Moreton End School

Compiled from the prospectus and notes in our archives

Prompted by Comments on Harpenden Cinemas left by ‘old boys’ of Moreton End School, we searched our archives (BF.21A).  See also John Wyborn’s account of the school in wartime

Please note the editors’ advice on submitting Comments, printed at the foot of the page

The school assembled outside the front, with Mr Card, Headmaster, April 1939. In “It Started with a Green Line Bus”, Ralph Webster lists the 37 boys and staff as recorded by the photographer, Oliver G Harvey of 35 High Street, Back Row: Barlow, Jeremy, Carter (Jnr), Wade, Samuels, Burt, Webster (Ralph), Downey, Hooker, Garrod, Richmond (Peter), Auerbach, Webster (Brian), Greaves. Centre: Hawkes, Carter (Snr), Jones, Williams, Isaacs, Adams, Kime (Snr), Boughey, Perkins, Richmond (John), Davidson (Jnr), Ross, Gregory, Johnson, Robinson. Front: Kime (Jnr), Fatty Chapman, Faulkner Lee, Randall, Mr McDonald, Mrs Card, Mr Card, Miss Morgan, Mr Ritchie, Hill, Chapman (Snr), Childs (Brian), Woods. Credit: LHS archives, donated by Mr Best, Dalkeith Road in 1970s

Launch in 1933

Moreton End School opened in September 1933 in a large Victorian semi-detached house at 53 Luton Road, Harpenden. The first headmaster, Mr Victor Edward Hubert Card, had previously been a Maths teacher at Hardenwick School. For the first term there were five boys – Randall, [John] Lydekker, Faulkner Lee, Perkins and one other. The staff consisted of Mr Card and his wife Vera, who took on the role of Matron, and one male and one female teacher.

Staff in late 1930s. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X, MacDonald Collection

Mr and Mrs Card – Headmaster and Matron, with unidentified teacher. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X, MacDonald Collection

In the 1930s the average number of pupils was 36, including six boarders. Over 10% later qualified as doctors. In the period 1950-73, under Mr Billington’s headship the number of pupils rose to 85. Girls were first admitted from September 1978, but only up to the age of 7.

Some pre-war memories recorded in notes made in the late 1970s

Term-time always began with “The Parable of the Talents”. This would link to the Cup inscribed “TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH”, which was presented annually on Sports Day. One recipient of this cup was Michael Hawkes, who was very nervous, almost afraid of games, but who later became a Cambridge rowing Blue.

Visiting speakers included the Sacristan of Westminster Abbey who told the pupils about preparations for the 1937 coronation; and a deep sea diver in his complete outfit, with underwater cutting tools, which he demonstrated in a large water-filled biscuit tin. The Headmaster’s wife spent two hours afterwards mopping up the water.

There were visits to the Morris car factory (which they compared unfavourably with the methods used at Vauxhalls), to a local hat factory and printing works, and to Chatham Dockyard in 1939, with special permission from the Admiralty, since the fleet was preparing for war.

Physical training – later 1930s in the school garden. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X, MacDonald Collection

More exercises. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X, MacDonald Collection


Football at Roundwood Park playing field, c.1940. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X, MacDonald Collection

Cricket at Roundwood Park playing fields. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X, MacDonald Collection

Sports included boxing, which took place once a week in the Badminton Hall in a nearby field, which was also used for the school fireworks. The Badminton Hall burned down during the second world war. Soccer and cricket were played on the school’s sports field (now occupied by Roundwood Park School). The boys changed in the school cellar before walking up Moreton End Lane.

School sports day – undated Herts Ad cutting. Fathers against sons was a regular feature. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X

After the annual sports day in the summer, parents and boys returned to the school for the presentation of prizes on the lawn, and tea provided by Mrs Card. On wet days, when it was too inclement for sports, there would be a lecture in the front ground floor room with an early epidiascope. The sheet used for the projection screen was a linen bed sheet dated 1874.

School Plays

School plays were also a feature of pre-war Morton End and were sometimes performed at Rothamsted Manor.

This play was a fund-raising event for Dr Barnado’s – late 1930s. Credit: LHS archives – BF 21A.2X

Note * John Ryck Wolfe Lydekker (known in the family as Ryck) was the son of John Lydekker who died in 1946 having never recovered from Ryck’s death. His sister Jane, in Australia, recalls the family’s grief when Ryck drowned whilst trying to save his Ship’s Captain’s dog after being torpedoed in 1943.  He is honoured on the Harpenden War Memorial and in St Nicholas Church.

Jim Maxwell has sent scans of the programme for the production of Toad of Toad Hall in February 1949 at Lourdes Hall – see them at the foot of the page below.  Jim was a Fieldmouse!

Ralph Webster, in “It Started with a Green Line Bus” (The Book Castle, 2003), devoted a chapter to Life at Moreton End School. He listed the approximate dates of the headmasters:

  • Mr V E H Card             1933-1939
  • Mr O’Hara                   1939-1940 (died at the school)
  • Mrs O’Hara                 1941-1945
  • Mr Codrington             1945-1950
  • Mr Billinghurst            1950-1973
  • Temporary HM            1973
  • Mr R A Cansfield         1974-1990
  • Mrs Angela Clements   1990-1995

Moreton End school photo, c.1946. The bank behind the group on which flowers are growing was actually an old WWII air-raid shelter. Credit: scan sent by Peter Ford


The editors are well aware, and it is public knowledge, of the cruel and unpleasant actions of some of the staff at Morton End School over a number of years but we feel that that has now been adequately covered by the comments published below. We are of course very sorry for the hurt pupils suffered both physically and mentally but this is a Local History website and we will not therefore be publishing any more comments on this aspect of the school and hope that ex pupils can get help in more appropriate ways to overcome the trauma that you obviously still suffer.

We are of course happy to consider other historically interesting information or queries.


Comments about this page

  • It’s crazy I found this page! I went to Moreton End for a few years in mid-80s. I’m American and my father was transferred to England in the automotive industry. We lived in Harpenden and my parents enrolled me and my sister at ME. It was a culture shock to say the least! But a very good overall experience. I was a good obedient student by nature so I rarely (if ever) got in any trouble with Mr. Cansfield or Mr. Playle.

    Anyway, did anyone else go to ME in the mid-80s?

    By Christopher Wilson (02/07/2023)
  • My scan of the Toad of Toad Hall programme is above, just below “School Plays”. We were ferried to and from the Lourdes Hall in a Ford V8 Pilot taxi which was filled with as many boys as could be shoe-horned in. It was probably illegal even in those less Health & Safety conscious days. The handwritten “Jimmy Boy” was added by my Grandmother. Correspondence etc. was circulated around the family!
    Regarding my request for information on the river which disappeared underground, I have found it on a 6 inch OS map available on line from the National Library of Scotland, free if for personal use.

    By Jim Maxwell (22/02/2023)
  • So wonderful to hear of the subsequent stories from my compatriots some four and a half years later. Brought back so many good and not-so-good memories confirming the basis of many issues experienced there which have, to some extent, remained hidden. The subsequent letters have helped immensely, thank you one and all!
    We have, since then, sold our business in Napa Valley, CA, bought a log home near Sandpoint, Idaho, and recently moved to Saranac Lake, in Upstate New York, close to Lake Placid. A peripatetic life for sure!
    I too had dyslexia which combined with bad asthma, didn’t help my academic life. Fortunately, I was good at sports which helped my limited self-esteem.
    We now have five Labradoodles, two of which will be bred next year as part of our semi-retirement.
    My email address:
    Always a pleasure to hear from you Keith Sammels, Martin Underwood, Keith Burgess, Edmund Worthy (loved your towel needs at my parent’s pub!! And Rod Terrett, yes, it was Andrew Ritchie, my best friend at the time, Nick Stevenson, a great letter!
    Wishing you all good health during these challenging times. Both my wife Rhoni and I have had our booster shots. Highly recommended of course.
    Much love,

    By David Hyde (02/12/2021)
  • I have found the programme for the production of “Toad of Toad Hall” in February 1949 at Lourdes Hall.
    ED – At last these have been added to the main page, under the sub-heading ‘School Plays’.

    By Jim Maxwell (11/09/2021)
  • I was a pupil at Moreton End from 1972 through to 1978. A full Tour of Duty.

    I have some fond memories of teachers at the school.  Days such as the School Sports Day or the Christmas Carols Service were always exciting.  There were some really weird days though. 

    Some [radio-friendly] highlights: We turned up to school one Monday and Mr. R. A. Cansfield had moved all the desks out of the class and put down his electric train set.  All part of the Greta period.  It stayed down for more than that one day – no lessons were taught in there.  We had to occupy ourselves while he played/showed-off.

    Another time he walked into a classroom and fired a starting pistol (a new one bought ready for Sports Day) I was the poor soul nearest the door.  We were only about 8, it was quite upsetting.

    He took us on a school trip on a boat and got blind drunk.  The engine broken down and the teachers tried to row to shore – but dropped one of the oars.  We got towed in by a passing boat.

    Sadly my enduring memory is the vindictive system Cansfield adopted in his Maths classes.  The theatrical way he’d start every lesson by writing (on the blackboard) a ranking of the pupils in the class.  Presumably under the impression that it would “build character” or “ambition to succeed” or something.  There may well have been other influencing factors.

    His ranking system worked as follows:  He’d teach the class then set a number of exercises (groups of questions) to be done.  He referred to these as “Sets”.  When you handed them in and got the marks back you would be expected to do the corrections of *all* the answers you got wrong. 

    Sounds fair enough – you don’t want to just gloss over any gaps in the child’s understanding.  But – if you didn’t correct *all* the answers, you’d now incurred an outstanding “Set”.  Even one incorrect answer meant you had that “Set” incomplete.

    Several more would be set the next day.  It was hard to keep up with the corrections and the new work.   And every lesson he’d write up the list of boys’ names.  Top of the list was the boy with the least Sets, bottom of the list was the boy with the most.

    I think the ranking would reset every term (or year?).  I would mostly be at the bottom of the ranking, I was in a state of panic most of the time.  Once a Set was more than a week old you had little chance of going back to clear your “debt”.   Oh the joy I felt when my final day ended and all I could think was “I don’t have any more Sets”.

    However, with the passing of time, I’ve discovered that being the bottom of his list was a good thing.  I’ll say no more about that, it’s well documented.

    I went to Putteridge High School in Luton after Moreton End and loved it.  But when I think of Moreton End I do see it in dark colours.  Shame.


    By Chris Ward (27/01/2021)


    I was at Moreton End for two years in the 1980s and, I must say, I enjoyed my time there. That’s not to deny or counter many of the memories recalled here – not at all – but from my perspective, I thrived away from the countless hordes barging down the corridors at huge secondary schools.

    It was unorthodox at times, of course, but I generally liked the informal mood and spontaneity. I have fond memories of heading to the basement at lunch to play pool and a wonderfully warm and kind chemistry teacher call Mr Mills, who’d always tell us that today was going, finally, to be the day we were going to study nuclear fission but once again, he’d left the plutonium “on the piano at home”. Mr Playle, a rather stricter teacher, of history, broke off one lesson to speak to us at length about his love of the Tears For Fears album, Songs from the Big Chair.  

    During the 1986 World Cup, we all just stopped for the afternoon and crowded into a first-floor classroom to watch an England game. For all the old-fashioned formality, there was much fun to be had.

    I realise this is for many not the lasting legacy and I’m not seeking to revise anyone’s account of their time at ME, but it was a good time for me after tremendous instability at home.  

    By Stewart Darkin (11/12/2020)
  • I was a pupil in the late 70s and early 80s. I have loved reading various comments and I had a great time at this school, I feel it made me into what I am today. Loads of great memories even through the Cansfield days. I would say I was in the thick of it as my parents were close friends with him, he often came over for dinner, I also went on holiday with him and Greta. Sir, Cansfield turned the school around, yes discipline, which never hurt me. I remember the air raid shelter, going down with torches, the hall with all the history, battle memorabiliar including muskets and shields. Who remembers the bus, I went with him to get it. I could post so much more but not sure if it will be posted.

    By David Chell (11/12/2020)
  • Some happier memories of ME.

    Harpenden Schools Hobbies Exhibition in the same hall that we performed Toad of Toad Hall.

    Preparing a setting of the 23rd psalm, Brother James Air for a music festival but Mr Billinghurst withdrew us because he thought we were not good enough.

    I boarded for my last term(Summer 1949) and at weekends we were taken out for walks by a member of staff. If it was with Mr McDonald, he would bring his crystal set and during the walk find a suitable tree and throw the aerial wire over a high branch and we would take turns to listen to the BBC Home Service. On one walk we came across a place where a river had gone underground. The river bed was completely grassed over and was crossed by a bridge carrying a road. I would love to know where this is. The National Grid Reference would be fine.

    In my first Comment, I mentioned a teacher called Miss Harrison. I think she may have been Miss Morrison.

    By Jim Maxwell (11/12/2020)
  • Hello

    I attended ME from about 1978 to 1981 and spent most of my time there in fear of having my mouth washed out with soap, being canned, and being scared of my own shadow.  Cansfield was the most heinous man  one could ever have the unpleasant misfortune to meet.  He scared the living daylights out of the pupils and I suspect the staff.  He took great pleasure in scaring children and I suspect all those who worked for him.  When I first attended ME aged just 4 my parents asked me how my first day had gone – my response – okay but I don’t think I’ll go back tomorrow – if only we knew then what we know now. I made a few friends who sadly I lost contact with as you do.  I often wonder what happened to James Kay and his brother ? Robert.  I am I often think a genuinely nice person but on this  I hope Canfield rots in hell – he was not a headmaster, he was a perverted sick man.



    By Belinda Devine (17/09/2020)
  • I was at Moreton End from the late 70s to 1986. I got the dubious pleasure of experiencing “peak Cansfield.” Even more insidious than the lurking threat of the cane were the more brutally casual acts of violence. Once, when caught misbehaving, I was made to stand outside the classroom for the reminder of the lesson. I knew that if Cansfield spotted me in said location, there was a fair chance he would take me into his nearby study for a few choice strokes. And yes, alas, spot me he did. But instead of punishing me in the privacy of his lair, he dragged me roughly back into the classroom by my hair and proceeded to harangue me in front of the class – all the time pulling down hard on my hair so he could glare and shout into my terrified upturned face. I suppose I was lucky in that I didn’t get the cane, but the sheer bullying physicality of that episode has never left me – and I could tell that the female teacher (who had initiated this small drama by sending me out in the first place) was more visibly shocked by the impromptu nature of what she had just witnessed than if I had simply slunk back to my seat with a slightly sore backside.

    But any physical punishment was as nothing compared to the sexual abuse that (as history would show) he meted out to others far less fortunate than me. It is interesting that Hannah Scott mentions how she recalls him flogging two Ethiopian boys. One of the most repellent aspects of Cansfield’s crimes was that they seemed to be racially motivated. He had a twisted imperial mindset, wherein boys from “the colonies” were there for his pleasure. He really was a grotty, detestable, pathetic man. A foul, perfumed, trumped-up little pervert.

    Although his crimes destroyed the good name of the school, it is intriguing to read how Moreton End has always been remarkably successful in attracting weird, unhinged pedagogues. Perhaps it was built on old Indian burial ground and cursed for generations? More likely it was the result of a prep school system (virtually unchanged since the days of Wackford Squeers) that permitted eccentric megalomaniacs to build bricks & mortar versions of their minds and cram the resulting follies with snivelling, cap-doffing children.

    Indeed, if you can extract out the paedophilic abuse that subsequently came to light – which of course you cannot – life at Moreton End, a couple of painful moments aside, was genuinely unpredictable, colourful and fun. At least at the time, life in the bricks & mortar version of Cansfield’s mind was a picaresque adventure. Standardised curriculum be damned, we never knew what we would be doing from one day to the next. If Ronald woke up wanting his pupils to study the rules of association football or music theory grade 1, then that’s what we would do. Spend the afternoon standing around the piano while he belted out Victorian music hall standards for hours on end? Fine, sure. Crowding round his Dickensian-looking Lloyds Bank ledger book so we could watch him do his accounts all morning? Yeah, why not. None of the boys loved him, and many were in fear of him, but we were all desperate to receive his validation and we consequently tried to curry his capricious favour in various obsequious ways (God knows what the girls thought, because clearly having girls in that school was an inconvenience brought about by financial necessity, and from the boys’ perspective they were pretty much allowed to do their own thing). 

    But in the final analysis, he was a villain. One of Harpenden’s worst (and it’s had a few in its schooling system over the years). Although I’ll never forget him, it is his victims that should never be forgotten. 


    By David Young (14/08/2020)
  • Glad I found this page.  I was at Moreton End for a couple of years from 1973-75.  

    I will say that these weren’t the happiest days of my life.  I was glad to leave. I was teased at school by some of the boys as I was not a ”real” boy who was good at sports or very academic. There are a few names of teachers I remember.  Mr Budds had just taken over when I arrived.  Not long after, he left and the infamous Ronald Cansfield took over.  He seemed to like me because I had a good singing voice.  But he was creepy. He never tried anything sexual with me thank goodness when it came out what he had been up to my mum’s only comment was “I’m not surprised“.

    I remember Mr Thompson. Horrible man.  He’d send you out to the playground if you did something wrong. “Round the playground twenty times” he’d retort. I became well acquainted with that monkey puzzle tree. My recollection of him is someone akin to the child snatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  

    I remember Killick as well.  He was very odd.  Foamed at the mouth when he got cross.  He would give out prizes if you did so well.  I got a whole set of cigarette cards once. He smoked like a chimney I recall.

    Mr Latham taught games and also maybe history?  He was younger.  He too had a penchant for using the slipper and not necessarily on the person or people that deserved it.  He’d be appearing in court now for his actions as would a few others and as has already been mentioned Cansfield did end up in prison for sexual abuse of some of the pupils. 

    I went to St George’s in Harpenden and left after O’ Levels as I continued to dislike the school environment.  Joined a bank and am still in Harpenden.  I was diagnosed with MS when I was 24 and retired early at 42, but I am one of the lucky ones and lead a reasonably active life.  

    Mark Jones, I remember you! You lived up Townsend Lane and we were quite pally for a while.  I hope you are doing ok.  I often think of some of the pupils there.  You were one.  Stuart Jackson was another.  Also Philip Such.  He was a nice guy.  He became something of a sports reporter, but died young of a rare disease of the nervous system  

    Thanks for all the input.  Stay well everyone. 

    By Phil Adamson (23/07/2020)
  • I was at Moreton End school from 1951 to 1957. We lived in Topstreet Way, Harpenden, and I remember my Mum taking me to school on my first day. Walking down Piggotts Hill Lane – known simply as Piggotts Hill in those days – and catching the 321 bus from Southdown (Rose and Crown) to school. The next day she put me on the bus to make the trip alone, but I missed the stop and cried until a kind lady rescued me and walked me back from the next stop to school. I don’t remember how I got home.

    There was a monkey puzzle tree in front of the school. It seemed to be very tall, but of course I was very short at the time, so perhaps it wasn’t all that tall.

    The Headmaster was Dr J W(illiam) Billinghurst, tall and fiercesome-looking, with a short pretty wife whose name was Mrs Billinghurst. Another senior figure appeared at some point: name of Pinkus, tall, fair-haired, pink of countenance and rode horses. No one was ever sure of his provenance but rumour had it that he was son of Billinghurst. Dr Billinghurst used to take assembly on Monday mornings, standing before a lectern in the middle of the three prefabs. One of his duties was to read out the lists of “good boys” and “bad boys”: a good boy was one who had earned five or more “stars” during the previous week, whereas a bad boy was one who had amassed five or more “stripes”.

    I remember some of the teachers:

    Miss Jenkinson (?) did music sessions with us, playing the piano and nodding her head emphatically when it was time for me to hit the cymbal that I had been holding patiently since the music began.

    Later, it was Mr McCall that I remember. He taught French and had oily hair. He once returned my exercise book, apologising for the spillage of hair lubricant on the cover.

    Mr Thompson was a Maths and English teacher. He was brilliant but had a fearful temper. I remember his phrase “cheeky little rat” being applied to some unfortunate boy who wished to change his detention time. Thompson exploded and went to assault the boy but tripped over en route and ended up lying on the floor between two rows of desks. By the time I left ME I was “good at maths” thanks to Mr Thompson; indeed, at my interview for St Albans School I was asked to demonstrate a geometrical theorem and I obliged by stating (and proving) that the angle at the centre of a circle was double the angle at the circumference.

    Mr Phillip (or Phillips?) taught history and rugby, reeked of fags, pulled hair and slapped faces. He also had a motorbike on which I once rode pillion – don’t ask me why or how come. I have no idea. We didn’t have health and safety or child protection in those days. He retired to Tavistock in Devon where he lost an eye in a walking accident.

    Mr Blake was there for a while. He taught French and had a son at the school, but his name was not Blake – it might have been Soderling. He was one of the teachers who took a party of us boys to Paris in 1957. If anyone is interested I still have the “letter to parents” about this trip.

    Another teacher was Mr Carlos(?) who taught scripture and maybe something else. He had a short fuse and you could always tell when it was lit because he would suddenly explode with a noise that could be best described phonetically as “BYAP!!!”. Contemporary doodles in exercise books lampooned him as saying “YAP!!!” but I firmly believe that the expression started with a “B”.

    I learned (or failed to learn) Latin at Moreton End but I don’t remember the name of the teacher responsible. I do remember getting 0 out of 10 in my first Latin test though – a watershed moment for me as, for the first time in my life, I had to learn things by rote.

    I remember doing PT in the back garden and I remember the yew tree and the bike shed and the conker fights and my proudest moment when I was selected to ring the handbell announcing morning break. I remember also being asked by another boy whether my bike was “mobile”, a word that I had not yet come across. Not wishing to appear ignorant I took a chance and replied “no”. Came the reply: “Haha, that means it doesn’t move”. What an a***hole.

    For a while we had inkwells that sat in a recess in the top right corner of the desk. These had to be refilled every so often, I think by a formal application and a visit to the stationery cupboard, supervised by Dr B. Replacement exercise books were also issued here subject to the constraint that there was no empty space that would accommodate the shortest word in the English language. If you could satisfy this requirement Dr B would tear off the lower corner of the back cover of your exercise book and give you a new one. To be fair I don’t think this was parsimony – I have a letter from Bilinghurst to my Dad apologising for the increase in fees from 18 guineas to 19 guineas a term in which he states that he was unable to draw a salary for himself during the previous term.

    Looking through the comments here reminds me of some of the boys I knew at ME. I apologise to those I have missed, or whose first names I cannot recall, but I do remember David Hyde (who lived at the Silver Cup), Andrew Ritchie (whose Dad often gave me a lift to school), Martin Underwood (who was coached privately by my next door neighbour Mrs Cunnington), Nigel Pryke, Hugh Grundy, Keith Burgess, Wainwright, Brett Kerr, Howard Coss, Ganu, Duncan Elliott, Edmund Worthy, Dumpleton, Anthony Singleton (who, I think, impressed me greatly by asking for “du pain, s’il vous plait” on the Paris trip – but it may have been another boy), and a boy who lived in Moreton End Lane who once invited me to look at the stars through his telescope.

    Nick Stevenson (1951-1957)

    By Nick Stevenson (17/07/2020)
  • This is fascinating. I was there perhaps around 1986 and it was very …Victorian. It was the last year of caning, I believe, in schools. I was there with Cansfield. 

    I remember one of the teachers used to pull out our loose teeth and things like having to stand in the corner with hands on or heads, pages ripped out and sent to the Head Master if we did math puzzles incorrectly. I remember you HAD to say the Lord’s Prayer and sing hymns regardless of your faith. I’m not sure I remember much in the way of physical abuse, thankfully.  

    Cansfield definitely caned two Ethiopian children, and only them. That I remember, sadly.

    By Hannah Scott (03/06/2020)
  • I was at this school and thankfully didn’t experience too much of the abuse mentioned above, and specifically by Mr Cansfield, who was quite keen on hurling blackboard rubbers at pupils when they weren’t concentrating. I remember a huge teacher – Mr Killick? – but sadly none of the others. I did alright and went on to Verulam School in St Albans, sadly though just for a term, as my father then moved us down to Sussex and we ended up horror of horrors at a comprehensive school…with girls! I did really badly there and never reached what I might have done if I’d stayed at Verulum, ah well…

    By Trevor Pearce (1971-1976) (29/04/2020)
  • In response to Rod Terrett’s question, I had Billinghurst for Latin. I remember doing a rather loose translation which caused him to hurl my exercise book across the room.

    I appreciated his wife’s good looks at the age of ten.

    When crossing the bridge over the Nickey Line en route to the sports field and a train came by, we tried to spit down the chimney of the guard’s van.

    By Jim Maxwell (1947-49) (11/01/2020)
  • Fascinating reminiscences from fellow contributors: thank you all. I attended Moreton End School from 1952 to 1958. Whilst avoiding repetition of the recollections of others I can add a few rather disjointed memories.

    Dr Billinghurst the headmaster: parsimonious attitude to stationery: a “full” exercise book could only be replaced with a new one after a boy had confronted the gauntlet of Dr Billinghurst seated in a small upstairs room (stationery cupboard?) where he took delight in going through a boy’s current book to find and delineate with a flourished pencil any, every and all unused blank spaces or partly used pages. His clear objective was to refuse the request; if any spaces were found and marked this resulted in him hurling back the exercise book to the boy for continued use. I’d be curious to hear if anyone else remembers this. Billinghurst taught Latin in the last two years of a pupil’s stay at Moreton End: how immensely useful this has proven through life.

    Mr Thompson (“Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry”!) had a schoolboy nickname of “Tommy Thompson”. During his not infrequent outbursts – about which others have already commented – I recollect that he often projected his lower jaw so that its teeth overlapped those of his upper jaw: he had an animalistic response to whatever he regarded as provocation, but was an excellent Maths teacher if one co-operated.

    Mr McCall’s dress and appearance are accurately described by Tim Harbot. I have a recollection that Mr McCall may have had an Irish accent. Tim Whiteley mentions that Mr McCall taught French: I also have a recollection of being taught French by a Monsieur Garnier (short, rotund and inevitably nicknamed “Frog”).

    I concur with Tim Harbot’s favourable mention of Mrs Simpson. It was she who taught one how to tell the time from a paper replica clock face and how to produce neat “joined up writing” using paper with pairs of parallel lines an x-height apart. Does anyone else remember the curly capital “Q” she was insistent upon – resembling the number 2 with a flourish? Was it also she (or another?) who took us up the often muddy – then unadopted – Moreton End Lane to a patch of open greenery down a short path on the right hand side (now Moreton End Close) for the Nature Study class where we were overlooked by the Nickey Line and the delights of its occasional passing train and wave from the train-driver.

    Pinkus. Ah, Pinkus (various spellings)! Exact status and origins unknown, but tall with blonde hair and an Aryan appearance (somewhat resembling a young Christopher Walken?). May have had a continental accent (German?). Took some delight in the ritual of choosing which boys would ride with him to the school playing fields (at Roundwood Park, I think) in Billinghurst’s Humber Shooting Brake vehicle. Pinkus had an interesting line in sneers (providing him with pleasure?) as he rejected some boys from accompanying him in the vehicle.

    Pupils. “Ritchie” is mentioned (by David Hyde), I think that would have been Andrew Ritchie – a consistent top performer as I recall. (Later, successful inventor and manufacturer of Brompton folding bicycle). Alistair (or Alastair?) Mills a favourite of the kindergarten teacher(s) perhaps due to his then baby-like face? Edmund Worthy – I think you and I were in the same year’s class at Moreton End after which we both progressed to St. Albans School.

    And let’s not forget that wonderful Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) in the playground at the side of the school. Or the blue and grey school uniform complete with striped blazers for the Summer and, of course, school caps emblazoned with overlapped “M” and “E”. For those declining school lunches (hardly a surprise – if you remember pink blancmange, tapioca or spotted dick), the Oxo tins brought in from home and containing perhaps a sandwich and an apple.

    Some contributors draw attention to the less savoury aspects of life at Moreton End School – but I think it gave me a head start in educational life that it took me quite a while to dissipate.

    By Rod Terrett (12/10/2019)
  • Wow!!! You’ve all awoken memories here!! I was at Moreton End for a few years in the mid-late ’60’s. I vividly remember Dr. Billinghurst, Mr Pinkus, Ms Jones (first teacher) then Mrs Simpson; Mr Thompson (maths or was it science??), crappy school lunches, the air-raid shelter, Billinghurst letting us watch Winston Churchill’s funeral in his study TV, the main circular staircase and banister, sports days, conker fights, the ‘Monkey Tree in the courtyard….

    Parents had me removed after a couple of years after the French teacher – Mr Kursen? – put his fingers in my mouth and pulled my mouth apart! Not a very good introduction to schooling.

    By Dominic Appleton (05/09/2019)
  • Michael Middleton Green. Salisbury Ave. Harp. Attended ME..1955 to 64.

    Every year we had to run that sprint 100 yard the main garden.

    Since then I travelled the Globe for 30 years as a pilot and jungle surveyor. Been there done that..went on to Duke University, Naturopathic medicine… 

    Currently enjoying life in paradise..Cocoa Beach Florida

    Great to hear your stories..!

    By Michael Middleton Green (04/08/2019)
  • I was a pupil from about 1963 to 65. It was an awful place. I was labelled the naughtiest boy in the school at some point. Detention on Saturday mornings. Mr McCall, greasy haired chain smoker. Mr Thompson, who we flicked ink up the back of his tweed jacket!  Miss Simpson wasn’t much nicer either. Board dusters flying around the Nissen huts. As for Billingshurst and Pinkarse, no you couldn’t make it up! Topsie the lovely boxer dog, the monkey puzzle tree in the playground, the same food every day each week. Other pupils at the time Christopher Baker – we travelled on our own to Stoke Newington to stay with his mum one weekend – Howard Graham, Charlie Down, Steve Parker, Reggie Holman,Nick Reynolds, Jeremy Andrews…. It seems a life time away.

    By Doug Whitelaw (24/03/2019)
  • I can barely remember the exact years when I attended Moreton End 70-72, but lived not 100 yards away. What I do remember is the bomb shelter, we all queuing up to leap off the end above the old entrance.

    Billinghurst, Miss Jones, mousetraps usually with dead mice in them ….curious school dinners, Small tin tables and chairs in sky blue. A wooden hut it seemed for maths by a teacher that would make you stand in the corner quite often. But my best memory was sports day….Rothamsted Park, we would march up the hill and through, whereupon The Herts Advertiser photographer there, to photo the obstacle race…….which I won..Philip Such coming second. The picture made it to the paper but have long lost it with Billinghurst staring down my throat to assure that the bun had been eaten and that I had won….curious times….I left and went to Beechwood Park. Thank you to the persons/people that have put this up to prompt my memory. 

    Best regards James Selby

    By James Selby (11/10/2018)
  • I too was a pupil at Morton End in the early 50’s and also underwent the mental & physical abuse handed out by Billinghurst, Pinkus, Phillips & co. Hair pulling, slapping around the face & open chastisement in front of the school. The slipper was often used while lying across the lap of Billinghurst. Standing outside the head’s office with nose against the wall at playtime & dinnertime.

    Unfortunately not being able to attain the high academic standard required I was also punished. This treatment left me with a lack of self worth, low esteem & no confidence.

    Who would believe me I was at a “private school”?  After many years of almost denial I found someone who believed in me & was willing to listen it changed my life. I was then diagnosed with Dyslexia which was not recognised at that awful time.

    On a chance comment about first school I googled Morton End and was shocked to find other pupils who underwent the same abuse, I thought I was the only one. Thank you for having the courage to do so and help me understand what went on. There are many names I recognise.

    Thank you all.


    By Anthony Singleton (07/08/2018)
  • Ii was a pupil here from 1970 to 1976. Billingshurst, Pinkhurst and Thomson were all still there when I arrived. Thomson was still teaching maths. I remember him shouting “stuffed owl” and any unfortunates that couldn’t grasp the subject followed by painful prodding in the side of the head with chalk or the wooden blackboard wiper hurled across the class room at them. Billingshurst/Pinkhurst retired and the school was run temporarily by a Mr Budds until a new owner was found. The next headmaster appointed was Mr R A Cansfield who indulged himself with paedophilic practices with some of the pupils and was sentenced to a long stretch in prison. The goings on at that school are almost beyond belief.

    By Mark Jones (27/02/2018)
  • I attended Moreton from the end of 1957-‘63. I recall similar events: –

    • Mr.Thompson, grey hair, linen jacket, red tie, lived in Nottingham, unmarried, good teacher if one didn’t object to rule by fear.
    • McCall wore a double breasted, dark blue pinstripe suit & had very greasy hair.
    • The staff room (cupboard) was revoltingly smoky!
    • I recall a kindly Mrs.Simpson in charge of 11b, (today’s Y2), at the top of the school.
    • ‘Pinkers’, Philip Billinghurst, was certainly strange (VERY!). He used to take us kids to games in Rothamstead Park in a big, green, Humber ‘woody’ estate car. He was a useful tennis player & balding in his early 20s …creepy!…(super deluxe!)

    I went on to St.Albans…largely happy memories but I was ‘academically capable’ thus able to avoid the worst of the violence!

    By Tim Harbot (03/02/2018)
  • I was at the school from early 1952 until 1957 and therefore cover much of the same period as a number of you. I completely underwrite all your comments about Billinghurst – he really sticks in the mind for all the wrong reasons. Was he not the cause of scandal, maybe sometime in the 70’s, and in the national press accused of ‘harassing’ certain young boys?

    My abiding memory, as for many of you, is of Mr Phillips. In preparation for a school cricket match one Saturday he asked me around lunchtime to ‘organise the telegraph‘. So I dutifully went down to Hockadays, then the local newsagent, and bought for him a copy of The Daily Telegraph which I duly gave him on the pitch just before the start of the match – I think he was an umpire. It was only then, and he certainly hit me although I am thankfully hazy about the details, that I was given to understand that ‘the telegraph’ was actually another name for the scoreboard which I had apparently been asked to set up for the match!

    I remember a few names of my contemporaries but one friend left a lasting impression – A boy called Hirschfield whose family lived in Luton and whose father took me with his son to my first Luton Town FC game – back then a first division team -comfortably beating Newcastle. Ever since I have been a lifelong Luton fan, having been to hundreds of games and still following them to this day from where I now live in Bucharest, in Romania.

    By David Fuller (17/11/2017)
  • Dear Fellow Old Boys

    I clearly remember David Hyde, Martin Underwood and Hugh Grundy on this thread together with many others including the weekly boarders from Moreton End 1951-1958. David, twice I got taken into the Silver Cup to dry off when I fell into the pond.

    I recall all the teachers including Mr Thompson throwing chalk (and sometimes the duster), Mr McCall walking to work from Leasey Bridge Lane and being given a lift home by E G Phillips on his motor bike. I am glad I discovered this site as there seems to be nothing recorded of the school after the arrival of Dr Billinghurst.

    By Edmund Worthy (16/11/2017)
  • Hello Everyone, I was at M.E. about the same time as you David Hyde. Yes I remember to this day the being lifted by the sideburns by Mr. Philips. It made the point, and my overriding opinion of him was that he very firm but fair, and a jolly good teacher, and as you say Rugby man as well.

    Overall I enjoyed my time Moreton End. I remember the Saturday detentions that I got a good few of; I remember trying to convince my parents when I got home late (having missed the normal bus back to Luton), that I had stayed behind for extra Art lessons,. Of course they did not believe me, but it was one of those situations, that at that time my parents would have said “you probably deserved it”. How times have changed.

    By Keith Burgess (14/11/2017)
  • Gentlemen,

    I was a pupil at Moreton End from 1957-1963 and, from what all of you have said, things had certainly not improved! 

    The Maths Teacher we had was not Mr Phillips; it was Mr Thompson. The most violent of them all, he would work himself up into a lather by calling the unlucky lad whose attention he was then focused on, ‘cheeky little rat’ hitting them on the back of the head, then proceed to beat them in a sort of frenzy. I once saw him pull a 7 year old boy actually out of his desk and and lay into him with both fists.

    The French teacher was Mr McCall. He once threw a wooden backed board rubber at me for talking in class, which hit me on my cheekbone under one eye. My eye closed up with swelling and my Mother complained the next day. He apologised to her but the next day, Billinghurst pulled me out of morning assembly and mocked me by saying “Timmy’s Mummy came to the school yesterday and so on……..” It was a fear-based regime, especially on the few school inspection days!

    The whole Billinghurst/Pinkus thing was bizarre, if not perverse. In my time, Billinghurst had, by then, passed the corporal punishment thing over to Pinkus – a much stronger, fitter exponent of the art. To this day, I don’t know what the set up between the two of them was but to give you an example of the mental place Billinghurst had arrived at by that time, he brought some of his cashmere cardigans down to class and made us all feel how soft the they were washed in Stergene! You couldn’t make this stuff up, could you!

    My friends and I loathed the place and when I went on to a Grammar School, after Mr Dad’s death, my educational life took a huge turn for the better. 

    If they were alive today, some of Moreton End’s old teachers would be behind bars for the physical and mental abuse they dished out.

    By Tim Whiteley (29/10/2017)
  • Hello David. I was there 1950 -57 so we may have known each other but sorry I can’t remember. I was terrified of Billinghurst who was not a nice man in my opinion. Also his strange son (or so I thought) Pinkie. Billinghurst had a young and pretty wife who was much nicer. l also remember Mr Phillips pulling my sideburns till I was on tiptoes. I didn’t do well there but thrived after I left. I remember a friend called Pryke but not well enough to remember his first name and another called Grundy I think who became a member of “the Zombies ” pop group. Thanks for memories.

    By Martin Underwood (18/10/2017)
  • I attended the school between 1949 and 1952. I don’t know why my parents sent me there. I remember Mr Billinghurst who near terrified me, and who enjoyed administering the slipper. I also remember the matron who used to line us up once a week for a wooden spoonful of malt, not cleaning the spoon between boys.

    There were two cousins in my class family name Parrich, and a very clever lad called Bamford.

    There were 14 boys in my class. Our teacher was Mr B A Roberts. We were tested every week on Friday in all subjects  and given a class position and the next week we were sat in order of our positions the previous week.

    I usually came about 5th and once achieved third. The academic standard was high. We wrote with dip-in pens and ink from inkwells. God help you if your work had blots on it (and mine usually did).

    I think of it as Dotheboys Hall.* Ed. From Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.

    By Adrian Mandel (30/08/2017)
  • Hi David, I was at the school too. I remember Billinghurst and Pinkus. A bit like a Carry On film with violence. I was hit by Phillips too, and for picking up a few conkers in the grounds of the Glen Eagles hotel received two weeks detention. My time at Moreton End helped me do OK in life. But not my happiest days. Best wishes Keith Sammels

    By Keith Sammels (17/06/2017)
  • Happened upon this site. Thank you for creating this! My parents owned The Silver Cup in Harpenden and I attended the school from circa 1950 to 1958. 

    Billinghurst was quite dreadful and along with his (probably queer) assistant Pinkus, would enjoy giving me the slipper and pushing me back into class doing up my short trousers. I was probably around seven at the time.

    Those of you who were there, would clearly remember the maths teacher and sports master Mr Phillips, who, if you got something wrong would pull your sideburn up painfully and slap you around the face. He blinded himself in one eye from an accident. He was however, a good teacher and a great Rugby coach.

    Playing conkers was always memorable. One would either walk to school or take the bus if it was raining. One friend’s name comes to mind: a chap whose last name was Ritchie … 

    I had bad asthma at the time from the awful yellow smog emanating from local coal burning. I was subsequently sent off to a school in Seaford, Sussex where my health improved immensely. 

    Would love to hear from anyone who attended during my own period and their thoughts and experience. I am currently living in Northern California with my wife and three dogs.

    By David Hyde (26/03/2017)
  • I went to Moreton End School from September 1947 until July 1956. Mr Codrington was headmaster but shortly after I arrived Dr Billinghurst took over. His presence was rather intimidating for a young boy as he was very tall, gaunt and with a fearsome profile, accentuated by his prominent nose.

    By Michael Jones (26/01/2017)
  • Regarding Jim Maxwells comment, I too remember the ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ production as I myself played a non-speaking part of a small animal in that production! ‘Toady’ was going to be played by a boy named Errol Bishop but because of certain factors during the numerous rehearsals, he was replaced by a fellow named Crowson snr. The hall was on the East side of Harpenden Common.

    Ed: it sounds as though the performance was on the stage of the Harpenden Public Halls.

    By Brian Block (30/09/2016)
  • I attended Moreton End School from 1947 until July 1949. Mr Billington took over as Head during my time. Staff I remember were Mr McDonald, Miss Harrison and Miss Fontaine for Art on Saturday mornings. The sports field was at the top of Moreton End Lane. Our classes were held in a large hut divided into 3 classrooms. We then lived in Welwyn Garden City and I travelled by bus via St Albans. About 5 years ago I stayed in WGC and used the buses to come to Harpenden. The staff of the nursery school now occupying the house kindly allowed me to see the ground floor and to look into the garden. There is a replacement hut on the same site. I still have the programme for a production of Toad of Toad Hall which was given in a hall on the St Albans side of the town. Mr Martin played the piano very loudly! 

    By Jim Maxwell (23/06/2016)
  • I have just read the Moreton End School in Wartime page. Of course it was Mr Billinghurst who took over from Mr Codrington. I also now remember Mrs O’Hara. I was a border for my last term as my stepfather had taken a job in Manchester. I now live in North East Wales.

    By Jim Maxwell (23/06/2016)

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