Interview with Margaret Taylor
Interviewed by Jon Corrall in 2011
We were delighted to have you as our guest of honour at the OHA dinner this year on this 50th anniversary of the move to Elstree. As Headmaster, Tom was President of the Association and is a legend in the history of Haberdashers’ because he had the vision to move the school to its present site and to create the school we know today.
How was life different at Haberdashers’ from the previous school?
MT. We used to live in Bath and we were very happy there. Tom enjoyed the music there. It is a beautiful Georgian city. Tom was sad to leave Bath but was very excited to be coming to Haberdashers’. When we first moved we had to buy somewhere to live and we bought in Hampstead Garden suburb, and remained there until the Headmaster’s House was built some years later after the move; it was the last thing to be finished. Tom had a difficult journey to school and it was very inconvenient for the girls as they had to get to Edgware to North London Collegiate, and in order to catch the bus from Golders Green they had to cross Hampstead Heath and then walk at the other end. It kept them terribly healthy.
What are your most vivid memories of the move to Elstree in 1961?
MT: First of all there was the planning. I remember Tom on a Friday evening or a Saturday morning together with two members of staff drawing up the plans for the new school. Tom bought, (and later sold) some lorries in order to move all the musical instruments, the school records and apparatus. The boys and staff helped move all the equipment. I’ve read that it took three days to complete the move, but in fact it was much longer than that, and the whole experience was pretty traumatic. The old House (Aldenham House) was pretty scruffy and it smelt of old cabbage. You could see the muddy fields from Tom’s office. But it was quite central and he was very aware of what was happening in the school.
Did you and your family enjoy living at the School in Elstree?
MT We were never lonely. We had a big family and I practised physiotherapy. I needed that pocket money as the salary was not all that generous. We enjoyed a very full family life in school, and our daughters got on very well with the boys. On the other hand our daughters had great difficulty travelling to their schools as the Girls’ School did not arrive at Elstree until later. Before the Girls’ School was built we had a wonderful view across the field to the church on Elstree Hill. Liz, my daughter, used to live here with her husband who was very scruffy. Tom used to get reports that there was a tramp around the campus, and he explained it was his son in law.