Newells Preparatory School

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Jumbled Memories of Newells

Posted by Chris Matthews on May 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM

My earliest memories of Newells was going to Harrods to purchase my uniform which included a bespoke suit and a tuck box (which I still have) and being somewhat bewildered for the first couple of terms, as my parents were far away posted to Kuwait and I was somewhat homesick.

The boys already mentioned in previous blogs open the floodgates of memories, mostly good. Many of them went to Hurstpierpoint and I formed particular close friendships which included Andrew Miller, Steve Cearns and Robert Utting. I was also close to Stephen Palmer and Edward Trewella but there were many more and it seemed like an extended family, toiling to adjust to this foreign life.

I enjoyed sports and was quite good at some, but hated cross country running! On occasions we had to go on runs, always in the freezing cold in plimsolls, vest and shorts. I always thought what a pointless pursuit, but then again running around for a football or rugby ball (which I enjoyed) could be viewed the same!

Here I joined the shooting club and we were taken to a small hut nestling in the woods. There we would be greeted by a paraffin fire to heat the hut and we would dutifully take the 3 shutters down to reveal the firing positions. I recall that all the guns had names. I can only think of Savage which was a heavy bolt actioned .22 rifle. Being left handed there were a few that had “martini “actions, which I favoured, as it was easier to load.

(I continued shooting at Hurst and went to Bisley on a number of occasions and also fired 303’s on outdoor ranges.)

I remember well Sports Day, especially the tug of war competition between houses. The house masters would wear silly face masks and encouraged you to heave and hold.

One day a week we would do forestry duties where we would line up outside Charlie’s shed and be handed a broom made from birch and would go off, similar to the seven dwarfs and sweep paths in the forest. Occasionally the older boys were given machetes to cut bracken etc. Can’t recall any injuries and was way before H & S was invented! On returning the tools to Charlie we would wipe old engine oil on the blades, (I can still smell the oil!) Charlie was a thick set man; (similar to Oddjob in the James bond movie) He had been in the artillery during the war (perhaps that’s where he met Capt Lang?) He would let boys swing from his extended arms as he was that strong, but very gentle.

The woods for us were a real treasure trove of enjoyment. I cannot recall ever being allowed to go to the centre wood as it was rumoured to have an adders den there! Sunday’s after it had been announced which woods we could go to; we would build large dams using broken bottles as the gates. At the end of the day, which seemed to go on forever, we would release the water and chase it down as it enveloped everything.

If we weren’t doing that we would be fighting with makeshift swords and spears made from green bracken. Everybody wanted to be in the Spartans but there were a few tribes that fought, although not historically accurate!

As commented by others, the freedom we were allowed at times was a great joy.

Swimming was interesting in the round pool. Capt Lang would post the temperature on a small blackboard outside and you would assemble naked inside! (What was all that about!) New boys had to jump off the diving board and swim across and back before being allowed to enter

I learnt to ride; Mrs. Gammon, a small weather beaten woman took charge. Her horse was called Trigger which was huge to us. One of the boys (Bennett?) lent his pony, a chestnut which was a joy to ride. There was a tall grey called Hecate, that  Overbury usually rode and a bad tempered welsh pony called Buttons which I rode. When I was experienced enough we would go for treks, part woods, part road. Every time we would canter Buttons would buck and I would sail over his head. At the third time this happened Mrs Gamon became quite cross, no concern if I was injured, just the fact that I had stopped the trek!!

At morning break we would gather the ponies from the field, ride them bareback to the stables and groom them. Mrs Gamon would then judge the efforts by sliding a white glove over the pony. The chestnut usually won, Buttons always had faults! There was a sheltland pony, not sure why, anyway when I held out my hand with a nut on it , it went straight for me finger and only whacking it on the noise did it release its vice like grip!

 When we moved to Handcross she would collect us in a Citroen DS, marvellous!

Others have touched on Matron and the 2 nurses. Nurse Marion I think, was the most attractive one there and in the evening when it was bath night we longed to be sent upstairs to be rubbed down with a loffah by her!

When I moved to Hurst we (Steve Cearns, Andrew Miller and pos some others?)  visited matron who lived in Hurst. She had an old thatched cottage with no electricity, just oil lamps I seem to recall.

Although not very academic I did win top of form 2 in Dec 66 and received a book about the French Revolution,( which I still have to this day!) Once in a while we would assemble for the stationary cupboard that was in the basement down a flight of stairs of the passage leading from the Hall to the stairs and dining room. There we could get ink nibs and rulers (Again I still have my wooden one!) and Capt Lang would total the amount to go on your account.

At the beginning of each term I would look forward to seeing which films were going to be shown. Every 2 weeks there would be a classic wartime film that Capt Lang would run from the little projection room in the theatre.

On occasions we would have visiting acts, one I recall being spellbound was a puppet show about Aladdin. We also did school plays. There was one I was in, (something to do with the Orinoco River?) with a minor part when I forgot my lines, I looked at the boy who was prompting and all he did was hold up a copy of the Beano!

I recall playing snooker on the full size table on the landing in the evening and adjacent to the Lang’s quarters. I remember being enthralled with Mrs Lang’s glass statue from France which would change colour with barometer changes

I recall the whole school being allowed to watch the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. The large black and white television was placed outside to be viewed by us from inside.

More about Handcross Park at a later date

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