School History 1872 – 2014

Introduction

The School’s history has been defined principally by its Headmasters, the direction they wished to take the School combined with the energy and talent they brought to their vision. Overlain on this has been the interventions and guidance from the Governors and Oxfordshire Council, social changes seen across the Country, the transformation and expansion of educational opportunities – first started at the end of the 19th century – and the impact of two world wars.

During the seventeenth and into the eighteenth century, Lord Williams’s School had a history of educating scholars who went on to have significant national influence. In that sense, it had an impact that was greater than would be expected. It was, after all, a small rural grammar school in an area that was dominated by an agricultural economy; and perched on the edge of the County meant a certain isolation from the administrative centre. It didn’t enjoy the advantages of being one of the great city grammar schools – although being under the protective wing of New College, Oxford proved to be an often unsung benefit.

By the time this history starts in the last three decades of the 19th Century, on two occasions the future of the School’s very existence had been in doubt.

Fortunately, at the turn of the 20th Century there was a reversal in the School’s fortunes and it flourished under the Rev. Alfred Shaw. Unquestionably, it would have continued to expand if it hadn’t had been for the First World War. This brought the momentum, built-up over a number of years, to a halt.

Thereafter in the 1920s, the School had to cope with the aftermath of the War, the retirement of Shaw, a loss of much teaching talent and, across the country as a whole, economic depression. It was a period of picking-up where things had stopped in 1914. Walter Bye – very much a man of the Empire – made progress, had on average 130 pupils on the roll, sent some to university but the School failed to reach its pre-war potential.

The 1930s saw a new headmaster arrive and gradual further improvements but with no great radical change; in part because the School’s physical capacity had been reached and it would need new buildings to increase in size – buildings that the School couldn’t afford. In part it was down to the Headmaster’s conservative and dour approach to schooling. Arthur Dyer was not someone who injected a sense of fun into daily activities, and perhaps it was unsurprising that he was forever struggling to encourage boys to stay on into the sixth form even if, by the end of the 1930s, academic standards had been raised.

In one sense, the intervention of the Second World War, whilst once again halting any progress that could be made, acted as a break from the past. It also accelerated the recognition that the School could no longer remain even partially independent and it had to become a fully fledged ‘state’ school – even if within a unique environment.

In 1948, a new enlightened start was made under the headship of Hugh Mullins. Yes, the School was under full LEA control and this at times caused tension. When Mullins started, the School was still suffering from staff shortages but he was responsible for starting the transformation of the School to an entity closer to what it is today. His ambition was very clear: he wanted to build the sixth form and significantly increase the number entering university. In his time, he saw the 6th Form grow from a handful of pupils to close on 20 when he resigned – a number that today seems insignificant but then was a major achievement. This transformation accelerated under Jon Nelson; a major new building programme took place, radical changes to School structures were introduced and the roll grew from 170 to 215. But it needed a young headmaster, Geoff Goodall, to complete the transform of the School into something that was thoroughly modern, reaching heights in music, drama, sport and academic achievement not seen before. Of course, this was helped by the public spending resources that were pumped into education, and the increase in pupil numbers from the post-war baby boom that allowed more opportunities to be exploited.

In the 1970s, the biggest single change came with the introduction of Comprehensive education. Since then, the School has grown to be one of the largest in the country. This has brought both advantage and disadvantage. In the late 80s and early 90s there were moments when the state education system seemed under constant attack from the Government of the day but this failed to diminish national-level achievements in the arts and sciences. There have been four Head Teachers in 20 years, whereas the previous four stretched over fifty years. Split sites were a continued headache and added further stress to limited resources. But therein lays an irony. During its modern history all the School’s headmasters have held ambitions for the School to be as academically distinguished as some of the great public schools. It has taken the Comprehensive system to create the level of academic achievement – numbers and percentages passing exams and going on to university – which they dreamed of and never quite achieved. (Though, it should be quickly added, the School has historically always produced a steady stream of distinguished academics.)

Since 2000, the School has been a specialist college in sport, reflecting a long tradition of producing great sports people that stretches back to the beginning of the 20th century: senior internationals at soccer and rugby, a world championship racing driver, a stream of internationals across a number of sports at junior levels, and steady representation at Varsity level.

In 2013 changes at the Local Authority level meant that the School had little choice but to become an Academy – a decision that did not meet with whole sorted support.

Now the next big step will be to create a single site school. Plans are being developed and this could become a reality by 2020.

Of course, it is a truism to say that pupils of old would be hard pressed to recognise the 21st Century School but most would accept this as a desirable consequence of progress. On the other hand, it is remarkable to learn that pupils were making school trips abroad from the early 1920s, and that much of the extra-curricula activity has little changed for decades.

But in a phrase ‘ steady and continuous progress’ sums up what has happened in the last hundred and fifty years or so. At times it may have stuttered but it would be a foolish person who would ever claim that ‘it was better in my time.’

Prologue

1872 – The Grammar School closed following the disastrous Headmastership of Dr Thomas Broadley Fookes (born c1809 in Dartford, Kent), a man of ‘ungovernable temper.’ He retired to Hampstead on a pension of half his salary and died in 1874. He had been appointed in 1841 (and arrived with his wife Maria and three children – during their time at the school they had another four) and although he was also appointed the Curate of Stoke Talmage his Christian beliefs didn’t stop him being a man of a violent manner, who seemed to spend most of his time thrashing and expelling boys, playing the violin, and growing potatoes in the School’s playground. To compound matters, during previous decades new schools had grown up in Thame and were taking pupils who might have otherwise gone to the Grammar School. (In the 1851 Census, recorded at the Grammar School are: George Maudby an assistant master, Gustav Adolphus Weill styled as a Professor of Languages and born in Baden, and four pupils – Duncan Robertson  born in Jamaica, Richard Parker from High Wycombe, George and Frederick Faber from the East Indies, and William and Walter Fookes who would appear to be nephews.) Of the other schools, the most competitive was the Howard House School which had opened c1840 and by 1868, had 120 boarders and 40 day pupils. That year, it merged with the Oxford County School to provide a better alternative to the Grammar School. The success of this institution put paid to the claim by Fookes that the reason that he had no pupils was due to a declining population in the town. Indeed between 1801 and 1851 the population had increased from 2,100 to 3,200. (The last pupil in this disastrous era was said to have been Harry Lupton who had been at the School in 1862 – later he wrote the History of Thame and its Hamlets.) A contemporary letter to the Thame Gazette, described the school as ‘a richly endowed but comparatively useless Institution.’ On another occasion, a reader wrote, ‘The money goes not to educate the children of Thame but to provide a fine house and a sufficient income for some lucky fellow of New College.’ (The Master’s salary was £200 per annum.) The conditions in the School were grim: one long double desk ran the length of the dark cold school room across which two rows of schoolboys faced each other. In one corner was the usher’s desk, where he would sit and hear lessons. It was common for boys to be fetched out of school to do various jobs for their parents. Fookes was never seen. In 1871, the census had recorded no boarders at the school and Fookes was living in the Almshouses along with four recorded residents and a servant.

 

1873 – New College took control and a plan was drawn up to open a new School. This retained the links to New College but it was to take six more years before the plan became reality. However, this scheme met with strong opposition within the town as many doubted the need for another school when the Howard House School (on the High Street) was flourishing (indeed they were expanding the school with new buildings, and there were six resident masters and two female teachers). The new scheme was described as ‘totally against the advantage which out townspeople in general ought to possess in the education of the rising generation,’ and the fees proposed were considered ‘too high to render any real service to the town, or to attract an adequate number of pupils.’

 

1874 -The Thame Gazette commented, ‘Need we paint the deplorable picture of the empty school-house, not even at this time inhabited by a person to keep it clean, with a patrimony belonging to it so rich….Not a pupil has belonged to the school for years.’ However it was in 1874 that a new scheme for the management of the school was approved and a new governing body formed of thirteen members (including J W Marsh the proprietor of the rival school.) At this point, New College’s sole control ceased. It was proposed that the School would take around 120 pupils including at least 60 boarders with a residence for the new headmaster. The previous headmaster Thomas Fookes died in Clapham, London aged 66.

 

1875 – The new site of the School on the Oxford Road was purchased for £1050 as it had been decided by the governors that the old school site was unsuitable for the new school building – even though they had the opportunity to pull down the almshouses if they so wished. The Thame Gazette commented, ‘in our opinion a more healthy or prettier spot could not be found in the entire neighbourhood.’

 

1876 – The Oxford architect William Wilkinson was engaged to build the new School. His original plans were too costly and in the end a rather sombre red brick design was used with dressings of Bath stone, after the style of St Edward’s School, Oxford. The following is a description of his life and works:

 

William Wilkinson, the younger of the two brothers, was born in Witney in 1819. In the last months of his father’s lifetime in 1838, he was co opted into the family auctioneering firm, and in this trade he continued for some years. Notices of his auctions appear at intervals in the local papers. As was common at the time, the business was not clearly limited. Wilkinson sold building materials, livestock, furniture, timber, houses, or real estate, and the local directories call him variously auctioneer, appraiser, land surveyor, estate agent, architect, builder, agent for the Royal Farmers, Insurance Office, and coal, timber, stone, and lime merchant. As with his brother, it is very unlikely that he received formal architectural training. Yet his first known building is a new church that at Lew on the road from Witney to Bampton, built in 1841 when Wilkinson was 21 or 22. This gaunt church shows as much sophistication as most architects were bringing to ecclesiastical work at this date in the revival of Christian architecture. However, architecture could hardly be a full-time employment for anyone in Witney in the 1840s, so he continued his other occupations till 1856. This background enables one to understand how it was that Wilkinson depended first and foremost on severely practical abilities. All that is known of his later life and works suggests that he was never the man to get his specifications wrong or to underestimate any practical contingency. This reliability combined with a modest sense of the picturesque and a lively interest in grouping and planning, took Wilkinson to a high and esteemed place among architects, if not to the top.

William Wilkinson left Witney in about March 1856, in which month he had offices at 2 St. Giles, Oxford, as well as in his home town. Shortly afterwards he was operating solely from Oxford, and by 1860 he had moved to 5 Beaumont Street, the seat of his practice until his retirement. From this point his career very rapidly blossomed. There were two or three crucial commissions which brought prosperity. Firstly, in about 1857, Wilkinson superseded J. C. Buckler as architect to the Oxfordshire Police Committee, at a period when numerous provincial police stations were scheduled for erection. Secondly, there was the vital commission from St. John’s College in 1860 to layout the Norham Manor Estate. This soon turned into a general brief of superintendence over the whole development of North Oxford. The precise extent of Wilkinson’s contribution to this will never be quite clear, but he certainly laid out the roads, decided on the sites of the villas, designed many himself, and as architect to St. John’s possessed certain powers of authorization and veto. These responsibilities passed with the practice to his nephew H. W. Moore, so that with the expansion of the St. John’s estate further and further north, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the whole of Oxford between St. Giles’ Church and Summertown, bordered on the west by the Oxford Canal and on the east by the Cherwell, is the conception of Wilkinson and Moore.

Jobs also soon abounded for Wilkinson outside the immediate environs of Oxford. In virtue of an office block which he designed in Bishopsgate, London (1860-1), and the Saturday Review rather rashly but impressively compared him with Gilbert Scott as one of the foremost English architects. Then came the third great commission, the Randolph Hotel, Oxford (1864-6). At the opening, Dr. Adams, a Fellow of St. John’s, was able to claim that his fame as an architect was not confined to Oxford, and even had it been so hitherto, this fabric would have entitled him to a European reputation … Had they (the Directors) not had a man like Mr. Wilkinson, who threw his whole soul into the work, they would never have raised this noble structure. It was the emanation of his brain and to him was due the credit not only of the exterior but of every internal arrangement.

The 1860’s were the climax of his career, and were marked by the publication in 1870 of a book of his designs called English Country Houses. Forty-five Views and Plans of recently erected Mansions, Private Residences, Parsonage-Houses, Farm-Houses, Lodges and Cottages; with sketches of furniture and fittings; and a practical treatise on house-building. A second and augmented edition with sixty-one views was published in 1875. This book gives a clear picture of Wilkinson’s mature style. Up to 1870 the majority of his important works incorporate elements of strictly Gothic detail in picturesque and asymmetrical facades. The lighting, however, is better than in most houses of this style, and the detailing is rarely overemphasized. There are, of course, exceptions, such as the Oxford University Gymnasium, a solid, four-square brick building with undecorated round-headed windows. Wilkinson’s known church restorations are unostentatious but uninspired. He was primarily a practical architect who catered by preference for the wealthy middle classes. He built in Gothic not out of strong religious belief, but because he was most familiar with the style. In English Country Houses there is not a contentious word about the ‘true’ style, and the treatise on house-building which accompanies the plates is severely limited to practical matters, as befits a book designed as an advertisement to potential clients. But the book did achieve some notice; the final accolade to Wilkinson’s success as an architect was the illustration of five of his works in Habitations Modernes, by the internationally famous architect Viollet-le-Duc, who must first have noticed Wilkinson from English Country Houses.

The second edition suggests a change in Wilkinson’s style in the early 1870?s, reflecting a national trend. Gentler elements are favoured, and he tries often to sound a more restrained domestic Tudor note familiar to him from the stone-built houses of West Oxfordshire. The compositions are frankly less interesting but they continue to be well and originally planned. Foremost among the later works is St. Edward’s School, Oxford, where the great formal quadrangle possesses a natural dignity unmatched in many schools designed by better architects. But by the late 1870s, many of Wilkinson’s buildings have ceased to be distinctive. Lord Williams’s Grammar School at Thame (1878-9), for instance, is competent but unremarkable handling of domestic Tudor motifs.

 

1877 – The Old School building was sold by auction to Mr P.H Pearce for £1,710. (His wife opened the ‘Girls Grammar School’ that took both day girls and boarders.) Construction on the Oxford Road started with Messrs. Taylor and Grist of Aylesbury undertaking the work at a tender price of £6,095 – the money raised by the sale of stock, the old school and a number of houses in Thame including the Saracens Head.

The following appeared in the Thame Gazette: The New Grammar School – since our last remarks relative to the erection of this pile, considerable progress has been made with the building, and for the information of those interested we may mentioned that the extent of the building proper will, we understand, be 200 feet by 160 feet, and it will stand in its own grounds of about 9 acres. There will be a well-planned master’s residence, with all the necessary domestic offices; also separate and conveniently arranged apartments for a second resident master, a commodious schoolroom, classroom, dining hall and extensive, well-arranged and ventilated dormitories. The materials chiefly used in the building are a local red brick from the Hartwell brickworks and Bath stone, which harmonises exceedingly well; and we doubt not that when the whole is compete it will be a handsome and substantial structure.

 

1878 – Building was delayed when the workmen went on strike, threatening, hooting and throwing bricks at the clerk of works who had made himself unpopular by unnecessary complaints. Five candidates were interviewed for the Headmastership and George Plummer was appointed in November.

 

1879 – The School reopened on 1st May on the Oxford Road site under the Headmastership of George Plummer aged 32. 40 boys were on the role and four staff (Plummer, Mackenzie, King and Digby). Plummer had been Headmaster of Wellingborough Grammar School and he hoped to achieve at Thame what Edward Thring had achieved at Uppingham: to raise a small country grammar school to national importance. But as one of his first head boys would recall, he was not a genius like Thring, just a very good teacher. Canon A.G Robinson wrote of the first few hours of the School’s new existence, ‘The School buildings were brand new. The play shed was still unfinished. What afterwards became the Headmaster’s garden was a tangle of green and weeds. There was no formal opening of any kind. We took our places, listened to a short speech by the Headmaster and were then gradually sorted into classes.’ Fees for tuition of day boys were fixed at £6 and boarders paid an additional £35. The first assistant masters were Messrs. Mackenzie and King, with Mr R H Digby as music master. J Cole and H D Hodgson (who died the following year) were Head Boys; J Harrison and Willey were sports captains. Cricket was played on the town ground. Plummer had brought with him some eighteen pupils; in total there were some 25 boarders and about the same number of day boys. Subjects were mostly arts; as was usual little science was taught at all.

 

1880 – The School’s first ever cricket match was played on the newly levelled field: RSC High Wycombe was defeated by one run. Masters were part of the teams and a boy called Crook ‘made a lucky nineteen’ for the school. A professional cricketer would coach the team two days a week. The Mercury, an eight-page school magazine, was published containing articles and stories, puzzles and gossip besides the usual school news. The price was 6d and the then editor A G Robinson later recalled that ‘there was always considerable difficulty in persuading boys to buy it.’ It was subtitled ‘The Chronicle of Thame Grammar School’ and the first edition came out on Saturday 5th December with a request that boys should submit articles for the next edition that was due to be published at the end of January. They were advised that their submissions would remain anonymous. George Plummer had written an article on ‘How we got our name’ and boys had written of their adventures in the East, and a visit to the ‘Factory of Krupps, of Essen.’ A rugby match was played against Linden House, a private school in Littlemore – Lord Williams’s won but as it was a small school it was noted that the team only had ‘moderate capacity.’  The toll-gate opposite the School was abolished. Staff changed frequently in this period and the original assistant masters had already left and been replaced. H Tibbits, I Whitsed and W M Wykes were all Head Boys; along with J C Crook they were also the sports teams’ captains.

 

1881 – RSC High Wycombe turned the tables and beat the School at cricket in a match held in May but the School won the return match in July. This began a rivalry that lasted for many decades. St Edmund Hall was another fixture.

1881 Census for Lord Williams’s School

 

Name Year of Birth Place of Birth Occupation
George Plummer 1847 Penzance Head
Sarah J. Plummer 1849 Brighton Wife of Head
Edith Plummer 1874 Wellingborough Daughter of Head
Edger F. Plummer 1876 Wellingborough Son
Mary B. Plummer 1877 Wellingborough Daughter
George Plummer 1879 Wellingborough Son
James Rochford c1850  Ireland Assistant Master (unmarried)
? Hartz 1856  London Assistant Master (unmarried)
J Buxton 1859  Oxford Assistant Master (unmarried)
Ada Welch 1860  Chilton House Maid
Mary A. Lanfield 1864 Cuddesdon Servant
Mary A. Luffman 1856 Stanford Servant
William Paxton 1860 Hazeley Servant
Kate Whitfield 1863 East Hanney Servant
Harriett A. Law 1840 Northamptonshire Boarder
Ralph H. Angier 1866 London Boarder
Arthur J.H. Boyton 1867 Watlington Boarder
Harry Bucknall 1867 Africa Boarder
Percy Burton 1867 Stoke Boarder
John W. Bury 1866 Enstone Boarder
Percy Bury 1867 Enstone Boarder
Frank Chapman 1868   Rycote Scholar
William Church 1865   Long Crendon Scholar
Daniel Cook 1868  Todmarton Scholar
Albert Crass 1865  Great Hasely Scholar
John Denchfield 1865  Aston Abbotts Bucks Scholar
William Denchfield 1867  ditto Scholar
John Dodwell 1871  Long Crendon Scholar
William Eppstein 1863  ? Scholar
Thomas Gibbard 1864  Hants Scholar
Mathew Jack 1867  ? Scholar
William Johnson 1867  Bromley Kent Scholar
Duncan MacDonald 1864  Scotland Scholar
Joseph Mawle 1867  Worminghall Scholar
George Parker 1867  Oxford Scholar
Percy Powell 1869  Lincoln Scholar
Albert G Robinson 1864  Coventry Scholar
Augustus Robinson 1866  Wellingborough Scholar
Alfred S—- 1871  Haddenham Scholar
Charles Tibbets 1866  Broadholme Scholar
Walter Tibbets 1869  Broadholme Scholar
? Treadwell 1866  Oxon Scholar
Thomas Welch 1869  London Scholar
George Welch 1873  London Scholar
Susan C. Earwick 1858 Enstone Boarder
Charles T. Williams 1870 Aylesbury Boarder
Edward D. Wilson 1870 Padston Boarder
Thomas C. Wykes 1867 Bozeat Boarder

 

(?) Indicates that the innumerator’s writing is indecipherable.

W C H Church, A G Robinson and C Treadwell were Head Boys.

 

1882 – A G Robinson gained an open scholarship to Christ’s College Cambridge, and W C Eppstein to Corpus Christi. (Both had been Head Boys.) Also in 1882, William H Denchfield, Thomas W Gibbard, Charles Tibbits and Thomas Wykes were Head Boys and the latter three along with A Curney were sport captains.

 

1883 – the covered play-shed had its floor concreted – the favourite place for fights was the far-end of this structure. The boarders were subject to rather strict discipline – those inclined to be round shouldered should have ‘their trouser pockets denied.’ Hampers were restricted to one a term and parents were told they should not contain wine or liqueur. J B Denchfield and W A Johnson were Head Boys.

 

1884 – soccer replaced rugby as the principle school sport (largely owning to the influence of a master Mr Buxton who’d played for Aston Villa.) Plummer was generally a mild man but nonetheless was summoned to the County Court for thrashing a day-boy. He won his case. There were only about a dozen day-boys as the alternative schools in Thame were still thriving. The day-boys played little active part in activities outside school hours – it was left to the boarders to play cricket or football – although this was to gradually change over the next few years. C H Fowler, A F Johnson, C E Morton and W C Tibbits were Head Boys.

 

1885 – Plummer introduced German as he thought it was a ‘coming language.’ A paper-chase was held once a term. Favourite places were to Princes Risborough and out on to the Chilterns, and to Tiddington and Worminghall. In summer, boys could swim in the Thame at ‘Jemmett’s Hole.’ C E Fowler and F W Parkes were Head Boys.

 

1886 – a carpenter’s shop was kitted out and a craftsman from Oxford was engaged to teach once a week. Plummer organised a walk to Marlow, followed by a river boat trip. Plummer also liked to play cricket and tennis and was often seen on the field despite his gout. He was said to be a fair bat, and bowled a slow round the arm round the wicket ball. ‘He would trot up to the wicket, a big man, big black beard blowing each side of his face, so that the batsmean would be a little puzzled by the deceptive lobbed ball. Plummer also once offered sixpence for each catch made in the cricket team to improve fielding, and eleven catches were made. Plummer never again made the same offer. Head Boys were J E L Harris, J S Dodwell, A Morton.

 

1887 – the new Thame Town Hall was being built but the roads in the town were yet to be tarred and the High Street (as in the photo above) was more often mud. Boarders were allowed to shop in Thame once a week. If daily work fell behind standard, the offenders were given a few hefty strokes on the hand by the HM. Cricket seemed to absorb most of the boys energies in the summer as Plummer was just as happy to be on the pitch. One old boy wrote of ‘pleasant memories of long June and July afternoons of cricket – the small gathering of intent spectators, the white clad figures on the pitch, and beyond, the peaceful Oxfordshire landscape with the purple Chiltern Hills in the distance. Woodworking lessons were held in a barn opposite Cox’s Farm; there were also two cottages rented by the school as quarters for two or three assistant masters. November 5th was always celebrated with a big bonfire with a barrel of tar in it and a well-stuffed Guy. Fireworks were brought by the boys from the ironmongers in town. There was a tradition that ‘roughs’ from the town would always appear ‘looking for trouble.’

 

1888 – it is said that a dual took place between two boys with muzzle-loading pistols. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Rumours at School suggested that Plummer might be Jack the Ripper. The new Town Hall opened on April 2nd (it cost c£2000 to build) to commemorate the 50th year of Victoria’s reign. Among the subscribers were family names well-known to the School including Arnold, Austin, Howland, Mott, and Shrimpton. The first Thame Show was held and the tradition of having an afternoon off began. F Stuart was Head Boy. Plummer was much appreciated by the boys not least for some of his unorthodox ways: he would declare the day before exams to be a holiday; he took boys to see Cup Ties in London; he would get the boarders together on wet Sunday’s and read stories to them. Nicknames were de rigeur: Sharper, Sticky, Inky, Fatty, Nellie and Dollie, Bull, Tusky and Toddler were the stock of trade.

 

1889 – St Mary’s Church was restored. One stunt at School was to ride down a series of steps on what was then known as a ‘safety bike’ with as big a series of bumps as possible. [Rovers, Premiers and Rudges were favoured bikes.] Jumping Cuttle Brook was another craze. In hot summers hurdles and sticks were used to make dens in the hedges at the side of the sports field. Another craze was putting knickknacks on the rails at the level crossing for the trains to squash. There was no tuck shop at the School so sweets were bought in Thame from Dunkin’s and from May’s. S H Robinson and D Fletcher were Head Boys. Sport was flourishing with three cricket and three soccer. Opponents included some of the Oxford Colleges such as Lincoln, Exeter, Worcester and Wadham as well as RGS High Wycombe, Oxford High School and Abingdon High School. Football colours were originally half orange and half dark blue but these were changed to first shirts that were half red and half white, and then dark blue shirts with the school badge.  However, there was no house system nor any extra-curricular societies.

 

1890 – At Speech Day, Plummer said ‘in no previous term had there been better health, better discipline, or better goodwill among the boys and masters.’ Sadly, only a few weeks later, a boiler burst on the premises killing one of the junior employees. In a state of shock, George Plummer died a few days later. He left a wife, Sarah, and four children: Edgar, George S, Edith and Mary. At his death, the School had 57 boarders and 7 day boys. Much had been achieved during his tenure: a syllabus covering 17 subjects and four languages for example. However his vaulting ambitions were never achieved. The endowment to the school was small and there were no County Council or Government grants. He had to borrow money to spend on the School. The local people begrudged paying fees and the existence of boarders was resented. The number of boys never rose much above 60 and was too small to drive his ambitions. It is said he died both disillusioned and broken with little money left for his family.  A G Robison, one of Plummer’s pupils later wrote, ‘Before Plummer had been at Thame very long, it must have been clear to him that his ambitions could never be realised. He died when he was not much over 40, leaving his widow and children quite unprovided for. His old pupils will always be grateful to him for what he did for them. At the time of his headmastership the State was strangely apathetic in regard to Secondary Education, and schools which were trying to do work of value to the nation were left to struggle on as best they could…Plummer was courageous and self-sacrificing and who went on working hard though life brought very little in the way of reward for his labour.’ J H C Lawrence, H H Mears were Head Boys.

1891 Census for Lord Williams’s School

 

Name Occupation Age Place Born
Sarah Plummer Head 39 Brighton
Edith Plummer Daughter 17 Wellingborough
Edgar Plummer Son 15 ditto
Mary Plummer Daughter 14
George Plummer Son 12
Harriet Law Matron 52 Northampton
Agnes Oliver Cook ? Woolwich Kent
Mary Hillocks Housemaid 19 Waterstock
Emma Towerserly Housemaid 18 Long Crendon
Rose Hinton Housemaid 28 Long Crendon
Emily Oliver Servant 28 Tiddington
John Cleaver Servant/Drill master 27 Canterbury
George Rush (?) Houseboy 17 Thame
Edward P Guest School master 30 Brentwood Essex
Charles Allen Scholar 13 Kilburn
Wlilliam H Allen Scholar 11 Kilburn
Frederick Catamia 13 India (British Subject)
Arthur Cox 17 ditto
John Colman (?) 11 Thame
Wolfgang Dainweather (?) 15 Bayswater
Joseph Deane 17 Benson
George L de Trainer 15 Aylesbury
Frank Endersby 15 Middlesex
Harold Bateman 16 Paddington
Charles Fountaine 14 Kentish Town
Richard Gillman 15 Oxford
Percy Hook 15 Pimlico
Herbert Hallet 15 Westminster
Arthur Jeffrey 13 Tring
Reginald Kislingbury 15 Woodford
Arthur Kislingbury 13 Finchley
Gustav Kaufmann 15 Sydenham
Stanley Kaufmann 13 Catford
Benjamin Luard (?) 14 High Wycombe
Frederick Lawrence 14 Reading
Seager B Large 10 Cinderwell
Philip May 13 St Johns Wood
John Mitford 10 Wimbledon
Ernest Moss 13 Brighton
William Murray 16 Wigan
Frederick Parker 16 India
Henry Rich 14 Rodbourne, Wiltshire
Cecil P Plante 12 Balham
John Shilton (?) 14 Scotland
Archibald Shilton 13 Scotland
Hubert Smith 15 Finchley
William Smith 12 Kilburn
George J Smith 15 Stokehammond Bucks
Walter H Smith 15 Henley
Thomas W Stevens 15 Dover Kent
Charles B Stevens 13 Dover
Bertie Tomlinson 15 Middlesex
Cyril Tomlinson 12 Middlesex
John Walker 12 Oxford
Thomas Wall 16 St Johns Wood
Edward Worrell 13 Shepherds Bush

 

1891 – Benjamin Sharp who had been born in Warrington and taught at Lancing, Bradfield and Loretto was appointed as new Headmaster in September. He was 37. At Speech Day a report on the School was given by two Fellows of New College. The presentation of prizes was done by Dr F.J Bryant, and then scenes of plays were presented in English, German and French. R S Kislingbury and C C Kaufmann were Head Boys.

 

1894: Many of Thame’s roads were improved. The Governors were:

The Earl of Abingdon, The Warden of New College Dr Sewell, The Chairman of Thame Poor Union, William Ashurst, the Rev Hereford Brook George,  the Rev William Spooner, Samuel Lacey, William Griffin, Joseph Franklin, the Earl of Macclesfield, Philip Wykeham, Benjamin Sharp.

J Mears had been Head Boy and was succeeded by S Kaufmann and A V Kislingbury.

 

1895 – a new School of Science was established and was opened by Sir William Markeby, Fellow of Balliol College and Chairman of the Oxfordshire Technical Instruction Committee. The newly formed Oxfordshire County Council made a grant both towards the building of the labs and the payment of a science master. This was the first formal association between School and County Council. Nonetheless the roll was dropping below 40.

 

1886 – S V Sims and T C Turner were Head Boys. The school continued to decline.

 

1897 – the School celebrated Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Only 6 boarders were left and one of the dormitory rooms was being used to store lumber. J T Bailey was Head Boy.

 

1898 – The Victoria Nursing Home opened. Head Boys were: L A Sims, R P Stevens and W S Harris. Philip Wykeham was appointed Chairman of the Governors following the resignation of the Rev Dr Sewell, Warden of New College.

 

1899 – Since Plummer’s death, and under Benjamin Sharp, the roll had dropped every year so that by 1899 it was down to 22. If the numbers dropped below 20, the County Council would not pay a grant. The Governors ‘considered it of advantage to the School that Mr Sharp should tender his resignation.’ he went to a housemastership at Reading School – taking 12 of the 22 pupils. The Rev Alfred Edward Shaw was appointed Headmaster, aged 38 and started in September. He had been born in Maidstone Kent. When he joined there were six boarders and twelve day boys; within a year he had trebled the numbers on the roll. He was a great publicist: advertisements appeared in The Times and Daily Telegraph, inviting admissions from the age of eight from those ‘boys from India and the Colonies.’ Shaw started evening classes for the town in Science. A Literary Society was formed; one lecture was on Roman, French, Negro, English and Scots superstitions. The story of the ghost in Thame Church was met with incredulity. The School was embarking on a period of prosperity. The Boer War was declared. Prize Day was held in December in the schoolroom. Shaw noted how sciences had improved in the three years since their inception. Prizes were handed out by the Chairman of the Governors, P.J.D Wykeham. There were exhibitions of geological and natural specimens, physic and chemistry experiments. The Rev W.A Spooner, Dean of New College, said the school should take ‘an honourable and important part in the education of the middle classes.’ Boys studied for three distinct stages of instruction varying in difficulty, and graded to form a continuous course. Every boy who satisfactorily completed the whole course was awarded a certificate by the Committee of Council of Education. An attempt was made to brighten up the walls of the Manual Worshop with large tinted drawings of woodwork. The schoolroom was redecorated and a lamp was placed outside the School by the Council. The boredom of being a weekend boarder was occasionally relieved by visiting public shows in the Victoria Hall – one show being the Chrysanthemum Show. The full-time staff consisted of Shaw and C H Cox, L. W Bone, and H J Franklin. A B Turner, A Murray and C E Shrimpton were Head Boys.

 

The Twentieth Century

1900 – Tuition was fixed at £2 a term for day-boys and between £12 and £14 for boarders. Four Founder’s Exhibitions were available worth either £6 or £3 a year ‘for boys attending the public elementary schools in Thame.’ School numbers had increased to 73 in little over a year. Dormitories were refurbished and much redecoration took place. A large proportion of the boys were successful in the Oxford Local Examinations. The football team played Watlington FC (this game was played at Watlington and it was noted that ‘the ground would have been in pretty good condition had it not been for the liberal sprinkling of sharp pieces of bone.’) St Mary’s Church, St Kenelms, Cuddesdon College. A farce was presented called ‘The Black Schoolmaster’ ‘and as the performers appeared with blackened faces and rather fantastical costumes, much amusement was caused.’ Henry Taunt took photos of the school (see above).; it was felt the ones of the workshop, chemical lab and the teams drill were the most successful. The school hoisted a flag every time there was a victory in the Boer War, and the school bell was rung when news of the relief of Ladysmith was announced (and a cannon fired in Thame). There were examinations for the whole school in Latin, English, French, History, Maths, Elementary Science and Scripture. At Sports Day, The Stokenchurch Brass Band played to a large contingent of dignitaries and parents – who outnumbered the boys. The senior 100 yards was won in 12secs; the 200 yards in 25 secs. Cricket was played against Wycombe Grammar School, Thame Cricket Club, Royal Latin School Buckingham, Oxford High, Burford, and New College School. Swimming was done at Jemmett’s Home bathing place. The school play was Henry V. Howard House School turned into a prep school and was no longer the fierce competitor it had been in the late 19th century. The National School was the principle primary school. The Tamensian appeared for the first time in April, and the Editorial hoped it would have a ‘long life before it.’

School rules included:

Boys who are absent from School at any time must as they return bring a sealed note from their parent or guardian, explaining the cause.

Every boy must have their name legibly written on every thing that he brings to school.

Any boy who scribbles on the walls, cuts the desks, destroys library books etc, must repair the damage at his own expense.

Boys are strongly forbidden to visit rooms of Undergraduates.

Boys who stay to dinner at School may not leave the playground at all between 1:00 – 2:30; they will be allowed to make use of the class rooms when weather is extremely bad; at other times they must play in the Playground, or under the covered shed.

Ill health is the only excuse recognised for neglect of work.

All boys must wear the School Cap or ribbon.

Smoking is strictly forbidden.

Boys are forbidden to go to the front of the school to climb any walls or palings, or to do anything which may annoy a neighbour in any way.

Boys are required to “Cap” Masters when they meet them in the street.

Stone throwing and the use of catapults are strictly forbidden.

Boys may not barter, sell or buy anything whatever from one another.

Every boy is expected op walk quietly, and not loiter, on his way to and from School.

Boys are forbidden to make any noise in the School buildings and to scatter rubbish about the School Playground.

 

1901: Queen Victoria died. The School gathered outside Thame Town Hall to hear Edward VII proclaimed but it was noted however that the ceremony could have been better organised by the Town Council. Founder’s Day was held on March 18th. After the service, a trip was made to the Chiltern Hills, first taking the train to Bledlow. The gymnasium was fully equipped with new equipment. A trip was made to the Torpids in Oxford. The new Tuck Shop was thriving. There was a House Music Concert, and chess and draughts tournaments. In his speech at Prize Day, Sir William Plowden noted that the progress of the Education Bill through Parliament was crucial to raise standards that had fallen behind those of the Continent, particularly Germany, and the US. The Act would abolish school boards and put education in the hands of local borough or district councils. H Clarke-Brown, one of the School’s governors was elected Sheriff of Oxford. Thame’s population was approximately 3,000. T A Grange was Head Boy.

1901 Census for Lord Williams’s School

 

Name Age Occupation Place of Birth Notes
Alfred Shaw 40 Schoolmaster Maidstone
Henriette Shaw 37 Hampshire
Donald P. Shaw 13 Dorset
Edward B Shaw 9 Dorset
Dorothy Shaw 1 Dorset
Frederick Keeling 30 Schoolmaster Leicester
William Moores-Widen(?) 22 Schoolmaster St Albans
Leonard Bone 21 Schoolmaster Norwich
Maria Clarke 44 Matron Hampshire Sister of Henriette Shaw
Kate Medway 32 Governess Bristol
Sarah Davies 25 Cook Ireland (?)
Alice Heath 19 Housemaid Oxford
Maud (?) 16 Kitchen maid Sydenham
May Webb 17 Housemaid Toot Baldwin
Richard Shrimpton 16 Boot boy Bermondsey
Fred Hillsdon 13 Boot boy Long Crendon
Name Age Occupation Place of Birth Note
Raymond Dodswell 15 Boarder Bucks
Percival Witney 15 Boarder Sydenham
Robert Taylor 14 Boarder Brackley
Clement Davies 14 Boarder Ireland Brother of the cook
Basil Fielding 13 Boarder Thame
James Hobbs 14 Boarder Marlow
George Sorrell 14 Boarder Oxford
Reginald Maynard 13 Boarder Horsham
Wiliam Dolbear 14 Boarder Maida Vale
Cecil Richards 14 Boarder Somerset
Roger Williams 13 Boarder Glamorgan
Walter Hine 13 Boarder Woodstock
Arthur Symonds 14 Boarder Oxford
George Judge 14 Boarder Kidlington
Kenneth Combie (?) 13 Boarder Manchester
Sydney Farrier 12 Boarder Oxfordshire
Percy Dolbear 13 Boarder Maida Vale
Edward Bird 13 Boarder Deddington
Edgar Raymont (?) 12 Boarder Shepherds Bush
William Farmer 14 Boarder Buckinghamshire
Frank Dearwell 13 Boarder Llandudno
Harold Richards 13 Boarder Oxfordshire
George Edsett 12 Boarder Thame
Henry Sterland 10 Boarder Kingston Blount
Herbert Joyce 10 Boarder Sydenham
William Field 12 Boarder West Wycombe
George Watts 11 Boarder Newbury
Frederick Taylor 11 Boarder Clapham
Frederick Taylor 10 Boarder Clapham
Duncan Osterham 10 Boarder Aylesbury
Rodney Osterham 8 Boarder Aylesbury
Cecil Johnson 11 Boarder Barnet
Alfred Cochrane 11 Boarder Dublin
Philip Hobbs 8 Boarder Marlow
(?) Carlton 9 Boarder Born at Sea
Walter Cochrane 10 Boarder Dublin
Arthur Casson 15 Boarder Ealing
Oswald Haynes 10 Boarder Malay Peninsula
George Dawes 9 Boarder Kidderminster

 

1902 – the two major sports were cricket and football. The cricket team enjoyed fixtures against Thame Congregational Church, St Mary’s, Wycombe Grammar School, Waddesdon, St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford High School, Bledlow, and Burford Grammar School. Football fixtures included Thame Printers, St Mary’s, St Kenelms College, Oxford High School, Wycombe Grammar School, Burford GS, Jesus College and Thame Town. H.M Inspector remarked that ‘there was no school in the whole of the six counties to which he came with greater pleasure than Thame.’ Shaw had done his job. An Act of Parliament set-up local education authorities and accelerated the expansion of secondary education. Lord Williams’s was styled as a ‘Voluntary’ school. The School was aided by public money, with grants being conditional on at least 25% of the admissions being free places to those from elementary schools. Grants were also conditional on the School being passed as ‘efficient’ by regular inspections. The cricket side had a bad season. Half the matches were canceled because of rain and of the six remaining only two were won. However it was still decided to extend the cricket pitch and work on banking up the western-side was begun. A Coronation Picnic was held on the Chilterns. A Hockey team was formed. A horse was purchased for the roller and cutter but proved difficult to harness. The peace of Vereeniging in May 1902 annexed the Boer Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State to the British Empire and brought the Boer War to a close.

 

1903: The soccer team has a disastrous season, winning only one match. The hockey side won 2 out of 4. The Sports Day had a crawling, potato, and bicycle race among its events. The Merchant of Venice was performed. The school gained 28 Oxfordshire Certificates compared to 12 in 1901. Dr Tutton Board of Education Inspector said the school was improving its science education yearly and in literary work bore comparison to any in the district. Two members of staff left: Mr E E Larke and H. Oughtred. They were replaced by Mr W H Cadman and J Prescott. C A Judge was Head Boy.

 

1905 – Shaw was awarded a Doctorate in Letters from the University of London for a thesis on the 16th century French chancellor and lawyer Michel de L’Hopital. Lantern lectures were given on Russia, a railway journey from Charing Cross to Italy, mountains and their formation, India, and missionary work in Egypt.. Bathing in the river started on July 5th. O.S Portsmouth’s high jump of 5ft 2inches was a school record. A hot-air balloon that had taken off from Crystal Palace landed near the School. It was noted that in a school such as Lord Williams’s, where many boys naturally leave for an active business career or take-up agricultural work, few academic distinctions were recorded but there were some none the less. (Boys generally left in the 5th form and if they were academically minded went on to 6th Form at schools elsewhere. In the late 19th century more boys stayed on for longer.) Dancing classes were held, with Mrs Shaw as the tutor. Mr H.J Franklin who had been Music Master for the last 20 years died unexpectedly. He was Deputy Organist of Christ Church Cathedral, and Organist and Choirmaster of St Michael’s. S R Tanner was Head Boy.

 

1906: The cricket side had its most successful season for some time, winning ten out of 13 matches, beating Oxford High School, Maidenhead Modern, Thame St Marys, St Edmund Hall, Wycombe GS, Newbury, Royal Latin, Oxford High and New College School. Newbury were the first team to visit by motor car but were delayed by an hour by a puncture – and were then beaten. A debating Society was formed for the first time. In soccer, Wycombe GS were beaten 12-0. H.W.C Davies, a fellow of Balliol College and a distinguished medieval historian described the School ‘as a thoroughly good school which would give a good education for boys of every capacity.’ A talk was given on the ‘Channel Tunnel.’ In November, an small advertisement was placed in the Thame Gazette announcing that ‘important improvements in equipment are being made in the lecture rooms in readiness for the coming term. During the last 4 years, 98 certificates have been gained in the Oxford Local Examinations, including 30 Honours and several Distinctions.’

 

1907: The School attended a service held in St Mary’s to unveil a tablet to the memory of soldiers from Thame and the surrounding districts killed in the Boer War. Mr William Wood from Norwich visited the School with a collection of live and dead animals including Japanese mice and a Maltese kitten (live specimens). Winston Churchill inspected the Oxfordshire Yeomanry who were parading on Barley Hill Field. 65 boys were on the Roll, of which 50 were boarders. Under Shaw were three assistant masters: D E Hunter BA,  G F Douglas BSc and G Mathews MA. Manual instruction was provided by E F Lay. D P Shaw had been Head Boy for the last two years.

 

1908 – the girls school in the Old School closed down, and P.H Pearce and his wife emigrated to Australia. RGS High Wycombe were bowled out for 10. And Aylesbury GS beaten 10-0 at soccer. A day trip to Kingston Blount was described thus: ‘Those who had been in previous years longed for the day, and those who had not looked forward to it with anticipation. The actual event exceeded all expectations…a day to lie and bask or wander. From the hills we went to Kingston House where tea, cakes, and fruit played their part in a joyful half-hour. After tea, great games of rounders filled-up the time till the brakes were ready, when with cheers, we drove off.’ A shooting range was constructed. A sixth form was now slowly beginning to flourish. A Subscription List for the Pavilion was opened. Howard House School closed in Thame and moved to London. A J Briars was Head Boy.

 

1909 – the Cricket Pavilion was built after a huge fund raising effort. A garden fete was held to announce the opening – done by Mr Valentine Fleming. The Oxford Town Band was hired and the programme for the day included gymnastics, concerts, a dancing display, a bicycle parade, stalls, coconut shy and an Aunt Sally. The House system was established with some twenty pupils in each – Boarders, Urban and Rural pupils with the emphasis on competitive sports. Shaw had said at Speech Day, ‘Why do I like games? Not because we win so often but because we fight hard and respect our opponents.’ However, games were not compulsory for day boys and Shaw urged local parents to encourage their sons to participate rather than ‘loafing about.’ There were many cases of measles and Prize Day had to be postponed. A gale in December knocked over the flagstaff and tiles were blown off the roof leaving a large hole. Drains were laid around the sport field. A W S Wagner had been Head Boy for the last two years.

As the question was once asked, some information on Arthur Briar’s school career, a pupil who left this year:

A few months ago, we were asked a question about Arthur Jesse Briars. Since then Trudi, the Schools archivist, has been able to find out more information. Arthur was born 8th February 1891 and joined the School on 19th September 1902 as a day scholar.
He left seven years later in July 1909 taking up the position as a School Master at the British School in Park Street where his father, George Briars, was Headmaster. At the outbreak of the 1st World War he joined 4th Battalion Light Infantry.
When studying at Lord Williams’s, he was recognised as a Pupil Teacher when in the 6th Form – this suggests that the older boys some times taught the younger ones.
During his time at School he took Public examinations annually (so an onerous exam schedule isn’t anything new) His Public Examinations or Certificates:
1903 Preliminary : Oxford School (Pass)
1904 Preliminary: Oxford School (Ist Class Honours)
1905 Junior: Oxford School (3rd Class Honours)
1906 Senior: Oxford School (Pass)
1907 Senior: Oxford School (3rd Class Honours)
1908 Senior: Preliminary School (3rd Class honours)

 

1911 – Seventy boys were on the roll of whom 40 were boarders. Sport was a major feature of the School. Between 1906 and 1911, the School won 48 out of 55 cricket matches. Boys could play hockey and tennis. There was athletics, steeplechases, paper-chases, and swimming in the Thame. The town had Coronation fever and teas and picnics were organised for everyone to attend. H C Bernard was Head Boy.

 

1912 – large-scale building work took place to extend the School and create more classrooms, joining the isolated science block to the main building. Lands at Sydenham and East Hendred were disposed of and the proceeds invested in a War Loan – these part of the endowment income for the school. C R Blake was Head Boy.

 

1913 – the staff comprised the headmaster Dr A.E.Shaw, the senior master Mr Davis, and Mr John Howard Brown and Mr George Moss (who joined in September), three assistants, and a visiting P.T. master. George Moss’ salary on starting was 100 pounds plus residence. The Boarders would wear Eton jackets and silk hats on a Sunday. A large majority of them hailed from London, particularly Mill Hill, Palmer’s Green and Hammersmith. Three German teachers visited the School. Despite this air of grandeur, there was ‘no main drainage, no main water supply, no electric light and mortality among gas mantles was heavy.’ And the food wasn’t much better either: ‘The food was meagre – at times really poor. For instance, one day I noticed the extreme weakness of the tea. On asking the kitchen maid for an explanation she said she had forgotten to put in the tea bag. ‘Fruit, salad and custard’ reads quite well, but in reality meant two unsweetened prunes floating in a sea of watery custard.’ Alfred Shaw as Chairman of the Oxfordshire Branch of the Headmasters Association.

 

1914: life carried on as normal at the start of the War. Money was collected for the Prince of Wales’ Relief Fund and the Princess Mary’s Xmas Gift Fund. However, much to the boys delight, a cinema opened in the town. W E Cubbage had been Head Boy for the last two years.

 

1915: The Old School became a VAD Hospital. Shaw commented ‘in the happy seclusion of the Chiltern Hills we can with difficulty realise the terrible struggle and bitter consequences of war.’ Boys contributed to the war effort effort by raising money for the Red Cross, and to making bed tables and splints for the local hospitals – one of which was the old Grammar School. Masters were now being called-up and there absence was being felt. New class rooms had been built and pupil numbers were higher than they had been for several years. A chess tournament was played and football continued but with fewer matches against other schools. A fete was held at Thame Park to raise money for the local Red Cross. A Cadet Corps was officially started. The 4th and 5th formers were making hospital comforts such as splints, foot-rests and bed-rests for the wounded in the Manual Room. Prize Day was not a public function this year. R H Colby was Head Boy.

 

1916: numbers reached 100 for the first time. There were severe blizzards in March. The police complained about boarders not keeping black-out. The School played only two cricket matches: against Wycombe and Aylesbury. The Cadet Corps held a uniformed parade for the Governors of the School. New College presented the Governors with an old copy of the School Statutes. There was a private view of a film about the Somme in the Cinema Hall. Three football matches were played. H H Vertigen was Head Boy.

 

1917: The Tamensian ceased publication from 1917-19. J H Crook was Head Boy.

 

1918: the school leaving age was raised to 14. Mr Moss’s day went usually as follows: ‘when on duty our day started at 6.30am to be in time to wake the dormitories at 7.00am; followed by morning prep from 7.30am-8.00am. The usual school routine followed from 9.00am to 4.30pm. In the evening, the Duty Master had to supervise ‘prep’ from 6.00pm to 8.00pm. The last of the Boarders went to bed at 9.30pm – after that the rest of the day was my own.’ R E Jeffries was Head Boy. The University of Oxford introduced the Oxford Higher School Certificate [equivalent to today’s A-Levels.]. “The HSCE is intended to test the work of pupils of about eighteen, who have pursued for about two years a course of study in accordance with an organised curriculum, and have also continued some studies of a less specialised character. As a rule, the exam will be taken about two years after the Senior Local Examination, or some similar exam.”

 

1919 – Peace Day was celebrated by taking a train to Princes Risborough and then walking up to White Leaf Cross. In the evening, the School watched the fireworks in Thame and on the distant Chitern Hills. The local cinema was often visited. 29 OTs had died on active service; 200 had served in the war and had earned two DSOs and seven MC’s. George Moss again ‘On Sundays we had dinner in the House with the Headmaster and Family. The Rev A.E.Shaw was one of the finest men I have ever met, a great scholar, a marvellous teacher and a real friend. In those days, a master had to be prepared to teach almost any subject. Although I had an honours degree in History, I found myself teaching Geography, Latin, Maths, English and, for one short spell, art. Occasionally, the Area Inspector visited. Dr Shaw merely introduced him to each master, and then marshaled him into his house for a quiet drink and a polite goodbye.’

 

1920 – Alfred Shaw retired as Headmaster and was greatly missed being described as ‘an erudite man, a wonderful teacher and an excellent headmaster. He was replaced by Col. Walter Bye from the Dragon School. A mathematician, he had taught at King Edward VI Chelmsford and Queen Elizabeth, Farnham before taking the Headship at Dragon. With him came his handsome and stately wife. In the war, he had won a DSO and an MC, and was a keen games player. He told a dinner of OTs that his aim was ‘to send boys out into the world who would be first-class Britons – that stamp of boy which has ‘Briton’ written all over him – clean, manly, honourable boys.’ There were 113 on the Roll: 61 boarders and 52 day boys. The School routine was very much back to normal, very efficiently run with every moment of the day organised. Armistice Day was observed with a service in the School. The School War-Roll Book was placed in its case in the Dining Hall, the oak case made some old wood molding (1630) out of Lincoln College Chapel. Also, two bronze plates that had been positioned on the old School were restored and erected in the Dining Room. (They had been taken to Australia by P.H Pearce who had bought the Old School in 1877, and were returned by his widow). The great Dickens authority the Rev A R Runnels-Moss gave a lecture. Dancing and Deportment classes were held on a Saturday night. Rycote Manor was visited. A House Concert and Supper were held in Fancy Dress. Twelve soccer matches were played against outside teams. There were 8 boys in Form VI, their starting age was 16 and their average height was 5′ 4” and average weight 8 stone. Form II was the entry Form and had 22 boys aged 11 or 12. They had an average height of 4′ 5” and weighed 4 stone 3lbs on average. Moreton Primary School – that had opened in 1860 – closed. C Fawdry had been Head Boy for the last two years.

 

1921 – Alfred Shaw died after a short illness on May 16th. The whole school ‘was cast in gloom’ and it was noted that his death at the early age of 61 was in part brought on by the supreme effort he made to keep the school going during the Great War.   A Memorial Service was held in Thame Church; Shaw was buried in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery – he’d retired to 27 Maderia Park. Rugby was reintroduced as a school sport after a lapse of over 30 years but soccer remained the key sport. Cricket, though, was going through a lean period, with the top batting average being only 9.70.(However Bye was a cricketing headmaster, he took to the nets and things gradually improved over the next few years.) Photography was booming and boxing classes were held. The Paper chase and the Steeplechase were two popular House competitions. 51 boys were in the Cadet Corps, and they joined the Camp of the Public Secondary Schools Cadet Association, held at Leckhampton near Cheltenham. Bye, though, reassured parents that the Corps was ‘purely educational and not a militarist movement.’ Parents were urged to keep their sons at the school until the age of 16. Lady Fanshawe presented the School framed prints of Royalty once the property of her father Field-Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood, presented to him personally by members of the Royal Family. The Regulations of the Board of Education now stipulated that boys sent to the School should remain for 4 years and until they reached the age of 16. Forms at the School started with Form 1, a preparatory class for eleven or younger. The core of the School was forms II to V largely of boys who had joined from local ‘elementary’ schools and who had passed the 11+ and were grant-aided. Boarders paid fees. Most boys left after four years having taken the Oxford School Certificate. A few remained in the 6th Form. Lectures were given by outside speakers and listening to the gramophone was popular.

During the Xmas Holiday, those in the 5th and 6th Form were asked to read any two of ‘The Cloister and the Hearth’ by Reade, ‘Les Miserables’ Hugo, or ‘Guy Mannering’ by Scott. For an essay they had to write on ‘The Choice of a Profession.’ A silver-gilt clock was presented to the Chairman of the Governors, Mr P.J. D Wykenham and his wife, to honour their golden wedding. Mr Wykenham was a descendant of the Wenman family and therefore of Lord Williams. Lloyd George opened the War Memorial in Thame and the School were allowed to attend. A comment in the December issue of Tamensians noted, ‘Entertainments have been varied. Perhaps the most enjoyable of all was a visit paid to the Dragon School where a special performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience was given for our benefit by the boys of the School. It is hoped that we, too, some day will be able to produce Gilbert and Sullivan opera with equal success. At any rate, we see what can be done.’

 

1922 – 124 Boys were on the School Roll – 62 boarders and 62 day boys. The first performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera at the School – H.M.S Pinafore. In a press write-up, the small boys were noted as having made ‘very pretty girls.’ Rugger was beginning to become popular and was seen not just as a game where ‘you get knocked about.’ This was also the year when the School mounted its first Shakespearian play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Two performances were given. Great interest was shown in the League of Nations: boys attended meeting and lectures and several became members. On Princess Mary’s Wedding Day, the whole day was a holiday celebrated by taking cars into Oxford to visit the Bodleian, colleges and museums. The Manager of the George Cafe provided a very good tea and afterwards there was a visit to the cinema. The School altered its colours to black, sky blue and white – the real colours of the Founder. The old blue and gold were the colours of New College Oxford and Winchester School. The Soccer team played both St Edmund Hall and Wadham College for the first time – both matches were lost 3-0. H C Reese had been Head Boy for the last two years. Mr WJH Deekes, who studied at Downing College, Cambridge joined to teach Biology, which had recently been added to the school curriculum. Seventeen pupils passed their Oxford Senior School Certificate. {This was the equivalent of O-Level or GCSEs.}

 

1923 – School numbers were now gradually increasing with 134 on the Roll. To further encourage rugby, House matches were introduced. The 1st XV played games against RGS High Wycombe, the Old Boys and a Masters side, and a junior side played Dragon School. The Natural History Society (the most popular yet only 2 years old) published its own magazine – ‘The Naturalist’. A miniature rifle range was constructed for the Cadet Corps, and a shooting cup presented by H. Allesbrook, an Old Boy – though the standard was not thought sufficiently high to award the cup that year. A tennis club was started, the subscription was 6d. All 18 who sat the Senior Certificate had passed. Sports Day included an egg and spoon race, a tug of war, sack race, throwing the cricket ball, potato race, sack race and slow bicycle race. The ‘Mikado’ was mounted with all the performers being under 14. The costumes were made at the School, the wigs from Fox of London, and the music played on the piano with an accompanying orchestra.

The additional verse to Ko Ko’s song, Mikado went as follows:

There’s an ass that litters paper round and nuts and apple cores

I’ve got him on the list – I’ve got him on the list!

Who upsets tea on table cloths and ink on spotless floors

He never would be missed – He never would be missed!

The bore who babbles motor bikes, or wireless, golf or chess,

The knut whose hair-oils scented like the roses (more or less)

The fool who finds in chewing gum a charm that never palls

The knave who carves his name on desks or scribbles it on walls

The bass who loves Mikado tunes who never will desist,

They’d none of them be missed – They’d none of them be missed.

The Chess Club was revived. A School Employment Bureau was set-up to help boys secure jobs at a time when there was a serious decrease in opportunities. J Maughan and E D Syson were Head Boys. John Twinman who was in Form V met his death while cycling in Chinnor. He was hit by a car and died the next day in Thame Nursing Home without ever regaining consciousness. He was buried in Chinnor Churchyard.

 

1924 –  the usual winter epidemic of colds and other illnesses passed the school by this year. Rugby was gaining in popularity and technique: it was noted that in tackling, ‘we see much less of that clasping around the neck and shoulders.’ A visit by boys of the Cadet Force to Verdun. Whilst this was a keenly anticipated trip, there was little appreciation for the rats and bed bugs encountered in the barracks where they stayed when in Paris. There were now about 130 boys on the roll. The Cadet Corps held its first shooting matches against St Edwards Oxford and Maidenhead Grammar – beaten soundly in both. Mr Wykenham, Chairman of the Governors since 1898 and a Governor since 1882 died. He was directly descended from the Lord Williams. He’d been first appointed a Governor in 1882. Boys from Watlington and Chinnor were provided with a school bus. This year’s G&S was the Pirates of Penzance. A Camera Club was started. A School Bath Fund was started. Each form room had its ‘stars and stripes’ board: on this were recorded stars for outstanding work and stripes for bad work, and disorder stripes for bad behaviour. Those who got two of these were then rewarded with two strokes of the cane. H B Maughan and J E Stubbings were Head Boys. The Natural History Society’s Museum was presented with a Mummy’s hand and foot, and a 9ft long snake skin. Over 100 boys visited the Great Exhibition at Wembley going  there by ‘motor bus.’ George Moss left after 11 years teaching at the school to teach in Northampton. He was very much admired by his pupils. His successor was William Guest who came in to teach history – and was to become another long serving teacher, indeed he taught at the school for 30 years.

 

1925 – boys who went down with a mild flu epidemic were isolated at ‘Highfield.’  In rugby, the School was playing Bloxham, RGS Wycombe, Henley GS, a London Scottish side and the OTs. Motionless Floating was one of the events in the Swimming event. In football the School played Henley GS, Burford GS, Aylesbury GS, RGS Wycombe, Oxford Municipal Secondary School, City of Oxford School, St Edmund Hall, The Old Boys, and Borlaise. The Natural History Society was enjoying innumerable lantern slide shows. Masters at the School included S F Moscrop, N J Wheatley, S C Wells, W Guest, J Howard Brown and H R Eady. Singing of folk songs collected by Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp proved very popular. The income to the school from the endowment that had been established by Lord Williams now only accounted for some 10% of the total income needs of the school – the income was approximately £3,200 made up of £320 from the endowment; £900 in fees; £800 from Government grants and £1,200 from the County Council. C R Cosier was Head Boy. 28 cadets toured Belgium. One of the Governors of the School was the Right Hon Herbert A. L Fisher MP who was responsible for the education act of 1918 that improved the status and rewards of teachers, and also designed a system of national examinations and in funding universities. The School celebrated Remembrance Day for the first time on 11th November, when the Roll Call of Honour, of boys who fell in the Great War, was read out.

 

1926 – due to the inequality of numbers in the old system, a new House system was introduced: Williams, Harris, Hampden and Wykeham. (Much later Williams became New House to celebrate the School’s association with New College, Oxford.) Each House had its own distinctive cap. House Colours, in the shape of ties, were to be awarded. The Scout troop was also formed for the junior boys with Mr Bray as scoutmaster. The uniform cost £1 and was supplied by the school. The annual concert was cancelled due to an outbreak of illness (a reoccurring hazard in school-life at the time.) Measles was one ailment; the other was scarlet fever. The lower forms went to Oxford to see ‘Treasure Island’ at the New Theatre – on the way their coach burst into flames. Cricket matches were held against Aylesbury, Thame 1st XI, Marlow School, RGS Wycombe, Henley, Burford, City of Oxford, Borlaise. ‘It was pleasing to record that of the 26 July leavers, eight were between sixteen and seventeen, seven between seventeen and eighteen, and four over eighteen, which shows that the wisdom of continuing school as long as possible beyond sixteen years is being realised by an increasing number of boys.’ The School Inspectors concluded that the School was in ‘sound condition’ – although they were concerned that the Gymnasium was used as a gym, changing room, an armoury and for woodwork. There were four prefects: P. Webb, D. Johnston, M. Maughan and J. Lawrence. Prefects wore distinctive caps with silver badges. The Pearce Memorial Gardens in the High Street with a fountain and a statue of a boy was erected by Ernest Pearce of Australia as a monument to the memory of his parents Philip Henry Pearce and his wife Elizabeth – who had, of course, bought the Old School back in the late 19th century. H W Howland was Head Boy. He and three others past their Oxford Higher School Certificate. Some 15 boys passed their School Certificate. The Remembrance Day service was extended: it was noted that several boys in the school were not even born when War broke out; and the majority were not seven when the Armistice was signed. It was felt that the boys needed a a ‘definite line of thought’ to help them realise why November 11th was a special day. The Service went as follows: Hymn 438, ‘How Bright these glorious Spirits Shine’, Special Prayers, Psalm 46, Hymn 437, ‘For all the Saints’ (first 3 verses), Roll of Honour, Two Minutes Silence, Hymn 437 (remaining verses) Readings, The Supreme Sacrifice. At every morning assembly, a violin orchestra helped ‘to give fine zest the hymn singing.’

 

1927 – electricity was installed and the boys were at last spared having hot gas mantles fall on their head. School numbers at the beginning of 1927 had dropped to 122, their lowest for a while. The Spring Term weather was bad and the school was hit by a flu epidemic. John Howard Brown published ‘A Short History of Thame School.’ There was 48 cadets in the Cadet Force and they held their summer camp at Great Milton. Training – or mainly square-bashing – was at lunchtime, and the cadets had shortened Lee Enfield rifles. Two young pupils died: Thomas Westacott after an asthma attack and a haemorrhage, and Wilfred Croxford of influenza.

Westacott’s death was reported at length in the Tamensian Magazine: ‘ …he died at the School on 21st February after an illness only lasting one week. He retired to bed early in the evening of Monday February 14th, complaining of an earache, which, however, left him the next day. Then came an attack of asthma and bronchitis. From Thursday he became steadily worse, a hacking cough bringing haemorrhage in its train. Two trained nurses were at once called in and a specialist consulted. He rallied some what on Monday afternoon but his constitution was not capable of sufficient resistance, and he passed away very peacefully at about 6.30pm on 21st February…even when it was clear to him that he was dying his brave spirit never quailed.’ He was buried in Hillingdon Church, Middx. Hampden won the first ‘new’ House competition. A Sports and Garden Fair raised more than 300 pounds for the Swimming Pool fund meaning that work could start. The School production was ‘Scenes from the Life of Hannibel’. 30 members of the Natural History Society went to the Experimental Station in Roehampton. JHB had a Morris Cowley that was often pressed into service to take boys on outings. Outside lectures included talks on deep sea diving, ‘electric installations’, and ‘East Africa’.  P C R Webb was Head Boy until the summer and was succeeded by J M Crammer.

Construction work started on the swimming pool; the work being carried out by R G Holland of Thame and the architect was an OT, Vernon Kislingbury.

The first Founder’s Day was held on November 29th, this being the 357th Anniversary of when teaching first started at the school. The event was held in the school hall (two years later it was moved to the Parish Church) with an address by the Headmaster.

 

1928 – the first swimming pool was opened after four years of fund raising. Mrs Muirhead of Hasely Court performed the Opening Ceremony and there was music from the Band of the 4th Batt. OBLI. The Governors said it was Bye’s ‘most spectacular of his successes.’ Forty boys learnt to swim. HMS Pinafore was presented there having been a gap in the schools mounting of G&S for four years. The Music Master was H Roscoe Eady who had a propensity to name drop – he had some instructional connection with a European royal family. The rugby team won all five matches. The Wayfarers Trio from Oxford gave their first performance at the School, the start of a long tradition. An epidemic of measles hit the school. A darkroom was constructed for the Camera Club. The winter was exceptionally cold and ink froze in the inkwells. A new wing was added to the domestic quarters including much needed sick rooms. J A Sheldon was Head Boy.

 

1929 – Mr A C Dyer became the first Cambridge graduate to be appointed Headmaster. (Few of the boys seemed to take to the new Headmaster.) This followed the resignation of W.R.G Bye who took up a new appointment as Headmaster of Skinner’s School after nine years of being Headmaster of Lord Williams. During the years he’d been at the School academic standards were raised, rugger was reintroduced, calculus was added to the curriculum as well as biology. the Cadet Corps had been reborn, the gymnasium rebuilt, a new wing added to the School, and last but not least, the building of the swimming pool. The Governor’s were generous in their praise, not least ‘because he had relieved (them) of a great deal of responsibility’ and they noted the influence he had on the ‘general manners of the School.’ He’d taken particular care of looking after the Boarders and had a particular affinity with the younger boys. Under his leadership sixth form work began to assume the importance which it has ever since retained and university scholarships became an actual possibility. It was the Jubilee of the opening of the new School buildings on Oxford Road. Mr Benjamin Sharp who was Headmaster from 1891-1899 died. The National School was turned in to Thame’s senior (i.e. Secondary) School and the Royal British and Foreign School – that had started life in 1836 as a non-conformist institution – became known as Park Street School and was turned into Thame’s only primary school. (It is now of course the John Hampden School.) C H Pratt was Head Boy.

For the first time, Founder’s Day was held in the Chancel of the Parish Church.

 

1930 – 118 boys in the School of whom around 30 were boarders. It was decided to discontinue playing football and concentrate on rugby. After the Cadet Corps annual inspection, Brig-Gen E.S. Hoare Nairne noted that “the march past and drill movements were interesting. There were plenty of mistakes…one platoon was in confusion of step.” Later, the Corps toured the Battlefields around Arras. There was a Natural History Society, Scout Troop and a Camera Club. A school branch of the National Savings Association was opened – though it was said that not all its members were ‘particularly keen on saving.’ A new gymnasium was opened with up-to-date apparatus and a door to the swimming pool. The School day began at 8.45am with assembly. There were four morning periods of 40 minutes and a lunch break from 12.30 to 2.00pm. Many of the Thame boys sensibly either went home or brought sandwiches. In the afternoon, there were three periods and then, homework. Saturday morning school was often the time when wood and metal crafts were taught. (A tradition that continued right up until the demise of Saturday morning school in 1971.)

The school observed Remembrance Day on 11th November; and Founder’s Day was celebrated on 28th November.

 

1931: the first full rugby season was a disaster with seven matches in succession lost. However, the school did beat Burford Grammar School 6-3 – though Burford too were newcomers to the game. As was usual throughout its history Wykeham finished last in the House competition. (What fate meant that this was perennially the case?) Mr F Geldherd-Somervell retired from the Chairmanship of the Governors. It was noted that through his efforts over the last six years, money was found for the addition of a wing to the kitchen end of the Boarding House and the erection of a gymnasium and changing room. Sports Day was held in March and the events held were the Steeplechase, 1 mile, Half-mile, Quarter-mile 220 yards, 100 yards, High Jump, Long Jump and Cricket Ball. The senior 100 yards was won in 11.6 secs. Most of the boys paid a visit to the Oxfordshire Agricultural Show, held in a field behind the School. An entertainment was organised jointly with the Girls Grammar School and was given in the Cinema – it told the story of a Red Indian. Mr G M Mercer joined the staff as Classics Master. The Scout troop went on a week’s camp to Eynsham, and a party of seven boys spent a week in Paris. It was noted that whilst the Boarders were active in out-of-school activities, the day boys gave ‘slender support.’ After the Friday Founder’s Day service, the afternoon was a half-holiday and the boarders were treated to a special film matinee of ‘Beau Ideal’ at Aylesbury cinema. An outing was also organised to see Moliere’s ‘Les Fourberies de Scapin’ at the Oxford Playhouse. The Camera Club and Natural History Society amalgamated with the addition of a stamp club. The first public performance of the School Choir – under the direction of John Howard-Brown – although it was written that ‘the whole choir must learn to count and come in together on the beat.’ The Scout Troop replaced the Cadet Corps.

 

1932: the rugby team were improving and winning some matches. The Wayfaring Trio from Oxford gave a concert. One of the many lectures organised by the school societies was illustrated using film for the first time in the School’s history. The School Choir’s performance was improving. Yo-yo were the rage. The Scouts had their summer camp at Castle Combe, and one boy fell into the fire but was thankfully rescued without too many blemishes. The Wardens and Fellows of Merton College commemorated the tricentenary of the birth of Anthony Wood with a luncheon – the Headmaster represented the School. A comment on the day boys (again!): ‘Within School Rugby, there appears to be a noticeable lack of public spirit among certain boys, particularly the day boys. Their play is lackadaisical; inclusion in the team appears to be a matter of small importance compared with a visit to the cinema.’ The Old School was rapidly falling into a state of disrepair. (It was claimed that John Hampden’s great bed was still in existence in the building).

 

1933 – J H Brown published his book ‘Elizabethan Schooldays’. Day boys living within a mile of the School were banned from cycling and had to walk to school, so as to improve their health. Sunday dress for the Boarders – who always attended Matins at St Mary’s – was striped grey trousers, black jacket, white shirt and black tie, and bowler hats in winter and boaters in summer. A favourite treat was to visit Betty Martin’s tea shop in the High Street for cakes. By now, the maintenance grant from the local authority was 25 times that of endowment income. But this increase in financial benefits was slowly eroding the School’s independence and the County was having a greater say in the running of the School.

 

1934 – the day boys, following the criticism of their lack of interest in curricular activities two years earlier, were now more active in societies and sports. The John Hampden Fund was given a boost by an evening of entertainment put on for parents. School outings included visits to Huntley & Palmer, Reading, William Birch Furniture Works in High Wycombe, Kodak and Long Crendon Gravel Pits. Mr J Neale gave an evenings conjuring entertainment. There were 18 cases of German measles. The House points system was amended in an attempt to increase the competitiveness of the House Competition. The 1st XV were able to watch the Varsity game at Twickenham, though they were still playing poorly as a team. One of the Governors, Mr Wood, drew up a long-term plan for the renovation and development of the School.

 

1935 – J.H Brown and William Guest (a fellow teacher at the School) published their ‘History of Thame’ in what was said to be a somewhat uneasy collaboration. (Guest was a historian whereas he later described Brown as an antiquarian.) The French Drama Society, which had been performing for several years produced a triple bill. A party went to Paris again, getting used to ‘the peculiarities of Parisian motorists and the incessant screaming of brakes.’ One dinner was taken in the Coupole, and some ‘very modern’ French art was seen. Another party went to Dunkirk. Back at the School, a lecture on Modern Germany, whilst highlighting the more enjoyable aspects of the country, also mentioned the ‘generally weird’ modern art. Mr B.H.J Bevan joined the staff, a man with a dignified manner in class. Wykeham still trailed in the House competition. The sixth form was slowly growing – though most pupils still left at 15or 16 after taking the School Certificate – and was divided into two divisions: one studying languages and history, the other mathematics and science with a view to taking the Higher Certificate. At Speech Day, Dyer made a plea for more boys to stay on for longer and ‘not to be in a hurry to leave.’

 

1936 – 144 pupils in the School, which was a record. Mr J.C Purnell, the P.T. Instructor celebrated 30 years at the School. A debating society was started. Founder’s Day was celebrated on the proper day, November 29th, drew a congregation of 80 parents and OTs – much larger than had been seen for many years. The cricket field was enlarged and an Elizabeathen penny dug up during the excavations – much of the work was to remove a good deal of the bank on the north-side to where we see it today. The 1st XV won 8 out of 13 matches played; the Captain, E.A Dodwell, was chosen to play for Oxon Schools. For many years, the School had held an athletics meeting against Burford and this for year, for the first time, the School won. In the Library, students could read Punch, Listener, Motor, Aeroplane, Motor Cycle, Wireless World, Meccano Magazine, Armchair Science, Popular Flying, and Geographical Magazine. Boys leaving the School were expected to observe the custom of donating a book to the Library. Fines for the late return of books were instituted. Mr Gelderd Somerville died: he’d been a governor for 21 years and for the last seven Chairman. He bequeathed to the Library many books and a very handsome upright clock (that is still in the School). There were now 7 candidates for the Higher Certificate Examination and three went onto university – testament to the improving academic performance – including Colin Cuthbert to Oxford – but who lost his life in North Africa in 1943. Swimming matches were held against Wycombe Grammar School, Southfield School Oxford and the City of Oxford High School. (The first competitive match had been held in 1930 and ever since). The 1st XV was hitting its stride for the first time since rugger was reintroduced and the average weight of the 1st XV was 10st 9Ibs. The School now had 7 full-time assistant masters – having grown from 3 over the last 15 years – but the number of ‘years’ was still five, running from II to VI.

 

1938 – Mr Purnell, who taught PE, left the staff after 32 years service and seeing through many changes from old-fashioned drill to modern PT. Well loved, his classes were still often known as ‘PT – Purnell’s Torture.’ Captain Hunt, a great-nephew of General Gordon gave the school a lantern-lecture on the Sudan. One new boy remembered that Major Dyer was ‘stern and black-gowned’ who insisted boys sat still and that the slightest move to scratch an itch would provoke his wrath. ‘He would remain aloof and unsmiling.’ Another remembered that boarding life was ‘to say the least circumscribed and decidedly spartan. It was also monastic. The only females we ever saw or had contact with was the Headmaster’s wife and Matron… a formidable figure in stiff white collar and blue uniform.’ Boarders were woken up at 6.45am by a clanging hand bell. The dorm’ windows were always kept open whatever the weather. Washing was in cold water come winter or summer. Food was…well ‘the meat was mummified and the vegetables bleached, sodden and tasteless.’ One boy, Bob Craddock, decided to do an Oliver Twist in reverse and once refused to eat dinner. Despite all threats he continued to refuse that meal-time but it didn’t lead to any improvement. The girls from the other grammar school were viewed ‘as strange creatures from another world with whom any social contact was quite out of the question.’ Despite the boarders general air of superiority, they envied the day-boys freedom. The School’s layout was described by a boy, ‘From the dining room, past the pair of classes (walls lined with wooden lockers, no keys) you went passed the teachers study. A dog leg down the corridor took you past two classes then to the exit into the “Quad”. There were stairs up to the school library and the seniors recreation room . Looking into the quad, on the left there was the changing room, with showers. Beyond this a shed with a red glass window formerly used as a dark room. There was another classroom on the right and up a few steps. A toilet block seemed to close the quadrangle.We had only two laboratories, one science and one chemistry. At the end of these rooms was the “half moon”, which was a lawn, the pride and joy of Pin, Mr Brown. Woe betide you if you even thought of walking on it. Across the way was the Gymnasium, nearby the open air swimming pool.

Norman Good: at the time there was one female teacher. Miss Devine (pronounced Diveen) and referred to by us, irreverently, as “Ma Divine”. She was appointed to teach Junior Maths and was very much of the old school. Her Maths lessons will be remembered for their philosophical interludes -over our heads at the time but, in retrospect, probably as muchvalue to us as mechanical removal of brackets and manipulation of complex fractions -but I still remember her dictum: “First remove your brackets and then multiply and divide before you add and subtract”. Long may teachers of this ilk survive in the system!

 

1939 – a new School Cap was introduced with a wider peak, and a larger inside so it didn’t perch on top of the head. The Founder’s Day Service started with the Hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ followed by prayers including the School’s prayers; Psalm xv; Lesson Roman xii; the Hymn ‘He who would be valiant be’; the Address by the Rector of Waterstock, the Rev J Todd; the School Hymn, and finally the Blessing. The Scouts went on camp to Worcester with two French scouts. T.H Sheppard ran the mile in 5′ 5″ to break the School’s record. A party of pupils visited Bicester and saw the Bristol Blenheim Bombers. ‘We like history because its easy’ wrote a 2nd former. Speech Day was held in Thame Town Hall, an experiment not repeated because the noise of traffic proved distracting. ‘Adequate rest and sleep is important for boys, and a matter for parents to ensure,’ said the Headmaster in his speech that day. On the outbreak of War, the School was given four boxes of first-aid kit and two stirrup pumps by the Education Committee. Evacuees began to arrive including, as Alan Mitchell wrote, ‘the two Aris boys who were sent over from Germany to escape the Nazi terror and who arrived without a single word of English. The Head spoke to us and told us to help them to settle in with us and treat them with kindness, which we all did. It was not long before they were “one of us”. Similarly we were joined by Zopf from Bremen who, if I remember correctly was the son of the commander of a German battleship. It was not long before his father’s death was announced.’ There were 163 on the School Roll and in September 1939 some 17 of the 33 new boys (of all years) were evacuees from London. All came from the middle-class suburbs including Eltham, Hampstead, Pinner, Wimbledon and Epsom. Interestingly, of these 33 new boys only 4 were from Thame itself. Most of the local intake was from the surrounding villages: Aston Rowant, Chinnor, Great Milton, Horton-cum-Studley, Kingston Blount, Little Milton, Long Crendon, Princes Risborough, Stadhampton, Towersey, Watlington, and Wheatley.

E.G Aris had the following memories: Never having lived away from home, boarding school was strange indeed. As new boys at school, it was tradition that they be ragged during the first night in the dorm. Hans and I thought we were being attacked because we were German. so we took our belts off our trousers and defended ourselves until the lookout boy shouted ‘Cave’, then out attackers dashed back into bed and our ragging was ended…Hans and I sat at the back of the class because we couldn’t understand what was being said…Mr Drane our English teacher could speak some German so he gave us extra tuition at his home in Thame…the regimented routine was good for us because we soon learned the times for meals, the inspection of hands before entering the dining room and our allocated seat according to seniority. The food was wholesome and if you wanted ‘seconds’ we soon learnt you had to eat quickly in order to be early in the queue…The boys never saw their parents again – who had been left behind in Germany.

R.P Wassell was Head Boy.

 

1940 – rationing had seemed to have little affect, other than Wednesday being meatless. Voluntary work included work on farms, salvage activities by the Scouts, a Savings Group was formed and Masters joined the Home Guard. Only one 1st XV match could be played due to lack of transport. The Scout troop were asked to impersonate the enemy in an exercise to test the defenses of the Home Guard. Cross country runs were as they’d been for years (and as they were continue for decades: out on the Oxford Road, on to the Moreton Road past the brick works, down into Moreton village, past the pond, over Cuttle Brook, along the lane to the level crossing, through to the ‘wreck’ and then down the hill to Cuttle Brook again and then through the fields (now the Chiltern Vale Estate) back to the School. Alan Mitchell writes: ‘There was then a “blackout “, so, many of the dormy windows were covered with black paper, and there were a small number where we had a large plywood frame. When all were in bed, Mr Brown (Pin) would see that a boy was by his window to take the ply frame down after the light was put out and the windows opened to let in the, often cold air, in. He would then go out and shut the door. Occasionally there was a bit of a rumpus, and we would find that he was still in the dorm! Trouble, and sometimes the slipper!” D C Seymour was Head Boy.

 

1941 – 11 OTs had given their lives, most in the RAF. Some 15 to 20 pupils were acting as messengers for the ARP and the Home Guard, or taking turns with first aid practice or fire-watching. 11 pigs were fattened on School swill. A bomb went off at the Prebendal and several fragments reached the school but only a few tiles were lost. Mr B Bevan who joined the staff in 1935 was called-up to join the Royal Signals in the North Africa campaign.

 

A memory from Nonny Tiffany an ‘Old Girl’ from the Girl’s Grammar School in Thame:

I was at the School from January 1940 until December 1942″as one of the younger full time boarders, when Miss Hockley and Miss Messenger ran the school. It was right after the beginning of the war when people did not know what to expect. My home was in Stockport, just south of Manchester; my mother had recently died, and my father wanted me to be safe! He chose well: Hitler wanted Oxford to remain intact and sure enough while I was there in Thame, I can remember only one stray bomb falling on the town! But as a result of this, all the boarders had to sleep downstairs in bunk-beds in the lovely front hall. I was very upset on first visiting Thame after we had settled in Oxford in 1974, on finding that the whole building had been pulled down! I do not remember many local girls who were at the school, an Austin girl from the outfitters’ shop across the road, who I think was called Gloria, and a weekly boarder whose name was Dorothy and whose home was Holly Bush Farm near or in Bledlow. I was known at the time as “Nonn Adams”, and I have many happy memories of my time at the school. There was very little to tell us that there was a war on, and that there was such a happening as Dunkirk or the Battle of Britain! We really were almost completely cushioned from the war. By the time my father and I moved down to Surrey in January 1943, I was completely blasé about it. Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know if there are any other reunions in the offing: it would he nice to meet the girls who still remember the old buildings and especially the swimming pool where I first learnt to swim!

 

1942 – the Headmaster was given petrol coupons. War work by the boys included collecting salvage, potato and kale picking, gathering rose hips for the extraction of Vitamin C, and beet harvesting. A vegetable garden was started. An Air Training Corps had been established and a few senior boys joined the Home Guard. Many of the younger teachers had been lost to war service and in their place came a succession of elderly and temporary replacements who had a tendency to hurl hard blackboard rubbers at badly behaving boys. The 6th form were also drafted in to take some lessons. Thursdays and Saturdays were half days and free if not participating in sports teams. The Scouts put on a play ‘The vengeance of the gang.’ E G Carbett had been Head Boy for the last two years.

 

Patrick Harrison, “We saw little of our Headmaster either. He would materialise unexpectedly amongst us from time to time: motionless, enigmatic and censorious. He was a small, reserved man with a big nose in a face of coarse, pallid skin, with floppy, fairish hair, pale, expressionless eyes and a pale, tobacco-stained moustache above broken, tobacco-stained teeth all surrounded by an invisible cloud of sour, tobacco-stained breath. He had come from Giggleswick in 1929 and taught maths quite well to the upper forms. He should never have been a schoolmaster. To be a solicitor in a rather larger country town than Thame might have suited him….. However, he had little understanding of the compulsive lunacy of boys. ‘Aaaah! All I ask is that yah be rea…sonable’ he would plead, tapping the ends of his extended fingers together. He distrusted enthusiasms of any kind, partly because he saw it as an undesirable diversion of energy from schoolwork, partly because he was made uneasy by any evidence of spontaneous pleasure. He caught one boy who was keen on carpentry making something when perhaps he should have been doing something else. His toolbox was promptly confiscated. ‘Aaaah! It’s schoolwork we need Boughton, not woodwork’. Later, my brother, who had given evidence of the musical ability that was to become the basis of his career, had his gramophone taken away. However, although repressive our headmaster probably stimulated ingenuity and subversive non-conformity. Had we been at a school where spare time was thoroughly organised we would have been left to ourselves far less.”

 

1943 – 186 pupils including around 40 evacuees. There were few bombs and those that were dropped were thought to be mistakes. The craters quickly attracted souvenir-hungry boys. The safest place in the building was judged to be inside corridor between the dining hall and kitchen and here boarders were congregated. Boys also were voracious egg collectors and butterfly catchers. And although the War was at its height, the boys still had an enjoyable day’s outing in the summer, taking the train to Princes Risborough, playing games on the hills, stopping off at cafes on the way back and ending with a party in the dormitory. E Mathieson was Head Boy.

 

W.P. ‘Paddy’Hinton. Life in boarding school during the war was Spartan. Boarders always had to keep within the school boundaries, except with special permission. Pocket money had to be banked at the school. We were allowed to withdraw a small sum, perhaps a shilling (5p) each week.

Our outgoing letters were posted In Mr. Brown’s locker in the main corridor. The sender wrote his name on the top right hand corner of the envelope, which was covered by the stamp put on by Mr. Brown; the cost being debited on the end of the term bill as an extra. One copy of the Daily Telegraph and one copy of the Daily Sketch were provided. My parents sent me a weekly copy of “Everybodies” magazine which was passed all round. Bath times were Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each group of four was allowed about 20-25 minutes.

No school photographs were taken. There were no away cricket or rugby matches. There were a few home rugby matches against Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, who travelled by train, and an Oxford school team who travelled by Oxford bus. This was discontinued because the teams put an unfair load on public transport. There was “an annual match against a scratch O.T.A side on Founders Day.

On a lighter note, the whole school was taken to the Grand Cinema to see Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator,” probably because of the long homily delivered by Charlie Chaplin at the end. A small group of us managed to sneak in to see “Coastal Command” featuring Sunderland flying boats. A choir of about 40 of us “did” Hiawatha’s Wedding at the cinema. Parents were invited.

Nobody had a personal wireless set. One evening Mr. Dyer, the headmaster, brought his set into the classroom where we did prep. We listened with rapt attention to a Winston Churchill speech almost an hour long, perhaps at the time of the turning point victory at El Alamein. About half of the school was blacked-out; the rest was kept unlit.

To help the war effort, a gang of about 20 was sent potato picking, which we called spud upping. In the field along the Oxford road opposite Rycote Lane about where the by-pass roundabout is now. We picked up potatoes left on the surface by the spinner machine, into buckets and emptied them into carts. A pair of horses drew the spinner, one of which was wont to start the day with a virtuoso farting performance to the delight of his schoolboy audience. On a very foggy nil-visibility day, someone started throwing potatoes along the row, knowing that this was where most people would be working. This called for retaliation. Soon the fog was raining potatoes. Farmer Jack Castle arrived. He ran up and down the row hollering at the invisible spud launchers to get back to work and stop wasting food in wartime etc. He sustained a couple of hits and lots of near misses. Some day-boys, having bikes, went to Goods’ farm at Aston Sandford.

One day Mr Brown took a party to Princes Risborough by train. We climbed White Leaf Cross. On the hill an American built International T.D. 14 crawler tractor, which had done work on the family farm, was hauling timber. Before returning to the station, Mr. Brown bought us each a soft drink at a small general store. While awaiting our return train, a goods train passed through, hauled by an American engine, which was later destined for the Continent after liberation. Europe was greatly indebted to American industrial production.

We were allowed an occasional short weekend home visit. I was returning to school, on Sunday evening, on the top of a no.84 bus from Aylesbury via Haddenham. On joining the A418 at Scotsgrove, the bus became incorporated into a column of tanks. We went down Scotsgrove Hill in the middle of road at 40mph, surrounded by tanks. Great fun. Unusual experiences were usual during the war.

One Sunday morning, while walking to church, all wearing our bowler hats, at Priest End Corner a Guy 30 cwt army truck with civilian driver and civilian passenger came from the Oxford direction at great speed. We scattered. The truck went through the middle of our crocodile and hit the corner house. Although later repaired, the house still bears scars. The master in charge was Mr. Lundy. He was quite oblivious to what had happened. (He was considered by some to be permanently drunk.) We were ordered back into line and behave ourselves. Lundy was Canadian. He taught Geography, Latin and R.I (now R.E). He did the football pools. The entry forms printed in newspapers were too small to make a permutation entry. So he acquired great numbers of entry forms which he and 6th form helpers filled in under his direction to make wide spread entries. He was reportedly quite successful.

During the 1940s most aircraft flew much lower than they do today. Of all the many planes that flew over, the North American Harvard Trainer was the noisiest. It made a loud droning noise that echoed back from buildings. Much worse than a present day low flying helicopter. Speech and all other sound was drowned out. It was said to have been caused by the propeller design.

One night we were in the library. Although next to dormitory three, there was then no connection. We had to go down the main stairs and up the other one at the far (quadrangle) end of the corridor. Our midnight feast was interrupted by wave after wave of Dakotas towing troop carrier gliders. The whole sky was full of aircraft. It may have been the air armada for the D-day landing!

During night-time there were air raid warnings. We left the dormitories with slippers,  dressing gowns with socks always put in pockets, and a bed rug – down to the corridor between the stairs and kitchen and headmaster’s house. We spent the time on benches from the dining room (now library?). Sleep was impossible. After a time we were not moved when the sirens sounded unless danger was considered imminent.

Air raids were not the only times we left our dormitories. When promoted, at about fifteen years old, to the senior no.3 dormitory we became less submissive. We escaped! These expeditions had to be conducted in silence. The blackout was our ally. Sometimes via the corner window to the flat roof below, which years later looks like a challenging feat. One boy had great difficulty making the return journey. Another route was down the stairs to the changing rooms. The far room, now rebuilt, alongside the north door had a mullion window with an iron bar in the centre of the opening part, similar to one in the main corridor. The iron bar had been “worked on” and was loose. It was easily removed by pushing upward and withdrawing the bottom inwards. This was not fixed for years.

Before setting off one night, Stanley Solomons (now doctor) tied up his loose change (nobody had notes) in his handkerchief to stop it jingling. When in the changing room, he felt a sneeze coming on. He snatched out his handkerchief to smother the sound. The heavy 1940s coins flew all over the tiled floor making a noise like a peal of church bells. We waited and watched in horror from the overlooking windows of dormitory three. Nothing happened.

One night, I remember going down to the token Thame fair and meeting Desmond Slay. The fair would not have been allowed to operate after dark because of the blackout, but clocks were set to double summertime and it was still daylight. On another occasion, in the dark; I was last of a group of three or four. When at the foot of the stairs, Mr. Wolfe entered the unlit corridor from the headmaster’s end. He was whistling and jangling a bunch of keys. I stood back in the stairwell and froze. He passed within arm’s length. Mr. Wolfe was married but lived most of the time, at the school. He was invalided out of the army. He taught Art and Biology and organised the garden working parties.

Another ritual was to climb the tower and scratch ones initials onto the bell, now missing I believe. I went up there but did not leave my initials, figuring that it might be incriminating. This exercise involved ascending the short stair from the main landing and passing the open door of the senior master J.H. Brown. He was the noisiest sleeper in the building. He used to hint that he was a light sleeper and heard every noise. Possibly the only lie this good man ever told. He was ordained after retirement.

Another dormitory three secret was the short piece of loose floorboard, originally for access to a then-redundant gas junction. With this board removed, we would crowd around and overhear every word spoken in the masters’ common room below.

One Saturday afternoon, several of us somehow, got to Aylesbury. To return to Thame we boarded the Oxford no.84 at Kingsbury Square bus station. We ran upstairs to bag the front seats, to find Mrs. Dyer, the headmaster’s wife sitting there. Following a hurried descent, I think we travelled on the lower deck and got off at the first stop in Thame. There was no reaction at the school. I sometimes wonder if Mrs. Dyer saw us and said nothing. On another occasion I vaguely remember hitchhiking from Aylesbury. Anyone involved in these escapades, if caught, would have been in serious trouble. It seems never to have occurred to those in authority that the boys might sometimes sneak out.

On Sunday afternoons we were allowed: in small groups, to go for walks to places of our choice; but not into Thame. A favourite destination was the railway bridge at Haddenham (now the park & ride) to watch the gliders on the aerodrome training station. Tiger Moths and Hawker Hinds towed single seat gliders up. After casting off from their tugs, the gliders flew around for as long as possible and then landed back on the airfield. It was a busy place.

School food was a miracle in innovation but very plain. Luxury items, jam and cake were provided on alternate days (both provided on Sundays). On days when these were not supplied, boys drew on their own tuck. In the present day rugby field, farmer Cox was making silage in a temporary weldmesh and heavy paper silo. Each layer of grass received an application of water and black treacle put on by watering can. We raided the treacle barrel and filled our jam jars. We gorged on this bonanza until we realised its great laxative properties.

I left school in December 1944, aged 16 and two months. We were happy, and counted ourselves lucky.

 

1944 – as more evacuees came to the area, pupil numbers swelled to 196. Two extra forms were created to deal with this. A local chess expert played the School’s Chess Club in six simultaneous games – and won all of them. A fifth House was formed: School House, with the Headmaster as its housemaster. The ‘Butler’ Act was passed that imposed a duty for all local authorities to provide free secondary education for all. American supply trains ran along the railway line, pulling over two hundred truckloads of supplies for the invasion of Europe. An impressive sight to boys who stood there amazed, and counted them as they passed. School life continued to be curtailed through problems of transport and the ‘black-out.’ There was a shortage of rugby boots and school dinners were meatless for two days of the week. 300 books were donated the School from a late Fellow of New College. 25 new masters had come and gone since the War began. An old forgotten well was rediscovered due to a failure in the water supply. This proved to be 25 feet deep and had 4 feet of water. It was noted that the boys appeared more noisy and disorderly. ‘Whether this is a result of slackening of parental discipline, frequent changes of staff, or just the strain of war,’ wrote the Headmaster, ‘ let another decide.’ N S Good was Head Boy.

 

1945 – the School was trying to work out the consequences of the new ‘Butler’ Education Act. It was felt there might be a decline in numbers because of restrictions on the geographical spread of pupil intake. The abolition of the Preparatory Class and also the abolition of the Boarders and the broad mix of boys such a feature of the school would disappear – or so it was thought. Generally there was apprehension. ‘Such dire results could have hardly been in the mind of those who framed the Act’ wrote Dyer, who clearly wasn’t in agreement with the Act. Indeed the Prep Form was abolished but the not the Boarders. Hampden House was the grand winner of the aggregated points for the last 16 years of the House competition. After three years of no or little swimming due to restrictions the swimming pool was refilled. Speech Day was held in Thame’s cinema. The 6th Form had been larger than ever before and during the war students had helped in teaching. Mr Miller returned to teaching from the RAF. With the War over school-outings returned to Beaconsfield, Tring and Pitts Rivers among others. There had been 324 siren alerts in Thame during the course of the war but no boy had been injured and the buildings were unharmed. After VE Day, wooden screens, black paper and netting was taken down from the windows. The Apollo Society was founded. The Carol Service was held for the first time in St Mary’s. The 1st XI won all its fixtures.  C.J Craddock-Jones was Head Boy.

I make the following comments on my year’s at Lord Bill’s 1941-45 which were not particularly happy ones but not unhappy.

I was not the brightest of pupils which may have coloured my outlook for I thought Dyer was a tyrant! On the other hand Howard Brown (Pin in my day) and George Guest (Gus) were good. I am sure many ex pupils will remember the remarkable speed with which Pin’s hand could reach your cheek, it didn’t hurt physically but it did dent your pride. The rest of the staff appeared to change very frequently during those war years. These failings did not however prevent those more academically capable to rise to great heights.

 

1946 – it was now clear that whilst the School was jealous of its independence, there were insufficient funds available to maintain this state and the school buildings were clearly inadequate for any sustainable future. The Governors and the School’s Trustees saw that either the School must close or accept voluntarily controlled status under the County Education Authority. The former was unthinkable and the latter aroused suspicion among sceptics (particularly Dyer) that took the then Chairman of the Governor’s, Lt. Colonel S.E. Ashton, considerable skill to overcome. A full inspection of the School took place by the Ministry of Education. (The last was in 1934.) The Inspectors were in the School for three days, joining assembly and meals as well as classes. It was reported that all three inspectors had a sympathetic attitude. They noted the significant contribution made to the quality of the School by the ‘Out-County’ boys, and the large proportion of such boys in the 6th Form. In the eight years since the last inspection, 22 boys had gone on to University. The concluding remarks of their report said that the general life of the School was vigorous, that it had striven bravely to do the best for its pupils and better than many comparable schools, and that it deserved commendation. The School was given a half-holiday to celebrate John Quartly’s award of an exhibition to Sydney Sussex. His achievement reflected the growth in 6th Form work, something also noted by the School’s Inspectors who said ‘it was the most significant change’ since their 1934 visit. The John Hampden Leaving Scholarship Fund was renamed at the John Hampden War Memorial Fund as a permanent tribute to the 61 Old Boys who had fallen in the two wars. The main objective of the Fund was to assist past pupils and the descendants of those whose names appeared on the School Roll of Honour by making awards tenable at universities and other education institutions. No new school caps were available due to shortage of materials. The gas that was leaking from a main into the laboratories was fixed. The daily routine of the School was returning to more normal conditions, although there were difficulties with supply of new text books. Return of domestic staff eased problems in the Boarding House and boys no longer needed to assist with washing-up, though boot-cleaning, bed-making and the system of boys waiting at table remain in force. Pupils who left games clothes in the wrong places were fined: the money going to the Save Europe Fund. Mr B.H Bevan returned to the staff after 4 years away on service. There were no swimming sports. Summer term ended with a grand concert in the Cinema. The School now had almost a full compliment of staff and it was hoped all the previous problems would go. The Apollo Society was going strong and a Handicraft Club was formed. A party went to see the LSO play at the Central Hall, Westminster. There was no Founders Day Service for reasons not quite clear. The 1st XV played seven and lost 6. Outings were made to Morris Motors, Hazell Watson and Viney in Aylesbury, the saw mills and cement works in Chinnor. The number on the roll was 159 plus some sheep that appeared on the field. A young badger was also on the roll for a few weeks before it died. R K Harrison was Head Boy.

 

1947- by an instrument of Government dated 14th March, the School accepted voluntarily controlled status under the Oxfordshire Education Committee. It was said that university entrants were rare, rules severe and beating and bullying common – the weather for the Spring Term was also one of the worst on record. Fortunately the school was warm and boys were happier to be there than at home. The School was experiencing staffing shortages – though Mr B D R Kurt a graduate from Birmingham joined to teach modern languages. R K Harrison was invited to broadcast a piano solo on Children’s Hour, later the School Choir also sang in a broadcast. The Cricket X1 had a successful but rather uninspired season. Only 2 boys were taking A-Levels (then known as the Higher School Certificate) and 23 taking the School Certificate but there was a 100 per cent success rate and it was recorded that the standard had not fallen below 85 per cent for many years. Speech Day was held in the Grand Cinema, Thame. A C Dyer’s noted that the School was in dire need of a School Hall equipped with stage and screen – though also noting that the highest priority was man-power and boy-power and that industry was inticing away potential teachers coming out of the Services with offers of remuneration far in excess of what the teaching profession could offer. He noted that for the boys, many would still wish to leave Grammar School at 16 or thereabouts. During the summer holidays, Derek Briars aged 14 suddenly died whilst on holiday in Torquay – the Tamensian noted ‘atgue in perpetuum, Derek, ave atque vale.’ Mr and Mrs Briars made a generous gift the School of £25 representing the savings of their son. (A picture and books were bought with the money.) The School had a half day for Thame Show. Some thirty new boys had joined the school across all years. Boys from the Apollo Society saw the pianist Alfred Cortot play at Oxford. He was described as ‘ a small man, slightly round-shouldered, looking every bit his age…a parting down the middle of his grey hair and a grave face…there were no mannerisms about his playing, in fact the only movement in his face were his cheek muscles as he tightened and released his closed jaw.’ Late in the Autumn Term the School was closed for a week for the installation of a new boiler for the central heating – it should be noted that until the late 1950s there were no proper half-terms – though this included the day’s holiday granted to all schools on the occasion of the Royal Wedding. Mr R Miller was coaching the 1st XV who had a fairly successful season under P Mirams. The Carol Service in the Parish Church had established itself as a regular event after its start in 1945. To provide magazines for the Library all boys were asked to pay a termly subscription. Owing to the hot summer the leaves changed colour and fell to the ground much earlier than usual, and the winter of 1947 was the worst for a century. At the end of the year there were 156 on the roll.  W J Hide was Head Boy.

 

1948 – The Girl’s Grammar School was closed (with much local anger) and the girls transferred to what was now called Holton Park Girls Grammar School near Wheatley. Spring Term started on January 13th and ended on March 24th. Six boys were Confirmed by the Bishop of Dorchester on Palm Sunday. A slight epidemic of chicken pox hit at the end of the Spring Term. The first cricket match was played on May 8th against Magdalen College 2nd XI and the team went on to win six more. The school watched Oxford University play the Australians. In the Athletics the senior Mile was won in 5mins I sec by Savin. The War Memorial Tablet was unveiled on June 26th in the Dining Hall. The unveiling was conducted by Brigadier C A L Graham DSO. Speech Day took place on July 1st at the Grand Cinema in Thame and after nineteen years service was Dyer’s last. He reminded the audience that the local population of Thame wasn’t big enough to sustain a full grammar school and there would always be a need to keep the boarding house at full strength. He also felt that having a mix of boys from all parts of the country if not the world was an important component of education and he hoped the School would be a pioneer in exchanges. Summer Term ended on July 26th. The School Choir gave a broadcast from the BBC’s Birmingham Studio. The Camera Club was revived and made a trip to Thame Photographic Studios. The Apollo Society saw Shaw’s ‘The Arms and the Man’ at the Playhouse and ate ‘an inordinate amount of ice-cream in the interval.’ They also went to see Gone With the Wind at The Grand. Hugh Mullens joined as Headmaster of LWGS after Mr A.C.Dyer retired. This was seen as a ‘new start’ for the School. Although Dyer had undoubtedly raised the academic standards of the School, more had stayed on for a year or more in the 6th form, he was clearly not comfortable with the rapidly changing education environment. And whilst he had shouldered a lot of the teaching burden himself he was also known to have introduced petty rules, a strict disciplinarian, intolerant with younger staff and a martinet with the boys. Mullins came in with the goal of raising standards to the best of the public schools. Previously he had taught at King Williams’s College, Isle of Man where he was Senior Classical Master. His degree was from Keble College, Oxford. A Taylor and K M Clarke were Head Boys.

“Ronald Miller was an excellent teacher, approachable and imaginative and I found him helpful and encouraging. My memories of the other science teacher (Pin) Brown were quite different – my ears still ring from a fearful blow to the head, which he delivered for no good reason that I could make out.”

 

1949 – a new CCF was founded after a gap of some 20 years. Hugh Mullins had brought a new mood of kindness and humour in the School. This was also helped by Mr Mullen’s dog ‘Towser.’ Thame Secondary School was established as the Secondary Modern School, taking over this role from the National School. J E Sharpley was Head Boy.

In 2005 Rex Thomas who joined the staff in 1949 wrote: This may well seem a voice. I live many miles from Thame and am now in my 82nd year, so you would have every reason to believe that I cease to exist. I did write to your predecessor years ago, when I was Principal of the Sixth Form College in St Austell but I am now long retired and many of my contemporaries at LWGS are no longer with us. Thame was my first teaching post and Mr Hugh Mullins appointed me to teach history and run the CCF. I remember that Mr William Guest was Head of History and I can recall the names of Miller, Bagretim, Seal, Anderton, and dear old Dr Wolfe. There was also a young man named Peter More who took over the CCF from me, and of course, my great friend Don Wolley (who visited us over the summer), and a Cornishman Julyan Bunney, who taught physics and gave me very good advice so far as discipline was concerned. I expect you have never heard of these people but they helped me to begin my very happy life as a schoolmaster and LWGS remains a very happy memory.

 

1950 – Talks were held including ones on the Gold Coast, Careers Greece and Universities. OT B.A Ward held several gramophone recitals for the boarders. There were 174 on the roll. The 1st XV who had a poor season included Savin, Austin, Hawkes, Blunt, Bolton, Francis, Cooley, Maxted, Webster, Sherwood, Laidler, Welch, Bearne, Roberts and Bull. The Carol Service was held at freezing point in the Church. Those going to University found a mix of war-time veterans, National Service men, and boys straight from School as well colonial and overseas students. Mr Seal took a party of 5th formers to see Peggy Ashcroft in Twelth Night. In 1950, notes on the CCF reported the following: At the end of the Autumn Term we once again experienced an almost 100 per cent pass rate in two Certificate ‘A’ exams. The examining body congratulated us on the high standard of drill but we received some criticism on the map reading, which was rather weak throughout the whole company. During the Christmas holidays Cpls Blunt and Maxted attended a PT course at Figsbury near Salisbury. Both came back fighting fit and later Lieut. Thomas received excellent reports of their physical prowess. Many congratulations to Maxted who has been accepted for Sandhurst. Dare the Force claim any credit for his success? This term has seen regular parades on Monday and Thursdays, and help from Bicester has also taken a more regular turn. The Bren has been covered reasonably well but map reading still presents difficulties. What, however, must be watched is the Drill, which, lately, has not been up to the former high standard. Mr Vye has given some very useful lectures on the ‘Section in Attack’ and his instructions were put to the test in the Field Day Exercises. In very wet and muddy conditions, three sections practiced attack and defense. At last cadets seemed to have a much better picture of what was taking place, and consequently the schemes were less riotous. In past terms it has been difficult to know how to maintain the interest of post Cert ‘A’ cadets. Therefore these people lectures have been given on Jungle Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, and Chemical Warfare. The last of these was kindly given by the Headmaster. We have still found difficulty in arranging .22 shoots owing to the incalculable movements of the regular army but we are hoping for better luck in future. We are happy to say that Cadets Beecham and Poole are going to Malvern for a fortnights Engineering Course.

Boys who joined in Sept 1950 included G D Arber, A R Bagnall, A E Buckle, R Cadle, G V G Cornish, R Dawson, J M Goodger, D R Green, T A Harryman, D M Hawes, R W Hawes, M J Howells, I H Hurdle, P L Lock, W M Logan, C K Lewis, D P Nappin, C Nixey, J R Polden, C R Shurrock, M J Stevens, A R Tarr, D P Tysoe, G A Wells, D A West, R K Whitehouse. There were 174 on the school roll.Autumn term began on Sept 16th and finished on Dec 21st. Certain enthusiasts were still using the swimming pool until the end of term even though often ice had been broken before taking a dip. M J Brown was Head Boy.

 

1951 – Col. Ashton resigned from the Chairmanship of the Governors after 20 years but remained on the Governing Body. Another party was held by the girls of Holton Park School and 5th and 6th formers were invited. Reg Cadle joined as Head Groundsman. Thame had early closing day on Thursday, and this was the afternoon for sports at School. The School’s corridors were painted a dingy cream and brown. Thame Market was opened. Staff could play croquet on the Headmaster’s Lawn. The GCE examination system was introduced: there were 9 A-Level passes out of 16 entries, and 100 O-Levels out of 203. Mr Mullens agreed there was room for improvement. The 1st XV played ten, winning eight, and losing only to Oxford HS and Saracens ‘B’ XV. The State was spending less on education and Mr Mullins felt there was public dissatisfaction with the Grammar school product. Able pupils were too attracted to public schools, in his opinion and those more vocationally minded were being creamed off at the age of 16 to attend specialist colleges. M. W Blake played for English Schoolboys against Wales. R.F More joined the staff to take the place of Mr Anderton in charge of Geography. M.W Blake played in for the England Colts in both matches against Wales as a wing forward even though for the 1st XV he played hooker. A.D Maxton played in the trial game SE v SW. J Murray Grammer OT who was deeply connected with the Saracens presented the Grammer Cup awarded for goal kicking (Yearly he organised a Saracen teams to play the school.) At the end of the Autumn Term, the boarders held their Christmas Party traditionally known as The Feast. Both the Harrison Music Prize and the Syson Speaking Prize were awarded for the first time – both were donated by OTs, R Harrison and E.D Syson. There were 170 on the roll. The new General Certificate was taken for the first time. At A-Level nine passes had been obtained out of 16 entries and at O-level 100 passes out of 203 entries. The Stamp Club was revived by Mr More. The sermon at Founders Day was preached by the Rev H.C Joyce, the Rector of Appelton and an OT. P.H Francis took part in the British Schools Exploration Society’s summer exhibition to Iceland. A Savin was Head Boy.

 

1952: the School Magazine switched to one edition a year due to the ever increasing cost of production. A special assembly was convened to announce the death of King George and the Headmaster paid tribute to his memory and reminded the boys of his high ideals. On the day of his funeral, all Forms listened to the service on the radio. For the proclamation of Elizabeth, by the Chairman of the Council Miss J. Fanshawe, the whole school gathered in the Market Place. The Stamp Collectors Club was revived. The Play was Henry IV. The Cadet Corps was reorganised. M Blake was capped for the England Colts playing against Wales. A.B Evans joined the staff to teach History and English and to take charge of the CCF. 21 new boys entered the School in September. Thirty boys sat for O-Levels and took on average 6 subjects. The % pass rate was 73%. The examination results for the 6th Form were the best ever: nine boys sat exams and no-one failed to get less than two. Mr Mullins noted that a Grammar School is judged by its 6th Form and he viewed with alarm the invasion of Grammar School 6th forms by industry and the Services both of which offered training on 6th Form lines in their own schools. He suggested that the success of these was down to public dissatisfaction with the product of Grammar Schools. This he said was because the State had decided to spend less on education. There were 21 boys in the 5th Form and it was due to rise to 34. The 1st XV were only moderately successful winning 6 but losing 5. Madame Maria Santi Professor of Music in Milan and solo soprano in Rome Opera gave a recital of songs. A new shooting range was built. A Savin (the Head Boy) broke many long-standing athletic records in the School sports. A fund was started for Patrick Murphy who two years previously was found to have tuberculosis and then he’d developed cerebral meningitis which had left him totally blind and deaf. Various recitals were held at the School. C C Wedgwood was Head Boy.

 

1953 – 24 first years entered the School. Mark Hassall gave a talk to the Society of Antiquaries on a Romano-British pottery mold that he found at Horspath. The 1st XV were described as not outstanding and lacking weight and the side won 5 and lost 5. A string orchestra from the Bucks School of Music gave a concert, and old boy Robin Harrison also gave a recital. Mr More was married. Miss E Evans left as Matron. It was noted that nearly all the boys could now swim.

J Merry had a design for a model aeroplane accepted by ‘Aeromodeller.’ Mr F Seal produced Julius Ceaser as the School play and floodlighting was used for the first time. Mr Bailey put together a String Orchestra. RAF Halton gave a display of Judo and Ju-Jitsu. Robin Harrison gave a piano recital. A.C Hawkes won an Open Exhibition to University College Oxford. C.G Wedgewood was going to Keble. But 15 boys left after O-level and only six boys had taken A- Levels but overall Hugh Mullins thought he was making progress on raising the School’s academic standards. Mr Syson himself was one of the judges of the Syson Speaking prize. For the Coronation of the Queen the School closed on a Friday afternoon and reopened on Wednesday afternoon. Before the closure, all boys were given a talk on the meaning of the Coronation and its many ceremonies so that the service would have deeper meaning.

A tree, a deodar cedar, was planted by the Chairman of the Governors C.R.C Boyle and a new oak seat was provided by the Education Committee to be placed on the SE Corner of the cricket field. On Coronation Evening the School was floodlit – an event marred by the poor weather. Field Marshall Lord Wilson of Libya presented the prizes at Prize Giving held in the Grand Cinema in the town. Four boys were picked by the County to go All-England Athletics including two of the three Maxton brothers (three boys who dominated rugby and athletics in their time.) Mr Mullens reminded parents ‘that any Grammar School is trying to give a boys as good an education as a Public School’ and they should encourage their children by buying books. He also deplored the suggestion that Public Schools should be abolished and that ‘we Grammar schools should be left alone by social theorists.’ A trip was made to Whipsnade Zoo. R H Overell was Head Boy.

 

1954 – girls from Holton Park joined the cast of the annual play for the first time, though this was then discontinued until the 1960s. ‘A tous venaunts‘ was adopted as the School’s motto. Mr DJ Woolley left the staff after 5 years. He had reintroduced the cross country run and introduced the Road Race. He had taken charge of cricket and was himself a county rugby player. 11 boys left with A-levels compared to 6 last year, and 12 with O-Levels. 4 of the 6th Formers went on to University including R.H Overell and N Goldsworthy to Oxford. It was a ‘disappointing year’ for Wykeham House. The ‘7s’ side reached the final in the Oxfordshire Competition but were beaten by Lord Wandsworth College. The team were Harris, A.D Maxton, Rich, Clark, J.A Maxton, Merry and J.M Maxton. J.M Goodger played for England Colts against Wales. A.D Maxton came 3rd in the 220 yards in the All-England.

Prize Giving took place in July at The Grand Cinema. Mr Mullens said that there should be equality of opportunity but this didn’t mean that opportunities should be given to those incapable of using them. He deplored the latest proposal to create a new GCE in ‘plastering and puppetry.’

The School play was Coriolanus and was produced by Mr A Evans. Mr F.G Seal produced scenes from Le Bourgeios Gentilhomme. The X1 won all six matches, even though the weather was generally dismal. The Oxford City Police mounted a life-saving display in the swimming pool. Inspector Dust saved a very realistic ‘drowning man.’ The Sixth Form Conference was held at St John’s College Oxford.

The CCF went to annual camp at Windmill Hill near Ludgershall, but lost to the OTs in a shooting match. (The team was Clark, Goldsworthy, garner, Menham and Merry. The Scouts numbered 21 and it was decided to devote less time to games and more to work. The Librarian noted that the Shell Aviation News had a habit of disappearing. The Stamp Club had a record membership of 37 but it was bemoaned that elder boys gave up as they felt it was below their intellect. The Natural History Club visited the Natural History Museum in Tring. It was proposed that for the Quatercentenary a grand archway be built on the Oxford Road entrance to serve as a fitting entrance. J A Maxton was Head Boy.

Dr Wolf and the sound of Mr Mullins steel tipped shoes walking down the corridor, Mr Bancalari and math chaos; being bussed to who knows where on a rainy day and having to walk back to school without crossing a farmers field; challenging Rycote Wood School to a soccer and rugby game beating them at soccer and they would not play us rugby.

 

1955 – Mr Norman Lilley joined the staff taking over as Physics Master from Julian Bunney. At the time the Physics area was an archaic tiered lecture room cum lab with the walls lined with glass fronted cabinets containing apparatus ‘much and lovingly used for many years by John Howard Brown.’

There were no ladies on the staff. 10 candidates in A-Level passed in 19 exams; 20 O-Level candidates had passed in five or more subjects. 31 Scouts were in the Troop and M M Norton had attended the World Jamboree in Canada.

Any one remember when the boarders removed the works from the assembly piano. Freddie Seal (English teacher) sat down played the opening Chord for assembly and – nothing – I will never forget the look on his face. We paid for it though.

28 new boys joined in September. The Bishop of Nassau addressed the senior forms on life in the West Indies. Mr F G Seal who had been in charge of English since 1946 and who established the tradition of the annual school play, left to take up an appointment in Cambridge – charged with the organisation of evening classes in music and drama. For his leaving gift he was presented with a Parker pen set. Mr S S Frere of the University of London Institute of Archaelogy gave a slide lecture on Roman Britain. The 1st VX played 10 won 7 and lost 3. J M and A D Maxton played for Oxfordshire Schools and J Goodger for Buckingham. J M Simmie was invited to play in the final trial of England U15 side.

Ronald Miller somehow enabled me to pass my school certificate in biology in 1955 despite describing me as the most disruptive boy in the class.

Matters came to a head in 1952 when, returning to the labs from a violin lesson, I was told some riveting news by one of the kitchen staff. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends, Sewell and Woodward, on the back bench.

The “news” spread around the lab like the proverbial wildfire and, as the din grew, Miller’s ruddy complexion deepened until he exploded: “Todd, you confounded boy, how dare you disrupt my biology lesson once again?”  Before he could give me a gamma black mark, I slipped off my stool, stood to attention and said solemnly: “But, sir, the King is dead!”

And so he was. King George V1 had died in his sleep. I can’t remember what Miller’s reaction was, but I didn’t get the dreaded gamma; and my news sense eventually got me into Fleet Street via the Thame Gazette and other provincial papers.

In my day your father was a popular master with a generally sunny disposition but who, when riled, would tweak boys’ ears hard between his thumb and forefinger. His form of instant rough justice always achieved the desired result – his undivided attention – but would probably land him in court on assault charges today. I also remember him as a decent and enthusiastic cricketer who gave up lots of his own time to coach House and School teams, and he probably improved my batting more than my knowledge of sepals and stamens. I think he played for Thame, along with another contemporary, Mr. Anderton, who taught geography.

 

1956 –  Colonel Walter Roderick Griffith Bye DSO, OBE, MC died on March 8th. He’d been Headmaster for nine years before moving to Skinners School in 1929. He had arrived in September 1920 following the retirement of Dr Shaw from the Dragon School, Oxford. He was a BSc from London and a graduate from Oxford and in the nine years he was at the school saw through many changes. He had only retired from Skinners in 1954 after 25 years service but unfortunately he did not live to enjoy this well-earned retirement very long. He was survived by his widow and two daughters Barbara Bye and Elizabeth Jason-Henry.

Mr L Surendra joined to teach Chemistry and Maths,

The 7s lost to the eventual winning finalists Millfield School in the Oxford tournament – which now had over 30 teams participating.

Work began on the extension of the School building. As was usual for many years the School assembled in the Parish Church at the end of the Lent term to celebrate the Story of the Passion. The old changing rooms – which were previously had been the woodwork room, Form I room and once the Tuck Shop were pulled down with the plan to build within 12 months a new changing room with the Boyle Laboratories above. This was the first building project to have been undertaken since the School adopted Voluntary Control – indeed the hope that new buildings would be quickly forthcoming was one of the decisive reasons why VC status was chosen in 1946. Since that time nothing had been done and this was one reason why Mullins was so frustrated with the Oxfordshire Education Committee. In the meantime, the School had no assembly hall, the gymnasium was too small, and most classrooms were small and airless. Even the Bolye Laboratories were hit by financial restrictions that meant that they were being built tacked on to the existing building rather than acting as the start of new development.

The planned Quatercentenary Gateway to the School was discarded. Mr J G Birch left in July after two years as a House Tutor and PT Instructor. A D Maxton came 3rd in the All-England 220 yards. 11 boys had passed A-Levels; and 26 had taken O-Levels. T B Bradnack won an Open Scholarship in History to Keble College, the fourth such award in successive years. A M Bushell went on to Oxford. The School play was King Lear and had a cast of 24. It was produced by Mr A B Evans. 6th formers from Henley, Burford, Witney, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Banbury, Holton Park and Kingham Hill (the County’s grammar schools) got together for the one day 6th Form conference to discuss ‘Men Against Society.’ The CCF had 50 on its roll. Badges won by the Scout Troop included Firemans, Ambulance, Naturalist, Rescuer, Interpreter, Meteorologist and Master Swimmers – T N Barnard doing particularly well. At the July Prize Giving, Mr Mullins commented that he felt Grammar Schools had been neglected in favour of Secondary Modern schools and he pleaded the case for the small grammar school. Lord Saye and Seal presented the rises and spoke of the importance of happiness. A boy’s jazz band gave a concert at the end of term to the whole school.

In July the school roll was 172. The Scouts enjoyed a summer camp just outside the village of Bradwell.

Autumn term began on Sept 22 and finished on December 21st. Mr G Gould well-known as County Youth Drama Adviser joined the staff in September to teach English, as did Mr Bryon-Edmond to teach PT. A.G Enock, a peace campaigner in Thame and who was well-known to many boys, died. Recently he had donated 1,000 bulbs that had been planted on the bank overlooking the Oxford Road to keep, as he said, his memory green at the School. These bloomed for many years. 22 new boys came in at entry level – still called Form 2. The 1st XV had won 9 out of 12 games and A.D Maxton had played for the senior County-side. Others had played for the schoolboy side.

The Modellers Club was said to have helped relieve the boredom of many a border – though they complained that at times they found their models tampered and broken. A Physics Club was flourishing. Miss Spooner after a gap of many years returned to give a recital. A collection was made for the Hungarian Relief Fund and raised £28. M M Norton had gained his Queens Scout Award from the Chief Scout Lord Rowallan. The Stamp Club had 33 members. The Apollo Society had become almost defunct and it was proposed to set-up a boarder’s Nameless Society in its place, that it should be exclusive to the boarders until sufficient interest came from elsewhere in the School and that it should acquire a name naturally.

 

1957 – the 6th Form had 29 pupils. Jon Nelson joined as the new Headmaster as Hugh Mullins had left for the Headmastership of the Royal Masonic School at Bushey. During his nine years, the academic achievement of the School was raised to a remarkable extent, although it is known that he found it more difficult to raise standards than he expected mainly through the feet-dragging of the County authorities. ‘I cannot say honestly say that I felt at ease working under a local educational authority,’ he said, and he didn’t believe that such bodies were best able to guide and administer education. He also introduced Classics but strived to get the new laboratories built; he resurrected the CCF, and everyday had a morning walk round Moreton with his pipe and dog Towser. Pupils found him a man who cared deeply for them. He loved to play the piano. John Nelson read for his degree at Christ’s College Cambridge and had been teaching at Exeter School since 1947. He was married and had four children who raised the decibel level in the boarding school by some considerable extent.

William Guest left after 33 years service, as did C Bryon Edmond and L Surendra both of whom had short stays at the School. William Guest was a a legacy of excellence that affected pupils who spanned fifty years of education. He taught history took classes in gym until he was 60 and played rugby. Staff joiners included J Ferguson, A.F Cox, and M Hitchens as Assistant Masters. Overall their were around 180 pupils which was said to be the normal figure to be expected in a ‘single stream’ grammar school. It was thought the desirable maximum for Forms 1-5 was 30 boys each. Lt-Gen Sir Hew Fanshawe who had been Vice-Chairman of the Governors for many years died at the age of 96. CFH Jessup gained an open scholarship at Pembroke Oxford. Three other leavers gained entrance to Oxford showing how standards were improving. Several athletes and rugby players represented the County. Mr Gould mounted ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor.’ There were still no females in the cast, and the boys playing women were said to have pulled it off well. A fete was held for the first time in about 30 years. Opened by David Tomlinson, there was a Tudor Garden where ‘fair maidens’ could be found. One visitor was apparently quite taken by them and was sadly disappointed when told they were not maidens at all. Side shows aplenty were manned and the crowd were entertained by gymnasts, music, and being able to throw rotten fruit at wayward pupils.

The new Boyle Laboratories were built on time and opened by Chairman of the Governors, Lt-Col Boyle a descendant of Robert Boyle after whom they were named. It was noted however that the School still had no assembly hall. The Sixth Form Conference was held at Balliol. A-Levels exams started on June 20th with 19 6th formers entering, and O-Levels on June 25th with 28 boys entering 183 exams. In total there were now 35 in the 6th Form, the largest ever. The Liberian Ambassador visited as did Sir Richard Livingstone – who spoke of the importance of poetry as being an essential in education. The new film projector was put to great use including showing the whole School a film of the Olympic Games. A team of wrestlers demonstrated throws and holds in the gym but the only room big enough for Prize Giving was the Grand Cinema in Thame.

Mr Philip Cannon the well-known contemporary composer and, for several years Music Master at the School, gave a piano recital and lecture. CCF Camp was in Taunton. The Nameless Society was active with five meetings and ten members. 6th Form geographers went to Malham Tarn in Yorkshire. Rugby was played against Southfield School, Oxford RFC Colts, Rycotewood College, OTA, Abingdon School, Henley Grammar, Saracens RFC Gypsy XV, Burford, City of Oxford School and Magdalen College 2nd XV. The Archaeological Society came into being and members took place in digs at Verulamium and Lewknor – where a human jaw was found and then six Saxon graves. The local villagers were particularly keen on seeing the skulls.

 

1958 – the lay-by outside the School on the Oxford Road was built to act as a bus-stop. The Boyle Labs came into full use. The RAF section of the CCF was inaugurated – with 15 cadets initially joining. The CCF annual camp was held in Belgium and Norman Lilley took over as Commander. The intake was said to be more local than in times past: of the 46 boarders, 20 had parents permanently resident in the County; 6 day-boys came from Buckinghamshire, Thame accounted for 40 and fifteen came from Headington. It was felt that the School would keep its present size for some years to come. Of taking in girls? ‘The history and traditions of the School scarcely lead to consideration of that,’ said John Nelson. Towersey Primary School closed.

The large Shell/BP depot opened bringing more employment opportunities for leavers. Two Governors died: Herbert Walker aged 84 and A.H Smith, Warden of New College. Another fete was held in the summer and opened by the Children’s TV performer Mr Norman Shelley. Over 600 attended and weathered a thunder storm. Mr Gould put on a double bill: Antigone and Scapin; due to the bad weather one night, the performance in the outdoor theatre had to be abandoned and hastily and uncomfortably moved to the Schoolroom. Terence Barnard died as a result of an accident while on a course with the Army Physical Training Corps.

A cup was donated to the school in his memory and the Barnard Trophy was awarded for many decades to the best sportsman of the year. The 6th Form Conference was held over 4 days. 30 boys entered the School, 15 left the 5/L6th Form and 13 left from the U6th Form – 8 had taken A-Levels in French, Latin, English Lit., Greek, Geography, History, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology. O-Levels in addition included English Language, Art, Mathematics, Physics, General Science and Agricultural Science. Wykeham came top of the House Competition. The Javelin, Discus and Shot were introduced for the first time to Athletics Day – still held in March rather than the Summer Term as in more recent times. Three athletes represented the County at the All-England. All the swimming team’s fixtures were lost.

The CCF now boasted 72 boys in its ranks and an Air Section was formed. Cadets visited the Royal Tournament, Benson RAF Station, and the Annual Camp was at Emblem in Belgium. The Physics Society visited the BBC’s TV Studios at Lime Grove and on their return in the evening saw the live transmission of the drama they had seen being rehearsed during the afternoon. In November H.M Inspectors descended for a week led by Lady Helen Asquith. They found much to criticise and much to praise – they ensured that money (£400) was given to the Library and that the Dewey Classification System was used, and that it was clear that new buildings were needed. The ist XV had a gloomy season in part due to injuries. Two carol services were held: one in Thame and one in Chinnor that revived an earlier practice.

 

1959 – the Quartercentenary of the School was celebrated. The Quatercentenary Appeal was launched with the intention of raising sufficient funds to build a squash court. However, this proved too ambitious and instead The Memorial Tennis Courts were built, and opened by the Countess of Macclesfield. It had been hoped that the Governor’s would be able to persuade a member of the Royal Family to attend the Quatercentenary celebrations but this was sadly not to be. The School held the world premiere of ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ by Clemence Dane with a cast of Old Boys, staff, students and ‘ladies of Oxfordshire.’ Twelfth Night went on tour to West Germany led by Gerard Gould with 27 cast and crew. Cities toured included Munich, Frankfurt, Bad Homburg. Fifteen year-old Leon Judge died after a road accident.

Mr A B Evans had left at Easter for a teaching appointment at a Cambridge School, Mr Bancalari left in the Summer to teach at West Bromwich Technical College. Mr Ferguson went to Singapore to teach. M W C Hassall went to Magdalen College. 12 boys took A-Levels and 29 O-Levels. The annual prize-giving was held in the Open-Air Theatre. Mr Nelson made a number of points about the success of the School but also hoped that more boys would take-up science. The CCF held their annual camp in Belgium once again.

The staff at the start of the Autumn Term were Messrs Nelson, More, Miller, Bevan, Lilley, Gould, Pill, Feakins, Good, Anderson, Karsten and Handscomb. Subjects were fairly evenly divided between Arts and Sciences. However, it was noted that all schools were facing difficulties recruiting staff. The Scout Troop was reorganised with Mr Good and Mr Karsten in charge. Mr Pill founded the ’59 Society – a discussion and debating group. The Apollo Society toured Switzerland having been revived by Mr Gould. A new playing field near Cuttle Brook had been purchased, although there was a worry that it might spend much time under water. Also under water was the 1st XV who lost 11 out of 13 matches. OT Walter Myall was asked to paint the portraits of six old boys – these still hang in the Sixth Form Study Centre. School Prefects were Hassall (Head of School), Edwards, Hawkins, Jessup, Laycock, Shaw, Simmie and Williams.

There was some confusion over school uniform: “There is a tendency for a few boys to wear blue duffel coats. These do not conform to School Dress Regulations and will not be permitted.’ Also, it was noted that ‘Far too much time is lost through boys having routine dentist appointments in term time.’ In the Cross Country every fit boy had to compete rather than a team of 8.

 

1960 – The School roll had reached saturation point when at 200. The Education Committee recognising that the School was now turning away pupils announced that its aim was to institute a building programme with an aim to doubling the School size and having a two-form entry system. (Mr Nelson made the point that the School was struggling with inadequate accommodation and equipment and that the Secondary Modern schools were better resourced.) The Committee further accepted the Governor’s recommendation that to preserve the essential characteristic of the School, provision should be made to increase the size of the Boarding House to 90.

A start was made by repainting the existing classrooms with puce, blue and yellow paint. In addition, a new tie was introduced. Considerable updating of the school’s routine was introduced including the standardisation of period times, the introduction of detentions and the moving of Speech Day and the play from the Summer Term to the Winter Term – though this year was the last of the summer plays when The Taming of the Shrew was mounted. Mr B.H Bevan, who had been on the staff for 25 years left to join Head of the Arts Department at the Royal Masonic School.

11 boys took A-Levels in July and 26 O-levels but it was expected that within two or three years these numbers would substantially increase. Miss Stockton joined to teach music and Mr Fairlie to teach Classics and English. (Miss Stockton’s presence was said to have brought a wealth of feminine charm wafting through the celibate corridors.) The staff now were J Nelson, R.F More, R.I.M Miller, N.S. Lilley, G Gould, G Pill, J.F Feakins, N.S. Good, D M Anderson D.M Karsten and D.W Handscomb as well as the two newcomers.

Almost a 100 pupils were in the CCF, with 19 in the RAF section. The LWGS Press was founded after borrowing money from the Tuck Shop and Games Fund to purchase a small Adana Printing Press. Reg Cadle was promoted to Head Caretaker, and was just as famous for his Regmobile. The girls of Holton Park took the initiative to invite the boys to a party. 31 new boys joined the 1st Form. The 1st XV won 7 and lost 5. The new vicar of Thame the Rev R.H Faulkener took the Founder’s Day service.

The Apollo Society was now as strong as ever with talks, films and theatre visits (including Jeremy Brett’s Hamlet.) The Geographical Society had 30 members and saw several films of life in Africa and went on tour to Switzerland. A General Studies course for 6th Formers was introduced to help stop specialisation: the subject was Russian Studies.

The new Thame Secondary School (later renamed the Wenman School) was opened on Towersey Road by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire. It was built for £95,000 with accommodation for 300 pupils spread across eight classrooms and a number of workshops. The Headmaster was Geoff Chaplin. It took pupils from Chinnor School, from the old Thame Secondary School, John Hampden, Tetsworth and also a group of boys from the Secondary Technical Department at Rycotewood College. All pupils had to wear uniform: maroon blazers and grey trousers or skirts.

 

1961 – the summer was so dry that members of the 1st XI had to water the cricket pitch with dustbins full of water. A tennis team was reconstituted. Outings Day was introduced so that all societies could absent themselves for a treat. (Societies included the Apollo, Archaeological, the ’59, Physics, History, Geographical, Press and Stamp Club.) Both staff newcomers from last year left. 17 boys took A-Level and 32 O-Level. For Wykeham House it was ‘a poor year.’

A Parent’s Evening was held by the CCF so that parent’s could familiarise themselves with the activities of the cadets. The RAF Section went gliding, flew in Chipmunks and saw the prototype of the VC10. Arduous Training was held in Wales. In the Scouts, though, it was noted that too many were just turning up on a Monday evening looking for entertainment as if Billy Butlin were the Chief Scout. However, some went on a trek cart to the Norfolk Broads, taking the cart from Thame to Norfolk via London’s Underground during the rush hour. Another group of boys went youth hosteling in the Lake District. Speech Day was held for the first time in Autumn Term as was the performance of the play. Both took place in the Hall of the new Wenman School and no doubt the irony of this was not lost on those who had for a decade or more battled for new premises for the Grammar School.

New House came into being to deal with the increasing numbers of day boys. For the first time new boys coming into the School entered the 1st Form and not the 2nd – 32 did so on the 16th September. The School roll was now 204, the largest in its history.

B C Goodger played for the senior Oxfordshire Schools rugby side and M F Douch for the U15s. The first School Play to be performed in the Autumn Term (and in the Wenman School’s Hall) was Cerano de Bergerac and girls from Holton Park had been welcomed in to the cast, ‘the School apparently succumbed to the modern theory that female parts are best played by females. Whether this departure indicated mounting virility or declining versatility was uncertain.’ The girls who risked joining the cast included: Mary Stokes, Sandra Hanks, Hazel Groom, Jennifer Mott, Deirdre Connor, Ruth Slade and Doris Babb. That said, the production was deemed excellent.

The CCF rifles were stored in an arms chest in the open porch of the Boyle Building. Cpl Floey gained his Private Pilots License at Kidlington. A scout party visited Gilwell Park and the newly built Baden-Powell House in Kensington. The Apollo Society saw James Booth, Alfred Lynch and Donal Donnelly in The Caretaker. Another visit saw Albert Finney as Luther in the Osborne play. It was decided that Latin should only be studied by selected boys. The OTs beat the School 556-503 in the shooting contest.

 

1962 – Easter Arduous Training took place in the Malvern Hills – a tranquil part of England not well-known for its arduous conditions. ‘Party More’ went on a tour of Holland, staying at the Hotel de Laurier, Amsterdam. Another group went on a camping trip to northern France. A trip was made to Stevenage New Town and a talk on the value of these places; boys marveled at the smoke-free industrial zone, the car free town centre and the segregation of cycles. Films aplenty were shown. A Christian Society held meetings.

During the Summer Term demolition of the of the gym, CCF and Scout Huts started as a prelude to the new building programme. A major decision had been taken that most of the existing School would be used for Boarding House accommodation (and transform it from the 19th century) and that a new kitchen, hall, gym, library, sixth form teaching area and staff offices would be built where there was then a vegetable patch. This would also become the main entrance to the School. In addition there would be an art room built and the whole phase was scheduled to be finished by 1st September 1963 and at a cost of £90,000. This was called Phase One. Phase Two would be instigated as the School numbers expanded. A new two-story block of classrooms would be built on the end of the Library Wing and then connected to the Boyle Labs. Another house was bought on the Oxford Road to accommodate the increasing number of boarders.

Fourteen boys passed A-Levels – 5 in art subjects and 9 in science. 6 went on to University. In Form 5, twenty seven boys sat for 237 O-Levels and achieved a 76% pass rate. Twenty of them were going on to the 6th Form. For the first time selected Form 4 boys sat O-Levels in English Language, French and Maths. New House came 3rd in the House competition, this its first year of existence. CCF Summer Camp was held in Honiton Devon and the cadets left in lorries after a word from the Headmaster. In September a party of 38 boys went to Cullercoats on Tyneside – the rail journey seemed to be a nightmare.

The Play A Range of Passion – excerpts from Shakespeare – was once again performed at The Wenman. The Junior Debating Society was formed; History, Christian Physics, Geographical, ’59, Press and Archaeological were still going strong. M F Douch came within a whisker of gaining his England U15 cap. Prize Giving once again was held at The Wenman in November. The Apollo Society saw Laurence Olivier in Semi-Detached.

 

1963 – Mock A and O-levels began on 16th February. Dover and Dyball dead heat in the senior cross-country. A trip was made to Italy; another to Haute Savoie and a third to Austria. The 1st XI played only four matches and won none. In the GSE exams of July 1963 true to Mr Nelson’s prediction of three years previously there was now a substantial increase in the number of boys entering: 22 boys were awarded A-levels with 13 passing two or more; and 31 5th Formers had gained O-Levels and 25 4th Formers had sat for one or two O-Levels.

To be graded as a ‘swimmer’ a boy had to be able to swim one length of the pool and no more than 30 were allowed in at once. Costumes were to be dark blue or black, and before changing ‘all boys will go to the lavatory.’ Boys with Athlete’s Foot, boils or other sores were not allowed to swim. Messrs Pill who was emigrating to the US, Anderson and Feakins left. In July, 13,000 scouts participated in the 11th World Scout Jamboree in Greece, 1,500 of them from the UK and of them one, J Cohen, from the School.

The CCF was reorganised into just the Army and RAF and the entry level Basic contingent was dropped. The CCF also had a new hut.

In November, the Minister of Education opened a new School building costing £90,000. This was then the School Hall, gym, library and staff rooms. The Library now boasted over 2,000 books. Jon Nelson left at the end of 1963 knowing the School was on the ‘brink of a great period of expansion and development.’ He was going to Hutton. He had been a shy man but not aloof. He worked well with the Education Committee and he began Parents Evenings. He ceased to use the cane and he abolished caps for 6th formers. In the Boarding House he introduced bedside lockers, bright blankets, and colourful decor; breakfasts were made a quarter of an hour later and seven o’clock swims discontinued.

Peter More took over as Acting Head of School until the arrival of Geoff Goodall in Easter 1964; Mrs More became the Boarding House cook. Steam trains finally stopped running along the line to Oxford and one boy lamenting the demise of steam wrote about the love and respect that lay deep in his heart for steam trains.

The Tamensian Magazine for the first time accepting advertising: from Lloyds Bank noting that by age 28 the most ‘promising men’ should be on a salary of £1.075. Branch Managers at Barclays could earn £1,675 in their thirties. ‘The go-ahead life’ was in the Royal Navy. Local shops who took the plunge included Potters, O W Wright, Castle’s, Barley the Chemists, Bailey the butchers, Holland’s Dairy, Haynes Motors and Austins of Thame. The staff were now Messrs Goodall, More, Miller, Lilley, Gould, Fethney, Lloyd, Bolton, Good, Macleaod, Karsten, Handscomb, Brain, Vine, Barrett and Mainwaring.

The 1st XV and Colts excelled themselves, the former winning 12 out 18 matches and drawing three whilst the latter were unbeaten. Ian Dillamore had played fly-half for the 1st for five seasons. Smith, Hollifield and Alden were selected for the County U15. Founder’s Day and Prize Giving were combined on the same day – a practice that didn’t last long. OT Rev Eric Mathieson gave the address. A pop group performed at youth club and village hall dances and the Merry Bells at Wheatley.

 

1964 – A rugby club dinner was held for the first time – in March at the Churchill Arms, Long Crendon. Mr Gervaise de Peyer held a clarinet recital. Geoff Goodall and his wife Marion and family of three sons moved into the School in Easter and as it was the custom then also ran the Boarding House. They ‘inherited a tight-knit community of about fifty boys, all bright boys who had passed the 11 Plus.’ Geoff Goodall was a Londoner, studied at Haberdasher Aske’s Hatcham and read Modern Languages at Corpus Christi Oxford. He’d come from Uppingham School where he’d been Head of Modern Languages.

20% of primary school pupils were taken on.

Dinghy drill by the RAF Section in the swimming pool was always a summer highlight. There were 29 pupils in the U6th studying A-Levels, and 24 in the L6th. In both years there were twice the number studying arts than there were science. 7 boys went on to university which was thought to be the best result ever in one year; B Williams won an Open to Keble. Geoff Goodall predicted that next year there would be double the number going to university if not treble – though he noted that entry to University was getting harder. School examinations for Forms 1-4 were held in the Autumn and Summer terms.

Mock ‘A’ and ‘O’ levels were held in March. A party of 20 boys arrived from Kaufbeuren in Bavaria in July – they toured sites and also had the opportunity to meet girls from Holton Park and The Wenman. Thirty two bullocks stampeded across the cricket pitch and left deep hoof marks. Duty Masters in charge of the teams for Away matches were asked to tell the Headmaster of ‘any unpleasant incidents’ and keep a check on bad language, bad temper and foul play. CSE exams introduced. Those in detention or the Public Works Society could shift coke, weed the cricket pitch and scrub ‘birdie’ dirt’ from the CCF Hut. 13 boys won Life-Saving Certificates and all eligible cadets obtained their Army Proficiency Certificates.

I remember a superb holiday in Annecy in 1964 organised by Paul Lloyd, the French teacher, absolutely unforgettable. How he ever got us all across France on the train including the Paris underground is amazing. Norman Lilley’s arduous training trip to Snowdonia at about the same time was also excellent.

36 new boys now joined the 1st form. But also 4 boys entered at 12, 3 at 13, 1 at 14 and 2 at 15 – all of whom had previously failed their 11-plus. Henry Blyth joined the School to teach classics, and established the Pioneers as an alternative to the CCF and the disbanded Scout Troop. Temporarily, William Guest came out of retirement to help teach history. Ben Kerwood Mr Talbot were both staff joiners as was Mr Mainwaring who also came from Uppingham. The 1st XV played Uppingham the headmaster’s previous school as a warm-up match. The play was War and Peace. The staff and 6th form danced at Holten Park. The School voted Conservative on October 15th. Headmaster and sixth formers painted the Thame Church clock and made the national news. The 1st XV had 100% success but were knocked out in the 2nd round of the 7s. The team included Eason, Gerrard, Webbon, Legge, Douch, King, Mundy, Holifield, Dyball, Archer, Sneddon, Houghton, Smith, Coppock, More and Reeve. Art A-Level was introduced as was Music, German O-level; there were 17 societies and every boy had to belong to at least one.

The Headmaster noted that with the election of the Labour Government, a question-mark hung over the future of grammar schools and that one of the nation’s greatest assets would be destroyed. Not that he would resist change only that he didn’t believe in subjecting all children to the same one-size-fits-all education programme.

The railway station closed.

 

1965 – With the arrival of Geoff Goodall and the appointment of Bill Gilbert, music took off. Recently teaching of the subject had been restricted to Wednesday afternoon, taught by peripatetic teachers from Wycombe School of Music. The School orchestra of 19 players was born and the first major choir concert performed – Britten’s St Nicholas – with the combined orchestra and choir of Holten Park, Wenman and LWGS. A School Choir was reformed and started performing and soon was appearing at the Easter Concert, Founder’s Day, the joint Carol Concert and the school’s own Carol Concert. A madrigal group was formed. Highfield and Greenacre were taken over as boarding houses and over 100 boarders could now be accommodated.

Miss Major retired after eight years as House Matron. M.F Douch played for the England U19 XV against France. badminton, basketball and gymnastics were now added to the roll of sports taught and practiced. 28 pupils from the Wenman came for German lessons during the Spring Term. Members of the Royal Court Theatre came for an afternoon. Boys came from Le Harve to play rugby and a return match was played in France at Easter. Three boys represented Oxfordshire at All-England Athletics. Tennis never got going. Eric Dyball was the School’s first success at being accepted for VSO. The Headmaster noted that ‘O’ levels contained a ‘very heavy dose of stodgy fact learning.’ Nonetheless despite Geoff Goodall’s whirlwind transformation of the School into a thoroughly modern and 1960’s institution, punishments still existed – even if the cane was rarely used. These included:

– Extra duties in School House

– Handwriting tests with the copying of extracts selected by GG.

– Essay writing – approved titles only (see GG)

– Reporting at various times in different clothes – smartly

– Gating – boarders only

– Early bed-time and getting-up

– Running

– Cleaning of corridors etc.

– Gardening

– Rolling (the lawn and cricket field)

– Detentions

– Half-Term detention

– End of Term detention

– Send to H.M

– Removal of privileges

– Public works

The Public Works Society had a busy year. The boy with most detentions in a year was Gratwick with 18. A long way behind were Biel, Wildon and Maloney who could only muster 6 apiece. Warnke was a novice just learning the ropes in place of Southall, Ayres and Talbot who had all moved on. Masters had to act as duty masters one week at a time. They had to be on the premises from 8.40am to 4.30pm. Duties included overseeing assembly; touring the School during break times; making sure the Prefects were doing their job; ensuring the ‘lesson bells’ were rung on time; saying the opening Grace at lunch; supervising the departure of buses and day boys, and making sure the School was kept litter-free. 25 boys took A-levels with at least nine going on to University. Others 6th form leavers went into banking, surveying, teachers training college, the Royal Navy and one into commercial piloting.

Clive Hurst wrote a brilliant piece in the Tamensian about the 5 ages of school boy: small fry, bewildered and struggling with a hulky 4th former knocking off his cap; then cocky, relaxes and then finds he is packing-up with name mentioned at staff meetings. Now he needs all his energy to grow. The treble voice has gone and spots appeared. He can’t face puberty and prep at the same time. He knocks a small boys head off, jeers at Prefects and takes to beer and fags. Then O-Levels beckon and swotting all day – and much of the night. The crisis subsides and he’s in the 6th. Status at last. But after O-levels he wants to relax but hasn’t the money to indulge in fags and beer. He resists book reading. Girls appear on the horizon and the work becomes more taxing. Then the long shadow of A-Levels touches him and worries about university, college or just a good job engulf him. He has entered the age of doubt and he conflicts with parents and teachers. Pre-A-Level neurosis, the exams and then the wait…has he got the grades or not.

Over 1000 people came to the School Fete in July and over £500 profit was made. The Headmaster didn’t master the slippery pole over the swimming pool. A summer buffet dance was held for the first time for staff, parents, OTs and friends. 30 boys went to Denmark and Sweden in the summer.The Boarding House and its 60 boarders had new dormitories, a House Captain’s bed-sitter, two new Common Rooms with their own TV, Ercol easy-chairs, Heal’s curtains and even a coffee bar. The new prep room had a cubicle for each pupil – though one boarder complained that they were like stables, complete with trough. The Play was Hamlet. The Orchestra and Choir performed in Christmas concerts at The Wenman and Wheatley Secondary. Nearly 100 boys were learning to play a musical instrument.

Close to 40 boys were now in the 1st Form. John Foster joined to teach English as did Richard Adams. Technical Drawing was introduced for Forms 1 and 2 at their classes at the Wenman held on Saturday mornings. At Founder’s Day, the School Orchestra accompanied the hymns for the first time. Hugh Mullins and his sister attended Speech Day in December. In his speech Mr Goodall pointed out that part of the School’s job was ‘to resist the corroding influence of a world of pop culture.’ Four boys left in December to go up to Oxford.

 

1966 – This was the year when the School entered a glorious phase perhaps in some sub-conscious anticipation that its years as a grammar school were now numbered. Pupil numbers ballooned and along with that the diversity of opportunity that was offered them. M F Douch played for England Schoolboys against France and five boys played for the County. A Road Walk race was held for the first time from Long Crendon to the School. This was won by School House who, as was often the case, won the cross-country and the road race as well. Sir William Hayter, Warden of New College appointed Chairman of the Governors. There were 30 players in the orchestra and the Messiah was sung at Easter with over 200 singers and players. 17 went to university out of 28 leavers, 5 boys left at the end of the 5th year after ‘O’ Levels.

The Oxfordshire Education Committee had put together a plan whereby LWGS would combine with a newly-built but separate girl’s school on the site to form the senior half of a two-stage Comprehensive school. Numerous trips were made to Marktoberdorf for the first time to the Peter Dorfler Schuler – this was a new School , co-educational and specialising in music. trips included teacher and pupil exchanges and one large party from each coming over for visits. Cullercoats as well as gliding courses, the CCF camp at Malvern, and Arduous training in Snowden.

The 1st XI had what now was the usual mixed season: beating City of Oxford, Salesian College, Southfield, and Littlemore but losing to Cheney, Carmel College, the Old Boys, Cokethorpe and Aylesbury. A 3-week tour of Bavaria was undertaken with Hamlet, with 10 performances given at Ulm, Memingen, Immenstadt, Hohenschwangau, Marktoberdorf, Kaufbeuren, Icking and Augsburg. It rained of course, much alcohol was drunk and England won the World Cup while the party were there. There were day expeditions in March and July to over a dozen different venues from the Severn Bridge to the Royal Court. A BBC TV unit filmed classes. Dancing classes for the 6th Form were held at Holton Park.

A School Dance was held. 52 boys had speech lessons.A start was made on the Squash Court in April, with most of the work being done by pupils, staff and parents, and by July the court stood one foot above ground level. Mr J.E.J Brain left to take up a post as administrator for Dr Barnado:s Homes. Mr M.J Fethney left to become Head of History at Rishworth School, Yorkshire. Norman Lilley became a Lay Reader, Peter More a JP, and Henry Blyth a Labour Councillor (and there were now nearly 40 in his Pioneers.) Miss M Dodd, the Boarding House Matron, left. In September, over fifty boys joined the first form, whereas the year before it had been thirty-six. Another 25 joined in the older forms. However, whilst much is written about the good memories, there were boys who found that school was not always their happiest days.

A memory recalled: ‘On my first day I travelled to school on the blue bus. Within minutes of getting on I was pounced upon by an older boy. He grabbed my cap and ripped off the bobble. I was devastated. I knew how my parents had saved to buy the uniform and how they were proud that our clothes were always in the cleanest, pristine condition. At primary school I had been at the top of the pyramid. Now I had to learn what it was like to be cast to the bottom. It wasn’t long into the term when I started to be picked on by two brothers. One was in the second form and the elder in the fourth or fifth. Why I was picked-out I had no idea. Whenever they had the chance, they would jeer at me, call me names, push me around, and run-off with my brief case and cap. They weren’t physically brutal: it was more the constant drip of their verbal abuse and petty games. None the less it was debilitating and by October, I started to hate the thought of having to go to school. The bullying continued in to the Spring Term and, as is almost inevitable, others joined in. It was a Grandfather who told me that I had to put a stop to it. He had survived the 1st World War despite having fought in the Middle East, in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. Perhaps not surprisingly, he had what we could call today, a zero tolerance to any loutish behaviour. But most importantly, he told me that when it came to fighting, forget what you see in films, no one gives a lengthy preamble (like they do in those James Bonf films, he added) before sticking in the knife. You just do it. So I did what he taught me. The next time the younger brother came up to me, I didn’t threaten him by saying something ‘if you do anything I’ll hit you’, I didn’t even wait for him to taunt me, I just thumped him in the face. He had fallen to the ground and now looked up at me with a bloody nose and a look of complete shock on his face. I was never bullied by them again.’

Harris House came into existence, or at least re-founded as there had been a Harris House some years ago; the Houses were now Hampden, Harris, New, School and Wykeham. Messrs. Goodall, More, Gould, Adams, Foster, Wilson, Blyth, Lloyd, Smith, Kerwood, Bolton, Talbot, Mainwaring, Paton, Lilley, Good, Miller, Bourke, Duncan Gilbert and Mrs Constantine were the principal staff.

There were 74 in the 6th Form, 8 boarders in Highfield, 24 in Greenacres, and 26 school clubs. World Premiere of Noel Coward’s ‘Post Mortem’ performed. The 1st XV played a Headmaster’s XV, Aylesbury, Banbury, Burford, Cokethorpe, Bicester, Cedars, OTs, Dunstable, Littlemore, Henley, Borlase, MCS Brackley, Bloxham, Wallingford, and MCS Oxford.

13 musicians from Marktoberdorf made a visit in October. One of the School’s most distinguished Masters had died – the Rev J. Howard Brown. His life was celebrated at Founder’s Day. The Rev R.A.K Runcie preached the sermon that day. The orchestra and choir from the Peter Dorfler Gymnasium came in the Autumn. Two Tanzanian headmasters stayed for a short-while.

 

1967- Reg Cadle, groundsman and caretaker since 1951, died when he collapsed of a heart attack at the School. Two boys also died: Malcolm Craig of cancer at the age of 15, and Jeremy Mayner, killed in a road accident in Bedford – he was 12 and had attended the School for a year. Lt. Col S.E Ashton OBE., MA died. He had been a Foundation Governor of the School from 1921 until his death and was one of the most distinguished men to be associated with the School in recent times.

The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme was introduced, sadly many were finding the fitness tests hard-going. A Gardening Group was established as an alternative to both the CCF and the Pioneers. Summer sports were principally cricket and tennis, the latter played with matches against the OTs, Carmel, Salesians, Cheney, Rycotewood, and Holton Park.

There were trips to Lugano, Marktoberdorf, Snowdonia, Paris and to Lycee des Garcons, Belfort. For one reason or another, the particularly warm welcome extended at the latter was only to last for two years and by 1969, the School had found another French exchange partner. The Madrigal group was reformed with Holton Park, another example of how the School’s musical life was ‘expanding in leaps and bounds.’ OT Robin Harrison gave a piano recital coming over from Canada. The first ‘Listen and Play’ concert took place.

Charity collections were made for Christian Aid, Imperial Cancer, Red Cross, Poppy Day, the RAF Association, and the RNIB. Basketball suddenly became popular. RE was taught mainly by students from Cuddesdon Theological College. Champ, Mott and Shaw represented Oxon at the All-England Athletic Finals. C. Borsing had a poem broadcast on radio. In the summer, 24 boys took A-levels and at least 13 of them went onto university. The Foot & Mouth epidemic caused some disruption including the cancellation of the OT rugby match. The play was Electra and The Pretentious Young Ladies.

 

1968 – the School Council was formed to give pupils a voice on school matters. R I M Miller who had taught at the School for over 35 years (a record?) retired. John Foster left but was to return years later to take-up the Headship of the Lower School. Joint A-Level classes were held with Holton Park School. Hockey was introduced for the first time, as an experiment on the 3rd and 4th Formers – they won all of their six matches. The School did more than a long time for charity, raising money but also starting social visits to Stone Mental Hospital. The swimming pool was opened for summer holiday use. After a huge effort by boys, teachers, OTs and parents the squash court was built and opened – 711 days after the first nettles had been cut-down on the site.

The CCF was oversubscribed. School societies included the Art Club, Gym Club, Railway Society, Gramophone, Radio, Bee Keepers, Press, Chess, Stamp, Geographical, The Edmund Waller Literary group, Natural History and Mathematics (they made some polyhedral.) A record 37 boys took A-levels and at least 11 of them went on to University. One, Micky Way, joined Oxford United as a professional footballer.

The first trip to Tyneside was made – with the boys complaining they couldn’t understand a word that was said by the locals. They stayed at the YMCA in North Shields. Two editions of a poetry magazine, ‘Broadsheet’ were published by enthusiasts.

The Schools Gymnastic Team won the County Championships. P Daplyn and Chris Peters reached the All England School’s Athletics Championship Finals. Volleyball became popular. A dead fox was found in the swimming pool and subsequently skinned. ‘Julius Caesar’ was taken on tour to southern Germany – guitar-playing on the coach featured much Bob Dylan. The Terrapin blocks made their first appearance – a windfall from the Civil Defense Headquarters, Henley. Almost 60 entered the 1st Form. The wearing of school caps became optional. Colin Brookes joined the staff and the first dedicated biology lab was opened; and a smoke bomb went off in School House.

On the staff were Goodall, More, Gould, Adams, Wilson, Creaser, Blyth, Bradnack, Miss Riedl, Kerwood, Owen, Smith, Albert, Mainwaring, Paton, Lilley, Good, Lowrie, Brookes, Gilbert and Clibbon. Mrs Van Beers did speech training. The current rugby field was reacquired (it had been the rugby field some years previously but had then been given over for farm land.) Julius Caesar was the play. Boarders had two ‘Out-Sundays’ a term. The world premiere of Brian Kelly’s opera ‘Herod do your worst’ was mounted and conducted by the composer. Holton Park held a 6th Form dance. The Autumn Term ended at 4.00pm on Friday 20th December after the Carol Service in Thame Parish Church.

 

1969 – The School’s allowance for exercise and text books was £1,312 annually. To top this up, parents were asked to pay a £2 Amenities Subscription. In 1968/9 £190 of this was spent on books, £30 on replacement furniture, a £100 on coach bills for outings, and £183 on a vending machine. Richard Meyrick was the solo pianist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 performed at the Easter Concert. The Combined Choirs performed Honegger’s King David.

Residential courses were held in Easter at Patterdale and at Yenworthy. The School initiated an exchange with the Vinohrady Secondary School in Prague – just a year after the Russian invasion. The first school trip to Lisieux – to the College d’Enseignement Secondaire Michelet. A party of boys visited Florence, and another to the Peter Dorfler School Marktoberdorf. Mr Bradnack who had led the party there returned saying ‘that the trip was a disappointment in that too many of the party were not prepared to make a proper contribution to the success of the trip. Several seemed to do nothing but mock at everything and everyone and wanted to only to be released from certain restraints they found irksome in England.’ In turn, 28 singers from Marktoberdorf toured Oxfordshire and were hosted by the School.

The 1st XI won only three out of eleven fixtures. The tennis team was revived after being dormant last year. A summer fete was held to raise money for the School’s first mini-bus – the actor David Tomlinson flew in by helicopter to open the proceedings. The first Colin Brookes opera was staged – Iolanthe. On average, each Upper 6th former passed 2 A-Levels and 22 in total gained passes. (Only 5 though were definitely going on to University; 5 were to study at teacher training college, one at art college, one joined the RAF and the rest into industry and the professions.) The first ever ‘0’ Level in Aeronautics was obtained.

Richard Mainwaring retired from teaching due to injury – he’d taken the 1st XV to new heights. Over one four year stretch, the 1st XV only lost 4 games in 52. The summer Army camp took place at Malvern. In October, Carolyn Ward was the first girl pupil in the School’s 400 year history. The School staged the premiere of ‘Unman Wittering and Zigo.’ A dance interpretation of ‘Peer Gynt’ won the Oxford Playhouse school’s competition; the same group also performed at Eton. David Cann got a part with the National Youth Theatre. Pete Daplyn played for the South-West Schools XV. The 6th Form mounted an art exhibition at Thame Town Hall in an attempt to draw attention to Thame’s eyesores. A crew from LWGS helped Holton Park mount The Happy Prince. Graham Thomas played for Oxfordshire in the U15 match against Gloucestershire.

 

Graham Thomas was also on the Lisieux visit in 1969.
‘The omens weren’t good: as we travelled in a mini-bus to Southampton, the windscreen was smashed by a stone thrown up from the road. Fortunately, this was repaired just in time for us to catch the ferry, otherwise we would have had to pile into Richard
Adam’s bright red Triumph TR5 – thereby undermining the dashing image that I’m sure he wished to impress upon the local population. On arriving in Lisieux, we were shown to the dormitory. We checked out the toilets immediately – having heard disturbing stories about French loos. None of us had seen a bidet before and we were left bemused as to what its function was. Unfortunately, before we could make enquiries, one of our party decided to make good use of it. How can I put this delicately? Well the results of his efforts wouldn’t flush away.
A few days later we found a better use for the bidet: having bought a duckling in the local market, we needed somewhere to keep it. Yes, the duckling was quite happy swimming around all day in ever decreasing circles (until it was discovered and we had to take it back to the market.)
Howard Goodall was part of the group – not then as a Lord Bill’s student but he came with his parents. It was arranged that he could play the organ in the Cathedral. All I can remember of his performance is that someone pulled the plug as he reached the climax of a fugue and we were all left in bemused silence.
It was in Lisieux that I first tasted calvados – a vice that has endured ever since. We took trips to Caen, Honfleur, the Normandy Beaches, Bayeux and Deauville. I had dinner with the Mayor’s family one night – M. Jean Marie Le Saout – memorable for his wine, three beautiful daughters and, sadly for me, despite my best tongue-tied linguistic gymnastics, that I made no positive impression on them what so ever.
Last year, for the first time in 38 years, I returned to Normandy and as we drove through Lisieux I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to those three girls who lived on bd Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny.”

 

1970 – Richard Procktor arrived to take up the position of Director of Studies, ready for the fusion of LWGS and The Wenman. Mrs Betty Sadler also arrived as our first Senior Mistress, Miss Stevens to teach maths and Miss Limbird to teach biology- suddenly the School was alive. The Oxford Road site became a building site. Harris House and School House came together as one. Some 14 of the Upper Sixth boys went on to University and three were planning to go St Lukes, Exeter.

Colin Brookes started Thame Youth Theatre. Four of the County U19 XV were from the School, as were three of the County Cricket XI. Pupils represented Oxfordshire at golf, and England for sailing. One group of boys went to see Ravi Shankar play at the Royal Festival Hall and had the treat of seeing George Harrison in the audience. The Easter Concert’s highlight was Brahms German Requiem conducted by Miss H B Jones the Head of Music at Holton Park. J B Kerwood conducted the String Orchestra; there were over 50 pupils playing in the Combined Schools Orchestra; and over 150 in the choir.

Rehearsals for Patience, Colin Gilbert’s second operatic production, started in April. Each member of the cast were given a set of rules including:

* When you are not rehearsing keep away from the stage so that set construction may proceed unhindered.

* Don’t wear muddy boots for rehearsals.

* Once in costume, you must not leave the dressing room until called.

* Do not do your own make-up without permission.

The cast was 49; crew were 29 and the pianos were played by Mary Blyth and Bill Gilbert.

Those who took part or were in the audience possibly will never forget Colin Brookes’ Bunthorne, Richard Adam’s Calvery, and Richard Stevens as Lady Jane.

A tennis tournament was resumed after some years of lapse and sixty boys entered. However, the only victory for the School-side was over the OTs. Chris Sinfield won the Oxfordshire Junior Table Tennis championships and Will Cooke the tennis. The 1st XI cricket pitch was moved to Highfield after nearly 100 years on its current site. A summer swimming season ticket cost 5/-.

In the 6th Form, General Studies encompassed options for Engineering at Rycotewood, Dance Drama, Music, Horticulture, Current Affairs, Economics and Computing, and typing. However, as they weren’t compulsory 6th Formers could just go into Thame for a coffee. 8 pupils from local Secondary Modern schools joined the 6th Form, and 8 entered the 5th Form, a prelude to the change to come the next year. Clubs and societies included the Photographic, Beekeeping, Canoe and Mountaineering.

A party went to the Proms in September: the second tier box seat cost 14/. When the Centenary of State Education Exhibition opened in Westminster, Lord Williams’s provided two features: one on music and the second on drama. Social life revolved around the pubs in Thame. During the 60s and 70s a favourite crawl was the Six Bells, the Abingdon and the Birdcage. Packets of Number Six or JPS were brought from the off-license at the Rising Sun – remember the smell of boiled cabbage. The back room of the Saracens Head was another bolt-hole far away from prying eyes. For those more adventurous, the Lions at Bledlow was popular – did anyone sample all the whiskey? (Only Oliver Reed we think). In Wheatley the funky cool Sandpiper was a favourite. And in Oxford, the Chequers off The High.

The Annual Dinner of LWGS RFC was held in the Churchill Arms, Long Crendon. Mike Smith was Captain.

The school play was Ross, with William Cook taking the lead. For the first time in many years, Gerard Gould stepped aside and the production was directed by Colin Brookes. The Oxford Times called it a ‘safe production’ but called out Martin Hutchings performance as the Turkish General as ‘most worthy of note.’ The Thame Gazette were more generous and had a headline proclaiming ‘Grammar School actors triumph.’

The Oxford Playhouse Company performed a played called £LsSdD that dealt with the two temptations facing youth at the time – either to join the rat race and earn lots of money or to drop out and take drugs. Whatever the audiences pont of view, they ended up dancing and clapping in the auditorium. The December Carol Concert brought together performers from John Hampden, Chinnor Primary, Holton Park, The Wenman and LWGS.

 

1971 – At Easter, boys visited Marktoberdorf, Lisieux and a group from L6th went to Yenworthy with a group from Holton Park apparently to study fields. In January and March a joint staff meeting with the Wenman took place so that staff could begin to get to know one another and talk about issues to come. The Easter choral production was the Faure Requiem. In July, the final academic year of the School as a single-sex grammar school came to a close. 51 boys had taken A-Levels, with at least 15 of them planning to go to University. 53 Form 5 boys had taken O-Levels and 35 from Form 4. O-levels had also been taken in technical subjects such as Geometric Drawing and Engineering Workshop Theory as well as CSE’s in Chemistry, German, and Mathematics.

Macbeth toured Germany – the last time such a tour was undertaken – 9 performances were given in 19 days and 2,000 miles travelled by coach: 38 boys, 4 girls and 3 teachers. One boy was left behind in a Munich hospital at the end of the tour suffering from an inflamed lung. He was given enough money for a flight home.

The Pioneers came to an end and metamorphosed into ‘Social Services.’

Girls arrived when LWGS joins the Wenman and becomes LWS – a Comprehensive – in September. Overnight the Upper School leapt to 480 pupils from 320 the previous term, and these included several girls who had been persuaded to join from Headington School. In total there were 900 pupils of whom 80 were boarders. There were over 70 staff split across the two schools and fourteen of these were new members of staff. Pastoral care was seen as very important and both Upper and Lower schools were divided into four houses further subdivided into tutorial groups of 20-30 pupils.

The School’s facilities were hardly complete and chaos and mud ruled. But everyone coped. The school leaving-age was raised to 16 but with the demise of LWGS, Saturday morning school (and Saturday detention) had ended for ever. Girls were instructed that jewelry wasn’t allowed other than wristwatches, crucifixes and plain rings. Neither was make-up allowed. If blouses were nylon then white underwear had to be worn. These regulations didn’t seem to apply to the boys. There was no longer any intake of 11 year-olds from the Headington/Wheatley area but solely Thame/Moreton, Chinnor, Emmington, Sydenham, Aston Rowant and Tetsworth.

Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize winner and the greatest living woman scientist in the world, addressed Speech Day.

The School was the first in the country to embark on CSE European Studies. Soccer returned to the school as a major sport. The first girl prefects were appointed: Nona Hawkins Smith, Jane Andrews, Catherine Fowler and Fiona Smith. Bridget Thompson became the first Head Girl and she noted that the male prefects forsook swearing in the presence of girls and particularly her.

Rehearsals for the next summer’s The Mikado started in October. Mike Samuda took over the running of Thame Youth Theatre as Colin Brookes wanted to concentrate on his opera productions. They are the things that keep me sane, he was quoted as saying.

The Goodalls moved out of the Boarding House into the next door Warren. The School was emptied for Outings Day: 1st, 3rd and 4th formers went to London; the 2nd Form visited St Albans, the 6th Form were split between punting in Oxford and a ‘Twelfth Night’ performance in Stratford. It was decided that only 1st and 6th Formers need attend Founder’s Day. In the 1971 census, 68% of Thame families owned one or more cars, and 44% of residents worked outside of Thame.

The school day started at 8.45 and ran through until 4.00. There were 8 periods of forty minutes each; a break in the morning and lunch ran from 12.40 until 2.00. On Thursday periods were foreshortened and from 3.30 until 5.00 CCF and Social Services were held. The U13 XV played Aylesbury, Dragon, New College, Bicester, Cedars, Peers, Abingdon, Kingham Hill and Banbury.

 

1972 – with the increasing numbers of pupils, building work was seen all over the School. But first, Rooms 5 & 6 were demolished. A Craft Centre opened, as well as a Music School. The first-ever Senior Girls Hockey XI won their debut match, and then three others. The CCF made a youth hostel trip to the Wye Valley; a Confirmation Service was held in February. Pupils went to Yenworthy, Kilvrough, Lisieux, Marktoberdorf and Otmoor. The Easter Concert was Bach’s St John’s Passion. There were ‘7s’ at Littlemore, Banbury, Oxford and Rosslyn Park.  A Party went on Baltic Cruise to Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and Leningrad. Pupils by the hundred went to see the Tutankhamen Exhibition.

1,500 people came to see The Mikado. Tickets for the last night sold out within two hours of going on sale. Eight L6th formers paddled by punt from Oxford to Windsor to raise money for Christian Aid. Staff leavers at the end of the academic year included Tony Albert and Mary Limberd. Graham Rogers gained 4 As at A-Level and two distinctions at S-Level. School journeys to France, Germany, Leningrad, Holland, Wales and Devon. The Girls Netball Team finished second in the Icknield League. ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ was the School play this year.

The 3rd Year go to Kilvrough. Six pupils were playing for the County Youth Orchestra; David Mosely was chosen as Principal Flautist for the National Youth Orchestra. Graham Thomas was awarded an RAF Flying Scholarship. In sport, the School dominated County sides T.Syratt and Willie Cooke reached the England U19 trials; 7 of the School were in the Oxfordshire U19 XV; a record 9 were in the U15. 6 played for the U15 cricket, 4 for the U19 soccer.

Dance Drama was proving to be a huge success with the influx of girls. Mrs de Pencier retired as School Secretary. A visiting American teacher said ‘you have here in your school a veritable Shangri-la. How lucky you all are.’ Two 5th Formers commenting on the first year of the School being Comprehensive noted a wider range of activities, new sports, and the fact that the girls had taken over the boys changing rooms. However one 6th Former declared that the ‘character of the School was dead’. He continued ‘one now looks back and remembers such events as Founder’s Day and the Old Tamensian’s Days as highlights – for they underlined the real character of the School. To carry on such traditions, in the half-hearted manner that we do today, is an insult.’ Another noted that the girls were ‘allowed to wear anything they like so long as it’s not see-through.’ This might have included rather short-skirts and long black socks that came up to the lower thigh. However there were no reports of hot-pants being worn.

In fact, Founder’s Day that year was as traditional as ever, even if not all the school attended. The Service was led by  The Lord Bishop of Dorchester. The first hymn was ‘Christ is made the sure Foundation’, followed by the Act of Commemoration, the singing of Psalm CXI, the Lesson, the ever rousing hymn ‘For all the Saints, prayers, an anthem, the Sermon, The School Hymn, prayers, the Blessing and finally the National Anthem.

School assemblies were reduced to one a week. The split site was proving very difficult for those staff who had to drive back and forth between the two. Cheshire and Bannister were the Lower School Houses. Over the last few years, in the ‘Old School’ Harris had been the House champions consistently, with New as runners-up closely followed by Hampden or School, with Wykeham limping behind. (New House has c120 pupils.) The catchment area for 11 year-old pupils expanded to include the Buckinghamshire towns and villages of Long Crendon, Shabbington, Chiton and Brill. Older pupils could come from all over East Oxfordshire and even Oxford itself.

CSE Dance was introduced. There was a 1st and 2nd orchestra, and musical tuition cost £3 a term for most instruments but £6.30 for piano and violin. Each year, the School offered a boarding place for one or more music scholars with the possibility of total remission of fees. Gifted musicians were encouraged to attend the Saturday morning Oxford Music School. The RAF Section boasted 40 in its ranks, with a similar number in the Army Corps.

 

1973 – The Spring Concert was Britten’s Spring Symphony. Rugby was played in the Winter Term and in the Spring Term football took over. To fill the gap for those who wanted to continue playing rugby, Wheatley RFC and Chinnor RFC began to recruit players from the School.

New Boarder interviews took place in May.

In 1966, over 50 first formers had entered the School, presumably with the ambition of staying to the 6th Form. Now, seven years later in June, the number of A-Level students was 46. (Not all, of course, had stayed at the School and in 1971 numbers were swelled by the influx of girls but this was reckoned to be a pretty good retention rate.) GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels began on Monday June 4th. Over 80 fifth-formers took O-Levels. Long-time Classics Master Henry Blyth left to become a Research Fellow at Reading University.

School dress rules were relaxed and full uniform was no longer worn. (Graham Thomas, the 2004 OTA President, led the 2nd February hour-long meeting when agreement was reached to abolish blazers and jackets.) School expeditions travelled to Algeria, Germany and France. A group from Marktoberdorf stayed for ten days. 4th form girls went on a weeks course at Bath. Colin Brookes mounted ‘La Vie Parisienne’ and 1,200 came to see it. Rehearsals for this summer production had started in January.

Girls participated in Sports Day for the first time.

There were close to 80 full-time staff members split between the two sites. A group go to see Concorde at Fairford; another to see England v Scotland at Wembley. 6th Form Geographers undertake a course at Yenworthy. Trips were made to RSC Stratford, the Royal Festival Hall, Oxford Playhouse, Wembley Stadium, Imperial War Museum, Science Museum. The 4th Form went to Boulogne for the day. There was a sketching weekend in the Lake District, canoeing in Swanage, and a climbing expedition to North Wales.

The RAF Camp was pitched at Kinloss and the Army section went to Malvern. Breaking away from the G&S tradition,  the summer musical was La Vie Parisienne. OT Robin Harrison brought the Canadian Arts Trio to the School. A barbecue was held in the Upper School for parents, OTs and 6th Formers.

The summer term ended on Friday July 20th at 1210 pm.

George Martin, Head of Craft at the Upper School, took two 7-foot long saws to Gambia and a selection of wood carving tools to donate to local villages. Chamber music was flourishing under the guidance of Nick Thorne. Erik XIV was on stage; an adult ticket cost 40p and a student’s 25p.

 

1974 – The Christmas Carol Concert was held in Rycote Chapel. Speech Day was held for the first time in the evening – John Wain was the speaker. Societies included Field, Mountaineering, and Debating. Romeo & Juliet was mounted and this year Colin Brookes put on ‘Free as Air.’ At Lower School East, ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Joseph and his Amazing…’ were performed. The 1st XV won eleven out of thirteen games, drawing one and losing…to Aylesbury GS of all teams. Andy Barrett at Lock was an England trialist. The tennis team won four out of eight. In soccer one game was lost out of ten and in cricket three out of thirteen were lost with three draws. The Ist XI girls hockey had a mixed season and seemed to rely too much on long drives rather than doing their own running.

Favourite places for skiving off during the afternoon: The Malt House and the Bay Tree. How long could a pot of tea last? (The Malt House is now a private house, and the Bay Tree an Indian restaurant.) Former Headmaster Hugh Mullins preached at Founder’s Day and among the congregation was Miss Fitch, the daughter of Dr Shaw, headmaster at the turn of the Century. The Field Society was formed to study nature. The Mountaineering Society practiced at Aylesbury and Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham – the nearest place to Thame with natural rock. The Debating Society was reformed but suffered from lack of interest. Nigel Cooke and Madeline Hutchings were lovers…in Romeo and Juliet. The staff numbered over 90; the biggest single department was English. 22 members of staff had studied at either Oxford or Cambridge. Over 50 pupils took A-Levels. 120 were involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Ben Kerwood left after 10 years teaching history to go to York University; another popular teacher Brenda Stevens also left; and Miss Edmond who ran the kitchens for 14 years retired to Long Crendon. The school paid for the education of a Rhodesian girls at a cost of £80. Trips were made to Lisiuex, Marktoberdorf, Spain, Northumberland, The Chamber Choir under the direction of Robin Nelson took a weekend in Norfolk and played two concerts at Sheringham and Blakeney churches.

 

1975 – six players were selected for the County soccer side and the 1st XI beat the OTs. The CCF was taken under the wing of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Two students from the RAF section flew to Malta on an RAF flight. A record 5 pupils gained entry to Oxford (Baker, Goodall, Hathaway, Taylor, Woodford) 53 took A-Levels and in total 42 6th Formers went on to further education. Over 100 fifth formers took O-Levels and 7 passed in nine subjects. 45 fourth formers gained O-Level passes. Greek reappeared on the curriculum. PE Master Dave Burgess maded the Oxon County rugby side. Susan North became the U18 Judo national champion. The Mountaineering Society went to Italy to climb Piz Badile and Monte Legnone, and another group went to Italy for a ‘classics’ trip, staying in the Pensione Acropili next to the Railway Terminus. It was reported that the girls enjoyed the Italian’s male ‘chinorum urendum’.

To celebrate the 400 year link with New College, Berlioz’s Te Deum was performed in New College Chapel, and an exhibition of archives relating to the School was mounted. The Dance Drama group performed in the Roundhouse. The Chamber Choir toured Norfolk. Soccer, rugby, netball, rounders, cricket, hockey and tennis all had school teams but many of the school’s sports trophies were stolen.  Lower School West was officially opened in October by Miss Joan Lestor, Under Secretary of State for Education. Afterwards, tea was served in the dining hall. The first Head of West was David Carr. The Review was Free as a Bird. Staff leavers included Trevor Cooper, Gill Hoad, June Osbourne and John Shortall.

Every Monday morning, there was a massive assembly for the whole of the Upper School. Everyone stood as the headmaster walked on to the stage and the Headmaster and other staff would address the crowd wearing their academic gowns. Min and Peter Kingham were selling newspapers, stationary, toys, cigarettes as well as albums from Gregorian Chant to Led Zep – and singles only cost 49p; all this from an ad. in The Tamensian. The Red House Bookshop, Wright’s Bakery, West’s, Masque knik-knacks, Towersey Timber and Garden Services, Honour the Esate Agents, Newitt the butchers, Angus Fire Armour, Prices Garage, Seal Seam Sports, Barley the Chemists, Martin and Silver the outfitters, The Malthouse, Robert Gatwood Jewelers, Harold Smith Sons and Daughters general antique dealers, Potters, and Thame Mill Laundry were other local advertisers. Those who joined the RAF as a university Cadet could be on £1,474 per annum.

The School was now ‘associated’ to the Oxford University Dpt of Educational Studies and received an eager flow of teachers to be. There was a House Music Competition – won by New House’s brass ensemble. Jamie Manager was selected to play for the South of England U19 XI and won the Guilfoyle Trophy as the best U19 County player. William Guest who taught at the School for over thirty years until 1957 died.

 

1976 – this was not the happiest year for Oxfordshire Education: disputes within the County Council, controversy among parents and industrial action all caused concern. The decision not to build a secondary school at Chinnor was leading to the School’s roll growing and the Headmaster commented that with all the (13) temporary buildings the site was looking like a shanty town. Perhaps not surprisingly vandalism was an issue. The parents were told by Councillors that if they waited until the mid 1980s, pupil numbers would reduce again. Alarm bells rang about the fate of Uplands as it was rumoured it was surplus to the School’s needs and might be used as a hostel for Prison Wardens. Nonetheless. a start was made on building a new teaching block.

35 pupils from LWS visited Holland. Colin Brookes put on ‘Oliver’. Tickets cost 50p for Wednesday and Thursday rising to 75p on Friday and Saturday. Some 30 pupils went on to study at university. REC Procktor, the School’s Director of Studies left in July to become Headmaster of Oxford School. The Chamber Choir toured East Anglia over the summer. The Syson Centre, the new Biology Complex named after OT Eric Syson was opened on October 23rd.  The Winter Term production was Antigone by Jean Anouilh. LSW put on an adaptation of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ with music by Hoawrd Goodall. James Manger played cricket for England School boys.

 

1977 – the roll passed the 2,000 mark in September and entered a select group of just 13 schools in England and Wales. However, Geoff Goodall was at pains to point out that big isn’t bad and that in many ways the school was better than the one he knew in the 1960s: there was a broader curriculum including over 32 subjects to chose from in the Upper School. He noted that O and A level results had improved substantially and in greater proportion to the rising numbers since Grammar School days. More pupils were going to university and more to Oxbridge.

On the down-side he noted that he now didn’t know every pupil personally; the sense of a tight school community had gone; the Upper School couldn’t assemble any longer, and an exclusive atmosphere of cloistered calm was no longer possible. The staff were exhausted, not helped by the daily travel between sites. There were 4,000 lessons every week in the timetable.

Somewhat interestingly, at a Depertment of Education Conference in York, Geoff Goodall presented a paper that commented: ‘with 2,044 pupils, the staff are near breaking point from over work and excessive expectations. The pupil teacher ration had worsened to 1:18.5…’

Six girls won 3rd Prize in Embroiderer’s Guild exhibition. Four pupils went on sail training.

In July, the school took a full part on the Thame Jubilee Celebrations: work was exhibited at the Arts and Craft Exhibition in Thame Town Hall; a float joined the Carnival Procession, and the School had a stall at the Jubilee Fete on Thame United Football Ground.

Mr G Chaplin the head of LSE and formerly of the Wenman Secondary Modern School retired to his home in Long Crendon. He was replaced by John Foster who had first taught at the school as a young teacher back in 1965. He had meanwhile been Head of English at Redefield School and had also made a name for himself in the education publishing world.

The School had its first girl sailor on the Malcolm Miller – Sue Wright sailed across the North Sea from Newcastle to Bergen.

Gerard Gould’s last production was Cavalcade – a marvellous triumph. (John Foster noted that the best Gould productions had been Romeo and Juliet, Erik XIV and above all Macbeth that towered over all.) A full-up production of Free as a Bird was put on with book and lyrics by Richard Adams and music by Robin Nelson. The CCF went orienteering in Thame Park and camping in the Chilterns. The 1st XV won 11 and lost 8. Howard Goodall composed music for the LWS production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

 

1978 – Jackie Kiers, who had introduced dance to the School when she joined in 1969, was involved in a serious car accident and spent a considerable period of time in Stoke Manderville. The School was in the top half-dozen in size in the country and the building programme was unable to keep pace with the increase in numbers. More and more teaching was taking place in ‘Elliots’ and ‘Terrapins.’ Thame’s population stood at 7,500. 48 pupils went on to Further Education on leaving the 6th Form including 8 to Oxbridge. Gerard Gould left, a great loss to the School and a teacher of great inspiration to many. Chris Wragg also left as did Sheila Wallace, Phil Parkinson and Simon Perry among others. Sixth formers went to Italy. Peter Dorner and Catherine Youens got through to the England Athletic Championships.

The School took part in celebrating the twinning of Thame with Nontron in France, and also participated in Thame Carnival, including providing the Carnival Queen and two Princesses. The School Tuck Shop was closed at lunchtimes as too many pupils were buying lunch there rather than using the canteen. Eventually it was closed completely following a spate of break-ins. An Easter Concert was held in New College Chapel and included Durifle’s Requiem. The Lord William’s Singers sang in the ante-chapel of Magdalen College. Lower School pupils went to Nontron and Kilvrough. Les Price caretaker at LSW died.1st XI won 5, drew 3 and lost 2.

 

1979 – Geoffrey Goodall left the School having joined LWGS as its Headmaster in 1964. Sir William Hayter described him as ‘Lord Williams’s second founder.’ The 1st XV won the U19 Oxfordshire Cup. Over 300 platers were involved with rugby on Founder’s Day. The annual concert was ‘The Messiah.’ Uplands was created to provide separate facilities for what were called ‘difficult’ pupils – those with behavioural or learning difficulties. LWS went to the Dolomites. The 1st XV became County Champions. ATV devoted an hours programme to the School and televised ‘Star.’

Does anyone remember when holding hands was banned in school? Someone leaked it to the press and the next thing we knew, a TV station helicopter was landing on the rugby pitch! It was on the local news that night. The TV crew interviewed several pupils.The real reason that ‘holding hands’ was banned was because it ‘might lead to other things…’, as one of the teachers had found a couple having sex on the cadet rifle range…

Peter and Simon Crowther were tragically killed after watching the start of the Tall Ships Race. The Chamber Choir sang in Merton College Chapel. Fireraisers was the play and Almost a Music Hall the …musical. 106 pupils gained five or more O/CSE Grade 1 passes. Over 30 6th formers went to University including 4 to Oxbridge. Richard Wise represented Oxfordshire Badminton at U19 level. The 1st XI soccer had a poor year put down to temperament and attitude on the field. The 1st XI cricket were unbeaten. Rosalie Parker played Netball for the U18 County side.

 

1980 – the Girl’s 1st VII Netball team won the County Championship and reaching the National Final. The U16 VII were criticised for their sense of responsibility and lack of commitment. Rachel LeMesurier was in the England U18 Squad for for both hockey and cricket. The 1st XV won the U19 Cup – again. Enid Fitt died – she’d been LSW’s first Senior Mistress. Jackie Kiers left to work as a freelance teacher, dancer and choreographer. In A-levels there were 230 passes out of 320 entries with 77 at A or B. 80 boys were in the Boarding House.

A full orchestral version of Carl Off’s ‘Carmina Burana’ was mounted. The LWS musical The Last Battle was composed by Howard Goodall with help from Rowan Atkinson. 30 members of the West choir toured the Isle of Man. Tim Rice presented the prizes at Speech Day. Geoff Goodall noted that in the opinion of the Warden of Radley LWS was one of England’s best schools but that ‘we must do better.’ He also noted that the Boarding House was still a nucleus in the 2,000 strong school community and that even in the middle of dust or mud storms they were optimistic for the future and not in the least complacent. Mr More’s old office was converted in to a Ladies. Gerald Clarke left after many years teaching as did Dave Burgess and Jackie Kiers.

OT and concert pianist Richard Meyrick gave a recital. There were over 100 teaching staff: 13 alone taught English, 7 taught History and Social Sciences, there was one RE teacher, 11 PE teachers and 7 in the Remedial Education department. 11 teachers taught Modern Languages and the same number Mathematics. There were still 2 teaching Latin and Greek. The biggest single Department was Science with 17 staff. Familiar names that stretched back for up to two decades included the Principal Geoff Goodall, R.F More, John Foster, Betty Sadler, Richard Adams, John Fulkes, Gerald Clarke, Dave Burgess, Jackie Kiers, Mrs Kiggel, David Bradnack, Norman Lilley, Norman Good, and Colin Brookes. The school was given a Honeywell 61/60 computer. This allowed pupils to programme in BASIC through VDU terminals and also operate in FORTRAN and COBOL. This was the first time that pupils in the School could operate a ‘real’ computer on the premises.

There were four winners from the School in a national design exhibition. The debating society flourished as did the Sailing Club that had a fleet of 5 ‘Fireflies’ and came 2nd out of 11 in the Oxon School’s Regatta – Maxwell Reid won the major individual title. Cpl Beverley Rowe in the CCF consistently proved she could out shoot all the boys on the Schools miniature rifle range. Gliding Wings were won by Anita Webb, John Powell and Doug Gruchy. The Ski Party went to Aprica. Ruth Peddell, Judith Wright, Racheal LeMesurier, Emma More, Jon Cooke and Tim Fraser all had berths on the Malcolm Miller.

13 members of the U6th travelled to California, DisneyLand, Grand Canyon and San Francisco. The English Departments Day Trip for 5/6th Formers went to Dorchester. 120 A-Level candidates achieved a 75% pass rate. Plans to redevelop the Old Grammar School met with local ire and the 1st form in LSE mounted a concerted campaign to stop the proposals being accepted. LSE also went to Kilvrough, Lisieux and Northumbria and LSW to Nontron. The Girls 1st VI tennis did well; and Lynn Gedwyn captained the County in hockey.

 

1981 – Bill Gilbert retired as the longest serving music teacher – after 27 years. In his final year, he mounted the ‘St Nicholas’ a repeat of the first ever choral performance he had put on at the School in 1965, and which had established the tradition of an Easter Concert. Roma Cole retired after 16 years of teaching Home Economics. The new library ‘The Pagoda’ was opened. The LWA Sixth Form Centre Appeal was launched. There were 2,000 pupils and 113 full-time staff. A 380Z microcomputer was purchased. Geology and Archeology were taught at ‘O’ Level during lunchtime sessions. Thursday afternoon was still ‘societies day’. Trips were made to Italy, Germany, the USA and France. Julian Steele won the Arthur Alexander Beethoven Trophy for piano-playing at the Leamington Spa Festival. New labs were opened and the Sports and Arts Centre was being built. ‘Linear Motion’ a rock group of current and ex-pupils played in the School Hall and Reading’s Top Rank Suite. The A-level pass rate was 85%. The Lord Williams’s Association ran three dances, a jumble sale, a race evening, an antiques day and a Christmas Draw to raise money. The LSE Fete Princess competition was won by Larissa Waring.

 

1982 – the new Sixth Form Centre opened by Baroness Young. Also the new Thame Leisure Centre a sports and arts facility shared between school and community opened despite snowdrifts. There were now school clubs in badminton, gymnastics, basketball, table tennis and indoor cricket. The school won the first Annual Thame Pancake Race. The sixth form was made up of 6G, pupils who’s intention was to remain in School for one further year to improve their qualifications or gain personal development before going on to college or employment, and the traditional Lower and Upper Sixth on an A/S Level course.1st XV were County U19 Cup Winners for the second year in a row; and the U15 won their County Cup.

Adrian Pritchard, the first ever married Head of Boarding House, arrived accompanied by wife Liz, a daughter Thomasin, two dogs and a cat. Robin Nelson left for Malborough College as Director of Music. The 1st XV and the Colts toured Ireland – well Cork. A 1st VII were invited to play in the Rosslyn Park Tournament as well as in the Oxon &s. The Netball VII were County Champions and played in the All-England Finals. Norman Lilley retired after many years as Head of Science and running the CCF. He’d joined the School in 1955. Peter More also took early retirement as the LEA were keen to reduce costs. He’d joined the School in 1951 and finished as Head of Upper School. His replacement was John Lockyer, who was Director of Studies.

For the first time, Colin Brookes didn’t mount a full scale summer musical. At A-Level more ‘A’ grades were achieved than ever before whilst at ‘O’ level the largest number of pupils ever achieved 5 or more Grade C or above passes.

A new school exchange was established with the Friedrich Ebert High School, Bonn. There was worry expressed about the way government seemed to be tacking education, and wanting to take even greater control as well as introducing some notion of privitisation. Under Milk Wood and Becket were two productions. There was an ‘India’ week. Italy was also popular: a trip was made to Montepulciano; the annual ski trip to La Polsa.

For the second year running, a national compueter award went to the school: 16 year-old Simon Lincoln won a competition by writing a programme to calculate the amount of curtain material required by a customer.

 

1983 – At the beginning of the year the school won both the U19 and U15 rugby cups. In netball, the !st VII were again County Champions. Norman Good who joined the staff in 1959 retired, as did Marion Wierzyki, Pat Wood and Eric Pollard. There were now 300 pupils in the 6th Form. The School boasted a Chamber Choir, an orchestra, a senior choir of 80, a jazz group and a concert band. A new tuck-shop was opened. Six students were in the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra. The CCF was flourishing; there was the usual smart turnout for the Founder’s Day Guard of Honour, and the highlights of the year continued to be the camps. There were ski trips and one lucky group went to Sri Lanka. A ‘China Week’ was held. York Mills Collegiate School, Toronto were guests. A rugby tour was organised to Hull. Six hundred pupils represented the School in various sports; 5 played for the Oxfordshire U19 soccer side. Hampden won the House music competition. A 24-hour music marathon raised money for Ethiopia, and also a sponsored 24-hour Shakespeare read – where eight plays were completed. A School Exchange was started with a school in Montepulciano, Italy. R I Miller who taught at the School for 35 years until his retirement in 1968 died.

 

1984 – the County Council begin discussion to move the whole school to one site on the Oxford Road. IT education (or computer education was it was then known) began to appear. The School was worried about numbers dropping to 1500 in the 1990s and the affect that would have on funding. George Martin retired – an ‘institution in Thame schools’. Colin Brookes mounted ‘Sixty Plus’ – a musical tribute to 1960s. (The most popular act were the rugby heavyweights ‘Supremes’ and John Green’s striptease.) Trips were made to Bonn, Dorset, Woodlands, Foppolo in Italy, and Russia.

In the annual ski trip Adam Clarke broke his leg. 30% of Fifth year pupils achieved 5 or more O/CSE Grade 1 passes; seven pupils were successful in gaining Oxbridge places. 31 pupils went to Bonn. The Cricket 1st XI were National Semi-finalists. There were a number of County-wins in badminton. The boys tennis team claimed the County Knock-out Shield, and the girls, who won all 19 matches, came 3rd in the County Tournament. The U17 girls cross country team retained their hold on the South Oxfordshire Cup. In hockey, the Girls U15 represented the County in the South of England Top Teams tournament. The 1st V11 rugby won the Oxfordshire RFU Cup. Miss M.E.C (Betty) Edmond died. Edward Loftus who had joined the staff in 1904 reached his century.

Roger Lewis who joined the Wenman in 1963 as Deputy Headmaster retired. Richard Priestley left to take up a new post as a Deputy Head in Essex. The Old Grammar School building was in a state of total disrepair. The School raised money for the NSPCC including a ‘mufti day’, a disco, desk cleaning, and a sponsored horse ride. 50 actors and dancers put on Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. It was hoped that the 6th Form would take ‘greater interest in intellectual discussion (instead of social chat), and a more positive attitude to the use of private study facilities.’

 

1985 – David Kenningham succeeded Peter Wells as Principal – there was gap before DK joined and this was ably filled by John Lockyer. After 17 years at the School, Robert Adams left for the West Coast of the USA. Margaret Galletly also left. LWS was the only school featured in Channel 4’s ‘Divided Britain’ programme. The School played Wesley College, Perth at cricket. The LWS dance company Rococo performed at the Merseyside Fringe Arts Festival, and performed at the Hexagon in Reading in front of 1500 people. Joely Hayes had a story printed on ‘Just Seventeen’. The current Head of 6th Form, John Fulkes was Mayor of Thame. Michael Beech and Paul Cheetham respective Heads of History and English spent a year teaching in the US; in turn August Miller and Janina Murphy came over from Massachusetts.

James Whittle gained a place in the National Youth Theatre and Hal Fowler in the National Youth Choir. There was a two-week exchange with a school in Montepulciano in Italy. The 1st XV had a disasterous season, losing 11 games out of 16 played; the 2nd XV lost 9 out of 14.; the U15 lost 5 out of 8. However the 1st XI had a good run. The Boys tennis also did well and claimed the County Knock-Out Shield for the first time ever. The A -Level pass rate was 75%. LWS had a new Head after several years of ‘acting heads’ – stand-up Keith Schurch. Sir William Hayter retired as Chairman of the Governors – a hugely influential figure in the development of the School. He donated the funds contributed for a leaving present to found the Hayter Travel Award.

 

1986 – Gerald Howat, Tamensian editor, School Archivist, sixth form interviewer and wonderful supporter of school cricket retired. (Much of the information here comes from his archives.) David Bradnack, after 20 years at the school, also retired. Liz Gwynne served the school for 24 years before retiring. Other staff leavers included Nick Sudbury, Helen Fail, Norman Foord, Pam Boswell and Henryk Cettler. Daphe Lawson, one of the cooks also left after many years service. Jane Bugg succeeded Sir William Hayter as Chairman of the Governors. Sylvia Donald was appointed Head of LSE. Princess Margaret visited LSE. Laura McAllister was selected for the England Judo team. There was a teacher’s dispute over low pay and it was noted that the Government appeared totally out of sympathy and contact with state education. An African Heritage Exhibition was mounted.

The Old Grammar School building was restored by Estates and General Investments plc as an office complex. The Cricket Pavilion was battered by a hurricane. It was announced that GCE/CSEs would become a single GCSE. The A-Level pass rate was 78% with 38 Grade A passes. There were 765 O-Level passes. 45 CCF cadets attended summer camps – it was Peter More’s last summer camp after serving for 28 years with the contingent. Jackie Kiers published ‘A Change of Rythem: The Conseuqences of a Road Accident.’ Godspell was mounted by Colin Brookes. The Letitia Makepeace Company unveiled its debut show. The East Oxfordshire String Orchestra was founded. The Combined Choirs performed Brahms’ Requiem.

For the first time Founders Day attendance by anyone at the School was voluntary.

John Fulkes was confirmed as Head of Sixth Form, and had also been elected as Town Mayor of Thame.

 

1987 – the divide between the Lower Schools East and West was readily apparent: ‘we think the East buildings are pretty drab’ ‘we Westies don’t mix with the Easties’ ‘the people there aren’t very nice to us’ ‘East smells of disinfectant.’ There was a Swiss Expedition to Val D’Herens. HMS Pinafore was performed for 2 nights by the staff. In the Boarding House, lights-out was at 9.15pm for first years and 11.30pm for sixth formers. Prep was from 6.00-8.00pm. The Headmaster Mr Kenningham confessed he’d used corporal punishment in a previous school but thought it a bad thing. The first exchange with Marblehead School in New Hampshire took place. Kent Opera conducted opera workshops. James Jones, John Lockyer, Linda Cookson, Jim Hunt, Elenore Williams, Paul Cheetham were staff leavers. Gary Yates played table tennis for England Cadets. In October a trip was made to Montepulciano in Italy. In exchange, the Italian students had this to say about their stay: ‘I don’t like early dinner very much.’ ‘In Italy we work much at School. English pupils have many breaks between lessons, they don’t spend their lesson time very well and therefore have to study in the evenings.’ ‘You have more exams, more subjects, more breaks but less hours in lessons.’

 

1988 – Gold’n’Blue, the LSE newspaper was first published. The 3rd Form visited the battlefields of Ypres. In drama, the Upper School moved away from blockbuster productions to more studio work. Over 30 visits were made to theatre productions. A 6th Form Christmas Fair was held. Colin Brookes took over as temporary head of the Boarding House. The large Dormitories 1 and 2 which were home for 18 to 20 boarders apiece were converted into smaller rooms, each holding 2 or 3 boys. A/S level Government and Politics was introduced, as was the wonderfully unappetising Technical and Vocational Education Initiative – a means of allowing students to follow a more balanced arts/science mix up until the age of 16. Richard Wright a member of the LWA and who researched and redrew the School’s crest died. Rob Ramsay who had taught at the School since 1972 retired.

The year marked the 20th anniversary of the exchange with Lycee Marcel Gambier,and a reception was held at Lisieux Town Hall with the mayor. The Principal of the Lycee who set-up the exchange, Monsiuer Monhait retired. One exchange pupil complained about having to get up at 6.30am every morning to eat pain au chocolate, chocolate biscuits, chocolate cake and drink hot chocolate. Mind you school dinners in Thame were chips, chips chips with hot-dogs and hamburgers. ‘We’ll grow up to be fat’ commented one first year. There were four sets of identical twins in the School. Volleyball was introduced. The Lower Schools had trips to Bayeux, Kilvrough, Belgium, Juniper Hall, and London. The U13s won the soccer County 6-a-side tournament. Six boys gained County selection at cricket. Three girls were in County U16 hockey side. Louise Halstead was studying at the Junior Department of the Royal School of Music.

The Combined Choirs Concert in the Sports & Leisure Centre, over 200 singers sang Haydn’s ‘Marie Theresa.’ New reports were introduced which because, as one student wrote, they ‘were very time consuming’ to write meant that parents would now only receive one a year. Local artist Paul Amey turned the School’s litter into art. Carol Roffey, Tina Guthrie, Jane Smale, Jon Smale, Patsy Dudley, Dave Seddon, Lucy Sales, Alan Powell, Graham Stowell were all staff leavers.

 

1989 – The then less-famous novelist Philip Pullman gave a lecture as part of Book Week at LS East. John Foster, who first taught at LWGS in 1965 and who, after a gap teaching at Redefield School, came back to become Vice Principal, left to become a part-time advisor in English. The Girls U15 hockey side won the County Championship and were runners-up in the South of England Top Schools U16 tournament. On the new National Curriculum, a group of 4th formers wrote, ‘we feel that the new National Curriculum is taking away our freedom of choice, and guiding us, and sometimes forcing us into doing subjects we find difficult or boring.’ Clive Lambert became Head of West.

 

1990 – Brian Daniels, 17 years teaching at the School, retired, as did Rosemary Gill who was Librarian for 20 years.

Bridie Sullivan left to teach at Wheatley Park. Ken Maginnis and Michael Hestletine were visitors. Greenacre and Highfield were closed after serving as Boarding Houses for 25 years. The remaining boys were housed in School House. A student observed that on their Nontron Exchange trip, that the ‘French eat completely different food and their meals last much longer. The English usually grab a bite to eat and then go and sit in front of the television.’ A Bonn Exchange trip took place; others went camping in Wales.

The Gold’n’Blue newspaper won a Certificate of Merit in the Daily Telegraph School Newspaper of the Year Competition. Thame Youth Theatre’s Senior Group put on a special gala performance of Musical Musical in aid of Victim Support at the Apollo Theatre, Oxford. Sixth formers were sent on a two day induction into industry with 21 different companies taking part, one as far away as Uxbridge.

 

1991 – The Boarding House closed, the end of a 400 year old tradition – Ellen Rudkin was the last Matron and Steve Warren the last Boarding House Master. (In the final year only 25 boarders were left.) No more getting-up at 7.15am for a cold shower. The School adopted the new nationally agreed nomenclature for Years e.g. the Fifth Form became Year 11. Some first impressions of the School from Year 7s included ‘this school is big’ ‘the timetable was confusing’ ‘too much homework’ ‘the teachers are boring’ and the ‘school dinners were nice.’ Year 9 went on a visit to first world war battlefields and cemeteries. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme was reintroduced.

The girls U13 Hockey team reached the National Finals.

The 1991 Tamensian magazine was the 168th edition. William Howe attended the School in the 1950s. Tragically he died from leukemia whilst still a pupil. In 1991, his father left in his will a substantial bequest to the School to benefit students engaged in the arts. In addition, a further bequest was made to Headington Quarry Church – the parish where the Howe family lived. One result of this legacy is a beautiful stained glass window which features the essence of the seven Narnia stories (C.S. Lewis is buried in the church’s graveyard) and the coat of arms of the School. The ‘A’ Level pass rate was 91%. The school was picked out to be one of only four Oxfordshire entries for the Observer Good State School Guide – an entry ending with the word ‘impressive.’

The School featured on the BBC programme The Shadow, comparing English and French teachers and teaching. Staff leavers included Ben Abbott, Alan Brannan, Colin Brookes after 23 years of service, Les Lowther and Sheila Manners. A Fitness Week was held. Work experience took in places as diverse as a fire station, Windsor Safari Park, and the BBC. On the Bonn Exchange, 25 fourth years missed their plane when the coach that was supposed to be taking them to the airport failed to turn-up. A Day Nursery was opened in Uplands providing care for children aged 5 weeks to five years. The 6th Form Year Book was published for the first time.

 

1992 – with the closure of the Boarding House, the long awaited dream of a Foundation Centre becomes possible. This would be the focus for 6th Form studies, and the Old Refectory would become the centre piece library and study centre. The School play was ‘Taming of the Shrew’. A 6th Form ball was held. The overall pass-rate at ‘A’ Level was 93% and over 70% of students went on to higher education. The stay-on rate into the 6th form was 70% and in total there were 360 6th form pupils – the largest to date. The School was favourably reviewed in the Daily Telegraphs Good School Guide as having good teaching, good results and excellent pastoral care. The Netball VII came second in the Oxon Tournament. The XV won the Oxon Cup crushing Henley College in the finals. Paul Kettle was selected for the Junior Olympics Ice Dance squad. Highfield, Greenacre and The Warren were put up for sale. The Saracen’s Head closed. Up until the late 19th century it had belonged to the School and in the late 20th century was a popular drinking hole for the older pupils.

 

1993 – the Foundation Appeal was launched in March with the target of raising £250,000 over the next five years. New College put up for auction the Elizabethan Chest that belonged to Lord Williams to raise money for the School – it fetched £6,000. Head Girl Mary Jane Bugg died suddenly in her sleep.

I remember the days at Lower School when the hills dividing the field and paved area were called the Teletubbie Hills (as named by Mr Ross Howitt-my tutor 4 3 yrs and a P.E teacher many girls adored)I spent many a P.E lessons doing litter picking around the school when i had conveniently 4gotten my P.E Kit ‘cos i really didn’t want 2 wear all the gear 4 the part of goaly n hockey.ARRRHHH!

The U15 rugby side amassed 502 points to only 66 against in 16 fixtures. Gareth Davies Year 13 came 2nd in the trials of the British Schools Judo Association and was reserve for an international. Nine girls played for the County at netball. Years 8 and 9 participated in a Kathakali Workshop. Uganda musicians played to West classes and assembly. 56 musicians and singers went on a tour of the US. Thirteen students took part in an exchange with Lycee Van Gogh on the outskirts of Paris; Year 9 pupils visited Lisieux. Prison Officers from Bullingdon Prison visited the School bringing riot gear, handcuffs and batons. The History Society was launched by 6th Formers.

A No Smoking policy was established for everyone throughout the campus. This was Thame Youth Theatre’s 5th year in its present guise as an integral part of the School – it had first existed way back in the late 1960s, and visits were made to New York, the Edinburgh Fringe and a dramatic production of The Passion was mounted in St Mary’s. Of the 120 or so 6th form leavers, close on 70 were going on to read for a degree but Sarah Bell was the only Oxbridge entrant. Margaret Ridgway spent a week at Birmingham University sampling student life as a way of seeing what student life was like whilst still at School.

 

1994 – a £3.5m development was begun at Lower School East so that the teaching of all 11-14 year olds could take place on one site. At the Upper School, the Old Refectory had been converted into a well-resourced Sixth Form library with every effort made to retain its unique and historic character whilst improving the facilities. Heritage items such as the paintings of Old Boys presented at the time of the 450 Centenary were restored, as was the School Crest. A Business Education Suite was in the process of being completed on the first floor. Boarders’ bedrooms were converted into staff offices. New male, female and disabled cloakrooms were installed next to the reception area – this itself created from a grant given by the LWA. The car park was enlarged. In the meantime, 6th Formers were helping at the Chinnor Autistic Unit.

The first ACE (Active Curriculum Week) was held. Design students in Year 13 had a week-long work experience with local firms. The Nexus Society (a language Society) was formed. Staff and students of Fox Lane High School, New York came to the School. Six pupils were selected for the U16 County XV; and seven were in County netball sides. It was noted that the 6th Form was attracting students from the private sector, with 20 joining this year. There were 310 passes in A-level. Almost 80 students went on to take degrees. The U16 netball side won the Beazer Homes Trophy. Around 300 people attended the Founder’s Day service.

The Symphony Orchestra and Chorus tour Paris and perform in the Pompidou Centre, and music was thriving as never before with tours, barbershops, the Consort of Crumhorns, Chamber Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Requiems, and a Brass Quartet. There were six major dance and drama productions: Oh What a Lovely War, The Golden Masque of Agamemnon, The Crucible and Blood Wedding among them. 50 pupils went to Germany youth hosteling in the Traben-Trabach area. Well-known children’s author Jean Ure visited and she told students that her next project was to tackle AIDS and incest.

The 1st XV had a mixed season playing 18 games against sides that included Kings Stratford, Cedars, Dr Challenors, Latymer Upper of Hammersmith, Oratory, Aylesbury Grammar, Magdalen, Royal Latin, the OTA, Abingdon, Burford, Bloxham and Desborough. The ‘7’ got to the semi-final of the Oxfordshire. The girls senior hockey had an excellent season. The School finished 3rd on the Athletics Area Championships. Martyn Knapton reached the national round of the school’s cross country championships.

Over 300 pupils staff and parents learnt to Dri Ski at Hemel and Tamworth. Seven players were selected for the U15 County soccer side. LSE put on Noah Johnson. Staff leavers included Arthur Carpenter who had first started teaching craft at the old Thame Secondary School in 1948 before moving to the Wenman in 1960. Malcolm Davies spent 40 years teaching woodwork starting first at St Andrews School in Chinnor, then at The Wenman (when he also taught woodwork to boys from the Grammar School on Saturday morning) before becoming part of the staff at LSW. Ellis Spender, Simon Veness and Jane Wybron were other leavers.

LSW punishment for naughtiness in class was to stand by the wall at break time.

 

1995 – Lower School West “closes” as all year 7-9 teaching was amalgamated on to the Towersey Road site – former pupils Howard Goodall and Peter Logan (who created a sculpture to commemorate the new building) were guests at the opening. Another past pupil Colin Urch had carved the Opening Plaque. Pupils presented a history of the School from 1570 to 1995. One pupil commented, ‘the opening ceremony was brilliant but I kept pins and needles in my feet.’

The School got its first ‘lift’ – in the Foundation Centre. The largest number yet entered A-levels and a 89% pass-rate was obtained. GCSE’s were the best in the County. The sixth form topped 400 for the first time, following 17 different A-Level courses. Nontheless, the School was badly hit by swingeing education cuts which lopped a quarter of a million off the School budget. Jane Bugg, the Chair of Governors was awarded the MBE. ‘Prim’ Patey retired after serving Upper School lunches for 25 years. 70 pupils played sports all night to raise money for leukemia and cancer research. Gerald Howatt, the School Archivist gave the first Foundation Lecture.

A tree and plaque were unveiled outside the Sixth Form Centre commemorating Mary-Jane Bugg. Laura Mott was the first winner of the Mary-Jane Bugg Trophy for Outstanding Sporting Contributions by a Girl. The horse riders finished 3rd of 17 teams in the Wycombe High School’s open cross country. The team was Vicky Middleton, Emily Jarvis and Coralie Wright.

A cast of 75 performed West Side Story including Amy Enticknap, Oliver Mott, Lorraine Woodley and Matthew Hall. The School won a silver medal at the British Schools Judo Championships – the team was Giles Shorthouse and Daniel Scarlett. The Chamber Choir sang at the Oxford Golf Club. The U14 netball team lost nine matches and the senior side won only three. LWS won the Vale Schoool 7s. The 150 strong Festival Chorus performed Carmina Burana. Five LWS athletes won tiltles at the AAA County Championships at High Wycombe: Robert dean, Matthew Daplyn, Gaynor Hawkett, Olver Mott and Lee Casey.

Lara Davis accompanied some young people with autism on a residential visit to Welshpool – one of several 6th formers who work at the Chinnor Resource Unit as part of the Active Citizenship programme. Year 10 girls were models for the teenage magazine Bliss. Staff leavers included Mary Birtill, Julia Bishop, Clive Lambert, Moira Lee, Mary Howgate, Peter Thwaites. Sir William Hayter died aged 88. He had been Chairman of Governors for almost 27 years when he retired in 1985, and had a hugely influential role in developing the School.

 

1996 – The final edition of The Tamensian was published after 173 editions. The school issued an appeal ‘the school is currently facing continuing severe budget restraints…and we can no longer avoid turning to parents and friends for help.’ The School won the Bucks County Schools Rugby ‘7s’. Sixth Former Robert Townsend gained his Queen’s Scout Award. Pupil Leon Steele died after being struck by a train – a grand piano was bought in her memory.

The new day nursery was opened and the children were happy to be studied by Year 10 Child Development students. Bach’s B Minor Mass was performed with the Festival Chorus, the Chamber Choir and Symphony Orchestra. The jazz band had their inaugural concert. Drama and music supremo Robert Hammersley left after eight years. Year 12 performed their own mini-restoration comedy at the Playhouse. Year 7 had a two day visit to France taking in Bayeux and Honfleur. Three A-Level Physics students attended Brunel University Space School where they met the British Astronaut Helen Sharman.

The Lisieux Exchange programme had been running for 28 years and 28 pupils and 3 teachers went this year. The 1st XI was said to be the strongest for ten years and won seven and drew seven. Thame Youth Theatre performed in Bucharest. David Hammond cycled from London to Oxford to raise money for Oxfam, as did four other students. Staff leavers included Adrian Ainsley, Shirley Anderson, Sally Brookes, Marita Buckley, Allan Cook, Marie Duncan, Jane Edwards, Chris Lemmon, Peter Norman, Julia Samson (again!) and Brian Watson.

 

1997 – David Kenningham retired as Principal. His successor was the first woman to head Lord Williams’s, Pat O’Shea. She had come from being Warden of a community college in Cambridgeshire but had previously taught at Peers School – and also worked with the Oxford University Department of Education. The School was one of the few in the country to have Dance A/S on the Sixth Form curriculum. In sport, the School was the holder of all three senior boys county cups for cricket, rugby and soccer. Long serving teachers Sylvia Donald and Liz Whitaker took retirement. The School 1st XI had an unbeaten season. Geoff Goodall gave the second Founder’s Lecture.

 

1998 – Leah Lowin Green was the UK U14 56k Weightlifting Champion. By beating Burford, the 1st XI became the Oxfordshire Schools U19 football champions. The Howard Goodall Music and Arts Centre opened on the Oxford Road site. Laura Anderson won a place with the National Youth Ballet of Great Britain. The School entered the Top 300 schools in the League Tables. Doreen Howlett retired after 25 years in the School. The School 1st XI had another good season, a new roller was bought with the generosity of many OTs.

 

1999 – Academically the School had another good year, with the second best set of ‘A’Level results ever. There was an overall pass rate of 94% with 20% at A Grade. The School was in the UK’s Top 300. LWS supplied the Cricket captains for Oxfordshire at U13, U14, U15, U16 and U19. Luke Merry played for England U15 and took 1 for 29 against Scotland. For the first time in 20 years, the School beat the MCC. Rachael Stoakes and Zoe Farrell were off to Australia to play for the England U16 touch rugby squad. The School was applying for Sports College status. The other option was Languages but despite the School’s excellent record this was decided against. The Annual Exchange with the Lycee Gambier in Lisiuex was in its 31st year and was the longest-standing unbroken exchange in Oxfordshire. The link with Friedrich Ebert Gymnasium, Bonn was in its 18th year.

 

2000 – From the Thame Gazette: Pupils at a Thame school are celebrating the chance of becoming sports stars of the future after it was awarded specialist status.

‘Lord Williams’s School has been designated a sports college by the Government – which could mean 200,000 a year more in its budget. It is now the seventh school in the county to achieve specialist status.

The other schools in the county which have specialist status are: King Alfred School in Wantage, which also has specialist sports status, Wheatley Park School at Holton (arts), St Birinus School in Didcot (technology), Peers School in Oxford (technology), Didcot Girls’ School (language) and Banbury School in Banbury (technology).

Lord Williams’s deputy head teacher David Jones said: “We are thrilled and delighted at achieving this status which operates from next September.”

He said it did not mean major changes at the school – it remains a 2,000-pupil comprehensive taking all-comers. But the sports college status means extra Government money going to Lord Williams’s.

He said: “We interpret sport in its widest sense, not just with traditional games.

“We will develop opportunities within PE with students being able to take GCSE in the subject. We will be able to extend dance into A-levels and there will be vocational training opportunities for people with special talents. We hope it will set up a more vibrant range of opportunities with something for everyone in the school.”

Mr Jones said the school selected to opt for sports-college status in May. He said there had been tremendous support from local industry, parish councils and individuals who helped raise the initial 50,000 needed to support the school’s claim for sports college status. Wheatley Park School was given specialist arts status in September.

Deputy head teacher Kate Curtis, who is a former staff member at Lord Williams’s, said: “We have been able to plan new curriculum developments and provide much broader opportunities in the arts, both in the school and the local community. New technology is at the heart of the changes. Soon we will have a recording studio, and computers which have video-editing facilities.

“The main impact, of course, is new staff and better support from technicians. It’s early days yet but it has been going very well. We would like to congratulate Lord Williams’s and are looking forward to working with them.

Schools Standards Minister Estelle Morris said: “As the recent secondary performance tables demonstrate, specialist schools are excelling academically.

“Three out of the top five in the list of 100 most improved schools are specialist schools.

“Crucially, specialist schools are also having a wider influence – raising standards in local schools and helping create opportunities right across the local community.”‘

7 comments

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  1. Paul ( Bill) Boddington

    My grandfather Henry Percival Boddington was a pupil at Lord Willims’s in 1884/5 as I have the Headmaster’s for Football which he won in that season, I also have “Cassell’s Book of Sport” dated July 30th 1885 for Scripture and Mathematics, this is signed G. Plummer M.A. Headmaster. Both have the school. crest on them.

    My Father was also a pupil in the 1930’s and you records mention him receiving the Royal Humane Society parchment for saving a boy from drowning on 31st August 1936.

    I was a pupil from 1955 to 1962 and also recived a book prize for Mathematics on 26th Oct 1961, it is “Borstal Boy” by Brendan Behan, which I chose myself, it also has the school crest but has been chewed by the dog.

    Paul Boddington

    I was called Bill at school as my first name is William

  2. Graham Thomas

    Very useful comment Bill. Thanks.

  3. ALAN

    Good day,

    I am currently recording the history of Cadet Corps’ cap badges and would be grateful if anyone knew what badge the CCF wore upon its resurrection in 1949? The school archive photos look like the RASC?

    Thanks

    Alan

    1. Graham Thomas

      Alan…we will see if we can find out but sadly those would know are now deceased. However, the nearest Army depot was the RASC at Bicester and I know that there was a strong connection with them and so it is highly likely that this is the badge.

  4. ALAN

    Thank you for your help.

  5. Tod Duncan

    Alan,

    I don’t know about in 1949 but in the date range of approximately 1988-1990 it would have been the Royal Army Ordinance Corps whose badge features three canons and three oversized canon balls with the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense. I was at the school around this time and an active cadet rising to the rank of Company Sergeant Major when Captain Mike Anderson was leading the contingent. I’m now a Professor at the University of Colorado, living in Boulder for the last 12 years.

    Tod Duncan

    1. Graham Thomas

      Thanks for the comment Alan.

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