Hardenwick School in the late 1940s

Memories of my time there from 1947-51- School Number 81

By Brian Haigh

Thoughts evoked by finding the page on Hardenwick School

Photo:Brian Haigh at Hardenwick School, 1951, receiving a trophy

Brian Haigh at Hardenwick School, 1951, receiving a trophy

Brian Haigh

The Evingtons

I arrived at Hardenwick at the beginning of the summer term in 1947. It was never explained to me why this was so but I suspect it was something to do with my mother’s second marriage. On reflection and confirmed by a recent random check of the 1911 census there were a number of Evingtons being born in Hull where my stepfather was also born. It is not inconceivable that the selection of Hardenwick for me was somehow a connection between my stepfather and H.B Evington - bearing in mind that I lived in Hull at the time! If you have any further information on Evington’s origins, I would be grateful to see it.

The library was as is depicted in 1938 - you went there down the steps to get in. The boys' common room was on the right hand side of the long corridor which ran the length of the main house. In this rather scruffy room there was an equally battered table on which sat a large copy of Paradise Lost with some fearsome engravings which frightened young boys.

The next room was matron's, which I experienced later. One time this was definitely not nice and I still bear a physical scar from her neglect.

The next room was Evington's study. In July 1947 I was just coming up to my 10th birthday. I remember being called into Mr Evington’s study (where he caned boys for all kind of offences) to take a phone call from my father who was in Calcutta at the time to wish me happy birthday. It was a very, very poor connection!

Mr Evington used to strike terror into the boys. He would make you learn the geometric theorems off by heart and then one had to go and recite them and answer questions in his study. I remember failing the test and being caned by him on the hand! My interests in maths rapidly vanished after this.

After that there was a thick, dark red curtain which shielded the school from the Evington's house.

Mealtimes

On the left was, I seem to recall, the entrance to the dining room, but I think is was laid out differently during my time. The long table in the 1938 photo was in the position of the small table on the left hand. The small table was across the fireplace.

Before and after a meal grace was said in Latin. The pre meal grace went something like this: "Benedict domine nobis et his donis tuis per Jesu Christum dominum nostrum."  (This is the first time ever that I have tried to write it down and some Latin scholar might make out what I recall some 60+ years later.) The post prandial prayer went something like this - "Gratias tibi ...." and this is very hazy unless it comes back to me in the middle of the night!

On my thirteenth birthday I sat on the right of Mrs Evington who was at the window end of the table; Mr Evington or Jack sat at the other end. Mrs Evington was suffering from possible dementia and incontinence. She smelt awful. It was said that whenever there was thunder Mr Evington would hide under a table. Actions, it was said, that were caused by him experiencing a volcanic eruption: this is only school boy talk - but there could have been some truth in it because of his time in India.

Special thanks to Mr Harris

I have many random memories of Hardenwick and, on reflection, what I learned there has stayed with me throughout my life. In many ways the thanks should go to Mr Harris (mentioned in a Friend’s United entry by some other old boy) whose teaching was excellent. I remember, in particular, that he was most insistent that boarders wrote home once a week and that he was punctilious in the way letters were addressed. Only when the address was as he wished it, was the envelope sealed.

Mr Harris was also keen on Wimbledon tennis, and the boat race. His favourite player was Gorgeous Gussie Moran. For the boys of that era the heart throbs (we didn’t know why) were Petula Clark and Lauren Bacall.

Expeditions

Mr Harris was also the cricket master, and a good one at that. I remember an outing to Lords with him and other boys in 1948, I think, to see the Australians. It was a beautifully hot day and we sat as a group in the stand opposite the Member’s stand. I think today that it is now the media centre which looks like a flattened myopic mushroom! We had great fun buying and drinking many, many bottles of ginger beer whilst getting sunburnt!

There was an expedition one November to Twickenham - I cannot remember the year - to watch the Oxford and Cambridge rugby match. We were positioned down on the touch line near the try line and had a great view of a try being scored.

In 1949 there was another expedition, this time to the celebrations to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of St Albans. I remember going but what happened has long since been forgotten. We also had a very interesting visit to Rothamsted Experimental Station.

We were taken, again by Mr Harris, to see Henry V - the Lawrence Olivier version of Henry at the cinema which, from memory, was on Luton Road but now seems to have disappeared (the Embassy, ed.). Mr Harris used to read the Prisoner of Zenda to us when I was in the big “dorm”. I remember quite vividly the fact that the mattresses were palliases and came in three parts like huge and uncomfortable hard tack.

Sports

We learned to play squash in the school squash court. There does not seem to be any mention of that and whilst the photos show the cricket field(s) there is no mention of the rugby field which was some distance from the school. I remember playing in matches against other schools both home and away. Felsted, Bedford and the nearer St Georges, being two which come to mind - two memories of rugby in the cold. I kicked a drop goal from some distance out - what an experience! I also won 2/6 from one of the masters for the best tackle of the week. Professionalism no less!

Around Harpenden

There was great excitement at lunch times when a group of boys went to the rail bridge over Sun Lane to wait for the new diesel electric trains, 10000 and 100001 hurtle below us during lunch time. The year is lost on me and I cannot remember if they were owned by the LMS or the new BR!

On one of our walks through Harpenden - it must have been down Station Road - we gaped at a small black and white television set which was switched on in a shop window (probably Courtney Davies, ed.).

We were very naughty during those years and it was surprising that none of us ever got into serious trouble. In the autumn we would go scrumping in the orchard which abutted the area where the cricket nets were - down to the far right of the playing fields. Some would actually go out and buy Tizer at a shop on Luton Road in the long evenings; double summer time was in force!

One evening a boy called Saul tried to jump from a tree near the nets and caught his foot in the top of the nets. He fell into the nets and broke his wrist - we all had a good look at it in the school locker room before he went for treatment.

The original De Havilland Comet used to be seen quite regularly on its test flights from Hatfield in 1949/50. We also watched some daring pilot doing aerobatics in a biplane - very exciting.

The railway line from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead, the Nicky line, could be seen from the class room block which was above the assembly hall.

Holidays and pastimes

My contemporaries were, Cappleman (also from Hull), Blake, Raiment, Gooda ( from India), Hodges (from India?), Buckingham, Smyth, Eastwood, Plackett, Alfred Brown, the Pantelides brothers, Sparrow ( who was much older when I arrived), Knight, Kynaston and others as I think about them more.

Because I lived in Hull, at half terms I would be invited to stay at the homes of other boys - Smyth, whose parents were doctors and lived in a house near Apex corner, Mill Hill, and Eastwood whose parents had a farm nearby but I cannot remember where.

There was a very strong interest in stamps whilst I was there and many boys would buy packets of stamps on approval from dealers to sell or trade. I bought a very good album from someone who had lost interest for 10/-; it was a very good buy with some desirable stamps. I kept it until 1963 when it was thrown out by accident when my family sold the house to move to Spain.

In the summer of 1948 my mother and stepfather took me to France for the first time. I was very proud to be able to answer a question as to what time it was whilst sitting on the beach in Dinard! I enjoyed learning French and Latin. I think the French master was Mr Cook.

We never seemed to suffer from school boy illnesses. The most serious case I remember was someone suffering from German measles!

Many memories have faded over the years and so there may be gaps in this account, but I hope others will add to this. I now live in Victoria, Australia, and would be pleased to get in touch with anyone who remembers me.

Added below are photographs of the First XI cricket teams in which I played.  I have not been able to identify all the players. Can you help?

Photo:Hardenwick First XI cricket team - 1948-49

Hardenwick First XI cricket team - 1948-49

Brian Haigh

Photo:Hardenwick cricket team - ?1949-50

Hardenwick cricket team - ?1949-50

Brian Haigh

Photo:Hardenwick First XI - 1950-51

Hardenwick First XI - 1950-51

Brian Haigh

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 18/04/2013.

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