Memories of Mandeville School by Peter Rodford

I was at Mandeville from 1954 to 1960, and have very much enjoyed reading the reminiscences of Kelvin Callow, James Watkins, Catherine Mackenzie Davies and others. My brother Brian was there from 1955 to 1961, and my sister Jacky from 1958 to 1964. We lived in Trumpington Drive and had cousins, Glenn, Derek and Vicky, who lived in Gorham Drive and who were also at Mandeville at roughly the same time.

I recall Miss Knight, the headmistress, as being very serious and focussed; she rarely smiled, but inspired us with her calm confidence and obvious dedication. I imagine her life revolved principally around the school. I remember her taking morning assembly, the children processing into the school hall class-by-class and two-by-two to the accompaniment of classical music, which was played on a gramophone in a large wooden case on wheels. The records were 78s, I think, and a blackboard to one side displayed the piece being played. I had the impression the stock of records was not very extensive, as Handel’s Water Music and The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba seemed to come round often.

I started in Class 10 with Mrs Burrell, accent very definitely on the second syllable. This was a spill-over class held in the Baptist Church in Abbots Avenue. Mrs Burrell with her greying hair, sober dress and motherly manner must have been in her 60s. On my first day, butterflies in my tummy, Mum took me into the class and Mrs Burrell led me across to one of the little tables where another beginner, Sandra Norris, was doing a jig-saw puzzle of a farmyard scene. The tables were shaped so that if two were pushed together they formed a hexagon so that six children could sit round and form a little group. I think we were joined by another unwilling pupil, Peter Saitch (Saish, Sach?), as more children arrived and settled down at other tables.

I was nervous and afraid of the walk down to school because of the stray dogs that used to wander round the estate during the day while their owners were at work. My younger brother Brian would often take and collect me, as he loved dogs and was not in the least concerned by even the fiercest. My other worry was that I hated milk, and could not face the mid-morning third of a pint that was prescribed by the welfare state to build up us post-war kids.

We had to wait outside the building each morning for Mrs Burrell to call us in at 9 o’clock, unless it was raining, when we would crowd into the lobby. I enjoyed the games we played in class to help us learn to read. Mrs Burrell would give us cards with part of a sentence on them, and then place other cards round the classroom, on window sills and chairs, and we had to look for the cards that completed our sentences. Sometimes the cards had part of a sum on them and we had to look for the card with the answer on it. Mrs Burrell would occasionally take us for a walk along Berners Drive to watch the engines shunting trucks or the passenger steam trains on their way to and from the Abbey Station.

Some of the names I remember from that first class are Graham Wilson, David James, Mervyn James and John Stockwell. There was also a cheeky little girl called Christine Hall, who had a stock of jokes and rhymes, one being ‘What’s the time, half past nine, hang your britches (!) on the line, if a copper comes along, hurry up and put them on’. Some of the others I remember are unprintable. There was also a little girl called Jenny – I used to take her ‘love hearts’, little sweets with a few words on them like ‘Be mine’, or ‘Forget me not’, which I wrapped up in a little piece of white paper. I think she left after that first year.

The teachers I remember at the ‘big school’ in Mandeville Drive were: Miss Harvey, very young, with dark wavy hair and a touch of eye make-up who rode a Vespa scooter – I thought she was lovely; Miss Cassan (?), also quite young with dark-blond hair and a slightly worried air; Mrs Thorpe, dark wavy hair, and very serious who was a bit older and maintained strict discipline. In my last two years, there was Mr Newby (nickname: Newbyfruits, as in Newberry Fruits) (Classes 3 and 1), who wore a tweedy sports jacket, and had a gentle Yorkshire accent. I liked him because he was strict but fair and had a dry sense of humour. He left the school to become a policeman.

Other teachers I remember were: Mr Staten, who wore a grey houndstooth sports jacket; Mr Mottershead – I was frightened by his name as much as his beaky nose and forbidding frown:, Miss Cape, a youngish jolly hockey-sticks type; and of course Mr Dunkley who I think was known as Major Dunkley, although I’m not sure whether he was a former serviceman or was called that because of his moustache and military manner.

At the main school we had to wait at the infants’ door in the morning and afternoon before being let in. My memories of my time in classes 7, 6 and 5 include a pottery class where we were given a choice of two different-coloured clays but given strict instructions not to mix them together. After play time, we came back and followed the teacher as she reviewed the artistic works on display. When we came to my modest clay pot I saw that someone had sabotaged it by making a hole in the bottom and crimping some clay round the top in a different colour, and was mortified when Mrs Thorpe said it was a ‘very poor effort’. I’d still like to know who did it, after all these years ….

I remember one day Miss Cape took our class when our regular teacher was away. She made us line up outside the classroom, boys on one side of the door and girls on the other. When she gave us the signal to go in I made for the door, but she grabbed me by the ear, yanked me back and barked ‘Ladies first’. I stood aside, one ear burning with pain and the other with embarrassment.

One of the happiest memories is of listening to BBC school broadcasts in class, ‘Time and Tune’ and ‘Rhythm and Melody’, I think they were called, with accompanying song-books. One of the tunes, ‘I’ve been to Harlem’, had a chorus that went ‘Sailing east, sailing west, sailing over the ocean’, which Christine Hall used to sing as ‘Sailing east, sailing west, sailing up Sabrina’s vest’ (I think we all vaguely knew that Sabrina was a glamorous character in an American romcom).

I remember some of the names from those classes: lads such as Terry Davies, Ronnie Ward and Anthony Churchill, and the girls, Lesley Callow (pink glasses and pretty blond curls), Christine Bacon, Gillian Childs, Valerie Smith and Diane Brazier were all lovely.

Moving to Class 3 in one of the huts opposite the junior school was a bit worrying, as Mr Newby was very daunting at first – he was keen on making us recite the times tables in front of everybody, and moved us round in the class depending on how well we’d done in arithmetic and spelling tests. Some of the names I remember from this class, in addition to those in the photo below, are Frances Church, Celia Middleton, Melita Hutley (who I think had come to England with her family from the island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic), Barry Tabor and Katherine Paisley. Nearly 50 years after leaving Mandeville I was sitting in the audience for the start of an amateur concert in Waterloo, Belgium, when a voice behind me said, ‘I know you’ – it was Katherine.

For me the most memorable event in Class 1 was playing in the school football team – the first match we played was against Abbey School, which we won 6 – 0 The captain was a wiry little lad, I think called Micky Rolf. There were slices of orange at half time, a cheer for the losers and tea in the canteen afterwards. I also remember Mr Newby playing the radio quietly during class one day to hear the general election results, while we worked more or less quietly.

When I left Mandeville in 1960 I took a photo of Mr Newby and some of the class – the viewpoint is low as, apart from not being very tall, I was using an old Kodak box-camera with a top viewfinder that you looked down at.

Other memories: ‘Play-time’ in the large playing field, sometimes going right down to the bottom of the field and missing the whistle – the first whistle meant ‘stand still’, the second ‘line up’, and the third whistle ‘file into class’. We sometimes played ‘Arabs and Legion’, where hordes of kids would charge at each other like battling armies and leave scores of ‘dead’ lying around. Hearing the V-bombers testing their engines at the Handley Page aerodrome at Radlett, and the blissful silence when they switched off. Sometimes a Victor would fly very low over the school with a deafening roar, only a couple of hundred feet up. Sometimes the fire siren in Tavistock Avenue would be tested and cause a din only slightly less painful. The colourful painting taking up one wall of the canteen/classroom just off the main entrance hall – I seem to remember a domestic scene with musical instruments, summer sun and house plants, but the memory is very vague – does anyone else recall it?

On the last day of term we would march around the playground in a large group chanting ‘One more day of school, one more day of horror, one more day in this old dump, we won’t be here tomorra! On the very last day before leaving we were probably just a bit sad we wouldn’t ever be back.

Back row: David Guy, Michael Chase, Mervyn James, (? ?), Graham Paige, Peter Thom, Victor Fagence, Leonard Wisby, Malcolm Elliot, Neil Beardmore Middle row: Nigel Ross (?), Barry Brookes, Janice Dove, Valerie Smith, Linda Bonnell (?), Hazel Richardson, Graham Wilson, Michael Latchford Front row: Michael Saunders, David James, Terry Davies, John Macadam, Martin Islip

Peter as a child

Comments

  1. brian harrington

    Hi can you tell me what number you lived in Trumpington drive i lived number 22 my brother was John and my sisters Christeen Pauline we lived next to the Ralphs
    I was at the school 1951 till age 7

    Reply
  2. Graham

    Well, Peter what can I say! I read your article for this webpage and, I was immediately 5 years old again, I must say your memory of that time is far better than mine. What it has done is to “jog” my memory regarding the names on the photo, along with others who just came to your mind. Christine (Buck nee Wilson being 4 years younger than me) and I often attempted to remember the names of our teacher’s and class mates, and you have certainly done that. The vast majority I can “now” remember, but only thanks to you!! My immediate thought was to remember my first day at Manderville. Mum took me from Maynard Drive to Mandeville Drive and being left there. When play time came, I immediately trotted off home. I arrived at the back door where Mum looked down at me and said; “what are you doing here?” of course my reply was to say, “I’ve been to school but did not like it, so I’ve come home” You can imagine how that went down, having to be walked back to school with an explanation to a very worried teacher as to what had happened. Referring to my loss of memory, does anyone remember a Mrs/Ms Bararra (not sure of the spelling, so I spelt it as I say it!). She taught down at the church hall on the left-hand side of Abbotts Avenue West. I remember being told by Mum never to go down the embankment onto the railway lines, which of course was immediately ignored, only to find myself in a push-chair being pushed from the school to St Albans City Hospital accident department to have a badly cut knee. I still have the scar to remind me. Happy, happy days Peter, so many thanks for your memories, it just made my day

    Reply
  3. Lindsay

    I remember Brian when I was a (founder) member of St Albans and District Youth Choir. We both appeared in Beaumont School’s production of Edward German and Basil Hood’s “Merrie England (Brian played Sir Walter Raleigh and I was one of the Four Tradesmen of Windsor!) and later the Youth Choir provded the “Chorus” for the St Albans Operatic Society’s production of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s Christmas opera “Amahl And The Night Visitors”, at the Abbey Theatre. Brian played a lead role as one of the Three Wise Men. I was in the “chorus of villagers”…..

    Reply
  4. Kathleen Pitcher nee Davies

    Thank you for you memories, my brother is Terry Davies. I have copied and sent the photo to him in Abu Dhabi.

    Reply
  5. Susan L Day-Meadows

    Hi Peter, I was your sister Jacqueline’s best friend for many years. We are in touch but haven’t seen each other in years. Of course we met at Mandeville School and had a long friendship through to her days at teacher training college. Then I left for Australia where I lived for many years, then back to the UK for a while, and now I’ve been in California for 25 years. I remember you and Brian very well, and of course your Mum and Dad. I’ll never forget your Mum’s Bloomer bread with homemade plum jam – the best I’ve ever had. Just thought I’d say hi as I came across the article. Best regards, Susan Meadows (Howland Garth)

    Reply
  6. John Rowland

    Wow! what astonishing detailed memories Peter. I was at Mandeville from 1955 until 1961 and you have brought back so many memories but I am gobsmacked by your almost total recall. Thanks for jogging my memories. I lived in Mitchell close in a prefab which is still there. I have fond memories of Mrs Thorpe, who I felt was my first ‘proper’ teacher,and who I think help shaped my academic progress in readiness for Grammar school. I certainly have no recollection of any other than two.My first teacher at Mandeville, a very young Miss Revens (sorry if I have the spelling wrong) and of course Mr Dunkley was at one feared and respected – I suppose he maybe reminded us of our fathers, fresh from the war and with that ‘military’ discipline buried not too far beneath the surface.He was a dab hand at the ruler on the hand if we misbehaved as I recall.

    The hall was a memory, not only for morning assembly but also for the nusic you remind us of.
    I remain astonished at your total recall, and it really has sparked of some of mine. Names I remember include: Paul Fox, Graham Falke, Andy Billings, Tessa Wilson. Rosemary Mayo and my first love (at 6 years old!) Susan Smith – had a sister Wendy?
    Thanks for reminders of those days. My brother (Stephen Rowland) and I still reminisce about these times.
    One last little memory. I owe my whole life now to Miss Knight. to my shame I failed my 11+ (maybe narrowly, who knows) but I was perhaps a bit of a favourite of Miss Knight My parents pleaded with her to see if she could influence things and apparently she somehow did and from an 11+ failure I suddenly became a grammar school boy. Who knew that it was even possible to change the 11+ judgement but if Miss Knight did that then I owe her everything.
    I remember the music after assembly, I take your word for the songs played. I do recall ‘Music and Movement’ an afternoon session in the hall where the smart wooden school radiogram (a light beach or maybe oak wood monstrosity with a massive speaker would be wheeled out for the afternoon music. I think some afternoons we would also have ‘country dancing’ – not something I excelled at but a chance o get near the girls.

    Your other memories are so complete and evocative I really don’t think I can add more, brilliant! I think I remember Graham Wilson you mention but not the other names (other than teachers of course)

    Thanks once again for the memories.

    Reply

Leave a comment

  • (will not be published)