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The Original Housemasters & Other Memories

Percy Meadows.JPG

The Housemasters – John Gooch

John Gooch, who was President of the O.H.A. from 1938 to 1945, wrote to the Editors of the Skylark in 1972 regarding the original school housemasters as he knew them during his years at Westbere Road (1908-14).

The present Houses were established during his school career; before them there existed a rather nebulous system, functional only on sports days, of houses named after birds, such as `Eagles' or `Swifts'. There were two housemasters to each house, one giving his name to the organisation.


"I was in Meadows' house. Percy Meadows wore a bow tie as long as I can remember. Whether it was the same bow tie I don't know..... He was an organist, and a very good pianist. I remember listening to him during the Lord's Prayer in the morning - going up and down the piano, playing anything but the right tune. He taught music, and was a form Master.


Strouts was a priceless old boy, really a very charming old man. I remember, he had a very big tummy. He was quite short, and I've seen him sitting on the edge of a desk with his feet on the seat, which made him face the class, looking at some particular boy with his cheeks puffed out - and the boy not knowing whether to laugh or cry, which I think used to amuse him... But he was a nice old boy; he taught general subjects, like History and English.


Henderson taught history - he was a very clever man. At the thought of going up into his form, I trembled. The idea didn't delight me at all. He was academically brilliant, but he should never have been a school master. I used to think he was spiteful - let's say that was my opinion of him at the time. I didn't think we'd get on at all together.


Russell was another musical man. He was a brilliant musician, and taught English among other subjects. He was a bachelor, and kept cats - mind you, this is hearsay, but these things get about with a modicum of truth.....


Jobling was a marvellous fellow. Old Jobbo used to come to the old boys' dinners, and they always used to get him a bit the worse for wear, and he used to reminisce. He was a very nice man and he was a wonderful swimmer too. He'd got a broad pair of shoulders and I've seen him swimming down the bath with a small boy sitting on his back and a sort of bow wave around him; he was a terrific swimmer. Geometry and trig were his special subjects, but they all taught general subjects as well.


Calvert: 'Bung-eye', he was known as - either he'd got a glass eye or an eye which stared at you, nobody was ever quite sure which. He taught anything, and we used to do our damndest, and pretty successfully too, to get him off the subject he was supposed to be teaching and on to something else; it wasn't frightfully difficult. We had most interesting talks - he was reputed to have been a journalist at one time, and I can well believe it. Somebody would put their hand up to ask a question which would lead to something, and if that didn't lead to anything someone else would, and eventually if we didn't get him off the subject it wasn't our fault.

Sargeant Hartnett

One's relationship with one's house master was a bit nebulous. They were all form masters as well; in a day school there isn't anything for a house to do really, except for the normal competitions. Sport was conducted on a house basis and practically nothing else. That would be soccer, cricket and swimming. They spent three years throwing-me in the deep end and letting me find my own way out -that's probably why I'm a very indifferent swimmer. 

The man who threw me in, of course, was Sergeant Hartnett. He was the School Sergeant. He used to line up the forms for morning parade before we marched into prayers, took gymnasium and looked after the rifle club. I went along one day and put all my shots through the same hole, nearly. `Ah, good', he said, `I'll give you a place in the junior team - You come up at lunchtime for extra practice.' I went along next lunchtime, put all my shots around the edge of the target and ended up by smashing the target fastener, which was an unforgivable sin. He tore down the target and jumped on it. That was the end of my rifle - shooting.

Sergeant Hartnett also ran the Corps; it was not compulsory, more a spare time occupation. In those days of course, there wasn't so much emphasis - we've had two major wars since then - I was never a member; I saved my camping for the army. 


The task of keeping discipline devolved on appointed form captains largely, although they never had much power. There were no such things as prefects; the system developed after my time. Masters gave lines, and you were `kept in', but the weekly detention was only for very serious offences, murder, and things of that sort..... 

There was no school uniform; I used to wear a Norfolk jacket..... Teacher/pupil relationships were very mixed, and some were ragged unmercifully: booby traps were a favourite - the blind would go up; and a towel would come down, any diversion would do.... Now, I couldn't tell you exactly what those people did for me, but they gave me a sense of responsibility which is lacking to a very large extent in many places today, and that I've always been grateful for. I remember them with affection."

The above article published in the OHA Magazine in 1992-93 prompted a number of other OH to provide their own recollections and memories of their time at the School. These were published in the OHA Magaizine in 1993-94 and are reproduced below:

From Mr. Norman Martin (1919)

I was rather taken aback to find that I am number three in seniority in the list of members but at the age of 91 it is understandable. It may not now generally be known that for many years, boys who were good swimmers, on leaving school, joined the Hampstead Priory Swimming Club. In the late '20s and early '30s the Club's water polo team which was about the best in the Southern Counties, contained six Old Haberdashers':

Harold Parker

- back

Adrian Haskins

- forward

Norman Martin

- half

S.H. (Kidney) Bean

- forward

Leonard Haskins

- forward


- goalkeeper

I can't remember his Christian name (W.R.T. suggests Stanley Phillips one of three brothers.)

I had the honour of being the Captain for four years.

Another name which brings back memories was A.C. Mann, who was the first Company Sergeant-Major in the School Cadet Corps. He was very popular for his efficiency and likeable character. I do not think I shall be able to reach the age of C.J.L. Wagstaff who was my Headmaster throughout my School life.

I am afraid that I shall never be able to visit the School but I wish that you, the Association and all its officers and also the School continue to flourish and that I shall be able to read a few more copies of the magazine.

From Mr. Francis T. Cordingley (1917)

I would like to take the opportunity to suggest that the 'unknown' master in 1906 was a Mr. Macmanaway, a tall Scottish gentleman, who at one dinner time had a set to with Mr. Henderson. The hush throughout the dining hall that followed the incident has always remained with me. What happy days!

From Mr. Godfrey Baker (1935)

I would like to comment on the photograph on page 36 - School Staff 1906. Believe it or not when I joined the School in 1929 the following in that photograph were still there and taught me!

Rev. W.H. Braine (Taffy)


S.H. Norton (a great guy)

Wally Ash (bring me your diary boy!)

Percy Meadows

Bung-eye Calvert

B.L.K. Henderson (John Gooch 'thought' he was spiteful; I can tell you he was!)


Josh Blunt (another great guy)

Miss Johnson (she did not like me)

I was interested to see the photograph of Mr. Hinton. On leaving school in 1935 I was awarded the Hinton Memorial Prize! This was awarded to the boy who had done most for the School but had not won an academic prize. I was not quite sure how to take this!! I must have earned it on the rugby, cricket and athletic fields?

Westbere Road were wonderful days and the discipline did us no harm into the bargain.

There were those I have mentioned plus others; R.B.Pask, Dr. Abson, Rev. F.J. Kemp, C.V. Sturgeon, W.H. Crossman, Gruner, Knights, Rawnsley, Les Fluke, Turton, and Brewer and others D.W. Small, (another great guy) Littlefield and E.V.Small.

From Mr. Dennis Hand-Bowman (1933)

I wonder if the following are of any interest of bygone days at Haberdashers'.

John Gooch's reminiscences of some of the masters at Westbere Road between 1908 - 1914 prompt me to mention one or two characters who stand out in my memory when I was there from 1928 - 1933.

As a new boy in 1928, I was put in Jobling's House, and in form IU where the form master was "Doughy" Rawnsley, a charming man who had lost a leg in the 1914 - 18 war in the Royal Flying Corps. His method of punishment was with "Horace", a piece of rubber tube which he fed with pieces of chalk. The offending boy would be called out and "Doughy" would say "Right boy, turn to the sun and touch your toes", and then there would be a whack or two from "Horace".

Mr. Calvert known as "Bung- eye" because of his glass eye, also used to have rather individal methods of chastisement. One of them was quite painful for he would get the offender to put his hands palms down on the desk and then roll a six sided pencil up and down on the fingers using a fair bit of pressure. His other one was to tie a rubber aeroplane strut between two desks, bend the boy over and pull back the strut, and fire like a catapult. Whilst at the blackboard, elastic bands would come out and pellets of paper would be fired at it on his blind side to see how near one could get without being spotted. At the end of term he would allow tuck to be brought in and we'd sit on top of our desks listening to his tales of adventure during his travels in the Far East.

Nobby Norton was another delightful character whose classroom faced the railway and if one was caught looking out of the window, a whack per carriage or truck was administered and six for the engine. Also during English parsing he would go round the class asking each boy in turn, and if the answer was not forthcoming, one lay over the desk and "got one", and this certainly led to an intense application of "the little grey cells".

Another was "Fishy" Hurrell who just could not keep order and used to read us Sherlock Holmes to keep us quiet - I would point out that there was no resentment to such punishments, they were all considered rather a joke, unlike the beatings we got from prefects.

Finally, during the lunch hour, we used to play a game on the school field similar to rugby but without tackling called "Doddery" named I believe after the master who originated it - my generation will remember it but I wonder if it is still played - my generation was the one that produced, as far as I know our only rugby international, namely Maurice Daly who played for Ireland and left in 1932 and now lives in Australia.

From Mr. Basil Jones

Dear Mr. Hayler,
In reply to your letter regarding the six original housemasters of the school, you have made me overturn my memory for some 65 years: in this respect I can only give a few remarks for three of them as I never really came into contact with Messrs Jobling, Strouts and Russell.

Mr. Meadows was a tall, softly spoken man and never in my memory did he become heated in his condemnation of any misdemeanours. However, he was pretty strict (indeed as were the majority of staff in those days) but I would say that he was always very fair and would always listen to your point of view.

Doctor B L K Henderson was a strict disciplinarian and I personally would describe him as the complete opposite of the former. I dare say that he was not always the best friend of many pupils!

J G Russell was a great man for music and was a Doctor of Music. Although I never came under his jurisdiction I met him several times on leaving school. He was organist at St Edmund the King and Martyr in Lombard Street where whenever he could he gave lunch time recitals, and it was here that I met him several times as I was working around the corner from there - a very likeable man.

Mr. Calvert was very popular indeed. All staff wore gowns and some mortarboards, but you NEVER saw Mr. Calvert without his. He was also pretty strict but in a very likeable way. He would always joke when a boy was due for punishment and tell the offender to fetch either the gym shoe (kept specifically for this purpose) or "Uncle Rhubarb" which was a piece of rubber tube if I remember correctly. The boy was then told to "Bend over!" This was always done in the nicest possible way and he nearly always joked about it; the punishment was also never too severe. In short he was also very likeable.

Being a member of Mr. Strouts' House I can still picture him but unfortunately cannot give details. I never had any contact with Major Jobling at all, but again I can still picture him and remember him paying a visit to the school in uniform during the Great War.

Yours very sincerely,

Basil Jones

PS: All six were devoted to their Houses and gave their all.

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