Snippets from the Archives - St Clement Danes School



Snippets from the Archives

On this page, you will find gems from our school's extensive archives, written by Fiona Hirst, our archivist.

10th February 2020

"Life at St Clement Danes 1939-45" by H J Beales

Next time you are in the SLT corridor, have a good look at the detailed painting that hangs on the wall by Mrs Jones' office. it depicts St Clement Danes in the Second World War - London and Oxford- and was painted by art master Harry Beales. The majority of the boys and staff were evacuated to Oxford but some remained in London where they carried on their schooling.

The painting shows no fewer than 25 separate scenes of school life during the war years ranging from the initial evacuation to Oxford, to bomb damage at Ducane Road, tending the school allotments at Southfields school in Oxford, classroom scenes and sporting events. It shows both how the school was affected by the war and how it sought to give the boys as normal a schooling as possible in the relative safety of Oxford.

Some of the depictions are particularly interesting:

  • In June 1944 a flying bomb descended over the school in London missing the roof by just a few feet and exploding at the end of the field. The school hall was in use as a communal dining area at the time and was full of members of the public as well as those pupils who had not been evacuated to Oxford. Windows were shattered and frames blown out but there were only minor injuries. Mr Ivor Surveyor, a student at the time, was an eyewitness. "One day in 1944 the school was awarded a half day holiday. I and a few fourth form mates elected to go home and avoid the most unappetising of school dinners. We found ourselves on the upper deck of a trolley bus going along Scrubs Lane approaching the railway lines that crossed the road. We had an uninterrupted view across Wormwood Scrubs and the school playing fields. We heard overhead the unmistakeable sound of a flying bomb. The engine stopped so we knew it would glide to earth. Naturally we rushed to the bus window to see the bomb explode 2 or 3 km away. " Its hit the school " cried one of my friends and we all agreed. The bus conductor did his best to reassure us. I think we were all too young to appreciate the full potential of such a tragedy and only thought of having no school the following day. The school was hit: the bomb landed on the sports pavilion but luckily no one was inside. The diners in the school hall were showered with glass fragments. The windows had been criss-crossed with ribbons of sticky brown paper as was the war-time practice and I think this precaution saved many from serious injury. The next day I discovered dust and broken glass everywhere. Thankfully there was no loss of life and only a few minor cuts and abrasions. It is a tribute to the teaching staff that there was no break in the teaching business of the school"
  • The success of our own Green Street Market Garden was echoed during the war years when Southfield School in Oxford provided land for allotments for 91Ƭ use and the boys took on the work involved with great enthusiasm. The allotment measured sixteen feet by thirty feet and The Dane of April 1940 recalls" digging parties, in the charge of various members of the staff, have been cultivating the ground after school in the evenings. The allotment is well drained and, as the earth has been dug over before, the work should be fairly easy. The food which is grown will be used in the school kitchens so boys will be able to appreciate their own work". A second allotment was being worked by 39 boys in May 1941 and The Dane noted how important it was to grow as much food as possible as part of National Service. In the summer of 1943 it was recorded that the allotments had yielded a fine crop of vegetables and that more help was needed for the following season.

Harold Beales was a member of that band of long serving teachers that was such a hallmark of the grammar school. For many years Housemaster of Burleigh, he started his career as art master in 1930 and retired in 1973 after 43 years. During the war he served with the RAF, appropriately employed on camouflage work. After the war his involvement in school life went well beyond the art department. In particular he was always called on to assist with school productions, designing and making scenery and programmes and helping with the costumes and makeup. He also ran school football and cricket teams and played for staff sides.

One of the tasks he took on each year was to prepare labels for the books that were given as prizes on Speech Day, handwriting the dedications in his "clear and elegantly proportioned calligraphy". One of his personal pleasures was to design "leaving certificates" for departing colleagues which showed a portrait or cartoon of the person with a witty summary of their activities. In an interview in The Dane of July 1934 Mr Beales said that " people are not conscious of the place which art holds in their lives. They have the totally wrong idea that art consists of expensive pictures. This would confine art to the rich, while really it is the property of high and low, rich and poor. Anyone who can get enjoyment out of nature, the sea, the sky or the land is capable of enjoying art and finding a use for it, not only in pictures , but even in such ordinary things as pillar-boxes, street lamps and telephone booths".

On his retirement the school staged an exhibition of his work, the first time he had ever put on such a show.


December 16th 2019

Snippets from the archives

Christmas 1939

As we break for Christmas, spare a thought for the school’s pupils of seventy years ago who experienced a very different kind of festive season following the outbreak of war.

In September 1939 all schools were recalled before the end of the summer holiday.  As a result of the international crisis the previous year the Headmaster had called a meeting of parents to plan an evacuation in the event of hostilities and so detailed procedures were ready to put in place as soon as the boys returned.  The Ducane Road buildings had already been taken over by the ARP authorities so the first night back in London was spent in nearby Burlington School. Early next morning, the day before war was declared on 3 September 1939, nearly 450 boys and masters took a train from Wood Lane Station to Ealing Broadway.  The boys are shown making their way to the station in the painting by art master Mr Beales which hangs in the SLT corridor.

At Ealing Broadway a special train was waiting to take them to an unknown destination. Imagine the mixture of dread and excitement the boys, many of them new to the school, must have felt. Eventually the train drew into Oxford station where buses were waiting to take the evacuees to Headington where they would spend the duration of the hostilities billeted with local families and studying in accommodation at Southfields school.

So, the Christmas celebrations of that first year were one of the highlights of the entire war period as everyone pulled out the stops to ensure that the boys enjoyed themselves and overcame their homesickness.

Christmas started early on 20 December with a variety performance entitled “Carry on London!” for the local families who were hosting the boys in their homes. They enjoyed a mixture of songs, sketches, music and impressions performed by staff and boys in the newly built art deco Holyoake Hall in Headington. A highlight was the double act between Messrs Pooley and Barnes, aka The Western Brothers, which would become a popular part of school entertainments for many years. 

New College Hall provided the magnificent setting for Christmas day itself. The festivities started with a traditional carol service in the college chapel followed by a tour around the cloisters. The traditional Christmas dinner was prepared by a London caterer and served by the college servants. Local press reported that the boys seemed slightly overawed by their surroundings but enjoyed themselves nevertheless. Guests included local dignitaries and some familiar faces from London and Christmas messages from many others connected to the school were read out during the meal. After the King’s Christmas broadcast (apparently difficult to hear because of the size of the hall) the boys settled down to enjoy entertainments laid on for them.

These started with a very clever and amusing performance by a conjuror, Mr G Langham Franklin. Several members of staff then took to the stage reprising their roles from the earlier variety performance.  A good sing-song rounded off the proceedings and then the boys repaired to Ross’s café in the High Street for tea. After that games were laid on in Holyoake Hall in Headington.  

Celebrations continued into Boxing Day afternoon with a visit to New Theatre to see Jack and the Beanstalk and the boys again enjoyed tea at Ross’s.

November 4th 2019  - school prize donors

Speech Day is one of the school’s oldest traditions going back to the earliest days. Having recently celebrated the students’ achievements this year I thought you might find it interesting to know a bit more about the stories behind some of the prizes that are awarded.

The Twining cup for cricket

Herbert Hayes Twining was a member of the tea merchants and banking family and a member of the schools governing body for many years. His father had played an important part in founding the Grammar School in 1862. He was born in the Strand in 1850 and on leaving Harrow school he entered the family business where he rose to become a partner. After his marriage he returned to live in the Strand and after Twinings Bank merged with Lloyds he became manager of the Chancery Lane branch. He had always been a prominent figure in the St Clement Danes area and served as Church Warden, Treasurer of King’s College Hospital, member of Westminster City Council, Justice of the Peace and a member of all Boards and Committees relating to St Clement Danes and the Holborn Estate Charity.  He was very involved in the sporting activities in school, especially cricket for which he presented the cup. He died in 1935.

Halladay Prizes

Walton Parke Halladay joined the school in 1950 to teach Latin. The boys quickly gave him the nickname “Dracula” , shortened to “Drac” because of his appearance – swept back hair, prominent teeth and black gown flying out behind him as he flew down the corridors or strode around the classroom drumming “amo, amas, amat” into his pupils. He served in the army during the war and the boys enjoyed listening to his stories of active service before lessons started. He served as second -in-command of the schools Combined Cadet Force. He was renowned for setting” terrifying punishments on outlandish subjects: a thousand lines on contour lines by tomorrow” as one former pupil remembers well. On his death he bequeathed the sum of £2000 to fund scholarships for students studying law or medicine at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London and also annual prizes for best performances at “O” and “A” level.

Phil Gush cup for modern languages

Philip Gush joined the school in 1949 to teach French and was known to the boys as “Freddy” or “Sid”.  He rose to become Deputy Head in Chorleywood until his retirement in 1982. In the early 1950’s he commanded the Combined Cadet Force and was involved in running field days and annual camps. On his retirement a colleague recalled that he had an amazing succession of large, ancient cars one of which had some of its floor missing – an interesting experience for his passengers.  He was a very popular and well-respected teacher and colleague and worked very hard to ensure the success of the school in its early days in Chorleywood.


Don Palmer Trophy

Don Palmer, known to the boys as “Toffee” joined the school in 1955 to teach maths but football was his passion. He was master in charge of football and Honorary Secretary of the London Grammar Schools Football Association. As a fully qualified coach and referee I have been told that he once coached a 16-year-old David Beckham in one of his out of school activities. He also had a role as a football ambassador for the government and found time to write maths textbooks.

In World Cup year 1966 forty of the school’s junior footballers took part in the opening ceremony and some of the staff were involved with the organisation of the tournament. 

When the school moved to Chorleywood in 1975/76 he became acting Head of the grammar school left in London.

One of his students recalled that he organised lunch time training sessions for the boys with Tommy Docherty in 1962/63. They were apparently compulsory and very hard work but he was the manager of Chelsea!


Roskrow memorial prize

Although this prize is no longer awarded it has an interesting history.

“The Roskrow Bat” was a prize endowed by the parents of Richard Roskrow who attended the school between 1930 and 1935 and was killed on active service in 1940. It was originally in the form of a cricket bat awarded annually for outstanding performance in senior inter-house cricket matches. Mrs Roskrow also gave the school a billiard table when the boys were evacuated to Oxford.

Richard Roskrow enlisted in the RAF in 1937 as leading aircraftman, wireless operator and air gunner.  He was involved in submarine spotting patrols, “leaflet raids” on Germany and bombing raids to Borkum and Stavanger. He was promoted to sergeant in 1940 and posted to Shetland for patrol and convoy duties. His last posting was to a Kent squadron to help protect the withdrawal from Dunkirk.


And a final postscript, Mr G J Davey, a pupil from 1879 to 1887, told of an interesting Speech Day school custom when all boys ,even the youngest, would assemble after the ceremony to be served with mugs of wine and cakes!  The practice did not last long apparently!


September 16th 2019 - some long-serving Masters

In the July edition of Headlines Toby made special mention of Caroline Monk who has just retired after 40 years at the school.  Looking back, there have been many other teachers who have matched or even exceeded this remarkable record. Here are just a few of them:


Also at the school for 40 years was William Hadley who taught English between 1915 and 1955.  Affectionately known by the boys as “Pop” he was also the school historian and wrote an invaluable history of the school from its inception in 1862.  He was a very well - respected author and chief examiner for various exam boards.  He was described by one of his pupils as “a tall skeletal figure, quite eccentric and seemingly lost in the world of medieval English and Chaucer”.  Many remember him speaking movingly about his son who was shot down over Germany during the war and the months of uncertainty he faced until he found out that his son was alive.


Mr A L Barnes taught French for 35 years from 1937 to 1972. He was senior House Master of Essex from its inception in 1952, Secretary of the School Association and Common Room and ran the Literary and Debating Society. He was very well liked and respected by the boys one of whom recalls “in all the years that I knew him I never heard Mr Barnes raise his voice. He never had to. Some men have a charisma and an aura around them that immediately strikes anyone coming into their presence. This was true of him and from the minute that he was seen approaching the classroom, silence filled the room. Not the silence of fear or awe but just the quiet of boys waiting for him to enter and begin the lesson. If there was one master in the school whose set work you always felt you had to finish, because of the shame of not doing so and letting him down, it was Albie.”


Mr R E Amelot taught economics from 1927 to 1957 and became widely known as a teacher of that subject at school level when it was usually seen as the domain of 6th form or university. He was a passionate cricketer and organised and coached cricket to a very high level. He was the first Housemaster of Lincoln and established an excellent careers advisory service, contributing articles to the national press. One of the boys remembers “he was very tall, heavily built, bow-legged and flat-footed and was sometimes called “the Ambling Alp though his more usual nickname was Gummy”. He died suddenly in 1957 while still a member of staff. An economics prize for A level performance is still awarded in his name.


But the absolute record holder to my knowledge must be Mr Reginald Johnson whose association with the school lasted for 57 years. He was a pupil from 1895 until 1903 and then joined the staff in 1904 teaching until his retirement in 1951. At the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted in the Inns of Court OTC and on getting his commission was posted to the Queen Victoria Rifles where he saw active service in France. Although he taught several subjects, music was his forte and he was a talented baritone. He was fully involved with the school choir and led them to first place in the London Grammar Schools Choir Festival in 1926 and 1927. During the Second World War he was in charge of the second form evacuated to Oxford and later returned to brave the war in London starting up emergency classes for boys who had not been evacuated. He was also a keen sportsman playing cricket and football and judging school boxing competitions. One of his pupils remembered “When I joined the school in 1949 Reggie Johnson was my form master and a Deputy Headmaster. Chubby and with a florid complexion he was a very precise man, beautifully spoken, always well-dressed and unfailingly well-mannered. He had a good baritone voice and sang with great gusto at morning assemblies”.  On his retirement he was very proud to receive a letter from Sir John Barbirolli who recalled “the red-haired disciplinarian who taught me some forty years ago”.

July 10th 2019 - Musical memories

The school has a very long musical tradition going back to its earliest days.  I hope you will enjoy reading a few memories of events down the years.


·         In the 1880s the school used to engage a singing master for the winter term but singing practice was not popular with the boys because they had to stay an hour after school to attend. G J Davey, a pupil at the time, recalled that on the first practice of the term the boys arranged amongst themselves that they would all have croaky voices.  The master opened with “Men of Harlech” on the piano and “fell back as though shot when the class with one voice croaked forth”.


·         The forerunner of the school orchestra, The School Dance Orchestra, was formed in 1931, specialising in “red-hot dance numbers”. There were so many volunteers for the violin section that boys had to be turned away.  The elite group were described thus in The Dane of April 1931  “ Val Owen, a real jazz fiend, performs wonders with a clarinet, assisted by J F Fry who also plays a clarinet; E S South does excellent work on the piano; F H Harris produces some very tuneful melodies from a violin and our rhythm section consisting of A C Dornhorst (banjo) and R L Hanson (drums) adds the necessary pep and finish to the rhythm”.


·         During the 1930s the school began to take music and drama more seriously and the first school orchestra came into being under the direction of Senior Master Reginald Johnson. This was initially a small affair but in 1937 real efforts were made to recruit players to expand the orchestra. One of their first public performances was to provide tea- time music for the Trustees and residents of the St Clement Danes Almshouses. One of the members remembered that “it was an adventure for us- our first appearance in public; and most of us found it specially strange to play in the open air. Everything sounded different, and when we compared notes afterwards, we discovered that each of us had experienced the same peculiar feeling – that his own instrument was the only one that was sounding at all”.


·         In 1968 Miss Audrey Clifford joined the school as Head of Music. Old Dane, Chris Day, remembers that this appointment came as a significant culture shock for the school. “For 100 years the school had been a Boys Grammar with a male only teaching staff.  They did have female administrative and cleaning staff but that was “different”.  Although Miss Clifford had been headhunted by the Headmaster he had to consult the staffroom to ascertain how they would take to having a female teacher in their midst before he could make her a definite offer of the job.  Although they had generally agreed, there were still several who obviously though that she wouldn’t last a term! How wrong they were! Miss Clifford had come from the Hammersmith County Girls' school where she had a thriving mix of choirs and orchestras and she stormed into the stuffy atmosphere of 91Ƭ where her enthusiasm and sense of fun was something of a shock to us boys.  We hadn’t previously considered that school-based music could be fun.”


·         In September 1989, the school choir went to CTS studios in Wembley to record a selection of Christmas carols in association with Woolworths.  The 16 carols chosen were arranged by Mr Walters, the Head of Music, and released on tape by State Records under the title “Away in a Manger”. In the same year, the choir had another media opportunity. Choir member, Tom Fynn wrote humorously in the New Dane. “When we arrived at the LWT studios we were adopted by some nice young people (this way darlings) . Three coachloads of 91Ƭ choir members were to make a recording for the Disney Christmas Special on ITV. Other world famous guests included the outrageously talented Five Star and Mickey Mouse! The choir was led by a nice young man through studio doors into a magical fibreglass fairy castle full of nice earnest young people where we were subjected to ruthless organising by a person called Jody Darling. A fine time was had by all but unfortunately the programme never appeared on our screens".



April 29th 2019 - Mock General Election of 1966

With  various elections being held  at the moment, you might like to know that the school held its own mock general election in 1966 after Harold Wilson decided to go to the country for real. The Dane magazine of summer 1966 has a very humorous account of the proceedings written by C A Jordan.

The school captain, as Returning Officer, decided that the 91Ƭ election should mirror the country with candidates representing Labour, Conservative and Liberal policies. Candidates were to be fifth or sixth formers.  The campaign got under way in the middle of March and was to last for a fortnight.

The Liberals were quickest off the mark, producing eye- catching, creative posters. The Conservatives favoured blunt slogans displayed in obscure locations but the Labour group preferred to stick to their image of being the party of “the plain man” by just putting up posters with the one word “Labour” in large, red, ill proportioned letters.  So the Liberals made the most impact in the first Opinion Poll where a third of voters thought they were the most impressive party. Unfortunately, less than half of that number said they would actually vote Liberal! This Opinion Poll gave the first indication of the level of support for each party, Labour enjoying a 12% lead in line with the national position. 

The second Opinion Poll was more interesting as the candidates had been chosen by then, each in a very different way.  The Liberal candidate, Michael Harris, selected himself by being the only nominee. The Conservative candidate was chosen by vote at a meeting of anyone interested and  popular sixth former Christopher Owen was chosen over an unknown fifth former. The Labour election agent and two seventh formers of left wing persuasion interviewed all of their nominees in public, deliberated in private and chose Harvey Shapiro. Public hustings then got started. The Conservative candidate put himself at a disadvantage by addressing the voters in a classroom which gave the hecklers who far outnumbered his supporters more of a chance to make their voices heard. The Labour candidate spoke outside to a far larger audience and had a voice powerful enough to be heard over the noise of the mob and get his points across. When he paused the general noise was so deafening that intelligent heckling was totally inaudible. He was thus able to present his policies to the few who were listening without having to deal with any criticism. He also dealt very good-naturedly with all the apple cores and banana skins that were thrown at him so overall made a very favourable impression on the electorate. The Liberal candidate simply had a very weak voice and didn’t manage to make a single audible point in his meeting. Mysteriously, his support went up a few points in the next Opinion poll while Labour and Conservatives both slipped!

On Friday March 25th the first of the official election meetings was held at which the three candidates were able to present their policies to the whole school (heckle free, in theory) and to answer questions. The first and second formers  were just noisy and boisterous, third and fourth formers just mumbled support or opposition and the sixth form were more interested in their own questions than in listening to the answers!  But all candidates presented their cases well and there was at least some genuine political debate, a feature conspicuously lacking in the rest of the campaign!

The election itself took place over a lunch hour with the juniors voting on March 30th and the seniors on the following day. Some of the school huts were used as polling stations, cardboard boxes from the tuck shop were used as ballot boxes and some 100 boys had official jobs to do. The turnout was 92% , well above that of the real election, and there was no malpractice. The result of the poll was Liberal 79, Conservative 241, Labour 314.

March 18th 2019 - Oranges and Lemons

Have you seen the very striking print of the “Oranges and Lemons” ancient traditional rhyme that hangs in visitor reception?  This is a tangible reminder of the link between us and St Clement Danes primary school in London whose annual Oranges and Lemons service has become famous. The service was the brainchild of their Governor the Reverend William Pennington-Bickford who was rector of St Clement Danes church from 1910 to 1941 and also long-standing Chairman of Governors of the Boys’ Grammar school.  He was one of the best known clergymen of the time, tirelessly devoting his efforts to the interests of the parish. In 1919 the famous bells of St Clements were rehung after restoration and he used the occasion to raise the profile of the parish, inviting Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward V11, and her sister, the Empress Dowager of all the Russias to initiate the first peal.  In accordance with tradition the bells were first blessed and then decorated with garlands of oranges and lemons.  We don’t know why Mr Pennington- Bickford decided to associate his church with the famous rhyme as it had always been thought that it referred to St Clement, Eastcheap.  However, the association stuck and the next year in 1920 after the restoration of the carillon he arranged for a special service to be held for local children where each child was presented with an orange and lemon. 


Attendance at the early oranges and lemons services was huge with over 500 children present. An early feature was the school handbell ringers opening the service with a rendition of the rhyme. At the 1923 service, the Oranges and Lemons hymn written by Mrs Pennington-Bickford and set to music composed by her husband was used for the first time. In 1924 the service was broadcast to the nation and the formula of handbells and hymns continued until the destruction of St Clement Danes church in 1941.  After the Blitz and the death of the Reverend (it is said that he died of a broken heart because of the ruin of his church) the services became sporadic until the tradition was properly revived in 1959 after the restoration of the church as the Central Church of the RAF in 1957.  For many years the oranges and lemons were specially flown in from RAF bases in Cyprus.


Although the service was Mr Pennington-Bickford’s idea, there are in fact associations between the parish and oranges that go back hundreds of years. It is said that after Clare market was established in 1657 porters landed the fruit at the wharves within the parish and carried it to market through the churchyard, paying a toll in oranges and lemons.  Under the terms of a bequest from Edward Halstead in 1730 a china orange was given to every child on New Years Day.  There are also many traditions associated with the feast day of St Clement on 23 November.  Given the dreary time of year it was a popular occasion to mark – in particular there was a custom of going house to house to ask for drink to celebrate, a practice known as “Clementing”.  At St Clement’s Inn within the parish the officers would present oranges to the lawyers, a custom which lasted until the early years of the nineteenth century.  


The service continues in March every year and representatives of our students and staff are invited to attend.


The print in reception was made and presented to the school by Richard Ardagh who was a student here from 1992.  He is a partner in New North Press based in Hoxton and also runs his own graphic design consultancy.  Have a close look at the composition of the print – the shape, intensity and spacing of the letters and words reflects the emphasis put on the words in the verse.




February 4th 2019 - Previously Honoured Headteachers

Many, many congratulations to Dr Valentine on her New Years Honour but did you know that she is not the first Head of the school to have received an OBE? In 1931, Mr Fuller was awarded the same Honour for services to education. He was Headmaster of the Grammar School between 1907 and 1937, presiding over a period of enormous change for the school. 

Walter Pearson Fuller (photo attached)  was appointed Headmaster of the school in 1907 at the age of 36 when the continued existence of the school was in doubt because of falling pupil numbers. Despite the adverse situation, he had an eventful first term at Houghton Street. He managed to increase pupil numbers by 40, established the prefect system, started the Dane magazine, established a library and started science, swimming and gym clubs. Apparently the Governors had to restrain his enthusiasm, worried about the lack of funds and accommodation! The House system was established a year later.

Mr Fuller was soon able to convince the authorities of the viability of the school and within a year the pupil rolls were full and the school could plan for the future. The First World War years proved difficult, Mr Fuller having to work with a depleted staff, cramped and unsuitable accommodation and the threat of air raids.  He himself served in the Special Constabulary. Despite the difficulties, examination results were good and the school had a very favourable report from the Board of Education in 1915. 

With the war behind them the school went from strength to strength academically and in the fields of sport and music. It was agreed that accommodation at Houghton Street was totally inadequate and in July 1928 Mr Fuller took charge of the move to Ducane Road. There, for the first time, boys and staff could enjoy bright, airy classrooms, spacious playing fields, a tuck shop and a theatre.

In 1931 Mr Fuller was awarded an OBE in the King’s Birthday Honours for his work on The Headmasters’ Employment Committee.

He retired at the end of term in December 1936 and his last act as Head was at Speech Day on 18 December where he was presented with a silver salver and a suite of furniture for his study. One of the tributes paid to him was that “ Mr Fuller’s single-mindedness and unity of purpose were highly instrumental in building up this school.  He will go away as a man who has seen his efforts rewarded, who has fought a fight and seen victory, for he leaves this school as a fine going concern”.

He himself said “ The services I have been able to render to the school have been given very willingly, very cheerfully. I have had the reward of a certain feeling of satisfaction at getting done the thing that I wanted to do. I believe I must have been born a person who likes to get his own way: and what my own way was when I came to the school was to get the school put on the map. And in trying to carry that out I have felt the reward of a satisfaction of something accomplished. Now, when I am leaving, I can say that there is nothing I want to forget, and nothing that I am not glad to remember”.

Mr Fuller died in 1954 at the age of 83.

December 10th 2018 – The Parents Association

You might  think that a Parents Association is a modern idea but its origins at 91Ƭ can be traced back to Ducane Road in 1931 when Mr Fuller was Headmaster. The Dane magazine records “a new feature in school life this term has been an “At 91Ƭ” to which parents have been invited to meet the staff.” So many parents wanted to attend that two separate evenings had to be set aside for the meetings.  They were given a guided tour of the school buildings and were reportedly very impressed with the facilities in comparison to their own school days. This seems to have been an isolated event but when Mr McGill Clouston became Headmaster at the beginning of 1937 he was quick to institute regular meetings with parents. A first meeting was held in April 1937 and arrangements were then made for meetings to be held every term.  The Dane of September 1937 recorded that “the Headmaster wishes to appeal particularly to those parents who have not attended a school meeting of this type since the future progress of the boys depends to a great extent upon the parents having a proper understanding of the school and upon the staff having some idea of the background of the boys whom they teach”. The meetings were well attended and parents also organised social functions so that they could get to know each other. In fact the smooth running of the evacuation to Oxford in 1939 was in large part due to the close co-operation that existed by then between home and school.

A formal Parents Association was formed in 1948 as parents thought this the best way to help the school fulfil some of its long term plans. The first general meeting was held on 22 October and over 100 parents elected Mr E R Skinner as Chairman and Mr A C Oakley as Secretary. The Association was launched at a Social, Whist Drive and Dance, the forerunner of later Winter Fairs. The Association went from strength to strength over the next few years and the first donations were given to the school in 1950 - £50 for school prizes and sports equipment, a Bible for use in assemblies and a new edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the school library. The first campaign that the Association was involved in was to try to persuade the LCC to give Grammar Schools the maximum permissible 72 days holiday each year instead of the 60 days that the authority allowed. They were not successful.

The Association ticked over for the next few years. Membership fluctuated but social gatherings, including regular film evenings, continued as did generous gifts to the school.  A magazine rack given to the library was singled out as “a most useful and elegant item of furniture”.

A new phase in the Associations history began in 1958 when Dr Fairweather took over the Chairmanship. He had a reputation for ensuring social events were relaxed and friendly but he also gave a great deal of consideration to making sure that the contributions made to the school were right for both school and parents. Did the contribution concern itself sufficiently with things of the mind and the spirit? Did it make parents genuinely aware of the educational problems of the time, of the specific problems of the school, of the importance of our attitude and loyalty to St Clement Danes?  His approach went down well with parents and under his Chairmanship membership reached 581 by 1961.  Consequently they were able to give more and more help to the school. The football teams in particular benefited from cash support and help was given to re-turf the pitches.  Fund raising became a dominant feature of the Association mainly through the running of winter or Christmas Fairs and the summer fetes. When Mr Garside became Headmaster in September 1959 he asked the Association to support the school in a major project, the building of a new sports pavilion. This proved to be a lengthy and expensive exercise but was hailed as a fabulous amenity when it was officially opened in 1968. As the photo shows the Chairman of the Association, Mr Eric Sharp, was asked to cut the ribbon in recognition of their efforts over many years to raise most of the funds.

October 10th 2018 – Speech Day Speakers

My thanks to Laura Warrick for suggesting that I have a look at some of the guests who have presented prizes at previous Speech Days. We are very lucky to have most of the programmes going back to 1934 (and indeed some information going as far back as the 1870s!) and in all the years to date the school has welcomed academics, diplomats, lawyers, local dignitaries, Old Danes and some names you will all recognise.

In 1967 Sir Douglas Bader CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar presided over Speech Day and “spoke breezily and unconventionally, and so briefly as to hold the interest of his audience throughout”. Sir Douglas was a flying ace during World War II, credited with 22 aerial victories. He had joined the RAF in 1928 but crashed whilst attempting aerobatic manoeuvres in 1931 and lost both of his legs.  Despite his severe injuries, he returned to flying and was accepted as a pilot at the outbreak of the war. He was knighted in 1976 for “services to disabled people”.

In 1969 Christopher Chataway MP was the guest of honour. He was a middle and long distance runner, television presenter and MP for Chichester. Best known for being one of the pacemakers when Roger Bannister ran the first sub four minute mile in May 1954, he went on to set his own 5000 metre world record later that year and was the first BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

1969 was a year of outstanding sporting achievement for the school and “the afternoon was made memorable for many of the prize winners by reason of Mr Chataway’s personal interest in their achievements and for his encouraging remarks to them individually”. His address concerned itself with the value of education in a changing world where standards demanded, as in athletics, were becoming ever more exacting.

In 1986 the guest of honour was the then manager of Watford Football Club, Graham Taylor. He had a playing career with Grimsby Town and Lincoln City and then went on to manage other clubs and the English national team from 1990 to 1993. 

In 1988 it was the turn of Jonathan Porritt, a leading environmentalist, writer and Director of Friends of the Earth.  He taught English at the school from 1974 to 1984 and was Head of the faculty from 1980 to 1984.

And in 1998, Bob Holness, radio and TV presenter, actor and host of “Blockbusters” presented the prizes.

June 13th  2018 – The school library

The LRC will be on the move to new accommodation later this year so I thought a brief history of the school library might be of interest.

The Dane of April 1908 announced the opening of the first school library, in Houghton Street, housed in the Third Form room. It opened with just 80 books and 45 members who each paid a small subscription for the privilege of borrowing them. Among the most popular authors were Conan Doyle, Ballantyne, Stevenson and Marryat and the most borrowed titles were “Treasure Island” and “Sherlock Holmes”.  Members were fined for keeping books for more than a week.The Dane notes that some books were in greater demand than others “and some will die of old age rather than by the tender mercies of members”. Each edition of The Dane carried a report on the library, listing new acquisitions and noting which forms and individuals were making the most use of it – Form 1 seems to have come bottom on most occasions. By 1916, the library had a room all to itself and stock and membership had grown, thanks in part to generous grants from the Governors and donations of books.

By the 1930s there was a general movement towards providing good libraries in schools so after the move to Ducane Road in 1928 a large room was set aside for the purpose. However the shelving was old fashioned and many of the books were locked away in glass fronted cabinets.Headmaster, Mr McGill Clouston, was very keen on improving the conditions and modernised the space – much of the new shelving was made by DT teacher Mr Cleaver in his spare time and holidays. In conjunction, English teacher Mr Bilsborrow undertook the reorganisation and  cataloguing of the books, a task he had successfully undertaken in his previous school, and by 1950 the new look library had 3650 books. Newly appointed library prefects were invaluable in ensuring the smooth day to day running of the library. The one drawback was lack of space in the school partly because of unrepaired war bomb damage so the library doubled as sixth form teaching rooms, an impediment to the quiet study of fellow students. This situation only worsened as the sixth form expanded and in the autumn term of 1962 a move to the “New Library” was completed.  It occupied part of the top floor of a new building at Ducane Road and was described as “airy, light and spacious”. Even though the new library's location meant that the boys had to make a specific journey to get there when they would previously have passed the old library every day, it proved a popular space and was apparently often overcrowded, especially at lunchtimes. The new library opened with some 5000 books and the cataloguing was changed to the Dewey system – it was hoped that the boys would be more inclined to use the public libraries if the systems were the same! 

The school library here in Chorleywood was initially a small place but was extensively refurbished in 2001 thanks to a bequest from Ralph Pooley who taught history from 1938 until 1975. It was officially opened on 1 September 2001 as the Ralph Pooley Learning Resource Centre and the plaque commemorating the event can still be seen on the wall. 

April 18th 2018 – The School Sampler

The card that is presented to prize winners on Speech Day shows the sampler that was gifted to the school in 1954 by Miss Margaret Matcham of West Kensington. The original is in safe keeping but I have attached a picture and you can also see a very authentic looking, true to size framed copy of it in the SLT meeting room.

A valuation of the original undertaken in 1987 gives the following description:

“ A fine George I  embroidered linen sampler, English, 1723, worked by Mary Windom, aged 10, at the St Clement Danes charity school, worked in brilliant silks in petit point, with traditional border bands, religious verses, “boxers”, a large anchor between two swans, a lady and a gentleman, 43 cms by 23.5 cms in pine frame.”

The establishment of Charity schools was one of the most significant educational developments of the 18th century and the St Clement Danes schools were in the forefront, the boys’ school opening on January 13 1701 and the girls’ school a year later. They were among the earliest schools set up by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.

Both schools were situated in Carey Street in Holborn.The boys’ school was known as the “Church School” while the girls’ was known as the “School in New Churchyard” and occupied “several rooms and cellars” underneath the boys’ building.

In 1706  rules were drawn up to provide that both poor boys and girls were taught to read, write, cast accounts and receive  daily instruction in the Christian religion. This was later expanded to include arithmetic for the boys and singing, sewing and knitting for the girls.  Mary, as one of some 40 girls would have been provided with a uniform of straw bonnet and blue check dress and cape. The boys, of whom there were some 70, would have worn blue jackets with an anchor badge, waistcoats and corduroy trousers. Blue is the traditional colour of St Clement.

Arrangements were made for the boys to go on into trade or business apprenticeships or into the navy where recruitment was a pressing problem. The girls went on to household service.  


January 26th 2018 – The Barbirolli Hall lectern

Next time you are in the Barbirolli Hall spare a couple of minutes to have a look at the lectern that stands on the stage with its fine carving of the anchor emblem and the school motto. There used to be two in the school’s Hammersmith days – another larger, winged and less decorated companion was in daily use then. Sadly the second one is no longer here – David Heward tells me that it fell into disrepair some years ago and could not be saved.

Both lecterns were made by a senior master, Mr Reg Cleaver, who taught Woodwork and Metalwork at the school between 1945 and 1968.  A very talented craftsman, Mr Cleaver founded the school sailing club and the building of its boats and canoes took up a lot of his spare time. He was also fully involved in running school camps- Harvest Camps, Fruit Picking Camps, Holiday Camps – and constructed all the scenery and lighting for the school plays.

Old Dane Geoff Skinner (1954-59) remembers both lecterns well:

“Nowadays the lectern is quite dark in colour but originally it was a sort of shining tan – attributable to French polishing. Almost 70 years ago I contributed materially to that polishing. My involvement began with some misdemeanour and a resulting detention. Instead of demanding an essay, Reg set me to polishing. I found the whole business fascinating and had to be told to stop and go home when my hour of punishment was done.  Thereafter, sometimes accompanied by fresh delinquents, I voluntarily polished away in the evenings until I met Reg's exacting standards"

November 29th 2017 – Our first Headmaster, Reverend W J Savell

As we welcome Toby as the 10th (14th if you count Acting Heads) Head of the school, a few words about the very first Headmaster,The Rev W J Savell. We were contacted earlier this year by his great grandson so I was able to give him the following information about his ancestor.

The new St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Grammar School opened on 4th August 1862 in premises close to St Clement Danes Church. The Rev Savell, MA, LLM was appointed as its first Headmaster – it was customary for a clerical appointment to be made and also appropriate in view of the school’s connection with the church. The appointment process was laid down by the Chancery Court Scheme and required him to submit to an examination by the Upper Grammar Master of Christ’s Hospital. The school had close connections with the church and the Rev Savell preached there annually on Ascension Day with all pupils attending the service.

He graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge in 1858 as “9th Senior Optime” meaning that he had achieved a second class degree in mathematics and was ranked 9th in his cohort. He remained in charge of the school until his retirement in December 1894 providing much needed stability and continuity for the new school in its early years.

A history of the school says that “he seems to have been a man who knew his own mind, was not afraid to express his ideas to authorities and was a firm believer in discipline”.

Throughout his tenure the school maintained a local character, taking pupils from nearby mainly from the families of tradesman and minor professionals.  The emphasis was on preparing boys for clerical occupations to satisfy the demand for clerks in banks, railways, the civil service, industrial companies and so on. The curriculum was dominated by Divinity and Latin but English, Mathematics, Science, French, History and Geography were also taught.  In the early years Rev Savell would have received a salary of £200 per annum, £100 per annum from fees and his house. He had a staff of three masters and the history records that all wore silk top hats and carried canes to enforce discipline.

From its inception until the late 1880s the school grew, increasing numbers on the roll and achieving academic success.  However, the local area was changing as large areas were cleared of slum housing and pupil numbers began to fall. It seems that Rev Savell wrote to the school Governors in 1887 to recommend that the school move from the Houghton Street premises but this was not accepted. By 1890 the number of boys in the school had fallen into steady decline and when he retired in 1894 its future was so uncertain that the Governors decided not to replace him.  There were to be Acting Headmasters for the next five years.

October 4th 2017 - Commemoration

This snippet is on Commemoration. With the service for this year fast approaching, I have gone back to the school magazines to look at its history.

The first Commemoration service as we know it was held in 1937 shortly after a new Headmaster, Mr J McGill Clouston was appointed. He remained in post until 1959 and was responsible for many changes and developments in the school over that period. He had a very strong sense of history and tradition and was keen to re-establish the school’s links to St Clement Danes church which had been weakened when the school moved from Houghton Street to Hammersmith in 1928.

So, on Tuesday November 23rd 1937, the whole school set off for the church in eight London Transport Omnibuses to attend a special St Clements Day service. Some parents and former pupils also attended, including Old Dane Frederick Lack who had been at the school in the 1870s. The service started at 2.30 pm with the hymn “He who would Valiant Be” followed by the lesson read by the Chairman of Governors, Rev F Harcourt Hillersdon. After a prayer and the St Clements Day hymn, “The Angel of Remembrance” the sermon was preached by Rev W Pennington Bickford, also a Governor. His theme was the school Houses and their origin. The service concluded with “Jerusalem” after which boys, staff and guests were taken on a tour of places of interest in the parish, visiting Fleet Street, Temple, and the site of the former school in Houghton Street.

One more service was held in the church in London before the outbreak of war in 1939. The school was evacuated to Oxford in September of that year and the next service was held there on Thursday November 20th 1941. It was the prelude to a very welcome long weekend break for pupils and staff who may have been able to meet up with their families. By that time St Clement Danes church had been destroyed by enemy bombing (May 1941) and it was to be ten years until any thought was given to its restoration.

June 19th 2017 St Clement Danes First X1  v  Queens Park Rangers


1962 football teamOne of the highlights of the school’s centenary celebrations in 1962 was a football match arranged between the school First X1 and a team from local club QPR. At the time, St Clement Danes fielded one of the best school football teams in the country. Between 1956 and 1962 they produced 3 full amateur internationals, 3 England Youth players, 6 England Public and Grammar School players and 16 boys won places in the London Grammar Schools First X1. They often played club and university sides as well as other schools and remained unbeaten for three years. The team received coaching from both Jimmy Hill and England captain Billy Wright. Their goalkeeper, John Jackson, went on to play for Crystal Palace.


The QPR stadium was very close to the school and the match took place there on 28th March in front of 1,000 cheering pupils. The result of the tight encounter was a 4-3 win for the school team.


Later that day an Old Danes International X1 took on an FA Representative X1, also resulting in a victory for the school. The Old Danes team consisted entirely of players who had represented their countries at Youth, Grammar School, University and amateur international level, notably Hugh Lindsay of England, Ron Broom of Wales and Jimmy Quail of Ireland. The FA News covered the event and noted that “it must surely be a record for any school to be able to field an active international team in one afternoon”.


The captain of the school X1, David Smith, recently had an article published in the Guardian supplement recalling the day.

May 10th 2017 – The school pew

I thought I would tell you a bit about the lovely and much travelled old pew that sits outside the Heads office and which I am sure you will all have seen or used at some time.

It is possible that the pew dates back to 1800 and it stood for many years in the porch of St Clement Danes church. At some time, possibly in the 1920’s or earlier, it was given to the school which was then housed in Houghton Street, close to the church. The Clerk to the Governors at the time, Robert J Lewis, remembered that “ form masters found it a most excellent one for boys to kneel on to receive corporal punishment , but a later Board of Governors decided to abolish this form of punishment”.  In 1928 the school relocated to Ducane Road in Hammersmith and the pew was taken to the new building.  

In June 1950, the pew was given as a gift to Chorleywood College for Girls With Little or No Sight which was then on the present site of the Cedars Retirement Village- I imagine that there may have been a personal connection between the two schools. They intended to put on a braille plaque recording its origin but this was not done. The pew, however, was covered  as the V1th form  girls used it for daily prayers and snagged their stockings! 

When the College closed in 1987 the pew was returned to the school and took pride of place in the entrance.