Newells Preparatory School

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The Handcross Generation

Posted by Ralph Tuckwell on January 2, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Just found this site and it brings back a number of memories. I started at Handcross in 1968, and the fire was something of legend. I realise now that many who were there at the time would probably not want to talk about it. In my memory, the story was that it was started by a cigarette that fell down the back of a table?

Some of the people who have commented must have been at Handcross when I was there ... they say old age brings memories back, but I have to admit that I don't remember any of the names! There again, what would a 7 year old take in when they are placed in a boarding school in a foreign country :)

Handcross - or Newells and Desmoor as it was known then - was obviously re-building itself when I joined, but it seemed like a settled place. The classroom block must have been very new, and I see from Google maps that it has long gone, while the kitchen garden (one of our favourite haunts for midnight walks) is now built up. I'm not sure that the Annex is still there, the dormitories for the older boys and the Chapel. With windows on most sides, it was easy to climb out in the middle of the night (or probably 7am on Sunday mornings) and hope that "Drofer" wouldn't catch you.

Most of the strong characters from the teachers seem to be Newells - Mr Lazo with his incredible knowledge of words, Mrs Vellacott with her map of the world cut in turf, Mr Robertson ("Beefy Chunks" for some reason) who only had half a thumb (and used it to pop someone's bubble blown in illegal bubble gum), Mr Bean and his music, Colonel Reford ("Drofer") and Captain Hope-Laing who tragically passed away soon after I started. Mr McNeill (?), the former Desmoor headmaster, took over for the rest of my time there.

Life was fairly simple and straightforward then - no mobile phones, computers, games, or even much TV. Free time was spent outside (weds afternoons, saturday afternoons and much of Sunday) in the woods with no supervision: I still have the scar on my wrist from the deep glass cut sustained in the woods from a broken bottle, and the times we fell off trees or piled into deep undergrowth with no fear of the consequences. Or we raced round the woods on bikes.

I must dig out some photos and see if I can upload them ... and it would be great to hear from anyone else who remembers Handcross in the early 70s.

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