Hardenwick School at Sandridgebury

Memories of my time there from 1967 to 1971

Advertisement for Hardenwick School after it had moved to Sandridgebury. Credit: LHS archives

Charles Habib submitted this piece as a comment on Hardenwick School, but the editors felt it was worth starting a new page for the new, though short-lived period the school was based at Sandridgebury. 

Charles – arriving at London airport, to be met by a ‘Universal Aunt’ who escorted him back to school. Credit: Charles Habib

It seemed extremely unlikely that after almost fifty years I would find Hardenwick veterans and be able to share the memories of my very first Prep School, which I entered in 1967 at the age of seven, until it closed between 1970 and 1971. Until now, I wasn’t even aware that there had been a former Hardenwick before 1966. I was browsing through Google Maps, looking for Sandridgebury and found this Website. To answer the question as to why it shut down my guess is that it was probably too small to run economically. There certainly was no incident of child molestation. With only 50-odd boarders we were such a close-knit society that I’m certain word would have spread amongst us long before any resulting consequences, and there were no rumours of that nature.

The School had its own heraldry, so to speak. It was a five-pointed star with a phrase in Latin beneath. The plates and dishes also had them. “Fortiter et Recte”. Once when in St. Albans, wearing our caps with the star and slogan an elderly man approached me and asked “Are you Russians?” I had no idea what he meant. There was also another slogan I believe which read “Play the Game”.

Vivid memories of Mr Harris …

The master I remember most vividly is Mr. Harris. “Don’t behave like a sub man” was his standard phrase when irritated, “sub man” – that was his favourite. And he was a slipper man, as someone has already mentioned, not cane – and he didn’t hit hard, not in my time at least. One surreal scene, which I’ll never forget, was when he caught Daniel, a Kenyan, and me out of bed after lights-out – dressing gown on – downstairs. Daniel, was new to corporal punishment and when Harris, holding the slipper, ordered him to bend over he kept standing up every time Harris raised his arm. Harris, totally frustrated, grabbed Daniel by the elbow and the whole scene culminated in Daniel screaming and running in circles, while Harris, turning with him, kept trying to hit him on the backside with the slipper, missing, and shouting “Stand still, Stand still!!” – all the while poor Daniel screaming and hopping, until Harris finally gave up. Now someone from today’s generation would think “how horrific.” But it wasn’t, it was simply surreal, and bottom line, almost normal. I liked Harris – I was never afraid of him. For some reason he decided to teach me chess when I was about nine and would occasionally ask me to play against him in the library. I felt quite flattered. I remember that whenever I made a good move he would glare at the board, screw up his eyes and curse under his breath while I would have to try my hardest not to laugh. Luckily I think he always won in the end and I was glad he did. It just didn’t seem right to win against him. Harris was also in charge of the tuck shop. He painstakingly made sure that everyone had an equal and well measured share of tuck. It was only twice a week I think.

On Sundays after breakfast it was shoe-shining time. We would all run down into the cellar and we learnt how to polish shoes properly. Some were real experts. After that it was church going time, down a long, narrow lane “Single File, Single File” he kept repeating. Then it was letter-writing time. Harris actually read through every letter before sealing it. Once you had finished the letter to your parents you would go up front, hand it to him, and sometimes he would give it back and tell you to write something else. We never questioned it. Harris also taught me carpentry and would drop anecdotes of the brutalities of Japanese torture during the war. And, by the way “The German was the world’s best soldier.” What? I thought to myself. It made me feel proud of my German origin. He had a golden retriever called Brynn. Going for long walks in that beautiful countryside with, of course, Brynn, picking raspberries in the woods on the way – looking back – a happy time and age. We were always out-of-doors it seems, and never bored. The grounds around the main building were so very extensive that we spent all our free time outside playing war, soccer, high-jumping or cricket.

… and of ‘Yogi’ Evington

The Summer terms are the ones I remember best. Evington, or Yogi, as we used to call him, we only saw in the assemblies after breakfast. He was gone for the rest of the day and I can’t recollect him ever teaching me. His wife I never saw. Maybe she had already died. None of the boys were fond of him. But he no longer caned. In fact the swish was hardly ever used at all. But if he caught you out of bed after lights-out he would make you stand in the dark corridor downstairs, facing the wall, for three hours at a stretch, every half hour walk past you, silently puffing his pipe – he wouldn’t utter a word.

I was fairly chubby before Hardenwick and became so skinny that my father was quite shocked when he first saw me. “Well, we’re not fattening the boys” was what he answered to my father’s complaint, and that was that. My father took it with humour because it was clear that I was in the best of health and vitality. Nobody was ever seriously ill. The food was tasteless, always scarce, but nourishing. Except on Sundays when we were served a marvellous steak and kidney pie which I haven’t eaten the like of since. But, in Hardenwick, the seniors were the first to get second helpings. It took a couple of years before I got one.

For foreigners like me, thrown into the British private school system with barely more than pigeon English and no knowledge at all of the hierarchy and rules the first couple of terms were extremely tough. Hardenwick was at that time still like Tom Brown’s Schooldays. But the education was excellent and my next prep school, after Hardenwick closed in 70/71, was a walkover for me. I had learnt everything I needed, socially and academically, to feel perfectly at ease.

From there I moved on to College and University. There are many faces and some names that I remember. If anyone between 1967 and 71 reads this and remembers me I would be happy to hear from them. Today I live in Germany, as I have for the most part of the last 30 years. I only rarely visit Britain. I hardly ever speak English today. Finding this website has dug up something deep inside, long forgotten and yet surprisingly so vivid. Hardenwick, Sandridgebury, my soul that is essentially so English. And to round it off, my message to Brian Haigh, who wrote the introduction “Memories of my time there from 1947-51”. You remembered the the grace before the meal which I had forgotten – it took me about an hour of hard thinking to remember the after-meal grace properly. Gratias benedic domine agimus, pro his et beneficiis, omnibus tuis.

Hardenwick School in Sandridgebury. Credit: Charles Habib



Comments about this page

  • Hello to all. I’m a former Aylesford House student who was there during its transition to Hardenwick. Would love to hear from former classmates.
    Sherwood Peers B.Sc.,Dip.Ed.

    Ed. Sherwood also asks ‘is there a website for former Aylesford House/Hardenwick School students? I would appreciate any information you can pass on to me
    If you have links to a relevant website, facebook etc if you pass them to us via contact us, we will forward them to Sherwood.

    By Sherwood Peers (13/12/2021)
  • I was also at the school as a boarder from aged 6 yrs old to 9 from 1968 to 1971. I remember Mr Harris, firm but also very kind. Still have my tuck box. Great school. 

    By Russell Skinner (19/01/2021)
  • Quite surprised to see this page. I was in the school the year 1968. I remember the names Habib  and Charles Moss. I believe we shared the same room. Some nice memories and not a very nice one related to a  french/drama teacher who lived in the school …and that is why my mother decided to quickly  change me  to another school. 

    By Jorge Vidal (24/08/2020)
  • I was at Hardenwick in the last year of its life (70/71). Interesting to read the comments, and from my perspective they were happy days.  There was a Spanish family who did the cooking, and lived in a hut between the school and playing field.  There was another hut on the far left hand side that was used as a common room, with a matchbox car race track. I can still remember much of the interior of the main building, with the staircase in the hall, and the tuck box room.  I still have my tuck box too, complete with drawings and scribbles on the inside.

    By Peter Rogers (25/07/2020)
  • I would have been there at about the same time. I was certainly there when the place closed up. Several of us followed one of the teachers, Mr Attock (Attoch), to St John’s College in Horsham, where he got a position. My most abiding memories are of tie-flicking fights, which could be quite painful. I also recall a rather fetching matron (we were 9 or so at the time and highly impressionable) called Miss Netherway, I believe. One evening she chastised someone or other with the words ‘If you are to kiss someone, then kiss me’, whereupon she was descended upon by a horde of hormone-charged youngsters – several of us of whom were subsequently slippered. Some happy memories from what I don’t remember as a generally happy time.

    By Sheka Forna (16/01/2020)
  • I went there as a day pupil for the last year it was open. I was only 8 or 9, but the main things I remember was playing rugby in winter and being so cold I couldn’t use my fingers to undo my laces or buttons to get changed back and no way to wash before having to run for the bus. There were 5 of us being bussed in from Harpenden, and on Saturday mornings we had to share the bus with girls. The other boys were all scared of these older girls and made me sit next to them. It never bothered me as I have an older sister but they obviously thought it was gross! I also remember there was one pupil, possibly a boarder, who was always in trouble. Can’t remember the name, but for some reason his name was always being shouted out by one or another of the teachers.

    By Marco van Beek (02/09/2019)
  • I was there right up to the end,when it went all wrong and the parents had to pick us boys up asap.

    Why do I remember the name Roger Habib? I still use my wooden tuck box to this day – but not good memories of the school though.

    By Paul Enstone (16/04/2019)
  • I was at Hardenwick as a day pupil around 1964-6. I hated it! I have no happy memories of the place. Very tough teachers, corporal punishment in class, horrible food, being made to run around playing field despite being asthmatic. This school scarred my childhood. I wish I had never gone there.

    By David Ellison (02/04/2019)
  • Hi Charles Habib  I was also at the prep school for 2 years in 1967 and 1968. I still have my notes from Headmaster Evington and one picture I would like to share with you all

    Greetings from Austria 

    Ed: would you like to send a copy of your photo to enquiries@harpenden-history.org.uk? We could then add it to this page.

    By Michel (24/10/2018)
  • ChI remember Charles Habib; I also remember Calleja – his first name was Rico, I think? I also remember Roger Lawrence and Geoffrey Percy. I was punished, with several others, for being unkind to Habib – something to do with him being foreign! Sorry, when you are 7 or 8 you are pretty silly.

    I remember the house system with a scoring chart on the corridor wall outside the kitchen.THIS IS WHERE THE TUCK ROOM WAS. The houses were called MARLBOROUGH, CHURCHILL, JENNINGS AND SPENCER. I was in Jennings. The head of the upper school lived in the coach house in the grounds, his son was also in the school. He was in MARLBOROUGH , THEY ALWAYS WON!! The house-system way to gain points was to earn them. Teachers would hand you a paper chitty and you would hand them in at assembly. Also black marks were also handed in. Evington would read each one as you handed them to him. I remember walking to church and shoe cleaning. I remember the 1970 World Cup: Gary Bray, brother of Denis, was in charge of choosing who would stay up in the early hours to watch England in Mexico.

    I remember a procession we took part in to celebrate November 5th: we paraded down to Sandridge village and back with flaming torches (no health and safety then) and then back to the field where there was a bonfire.

    The school was very sport driven, so I excelled at this. My last sports day was my time, where I won the victor ludorum cup, winning the high jump, long jump, 440 yds, 220 yds and was pipped into second for the 110yds !!! During the high jump Delaney broke his wrist or ankle, not sure which.

    Food was not brilliant: on the first evening back after any holiday or home break we had mashed potato, beans and spam slices!! I remember a nice young matron, but not her name. I remember saying grace also! I remember the class rooms opposite the outdoor swimming pool. The kitchen staff were possibly Italian: they lived on site in the huts.

    All in all not a bad time for me. 

    Charles Moss 1966-70

    By Charles Moss (14/03/2017)

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