Dunstable Grammar School
the original Francis Ashton School and later Dunstable School. The School eventually went on to
become Manshead Upper School. The development of
and the events in its history will make up this section of the site.
As always, please let me know if you have anything to add or correct
and, in particular, if you have any old photos or publications relating to
DUNSTABLE SCHOOL HEADMASTERS
L C R Thring
A R Thompson
A F R Evans
G H Bailey
L P Banfield
The existence of Dunstable School was made possible by the Will of a woman
who died in 1727. Her name was Frances Ashton.
In that Will, money was left for many charitable purposes; the relief of
poor clergymen: the maintenance of six local almswomen: the provision of
bread, each Sunday, for the poor of Dunstable: the aid of discharged
prisoners, the maintenance of a charity school in St Giles, Cripplegate.
Also thirty shillings a year, or more, were to be used for repairing and
cleaning the clock which was set upon the School House, at Dunstable.
Over the hundred and twenty years which followed her death, the value of
Frances Ashton's estate vastly increased and a charity was established to
administer the terms of the Will. Eventually, in 1868, when some property
was sold for £14,500, it was decided to devote the money to 'one special
object’. A Grammar School, suitable for one hundred pupils, was to be
founded, together with a headmaster's house, to include room for twenty
In September, 1888, this school opened its doors for its first term. Some
forty small boys filed through them - Hugh, John and Oliver Anderson,
Ernest and Frank Gladwell, Walter Keeling, Frank Oliver and C H Dixon
among them. They were "the sons of professional men, tradesmen and others"
and their education was "a moderate expense" to their parents. They must
have felt rather overawed. For the first time in their short lives, they
encountered, "the real public school system of strict discipline, hard
work, compulsory games, and the punishment to fit the crime."
THE EARLY YEARS OF THE SCHOOL
L C R Thring
When Dunstable School opened its doors in September, 1888, its first
Headmaster was L C R Thring, of the Thring
family of Uppingham. Mr Thring had previously been an assistant master at
Wellingborough Grammar School, and he and Mrs Thring were to remain in
Dunstable until 1921, establishing a firm reputation for fairness and
dedication to the school, and a "family atmosphere" which many Old Boys
remembered with affection. In a school magazine of 1911, one such Old Boy
"In our Head we have a man who, with his sterling qualities and splendid
character, has always set a noble example and appealed to the best
instincts of his boys. He has from the first earned their respect and
something far greater, that is, their affection..... he is stern enough
when occasion desires, as all disciplinarians must be, but to judge him
properly, you must see him in school, and then out of school joining in
the outdoor sports and excelling at them all in a way that wins the
admiration of those privileged to be present."
The same writer speaks of Mrs Thring as "a kind and gracious lady". She it
was who, with the help of a School Matron, had the job of looking after
the gradually increasing numbers of boarders, some of whom, as the years
passed, came from as far afield as France, Italy, America, China and
India. (see 1901 census) Her husband was a very able and enthusiastic cricketer and another
magazine article recalls that "Our heartiest congratulations go to the
Head on scoring a brilliant century against Felstead for the MCC."
In fact, a favourite early punishment for any misdemeanours committed by
the original forty-nine pupils was to man a heavy roller, as part of a
team of eight, in order to level the surface of the cricket pitch. Cricket
matches are reported in the magazine of 1899 as having been played against
St Albans Grammar School, Bedford County School, and Christ's College,
Finchley. In 1900 came the first of the Cricket Weeks, involving past and
present Masters and Boys of the Dunstable School, in matches against the
County and the town. Mr Thring’s name features prominently in these first
A 0 Jones, later to captain England, played in one Old Boys' Cricket Week,
and a number of Bedfordshire county matches took place on the school
Mr Thring was first assisted in the running of the school by Mr J Healing
and Mr Clarke. From 1890 to 1894, J T Phillipson was the second master and
he was succeeded by Mr W F Brown, who was to remain at the school in every
sense of the word - for, being a bachelor, he lived on its premises - for
thirty years. Mr Eric Baldock, who attended the school in the 1920's,
remembers that Mr Brown was plagued by bronchial asthma, but in spite of
this, he too was an enthusiastic cricketer, and a very important figure in
many ways in the life of the school. A report speaks of:
"the depth and sincerity of his religious feelings, his largeness of heart
and keen sense of fair play."
E E APTHORP
In 1900, E E Apthorp joined the school straight
from Cambridge, where he had gained great golf successes. Mr Baldock has
told me that the famous 'trio' of Thring, Brown and Apthorp not only lived
for their school and boys, but that they were mainly responsible for
starting Dunstable Golf Club. Mr Baldock also remembers these three
masters bringing the boarders from the school to Matins at the Priory
Church each Sunday. Mr W T Lack, who joined the teaching staff in 1924,
remembers Mr Apthorp as a fatherly figure - "the old style schoolmaster".
He was to teach classics, and to live at the school until his retirement
This appreciation of Mr Apthorp appears in the magazine of 1943.
EDMOND EAST APTHORP
* * * *
Edmund East Apthorp, formerly Classics master at Dunstable School, whose
death has just been announced, will be mourned by Old Dunstablians all
over the world.
He was the ideal schoolmaster. He taught for the love of the game and
because he loved and understood boys. In return they loved and admired
His surname lent itself to the singularly apposite nickname "Appy" and as
"Appy" he was known from his very early days in Dunstable until his
retirement in 1929. And "Appy" summed up that large, benign figure
He had a ready smile and kindly word for everyone, in his dealings he was
just, in his friendships loyal; and he was ever sensitive to the finer
values of life. He could converse brilliantly upon a variety of subjects,
and his sense of humour never failed him.
He was a great sportsman in the best sense of the word. His exploits with
the cricket bat are becoming almost legendary when big hitting is
mentioned in Bedfordshire conversation, but with whatever feats posterity
may credit him, it is the unvarnished fact that he hit balls right over
the old mill bordering the school ground -Gargantuan shots - and it was
common gossip in the lower school that “Appy" can hit a hockey ball twice
as far, using one hand, as anybody else in the school can, using two." At
golf, too, he was that rare phenomenon, a "plus" man, and captained
Cambridge University in his year.
Of him it might truly be said:-
All His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
Perhaps one of the best pieces of appreciation Of the
'Grand Triumvirate’ as Thring, Brown and Apthorp were known, is the poem
written in their memory by H E Hunt, an Old Dunstablian.
As boys preparing for the world of men
Now proved a world whose evil still rides high),
We met three mentors, greater now than then,
Whose influence on our lives can never die.
Tiggy the kindly, loved as few are loved,
Belgy the gentle, dwelling among his books,
Appy the strong, with interests that moved
From Greek to skates "sixes" and fishing hooks
Now each is gone to whatsoever waits
Beyond the last bell in the world of school;
But they have helped to mould our lives and fates,
And we thank God for their ungrudging rule.
Among the first pupils of the school were C F Dixon,
Hugh Anderson, and Ernest and Frank Oliver, and this magazine has spoken
already of the 'system of strict discipline, hard work, compulsory games
and the punishment to fit the crime' that they encountered. From the
earliest days, the House System has existed in the school, in its first
form as a friendly but definite rivalry between day pupils and boarders.
At the end of each year, each boy was obliged to submit to an oral and
written examination (in all his subjects) by the London School of
Examiners. The report of this was given at the annual Speech Day in July.
The report of 1899 makes interesting reading.
SPEECH DAY- 1899
"SPEECH DAY" this year fell on Saturday, July 29th, on which occasion
there was again a large gathering of the boys' parents and friends in the
School Hall. The Governors were represented by Mr Hugh Smith (Chairman),
Mr R M Harvey, the Rev. Canon Macaulay, MY George W E Russell, Mr B
Bennett, Mr H Hankey, and Mr G H Edwards. The Rev. Paul Wyatt, of Bedford,
distributed the prizes, and among those present were Sir Edgar Sebright,
the Mayor of Dunstable (Alderman F T Garrett), Major C S Benning, and many
The detailed report of the examination having been read, in which
particular praise was given to the excellence of Hare's Classics and
Watkin's Mathematics, Mr Reynolds Squire, M.A., F.R.S.L., who made a viva
voce examination of the School, in summing up, said that the general
results were highly satisfactory. The classical knowledge shown by the
boys of the Upper VI Form deserved the highest praise, and would rank with
that expected at any of our best, especially classical, schools. Hare's
Greek was also entirely satisfactory, and his name should be heard of in
the near future as an honour to the School.
The Lower VI. was a very fair Form, but there was a great difference
between individual members. He found on the whole, the grammar had
improved since last year. The examination of Form V. in French was most
satisfactory, Hansard being especially good all round, while Martin shone
in conversation. Holloway, Hyder, and Lenthall might also be mentioned. In
Latin, the syntax was a little deficient, but the work was uniformly very
Form IV. had made great strides in Latin since last year. Walker's answers
were especially good, and Mawley, too, should be mentioned. Much care had
evidently been bestowed on grammar. In French, Vanzandt and Homberger were
excellent, and Brown ii. was good.
Form III. was an intelligent class, Wilson and Rosson ii. being good in
French, and Wilson's Latin, as well as that of Bayly and Shaw, being well
The writing of Form II. was bold, clear and good, but the spelling was
uncertain. All the boys came in to do their best, and did it. Mr Squire
summed up his report as follows:- “A day spent in reviewing the boys gave
an outsider a fair estimate of the tone prevailing throughout the School.
This tone,” he said without reserve, “was good, The boys were cheery,
well-mannered, obedient, and thoroughly nice fellows. The work had
evidently been done thoroughly and conscientiously both by teachers and
“In conclusion,” he said “the Council was of opinion, from the above
report, that the School was in a highly satisfactory condition. They would
especially draw attention to the fact that, in addition to providing a
sound general education, the School had shown itself able to produce very
promising candidates both in Classics and Mathematics.”
“It might be anticipated that the School list of University distinctions
will receive additions at no distant date. The report of their examiners
in Chemistry was also worthy of special notice, and was a subject of great
importance on the modern side.”
“They would therefore tender to the Head Master and his staff their
congratulations on the nature of the report, and their thanks for the
facilities afforded them during the examination.”
In 1896, a library was opened, and a dramatic society was in existence. A
school magazine was issued in 1896, and lost money - and a swimming bath
had already been constructed. An Old Boys' Association was formed early on
and its records tell us something of what happened to these earliest
pupils in later life.
The first secretary of the Old Boys' Association was G Oliver Anderson,
nicknamed 'Ooley', who in his school career was a 'capital prefect' and
later head boy of the school. He must have been something of
'a11-rounder', because he secured a first medal for the school for the
best paper sent in by a Senior in the Geography examination, and he also
scored a hundred runs in a cricket match for the Boys' XI! He was a
champion sprinter and a capable footballer. In 1891, he was the second boy
in the school to be awarded the Hankey Gold Medal (W 'Jehu' Gray had
received it in 1890) left by Mr Thomson Hankey, one of the original
governors, to be awarded annually to the "best all-round boy in the
school". Over the years that followed, G 0 Anderson was a regular official
of the Old Dunstablians' Club and twice its President, an attender at
annual dinners, and a frequent contributor to the magazine. In his
obituary in the 1952 magazine, Mr Anderson is recorded as the boy whose
name was first on the register of the school. He continued to play in
first class hockey until he was 45, and had for many years been a member
of his old school's Board of Governors. G 0 Anderson was Chairman of the
publishing firm of Harrap & Co., in his business life.
An article appears in the July edition of the 1901 magazine concerning two
fellow pupils of G 0 Anderson's. Hugh and John Anderson shared his
surname, but their fates were very different from his own.
THEY DIED FOR THEIR COUNTRY
(A report concerning the Deaths in the Boer War of H & J Anderson)
When the call came for men, and that unparalleled outburst of enthusiastic
patriotism swept through the country, the little town of Dunstable was in
no way behind with offers of loyal sons. For the first time in history,
members of our Volunteer Forces were invited to enlist for active service,
and in the first Active Service Company of volunteers sent out to our
Bedfordshire Regiment in South Africa, Dunstable had four lads; others had
offered, but for various reasons had not been accepted. Of those four
selected, the Dunstable School had the proud distinction of claiming two
as former scholars - Privates Hugh and John Anderson.
Let it be recorded, that on the first occasion when England required
assistance from her soldier-citizen sons, the Dunstable School gave two of
its former scholars. Private Hugh Anderson died at Sanna's Post, O.R.C.,
of dysentery, on February 24th. Writing of him, his Commanding Officer
said: “He was the life and soul of the company, when on the trek or on
short rations; always ready to look on the bright side of things. He was a
good soldier and did his duty well. We shall miss him in many ways."
Of Private John Anderson, Captain Fox, writing home to a friend, said:- "I
have just met one of Mr Anderson's sons (near Thaba N'chu). The boy has
made a fine soldier." That was some months before his death, when Private
John Anderson was also full of buoyant life and courage, albeit he was
eagerly looking forward to the home-coming that had, even then, been
promised our Bedfordshire Volunteers. But for him, as for his brother,
there was to be no earthly home-coming.
Hearing that his brother was dangerously ill, he rode in to Thaba N'chu on
February 21st to see him, but arrived too late; five hours before he
reached that place Hugh had been sent back on the way to the Bloemfontein
hospital. He died half-way on the journey, and four days later Private
John Anderson received the sad news of his death. On the previous day John
had also to report sick with dysentery. He lay in a tent hospital at Thaba
N'chu for a week, and was then removed to a house. On March 9th he wrote
home: "Twelve months today we landed in S Africa. Our year's service is
now completed, and I hope it will not be long before we sail for home."
By a pathetically sad coincidence, the news of his death had reached
Dunstable through the medium of the War Office casualty list the day
before the arrival of that letter. He had recovered from dysentery, had
rejoined his Company on out post duty west of Thaba N'chu, but had fallen
a victim there to enteric. He died at Bloemfontein on March 31st.
During his period of active service in S Africa he acted as correspondent
for the Dunstable Borough Gazette, and a series of seventeen articles he
wrote entitled "With our Volunteers in South Africa", gave a picturesque
and interesting history of their movements and the life they led in the
campaign, which reflected considerable credit on his School training. Our
hearts ache for the loss of these lads, but we have the grand, consoling
thought that, bravely and willingly, they offered themselves in the hour
of England's necessity; bravely, too, they died for their country.
A W Mooring
Of the others of the first pupils of the school, W Gray, the first winner
of the Hankey Gold Medal, went on to become a chemist; E Spencer became a
solicitor; Cobley and Cripps (mentioned together), went into banks; G A
Marsh studied dentistry, and R J Gladwell was awarded a Senior Classical
Scholarship at Cambridge University.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I have been sent copies of the 1901 census return for
the School by a
Dr Bruce Durie.
The School was included on the 1901 census as the
dwelling of members of staff staff and boarders so it gives a picture of
who was at the school at the time. The School entry covers three pages in
the census entries. To view them click on the links below.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
During the early years of the school, hockey was introduced in 1902, and
athletics became a feature of school lift, but was not allowed to
interfere with cricket! By 1902, when a Fives Court was built, the school
numbers had risen to 119, some boys travelled from Luton each day by
train, each carriage in charge of a Prefect. In 1903 one of the school's
most famous 'characters' joined the school staff as a drill instructor -
R.S.M. Odell, who for some time escorted the young commuters from the
station to the school, as part of his duties. He remained at the school
until 1936, with a break for War service. Sergeant Major Odell has been
called a 'stern disciplinarian' but also "the kindliest and most courteous
of men". When the Cadet Corps, of which I hope to write more later, was
founded at the school, it was in the hands of R.S.M Odell and the school's
Armoury Room was his domain. Mr Eric Baldock remembers Sergeant Odell in
the 1920's when, as an enthusiastic schoolboy, he, Mr Baldock, marched up
to the school gate where Sgt Odell was standing, and saluted him smartly.
"You must NEVER salute an NCO, boy," said the Sergeant sternly. "Then may
I salute a gentleman?" asked young Baldock.
Mr Baldock's contemporary, Mr Eric Snoxell, recalls being on CC manoeuvres
on the school field when a sharp hailstorm blew up from Dunstable Downs.
"That's where your enemy is!" the Sergeant encouraged his young recruits.
The Sergeant also ran the school's first Tuck Shop, adjacent to the
stairway by the school's main entrance. I should imagine that strict order
During this early period of the school, chocolate and blue became the
school colours and were to remain so for many years. Eton jackets, stiff
collars, straw boaters, or school caps became the regular wear for pupils
of the School, and any schoolboy spotted in the town without his headgear
faced some sharp punishment.
The morale of the school, at this time, seems to have been very high; it
was fulfilling its initial aims and establishing its own firm traditions.
Numbers continued to increase' and the Thring family motto, "Do the right
and fear not" seems to have become part of the ethos of the whole school.
**** THE WAR YEARS ****
MR THRING'S RETIREMENT
* * * *
In all, Mr & Mrs Thring were to remain at Dunstable School for
thirty-three years. By the time of their retirement to Bath in 1921, the
school had on its roll 179 day boys and 82 boarders, and there were 15
The School had its own Science laboratories, swimming bath, Fives court,
tennis courts and sports pavilion. Ashton Lodge housed 21 boarders and
three masters. Over the years, there were many visits from Old Boys of the
school, and school magazines of the period are full of letters and
articles from others, in many parts of the world. In 1913, a silver tea
and coffee set and a silver rose bowl were presented to the Thrings on the
occasion of the 25th anniversary of the school's opening; the following
year brought the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War.
Two things seem to emerge from a study of the school magazines of this
period. Neither of them is very surprising, but each of them seems to add
to a definite impression of the School as it then was. Firstly, there were
the very close links which "the many Old Dunstablians who have nobly
responded to the call of Duty" (as Mr Thring wrote) maintained with their
old school, and secondly the way that the everyday concerns of the school
seemed to continue in these difficult and often heartbreaking
1914 was recorded as not a good year for football, because of the lack of
strong forwards. Four pounds was collected towards the Prince of Wales
Fund for the Belgian refugees, though it was felt that some boys could
have given more generously. The annual play that year was 'Aladdin and
Out!1 duly performed at the Town Hall, with Mr Coales, a popular Science
Master and swimming coach, as the Emperor. All proceeds were sent to the
Red Cross Fund.
In the following year, the Summer 1915 magazine commented happily that
"few have been hunted out of the library" for bad behaviour, and that no
books had been lost. This was the year in which Nelson Elgood, an Old
Dunstablian, wrote to his former Headmaster, from the Front,
"We are still as busy as ever, with lots of work to keep us amused".
Such work included supervising his Company in digging a communication
trench, laying a new fire trench, and working on the construction of a
footbridge. N Elgood was later to be awarded the Military Cross, and in
1920 became Assistant Professor of Engineering at St Andrew's University.
Elgood's letter was one of many which found their way to Dunstable. One
father, whose son, W H Brantom of the Civil Service Rifles, had earlier
won the DCM, wrote to Mr Thring of his son's death in action:-
"He has done credit to the tuition received at Dunstable School".
Among the other losses of the time, the Thrings' only son, 'Teddy', was
killed in action.
1916 was the year of a severe mumps epidemic which had quite an effect on
the sports fixtures of the time. The weather was cold and wet, and there
was no official Speech Day. It was a popular year for swimming -
apparently, during the dinner hour, many boys were to be found "splashing
and fooling about in the Baths" and there were a record number of boys who
learned to swim. There was a brief lived "photographic mania". Also in
1916 some boys began to cultivate their own small vegetable gardens. They
grew lettuces, peas, beans and potatoes, towards the War effort. Mr Thring
himself converted part of the playing fields into a potato patch! Many
boys and some staff, including the Head, gave up part of their summer
holiday to help the local farmers in their fields, because of the shortage
In the Christmas 1916 magazine, the Headmaster records that:
"A large number of Old Boys took an active part in the Big Push (the
Battle of the Somme) which began on the 1st July."
As the War continued, many notices of the deaths of Old Boys began to
appear in the school magazines - by the end of the War, there were more
than sixty. There were also many visits from those on leave, some of whom
brought their families, and red letter days were those on which the school
received a visit from Sergeant Major Odell, who did not return permanently
from active service until 1919. Over the war period, the Cadet Corps grew
in strength and a Bugle Band was formed. Complete with "drum and fife," it
made its first appearance on Speech Day, 1919. Seven guineas had been
raised by subscription and the Band had acquired its own drum. The Cadet
Corps now consisted of 160 members .
By 1920, Mr and Mrs Thring had declared their intention to retire; and on
the occasion of the Head's final Speech Day, he spoke once again of the
ideals he had always had for the school -to educate boys, not only for a
career, but for life, in a way that would affect their entire outlook as
well as their aims. At the end of his speech he gathered up his papers and
“I can only say goodbye"
On behalf of the Old boys, G 0 Anderson later made a presentation to the
Head and his wife and spoke again of the 'second home' which the school
had been to many. There were many occasions and presentations that summer,
and a grand Cricket Festival at which E E Apthorp scored "a brilliant
century:” During its thirty-three years of existence, the school had had
only one Headmaster and his departure must really have seemed like "the
end of an age" to all who knew him.
THE SCHOOL IN THE TWENTIES
Mr A R Thompson, a graduate of St John's
College, Cambridge, became the second Headmaster of the School. His
previous appointment had been that of a housemaster at Bedford Modern
School, and he acknowledged the "family atmosphere" that prevailed at
Dunstable on his arrival, and the "outstanding personalities" he found on
the staff, especially Mr Brown and Mr Apthorp. Among Mr Thompson's primary
aims for the school were to improve the overall academic performance, and
to persuade more boys to stay on in the Sixth Form, in an area of
excellent employment prospects for school leavers. It is interesting to
note here that Mr Thring, in one of his last official speeches, had also
stated that the sixteenth to eighteenth years of a boy's life, in his
opinion, were vital ones for his education.
Mr Thompson found some of the classrooms and school furniture in a
dilapidated state and a school that was "bursting at the seams".
Renovation and extension work were badly needed. Fortunately, during these
years, the school was placed on the Direct Grant List, which was a
financial help. Also during the "takeover period" subscriptions were being
collected towards a new library, to be furnished and equipped as a War
Memorial to those Old Boys who had lost their lives in the War. It was
finally opened a year later.
In 1922, a grand Garden Fete was held in the school grounds, to tackle two
immediate problems - the renovation of the Sports Pavilion and of the
Swimming Baths. It was hoped to raise £500, but it exceeded all
expectations by a further £200. Popular attractions were the gypsy fortune
teller and a complete Pierrot troupe and concert party (of both masters
and boys) who entertained the visitors on both days of the fete. There
were many stalls and sideshows, a pig and a sheep were raffled by the
Boarders, and visitors refreshed themselves with fruit salad and ere am.
1923 saw two changes: Founders' Day and Speech Day were combined into one,
a service at the Priory Church in the morning being followed by
prizegiving in the cinema in the afternoon; and soccer was replaced by
rugby as "the" school sport.
In 1924 a Glee Club was founded, under its first conductor, Mr Hedges.
Meetings took place at half past four on Saturday afternoons, and the
Head, Mr Apthorp and Mr Lack were among the basses. Their first
performance was of Elgar's "Banner of St George" and Sullivan's 'Madrigal'
from "The Mikado". In 1926 they were busily rehearsing German's "Merrie
England", and in 1927, Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Gondoliers". The Glee
Club proved to be a very popular institution. 1926 also saw a production
by the Dramatic Society of Shakespeare's "As You Like It". Both pupils and
staff took part in this. Mr Coales, who has been mentioned earlier, played
Touchstone, and Mr C L Harris, Amiens. Interestingly, two of the masters'
wives, Mrs Lack and Mrs Coales, took the two leading female roles of Celia
The 'twenties' were the popular years of lawn tennis. In 1923, two courts
were in constant use, and in 1924, two more became available. These were
the years in which the famous tennis tournaments made their first
appearance on the school calendar.
At the School in the 1920's, the Scientific Society came into existence.
Mr Coales was in overall charge of this and one of its first aims was to
study wireless apparatus, although a separate "splinter society" later
took over this role. Visits were arranged to all manner of places, such as
Rothampstead Experimental Station, Croxley Paper Mills in Watford, and the
British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. Papers were read to the Society on
such diverse subjects as photography, penguins and bridges.
In 1924 came the retirement, partly because of ill health, of W F Brown,
who went to live at Chudleigh, in Devon. Mr Thring, his former Headmaster,
wrote the official appreciation of this popular teacher, who had
originally been appointed to teach Art and Games. "Steady and patient", he
had taught Divinity throughout the School and had always remained in
charge of school cricket. Mr Brown was presented with a fine oak reading
desk by the members of the School.
The 1920's were the age of many school "characters", among them Miss
Draper, a "tall, white-haired Victorian lady" from Leighton Buzzard who
for many years taught handicraft and drawing. Miss Draper insisted on
being addressed as 'Madam' and was otherwise formal, but still gave the
boys end-of-term 'treats' of sweets.
Tom Brown, an ex cricket professional, was in charge of the school playing
fields for many years. One day he died there while still carrying out his
groundsman's duties. The School stoker and caretaker, Charles ("Old") May,
left a valuable library on his death in 1942, after many conscientious
years about his duty. His chief complaint of several was about the boys'
behaviour in his beloved library: "They treat that library something
Some important new masters arrived in Dunstable in the 1920's. C L Harris,
brother of the playwright Christopher Fry, came to be in charge of the
Preparatory Department in Ashton Lodge. H J Butters and C P le Huray, both
of whom influenced the school in many ways, were enrolled as staff
members. Mr Lack, who came to teach Science, remembers teaching woodwork
also for a time, because of staff shortages. Among other things, some
benches were made under his supervision for school use. He was also in
charge of the swimming and lifesaving classes, taking this over from Mr
Coales and Mr Kidd - his ambition was to make every boy in the school a
swimmer. Mr Lack even remembers cutting the grass during his first year in
Dunstable, when he lived in Ashton Lodge. Perhaps this gives some idea of
the versatility of the masters of the time and of the "family atmosphere"
which has already been mentioned.
After six years in Dunstable, Mr Thompson left for Solihull School. His
legacy to Dunstable was the "New Block" of classrooms, as well as a second
Fives Court, improved Science labs, and electric lighting throughout. His
successor was A F R Evans, an ex Naval Officer
from Stamford School.
1929 was the year in which E E Apthorp retired and it also saw a "first" -
the first school visit abroad. A party of 25 boys, Mr Butters and Mr and
Mrs le Huray visited Belgium, "taking in" Bruges, Ghent, Brussels and the
battlefield of Waterloo. In the same year, some severe frosts were the
occasion of a half holiday upon which the whole school skated on the
school baths. A second skating expedition was taken further afield to
Tring Reservoir, where Matron won the admiration of all, even surpassing
the Headmaster in the skill of her manoeuvres!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
What of the
pupils of the time? Mr Eric Baldock remembers his schooldays happily -
"You just had to behave yourself - the important things were good manners,
courtesy and tidiness - they gave us a gentleman's training". Mr Eric
Snoxell's ambition as a Dunstable schoolboy was to hit a 6 at cricket over
the windmill by the school field. He remembers the school's strict
discipline as no bad thing - he once received two strokes of the cane
himself, but like so many schoolboys, cannot remember the offence! He also
recalls the, the entire class being given a thousand lines apiece by the
Geography teacher because no-one could identify the Doldrums. Despite
this, there were the occasional "pranks" - the carefully pre-dampened
chalk which would not write on the blackboard and the furtive attempts to
eat in class. In spite of the fact that the teacher in charge had only one
eye, retribution almost inevitably followed. Perhaps things have not
changed so much over the years!
* * * * THE THIRTIES AND FORTIES * * * *
JUBILEE AND WAR
* * * *
A F R
On A F R Evans'
arrival at the School, he embarked on the tasks of raising the academic
standard and of increasing numbers in the Sixth Form. The relative lack of
older pupils remained a problem for several years - in 1932, of 200 boys
on roll, only 60 were over the age of fourteen. In the 1930's, the number
of boarders was steadily declining - in 1934, there were only nine.
Therefore, the governors offered two boarding scholarships each year, to
assist with finance. This must have helped, and early in the War years the
boarders numbered forty.
A Careers Advisory Committee was set up in 1932, and operated for many
years. The Headmaster was the Chairman, and staff involved included L A
Boskett, C P le Huray, W T Lack, F M Bancroft, and foremost of all, A C
Wadsworth. He later became the Grammar Schools' representative on, and
Chairman of, Dunstable Youth Employment Committee. As a sample of the C A
Committee's work: in 1934, talks were given to pupils on the legal
profession, Engineering and Chemistry. The Committee also advised Old
Dunstablians who had left school, and during the War years a valuable file
was kept on the effects of War conditions on various careers.
The Glee Club continued to thrive, presenting the concert version of "HMS
Pinafore" in 1934. The magazine review comments,
"The boys excelled. Their tone was bright and clear".
The Band, too, was much in demand at public functions of this time,
including the Royal Berkshire Hospital Sunday parade at Reading
(1935-1938). There were record attendances at Church Parade, and at the
weekly Band practices, valuable help was given by Old Dunstablians who
also took part in ceremonial parades, such as leading the Coronation Day
carnival procession through the town. A Band magazine was issued
regularly, edited by the famous Dandy brothers, Frank and John, who, with
B W B Squires, gave an immense amount of time and energy to maintaining
the Band's standards.
During the 1930's, several Hockey exchange visits took place between
Dunstable and various German towns. In 1936 the team from Magdeburg were
defeated 2 : 1 by the Dunstable schoolboys. Other visitors came from
Nurnburg and Leipzig, and a Dunstable team travelled to Dusseldorf in
1938. Ordinary school trips continued abroad, several to Paris, a
In 1937, a Parents' Association was formed under C Hyde, who was later
Chairman of the Governors. Its aims were to co-operate with the Headmaster
and staff in providing finance when needed for pupils' education, to
promote meetings between parents and staff, and to arrange matches between
parents and pupils.
In 1934, the school received two items of sad news. Mr Thring, Dunstable's
first Headmaster, died after some years of retirement in the West Country.
His obituary in the magazine recalls his favourite hobbies - gardening
(for many years he had enjoyed pottering about in his greenhouse) and
carpentry. It also includes a pleasing epitaph for a schoolmaster:
"He always looked for the good in everybody - a cane lasted him a long
L C R Thring was buried in Dunstable, not far from his beloved school. His
widow, Jessie, survived him by fourteen years, during which she maintained
contact with her "boys" and was the guest of honour at several O D's and
Boarders' dinners, until she grew too frail to travel.
In memory of L C R Thring, a Changing Room and Filter Plant for the School
Baths were installed at a cost of £800.
W F Brown, too, died in 1934. Although a semi-invalid, he had spent some
happy years in Chudleigh in his favourite occupation, watching cricket
matches on the village green. Two years later, Sergeant Major Odell, one
of his contemporaries, retired after some years of ill-health, but I hope
that he was able to attend some of the Jubilee Celebrations of 1938, a
splendid occasion for the school.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Jubilee Celebrations occupied three days in June. The weather was
glorious, and on Thursday, June 16th, official celebrations began with a P
T display by the younger boys, supervised by Mr Butters. A Swimming Gala
followed, organised by Mr Harris for the Prep, school pupils, and by Mr
Lack for those of the main school. On Thursday evening, there was a
concert by the parents and Old Dunstablians. Friday's celebrations
included a cricket match between Dunstable School and Old Boys, and the
MCC, who narrowly avoided defeat.
In the evening, school drama came into its own, with three plays - the
Prep Department's "Robin Hood", an unnamed French play, and scenes from "A
Midsummer Night's Dream". On Saturday there was a second cricket match,
between past and present pupils of the school this time, followed by a
very popular 'Jubilee Tea1 organised by parents for the boys. The Cadet
Corps then took the stage for a display; finally, there came a Pierrot
concert in which Messrs Boskett and Coales took part, with some talented
younger boys. Mr Coales was the star of the show - he was called back on
stage to sing "I Made 'em do the Cakewalk", three times. The audience
finally grasped the chorus of this and had a most enjoyable time. "Last
Post" and "Lights Out" were sounded by members of the Cadet Corps - it
must have made an effective and moving sound, on such a beautiful June
On Sunday, June 19th, the Mayors of Dunstable and Luton and the
Councillors were played to Priory Church by the School Band, and there was
a record Church attendance of pupils, staff and friends of the School. The
Memorial Service began with a rousing version of ‘Jerusalem’ and the
address was given by Canon E F Bonhote, Master of Haileybury. There was a
procession to the 1914-18 War Memorial at the rear of the south aisle,
where prayers were said for the War dead. The service ended with the hymn
'Fight the Good Fight.........'
* * * * * * * * * * * *
In the magazine for Christmas, 1939, Mr Harris wrote:
"It is our job to be cheerful, thoughtful, hard-working and patient until
our world is itself again."
A visiting lady later commented that, 'Dunstable School is the only place
I know where you don't know there's a War on,' and once again, as in 1914
- 18, the school set itself the task of maintaining normality or something
like it, in very difficult circumstances. Christmas 1940 saw record snow
drifts of twelve to sixteen feet over the Downs, while the Glee Club
continued staunchly with rehearsals for 'The Mikado' and the boarders were
commended for their promptness in going to the school air raid shelters in
an alert. There they continued with their "prep". Several younger members
of staff enlisted, while older colleagues became members of the Home
Guard, or area wardens.
In the cold January weather of 1941, RSM Edgar Odell died, at the age of
seventy-two. Thirty years and more of those had been spent in the service
of Dunstable School. Many remembered with gratitude the training he had
given them, and some of his favourite sayings - "We're not playing at
shops!" to an unsatisfactory line at Church Parade, and "Hurry along,
please!" to tardy boys and masters on their way to prayers. "Old Sergeant
Major" was accompanied on his last journey to Church by a guard of honour
of his old regiment, the 5th Bedfordshire’s , with whom he had been when
badly wounded at Suvla Bay in 1915, on the way to Gallipoli. The Last Post
was played over his grave by Sergeant J Jory, of the Cadet Corps.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On Armistice day, every year, the Roll of Honour is read out in Manshead's
Sports Hall. These are some of the names upon it:
W P Richards, who left school in 1930
L F 'Ben' Squire, Pilot Officer in the RAF
R Warren, Sergeant Pilot
A G Wainwright, Pilot Officer
All of these Old Dunstablians were killed in action in 1941. A R Potter, a
champion mathematician at school, lost his life in 1943, returning with
his crew from a bombing raid.
The owner of another familiar name, C J Rudd, was at school from 1931 to
1938. Colin Rudd was a small but energetic boy who was fond of swimming.
In the Jubilee Celebrations, he was a keen participant in the Swimming
Gala, and his team won the House Relay. He was at one time School Swimming
Captain; in 1938, he won the Senior County Championship for breast stroke.
He set a new county record of three minutes and three fifths of a second
for 200 yards breast stroke.
In the Glee Club, Colin Rudd sang as a lesser soprano in 'Patience', and
in the school's 1935 production of Sheridan's 'The Rivals' he starred as
Lydia Languish. The following year, in 'She Stoops to Conquer' he played
Miss Hardcastle with a "natural ingenuousness". On one occasion, though,
his natural exuberance got him into trouble; he was so carried away by the
audience's laughter at his portrayal of Quince in 'A Midsummer Night's
Dream' that he started to overplay it - which the staff critic did not
In 1945, Major Colin Rudd was killed in action. He had been awarded the
Military Cross on two occasions, for acts of outstanding bravery.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
In October, 1944, Mr Harris, who had been in charge of School House for
many years, left to take up an appointment at Solihull with his earlier
Headmaster, Mr Thompson. Earlier, G W Hedges had retired, after twenty
years' service, in 1943, and he was followed into retirement by Mr le
Huray. December 1945 saw a Memorial Service for the School's War dead at
Priory Church, and an official inspection in 1946 found Dunstable, after
the trauma of the War years, "a happy school."
Some initially worrying changes were imminent. Following the Education Act
of 1944, the School lost its Direct Grant Status and came under the
control of the local authority. The Prep, department was to cease to
exist, though the Boarding House was to continue.
In 1948, Mr Evans retired. During his time, the numbers on roll had
doubled and a new gym and two new classrooms had been built. An internal
'phone system had been installed in the thirties. The magazine recalls Mr
Evans as ‘a quiet, modest man, of great kindliness of heart’.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * ANOTHER
VIEW OF THE OTC 1938 - 1947 * * * *
by Roger Hazell
* * * *
Leaving the Prep School for the REAL SCHOOL had many advantages, one of
which I clasped to my bosom with the enthusiasm of youth. I could apply to
join the OTC (Officers' Training Corps). The cost to my parents was but a
few shillings for a baton stick and brass-cleaning wadding.
In retrospect, I believe I was motivated by a latent wish to be an actor;
for one night a week, I could exchange my dark jacket, grey shorts, and
Eton collar for the instantly recognisable uniform of a potential hero - a
real khaki uniform! To my amazement, my request to join was accepted
without qualification and with marked enthusiasm, so in no time I was
kitted out in a complete Beds & Herts Regiment World War I uniform from
cap to puttees, and bore the proud legend, in brass, on my epaulettes,
"Dunstable School". My mother did not shed a tear, though I suspect my
father probably did!
We "played" at soldiers, we drilled, we learned words of command, we
engaged the Hun on maps, and then real War broke out. I believe to the
hundred or so of us, it passed unnoticed until the day we exchanged our
uniform for battle dress, and our title from OTC to Army Cadet Force;
Sandhurst was obviously meant for greater mortals. For my part, I had now
risen to be Lance Corporal.
Our training became a little more realistic in that we carried out field
exercises in the summer, crawling around Sewell Farm and Dunstable Sewage
Works, throwing thunderflash bangers as hand grenades, and letting off
"crackerblank" as small arms fire. We were issued with First Aid manuals,
which provided a fairly explicit chapter on delivering babies. I do not
recall anyone asking if, when, where, or why we should be carrying out
For many of us the next hurdle was obtaining the qualification entitled
"War Cert. A". This was awarded as the result of a Part I and Part II
examination. Part I was fairly easy and involved a knowledge of flag
signals, drilling a platoon, and the exercise of stripping modern weapons
such as the sten machine carbine and/or Bren gun into its component parts
and reassembling it in working order. For the latter, the examining
officer would find himself a suitable site such as the armoury, the bike
sheds, or in my case, the entrance to the air raid shelter. At his
advanced age, modern weaponry was a complete mystery to him, so he devised
the simple expedient of making the first candidate strip the weapon, the
second assemble it, and so on. On reflection, it was probably fortunate
for many of us that we were totally unaware of the procedure, for had the
case been otherwise, then I feel convinced that one candidate would have
made off with a vital part of the dismantled weapon, leaving both the next
candidate and the adjudicating officer in an embarrassed state.
By the time I reached the rank of Corporal, I had decided that despite
Hitler's decision to leave me alone and capture a few Russian lads
instead, I had had enough. However, before I could summon up courage to
make my intention known, War Cert. A Part II was upon me. So there we were
answering questions on map reading, lines of fire (or was it fields of
fire?), and nothing on childbirth, and doing quite well, despite the old
chestnut questions of what is the weight of a pull through, to which the
answer is, "The brass weight at the end," and not, "About 1-2 ounces,"
when I was struck a mortal blow by being taken into the countryside and
led by the RSM to meet an extremely elderly Brigadier who must have fought
as a youth with General Gordon. "See that hill over there?" he said,
pointing a withered finger in the direction of a small knoll in the middle
of an enormous field, whilst beating his begartered right leg with his
baton "The enemy are up there, and you are here with your platoon to flush
the beggars out - eh?" My platoon, like his enemy, were total figments of
our individual imaginations, for there were only the three of us by the
hedge, viewing the tranquil Summer scene. I was not totally nonplussed by
all of this, for we had been through such imaginary games many a time
before. The whole ploy was simple, or rather based on a simple premise:
the enemy were always a cowardly bunch of brainless yokels, so provided
one directed enough fire in their direction, they would react to rule and
keep their heads down until you and your platoon could rush upon them to
put them out of their misery with a bayonet. No one ever bothered to
mention the simple fact that the accuracy of a Lee Enfield 0.303 rifle
diminished by the power of 10 once a bayonet was fitted. However, this was
not going to worry me or my phantom platoon. So the ploy was, two men on
the Bren gun firing happily at the hill, whilst the eight riflemen crawled
along a hedge to get closer to the enemy. Then the riflemen opened fire
and the Bren gunners moved to another, closer, position, and so the
leapfrog game continued until you were upon the enemy. So, as
descriptively as possible, I spelt out each move to the Brigadier for some
ten minutes whilst he nodded sagely. I was then struck by two bare facts.
Firstly, in this period of time my platoon would have fired more rounds
than it was possible for them to carry, and more importantly, the last
piece of cover was a good 100 yards from the summit. I faltered. "Come
along, lad, the War can't wait, yer know!"
I baldly stated, "Radio the RAF for a squadron of rocket firing typhoons".
The RSM dragged me away from the purple faced Brig, whispering in my ear,
"You're a b.........foo1, that's what you are!" (He would have had to add
'Sir' in the days of the OTC) "You should have said, 'Charge up the hill!"
Protestations that this was the path to total annihilation of my "men"
fell on deaf ears. I failed, I vowed to resign. Before I could do so, I
was into a retake of part II and this time, on some different field, I
left a mess which made the Somme look like a pub brawl, and was loudly
congratulated on my initiative.
The new Headmaster of the school was G H Bailey,
previously of King's College, Canterbury. Shortly after his arrival, in
1949, the numbers in the boarding house were increasing with the arrival
of sixteen newcomers, but during the time of his stay, the boarding house
was dissolved, a five day, Monday to Friday, working week was set up, and
a system of three form entry was started.
In 1950, the War Memorial plaque for the many War dead was unveiled in the
Speech Hall. A Memorial Fund had earlier been set up, inspired by Mr
Butters, "to provide assistance for potential, past and present pupils,
and their families." Mr Butters, however, tragically died in the summer
holidays of 1950; he had spent thirty-two years teaching Geography, PE and
History at the school. On a happier note, also in 1950, Nelson Elgood,
mentioned earlier, was Professor of Engineering at Bristol University.
This was the era of many school clubs - some short-lived, some very
successful. These included the Jazz, Dance and Photographic Clubs, and the
Motor, Railway and Geological Societies. By 1955, the Chess Club,
Archaeological and Aeronautical Societies were also in existence.
The Cadet Corps continued to flourish, and at this time an additional
Naval Section was formed. By this time, Mr R F Broad-foot, who joined the
school in 1947, was in overall charge, and he was helped by Mr J Brennan,
on his arrival to teach at the school in 1955. In 1952, the magazine
records that the Band was practising hard for the local Coronation Day
celebrations. Annual summer training camps continued to be a strong
feature, including a memorable one at Stanford in Norfolk during this
period, which was "comfortable, we 11-organised and we 11-equipped, and at
which no-one grumbled." Mr Brennan remembers these camps and how well the
Dunstable boys performed, among the larger public school cadet forces. The
Naval Section, supervised by Mr Brennan for a time, maintained its own
well, for example, winning the boat-pulling event at Luton Sea Cadets'
regatta, in 1956. In 1959, 10 cadets went on an eight days' long range
patrolling course in Snowdonia. It proved to be arduous but enjoyable,
though many "fell into bogs with monotonous regularity."
From 1956 onwards, the school participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Award
Scheme. In the following year, twenty-two boys were involved in the tests,
which consisted of two grades. There were four types of tests - of
fitness, expedition, public service, and pursuits. In 1957, the first
series candidates undertook, for their expedition tests, a cross country
walk of fifteen miles, followed by a night exercise. The 2nd series
candidates went on a three day camping journey from the RN Air Station at
Ford, studying the countryside.
In terms of public service, First Aid, Life Saving and Fire Drill were
tested, and pursuits included those of Music, Drama, Meteorology, Art,
Marksmanship and Mode 1-making.
The Rank Organisation made a film at this time of the various activities,
called 'The Way Ahead' , and some Dunstable boys took part in this. The
Headmaster was invited to a private preview of this in Buckingham Palace.
In June, 1958, six boys received their Gold Awards from Prince Philip, and
in the following year, thirty-three boys altogether were involved in the
Some links with the past were broken at this time. W Gray, the first
winner of the Hankey Gold Medal, who joined the school in 1888, died in
1959. So did his brother and fellow Old Dunstablian, Amos. Also in 1959,
the year of the "new large economy-size Sixth form", Mr Coales retired. He
had taught for fifty years in Dunstable, in all - although for the last
few years of his service, he had handed over his post of Second Master to
Mr Lack. He had spent many happy years in the school as head of Science,
the 'father of the common-room', and in all the other pursuits mentioned
earlier. Mr Boskett, first a pupil and then Senior Maths master at the
school, retired after thirty-nine years' service - he had once been one of
his colleague's pup i1s!
The school was honoured by Mr Lack's three years' service as Mayor of
Dunstable - he was installed as such in May 1956.
Mr J Brennan, who began teaching at the school in 1955, has contributed
some memories of this period.
He remembers the relative formality of the Staff room in those days, with
the older members of the staff invariably addressed at 'Mr So and So'.
Apparently, there was plenty of time for bridge and chess and for
discussion of current affairs.
As he was a member of the PE Staff, it was one of Mr Brennan's duties to
weigh and measure each new pupil as he came into school, and he remembers
a class which contained a boy who weighed seventeen stones, and another
who weighed three stone, ten pounds. Rugby, he recalls, was played
throughout the Autumn term, and hockey from Christmas to Easter. In the
summer, cricket and tennis were fitted around the demands of public
examinations. Mr Brennan recalls the quarter of an hour walk to West
Parade for games, and the primitive changing facilities there.
One particular memory of Mr Brennan's concerned some staff surveillance at
the end of term when a person or persons unknown had added some potassium
permanganate to the official contents of the school swimming pool. Staff
members, in twos and threes, were keeping an undercover round the clock
watch in the pool area, and Mr Brennan and two colleagues were on the
eleven o'clock "shift". They heard a suspicious "chinking" sound and were
in time to apprehend a Waterlow's shift worker with a carrier bag, on a
return trip from the local off licence.
DUNSTABLE IN THE 1960's
In 1960, Mr Bailey left Dunstable School to take up an appointment near
Ipswich in Suffolk, at Wolverstone School. This was a boarding school, a
system with which he felt himself in sympathy. Throughout his time in
Dunstable, he had proved himself to be a hardworking and approachable man,
and like all his predecessors, a keen and able sportsman.
His successor was Mr L P Banfield, MA, formerly
Deputy and then Acting Headmaster of Bromley Grammar School. One of Mr
Banfield's innovations was the introduction of a new school uniform with
its now characteristic black blazer to replace the former shade of
Under Mr Banfield, the academic standards of the school continued to
improve; in 1962, 42 boys altogether sat for 'A1 level examinations, and
22 went on to further studies at University; and of the 1963 Upper Sixth,
sixty percent went on to University education.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme continued to flourish, and in 1961
twenty two golds, forty five silvers, and eighty one bronzes were obtained
by pupils of the school.
In 1964, the new Science laboratories were opened at long last, and Mr
Coales returned from his retirement to unveil a plaque at the laboratory
entrance to commemorate his fifty years of service. The following year saw
the retirement of Mr Lack, who himself had served loyally in the school
for forty years and more, and who had been honoured by receiving the QBE
In the 'sixties', the many school clubs continued to operate, the senior
boys setting up two new and interesting ones. Firstly, a Voluntary Group,
consisting mainly of Sixth Formers, was started, to form a link with local
old people to help them with such tasks as gardening and decorating. By
1968, this club had some thirty members. The Lower Sixth also formed a
literary society which considered the work (among others) of Robert
Graves, C S Lewis, D H Lawrence, and Jean Anouilh.
At the time of re-organisation at the end of the decade, some 496 boys
were on the school roll, including a Sixth Form of 119. German had
replaced Latin as the "second foreign language", Latin becoming an option
in the 4th year. Every member of the Upper Sixth now was honoured by
becoming a prefect. This was the situation when a completely new era of
the school's history began - an era which has been called "the end of a
chapter, but not the end of a story."
At this point, it is good to include a section which Mr Banfield has very
kindly written for this magazine, concerning his memories of the Grammar
School - what Mr Jenner has referred to as "a Grammar School with a very
L P BANFIELD
DUNSTABLE GRAMMAR SCHOOL
1960 - 1972
When I sat down to prepare this article, I was reminded forcibly of the
title that Alfred Duff Cooper (first Lord Norwich) chose for his memoirs -
"Old Men Forget". It is some twenty-eight years since I came to Dunstable
and the memory is not what it was!
My first recollection of the Grammar School (apart from the interview for
the Headship, which took place in what I was later to discover was my own
dining room) was on Good Friday 1960. We had moved up from London the
previous day and I felt sufficiently settled in to go through the
connecting door from the School House to the Head's study, where, feeling
fairly proud of my achievement, I sat at the imposing desk. Casually I
opened the main drawer - to discover it had no bottom! The difference
between shadow and substance was ominous.
The facade of the buildings facing the High Street was impressively
Victorian but inside things were less awe-inspiring. The fabric had worn
badly and had clearly not been respected as it should have been.
Facilities such as specialist rooms hardly existed. The Science
Laboratories were inadequate and old-fashioned. (I fancied I could see
ALCHEMY written over the door of the Chemistry Lab.) In the Sixth Form
room, immediately over the boiler house, teachers had the alternative of
keeping the windows closed and being suffocated, or having them open and
being unable to make themselves heard above the roar of traffic from the
The long promised additions came in 1964, with a new Science Block which
meant for the first time that all Science lessons could be taught there;
hitherto, only just over half had taken place in laboratories, the
remainder occurring in class rooms.
I ask myself what gives me most satisfaction as I look back to those
years. I had felt instinctively when I arrived that the pace of academic
study was too leisurely with the result that all except the very well
motivated boys tended to under-achieve. Sixth formers felt it was
necessary to stay for a third year to obtain a University place. While
this was very good for the Rugger and Cricket teams, which tended to be
very mature indeed, it was rather a waste of resources. So I take pride in
the fact that examination results showed a steady improvement over the
years. The 28 'A' level candidates who in 1960 collected only 44 passes
gave way to the 51 in 1969, who gained 156. The 1960 '0' level entry which
averaged only 4 passes apiece, gave way to the 1967 entry which averaged
7. The numbers staying on in the Sixth Form approached 75% of our intake;
the same proportion of those went on to Higher Education.
But there was much more cause for pride. The traditional Cock House
Competition, based on four Houses named after distinguished former members
of staff, had stagnated. In response to the suggestions of the elected
School Council (itself an innovation) a new system was set up of three
Houses and the range of activities covered considerably extended to
include much more than the traditional Games, including academic
achievement. This last was assessed according to some mysterious points
system which only Mr Symes (who controlled it) understood!
To celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the School's foundation we
set ourselves a target of raising a four figure sum for the Freedom from
Hunger campaign, which finally totalled £1500, a considerable sum in
One of the most valuable means of character building lay at hand in the
Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. The school was a pioneer in this scheme
under the leadership of Mr Bancroft and involved a considerable number of
boys who regularly gained awards at all levels.
In spite of poor facilities, the Dramatic Society mounted some impressive
Over all our activities there was always tremendous help and support from
the Parents Staff Association.
The school regularly fielded six teams for all the major games on
The General Elections of 1964 and 1966 heralded changes in the
organisation of education in the county, and after a never-to-be-forgotten
cliff-hanging debate by the County Council, the present scheme was finally
ratified. There followed a period of frenzied activity, during which we
all tried to prepare ourselves for the impending changes - wide-ranging
discussions carried out with mutual toleration for our naturally differing
views while we sought to ensure that what we should offer in our new role
should be, at least, as good as in the old one. On reflection, Kenneth
Baker might have learned a good deal had he sat in with us!
As we were to become co-educational, I asked that our last selective
intake in 1971 should be a mixed one, so that when we moved to the present
site, we did in fact have some 39 girls in the first year, together with
four Sixth Form girls. The staff, which had not been wholly male in the
past, now received several additional ladies as colleagues.
The move to Caddington followed. A brief 'note in the Log Book records
that on Monday July 26, 1971, the Headmaster and School Secretary
established their administration in the new school.
Finally, before this magazine ' leaves' the Grammar School for Manshead
Upper School, here is an article by Gordon Gray, who, as a pupil,
remembers those last years in the old building.
(A Dunstable Grammar School Pupil 1963 - 1970)
Never having been one to dwell upon the past, I was both surprised and, at
first, slightly disappointed with myself for my memories of my school
days. As one who, until five years ago, was a member of the teaching
profession, I expected a more ordered recollection. Surely one's memories
should reflect a structure to one's learning and growth through to
adulthood; but it wasn't like that, nor I imagine has it ever been so.
My immediate memories of the Grammar School do not reflect the nurture and
attention I undoubtedly received; rather they highlight events and
characters and the rare fragment of bookwork so studiously learnt -
bellum, bellum, bellum, belli, belli, bello, bella, bella, bella,
bellorum, bellis, bellis - it just rolls off the tongue, but what does it
What of these events? Were they ones which would prepare me for
adult-hood? Hardly!. Permanganate in the pool; the opportunity to fight on
the way to Ashton Lodge;' Chop-Chop's car parked on the pool surround
(whatever was his name?); the winter of 1963 -in short trousers, of
course; school milk and avoiding having to take a crate up to the
prefects' study; no longer having to wear a cap; hiding every board rubber
in the school; the afternoon throughout which Dutch metal in chlorine
would not ignite spontaneously with the blue flame in the way that we were
issued it would, etc.
And the characters? Well, they begin to fade and only the more eccentric
ones come readily to mind. There was the most feared and hated pupil in
the school, who rose from school bully to the exalted rank of deputy head
boy, from which position he could wreak his wrath with ease; the Maths
teacher, Mr Milne, whose gown was white from years of use as a board
duster, and his sparring partner, Patrician, who was booked into detention
every night for two terms, in advance; and who could forget the chemistry
teacher Mr Gibb, or at least his smells! How could he possibly have
managed to prepare hydrogen sulphide every day?
Yet through all of this, there was a sense of community and fellowship
fostered through competitive sport and on examination-based syllabus.
Perhaps it is this which has had a significant effect on me, for my
personality and outlook have been shaped largely by the attitudes and
ethics which I absorbed during my formative years at the school. Since I
can accept the way I am, I can only reflect that the regime was
successful, at least for me. I am sure, however, that the Grammar School
system was not right for everyone, in the same way that the comprehensive
system does not fulfil the aspiration of all its pupils today.
Of all the benefits I gained from Dunstable Grammar School that which I
treasure most is the long lasting friendships cemented through seven years
of sometimes difficult, usually enjoyable, but rarely dull experiences.
These friendships extended to staff, some of whom later became colleagues
when I joined Manshead as a teacher in 1974. To all of them I extend my
very best wishes.
- — - — oOo —
In July 1971 Dunstable Grammar School ceased to exist, being replaced by
Manshead Upper School. It is left to
others to tell that story elsewhere.
- — - — oOo — ———