My memories of Hardenwick School

1946 to 1950

The school with cricket pitch. Credit: 1938 Prospectus, LHS archives

Having read many of the comments I decided that someone may be able to pin point my time at Hardenwick so that I can fill in that space in my Family History. I think I started at the school when I was about 6 years old, as I know I attended in 1947 because my parents sent me a newspaper cutting showing the large snowdrifts around Spalding in Lincolnshire.

I had to leave in about 1950 and come home because my mother had fallen over in the shop that they owned at the time and damaged her back. This meant that I was then taking the 11 plus exam for the local Grammar School and this would be in 1951. I didn’t pass but went to an excellent school – the Gleed Secondary Modern in Spalding.

Back to the beginning – I came from the small village of Surfleet, near Spalding in Lincolnshire. I can remember getting on the train at Surfleet Station very early in the morning, then on to Spalding to Kings Cross, walking to St Pancras station next door to catch another train to Harpenden. In the latter stages of my time at Hardenwick I did this journey on my own aged 9! (I wonder if a 9 year old would be allowed to do this today?)

My first recollection of Hardenwick was of a teacher (must have been Mr Harris) marking out on the school yard the course of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race and then we followed the commentary through from the radio.

Scars – from accidents

I still have the scars from being at this school! One being from using a Swiss knife a boy had as a present, which he gave me, to whittle a stick. I sliced the side of my finger and Matron just bandaged it, which has now left me with a ‘square’ finger end! The other incident was while making wooden boats in the woodworking class and I used the chisel the wrong way and cut through to the bone in my thumb – again leaving a scar!

Referring earlier to the snow in 1947.  I remember the long walks we used to go on. On another occasion we went onto the (Dunstable?) Downs tobogganing and a boy came down a slope and the brake lever on his home-made toboggan broke and he badly damaged his hand.

I did enjoy model making at Hardenwick and this has lasted me throughout my life. There were three of us who made model aircraft. Unfortunately I did get into a lot trouble doing this – as on one occasion I had balsa cement on my new blazer. One of the teachers made model planes and propelled them with JetX cartridges along the length of the playing field. Model Railways are another interest and I remember spending time with a boy who lived in Harpenden. I went to visit him and played with his extensive Hornby Clockwork Train. I remember visiting the Annex in Tennyson Road and seeing the next door neighbour’s ‘0’ Gauge railway running along the fence.

Dormitory. Credit: 1938 Prospectus, LHS archives

Other activities involved making dens in the hedge on the far right of the playing field and we sometimes made smoky grass fires in them!! Midnight feasts! I do remember being woken up and going down to the Common Room to find all the school ‘gorging’ themselves on jam tarts and cakes.


Fire evacuation drill was another memorable event when we had to go down the shute from the top floor. My bed in the dorm was the one on the right by the fireplace near the window.

Learning self-reliance

On to punishment. Being hit on the back of the knuckles with a wooden ruler was one punishment if you did something wrong or did not meet expectations. Talking after lights out in the dorm – I remember Mr Everington pulling back the sheets and he gave me three whacks with the cane.

Common practice for those who could not swim was to be thrown into the swimming pool. I was thrown in and, as a result, I hit my head and spent two days in the sick room. I played cricket once for the school at St George’s but am not sure of the year. Sport was not my best subject! Another lasting memory is being expected to eat peanut butter sandwiches and I still detest peanut butter to this day!

I am not sure if I learnt a lot academically at Hardenwick but it did teach me about self-reliance and independence and ability to make decisions. All this helped me in later life through my Apprenticeship, then as a qualified Engineer and Manager, going on to be a Company Director in four blue chip organisations and finally running my own Consultancy in Manufacturing. I have been happily married to Christine for 51 years and we have two sons and four grandchildren. We both enjoy world-wide travel and in retirement I spend much of my time helping and organising in a number of voluntary organisations.

I now live in Staffordshire and I look forward to corresponding with anybody who may be able to piece together my missing years and can recognise similar experiences.

Ed. If you Contact us, we will try to put you in direct touch by email.

Comments about this page

  • Wow, this certainly brings back memories.

    I was at Hardenwick from 1948 until 1953.and remember Brian Haigh.I enjoyed my time there and these are some of the things that have stayed in my mind.

    1) Being woken up in the morning by Evy (Mr Everington) shouting my name and others to get up for extra Latin.

    2) Being caught by Mr Harris (best teacher ever) throwing the remains of a dorm feast out of the window late one summer evening.The four of us in the dorm, the Pantilides brothers and another were volunteered by Mr Harris to clear up all the rubbish outside prior to sports day.

    3) The fire escape practice going down a near vertical canvas shoot and grazing elbows and knees. How we laughed when Matron shot out at the bottom.

    4) The injustice of being sent one evening by Ben Briers to see Evy for misbehaving in the dorm. He made me walk around the field with slobbering Ben the St.Bernard, and on returning to his study asked me again why I was there and then proceeded to give me 4 of the cane on my backside.

    5) Mr RR de Reggio our French teacher…a real aristocrat. So easy to get red marks from him. He never had a clue how to play cricket and would stand with his arms crossed looking so bewildered. Mr Harris was driven mad by him.

    6) Being taught to swim by Mr Ward who I am convinced tried to drown me as he hauled me along on a pulley.

    7) Some names i remember….Roger Saul….Ian Heaton from Huddersfield who badly gashed his knee on a faulty locker handle….the Pantiledes brothers who came from Ealing….Clayton and Dines who were related….Bunny Palmer from Luton….Cole Gilsenan….Doug Shapcott who by a chance in a million I met in South Africa some 20 years after we left school. Once spent a lovely half term with his family in Mablethorpe.

    Happy days and happy memories. Managed to win a few prizes and finished up as Head Boy…. Evy must have been desparate!

    It would be so nice to hear from anyone who remembers me.

    By Hugh Lapham (17/02/2019)

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