The 1950s

Prep School:
55-56 Prep Form 1 (summer term only) (Fr Alban Anderton SDS)
56-57 Prep Form 1 (Fr Alban Anderton SDS)
57-58 Prep Form 2 (Fr Campion Davies SDS)
58-59 Prep Form 3 (Fr Cyril SDS)

Fr Alban Anderton was a kindly though strict man, and an accomplished artist. In the garden of the Wealdstone community house, there is, I think, a statue of Our Lady of Christleton made by Fr Alban to commemorate the silver jubilee of ordination of Fr Richard Sullivan SDS (a family friend of mine). Fr Alban is currently a member of the Wealdstone community. I think he left Wealdstone when the prep school closed. His previous posting was the Salvatorian parish in Runcorn, Cheshire.

The Head was Fr Thomas Hennessey SDS and the school secretary was a Fr Hugh SDS.

I was in one of the last cohorts to pass through the prep school. The prep school was closed when the College became a V.A. grammar school.

I did four terms in prep form 1 with Fr Alban. I arrived in the Summer term 1956 (i.e. in the academic year 55-56) and continued in the same form (with the new intake) for academic year 56-57. The reason for the summer term move was that the convent school which I attended until Easter 1956 (Rosary Priory, Bushey Heath, run by a congregation of Dominican sisters) took boys up to the age of seven. My 8th birthday fell in May, hence the move.

Mine must have been one of the last cohorts to pass through the prep school. The prep school was closed when the College became a voluntary aided grammar school.

In those days both preparatory and “senior” school charged fees.

In 1956-59 the school buildings were fewer than now. See my annotated aerial photo. The church and the community house were there, of course, and the senior school building (marked A). The senior school had a chemistry laboratory on the ground floor and one or other two large rooms, and class rooms on the first floor. This was built, I think in about 1952.

This photo shows a classroom on the top floor of the “1952" block - recognisable from the lights, the inward-opening lower windows and the winding handles for the upper windows.

The prep school classrooms were at the West (actually nearer WSW) end of the community house, form 1 on the first floor and forms 2 and 3 on the ground floor. Roughly, the classrooms of forms 2 and 3 were where the staffroom and head’s office were to be later on. There was also a single-storey entrance and assembly hall / gym (marked G) adjoining the west end of the community house and running south, in the area where the toilet block, art room, Doc’s den, etc., were to be built later.

There was also a concreted play area south of the senior school building and north of the community house. This is shown hatched and marked H. Across the eastern edge of this was a wall beyond which lay the Kitchen Garden. Inset into the wall was the Tuck Shop. There was also a parish hall, which doubled as a Dinner Hall. I can’t remember the precise location, but I think was on the North side of the Church and bounded the eastern end of the Kitchen Garden. School dinners were truly frightful (mashed potatoes without milk, marge or salt, suedes and other veg boiled to unsalted cotton wool, tastless gristly meat, etc.). By comparison, dinners post 1961 were quite nice! This hall, which I seem to recall was largely wooden in construction had a proscenium stage and was used for speech days and pre-Tufnell dramatic productions.

The new two-story block (B), one-story block of biology, physics and chemistry labs (C), Assembly Hall (D), Gym (E), covered way, toilet block and “sixth form” block all came later in about 1960. The play area (H), the old assembly hall (G) and the old hall were demolished to make way for them. In the left-rear of this photo the steel “framework” of the new two-story block (B) can be seen in the process of erection.

The “redgra” was then a rather uneven grass field, used for everything. I was told, though don’t know if it was true, that there was a war-time (1939-45) air-raid shelter under the field. I remember once seeing Brother Alphonsus mow the grass with a home-built mower. This comprised a “motorcycle” engine mounted with cylinders horizontal and shaft vertical in the frame of a 1950s childs “push-chair” and a horizontal flywheel a few inches above ground with irregular jagged pieces of steel bolted to the flywheel. There was no guard around engine or flywheel/blade assembly. It’s as well that the Health and Safety at Work Act lay in the future! The consequences of a “blade” flying off do not bear thinking about.

In this photo , the camera is looking west across the grass field, with the assembly hall (G) behind and to the right of the camera.

Before the massive building programme of 1960, one entered the school via the straight poplar-lined drive that ran parallel to the church and community house, on their south side (i.e. the “Wealdstone” side) from the High Road to the old assembly hall (G), diverting to the left around the end of the hall into the playground. The drive being straight was occasionally used for athletics, e.g. for heats prior to Sports Day.

After school or at weekends, one frequently saw members of the community walking up and down the drive (or back and forth across the playground) as they recited their “divine offices” (breviaries). If one arrived at school early, one sometimes got “nabbed” to serve at the private mass of a priest; in those pre-Vatican II days, the priests said their daily Masses individually and the “logistics” were easier with the assistance of an altar boy! The church had two side altars as well as the High Altar, so Masses were continuous from dawn until about 9. I seem to recall that 10 - 15 minutes was about standard for a private Mass.

My vague recollection of the preparatory school is of a fairly gentle place, though I got at least one thrashing, probably well deserved. I remember Fr Alban as a learned and kindly though strict man, and an accomplished artist. Fr Campion, only recently ordained, was enthusiastic and engaging. Fr Cyril was kindly and avuncular (though terrifying on the rare occasions when he was “cross”). On one occasion in the prep school, I remember being caught by a fifth-form prefect in the senior school block during lunch break (I think I had been to the loo) and for this technical offence I was told to go and wait outside the Head’s room. This was a nervous and long wait because a staff meeting was in progress. Fr Thomas was kindness itself and I am sure the thought “bloody prefects” crossed his mind, though in more elegant terms!

Overall, my over-riding impressions of the school, preparatory as well as senior, are:

  1. How under-resourced it was; 30+ year old text books being not uncommon and some up-to-date text books being purchased by the teachers themselves, in my experience. The debts incurred by the Salvatorian Congregation in the building programmes were vast for the time, e.g. £100k+ for the 1960s phase.
  2. How dreadful was the standard of religious education, with the honourable exception of Fr Raymond Flanagan SDS RIP, who was the only RE teacher to get on the same wavelength as his students. I was fortunate to have him in the upper 6th.
  3. How badly led it was; Of course most of the teachers in the pre 1962 era were un-trained as teachers, a not uncommon phenomenon in private schools. The priests would have been there under obedience and not necessarily doing what they would have chosen for themselves. I never experienced myself the brutality reported by other old boys, but I wonder if the widespread, excessive and entirely counter- productive use of corporal punishment was in part the result of:
    1. the teachers teaching as they themselves had been taught or
    2. picking up the prevailing culture and not knowing better.
    I can’t believe that it would have continued for so long had Fr Thomas remained headmaster beyond 1960.
(Peter K Grannell 56-66)

The prep school was quite well organized with a curriculum of Maths, English, History, PT, sports and Art. There must have been other subjects but no Latin or science; all leading up to the 11 plus.

It was at this stage that many Salvos’ parents made their decision for the 11 plus exam and thereafter Grammar School, (not necessarily Salvo), or a prep school (boarding) in preparation for the Common Entrance exam, normally sat at 12/13 years of age.

I went to Welbury Park, the prep school where many boys went on to either Ampleforth or Beaumont. In my case I went on to Prior Park in Bath, as did Allan Forester-Walker who went on to Sandhurst and the Ghurkas. I went into the RAF and then flew commercially until I retired at 57 years old.
(John Lockwood 52-55)

Interesting - from reading some of the comments of subscribers to this group I guess it was a somewhat different place in the 50s. It was I believe designated as a "private grammar school" and by implication a fee paying school - certainly up until 1960 when I left. I always remember Bunny Cornes telling the trouble making dim-wits that they were "wasting their parents money" - didn't make a huge difference to behaviour. Last I can remember fees were 16 guineas (remember those?) for the grammar school and 12 for the prep school.

Only one wing of the new building existed. I think they had started construction on the next phase prior to 1960. It certainly wasn't completed before I left but I do recall going to a couple of old boy dos in the early 60s which took place in the new building. The new wing at that time served as the grammar school and the prep school was in classrooms attached to the priest’s house or whatever that was called.

The school was all male - both students and teachers - only sight of females were "dinner ladies". Teachers I remember from the prep school were priests - Augustine, Declan & Paulinus - lay teacher was Mr. Wakefield. In the Grammar school priests were Aloysius, Peter, Steven, Thomas, Louis, Anthony, Brendan, Ignatius, Matthew and lay teachers Hartin, Baring-Gould, Baker, O'Connell, "Doc" Neumann, Crossley, Cornes - probably more priests & others but these are the ones that spring to mind.

One of the school's goals of the 50's was to get recognition by the county education authorities. Most of the teachers in the 50's were not qualified which was a requirement for such recognition. Overall from reading various comments on the web-site and seeing what some ex-students are up to - it would appear the school moved up the scale at least a little. In the 50's I had the impression of a school where one bunch of losers taught another bunch of future losers.
(John Butler 52-60)

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