Newells Preparatory School

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Memories of staff

Posted by Chris Matthews on April 5, 2018 at 11:05 AM

Age and sport has caught up with me and I am currently convalescing after a knee replacement , so though it was about time to delve into the memories of Handcross Park.


In no particular order some of the staff that left a lasting impression.


Mrs Vellacott who taught Scriptures ,( alas we were not that kind to her). Her face would glow and she wriggled her body onto the hard wooden seat before she would illuminate the room with a biblical story. We would often, before her entrance, rub chalk on the seat and she would leave with the tell tale signs on her skirt. She never queried how this had occurred!

After the move to Handcross, she gave each of us a bible to replace the burnt ones at Newells. I still have mind and it was dated late 19 century. I was also part of the boys who carved a map of the British Isles in the grass, near the swimming pool at Newells. . A nice woman, think she may have been a missionary in China?


Captain Stokes RN, was a great pipe smoking maths teacher. He was calm and patient and only occasionally alluded to his wartime experience. I was captivated, (and still am, as I know can fully comprehend the magnitude of the event) of his description of the torpedoing of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean in 1942, which he served with . He recounted that as it had a wooden deck, the crew that slid down as it keeled over, received huge amounts of splinters. Very evocative. Does anybody know of his military career and which ship he became Captain of?


Colonel Wreford was one of my favourite masters. He appeared on the outside to be somewhat gruff, but really had a heart of gold. He gave me a love of Geography, which I continued to A levels. He also gave me a love for carpentry and I was fortunate that my parents "paid extra" so I could attend his cold workshop one evening a week. He taught you how to plane and cut wood. You started by making a bench support to hold wood as you cut it. I also made a locked box, book shelf and a shoe box, all I still have!! I do believe that Nader Salour was in the same class and recall he was always beaming and smiling. Do seem to recall that he planed a piece of wood so far down, that Wreford exclaimed "For God's sake Nasser, what are you doing!" It is a credit to Nader how he survived and has commented how much he liked the school, can't have been easy being sent to a foreign country not knowing the language.


I also believe Wreford supervised the shooting, but can't be sure? Remember well going to a small hut in central woods, where in the winter an oil stove blasted out heat. I think there were 3 portholes to this .22 rifle range. Recall that all the rifles had names, Savage is the only one I now recall. This was a bolt action rifle that as a lefty was awkward to handle. Thankfully he had some "Martini" action rifles, (reminiscent of the "wild west") where your pulled down a lever to reveal the chamber, much easier!

I continued shooting at Hurstpierpoint "graduating" to ,303 ex WW2 rifles, with a huge kick!

Believe he was in the Indian army during WW2, again would anybody know his military history?


Mr Bean, the music master always wore a black suit and chain smoked! I believe he also taught at Sandhurst? Gave me a love of classical music as we would sit and listen to vinyl from a small stereo set up.


Mr Coombes I believe, used to captivate us with stories he would read in class, always looked forward to this?



Mr Hoskins participated at sports day. He coached the tug of war teams and wore a mask of glasses, nose and moustache.


Charlie always seemed to wear a brown coat, was totally bald, small in height and immensely strong. A gentle person. I think he may have been in the artillery in WW2, possibly in North Africa and may have served under the Headmaster, hence him being here. Always loved going to his shed and talking to him. I recall that a group of us wanted to try to play golf so got permission to make 3 or 4 holes near the perimeter.

I spoke to Charlie and he let me take his ride on lawn mower to make each of the putting holes!! Remember will glee riding it to the location and being careful as the undulating ground would force the bar of the mower to press down on your knees. Mad the required putting holes and returned the machine and myself intact! Didn't have a safety helmet, ear plugs or gloves, just common sense at the age of 12!! Can't imagine being allowed to do that know, without cotton wool!! ( I believe the current pupils aren't allowed pen knives!! I valued my Swiss army knife, still have it!)




Major Gamon, who in my opinion, was sadistic and liked to beat boys at the slightest excuse. You knew that if he took morning assembly, anybody with a "stripe" would be beaten by him. He also. I believe used the dreaded night cane, whereas Headmaster Hope Lang would use your slipper. I remember when it was time to buy new slippers I would "try out" to see which was less painful, as knew I would succumb! I recall one day as you waited on the raised step of the shower at Newells for Matron to confirm you were clean, I looked back and saw what I thought was dirt on my bottom. I quickly went back to the shower to try to wash it of. It was in fact bruising from being slippered the night before!! Surprisingly it didn't hurt, whereas my current bruising form my knee operation does indeed!


Thankfully after the move to Handcross Park he did not follow and the frequency of corporal punishment almost ceased. When Iwas fortunate to become head boy, never had to enter in a bound book, the crime and punishment metered out, which was the responsibility of my predecessors at Newells.


Mrs Clifford I believed taught piano at Newells. Remember she travelled on a Honda 50 scooter, which in those days was not common for a woman to do!


Other memories was the flags of the houses at Newells that were daily flown, think the prefects were responsible for?


Remember the weekly letter writing time. My parents were in Kuwait when I was at Newells so they welcomed the weekly letter, as I did from them and others. Always a joy to receive mail, shame it is a lost art! On a side note found my old Parker fountain pen and some kind person has restored it to it’s former glory!


Interesting to note that I believe it was only 2 weeks from the tragic fire at Newells to finding the current Handcross Park, a remarkable achievement. At the start there was a separate classroom block adjacent to the main building. My father on seeing the classrooms commented that he though it had been a Jewish school as there were Jewish signs above the door. would be interesting to know the history before we occupied it?


Would welcome other views of the staff and corrections to my faded memory?


Chris Matthews


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