Happy Birthday Alwickbury 70 years old
It was around seventy years ago when the grand family mansion, Alwickbury, came up for sale and was identified as being suitable as a school house. Despite initial gloomy forecasts that Alwickbury was too big for a school and would surely fail, but now, 70 years on in 2018, the school is still around and is as successful as ever, confounding those earlier prophets of doom.
It was Kenneth Castle and Brian Chidell who took the chance to move Lea House, their small school into the much larger premises at Alwickbury.
This act, along with the dedication of Castle and Chidell (picture below), not only ensured that the school survived but that it began to flourish.
Over the years that followed, there has been much building work and various headmasters, all working towards the same goal to improve the school for its staff and pupils, creating more modern facilities for efficiency and learning.
Claire Hales, wife of the current Headmaster, Vernon Hales, has been through some old paperwork and has shared just a few recollections and ramblings from past pupils, telling of their experiences during their school years; and extracts and snippets of these are below.
They say that school years are the best years of your life... Has Aldwickbury got it right?
Read on and judge for yourselves.
“It is hard to believe that so many years have passed since I and some seventy or eighty other excited Lea House boys arrived at Aldwickbury School for the first time. Whilst the modern Aldwickbury spreads over a great range of building and facilities, in 1948 the only buildings on the site were the main house and the stable block. Yet to us, the ‘new school’ with its spacious grounds seemed vast after the cramped premises we had occupied in the old school in Ox Lane. We were especially fascinated by the mysterious grotto which opened from the conservatory and were very disappointed that this was strictly ‘out of bounds’.
Those early days of Aldwickbury were immensely happy and I owe a great deal to a school which gave me such a good academic grounding and, more importantly, taught me about kindness, good manners and my responsibilities as a good citizen. In these respects, Aldwickbury has not changed at all.”
Giles Slaughter, Old Boy 1945 – 49 and Aldwickbury Governor
“We are often asked for our memories of our schooldays. In my case, one that stands out from my wonderful Aldwickbury years is from the late 1950’s.
In Matron’s Office along the corridor, apart from bandages, plasters, TCP, Dettol and all the other accoutrements of a First Aid service, was a built-in cupboard and in there was an old biscuit tin.
If memory serves me right, Matron would dole out biscuits to any poor, sickly souls who
had suffered a splinter or had a bit of a headache, to go with the all-curing cup of sweet tea.
But I knew better… and I knew what time Matron went downstairs to her own tea. So I would sneak in while I knew/hoped no one was watching and gently open the lid of the tin as quietly as possible and nick 2 or 3 bickies.
But things were about to change... I slid soundlessly in, as usual, opened the tin as usual - and was horrified to find a handwritten note on top of the biscuits, with the short, but all-powerful message: “Fingleton – Stop Stealing the Biscuits!”
On reflection, maybe that’s why I’ve been known as “Fingers” all my life. (And I thought it was down to a typical schoolboy foreshortening of my surname!)
Happy times at a wonderful school – and seemingly equally wonderful today.
John “Fingers” Fingleton”
“I am sitting sweaty-palmed on one of those hard-backed chairs in an Aldwickbury
morning assembly. We have belted out "Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise" to the sound of our brand new chapel organ. Only the nervous shuffling of seats now breaks the silence as the Headmaster - not Mr Hales, but Mr Chidell - opens his big book of numbers. Then, as 180 boys wait with bated breath to hear their name, he starts reading aloud.
It is 1970. Astronauts have just landed on the moon. Elvis Presley is number 1 in the
charts. Our older brothers are hippies with long hair and flared jeans. British soldiers are
tied down in Northern Ireland. England have agonizingly lost to Brazil in the World
Cup semi- final.
But, looking back, it was a gem of a prep school, driven by the enormous personality and charisma of its leader and founder, Brian Chidell. He had been a World War 2 tank driver, was potty about Gilbert and Sullivan operas and delivered great sermons on education in the annual magazine. He believed passionately in the all-round and not just academic education of boys - a good legacy that I still see in Aldwickbury today.
So the moral of the story is perhaps this - let's not forget just how important these Aldwickbury years are in the life of our boys and to their futures. The experiences, good and bad, may be remembered for many, many years to come.” Adrian Strain
Headmaster Vernon Hales said, “ I am proud to be Headmaster at our amazing school as we strive to maintain our inherited values and traditions and Aldwickbury reaches the grand age of seventy years old.”