprehensive School and three to a Quaker School (Leighton Park).
3. The period 1982-1988. It will be noted that we continued to send a lot of boys to Winchester College, nearly six a year, but the Eton figure dropped dramatically. Third rate Schools like Lord Wandsworth also figure too prominently. The reason for this is partly because rumours of the School closing in the near future started to circulate after the Morrison debacle of early 1982, and also the advent of more and more Day Children meant that some of them aimed for another Day School, King Edward’s Southampton, places for which were not in fact all that easy.
|Eton 207||Winchester 136||Harrow 40|
|Charterhouse 35||Marlborough 33||Radley 29|
|Wellington 28||Rugby 22||Bradfield 19|
|Crammers 16||Stowe 15||Sherborne 15|
|Canford 11||Westminster 6||Shrewsbury 7|
|Bryanston 6||Malvern 5||Clifton 6|
|Glenalmond 5||Epsom 3||Cheltenham 3|
|Kings Canterbury 3||Leighton Park 3||Monkton Combe 3|
|Haileybury 2||Kingswood 2||Gordonstoun 2|
One only went to the following:
|Aldenham||Christs College Brecon||St Pauls|
|The Leys||Dover||Merchant Taylors|
|R.G.S. Guildford||St Edwards Canterbury||St Johns Leatherhead|
|Kingston GS||Merchiston Castle|
|Milton Abbey 13||Stanbridge Earls 8||Rannoch 1|
|Le Rosey, Switzerland||1|
|Greenwich, Conn., U.S.A.||2|
|St Marks, U.S.A.||1|
|Philips Andover U.S.A.||1|
|Riverside Academy, Georgia, U.S.A.||1|
|St John’s J’burg, R.S.A.||1|
|Millfield||2||Sir Roger Manwoods GS||1|
|Divine Mercy Henley||1||Ravenscroft||1|
|Kings, Winchester||3 (formerly Montgomery of Alamein)|
|Cheltenham Ladies||3||Royal School Bath||2|
|St Swithuns||2||St Mary’s Convent, Shaftesbury||2|
One only went to each of the following:
|Roedean||St Pauls Girls||Godolphin & Latimer|
|St Mary’s Wantage||St Mary’s Calne||Sherborne Girls|
|North Foreland Lodge||An Ascot School (not Heathfield)|
|An N.Z. School||Battle Abbey||St Leonards|
|Downe House||Mead||Davis High, Calif, USA|
|Winchester||36||King Edwards, Southampton||22 day|
One only went to the following:
|Stowe||Cranleigh||Kings College, Taunton|
|Downside||Pangbourne||St Edwards, Oxford|
|RGS Guildford||Fettes||King Edwards, Witley|
|Kew Forest Hughton U.S.A.||2||Forest Hills, U.S.A.||1|
|American School Paris||1||Nairobi||1|
|St Mary’s Southampton||4||Embley Park||3|
|Hurn Court||2||Slindon College||1|
|Westgate, Winchester||5||Perrins, Alresford||4|
|King Alfred’s Comp||1|
|St Swithuns||11||Sherborne Girls||3|
One only went to the following:
|St Michaels, Petworth||St Brandons, Clevedon|
|St James Malvern||Kent College|
|St Mary’s Calne||Stonar|
|Cheltenham Ladies||The Atherley|
|St Helens and St Catherines||Millfield|
|Ditcham Park||Hawkhurst Court|
|The Grove, Hindhead||The Queens, Chester|
|Royal School, Bath||Croft House|
|Upper Chine||Queens Mead|
|The Solomons||1||American School Paris||1|
LH era 1897-1920
13 in 23 years: average 0.56 per year
Including 4 to Winchester College and 2 to Westminster, one of which was 1st on Roll.
(Families: 2 Archers, 2 Cobbs and 2 Rawsons)
KT era 1921-1953
45 in 33 years: average 1.39 per year
Including 17 to Winchester College and 6 to Eton: 2 of those to Winchester were 1st on Roll.
(Families: 1 Ingrams and 1 later, 3 Nortons and 2 later and 2 Hodsons and 2 later)
JFC & RS era 1954-1988 (including Morrison’s one)
92 in 35 years: average 2.63 per year
Including 29 to Winchester College; 25 to Eton (including 10 OS); 6 to Girls Schools.
1sts at Clifton, Lancing, Tonbridge, Wellington and Winchester.
(Families: 2 Cornes, 2 Curlings, 2 Medds, 2 Posts)
Best years 6 in 1964, and in 1986.
Never less than one a year.
1. Stability was the name of the game from its Headmasters to its Scullions. There were only three and a half Headmasters. I must include Reg Severn as a half since he was Executive Headmaster only, due to IAPS regulations, during the School’s last six years. I exclude Wilfred Brymer, Walter Kirby and Claude Hayward who merely held the fort between LH’s death and KT’s arrival and also Andrew Morrison’s tenure of the post for a year only, 1981 – 1982. LH was a bachelor so he had to fulfil most of the duties of a Prep School Headmaster’s wife as well as those of an Headmaster. It was probably a contributory cause of his early death in office. The wives of the second and third Headmasters were outstandingly supportive, caring and efficient.
2. At an Independent Secondary School the contribution of a Housemaster’s wife is often minimal. At a Boarding Prep School it is of paramount importance. She is the Mother figure for the small boy aged 8 when he leaves his home, often for the first time. She hires and fires subordinate female staff. She is in overall charge of the health of the pupils and the link between the boy’s mother, who has frequently parted from her son with great reluctance, and the School. Mrs Tindall, affectionately known as Tumpty from her initials, was a fully qualified teacher of those days but her speciality had been P.E. She never taught at West Downs (though she had taught elsewhere) and she sometimes had rather strange ideas about Health matters such as hanging onions in the Changing Room, insisting that the boys should open their bowels directly after breakfast, keeping windows open in the coldest weather and arranging that the boys’ temperatures should be taken every day. But these peculiarities only go to prove that she was almost obsessive over the care of the boys. On the night of the boy’s arrival she would telephone the mother to reassure her that her precious son had settled in. If a boy had to sleep in the Sanni she put in a call every day. The junior boys came to her if they were homesick or had a grievance. She also laid down the work to be done by daily women and ensured that it was effected. Though she lost both her sons and though the School moved three times lock stock and barrel during KT’s headmastership she was always the same, a very present help in trouble.
Ray Cornes, though totally different in character, and a teacher of English as well as performing all her other duties, was a very worthy successor. She had a no-nonsense attitude to illness more in keeping with the Fifties by which time antibiotics and inoculations had banished forever the spectre of the after-affects of diseases like Measles and the Common Cold. She at once stopped the temperature taking and abolished the chamber pots under each dormitory bed. A short while later the Assistant Matrons were no longer required to stand in the Foricas to tick off the names of those who had “taken a number” during Sanitary Prep; and the Night Nurse was dismissed. One of HM Inspectors who criticised the practice under which the boys kept their dressing-gowns under the pillows received the crushing rebuke – “That’s nonsense”. Wisely there was no reference to this exchange in the ensuing report. She read to Lower School II every day after lunch and copied T.M.T. in liaising with the mothers, and enjoyed the confidence of the youngest boys to such an extent that she was often asked to decipher their letters from home during the after-lunch reading. She did not oversee the work of the Daily Women and Female Subordinate staff as much as her predecessor but reaped the reward thereby of their affection as well as their respect. There are very few Prep Schools which can boast that over the whole period 1954-1988 West Downs had only three Head Cooks, one of whom died in office while another only left because she was offered a Domestic Bursar appointment in an Oxford College.
3. Couples visiting a Prep School, with a view to deciding whether or not they will commit their precious child to its care, are commonly, though clearly erroneously, known as Prospective Parents, and one of the questions they invariably ask is “Have you many long-serving teaching staff?” or words to that effect. That has always been a question which West Downs Headmasters can easily field. The answer was “Many”, right from the start. The roll of long-serving Teaching Staff must start with Walter Kirby, LH’s right-hand man who was here from about 1899 to 1920, dying it is said as a result of diseases contracted during World War I in the Egyptian campaign. He is matched by W.H. Ledgard who served under three Headmasters from 1907 to 1954, teaching Latin and Greek; he was wounded in France in the last 1918 campaign, having served in the 2nd/4th Hampshire Regiment with Kirby in Palestine (now Israel). Their contemporary D.L. Rose, who taught Maths, served in the same Regiment and was at West Downs from 1899 till his death in 1947. We also remember influential teachers during the L.H.-K.B.T. era and the inter-regnum. They include Wilfred Brymer, who served from about 1908 to 1921: see the following ‘portrait’.
At my request K.T. wrote a Tribute to Wilfred when he died in 1957. I extract from that all the information below. He was educated at Charterhouse and Christchurch, Oxford. In about 1908 he was appointed to a temporary mastership at West Downs, chiefly as a private tutor to a backward boy who needed individual help. But it was not long before L.H. saw that this young master was likely to become a valuable member of Staff so his appointment became a permanent one. When the First World War broke out he was pronounced unfit for military service and was therefore one of the few regular Teachers to remain at the School. When L.H.’s health broke down and he was compelled to take a rest, Wilfred became acting Headmaster and on L.H.’s death in 1919 his sister, Lady Goodrich, to whom he had left the School, offered him the substantive Headmastership. This offer must have tempted him but he felt bound to refuse because he was the heir to his elderly Uncle who had a large property in Dorset. He agreed only to carry on until a suitable successor to her brother could be found. That successor was K.T. and Wilfred stepped down to become Second Master, helping Kenneth to teach to the right level for Prep-School boys, (he had previously taught older boys at Sherborne,) and generally keeping him au fait with the West Downs traditions e.g. the Special place of Advent Sunday in each year. “As Second Master”, K.T. says, “he was invaluable in keeping me in touch with the Staff... and, though the most conservative of men by nature, he accepted changes without obvious resentment and sometimes even with approval.”
He left West Downs in 1923 when he inherited his Uncle’s property, so he served the School for 16 years and all I can add is that I have been told that he was aghast when L.H. said that during the War there would be no more cricket matches, since the boys should be taught to dig trenches; but he accepted his Headmaster’s decision without rancour.
K.T.’s tribute ends by summarising his schoolmasterly qualities; insistence on good discipline and good manners and accurate and steady work in the classroom; and, though not much of a games player himself, a useful and efficient coach for football and cricket. He had a long period in so-called retirement, 1923 to 1957. He became a Magistrate, a prominent member of the Dorset County Council and the Church Assembly of the Salisbury Diocese and was engaged in many other such Public Duties.
He had been brought up in the tradition that the wealthier members of any County should serve it.
Andrew was appointed Headmaster in 1981 at the age of 38, and resigned a year later, since the Cornes family refused to make the School into a Charitable Trust.
He was educated at Ashdown House, at Eton, where he was a Scholar, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected as Head of the College’s Students’ Union and was Captain of their Cricket XI. Having played cricket for the Crusaders when at the University, he also played for Cambridgeshire. He worked for two years in the City in a Lloyd’s Insurance firm and then decided to be a Teacher. He got his Dip.Ed. and taught Classics at Glenalmond for four years.
From 1979 to 1981 he was an Assistant Master at Charterhouse where he was House Tutor of Gownboys, and also in charge of Cricket, Fives, games organisation, Outward Bound training and the R.N. section of the C.C.F. His main other interests at that time were pottery, birdwatching and mountaineering. During his Cambridge vacations he taught at Ashdown House and at his maternal grandfather’s Bexhill Prep School.
When he became Headmaster, he and his wife Liz, who had nursing experience, had two daughters of Prep School age, who became West Downs pupils.
On leaving West Downs he was appointed Headmaster of Mowden Hall Prep School in Northumberland, where he was outstandingly successful. In the early nineties he was appointed to Charterhouse as Master in Charge of their Lower school, i.e. boys in the first two or three years at the School.
Andrew and Liz made a number of changes during their brief tenure of office. They were all designed to help the boys and girls make the most of their free time, especially by more use of the library and the introduction of rudimentary Chamber Music in Chapel. There were also a great many outings, e.g. for the first time ever to Bryanston to attend their performance of the Mikardo, to get ideas on how West Downs should present their version of the Operetta later in the Easter Term, 1982.
Their rapport with their charges was close and immediate, and the parents were devastated when they heard that they were going after a mere three terms. It was a sad day for West Downs when they left.
Some people will remember Reg as the forthright and efficient Headmaster and caretaker of the West Downs tradition during its last six years. But a lot more will recall him from way back in the Fifties when he was a young man straight down from Pembroke College, Oxford, teaching English and Maths in the Middle School and a notable boxer and rugger player and keen Cricketer. That’s what he was when I first came to the School in 1954 for he had already been here for nearly 4 years. In 1958, feeling perhaps that there was no future for him at West Downs, Reg left for a neighbouring Prep-School. During the first four years of my Headmastership he had already made his mark as Head of the English Department, the producer of an ambitious School Play, Toad of Toad Hall, Master of Ceremonies at the Christmas dance and Second-in-Command under D.H.G. of our Scouting. Fortunately for us he was back again in 1962 and recently married so a house had to be built for him. This was done and in 1964 he took over from Gerald Potts the very difficult but rewarding job of helping doubtful Common Entrance candidates to get into their Public Schools, the master-in-charge of U.S.I and S.P.III. And this was his assignment for 24 years.
When he left it seemed that D.H.G. was irreplaceable. It is a humbling fact that no-one is. Over the years Reg proved that he was just as good, if not better, at patiently bringing light out of darkness for boys who were at first confused by the binary system and other concepts of the New Mathematics, and in Latin the usage of the Passive Voice. Our record of Common Entrance passes into the best half dozen Schools during the late Sixties and the Seventies is ample proof of his success. Reg also ensured that our Troop kept abreast of the ways in which the Scout Movement tried to widen the scope of badges available, i.e. interpreter and car maintenance, and in other respects to adapt to modern times. Our Troop liaised more with other Winchester and District Troops by providing the venue for the Annual Scout Sports, sometimes camping with them on weekends and so forth. The Baker Wilbraham results bear witness to his efforts. In Cricket too, as the organiser of Hampshire Hogget fixtures, he enhanced our local standing and improved the performances of our First Eleven by hiring County cricketers to coach and spending hours himself at the Nets and in fielding practice. It is truly remarkable that he kept on with all these time-consuming duties when he was Executive Head of West Downs during its last six years.
This deserves a separate paragraph. It was a very difficult job to maintain high academic standards and morale over those years. The scholarship results, including 6 to Winchester College, are sufficient witness to his success. There were also some remarkable entrance results, boys coming to West Downs for a year and yet succeeding. The sad thing was that he could never be officially described as Headmaster. Though up at Oxford for three years he never got a degree and so the I.A.P.S. rules precluded that title. We appealed to the highest authority, asking that an exception should be made on the basis of Reg’s long and distinguished service and the recognition of his ability by his peers. It was all in vain and a good example of the trend whereby you need a certificate not only for Teaching English as a Foreign Language but also for such careers as a Travel Agent and Museum Guide. One is tempted to ask the ultimate question to show up the absurdity. At some distant future will it be necessary for a woman to get a piece of paper to prove her fitness for that most arduous and almost unattainable vocation, a wife and mother?
Gill’s contribution to West Downs is immeasurable in terms of length of service and diversity of duties. By marrying Reg she was inevitably drawn into the magic circle of the School’s adherents and her talents were at once recognised. Trained in horticulture and daughter of a farmer she was immediately consulted on the garden and how to keep the paths weed-free. Later she was pressed into service at times as a Form Teacher and latterly as Head of the History Department. She has a particular interest in English mediaeval history and fostered the study of facets of the Middle Ages such as Armour, Heraldry and Castles. She was also keenly aware of the fact that the subject is not taught only in the classroom. This we had long recognised. For example we were one of the few Prep-Schools which always sent a large party to the open-air Shakespeare Plays performed by Bradfield. But she added many more expeditions e.g. to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth, to the Roman Villa at Fishbourne near Chichester, to Old Winchester Hill with its flint mines, the Butser Saxon Village etc. Parties also went to sites where you could learn more about Natural History e.g. to a Butterfly Farm, a Falconry and an Apple-tasting Festival. She also made sure that even the youngest children should have their first experience of the Theatre, going to a Christmas Carol or the Wind in the Willows etc. etc. The dull monotony of the normal West Downs day was very often breached in her era by a day out in the country or even, for the older boys, a Geography outing to places as far away as the Thames Barrier.
As wife of the Executive Headmaster Gill was also charged with the duty of hiring and firing female staff and making sure that they did their work properly. She was meticulous in laying down exactly what work each daily woman had to do and spent much spare time showing prospective parents round the premises and answering endless utterly unimportant questions asked over the telephone about a missing sock or a minor accident with unfailing patience and courtesy. After lunch each day she read to Lower School II, she was the hostess after Sunday Chapel and at Match Teas and the Chapel Sacristan, changing the Altar Cloths during the Christian year and responsible for the Communion plate. The Harvest Festival Service was a particularly special one in her era, for besides the fruit and flowers there was always on the altar a jug of water and a beautifully made Loaf of Bread, reminding us of how God gives us all our basic needs.
She was a kind Mother figure to the boys and a staunch support to Reg.
When Hugh Rawson had to leave us for health reasons early in 1966 we were at our wit’s end about how to replace him. A very nice young chap from Queens College Cambridge, Tim Russ, held the fort for one term only before being ordained in the Catholic priesthood and Guy Eddis (q.v.) took over from him for a term, pending Richard’s arrival in January 1967. Richard had for years been the Senior Maths Master and Right-hand man of the Headmaster of Little Appley in the Isle of Wight which had had to close because of lack of pupils. He was a Godsend.
Captain Austin had been a Gunner in the Regular Army during World War II and for a year or two thereafter. He saw action in 1939 and early 1940 and was badly wounded. When he recovered a long time later he was not fit enough to be recalled to the Colours. During his convalescence and thereafter for a year on two he wrote novels, the first based on his own war experiences and others that were pure fiction. Basically he is a Mathematician because he was a Gunner. He did not have time to go to University between the end of his schooling at the secondary stage and the outbreak of war. In 1944 he and Hilda, whom he had recently married, went to live in the Isle of Wight and so it happened that he applied by chance to teach in just about the only Prep-School on the island. He was with them for over 20 years, during many of which he was the Second Master. I met him in the early Sixties when we started to play cricket against this School. Our team loved it for it was fun to travel on a boat.
D.H.G. (q.v.) (Master I/C The Lodge) left in 1960 and for a number of years 1960 – 1964 Gerald Potts (q.v.) held that office. There was then an Inter-regnum of three years, I suppose you could say that Marcus Hinds (q.v.) assumed that unofficial duty, but he willingly handed over this command to Richard who had had such long experience of holding a similar job in the Isle of Wight. It is not a recognised appointment, no-one gets extra money for holding it, but it is all-important in training new Teachers in West Downs ways and, if they are young and inexperienced and outgoing, comforting them if they find difficulty in keeping order in the classroom, curbing them if they overstep that narrow gap between a master and a boy and rebuking them if they behave in an uncouth way. He did this job perfectly and quietly, not bothering me with any case. This was perhaps his outstanding contribution to the welfare of West Downs and I warmly thank him.
In the Classroom, though technically unqualified, he was the equal of Hugh Rawson (q.v.) in his heyday. Richard introduced Munir to the School, a remarkable book which in a Single Volume contains all that the boys need to know under the New Maths Syllabus for Common and Winchester Entrance and even some parts of Scholarship work. As with Latin and French each Set had a syllabus, e.g. Fractions and Decimals in one step up the ladder. He made the Subject live for innumerate boys by giving amusing examples to test their problem-solving.
Richard was too old when he came to us to be in charge of any of the sports but of course he assisted in umpiring cricket and at Parents’ Weekend. Naturally he had no trouble over discipline in the classroom and he was an excellent Duty Master, turning a blind eye sometimes to some harmless peccadillo e.g. using the Greenhouse as a refuge in Hide and Seek. In other words he was sensible about dishing out Nuisance Points. It was tough on him that he had to leave his wife, Hilda, behind him on the Island during the week, for they are a very united couple. Their home is near Seaview, going back to the XVI Century. Richard is very well-known on the Isle of Wight, because he has lived there so long and has been for years in charge of their Pony Club and a Yachting time-keeper. He loves the Island and knows it very well, so he’s a wonderful guide when we visit him each summer. As you can see he has wide intellectual interests. A Man for All Seasons.
Cdr. Back (R.N. Retd.) taught at West Downs from 1966 to 1969, leaving because of a heart complaint. He revolutionised our Geography Department, and also taught Maths. I remember him best as the goalkeeper of the Masters’ Hockey team when we played against the boys. Our 1968 Hockey Team was particularly good; they narrowly lost only one school match out of six by 2 goals to 3. So the Masters were hard put to it to win, which we did by a narrow margin. He enjoyed his time at West Downs, and so he often came back to visit us from his home in Salisbury. The boys were fond of him because he was always “fair”, as they put it; i.e. he had no favourites.
Alan taught at West Downs from 1966 to 1974 and during his time with us he took a few boys for Sailing and Beagling. Sadly we had to discontinue these sports when he left, since we never again had a qualified yachtsman on our Staff. It was fun while it lasted and several Etonians of his era continued with their Beagling when at that School. It is typical of Eton that at their Parents Weekend called the Fourth of June, when Agars is the centre of attraction for most of the afternoon, there is at the same time a group of Parents and boys at their Kennels. Their only interest is Dogs.
Vati Carrère is our oldest living and dearest West Downs friend. She was staunchly loyal to Ray and me during the 1982 debacle and the period 1987 to 1988 leading up to the closure of the School. She was the French teacher at the School from 1951 to 1988 and since then she has lived with us at 3 Barnes Close, Winchester. She is an amazingly generous person, generous with her time as I will show but also with her money. We know her great friend Annie and almost all her brothers and sisters and their families; and she shows her affection to all our family when they visit us. She is also incredibly gifted. We handed over three rooms in an Attic to her and she at once made them into a gracious home, wall-papering them herself and upholstering some nondescript West Downs easy chairs. Her taste is impeccable. She also has a talent for painting mostly copying Impressionist oeuvre. At West Downs she was a green-fingered gardener at one time on a small plot and she played the piano. She was also the Teacher in charge when the boys and girls went riding at a neighbouring stable.
That’s enough perhaps on her character and shining goodness. What was her contribution to West Downs? Immense, immeasurable. She did not Do Duty or take Games. Instead during the period after lunch and often also in Games time she would coach boys and girls on a one-to-one basis. One of my keenest memories of my Clifton days is of a French Master who was almost physically ill when I mispronounced a word. Vati felt the same if most Common Entrance candidates got anything lower than an A. Of course she never charged a penny for all this extra work and they loved the French walk which she started with Scholars and later with others. It is true that one advantage was the ability to spend 6p at the Sweet Content; but that was only a Bonus. It was on one of these walks that she promised our son Andrew a Chinese Meal if he won a Scholarship to Eton. I won’t go as far as to say that this influenced the amount of work he put in to be 9th on the Election Roll at the second attempt but it helped. These were the High Fliers, but she was equally patient and understanding with beginners and dullards higher up the School. On more than one occasion I urged her not to waste her time on L.S.II, the Bottom Form. “Never”, she said, “they must learn to speak with the right accent from the very beginning”. What it came to was that, when the periods devoted to French were upped from 5 to 6, she had to teach 24 periods a week, 18 of them with the top three forms and 6 with L.S.II, more than any other Teacher.
Boys respond to dedication to their interests and they were never late when she gave them extra work (not as a punishment but an incentive). She had no disciplinary problems. She was affectionately known as “Mam” like Our Queen! I am quite sure that they often did better at Common Entrance and Winchester Entrance than we expected because they did not want to let her down.
Vati’s home is in Agen near Bordeaux, a region in France best known for its passion for Rugby. (You will often see in their cafés a photograph of the local Rugby team rather than a half-naked photo of Brigitte Bardot). Her grandfather was a soldier who never rose above the rank of Major because he was a faithful Catholic. The anti-clericalism in France in the early part of this century was diabolical. In her girlhood she lived in Occupied France and had to keep a low profile. She learned Spanish principally in her School and came over to this country in 1950 to improve her English. She went at first to a Girls School which she did not like and by extraordinary good luck KT appointed her on a short contract, a term’s notice on either side. She did not go to a University or get a Diploma entitling her to teach and she was paid £180 a year. Her annual income is a lot more than that now, partly because she has recently successfully played the Stock Market. She has the Gift of Faith, an unshakeable Belief in Our Lord Jesus.
James was a member of our staff from 1979 to 1988, succeeding to the posts which Jim Fitzgerald held, a difficult act to follow. He was at school at Milton Abbey and at Southampton University as an undergraduate and then got his teaching certificate at a Midland College of Education. He was a great success in and out of the classroom. Like Jim and Ray he loved poetry; some of his Standing Up productions were memorable e.g. W.H. Auden’s The Witness, The Snake (D.H. Lawrence) and Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas); and I single out from his many Form Plays the Dotheboys School scene from Nicholas Nickleby and the Trial Scene in the Merchant of Venice.
James was an indefatigable coach of the Football 1st XI in the Christmas Term and the Under Eleven XI in the Easter term. In the Summer he organised the Sports at Parents’ Weekend and ran our Athletic Meets. The boys looked up to him and he therefore had no trouble at all with discipline both in and out of the Classroom. He was a sociable member of Staff in the Lodge for many years. A year or so before West Downs closed he married Beverley who was an Assistant Matron. The Reception was at West Downs and after the Honeymoon they went to live in a house they had bought in the Badger Farm Estate on the outskirts of Winchester.
He was, and I’m sure still is, a hard-working and imaginative teacher. His energy and loyalty were priceless. He did a lot for West Downs in its dying days.
In 1962 we began to teach Science following a syllabus conjured up first by the Esso Oil Company and then by Nuffield. It was patently obvious that it should have been taught to Prep School boys years before that, but the Public School Scientists held up its inception. The age-old argument was used, “We don’t need boys who have been badly taught by amateurs. We like to start them off here”. Anyway eventually they were forced to give way and so Guy was the Master who taught Physics and Chemistry. He couldn’t instruct in Biology, so a Part-Timer covered that part of the syllabus. Everything fell into place quite easily except that there were grumblings from the Classicists who lost a couple of Latin periods each week. For Guy had taught only Maths at Aldro and Northaw where he served his apprenticeship as a Teacher, having retired from the Royal Navy in 1958 with an M.B.E.
The great thing about Guy was his Naval training in that he was a D.I.Y. buff. The tin-clad N rooms were handed over to him and somehow or other he found the Storage Space so essential to Scientists and he made most of the apparatus himself. Setting up Science cost very little at West Downs. Of course most of the boys took to it like ducks to water, because nearly all small boys love finding out the secrets of Magnetism and how an Electric current flows. Some of them are too inquisitive. One plunged a chemical into a water-closet and it blew up in his face. Miraculously he escaped without any damage. So it was in the primitive N rooms that he taught Science from 1961 to 1982 and never in the Field Dormitory which was the Science School during the last 6 years with its immensely improved facilities.
Born in 1924 Guy got a First Class pass into RNC Dartmouth in 1937 and at the age of 17 he was on active service in HMS Norfolk on the Russian convoy route. He had a distinguished War record, serving in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, and he was there for the D-day landings. In 1945 he was in the Aircraft Carriers HMS Colossus and HMS Slinger in the Far East when our sole remaining enemy was Japan. After the War Guy was in command of HMS Watchful, in the Royal Naval Rhine Section and a Training Officer seconded to the New Zealand Navy. So he travelled the World in the Service.
Our Science results in Common Entrance were nearly always undistinguished but that was simply because at West Downs it was a Cinderella subject. It was far too late in the day that we started Science in the lower forms and quite often candidates had to sit the exam without covering all the syllabus which was designed for a 6-term span. Results were no better when, after Guy left us, qualified teachers dealt with Physics and Chemistry. Our promotion system was also unhelpful. We quite often found that a boy who was average or weak at most other subjects, even including Maths, was a promising Scientist. Such a boy would be held back for a term or two until he caught up in, say, the language disciplines.
Guy is a man with an independent cast of mind and of independent means. He could not possibly have sent his five daughters to private schools, relying solely on the meagre Burnham Scale salary we paid him. He enjoyed teaching and that was why he did it. He was an utterly reliable Duty Officer as would be obvious from his Naval Career; for 21 years he was the Master in charge of Hockey and this was one of the few games in which we won more matches than we lost; and he inaugurated and led the skiing trips for a few West Downs boys and their parents in the Easter holidays. I suppose you could say that he was brought up to believe that people born in his station of life had a duty to their local community, their Church and other voluntary bodies. Mary, his wife, supports him in every way and is, I guess, the prime manager of their lovely Morestead home.
Peter was the Master in charge of English from 1972 to 1977. He was educated at Eton and a Teacher Training College. He started our paper-back fiction library and coached the 1st Rugger XV. He introduced the A.A.A. badge scheme to stimulate interest in the Athletic meets, which he was in charge of in the summer. He was respected and liked because he took such a personal interest in each boy.
It is a delight to write about Jeremy who, with Vati, was the chief architect of our constant Scholarship successes. He came to us in 1960 straight from St Pauls and Hertford College, Oxford. With typical thoroughness and enthusiasm he had schooled himself for taking Scholarship boys at age 12 and 13 in the preceding Summer Holidays. He would scale the Citadel of Indifference and fire the bullets from Kennedy’s Eating Primer at a stroke. After that steady advances could be made. I found him distraught on his third day because Nothing was ablaze. He had tried all his methods and devices and nothing had perceptively moved. After a cup of tea or maybe a small whiskey he began to understand. We both read Dr Johnson’s apothegm: “Every man that has ever undertaken to instruct others can tell what slow advances he has been able to make and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant inattention, to stimulate sluggish indifference and to rectify absurd misapprehension”. I kept this always on the Study mantelpiece.
His predecessors in my time, Ralph Braunholtz and David Watkins, had both been good Classics and meticulous markers of Latin proses written by the boys; and David, who eventually became the Headmaster of a very successful London Prep-School, was also a good cricketer. Jeremy was not, though he put his heart into every fast ball he delivered against West Hill C.C. But neither Ralph nor David had the imagination to produce the Jacobus Bond stories which Jeremy dished out for Prep, using the vocab, grammar and syntax which his boys ought to know (in this connection as mentioned in the book it was typical of him to write his autobiography in Latin, using Beatrix Potter’s words). During his Assistant Mastership the number of suitable pieces for each form he took increased immeasurably. He also drew on past Winchester Entrance papers which we hoarded and I remember one candidate gleefully saying, “Sir, wasn’t it lucky that the prose translation was the one you went through with us last week?” The Winchester College don had not imagined that any ’tother would have treasured a paper they set in, say, 1938.
Jeremy was an excellent Duty Master. He was very fond of his boys and indeed of all the boys at West Downs, so they were very fond of him. Outside the classroom he took games at a fairly low level and, loving singing as he did, he would go round the Dormitories with others just before Christmas, singing carols. He also went mad at the Christmas Party, allowing boys to attack him with balloons. In the Lodge as a Bachelor he would amuse the company when asked “What is the height of Popocatepetl?” He would say 18,021, which is near enough to the actual figure of 17,887 ft to make us believe him. We never knew whether he was fazing us or not. During General Elections he would stay up all night recording the returns way after we knew that the Tories or Labour had won. When I was showing Tom King, recently our Defence Minister, round the School we happened to run into him and I effected an introduction. “This is Mr Tom King”, I said. “Very glad to meet you, sir” was the reply, “Conservative MP for Bridgwater, majority 8534” or whatever it was. Mr King was naturally astounded that a West Downs psephologist could get it exactly right, but he did not enter his son for the School!
To everyone’s amazement just before he left us in 1979 he got married to Mary in strictest secrecy. They bought a house nearby and he departed shortly afterwards to teach at Exeter Choir School, because of his passion for Choral singing. He was very happy there at first but fairly recently he was diagnosed as having such a bad heart that he could not teach any more. It was a bitter blow to him but he is very stoical about it and walks quite long distances, e.g. 5 miles, but it takes him all day with frequent rests to achieve this. He is not that old and the onset of his malady was sudden so he deserves our love and sympathy.
Jim did exactly one thing wrong and one thing only, wooing and marrying Jill Hebblethwaite, just about the only Sister who came up to or even exceeded Sister Guy’s high standards. He came to us straight from King Alfred’s Teacher Training College in Winchester or rather before he was qualified, for he elected to do his practical work at the nearest Private School and it happened to be West Downs. He enjoyed teaching at the School for a term and on graduating took up his post primarily as an English teacher. He was at once made Head of English, teaching the top three forms and at once in charge of the First XI Football. He did wonders with both assignments sharing with Ray her love of Poetry and achieving the impossible in that on two or three occasions during a 17 year span we beat or drew with Horris Hill.
Standing Up, inaugurated by Ray, had already become established as one of the features of the last days of the Christmas term when Jim arrived. I believe it is called Choral Speaking elsewhere. Every boy from L.S.II to S.D.I has to speak at least one line of a Poem which he or she has memorised. It must be audible, spoken at the right time in the piece and in certain cases dramatised. You will be astonished to learn that L.S.II, particularly when their last teacher Kit Speer was the coach, almost always got as much as or more applause than the higher forms. Mrs Speer took trouble with the performance and made sure that they spoke slowly. Most West Downs boys did this at least 4 and mostly 5 times during their time at West Downs. They were not afraid to get up on the “soap-box” the last time. It is essential that all our boys and girls should be able to make a speech, however short. Jim threw himself into this feature with ardour and towards the end made his boys speak long extracts from Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or from a splendid Saki story. Ray told one master, who will not be named herein or in these tributes, that if he couldn’t do better with his Form than they had shown in rehearsal, his Form was out of it. He failed and they were out.
The last School Play was “Treasure Island” in 1966. It was actually more of a musical; 64 boys took part. In 1970 the Form Plays started and Jim produced some memorable plays e.g. the Rocking Horse Winner (D.H. Lawrence) and the English versions of the Mamamouchi scene from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme; Ray also produced three which I vividly remember, The Stolen Prince (a Chinese folk tale) a play which she wrote from a Tolstoy story and the Queen of Spades (Pushkin). Again they were produced with a purpose in mind. Every boy or girl had an acting part 3 or 4 times from 1970 onwards. Even the shyest boy enjoys dressing up. (There were some even more ambitious abridgements of plays e.g. Charlie’s Aunt.) There were 3 plays on 3 Saturday evenings, the performances lasting about l½ hours.
In the Summer Term, when there was no football, Jim organised the Athletic Matches against other schools and the Tennis Tournament which culminated with 2 or 4 boys going to Wimbledon in the holidays. He also ran a very popular Table Tennis Tournament on our three Tables which were located on the wooden cover of the swimming pool. Finally he led exchange visits to Giessen in Germany and saw to their accommodation and amusement when the visit was returned.
Jim has now been Headmaster of a very successful School near Macclesfield for over ten years and his son Philip whom I knew and was fond of when he was about 5, is now at University but I still vividly recall the fun we had, at Football matches home and away, at Athletics Meets, in the Lodge playing Bridge and on many other occasions. Despite his arduous duties Jim still keeps up with us since his mother lives in Southsea and he visits her every summer. It was appropriate that he was able to attend Maisie’s Funeral Service.
For far too short a time in the late Sixties West Downs had a Kappelmeister. She was Dorothy Glover. She sometimes made mistakes on the Organ, which was beautifully played before her time by Arthur Turner and Alan Rannie and after it by John Davies, but she was a brilliant conductor of Church Music. I select the service on the nearest Sunday to St Cecilia’s Day in 1968 as an example. The Junior Choir sang Thou thou Jehovah Hear my Singing (J.S. Bach) and his On my Shepherd I rely was Ellen Nicoll’s Solo to a Violin accompaniment. The Main Choir, assisted by Jeremy Fisher, Colin Morrison, Pat and Sue Taylor, and Ray and other Tenors and Basses sang “Let the Bright Seraphim” and “Let their Celestial Concerts all Unite” from Handel’s Samson, Gellineau’s version of the Twenty Third Psalm and Stanford’s Te Deum in C. And the congregational hymns were almost equally majestic:- Most Glorious Lord of Life who on This Day, Lawes and Spenser; Come Down O Love Divine, Vaughan Williams; Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Parry and Whittier; and Sing a Song of Joy, Thomas Campion words as well as Music. It was a truly noble paean of praise to God. (Incidentally many of the Gellineau Psalms were wonderfully translucent translations, words as well as music, but they seem to be now almost totally forgotten.) Dorothy did not stay with us for very long. She had to go back to Tasmania for family reasons and in 1992 she died. The choir was never the same again as it had been with her.
Roger taught Latin and, when required, Greek at the School from 1983 to 1987. West Downs has always been particularly strong in Classics, and he was a worthy successor to Masters like Jeremy Fisher and David Watkins. He is a Musician rather than a Games player, but he willingly refereed and umpired in Junior games, and took Duty conscientiously. He was popular in the Lodge and, I’m pretty sure, liked it here, but it was obvious in 1987 that he had to look elsewhere to further his career. Our former School Secretary, Gillian Surgenor, keeps up with him and tells me he is in good heart.
The D.H.G. I knew, 1954 to 1960, was in his declining years. He rarely left the School and grounds e.g. for away matches and latterly had some problems with his back and legs. He tried his best and basically succeeded in persuading me not to change anything much at West Downs from what it stood for in the K.T. era. Mention is made in the Book of his uncanny instinct that there might be trouble brewing in some areas in Free Time and I specially remember an occasion when a boy ran away because he was home-sick. He motored in the right direction to retrieve him and the poor fellow fell tearfully into his arms.
I have been told that K.T. consulted him every evening after going round the dormitories to discuss the doings of the day, especially the parts played by the Patrol Leaders and Seconds in maintaining the moral ethos of the School. This may be an exaggeration but there is a kernel of truth in it. He was the perfect Number Two in the West Downs community, which was strongly influenced by the ideals of the Boy Scout movement, with its Court of Honour and obedience to its Promise. It was typical of his loyalty to that West Downs spirit that he stayed on as Second Master with me for as long as six years.
In the Classroom he sat in C, making sure that every single boy in the form populated by the least academically able passed into his next school in Latin and Maths. Vati Carrère told me that one reason for his leaving was that one of his pupils had failed. This had never happened to him before and he felt that he had let down the boy’s parents as well as the boy. He was perhaps closest to the Allhusen family; Derek and his son Tim attended his Budleigh Salterton Funeral service.
I had a good talk with his brother, who lived in the same town, after the Service and there was some idea of creating a Memorial Fund to perpetuate his name. Sadly it came to nothing and it was also distressing that so few of the boys he had cherished were represented.
In retirement D.H.G. kept up a correspondence with some of his admirers, specially with Joe Pease (now Lord Gainford), looked after his aunts and cultivated his garden. His dedication to West Downs is unsurpassed.
Marcus (Haileybury and Emmanuel College Cambridge) joined our Staff in 1956. He had taught in Prep-Schools in Worthing and Brighton and had been an Assistant Master both in Cairo and Alexandria at Victoria College for over 20 years up until Nasser kicked out all or nearly all the British, bag and baggage, as a result of the Suez Canal affair of 1956. He left Egypt literally with only a suitcase of personal possessions. He taught mainly Maths to the Middle School. He left, at retirement age, in 1969. The boys will remember him as the Master in charge of Second Game Cricket and some junior football. He was notable in the Lodge as an accomplished Bridge and Tennis player and kindly colleague. People who did not know him might have described him as curmugeonly but he had a soft heart only half concealed under a hard carapace. The boys soon found out that his bark was much worse than his bite and were fond of him. He deserves to be remembered.
Paddy taught French, part-time, at West Downs from 1974 to 1980 and again from 1983 to 1988. Educated at Redland High School and the University of Bristol and daughter of the Deputy Headmaster of Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, Bristol, she married Dennis who became the first Principal of Cricklade College, Andover, after being Headmaster of Dr. Challoner’s Grammar School. So she is steeped in the Education profession end, though not French, also in La Civilisation Francaise. Typically, even when not employed by the School, she worked in tandem with Vati Carrère over the conduct of the French Oral C.E. exam without pay and on occasion coached French boys who came to West Downs for a term.
Francis joined our Staff during the last years of his Prep-School career, having been a Classics Assistant Master at Abberley Hall, Maidwell, Millfield, Bilton Grange and Winchester House Brackley. Son of a Winchester College Don and educated at the Old Malthouse, Kenny’s and Magdalene, Cambridge he was a notable mountaineer in his early manhood and a Hampshire Hog Cricketer of note as late as 1965. At West Downs he was in charge of the Second Cricket XI and took duty. He was a sociable and sympathetic colleague in the Lodge.
Roger was the Head of the Geography Department when I came in 1954, also teaching some French and Latin in the Middle School, and he soldiered on for another ten years leaving in 1964 after 15 years of service. The boys got used to his mordant sense of humour but were sometimes surprised to get a Nuisance Point when he was on duty because they had followed the wrong route in being where they were. For he was a stickler for K.T.’s rule-book. He lives in Littleton and is a zealous Winchester Cathedral official.
Lionel was a Master at West Downs for 2 terms in late 1976 and early 1977 and then for 10 years from 1978. Why the gap?! For the very best reasons. Lionel felt that he could use his caring and teaching gifts to the best advantage if he looked after and instructed boys who were handicapped in body or in mind in the Maintained Sector. He left to work nearby in a school for just those young people and came back to us only because his Unit had to be closed for lack of funds. He got his Certificate of Education at Culham College, Abingdon, though his roots are in Derbyshire. Lionel is that all-rounder whom every pupil needs midway through his Prep-School. The fledgling arrives at a comfortable nest, L.S.II. Thence he proceeds to the first step up the ladder where he is introduced to formal and quite difficult work in L.S.I and M.S.III; his teachers now are men as well as women and he is taught how to absorb a vocabulary and Maths concepts like Venn diagrams. Our average boy is a slowish learner, possibly able but idle, and this will show up when his exam results are consistently better than his weekly marks; or the other way round, he finds exams rather daunting. So he has been at West Downs for about 4 terms and he knows his way around, specially around some Masters who are too easily conned. Common Entrance is a long way off and he’s not aiming for higher than U.S.I and its equivalent Maths Set, a mere 4 rungs up. Result, unless the School is aware of this, there is a tendency to cruise in M.S.III to M.S.I, though in fact they are the Classes where he absorbs the basic facts about each Subject, e.g. usage of Latin verbs in nearly all moods and conjugations in Latin and Decimals and Fractions in Maths. They should be the sure foundation on which he builds his Common Entrance knowledge. Lionel was just the man for the job in English and Maths and latterly he took the top forms for Geography.
And so the boy who has passed through Lionel’s hands when he reaches the Upper School looks back gratefully to his recent Middle School terms: and he tries his hardest in Second Game Cricket and Football. Lionel’s invitation to walk with him in the Derbyshire fells is over-subscribed. There’s a rush to join the Railway Club which he has started.
Lionel has the Pied Piper’s gift of attracting children and he is a wonderful moral influence for good, leading from the front. A meticulous marker of essays and English comprehension pieces, a patient tutor in his and a boy’s spare time if he was foxed by a Maths problem, he shows in his Italianate calligraphy that he is also a craftsman. He was i/c the Day Children directly there was a good number of them and for several years before the close our Second Master. A man of high principles.
Clare, now Mrs Watts, started our Pre-Prep-School for children aged 5-8 in 1983. Her classroom was always in perfect order and she never raised her voice. The same applied to Libby. They were both natural teachers, instilling discipline while always being kind and unflappable. It was a help that they were both musical and artistically gifted.
The book “West Downs: Portrait of an English Prep-School” records that Chris was with us for nine years 1965 to 1974 and he helped us part-time after the Toe disaster for a short while though he did not take Duty. As Mark Hichens rightly says he made his mark as a History teacher, though S.D.I remained my preserve. He has a particular interest in military History.
When he was at the School full-time Chris taught Middle School French as well as History. He was certainly stimulating and admired. He had been at Eton, but not at a University or Institution of Higher Learning. He has private means and did not need to teach, but he liked it. He was a lovely man to have around at Lodge parties and the hospitable owner of a House and Hard Tennis court at nearby Meonstoke. He loves Choral Singing and Bridge.
Educated at Winchester College and Cambridge University, Colin had a second career at West Downs on retiring from the Colonial Administrative Service in Hong Kong. He was the son of one of the most famous expatriates who served the Government of China in the early years of this century. At West Downs he taught French and History in the Middle School and notably started and ran the Exchange Visits with pupils in a Versailles Primary School which were such a feature of our successful attempt to encourage our boys to think of French as a living language. He was an utterly reliable Duty Master and undertook the unrewarding task of taking the Third Elevens in both Cricket and Football. He will, perhaps, be best remembered for his singing in Gilbert and Sullivan productions by the City’s Operatic Society and for founding our Photographic Club. He died suddenly in the early Nineties and we extend our love and sympathy to his widow.
Major Robert Moss joined our staff in 1970 and retired in 1983. He had had previous experience of teaching at two other Prep-Schools. Catteral Hall, the feeder School for Giggleswick, and Stone House in Kent, a proprietary School which folded in the first-mentioned year. He taught Geography and he brought with him from Stone House his remarkable contraption which could be used as a Blackboard and a Photo-Screen at one and the same time, and his large collection of slides. He taught no other subjects.
Robert lived out in the village of Meonstoke so he was not such a dominant figure in the Lodge, but for years he ran our First Hockey Game and was the leader of Geography expeditions and initiated the Met Station near the Squash Court where readings were so lovingly recorded by boys like Andrew Parker-Jarvis. When he left it fell into desuetude. His experience as a Gunner gave him an insight into the meaning of physical maps which car-drivers and hikers rarely possess and he passed this on to his classes.
From Canford and Sandhurst Robert was commissioned into the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment in 1932, following a family tradition and he was with them until 1955. Well that’s not quite true. For as long as five years he was a Prisoner of War, captured during the retreat to Dunkirk. Some officers whom I knew were permanently damaged mentally as a result of such wasted years when they were in the prime of life but not Robert. Reunited with his wife Mary in 1945 he became an Instructor at the Warminster School of Infantry, Second in Command of a Regiment of the Kings African Rifles in Malawi and finally in command of the Regimental Depot in Maidstone.
Robert played Lawn Tennis for the Army and at one time used to shoot a lot. Latterly he was a keen gardener and fisherman. He was an expert on the history of Line Regiments in the Army and in retirement a Churchwarden of two Churches, including West Meon’s famous Saxon Church and Services Secretary of the Droxford and District branch of the Royal British Legion. Sadly he died unexpectedly and suddenly in 1992, and the large congregation at his Thanksgiving Service was a tribute to the respect and affection in which he was held. He was an Officer and a Gentleman.
Claudie taught mostly oral French at West Downs, part-time, from 1970 to 1985, in addition to teaching at St Swithuns and Sprules Secretarial College. This meant that the French timetable had to be built round the hours when she was available and many’s the time when her car swept into the parking lot near the Lodge only minutes or even seconds before she was due to give a lesson. Her energy is phenomenal and it is a delight to hear her speaking her lovely language. The boys will perhaps best remember her by her method of encouraging hard work, 3 stars for a Show Up and 3 Show Ups for a Curly-Wurly, the West Downs notional word for a stick of toffee. She is not qualified to teach, if that’s the right description of a person who merely got her Bachot; for she never went to a University and instead rose to be a Company Commander of the A.T.S., now the W.R.A.C., in World War II and Translator and Social Worker in the world-famous Paris H“pital des Enfants Malades. She was an important figure in our strong French department.
Gerald joined our Teaching Staff in 1956. After Fettes and St Catherine’s Cambridge, where he got a Classical Exhibition, he had taught and supervised Games at three Scottish Prep-Schools over a period of four years, Craigflower and Torryburn and Fife. We were so strong in Classics that he only occasionally taught the Scholarship Form. For the most part he taught S.D.II and U.S.I, the Winchester and Common Entrance Forms. But he made a name for himself at once, as a Teacher, a Duty Master, i/c the Rugger and in charge of Football and Cricket in Junior Games. He was essentially a kindly man with a rapport with boys, but at times he blew up and that was alarming. He was a versatile teacher of subjects other than Latin e.g. Maths to S.P.III and he took the boys on a successful skiing trip to Austria in one holiday. He was a keen Scouter and organised the music at the Christmas Party. In particular he was the Deus ex machina at the Guy Fawkes Fireworks displays which we then held in Melbury Dell. He was a courteous and sensitive man, for example I think the only Master or Lady Teacher who regularly wrote a letter of thanks to Ray for forwarding his letters in the holidays.
When he left he went to Belhaven for a time in Scotland but is now and has long been the Second Master at Bilton Grange, the Rugby feeder school. I have lost touch with him but Jim Fitzgerald (q.v.) often meets him at Wimbledon for the Prep-Schools tournament and they have a nostalgic yarn about how he kept hens and I think once pigs over the road in Melbury and what fun the Lodge parties were in his day, usually Bridge, at which he bid outrageously and when Jeremy Fisher was delightfully merry.
Hugh Rawson was the eldest of three brothers, the sons of an Electrical Engineer. All three were at West Downs, from which Hugh got a scholarship to Westminster in 1904. He was a brilliant athlete, captaining the School’s Cricket and Football Elevens, and getting awards for Athletics, Swimming and Gym. At Westminster, Grant’s House, he was Captain of Cricket, and he went on to Trinity College Cambridge, where he got a First Class in the Mathematics Tripos and a Second in the Mechanical Science Tripos. On going down he taught for a year at West Downs before joining the Royal Navy on the outbreak of World War I. He served as an Instructor Lieutenant on H.M.S. Sovereign till the end of the war, and saw the sinking of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow.
He returned to West Downs as an Assistant Master in 1918, leaving in 1923, having married Thelwyn Price in 1923, to found his own School, the Grange at Cockfosters near London. It started with one pupil, and by 1934 there were 26. But with these numbers the Grange was hardly viable financially, so it was decided to sell the property and join up with the Beacon School in Bexhill. This was only a partial success, since in 1940 there were only 40 pupils, and there was the fear that England would be invaded, so in that year Hugh and Thelwyn and their pupils joined up with Swanbourne House School in Buckinghamshire. It was the end of the Beacon School.
So from 1942 until the late forties Hugh and Thelwyn taught at Frensham Heights, a Farnham Independent Secondary School with a junior department. At first they lived in a small Boarding House, where Thelwyn acted as Warden, but from 1943 onwards Hugh became responsible for the School’s Junior Department, whose golden age it was, as described in Peter David’s “Frensham Heights 1925-49. A Study in Progressive Education.” At this School, Hugh ceased to teach for a while, spending his time with pupils in the Senior School, singing in the Choir, helping with dramatic productions, playing hockey and cricket at which game he was a member of the local village team, which won an award.
In 1948 Hugh and Thelwyn returned once more to West Downs, Thelwyn to take the Reception Form L.S.II and Hugh to be Head of the Mathematics Department. And there he stayed right the way up to 1966, first under Kenneth Tindall and then during my Headmastership. So he was well over retirement age when at last owing to illness he had to give up. I remember him in his Seventies as a powerful stroke player at Cricket and at Tennis. He was also a first-rate teacher and conscientious Duty Master. He had devoted much of his life to West Downs, and that’s why the new playing field, created in the late sixties, when the number of West Downs boys required an extra pitch, was called Rawson’s Field.
When I first came to West Downs I relied heavily on Maisie’s advice, for she was the Doyenne of the Ladies Common Room which we at once put at their disposal opposite the Drawing Room. This was where the Lady Teaching Staff foregathered during Break, after lunch and for an early cup of tea at around 3.30 in the two Winter Terms. They had breakfast in Hall with the boys and Supper in the Lodge. I did not often venture into their Room. It was their Domain – naturally there was a good deal of talk about the boys they taught and sometimes about the Masters (and no doubt about me!). Maisie was a wonderfully tactful person and she never spread damaging gossip, but she got to know about every boy in the School through conversational exchange, intensely interested as she was in every single boy who had passed through her hands up the ladder from L.S.I. She started the boys on Latin, making them learn Amo, Amas, Amat and Mensa’s suffixes. For quite a few years I took M.S.III the next Form in that subject and struggled with their problems over word order e.g. that Puella mensam amat and Amat mensam Puella and other wearisome arrangements of the three words meant exactly the same. (Although every Schoolboy knows that it is bad grammar to say Him loves Me and that the Passive Voice of a verb is simply putting the Object into the Subject Case it is surprisingly difficult for boys to grasp the concept.)
I always knew that nearly all the boys coming up to me from M.E.R. would be word-perfect in their Vocabs. She also taught Maths, English and some History and Geography at that level and took the Lower Forms for Scripture for 10 minutes at 9 am.
Maisie was a marvellously patient Teacher and, like Vati Carrère, would take boys individually in their free-time, again of course at no charge. Handicapped by a crooked spine which had to be corsetted she could not take a Nature Walk very far, but she was painstaking in her care of Chapel Books and the issue of Stationery to the boys. She was the Sacristan of the Chapel and the person who drilled the boys on their duties at Sports Weekend, Founders Day etc and she always came on the School Outing to the sea towards the end of the summer term, ensuring that the bottom three forms behaved responsibly. In the later Forties and early Fifties she also shepherded the Scottish Mush to and from Glasgow.
Maisie was the only daughter of James Andrew and Alice Prior. Her father worked at first for David Allen and Sons, Printers in Newcastle, for he was of Geordie stock, educated at Allens Grammar School. He loved singing and was a skilled cabinet-maker in his spare time. He moved with the firm from Newcastle to Dublin and thence to Belfast where Maisie was born. She had a brother who became a Lithographic artist and painter. In due course he moved to Anglesea for her father died in 1913 and the connection with David Allen was severed. Maisie was born in 1905 so she was 21 when her father died and she accompanied her mother to England. They were not well-off so she immediately answered an advertisement for a Governess and happened to be with a family not so far from Blair Castle when KT advertised for a Lady Teacher. Maisie would then have been in her late thirties, with no University or Teacher Training but with years of experience of teaching small boys and girls in various families, one of which took her to Paris. KT saw at once that he had caught a Pearl. She was at West Downs from 1944 to 1981. In 1954 she lodged in Melbury with Margaret Horrocks (q.v.), the School Secretary cum Bursar, but when her mother was too old to look after herself they had just enough money to buy a delightful house in St James’ Terrace overlooking the Peninsular Barracks. When her mother died in 1971 at the age of 95 Maisie sold this house at a good profit and bought an equally charming, but of course smaller, flat in Romsey Road. There she died peacefully in 1992.
Maisie’s uncomplaining courage when she was almost continually in pain towards the end of her life was a lesson to us all, for she followed the straight and narrow way in St Paul’s words, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our Faith.”
Although only a part-time teacher at West Downs Humphrey deserves a paragraph. The lasting memorial to him is the Pilgrims School, as shown on his tablet in the Cathedral. He refounded it in 1931 and it is now one of the dozen best Prep-Schools in the country. His role at West Downs was much less arduous hut it was significant. There were several occasions over the above period when West Downs had no Greek teacher and Humphrey could and did fulfil that duty. There were foreign boys who came to us late and knew no Latin and he could and did bring them up to the standard of the Form in which they started both rapidly and thoroughly; and when needed, especially at first, he was a Form teacher. O.B.E. and J.P. and latterly High Steward of the Cathedral he carried his Honours lightly and was not above patiently coaching a backward pupil in the rudiments of Latin. He did not take Duty, but in all other respects he was a member of our strong Classics staff and a delightful colleague.
Michael is a qualified teacher and came to us in 1983 straight from his University. He left on getting married to an assistant cook in 1987. He taught English up to Common Entrance standard and was competent in all the subjects except Latin and French. The boys admired him because he was enthusiastic and good at games. He produced and directed a number of Form Plays. He was a committed Christian who at one time had considered being ordained. This is not surprising since his father is a parish priest in Essex. He was unsurprisingly a mine of information on the latest rock and roll groups and curiously also knowledgeable about Swedish History. I liked him a lot and felt that he would train on to be a first-rate Second in Command of any good Prep-School.
David taught mainly Middle School Maths during the last four West Downs years. He was unqualified in that he did not have a Teacher Training Certificate. He was in the Computer Industry for several years before coming to the School. He was in charge of the Tennis, the Camera-man of all our Operas and Plays, the founder of our Computer Club and he also organised and went on holiday School skiing parties. A tolerant and caring person he was a sympathetic Duty Master with a good rapport with boys. He is now Assistant Bursar at St Swithuns dealing at arms’ length with girls.
Barbara served West Downs from 1970 to 1988. She has no teacher qualifications but she has long experience of primary school work. When she left school she got a job with a Travel Agency but soon decided that she would much prefer to work with and for young children. So she applied for and accepted a job as Matron in a Weyhill Independent Prep-School which folded in 1970, since a new road was to be built more or less straight through their buildings. While there she had graduated from being a Matron to being a Teacher to their new intake; but she had also sustained a terrible accident. Falling near a fire one day her face and her hair had been irreparably damaged and she was in hospitals like Stoke Mandeville which deal with such extreme cases. She suffered many operations for over two years and emerged with a new but obviously built-up face. When you first see her this is noticeable, but very soon you get used to it; for she is obviously such a sociable and outgoing person, despite, I believe, constant pain. She is so brave that you would never suspect it.
At West Downs Barbara first of all worked in tandem with Maisie Richardson and, on Maisie’s retirement, took over from her. She is very fond of boys but she does not have the patience and motherly qualities of an ideal Reception Form teacher. The subjects she taught were English and at times History and/or Geography. She never taught Maths. The School’s English specialists higher up the ladder sometimes felt that her pupils were required to learn some unnecessary things, such as that the equivalent of a herd of cattle is a pride of lions; but there is a place for every student’s knowledge of the various parts of speech in our superb language, which is already on its way to becoming that of the whole world. Her comparative lack of interest in poetry and essay writing on such abstract subjects as “Rain” or “A Hurricane” could be remedied higher up the ladder.
No Lady Teachers at West Downs took Duty but Barbara was pressed into service in an emergency. The boys loved her big dog, and knew that her bark was much more severe than her bite. She took the bottom game for cricket and at times the girls for rounders. Boys will, I think, remember her mostly at the seat of custom in Fish Queue buying things on their behalf in the City; for the Whitmonday Fete which she inaugurated and organised; as a leader of Lower School expeditions to a Zoo or a Play; and generally as a kind and sympathetic person, without a shadow of mawkish sentiment. She has stood tall over her long and painful stay in hospitals and she expected the boys to stand tall if they were slightly injured in mind or body.
Barbara is a person of independent means. She owns property hither and yon. So in recent years her work has been mostly voluntary or poorly paid like looking after a family’s house, garden and animals and birds while they go on holiday. She lives in Bournemouth and she and Vati from time to time visit some foreign land together e.g. the Gambia and Malta. She is a very loyal person with an engaging sense of humour.
One always thinks of them together, though they are not related and played distinct roles at West Downs. But they came together for the Easter term Operettas for which they will be mostly remembered and they now live together in Bridport. Sue taught History and Geography part-time to beginners for over ten years ending in 1985, having started as a Remedial Reading Teacher in her earlier days. She had no qualifications for, after schooling in Motherwell near Glasgow, she joined the A.T.S. and so met Pat who was a Bandmaster with the Cameronians. But she is a caring and loving person and therefore well suited to instruct young boys. We met up with her through Pat, who returned to Winchester in 1966 after serving in Trinidad and Tobago with the Police when he left the Army; for he taught Woodwind at the School. On arrival on our Staff she met Ellen who had been teaching singing and the Piano from the early Sixties. With Sue as the Conductor and Ellen at the Piano they produced over a period of 13 years, 1964 to 1985, Trial by Jury and Pinafore each three times, the Mikado twice, Iolanthe and The Pirates of Penzance; Little Billee and Turkish Delight based on Mozart’s Il Seraglio; and Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo. Over 200 boys and girls must have played parts in these Productions and will have enjoyed having a beard or moustache, being made up to look fetching, wearing wigs and other head-dresses and long skirts or short pants i.e. dressing up so that your parents can’t recognise you and banging out the choruses at the top of your voices. For all these things they should be grateful to Sue Taylor and Ellen Nicoll.
Anne ran the Kindergarten which was a feature of West Downs in the last years. She was unqualified but had had experience of such teaching in the City. She brought with her an astonishing variety of equipment to stimulate a child’s curiosity and they had the use of a sandpit and climbing frames. Whenever I visited them the children seemed blissfully happy and gainfully occupied. She had two Assistants and her Sanni domain had two rooms, one uncarpeted for wet and sometimes dirty work and the other with a carpet and bean-bags for reading and writing. Anne always resisted the idea that it should be called a Nursery School. Her charges were taught things as well as learning to be sociable.
Melly, as he was always called, was Head of the West Downs French Department for 16 years, leaving in 1961. I don’t think he ever went to a University. He was a Cornishman and a brilliant and intrepid R.A.F. pilot in World War I when aircraft did not carry parachutes. In one of his crashes he was lamed and I suspect that it was the original cause of an operation which he had to have in my time, when half his tummy was removed. He had a wonderful rapport with West Downs boys, strong but unsentimental. Many will remember his Off Games walk to the Railway line and more still the way in which he took the Fourth Game Cricket, a plus point for fielding a fizzer and so on. He taught French Grammar partly gymnastically e.g. two closed hands over your head for a circumflex. He presided over the Library and Vickers Cupboard in Shakespeare where the chess and draughts were kept. He had strong views on the Poetry which boys should read and learn to recite e.g. Macauley’s Lays of Ancient Rome.
Melly tanks, made of rubber bands and cotton reels, were a feature of a West Downs boy’s life long after his departure and almost all the boys he taught remember him with affection and rejoiced that he was so unconventional. He was also impulsive and romantic e.g. in the Lodge after he had recited The Highwayman to Ray, to her astonished embarrassment, he knelt down and kissed her hand.
Arthur, or Turntoes as the boys called him, was an Assistant Master from 1943 to 1956; not a long time by West Downs standards but he made a great impression. When I arrived he took the top Forms for English and a much lower set for Maths. He had a lazy gangling gait, for he was no games-player, but he was very popular with the boys both at Blair Atholl and Winchester. He and Ray, who succeeded him as the S.D.I English Teacher, shared a love of poetry. Arthur wrote poems himself. I came across him more over Chapel affairs, for he was the Organist, and a brilliant one too. I was very sorry to say goodbye to him. He was a gentle and intellectual colleague.
In 1954 David joined our Staff on graduating from University College, Oxford. When Ralph Braunholz left he took over the top Classics, 1956 to 1959. He was in charge of the 1st XIs in Football and Cricket. He left to go to a Public School, Clayesmore and after becoming a Housemaster at that School went on to be Headmaster of a London Prep-School. He contributed a great deal to West Downs during the first five years of my Headmastership.
The Physics and Chemistry teachers came and went after Guy Eddis left but Judith remained and she was an excellent Biology Teacher from 1978 to 1988. She did not get very close to her pupils since she was fully engaged when she left West Downs, each day ferrying her two brilliant daughters to and from their schools and looking after her charming husband who commuted to and from the City of London. But she earned their respect and they much enjoyed the biological expeditions which she ran and led. She now teaches at the Pilgrims School and they are very lucky to have her.
It is my opinion that a good Reception Form teacher is of equal if not greater importance than the Master who assists boys in getting scholarships or ensures that a boy is well placed in Winchester or Common Entrance on entry to his next school. In my day arrival at West Downs was not infrequently the first step in the process of leaving the family nest. The entrant is bewildered by the size of the School, even if he comes from a Stately Home and the decibels of noise in the Dining Room where they have their first breakfast are almost frightening. The Pater system is an attempt to minimise the shock but the L.S.II teacher is more reassuring and more skilled in giving a boy more self-confidence.
When I first came in 1954 the holder of that position was Thelwyn Rawson, Hugh’s wife and formerly Miss Price who taught at West Downs in K.T.’s very early days. She had come back to the School after their Prep-School had failed to survive World War II. She was Froebel trained, and considered that anyone not so indocrinated could not do the job so well. But she was also aware that someone younger was needed and so she resigned in 1956, when she was over 60. She was, of course, L.S. II’s Teacher for all Arts subjects but Maisie Richardson was the teacher of the bottom Maths Set. She had taught for eight years from 1948 to 1956 and previously as I have said when she was unmarried. She was a caring and loving person.
Her successor was not a success for she only lasted a year. But the next holder of this appointment was Juliet Gowan who is memorable. She is the daughter of a former Eton Beak, Christopher Gowan, and is now Mrs Bryan Rees, also a former Beak married originally to Robert Birley’s daughter and former Headmaster of Charterhouse and Rugby. Juliet is fond of children and is intellectually gifted (she got a First in English in the Open University) but she has a mercurial temperament and in some ways not the mother figure required for L.S.II. All the same she was very happy at West Downs and stayed with us for over 4 years when she was in her Twenties. I specially remember an Open Air Production of parts of A Midsummer Nights Dream, i. e. the part when Bottom was transformed into an Ass and his Play within the Play. The whole production was more amusing than any I have seen before or since and it was made funnier still because the boy who played Bottom forgot to put on the head of a Donkey. We were sorry when she resigned in 1962. When she left I wrote of her in the School Magazine that it was always a pleasure to see her beautiful calligraphy on the blackboard in G Classroom, for it invested with charm and distinction even such schoolmasterly remarks as “Tidy your lockers and desks.”
Her successor, Miss Spottiswoode, who came to us after an inter-regnum when the adaptable Maisie Richardson assumed command, was not an Arts Teacher but an Artist. She had exhibited at the Royal Academy. I can’t think why I appointed her and she only lasted two terms and her successor was Susan Spencer direct from St Andrews University. Susan was a very suitable L.S. II teacher because though not trained to teach eight year olds she loved them and they responded to this young and beautiful teacher. She lasted until 1968 when, unfortunately for us, she fell in love with and subsequently married a Pilgrims Assistant Master. We all missed her a lot because she had such a happy nature and was outgoing, assuming a major role for instance in any staff entertainment or on the Hockey field when we took on the boys. The next teacher was Anna Ruszkowska, clearly a person of Russian or perhaps other Eastern Europe descent, but completely English, young and enthusiastic but the wrong choice because, after only one year at West Downs, she resigned to look after a property bequeathed to her in Cyprus.
After a short interregnum Mrs Margerie Temple was appointed and she served West Downs for eight years from 1971 to 1979. She was a good choice because she had had long experience of teaching and caring for children of 7 or 8 at the well-known Winchester Pre-Prep School Eastacre which closed in that year. Many West Downs boys will remember how patient she was when they found it difficult to learn words or do sums, how tolerant she was when they made mistakes, how kind and helpful when they were homesick or didn’t know their way around. The only thing “against” her was that she did not live in, unlike her predecessors, for Thelwyn Rawson had an apartment in Melbury House and the rest were single. So we did not get to know her as intimately as some of the others. She left simply because her husband had accepted an important business appointment in Singapore. They now live in Andorra.
After a short interregnum Kit Speer held this position for the last seven or eight years of West Downs’ existence. She was well qualified since she had taught children of the L.S.II age in the Maintained Sector. She was a brilliant coach of children in “Standing Up”, the West Downs name for Choral Speaking, ensuring that her pupils spoke up slowly and clearly. We counted ourselves fortunate in having secured her but sadly only a year or two after she came she had an accident falling down some steps in the dark at the School and thereafter became less and less able to walk far. Pain sapped her energy and you need a lot of it to maintain the interest of eight year-olds in the Classroom. It would kill me as I have found in stop-gap situations when I have had to take them. She had the necessary experience but could not always draw on her reserves of strength. Tragically she became a cripple, lost the sight of one eye and has recently died.
1. For many years during my Headmastership West Downs employed young men direct from their Public Schools or in the very early stages of their working lives on our staff. Sometimes their function was to take Duty with only occasional teaching responsibilities. More often they have been required to teach a few periods in English and related subjects to lower/middle forms. In rare cases they have taken the top form for Maths or Latin and Greek. They have nearly always been very popular with the boys, no doubt partly because they were nearer in age to them than the rest of the Staff, playing with them more in Free-Time and with the energy and enthusiasm of Youth. I call them Meteorites. They deserve only brief mention but some of them are of importance in understanding fully the ethos of West Downs.
2. An early Meteorite was Michael Kefford (1961-1964). He is the son of the then Headmaster of a neighbouring Prep-School and was sent to us direct from St Johns, Cambridge where he read Classics, to be trained in Prep-School teaching and duties in a School which was different from his father’s. After this short apprenticeship he returned briefly to Edinburgh House in New Milton, and from there he became Headmaster of a Bristol School and thence to the Pilgrims, whose Headship he now holds. He has further increased the reputation of that School. It would not be too much to say that it is now one of the premier Schools in the whole world “feeding” Winchester College with Scholars and Commoners. For example in 1992 they got the top award and two others on their Election Roll. He naturally looks back to his time at West Downs with unreserved delight, no doubt chiefly because he fell in love with and is now blissfully happily married to the then School Secretary Elizabeth Templeton. West Downs boys will remember that he was a first-rate football coach.
3. Another was Tris Jenkins who taught at West Downs for longer or shorter periods in 1959, 1962 and 1966. Scholar of Winchester and New College, with Firsts in Honour Mods and Lit. Hum., he could easily have got a Fellowship at an Oxford College. Instead, for idealistic reasons, he chose to teach, after getting the necessary educational diploma, serving in the Maintained Sector, for some years in the Isle of Wight. He is now the Bishop of Hereford’s Adviser on his Church Schools and disillusioned with the ethos of the Comprehensive School. Basically his view is that such schools aim at too low an academic target. There are many boys and girls in the Maintained Sector who could go to our best Universities but do not because they are not sufficiently stretched. He took S.D.I. for a time for Latin and Greek and was, of course, steeped in West Downs ways.
4. Yet another was Nigel Buckle, whom we hoped to lure into a permanent position. A brilliant Mathematician, with a 1st at Cambridge, he was for some time after he left us a member of the Dragon School staff but we both failed to satisfy his wanderlust. He left us first to travel and get acquainted with the people of West Africa and India and then for a post in South America. He will be remembered as an inspiring Teacher.
5. It would be tedious to record the large number of men and women who taught part-time often for periods of less than a year at West Downs but those whom I specially remember and who are not mentioned in the Book are Tim Russ (1966) direct from Queens College, Cambridge, a devout Catholic who left to enter Holy Orders; the Revd. Philip Wilmot, Gussie Leach and Ambrose Streatfield who taught Classics to S.D.I; the Art Teacher Cheri Baird; OWDs Hugh Brigstocke, Charles Shaw, Christopher Faulkner and Alastair Crawford; Mrs Pell, in charge of Girls’ Games; Margie Schilling who taught Physics and Chemistry in the Eighties; Toby Graham-Campbell for his help in coaching cricket to a very successful First Cricket XI; Kenneth Lay who taught top Maths at the very end of the School’s life; the Librarians Mary Fisher, Pat Vellacott and John Craig; and Michael Piercy.
Instructor, as he was always called, served West Downs from 1947 to 1971 and even after that, though in his Seventies, he taught woodwork part-time. He was the P.E. teacher, taking the boys for gym, swimming and shooting and also instructing those who opted therefor in Boxing and Fencing. Nearly all West Downs boys of his time remember him, partly maybe because he sometimes used rather strong language. A Jersey man and son of a Colour-Sergeant who fought in the Boer War in the Worcester Regiment, at the age of 15 he enlisted with the Greenjackets, was wounded in France, rose to the rank of Sergeant and fell in love with a Russian girl when serving with the Allied Forces against the Bolsheviks. The romance did not last, he married a Hampshire lass and in the inter-war years he became a P.E. teacher at the St Helier Modern School. In 1939 he rejoined the Army, becoming a Sergeant-Major in the Wiltshires and serving with the Gloucesters and the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in Africa. At West Downs he taught young people how to swim. All the class applauded when a novice “did his length” and was therefore allowed to use the whole pool beyond the red line and he devised the Inter-patrol swimming competition which followed the sports proper. The idea was that every boy in the Patrol should play his part – diving for disks, swimming with legs only and in Breast-stroke Fours and Eights and practising Life Saving. (Eventually the first of these peculiar events had to be scrapped when an overzealous competitor nearly drowned because he held his breath for too long). One of the most important lessons which he instilled into all the boys, who later might use a shotgun, was that a firearm is a potentially lethal weapon. His discipline on the Range had to be strictly observed and on Founder’s Day I have heard him reprove a Colonel and a Naval Captain for disobeying his rigid rules. In the Carpentry Shop he would finish off a boy’s half-made tray or bookshelf so that he could take home a presentable and often useful Christmas or Easter gift. He was very fond of boys and, despite his sometimes brusque remarks, the boys knew it.
Jim was our P.E. Instructor after Harry Riz. So he served from 1971 to 1988. He had been in the Royal Navy and an Instructor at Winchester College. He introduced Judo to West Downs and was a Specialist in sub-aqua swimming. He was 67 when the School closed but you would never have thought it. Parents will remember his amusing gym displays after tea on Sports Day and the boys will recall the many hours which he spent beside the Pool supervising Free Swims and his Basketball games when it was All In.
Essentially he knew just how far to go in testing a young person’s natural wish to find out the limits of his or her strength and agility, never making them do anything which through fear would turn them against a sport. It is a rare and remarkable gift.
In 1954 there was a Sister, a Night Nurse and a Matron and two Assistant Matrons on the pay roll, a ridiculously large contingent. We soon got rid of the Night Nurse. The Sister was Vera Guy who had started at West Downs in 1930, working under Dr. C.B.S. Fuller and Dr. Freddy Heatley and in cooperation with Mrs Tindall and my wife. In a tribute to her in the relevant school magazine when she left to look after a maiden aunt in 1964 I wrote “She knows more about the treatment of schoolboy injuries and ailments than many members of the medical profession and she has a phenomenal memory. Many an Old Boy, proudly presenting his son to her, has been shattered to hear, ‘Yes, I remember you well as a very naughty boy when you first came to West Downs.’ With her years of experience she is a genius at diagnosis. She knows each boy intimately and therefore how this one is too stoical and that one somewhat of a hypochondriac. She never makes a mistake about when to call the doctor urgently. There was an example this very term, when a boy who had played rugger in the afternoon came up to her with a slight pain at 6 o’clock and at 10 o’clock his appendix was out”. Sister Guy is still alive and well in Bournemouth in 1993, she must be in her nineties. Her chief assistant for much of her time was Miss Payne, known as Payno, who was in charge of the boys when some of them slept in Melbury Lodge. She was much loved, and at her death was commemorated by a Chapel plate.
There was no one of much importance in the history of West Downs among her successors until we come to Chippy and she, Mrs Chipchase, was really on the other side of the Health/Clothing wing in charge of clothes and such like. She was our Head Matron from 1970 to 1983, retiring at the age of 79. She too is alive and well in Winchester approaching her ninetieth birthday. Chippy married an R.A.S.C. soldier in 1925 and her husband died ten years later. So the Second World War was a Godsend to her for she joined the Wrens, where she made many enduring friendships and reached the rank of Chief Welfare. She married an Instructor in the Royal Naval College, Pangbourne in 1953 and from 1954 to 1970 was the Matron in one of the College Houses. Sadly her second husband died in 1966. So she had immense experience of Matroning before coming to the School and quickly endeared herself to all the small fry in St Cross Dormitory because of her lovely character and sympathy with children. Old as she was when she joined us she was still a graceful dancer and no mean Table Tennis opponent. As I wrote when she left, “People like Chippy are in a sense irreplaceable because they are unique.”
Mention should also be made of Daphne Knight, who served the School as Sister during the Eighties, since she made her mark in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Oliver in 1986 and 1987.
Among Assistant Matrons it is sufficient to mention Beverley, who married James Christie, and Fiona Severn, daughter of Reg and Gill, a talented Sempstress. Debbie Hill was with us 1980 to 1986, leaving only because she was getting married. She and Fiona were good friends. Both of them were well liked by the boys. The last School Doctor was Robert Reichenbach, so there were only three School Doctors from 1954 to 1988.
And Mrs Cox was the Sempstress for all the big things like Black Out Curtains for Shakespeare over the whole period; and she is still working for us privately. She was in charge of the Wardrobe for all our Plays and Musicals and did her job to perfection and without any fuss.
Certainly when we began to take a number of Day Children and also to a lesser extent when West Downs was boarding only, the School Secretary is an important figure. She is responsible not only for all the lists which are typed before the start of each term but also for all travel arrangements, the logistics and cost of all expeditions and indeed of any variant from the routine such as a boy’s visit to the Dentist and she is the first to answer any enquiry from outside. She works very closely with the Headmaster whom she can and does advise on any matter relating to parents and staff. She must be ready to drive a car somewhere at once and at any time in any emergency. She must be courteous and unflappable, of even and sociable temper, swift to respond to any unusual demand and dedicated to West Downs. Such persons are hard to find and perhaps harder still to keep because those with such beautiful temperaments often allied to physical beauty tend to get married if they are single. It is not only because I am a hard taskmaster and eccentric employer that I have ever found it so.
I started off with Margaret Horrocks 1950 to 1955. She was dedicated to the KT West Downs regimen and may have found me and my regime too different. I liked her a lot but was not surprised when she gave notice a year after I assumed the Headmastership. She was a lady of independent means and did not take on any paid job, so far as I know, when she left for her Manchester homeland. She is descended from the Cotton Tycoon and is still unmarried. Right up until Maisie Richardson’s death she kept up her interest in the School through Maisie. Betty Clarke (1955 to 1961) succeeded her. The boys had reason to be grateful to her for her kindness at Fish Queue for she bought all sorts of queer and unusual things for them in the City. Vivien Palmer was the next one and she at once became a member of our family. We would go to Point to Points and share other fun with her in the holidays but alas Mr Right soon turned up to take her away in 1963. He was a Gunner named Captain Richard Jackson, son of an Irish Anglican Bishop, a very suitable match, for Vivien was brought up in Eire. And, blow me down, just the same thing happened to her charming successor Elizabeth Templeton (1963-64) only this time it was one of our own Masters, Michael Kefford, who was the villain, so she lasted one and a half terms only. As I wrote at the time we were very sad that she had to go but delighted that she was marrying such a good man. Her successor was Kate Bickmore and I had great hopes that she would last, since she had all the qualities mentioned in para one, including on occasion a positive zest for typing everything at the last moment and in general delighting in the challenge of a crisis. She was an excellent car-driver and tennis player, fond of the boys in an utterly unsentimental way; a personal friend, of independent means and cast of mind and showed no sign of being about to get married. Unfortunately she could never make up her mind to stay with a job, so she was in and out of the Secretary post for about 12 years. The first session was 1965 to 1968.
After unmemorable because short tenures of office by two or three persons Vivien Stride, also of independent means, held down the job from 1970 to 1974. Her family were the best known Estate Agents in Chichester. She was very efficient and good at her job but not the type to mix much socially with the rest of the Staff. So again there were rather unmemorable Secretaries from 1974 to 1978, including for a short time the divorced wife, Mary Mates, of the M.P. of a neighbouring Constituency, until we struck it lucky again with June Bazalgette, wife of a well-known Hampshire Hog Cricketer. She filled the post to the School’s satisfaction for three years but there were some problems in that she did not live in and had to look after her daughter in the holidays. We therefore jumped at the chance of Kate coming back since she would be resident and knew our ways so well. Sadly her second spell of office lasted for under two years but to our amazement we found almost the ideal School Secretary, 1983 to 1987, in Gillian Surgenor. She is now the Winchester College Bursar’s Personal Secretary and he is a lucky man. It is impossible to find fault with her persona or with anything which she left undone at West Downs. The parents of the Day children relied on her absolutely so during office hours she was constantly on the phone. Nearly always she took all the stuff for typing home and next day at 8 am it had all been done. No word was misspelt, the punctuation which the speaker on tape had failed to indicate was in its right place, the letter was a thing of beauty. It was the same with all that she did. She was a perfectionist with the drive and energy needed to keep up her own high standards. She was also a shrewd judge of the men and women on our Staff and she knew a lot about them but she never betrayed a secret. She was self-effacing when that was necessary and always cheerful, assured and tactful.
At West Downs she did not deal with money matters, School bills and weekly pay packets etc.; that was the job of Joyce Gill who was the Bursar’s Secretary 1979-1988. She knew more than Gillian about the private lives of the Cleaners and other such subordinate staff, she too was tactful and utterly reliable over confidential information. One can find no fault with her in any respect specially since she had her duties to a husband who was an invalid with a bad heart, and to her teenage daughter.
I hereby thank all the West Downs Secretaries for their selfless devotion.
When we first came to West Downs the meals were in the hands of a Catering Firm. I remember their telling me that they had to prepare ten meals each day as under – Breakfast for Assistant Matrons and some Outside Staff, Breakfast for boys and Teaching Staff, Elevenses for Staff, Lunch for Sister and Matrons, Lunch for boys and Teaching Staff, Tea for Teaching Staff, High Tea for boys, Supper for Sister and Matrons, Supper for resident Teaching Staff, Supper for Headmaster and Wife – a day lasting from 7.30 am to 8 pm. We also remember that they watered the milk, sometimes spat into the icing for Boys’ Birthday Cakes and were specially concerned with and proud of the low cost per head of each main meal. They lasted for one term only.
We got a friend of ours from Oxford, Ruth Cunningham, to become the Head Cook/Caterer. She lasted for eight years, when she became Domestic Bursar at Lincoln College, Oxford. She lived in a top flat in Melbury and her son David became a great friend of our sons. She was very good at her job and a kind boss of her subordinate assistants who included Patty Bradley niece of Sir Kenneth Bradley, a Colonial Service friend of mine, who left to get married to a Schoolmaster who later became Headmaster of a Prep-School, 1954/1955; and Jennifer Cattell who left to be “finished” in Paris; Valerie Hopkins 1956 to 1958 who painted the scenery for the School Play and was a notable actress and singer in the Staff Entertainment; Barbara Cosgrove, 1957, born and brought up in a Malvern College House who enjoyed playing our organ; Susan Robertson from St Edmunds, Oxford, 1958; Helen Van Ingen, 1960/61; and Anne Mills, who was with us 1957-1962, an Oxford friend of Ruth’s. I doubt whether the West Downs boys will recall much about Ruth but the Teaching Staff of her time will remember her Bridge parties, and that she was an artist whose pictures were occasionally hung in the Royal Academy. Ruth’s successor was Mrs Walmisley, the outrageously fat wife of our Head Gardener who was a Squadron Leader. Like all the best fat people she joked about her size and ate very little. Her Assistant Cooks were Mrs Horwood, Miss Barff and Miss Longdon and Carolyn Thornton in the early Sixties; Anna Parker who left to get married in 1966; Miss Kent and Miss Williams-Freeman; Tina Batson etc.
They all came and went but we came to believe that Mrs Walmisley would last for ever. She was the cornucopia figure in the kitchen overflowing with fruit and fish-fingers and all the other goodies which came endlessly out of the kitchen to the Hatch. Typically, at a Staff Entertainment, she sang a song and then threw a basket full of sweets to the audience. And then, suddenly, she died in her sleep up in the Melbury flat. It was in 1973 and we were devastated.
But not dismayed for Ray’s eye fell on Dawn Inglis, wife of our Head Gardener Martin, completely untrained like Mrs Walmisley but just as capable and with as warm a heart. She was with us until the School closed in 1988. It was under her aegis that the kitchen motto was hung up as mentioned in the Book: “The impossible is done at once, Miracles take a little longer”. The great thing about her was not so much that she was unflappable as that she was a brilliant leader of a team. Barbara Ribbick helped a lot of course, she was specially gifted in icing Birthday Cakes and making sandwiches; despite her bad hips Valerie Browne was a rock on which every meal could be founded; the beautiful Ann Carpenter was talented but she was naturally wafted from us by a suitor. But, though supported by these wonderful people, the buck stopped with Dawn and she always managed to keep under control any trouble brewing in the Scullery or elsewhere. Brian Savage and Peter Boyes did their jobs splendidly but after Geoff Samuel died tragically of lung cancer in 1987 Dawn lost a valuable First Mate and the ship sometimes rocked. Yes, miracles took a little longer but the impossible task of keeping the kitchen afloat, with packed meals being requested at short notice for expeditions and all the other extra food and drink demands, was calmly and, it seemed, effortlessly achieved. The main people in the team remained to the end.
At West Downs the Pantry was always considered separate from the Kitchen and Scullery. It was manned by a Couple. I forget the name of the Dutch pair who were there in 1954, but in 1955 the Basques Juan and Carmen Abad Bati were appointed and they were with us for many many years and became much more than servants, dear friends. Juan died suddenly in office in February 1981 after driving us to the station on our way to the United States. Born in 1928 he was apprenticed to a tailor. In 1951 he fell in love with and married Carmen who lived across the Vizcaya estuary in Los Arenas. They had no children and emigrated to England since there was then little demand for a tailor in Bilbao. Thereafter he devoted his life to the West Downs Dining Hall. Each holiday he stained and polished the floor till its burnished glow almost reflected your feet and the silver cups were similarly treated. Over the years he specially cherished me, just as Carmen became Ray’s confidante and helper. To give a small example Juan always insisted on boiling my breakfast egg himself, knowing to a second the consistency I liked. Madariago said that the Spanish word ‘Onor’ is untranslatable like the English words ‘Fair Play’. I select that word to describe Juan. It might mean among other things, that he was honourable, devoted, independent, utterly trustworthy, a firm friend, a person who is not concerned with what the world may think of him so long as he is true to himself. Carmen stayed on for a time until their relatives Nicholas and Pilar were available to take over. They had to give due notice to the English people they were serving and were quite content to come to us for far less pay. Then she married Fernando who had courted her years before around the time that Juan had won her. She was happy with him though it was not the same, and then she died, also suddenly, in 1984. Our whole family was shaken by this second bereavement, but I suppose that is nothing to do with West Downs. Anyway Nikko and Pilar went back to Spain in the same year and from that time until the School’s closure we had Tony and Rita Ingram. They and their family have stayed on and they live in what I think of as the Fitzgeralds’ flat in Field Dormitory – Tony is the School’s Caretaker and a wonderful one too. The greatest security which the School has is not the complicated burglar alarm system or the hardboard over all the windows. It is Tony with his close relations with the police and their dogs. And Rita has for long been Head of the Hospital Catering Department. They too over the years have become our dear friends. We think of them in that way and rely on Tony’s services as Handyman in our Winchester House and Chauffeur when we need to travel by car. We have been very fortunate in our Pantry Staff.
It would be tedious and inappropriate to enumerate all the Classroom Cleaners and Daily Women whom we employed from 1954 to 1988, from Cannings and Waite whom we inherited through to Roy Evans and James Shepherd and thereafter women cleaners.
The first named deserves a few remarks. Mr. Cannings served the school in the Changing Rooms and Bootroom from 1946 to 1959. Through all these 13 years, after he got his pension, as before it, he put the school first. We hoped and thought, therefore, that he would die in harness, like a willing horse. His children were long grown up and no longer needed him save for occasional advice and comfort. Even when he won £1000 on the pools earlier in 1959 he merely put it by in case of need. Thank goodness he did, for the need arose. The School was first, but even firster was his wife. She got old and incapable, and on Doctor’s advice was removed to a Hospital for Old People. She hated it there and longed to go back to her old home, even though she could no longer run it. And so Mr. Cannings, after many heartsearchings, put the firstest things first and retired to look after his wife in their own home as faithfully, uncomplainingly and lovingly as he had served the School.
It would be less than candid to say that all of them were good at their jobs with characters above reproach. Mistakes were made in the appointment of subordinate staff, for example one of them turned out to be an arsonist and another was a burglar. But I think that the family feeling of many of us at West Downs can be encapsulated in a party organised, I suspect by Dawn Inglis, in the bottom two Dormitories in Melbury Lodge at Christmastime on the Saturday after the term ended in 1978. It was to celebrate the wedding of Geoff Samuel and Ivy Hollands, who had met each other as colleagues on our Staff, and some 50 guests were present. Ray and I were privileged to be invited. The beds had been removed, the partition between the rooms pulled back and clever lighting installed, probably by Brian, and so the venue had been transformed into a large Reception Room. Among those present were not only Dawn and the Basques, Juan and Carmen, and Barbara Ribbick, Basil Woolf, John Hammond and Martin Inglis mentioned elsewhere but also Peter Boyes, Brian Savage, Mrs Farr and Mrs Ingleson, persons who served us in the Scullery and Cleaning the Dormitories for upwards of twenty years each but also of course Geoff the selfless St Helenan who, having fulfilled the duties of a father of his family in that island, came to England to serve West Downs for nearly 40 years and who was to die with such dignity in 1987. Altogether our Staff at the party would then have served West Downs for over 300 years.
Every School needs reliable and versatile Maintenance Staff. The Fabric of an 1880 large Victorian building needs constant attention and boys are destructive creatures. We normally operated with a team of three, one of whom was continuously painting and decorating. A first-aid Plumber is needed to adjust leaky taps, and to free blocked water closets. Sashcords for windows have to be replaced, gutters and down-pipes cleared of leaves, desks repaired, chairs mended etc and every winter the blow-lamp is needed, usually in the main Lavatory and Bathroom areas to deal with frozen pipes. And very often there is some larger and less urgent project in hand such as shelving for the Science Lab., flooring a classroom or the Squash Court or upgrading fire doors.
Adams, the Head Man bequeathed to us, went down with T.B. in my first term. His successor was Le Sueur from the Channel Islands who made the 21 square wooden units 6ft by 6 which were required to floor the Swimming Pool in the winter when that “outbuilding” became a Table Tennis Hall with its three tables, useful also as an Overflow Room from neighbouring Shakespeare, Mr Dempster succeeded him in 1957; though Glasgow born and such a strong Protestant that he hated the colour green, he had been living just before his appointment in K.T.’s Dorset village, Beaminster. He was with us for 8 years and among other things converted the Carpentry Shop into an additional Changing Room and constructed a New Music Schoolroom with Piano Practice rooms in the Coal Yard. He left in 1965 because he was advised that he had a heart condition which precluded his undertaking any strenuous work. It was a personal blow to us since he and his family had become close friends of ours and it was a shock to him for his favourite leisure pursuit had been sailing in a Catamaran.
His successors were Mr. Baker and Ken Lawrence, neither of whom were special friends and Basil Woolf who also helped with the scouting. For most of my time Mr. Lee was the painter and decorator, and another figure under this heading was Johnny Bunce, who was normally engaged in repairing desks, often somewhat haphazardly. And so we come to Bert White who certainly was and is a friend. He saw us through the last years of the School, 1982 to 1988 and indeed stayed on for a while to deal with things after the closure. I am glad to say that he now has a very similar job at King Alfred’s Teacher Training College and his Assistant John Steele is the Head Groundsman of the main Winchester Bar End Playing Fields. Bert is a keen fisherman and gardener with a lovely sense of humour. It is impossible briefly to list all the major works which he carried through during those last six years but they include keeping the Fire Officers at bay, (one came and said we should have so many Fire Doors at such and such places to be followed by another who had “changed the goalposts”); and reflooring a whole heap of classrooms and the Main Room in the Lodge; laying the Squash Court floor; and completely re-glazing the large Victorian Greenhouse. He is a skilled woodworker but enjoys the variety of maintenance work.
It is my understanding that in the dim and distant past, when West Downs was the Winchester Modern School and Westfields, 1880-1892 or thereabouts, the First Game Football field was a grazing area for cattle and the herdsman was a frightening figure to the boys in those Schools. It was Lionel Helbert who levelled the whole area east of the Main Pavilion which has now for years been on two levels with a flat field below a steep bank. And there has been many a mighty battle on the patch of ground thereby created, usually a losing one against Horris Hill but often a win against other Schools. And in the summer when part of it became the Under XI Cricket pitch and another the Fourth Game ground there has been many a skirmish in Junior School Cricket Matches and many a very young child has gained brief glory for stopping a fizzer in the Melly era. It was also the site of the High Jump on Parents Weekend lazily watched by a few proud Mums and Dads towards the end of their picnics, before the excitement of the running races and the Dog-and-Boy event and the culminating unique Obstacle Race.
Elsewhere in these notes, under the heading Buildings and Grounds, I have described how the area east of the Main Pavilion changed in my time from being a vegetable and flower garden to the creation of Rawson’s playing field, tennis courts and a hard playing area for girls’ games; and also, this is the place to mention it, to an area in which there were five more or less all weather Cricket Coaching nets with matting. All these grounds had to be maintained, i.e. basically the court and field had to be cut and the netting round the Courts often needed attention but we are concerned herein almost entirely with the huge stretch of green grass surveyed from the bank north of the Pavilion when Cricket matches were being played. It was a fine sight with the moving white-clad figures adding life to the scene centred of course on the Sacred Square. Throughout my time this was Reg Severn’s pride and joy. It was lovingly cherished, with just the right amount of Marl added each season, and Reg himself often mowed and watered it himself, not trusting anyone else to erase the bowlers’ footmarks. It was well-known as being just about the best pitch in all Winchester. Its surrounds were less important but it was the groundsmen who removed the leaves in the autumn, cut the grass in the summer and planted the flowers in the front of the School in the Spring. And they also had to do away with the nettles and retain mastery over the grass in Melbury Dell which year-round was used for Scouting and Sunday recreation.
In 1954 the Head Gardener was Hunt, and he lasted till 1959. He was getting on in years and unable to cope towards the end. Mr. Kimber was his successor for three years and the next Head was Squadron-Leader Walmisley, husband of our Chief Cook, 1962 to 1975. He was a groundsman rather than a Gardener. He knew little about flowers. But he was wise in the ways of manicuring a compound adjacent to a hanger to impress an Air Marshal when it was due for inspection. Founder’s Day and Parents’ Weekend were the Big Occasions and special efforts were made to dig up the weeds in the beds and tidy the Potting Shed. John Hammond, who had served under him for two or three years, was promoted to be Head until he left, quite rightly, to get a better paid job and a house for his new wife on the Mountain Estate in Twyford. It was then the turn of another husband of the Head Cook, Martin Inglis, to take up the challenge. He left to become a Motor Mechanic in 1981, so after Kevin Hack had been in charge for a year or so, Jack Windless took over. He died suddenly in 1983 while in our employment, well covered thank the Lord by the School Insurance Scheme, but very sad for his wife. For the last five years of our existence the Head Groundsman was Sam Crook, a keen cricketer and former postman.
Basically the only person who in my time knew anything about flowers and the roses which were so lovingly planted and cared for by KT was Gill Severn. She did her best to instruct the Head Gardeners and their Assistants in how best to keep the paths weedfree, to edge borders and to propagate plants but the results, partly but not only because of lack of funds, were often less than hoped for.
Bamford (op. cit.) continually refers to the erratic rise and fall of numbers in most Public Schools. They are like the rise and fall of medium-sized and small companies on the Stock Exchange reacting crazily at times to market forces. The really big Companies like I.C.I. and Unilever ride over the crests of these waves and you won’t lose much if you invest in them in bad times, and you won’t gain all that much in a Bull market. This applies with greater force to the pigmies of the School population, the Private Prep-Schools. Their reputation depends a lot on gossip for or against a School’s Headmaster as is clearly shown by the fall in West Downs Boarder Numbers after the Morrison imbroglio.
When a School’s reputation is up and ever upward there is, of course, demand for more places and in a Boarding School that means Building. We do not have figures for all years but we know that from four boys in 1897 the number increased to over 80 in 1909, with continued demand for more places. So L.H. built. He created a Dormitory for 25 above the Private Side, a sunken hall which he called Shakespeare and a beautiful Chapel above it. Thus in 1914 there was room for 90 boys and I believe there were about that number throughout the World War One years. L.H. was an optimistic gambler as shown in his Biography and it is by no means inconceivable that he would have gone on increasing the size of the School when it was possible to build again after the War. He died, so we will never know.
In K.T.’s time there was little increase in numbers. Was this because there was a slackening of demand or because he thought that 100 was just the right number? Or was it that he was not prepared to gamble on continuing pressure for places, borrowing from the bank and building? Again there is no clear answer. In my time there was considerable pressure to provide more places in the late Fifties and Sixties and so, in various ways, further accommodation was provided. What had been the Servants wing in K.T.’s day, small rooms for 3, 4 or 5 boys with lovely views over the Playing Fields, became dormitories, after two Queens Road terrace houses had been bought for living-in Staff; and then, when the Rawsons left, boys slept in Melbury in the care of a much loved Under-Matron Payno. When demand was still rising a new Dormitory, Field, containing 18 beds was built, the boys being on the First Floor above a married master’s flat. In these ways, which in turn demanded a larger Dining Hall and an additional Changing Room and Shower Room, the peak figure of 162 pupils, nearly all boarders, was reached in 1979 and was throughout the Seventies about 150.
The buildings which I put up and had enlarged were functional and less worthy than Simpson’s Chapel and Shakespeare but they were not unsightly and the boys looked forward to the term when in strict rotation they were bedded in Melbury or Field. They preferred them to the In-house Top, West, Chapel and Long Dormitories. St Cross on the top floor had become soon after my arrival an Early Bedtime Dormitory, since it was felt that the Tindall plan of boys of all ages in a Patrol sleeping together was hard on the youngest.
These, then, were the main building changes in my time at West Downs. There were a number of not-unimportant changes in the grounds. In K.T.’s time the large area to the West of the main Cricket field was out of bounds to boys. Directly I arrived the so-called Private Garden was opened to the boys, who played croquet on its lawn. A hard Tennis Court was also built near that garden. Later on, an area west of the Boys’ Gardens which used to be a Cutting Garden became a Lawn Tennis Court. And, finally, when a House and garden had been created for the Second Master, Reg Severn, on the extreme north-western point of the grounds, an area which for years had been a vegetable patch became an extra Playing Field, called Rawsons in memory of Hugh and Thelwyn.
There were yet two more changes required towards the very end. The Pre-Prep needed a Second Classroom which was built adjacent to the Old Sanni and the girls needed a Hard Playing Area for their Netball, so it was made in an area between the Squash Court and the Chapel entrance door. When so required in the summer it became an additional Hard Tennis Court. And the Squash Court, which was built by K.T. but neglected from 1939 to 1954, was painted, heated and lit and floored to match standard. Opposite it, at one time, was a makeshift but weatherproof shed for a small yacht.
Some figures on numbers are appended, boarding unless otherwise stated.
|1963||116||1978||156 inc. some Day children|
|1964||127 from this year on|
There were almost no day children or girls at West Downs from 1954 to 1975. It is true that Diana Bass and Hannah Jacques were at the School in 1954, but the former was K.T.’s grand-daughter and the latter the daughter of an Assistant Master. Naturally they were educated free of charge and both of them got scholarships to their next School. In 1975 Sophie Leeming and Ruma Dutta were Boarders but again this was unusual. Both girls had brothers in the School. In 1976 the girl population increased to 4, two Day girls and two Boarders, one of whom was my grand-daughter and the other the daughter of the then School Secretary, both educated free.
In 1977 two more girl Boarders arrived, one being another of my grand-daughters (educated free) and another with a brother in the School. 1978 was the year when there was a major change. In that year eight Girl Boarders were admitted, one being yet another of my grand-daughters, educated free and the others with brothers in the School. Five Day Boys and four Day Girls were enrolled. The Day and Girl admissions from 1979 onwards can best be shown in figures:
|Day Boys||Girl Boarders||Day Girls|
|1982||21||3||4 including 2 Morrison girls educated free|
At one time I was rather keen on admitting girls since I thought that they would be a civilising influence but the experiment never really got off the ground. The flood of Day Boys affected the pattern of the West Downs day, e.g. towards the end there were few pupils in residence at weekends because there was also a growing demand for Weekly Boarders. We were successful in integrating them with the Boarders through the Patrol system. One Day girl and four Day boys got Scholarships.
Nearly all Girls and a good number of Boys left at age 11, no less than 22 going to the nearest Independent Day School, St Edwards, Southampton, as the figures show in another paper. Eton and a great many other Independent Boarding Secondary Schools dropped virtually out of the picture from 1982 onwards.
1. Clearly Class, like cancer, is unmentionable in any History of a School, College, Regiment or any other Institution. Nevertheless it is of interest to the Historian and the undermentioned names of the boys attending West Downs show how the pupils inexorably went down in Class from its earliest days. The Founder, Lionel Helbert, had been on the staff of the Houses of Parliament before assuming the School’s Headmastership and he was therefore known to the Peers in the House of Lords. So it is not surprising that they sent their sons to West Downs. In the Helbert era and the Interregnum before Kenneth Tindall became Headmaster there were numbered among its pupils:—
Sir R.A. Abercromby Bt., the Viscount Ashley, the Viscount Astor, the Hon. David Astor, Sir R.J. Baker-Wilbraham Bt., The Hon D.A. Balfour later the Earl of Balfour, the Hon. J.P. Balfour later the Lord Kinross, Sir Malcolm Barclay-Hervey Bt., Lord Hugh Beresford, Lord William Beresford, Sir A.M.S. Bethune Bt., the Earl of Chichester, the Hon G.H.C. Chichester, the Hon. R.C.F. Chichester, Sir Michael Culme-Seymour Bt., Lord Dunluce later the Earl of Antrim, the Hon W. Edwardes later the Lord Kensington, the Hon D. Edwardes, the Hon H. Edwardes, the Hon M Edwardes, Viscount Elmley later the Earl Beauchamp, the Hon O.T. Farrer, the Hon J.D. Fellowes, the Hon D. Finch-Hatton, the Hon J. Grimston later the Earl of Verulam, Sir Edward Goschen Bt., the Viscount Harcourt, the Lord Hazlerigg, the Viscount Hinchingbroke, the Lord Hotham, the Hon David Hotham, the Hon Peter Hotham, the Hon Samuel Hood later the Viscount Hood, the Lord Hyde, Sir Richard Keane Bt., the Viscount Knebworth, the Hon H P Lygon, the Earl of Madeley, Viscount Maidstone later the Earl of Winchelsea and Nottingham, the Hon Patrick Maitland-Wilson, Viscount Molyneux later the Earl of Sefton, the Hon C.R. Molyneux, the Hon H.W.S. Monck later the Viscount Monck, Sir Oswald Mosley Bt., Hon B.A. O’Neill, Viscount Ossulton, the Hon T.O.C. Pease, Sir J. Pigott-Brown Bt., Sir Hugh Rees Rankin Bt., the Lord Rayleigh, Sir Richard Rees Bt., the Hon A.P.W. Seely later the Lord Mottistone, the Hon H.J.A. Seely later the Lord Mottistone, the Hon A. Shirley, the Hon J.G. Simon, Viscount Somerton later the Earl of Normanton, the Hon J.A.S. Strutt, Viscount Tamworth later the Earl Ferrers, the Hon C.G. Tennant later the Lord Glenconner, the Hon D.F. Tennant, the Hon E.W. Tennant, the Marquess of Waterford, Sir John Wrightson Bt., and the Hon T.M. Horder later the Lord Horder.
2. This is a total of nearly 60 names and it is no wonder that others in the Prep-School world regarded us as a Snob School and, in schoolboy parlance, we were known as Wet Downs, presumably because the parents of these precious sons demanded that Helbert should take good care of them. But it is worth noting that there were others of that era who made a name for themselves by their own endeavours, rising from the ranks to eminence.
They can be categorised as under:—
Soldiers: Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, General G.C. Bucknall; Lt. Generals Sir Frederick Browning and Sir George Collingwood; Major Generals M.J.H. Bruce, Sir David Dawney, Charles Miller, Sir John Nelson, Sir John Sinclair, G.R. Smallwood and E.A.W. Williams.
Sailors: Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin; Vice-Admirals Sir Peter Dawney and Sir E.M. Evans-Lombe; Rear Admiral E.J. Spooner.
Foreign Service: Sir Ronald Harris, the Lord Sherfield formerly R.M. Makins, W.F. Pretyman, Sir David Scott-Fox, Michael Warr.
Government (including Royal service): Sir John Colville, Sir Edward Ford, Lord O’Neill of the Maine, Lord Ridley, Lord Duncan Sandys, R. Speir M.P., Sir Peter Thorne, Lord Kennet formerly W Hilton Young and M.S. McCorquodale.
Judges: J.C. Phipps and Sir John Stephenson.
Sport: T.A. Brocklebank (rowing and mountaineering) and D.S. Milford (rackets).
Miscellaneous: Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey (Governor of South Australia), Sir Edward Collingwood (services to Hospitals), Wing Cdr M.N. Crossley (Battle of Britain flying ace), Sir John Crompton-Inglefield (Industry), R.S. Dutton (Author), Sir Fordham Flower (Brewing and R.S.C.), Sir Ronald Harris (Civil Service), Lord McCorquodale (Printing), Sir Mark Norman (Tobacco), Sir Peter Scott (Wild Life), Edward Holland-Martin (National Trust) and Viscount Simon (Shipping). Only two of them got Scholarships to their Public Schools.
3. In the Tindall era there is a marked decline in the number of boys with ‘handles’ to their name. The list is as follows:—
The Hon M.J.H. Allenby, Sir H.G. Beresford-Peirce Bt., Lord H de la P. Beresford, the Hon H.E. Boscawen later the Viscount Falmouth, the Hon D.G. Brooks, the Hon T.G.P. Brooks, Lord Cardiff later the Marquess of Bute, R.H.V. Cochrane later the Lord Cochrane of Cults, the Hon J.A.G. Coutanche, the Lord Crawshaw, Sir C.P.A. du Cros, the Hon A.D. Gibbs later the Lord Aldenham, the Hon J.A.G. McDonell, the Hon P. Maitland-Wilson, the Lord Methuen, the Hon J.U.D. Ogilvy, Sir P Payne-Gallway Bt., the Hon J.E. Pease later the Lord Gainford, Sir J. Pigott-Brown Bt., the Hon J.R.K. Sinclair, Sir Henry Warner Bt.
Eminent persons under categories as in para 2 were:—
Soldiers: Lt. Generals Sir Norman Arthur and Sir Anthony Mullens and Major Generals R.J.D.E. Buckland, G.H. Mills and J.R. Tillard.
Sailors: Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Staveley and Rear Admiral Sir Joseph Henley.
Government including Royal Service: The Hon H.E. Boscawen M.P., Oliver Dawnay, the Earl Ferrers, Sir J.St.J. Loyd, the Lord Soames, Robert Boscawen.
Judges: W.H.R. Crawford and Oliver Wrightson.
Sport: Major Derek Allhusen (Eventing) and Sanders Watney (Horse Carriage Racing).
Miscellaneous: the Rt. Rev. K.A. Arnold (Bishop), Sir J.D. Boles (Colonial Service), R.G. Ingrams (Private Eye), Sir Jeremy Morse (Banking), A.O.H. Quick (Headmaster), Sir James Spooner (Finance).
4. In the Cornes era there was a further sharp decline in the number of boys of ennobled families as under:—
Ivo Bligh who became Lord Clifton heir to the Earl of Darnley, the Hon C.R. Boscawen, the Hon E.A.H. Boscawen, the Hon N.J. Boscawen, the Hon M.G. Fiennes, the Hon G.H.P. Gibbs, the Hon V.T. Gibbs, the Hon E.S.R. Guinness, the Hon F.B. Guinness, the Hon K.A. Guinness, Viscount Grimston later the Earl of Verulam, Lord Leveson, the Hon N.J. Leveson-Gower, the Hon C.S. Monck, the Hon George Monck, the Hon J.S. Monck. Lord Ullswater also comes into this category but he may properly be put in the category ‘Government’ for he holds office in the House of Lords. Boys of my time already in Who’s Who are Guy Boney and Christopher Leigh, both Recorders; Charles Drace Francis, a Diplomat; and Richard Casement, a journalist who was first in the field to publicise the micro-chip revolution, got a long Obituary in the Times.
5. Basically one can record that from about 1978 until 1988 there was a change in the background of West Downs’ pupils, marked by the introduction of day children, the advent of more girls and the increasing number, though small, of boys of foreign extraction, mostly Chinese from Malaysia and Hong Kong but also from India, Kenya and Nigeria. The Chinese in particular worked very hard and often won Scholarships.
6. Finally in the above lists of O.W.D.s with handles to their names and/or who have achieved eminence you are referred to the Postscript of “West Downs a Portrait of an English Prep-School”. You will find all the names in the lists above under the Three Headmasters, though sometimes under different headings, except:— (in Mark’s list but NOT in mine)
L.H.’s era: Henry Coombe-Tennant (a notable Escaper from a Prison Camp and Dominican Monk), Professor Patrick Nowell-Smith.
Sport: A.N. Henniker-Gotley (Rugby), Richard Rawson (Heavyweight Boxer), John Lakin (Polo), Giles Baring, Neville Ford, Arthur Hazelrigg and A.R. Legard (Cricket).
K.B.T.’s era: Toby Marten who defied the Government over Crichel Down. Professor I.G. Macdonald.
Business: James Harvie-Watt and Peter Wilmot-Sitwell.
Stage: Peter Howell and Nicholas Phipps.
Sport: Brigadier Norman Arthur and Mark Darley (Equestrianism).
“Pure” is derived from the Latin adjective Purus, whose principal meanings are “Unsullied”, “Spotless” or “Faultless” as well as “Simple” as in “Pure Rubbish”. It is in its first named meanings that we should understand the W.D. motto. Was it pure chance, surely not, that the triptych over the Chapel Altar recorded the motto which, as Mrs. Rannie shows, was derived from Mr. Charles Harper, an Assistant Master at L.H.’s Brighton Prep School.
All the pictures are copies of the originals by Giovanni or his brother Gentile Bellini and the conventional Mother and Child central figures are those in the Frari Church in Venice. But it is strange that the side figures are not copies of those in the Frari. Or is this significant?
As you look at the pictures from the chairs or pews in Chapel you find on the right the figure on St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), and is he not the perfect pattern of Honesty in his Confessions? On the left is the mythical giant St. Christopher who was prepared to fight against the Devil himself, when he learnt that Satan was afraid of the Cross, and is not he therefore the perfect pattern of Bravery? And in the centre we have the perfect pattern of Purity, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It would be absurd to suppose that West Downs stood still from 1954 to 1988. Changes had to be made but the general structure of the West Downs day was changed very little over all those years. It was based on K.T.’s pattern and was almost if not wholly unique in that there were only 32 forty minute periods with a forty minute break in mid morning, and it was unusual for any teacher to teach more than 24 periods. Put another way, every Teacher was where possible given a free period each day as well as two periods off on his or her Half Day. The idea behind this was to ensure that Teachers as well as Boys should have time allowed them to correct written work or prepare for the next lesson and giving them the chance to coach anyone who had difficulty with a subject, during Free Time. All our splendid teaching staff understood these arrangements. They worked incredibly hard to ensure that every single boy knew that he or she was his friend and any extra coaching given was not a punishment.
When I became Headmaster in 1954 the rule about cold baths before breakfast had been abolished but the boys still washed and cleaned their teeth in cold water in the basins in the Dormitories, and there were still chamber pots under each bed. The boys made their beds after Breakfast but maids emptied the chamber pots and the basins into which they put clean water. There was also a Night Nurse and the temperature of each boy was taken in the morning and at night. Ray and I felt that this was unnecessary but it took time to put up wash-basins in the bathrooms and to replace the huge Victorian baths with smaller ones more fitting for the size of the boys and to install oil heating instead of the coal-fired boilers. (There was a man who did nothing else besides shovelling coal for heating the radiators and pipes for hot water and in the summer for the swimming pool.)
After Breakfast there was the same health drill in S.P., short for Sanitary Prep. There was a list prescribing that each boy should go to a particular Water Closet in a certain order to empty his bowels and an Assistant Matron was posted in each of the six-roomed lavatories to tick his name off if he had been successful. Sister scrutinised these lists and prescribed Castor Oil or some such to those who were frequently constipated. This was the time also when she dispensed health foods such as Virol. It was some years before we relieved the Matrons of their hideous task, but the other health and washing reforms were introduced quite quickly.
In every well regulated Boarding Prep School there is a Duty Master or Masters who keep tabs on the whereabouts of the pupils. In 1954 this was a relatively easy task because boys were forbidden to go into the Dormitories in Free Time and had to get the Master’s permission even to relieve themselves. By 1988, while many of the rules were never officially abolished, some had fallen into desuetude. In the winter months or when it was “All In” boys might be in the Squash Court or a Computer Room in the Sanni or in the Library in the former K classroom adjacent to Shakespeare or in the Art Room which occupied one of the N rooms or playing Table Tennis on the Boarding over the Swimming Pool as well as in Shakespeare or the gym. In the summer it was even more difficult for the Duty Master since boys might be playing tennis or Tig in the area which in K.T.’s time was a Vegetable Patch or in the Rubbish Dump where tree houses were built and guarded by their owners.
Boys were supposed to hand over all money they had on them at the beginning of term or received when they went out during the term to the Master in charge of the “School Bank”. A record of this was of course made and boys could draw on their deposits in order to buy things that they wanted from the City shops. The purchases were made on their behalf by the School Secretary or a woman teacher, for many years Barbara Spibey, the “orders” being given by them in Fish Queue. They could also spend their money internally for pens or certain stationery and geometrical instruments stocked for many years by Maisie Richardson. And when boys went on an expedition to a Fête or to the Theatre etc they were issued with small sums recovered subsequently from their parents in the School Bill. This was the main way whereby no boy could use Public Transport to run away or be conned by a cleverer or more powerful boy to swap something valuable for something valueless. After the introduction ofday Pupils it became more difficult to justify this practice, but it was never abolished.
A television was installed in Shakespeare very soon after I assumed the Headmastership. Over the years we acquired a good many other sets, for the Sick Bay, the Masters’ Lodge, etc. Right up until the end boys had to get permission to turn on the Shakespeare set. It is possible, though unlikely, that they may have seen an unsuitable programme. Comics were banned, but they were circulated. Any found in a boy’s chest of drawers were confiscated. There was also censorship of books right till the end.
Scouting at West Downs seems to have started somewhat haphazardly. L.H. had a sudden rush of blood to the head and made the School the 6th Winchester Scout Troop with its Patrols, P/Ls and Seconds. I can quite understand how its semi-religious, patriotic and chivalrous ethos would have appealed to him. It is a Movement stressing Duties rather than Rights. You swear on oath to do your Duty to God and to The Queen and to help other people. The Promise is based on the Boy’s Honour, a word which sadly is derided today. It is partly because of this that Scouting plays such a small part nowadays in the education of the nation. Christian organisations have arisen to take its place at Prep School age, and organisations like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award foster its outward bound element for those who are slightly older. Nevertheless, and this is typical of West Downs, the system persisted right to the end. Andrew Morrison, who was Headmaster for a year, in my view misunderstood it in appointing Assistant Masters and a Lady Teacher to be specially responsible for a Patrol, a sort of Public School Housemaster. The Troop, rather like an Army Company, can never be subdivided in that way. The Patrol, like an Army platoon, is led by a non-commissioned Officer, someone who has risen from the ranks. The Scoutmaster or Troop Leader may have commissioned Assistant Scoutmasters to lead the Troop’s camping activities or Badge work and it is not unusual to have inter-patrol competitions within the Troop on specific Scout activities such as pitching a tent, but it’s the Troop flag which they all follow. There are no Patrol flags.
L.H., K.T., D.H.G, H.A. Ricardo and Reg Severn understood all the above as I did, though I was always only titular Scoutmaster. D.H.G. and later R.S. organised all the Scout training on Monday evenings and for the Baker-Wilbraham Competition. But, as Scoutmaster, I at first chaired the weekly Court of Honour which I inherited. Very soon I abolished it, since I found that boys aged 12 or 13 were not mature enough to deal with the stresses of an N.C.O. who has to have one foot in the Officer’s ground and the other in that of his men. I have learned recently, from letters sent in connection with the compilation of the Hichens book, that K.T. came up against the same problem. Indeed one correspondent asserts, I am convinced in error, that the P/Ls were wont to set up a Kangaroo Court in K.T.’s presence in which certain Scouts were “tried” for disobeying School rules. This cannot be true, but I did feel that the Court proceedings as recorded were sycophantic and therefore harmful.
Nevertheless the Honours Board system persisted and, according to the Book, in K.T.’s time it was the principal way in which Duty Masters controlled recalcitrant boys. In the worst cases they would give a boy an All-rounder and the result would be that he was slippered by K.T. when he made his Dormitory round. Again I find this hard to believe, and this was certainly not the case with me. Ray and I loved going round the Dormitories and this was almost every night so that we could have a chat with three or four boys, not often the same ones of course, about how the day had gone with him. The round of 5 or 6 Dormitories and Melbury took over an hour and one of the happiest ones for us. Points lost were sometimes referred to, but basically simply to elicit information.
As stated above it would appear that points lost under the Honours Board system loomed large in K.T.’s day. They were much less important in mine. But I believe now that I did wield the slipper and cane for far too long before the I.A.P.S. decreed that corporal punishments should cease. I regret this now for I don’t think it did any good as a deterrent except in the very rare cases when someone in authority had to suffer for another’s crime. e.g. his Patrol Leader when Freddie Browning, while roof crawling, damaged himself. And, since Assistant masters were not permitted to lay a hand on a boy and the Dormitory Heads could only set lines, it might on occasion have been useful to back up their authority. It made no difference when corporal punishment ceased. The patrol system was meant to ensure that there was no persistent bullying, for Buffaloes, for example, in general stood up for one another against a boy from another Patrol. Bullying within a patrol was very rare because the unit was small enough for a real family feeling. Their members had grown up together in the School, in the Dormitory, at Tea and in end of term inter Patrol Matches.
In 1954 a West Downs boy had very little contact with the World outside. There were very few matches or outings. Parents visited their sons infrequently. The only exeat was after Parents’ Weekend in the Summer. As the years went by this isolation was more and more eroded. Very early on there were 3 Elevens and an Under 11 and Under 10 XIs who had matches against other schools at Cricket and Football. There were also Rugger and Hockey Matches, Athletic Meetings, Tennis, Swimming and Cross-Country matches. There were outings to the Theatre, the Cinema, the Sea, a Fun Fair, Country Houses, Factories, Bird Sanctuaries, a Butterfly Farm, Royal Navy ships, a Roman Villa. Parents visited their children more and more often and in the end there were two exeats in each term. There were also regular exchange visits to Versailles in France and with Giessen in Germany. Nearly every other good prep school pursued a similar policy but we were in the forefront of the movement to acquaint boys and our few girls with the exciting things that they can learn outside the classroom.
Boys, and the few girls, left for a much larger Public School. Did they stand out at all among their fellow entrants? Yes, I have been led to believe that by and large they did. They were not overwhelmed, they were self confident, they stood tall. And that is how we wanted them to be.
All O.W.D.s remember the Chapel and the services which took place in it more than anything else. This was because, throughout its history, they were central to the School’s ethos. The book, “Portrait of an English Prep School”, describes how L.H. created it when the increased number of pupils necessitated building, and the loving care whereby, partly through the generosity of the parents of boys then in the School, it was furnished with altar frontals, pictures, a reredos and stained glass. The School prayers which he used, and in most cases invented, are listed at the end of the Book, and there is mention of the long address which each year he delivered to the boys, with no others present, on Advent Sunday, when he rededicated his life to the service of West Downs and urged the congregation to be honest, brave and pure throughout their lives.
K.T., during whose headmastership the Compton organ donated by Arthur Broadhurst, added the finishing touch, gradually introduced a Lectionary and Order of Service for each Sunday morning and evening, based on his own so-called Unholy Gospel. It is the Life Story of Our Lord Jesus, put into words with which boys would identify, passages from which he read instead of a sermon. So there were very few outside Preachers or visits to Winchester Cathedral or other City churches. Furthermore the boys had to learn by heart each week passages from the Gospels or the Psalms, tested each Monday morning and, many O.W.D.s therefore remember these verses throughout their lives. The confirmation notes which he handed over to me show how hard he tried, and in most cases succeeded, both in his preparation talks and in his Leavers’ “Jaws”, to ensure that each boy left the School convinced that his whole life should be founded on the unshakeable rock of Christian belief. By his own life he set an example of that faith, not least in his and Theodora’s acceptance of the tragic loss of their two sons.
K.T. took his “Unholy Gospel” away with him, and it was of course impossible for me to follow the same path of Churchmanship because of our different temperaments and the growing shift of the Anglican Church towards a more evangelical approach. Greatly influenced as I was by our son Andrew’s stance in Holy Orders I welcomed this movement and to that end introduced more active participation of the boys in our services and more varied forms of worship. Examples are a service in which the King Alfred’s Teacher Training College Chaplain fielded questions from the congregation about Our Lord’s divinity, the Creation etc; boys conducting their own service based on extracts from the lives of modern saints such as Gladys Aylward; Winchester College boys witnessing to their new-born faith; the singing of the modern songs which are such a key feature of Evangelical Churches etc, etc. There were also many special services, e.g. Harvest Festival, when masters and boys read suitable passages from prose as well as verse as well as from the Bible; a Service in thanksgiving for Sacred Music on the Sunday nearest to St. Cecilia’s Day; while also continuing the Christmas Carol Service. There were also many more Visiting Preachers including laymen such as Win. Coll. Housemasters, and often a Parent Serving Officer on Remembrance Sunday. I did the talking only once or twice a term.
Furthermore it became the practice for all the boys in the School to attend our local Christ Church on the first Sunday of term, when leave out was rarely accorded, to a Christingle Service in the Cathedral and, in the last days of the School, to other Winchester Churches such as St. Cross and St. Luke’s. When Reg Severn took over the executive headmastership the same varied pattern continued, and so under all the headmasters Sunday Worship was an essential part of the West Downs Week, supplemented by a ten minute Service on weekdays, followed by a Scripture lesson of the same duration. And that is why there was an article headed “Chapel” in every School Magazine during the period 1954 to 1988.
In his Foreword to the Portrait Lord Sherfield writes “The moral of the tale is that no school of the calibre and prestige of West Downs should be allowed to remain private property. It should be turned into an Education Trust.” He is quite right. There are still a few Proprietary Prep-Schools, notably one which primarily serves Eton, kept by two twins. Presumably they have plans for its future when they are too old to run it. There were no such plans when West Downs was turned into a Company with only Cornes Directors and Shareholders in 1964. Mark Hichens rightly explains that this action, advised by the firm of Russell Ohly which then included Ted Russell who was L.H.’s secretary, and foolishly not apprehended at the time, marked the beginning of the end. For the sons of Jerry Cornes, who bought the School from K.T. in the early Fifties, are respectively a Doctor, an Overseas Trader, a Fund Manager and a Parson. The first three never had any intention of succeeding their father and the youngest, attracted to the idea in his ’teens, committed his life to the service of Our Lord Jesus when he was 18. It was then that he decided never to be the West Downs Headmaster, well qualified as he was to do this. He had been called to be a parish priest.
So, only a few years after the foundation of the Company, in the early Seventies at latest, the date when West Downs would close was foreshadowed. It would be on Jerry’s retirement. Efforts were made to prolong its life when his godson, Andrew Morrison, was appointed in 1981 under a ten-year contract. But this merely prolonged the School’s life until 1992. Andrew accepted the post “with his eyes open” but like most Schoolmasters he knew little and cared less about money matters and Schools’ administration. After two terms he came to see, having been so advised by a friend who was Headmaster of another well known Prep-School, that the only hope for West Downs was for it to become a Trust. He said that he would resign unless this happened straight away i.e. before the beginning of the next academic year. The Cornes family refused and the School received a mortal wound when the public at large woke up to the fact that West Downs was bound to die. Truly heroic efforts were made by the parents of children in the School, led by Marya Egerton-Warburton, to maintain the School in being and they were successful. Among other things a Parents’ Committee was formed to help publicise our achievements and to bind parents and staff closer together. Nevertheless it became known that West Downs was heading for closure and it became more and more difficult to attract boarding pupils for years ahead.
There followed the chain of events recorded in Chapter 30 of the Book though perhaps undue importance is attached to the Handhaven offer. This was a Takeover Bid to acquire all the shares in West Downs School Ltd, which owns properties outside the School, including the house in which I live. We would have had to sell to a shell company which was not a Charitable Trust, though there was a suggestion that it might become one. Furthermore it required that all shareholders would agree to the sale. Also there had been other previous attempts to solve the problem of the School continuing while at the same time compensating the Cornes family. Property Companies such as Wiggins and Fairclough had shown interest in the land and buildings and there were various schemes whereby West Downs could continue for ever with a reduced playing field area. The reason they came to nothing was basically that year by year in the early Eighties the property, in the heart of Winchester, became more and more valuable and so the amount which any Charitable Trust could put up became more and more unrealistic. The property boom bubble burst more or less coterminously with the School’s closure and in 1993 West Downs and its grounds are worth a great deal less than a 1988 offer but the Company’s assets could not be bought for anything like as little as the Handhaven offer.
Finally, in the last analysis, it is questionable whether, following the inexorable drift towards its becoming a run of the mill School as shown by the School to which its pupils went in its dying days, West Downs could ever have regained its former eminence. The Pilgrims, with a Headmaster who was West Downs trained, has become the premier Prep-School in and around Winchester, just as Twyford was in the Eighteen Eighties. West Downs occupied the summit from 1910 to 1980, a long reign.Page 1 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 73 Page 74 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 79 Page 80