Memories of 1Uoolfe!!Jh Schoo!

from 1928 to 1987


This is the first edition of a collection of reminiscences of Woodleigh School compiled by Joanna Passmore and Mary Robertson, daughters of the rate Arthur R. England and his late wife Barbara.

The aim is to collect as much informal and formal information about the period from the founding of the School in 1928 up until the death of Robin England, Arthur's younger son and his successor to the Headmastership, who died in 1987.

Old Woodleighans and former members of the Staff are warmly invited to send in anecdotes and/or favourite memsries which would be incorporated in any subsequent edition.

If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with either:-

Mrs J. Passmore 18 8t. Mary's Court Ottway Walk Welwyn

Herts. AL6 9AU

Telephone: 01438 716376 Email: jo@chrisandjo.plus.com

Mrs Mary Robertson Mead Cottage

40 Commercial Street Norton

Yorks. Y017 9ES Telephone: 016536 96447


The school was made possible by the backing of Mr. Loten of the Midland Bank in Hull and a lady called Dr. Stacey Cleminson. There was no boys' preparatory school in the area at the time, and parents were at a loss as to where their children should be educated, apart from as boarders.


My father, A.R. England, had been teaching in Kuala Lumpur and had recently returned to the UK because his wife, Barbara, could not only not stand the heat in Malaya, but had also given birth to their first child, Richard William, known as Dick.

The house where the school started was a property in West Hill, Hessle on an estate created by the Charity Charterhouse of Hull as an investment in about 1885 consisting of a 99 year lease on six or seven properties in West Hill. A ground rent was paid to the Charterhouse and the first owners paid for the construction of their properties. When my father bought the leasehold of the property in 1928, it had about 56 years to go and he was entitled to treat it as his own; to alter and adapt it to his liking, no doubt to the landlord's approval. He also rented from the Charterhouse the playing fields which were at the end of the road.

The house was in fact called Woodleigh and both ARE and his wife thought that was a pretty good name for a school. Dr. Stacey Cleminson was as good as her word and in 1928 eight pupils arrived and the school was launched.

John Watson

My grandfather, John Watson, a Chartered Surveyor, was surveyor to the Charterhouse at the time that the school was started, and I assume that my introduction to Woodleigh stemmed from this association.

In September 1928, I arrived as a new boy for the school's second term. There were eight original boys and I increased the size of the school to nine. I can well remember that first morning, being introduced to the other boys, all about seven and a half years of age. Twas eight+!

I always thought that Mr. and Mrs. England were lovely people. They were so kind to me and have had a very great influence in my life; more so than any other people during the whole of my career.

My school mates were the following:

Peter and Brian Oughtred. Arnold Cussons.

Tom Robinson and his brother. R. Cockin.

Tom Thelwall.

Billy Machin.

Mr. England was the only master in the first year of the school. The number of pupils increased rapidly, as the school flourished, and the first master I can remember was a Frenchman named Monsieur Soula, who introduced a game called Balla* to the school which we played in the courtyard at the back of the house for the five years I was at Woodleigh.

Two friends of mine joined the school from Brough, Andy Rennie and John Barker. A doctor's son, copper-haired Simpson, Curtis, Hellyer are others I can remember.

Another master who joined during the second year was Mr. Champion. He was followed by another, a graduate from the public school Oundle, G.w.13."Law, who taughtmaths and general subjects. He was instrumental in persuading my parents to send me to Oundle in 1933.

* The game of Balla originating from France was played by any number of boys and consisted of being alert and avoiding being hit by a tennis ball thrown by the opposition. It started by all the boys gathering together in a tight circle, al/ putting onefoot into a ring. One boy threw up the ball with the intention of dropping it on someone s toe. As soon as this happened, all the boys scallered away so as to avoid being hit by the tennis ball. The one on whose toe itfell was on his own and could only increase the numbers on his side by hitting a boy with the ball. The high wall down the side of the playground in Hessle was a great benefit as it kept the game tight and one could hit an opponent by bouncing the ball off the wall. Once he had got a boy on his side, he could throw the ball to him and trick the opposition.

Mary adds that they played it at Firby with all the boys who had been hit by the ball joining hands and so making a very intimidating chain to chase after the survivors.


I used to travel to school by train, getting on at Brough and leaving at Hessle, then walking up the road to the school less than half a mile away. I cycled to the station at Brough and back home to Elloughton Mount, where we lived.

In about 1930, the school had enlarged to about 25 pupils and Mr. England thought that having boarders would be a step forward. I arrived along with Peter and Brian Oughtred, Cussons and Thelwall. This time in my life at Wood leigh was the happiest and I thoroughly enjoyed life at school. It made going to Oundle another pleasurable experience.

At this time, I can remember that Mr. England decided to make a gymnasium in one of the outbuildings next to the cottage at the corner of the property. With the assistance of his brother-in-law, Jim King, he converted the outbuilding into a first class gymnasium and I can remember helping Mr. Champion installing the equipment needed.

The cottage was used by the masters' as living accommodation and was a useful addition to the school, as were the large kitchen garden and lawns, forming the garden.

I was amazed at the amount of work Mr. and Mrs. England did in running the school. He was always slaving away, teaching, working in the kitchen garden, mowing the lawns, constructing and altering the property. They were a truly industrious couple. I was the first boy to go to public school from Woodleigh. I took a scholarship exam at the school, consisting of normal subjects plus painting a sketch in water colour which Mrs. England set up. It was an arrangement of furniture and flowers. I failed miserably, but got into Oundle and enjoyed life there.

An Old Boys club was formed after the school moved to Langton. I remember the occasion in about 1954 when we had subscribed to the making and presenting of the three mahogany plaques which now hang on the dining room walls. These are lists of Captains of Cricket and Football and Honours and Awards of school leavers.

Robin & Mary getting ready for Sports Day

Back to Joanna

...... ,.,., ......

As I was not born until 1930, it was indeed fortunate that John W. has such a good memory! I think the 1930s were~ very hard for my parents as it was a time of recession, and they never knew what it was to have money in the bank. The fees were ridiculously low and, at one point, the parents felt so sorry for my mother that they clubbed together and bought her an expensive handbag.

One has to remember how cheap staffing was in those days, so there were maids and an assistant cook. There was also always a teenage girl who was prepared to walk the babies in the afternoons.


(My younger brother and sister were born in 1934 and 1935.) I have very clear memories of my mother cooking and me being allowed to play with bits of pastry when I was very small. However, as soon as I showed any interest, I was allowed to attend the 1st form - just for as long as I wished!

My brother Dick and I used to dress up as King and Queen and my mother told of how when I asked Dick (as King) if he was ready, he said "No, I have to write the reports"! I was also quite convinced that I would eventually turn into a boy and begged my mother to tell me when this would happen.

Ted Gleadow - 1935

With my mother and sister, I was living quite close to Woodleigh in Station Road, Hessle. It had been suggested that I should apply for a job in the Colonial Education Service, so that our ears pricked up when we learned that Arthur England, after some years of service in Malaya, had come to start a school in Hessle.

Probably our first contact with the family was seeing Barbara pushing the pram with Mary in it and perhaps Robin trotting along by the side up the road past our house, and the next contact was when Arthur offered me a part-time job at the school. There would have been about 30 or 40 boys there then.

)0, Robin, Andrews, Slack, Gillett, Burstall.

It was a great experience for me, and a great experience to work with Arthur (though I am not sure that I was much use!) He was, I thought, a man of great understanding, initiative and determination, as well as great kindness, the qualities which inspired all he met with a new confidence. When, in 1936/37, I was offered ajob at Sandroyd, one of the outstanding and well-known prep schools at the time, I know it was largely due to Arthur's help.


The same encouragement as I experienced at Woodleigh was the keynote of the school; a positive incentive to all the boys to do their best and enjoy doing it. The wartime and post-war success of the school is, in my opinion, proof of its great foundation.

An incident I shall always remember concerned Dick and, I think, Maclaren (who lived opposite). They used to race each other after school and Dick used to win easily. One evening, Arthur noticed that Dick was losing. Something was wrong. The Doctor came and the onset of polio was diagnosed just in time.

Yule, Foster, Morrison.

Back to Joanna

The school must have grown considerably by the time I was of an age to remember, because there were 1 st and 2nd forms in the house and, across the playground, there were two more classrooms, next to the gym which was next to a cottage where some of the teaching staff lived.

There was a panelled hall with a small stage near the front of the house, and so

Speech Day was quite impressive with a guest speaker and Headmaster's report. There was prize giving and some sort of play put on in the gym after a tea for which my mother had baked frantically!




W oodleigh School's First Public Event


Tho first speech duy 0.1. tho Woodleigh C l)r~pnrntory School, Hcsslr-, ,,"0. held on Tuc",lny nftornoon, whcu Mr ,1. U. c Mncdonnlrl, th" Hull Stipendiary M"gist.rat~, distributed the pri •. es before

n large attendance of parent s.

'1'ho.o present inr-lurled Mr. A. Heltver

(lrP.l'rib~,), Mr. Upcnll (8111~on), oM,

and 1-1 r. '£bol\\'oll, Mr. SI.,·oy Clerninson , lIfr nlHI Mr. T. Ilobinson , Mr John Watson, M, and Mrs B. Wntson , lIlr. Hugh Farrell, Mr. \V. F. Cuasona, Canou nnd Mr. Lenton (Hessle}, Mr. l'l. ·n, 8an· deracn , Mr. Aimpson, Mr. Milljgan,!IIr .11,1 Mr. J .. A. Oughtrcd, 'Mr N. OUl(btrtd, Mr and Mr6 Wr..I~Brth, Mr and Mrs Hudson, Mr and Mrs l>:!Gchin, Mrs Culverwell , Mrs Pa.w ley , .tld Mr. Watson (Hcdon}.


J'xt.ndiug .. welcome 10 Mr Macdonald, the head master (M. A. Jl. Englund. M.A., r,L,D.) expressed grlltifir.tion At the interest shown ill the school that day) on the ocCAI;on of the first public Iunction.

It took some timc , tl,e .pook.r continued, I,) g.t. " scncol properly .Inrlool and h. conaidercd thot their .tut was a sut;sf<1dOry one.

AI fin,i, 1,0 thought it wOllld h"~. bern

~eiler iC (be 1'111)';"1; field had Il<en Qtl8el,~11 o tho school, but Will, this not being the f\~A, there was a chance 10.f IlAvf!I()f!tncnls. 'art of tho present buildings WeT(\ lArge

. J enough to bo "Hnvf'rf('~l into extra clnss-

rooms or even & gvnmasmm.

f Refl!uing- to matters more f,wllnln!'llii~t tho pr+ncipa l snir] I,P. felt th.1 bevs of seven, ei(.:h~ nnd nino ycars rp,qllircn tlie most careful nnd concentrated n f lenrion." St.·11Ml n,noLt'TR who took bnra who were over l~

had only till 10 maufpu)atA that '",!iirll"Md' ~~b~JB:U! led into them nt prl'pnratory


Mr HD(;lnnd then cOJ1lIflCn1('11 nil the 6I\1den(8' work of the year alia after em"basi.ing tbe iDlport8o'ce of reading deplorcd thu lack of rdigio". ~oowlerJg. oC 1ll0$t of the boy •.

M,' M..,aollRI,1 then pr ee ented pri ... to A.

R. Cussous, Watson <Iod Robinson eud , jn 8 .pe!,,!b directed principally 10 tbe boys , nid their school \\'01lh1 eit lrer livo or die. Their head "!Mtcr did nol think il was going to d,e',nelther .t,d he. 11 ", .. , therefore, goin,; to In'e, not 88 R emnll t.hiI1g. hut. .0.1) n big thing of which they would be proud.

'l'hey should er-e to il lhltt. it "'no a much hrl(or school, strck up for H. e-nd be JO)'61 to It.

Afternoon teB Wll'1 then fll'l_rw·d. and the boys concluded the event with a presentation of one of A' A. Mil".':_ 1"1 • .1'6. ~...._.-

-- .. - •• _-- ~ .. " .... ,,.. rot, ....


n ? U

Guy Fawkes day was always a popular event and took place in the playground, where I distinctly remember being chased by a squib!

My father couldn't swim so was determined that we should have a swimming pool, so that . all the children in the school should have the opportunity to learn. The only pool that could be afforded was a canvas one called a Sportapool. The sides rose up as the water level rose and I think the depth was about 4ft - enough anyway for us all to become moderately competent in the water.

Another innovation was a Carpentry Hut. This was a fairly large wooden structure which was well equipped and very popular with the boys. Unfortunately, it was sited where the Humber Bridge purlieus were proposed, so ARE was forced to have it moved a few feet. This was in about 1937/8!!!

When the 1939 war became inevitable, plans must have been made to move the school temporarily to the Church Hall in Kirkbymoorside, and Ranks Flour Mills apparently reserved the house for their offices. We actually moved on 3rd September and most of the boys came too. We used the ballroom at the Church House' for the dormitory, just mattresses on the floor, and my parents slept on the stage withthe curfaihsdrawnl Downstairs there was just a large billiard room and a small sitting room with a tiny kitchen behind. There must have been bathrooms and lavatories, but I don't remember them. The assistant cook, Miss Cons itt, came with us and one master. Of course, it was still holiday time and I remember going for long walks in the countryside. My parents were frantically househunting and after a fortnight, we moved again to Firby Hall, an ancient house about 5 miles from Malton. It had no mains electricity and no mains water. There was a fearsome generator with a kick like a mule in an outbuilding, and there was a fairly primitive pump near the kitchen which only my mother could induce into life and that brought water up

from an incredibly deep well. This could be peered down from a manhole in the kitchen floor. Of course, making our own electricity meant that no electrical goods that we brought with us were any good. This was DC and our equipment worked on AC! We did seem to acquire an iron fairly quickly, but I don't remember electric kettles or toasters.


Firby Hall

We stayed at Firby Hall all through the war. It was very isolated and the nearest village, Westow, was across two or three fields and only had a post office and a couple of tiny shops. The manager of Walter Willsons used to cycle out from Malton once a week to take the order for groceries and Bowers the butcher did deliver meat ordered on the telephone (our telephone number was Whitwell on the Hill 2!). The only other dwellings in Firby were two farms and two or three workmen's cottages. Mrs. Thistleton who did the rough cleaning came from one of those cottages and Olive Walker who did lighter cleaning and washing up came from Westow.

As most of the boys came from the Hull area, at the end of term they were put on the train at Pocklington, having reached there in Broadbents bus, and my father escorted them to Hull. At the beginning of term, he and sometimes my mother met them at Paragon Station and arrived back at Firby again by train and bus. My mother would sometimes sit with the new boys as they waved goodbye to their parents and told them fairly forcefully to SMILE!

. _.n .... " ....

Mrs. ThistIeton was a real Yorkshire woman and reduced my mother to giggles when she announced at the end of her elevenses that "it's no good sitting here like Lady Godiva". Her husband was a farm labourer and most unfortunately had a heart attack while clearing undergrowth on the path to Westow. As we had no car, the best my father could do was to take the wheelbarrow and bring him home in that.

Teaching staff was a problem. Mr. Michael V. Morton (son ofH.V. Morton) taught at the school for the longest of anyone and I remember various ladies teaching the youngest boys. Mr. Poole, the vicar of Westow, came and taught and also invigilated exams. He had an ancient car but I don't know how the other staff managed. The buses to Malton were very infrequent and it was a 45 minute walk to the road to York where the buses ran hourly.


I have a vivid memory of Mr. and Mrs. Poole coming, probably for tea, in the holidays and they introduced us to 'Smiling Snap'. Instead of yelling 'snap' at the top of our voices, we had to try and keep straight faces. The sight of Mr. Poole, sitting bolt upright without a glimmer of a smile, reduced us all to near hysterics!

When the bombing in Hull was very bad, some parents came and stayed during the summer holidays, just to get away from the place for a break. No break for my parents though! There was one summer when my grandmother came and took over the cooking as my mother had to go into hospital for something gynaecological. Then another time, when York was so badly bombed, my father was in Malton Hospital having an operation.

I slept through the greatest drama! A German plane being chased by fighters dumped its bombs very near the school. We, of course, went to view the craters as soon as we could and searched the crater nearest the school for shrapnel. Farm buildings were missed by inches and the craters were impressive. Firby Hall was too close to the bombs to suffer blast damage, so not even one window was broken.

One of the more curious aspects of living at Firby was that the mail was delivered by an old man on a pony. He was Mr. Daniels and intrigued us with his pipe which had a lid! In those days, mail was even delivered on Christmas Day. One morning in the holidays when we were all having a lie in, he tramped into the house shouting "Are ye up?" at the top of his voice. I suppose we just didn't lock the doors! I can remember my mother giving him hot drinks when he had struggled through the snow. One winter, he was very ill with bronchitis or maybe pneumonia and, on his return to work, he told my father that he thought "they were going to box me up".

My father, being the son of a farmer, and having the land to indulge his interests, kept chickens from the first at Firby, and later had sheep and pigs. I remember so vividly seeing Robin, who must have been about 5 years old, walking round the field with a bucket in his hands, being followed by all the chickens. "I was just taking the chickens for a walk" was his explanation! We kept rabbits and there was a really vicious bantam cock called Nuisance which had the charming habit of attacking our ankles. Then my uncle, who also farmed, sent my younger brother Robin a bull calf for his birthday. The calf. came by rail and was then met at Malton Station by Mr. Boyes and his.t'!.~i.;.. T~is is also how day old chicks were delivered. The calf was fine to begin with, but then of course it grew and grew. We were terrified of it and it became very canny and did its best to get into the scullery whenever it could. The only way to get it out was to mix up a bucket of dried-milk and tempt it out. In the end it went to the farm next door, having been "seen to" but it never really mixed with the herd.

The other drama was when a motherless lamb was given to Mary, my younger sister. It was fine too until it grew and grew and developed a liking for sitting in front of the drawing room fire! It also barged into classrooms and Mary was the only one who could get it out. think it went to the butcher in the end! During the war, if edible livestock was reared, the regulation was that you could keep half of the carcass and the other half went for consumption elsewhere. We therefore had the odd half pig which created a lot of hard work for my mother, making brawn, salting the ham and making the most wonderful sausages I have ever tasted. In fact, nothing went to waste.



My brother Robin made a harness for the sheep (now called Richard) and I would run up and down the touchline at football matches against Terrington with Richard prancing along beside me. I used to receive messages from the teaching staff, "Will Mary come and remove Richard". He got into the kitchen one evening and was discovered eating the children's supper of bread and dripping (delicious with plenty of salt), but he left all the crusts. I remember the matron throwing the dirty laundry at him one day when he tried to come up the back stairs. She said, "Get down them stairs"! (Was that a catchphrase in ITMA?)

Entertainment was sparse. A man in a van came a few times to show a film, but as the fearsome generator never seemed to produce enough electricity, we could only see the film, not hear the soundtrack. There was always a "short" such as Felix the Cat and I remember The Mistletoe Bough. My father always used to say you could hear every word if you stood right next to the projector!

We celebrated Hallowe'en; apart from bobbing for apples, I remember we all had to sit in a ring on the floor in the dark and the 1 st form mistress told a frightening story involving a witch and parts of her body were handed round to us, e.g. the bristles from a paint brush were her eyelashes and a filled hot water bottle was her stomach!

We went to Westow Church every Sunday which was quite a walk - a mile along the road and then along the sides of two large fields. I remember my father's anxiety on our walks to and from the church if an aeroplane came overhead. We must have been very visible from the air as we walked along the road. Mr. Poole used to complain that our shoes were always dirty - we had walked across ploughed fields!

In the summer holidays, my father always helped the farmer next door, Mr. Hodgson, with the harvest. Robin and I used to carry the tea basket from Mrs. Hodgson to the harvest field and watch every mouthful of delicious scones and cakes disappear. Very, very occasionally there would be something left uneaten and we would relish whatever it was on the way back to the farm. We, as a school, helped with the potato picking-as-well, Robin and I used to watch the threshing machine from the top of a straw stack. We all enjoyed sliding down from the top of the stack.

My father always believed that the best toys for children, under supervision, were fire, water and earth. So we lit small fires in the grounds at the weekends and made lead ingots.

Where the lead came from I dread to think, but it was like alchemy melting the lead and pouring it into an earth mould, then waiting for it to cool. We did help in the gardens as well!

Some boys collected stamps, receiving quite a few if their fathers were in the services abroad. The preferred collection though was of servicemen's uniform buttons. There was one very glamorous matron who, now I come to think of it, seemed to be able to produce endless supplies of these buttons. It must have been her war work!


When we first went to Firby, although there was a large vegetable garden, there was nothing in the way of vegetables growing in it. My father was a keen gardener and the next summer we had plenty of vegetables that he had grown with the help of Mr. Bielby, the ancient gardener who lived in Westow. However, to begin with we had boiled nettles and dandelior1 leaves which, in fact, are not unlike spinach. There were also dehydrated potatoes that arrived in large shiny tins. They were horrible to eat and quite a few tears were shed. Dried eggs were pretty awful too.

My mother did a lot of the catering and I can remember her saying she had buried many a joint of meat in the gardens - no refrigerators and her inexperience. She was, however, incredibly inventive and her huge Yorkshire puddings, "Mrs. England's special", with the smallest amount of minced ham (probably the bits no one would eat!) with tomatoes floating all around were enormously popular. All the bread had to be sliced and buttered. There were no food mixers or refrigerator in those days. In the kitchen there was a black, coalburning range. Two paraffin stoves were brought in and that is how she managed. My mother's right arm became very painful with all the mixing, creaming, cutting and lifting of heavy pans she had to do. The children's ration books all came to school for term time, so all the coupons had to be snipped out, though sometimes just a blue pencil marked the used coupons. Mr. Webster, the manager of Walter Willsons grocery, was very good to the school and went out of his way to get provisions. All the groceries arrived at the school in an open lorry! Until she died, Mrs. Webster used to send my mother two fruit loaves every Christmas.

My father fetched two buckets (no lids) of milk daily from Hodgson's farm through a gate in a hawthorn hedge, so little bits of hedge etc. were floating on the milk, which had come straight from the cows! We all seemed to survive!

Eventually, the war came to an end. VE day was 8th May 1945, so it was the summer term. To celebrate, for three mornings running, my father climbed up through trapdoors and skylights to stand on the roof of Firby Hall while we children were lined up on the grass below. My father held up the Union flag and we all sang God Save the King!

Move to Langton Hall

The school was thriving and larger premises were needed. So, the search began and eventually Langton, just 4 miles from Firby, was decided upon. The Guards' Armoured Division had been based at Langton Hall during the war while they had been preparing for D-Day and had been visited by the Royal Family and Mr. Churchill. The property and estate are owned by the Howard- Vyse family. The oldest part of the house (the old manor house) was in a very bad state of repair, with rotten floors, and was full of old Howard- Vyse belongings, stuffed birds under glass domes and chests filled with Howard- Vyse history, I suppose. There were only two bathrooms in the house plus a maid's bathroom which was freezing.


Langton village was then slightly bigger than Firby and had a Post Office, run by Miss Boyes who was a bit dour. She told us not to come to the Post Office in the rush hour! She used to deliver the mail on foot in all weathers.

At the time of the move, Robin and Mary were looking after two donkeys from the sands at Scarborough. To get them from Firby to Langton, it was decided that Robin and Mary should ride them accompanied by Joanna riding a bicycle. What an entrance we must have made. The army had not left the house very clean and when my parents arrived to take up residence, Col. Howard- Vyse's wife was on her knees scrubbing the upstairs corridor!

Langton Hall

A few of us children came over to Langton Church for Evensong the term before' we moved. Langton Church then had gas lighting and I remember so well the smell and the popping of the gas lights. Miss Joy Howard- Vyse* (she reached 100 years of age in 2004) played the organ and a Woodleigh boy pumped the organ for her. The Rector, Leonard Woolcott, and his wife who lived at Langton Rectory, were very welcoming and became good friends. They had lost their son in the war and seemed glad to have young children about from the school. We used to be invited to the Rectory to play Consequences which none of us had ever played before - or since, I guess!

* .


(Joy to all who M~W her), A much loVed aunr;~t ,\U\t and sreat sreat aunt. Died. on 9th April 2005, pea~yath~e~herlQl&tyear after a sbott Ulne8i durlDB which ahe never com~lAm~ and never woke up wtthout It ImtIe for thO$e around her. P'LJnern1 at Utngton, Monday 10th AprU at 211.M,

Olive Walker continued to come from Westow by bus initially and then, when my mother learned to drive, she would sometimes be fetched and carried by car. Various other ladies from Bury thorpe came to help with cleaning, preparing vegetables and one, Ruth Robinson, eventually did a lot of the cooking.


As the school grew, more dormitories were needed and when the Howard- Vyses eventually moved their possessions out, my father started putting in new floors in the old Manor House wing, which was known as the "back corridor". In the end seven new rooms were created. There were now 90 to 1 00 boys in the school - all boarders. Three bungalows had been built to house staff and in the kitchen there were two large gas (propane) ovens to replace the elderly Esse (anthracite) stove that was there when we moved. There was also an industrial food mixer, potato peeler, refrigerators and even deep freezers. Most of the soft fruit from the garden went into the freezers during the summer holidays, whereas in the past, my father had made pounds and pounds of jam.

Beneath the seven newly recovered rooms along the back corridor were severallooseboxes, equipped with mangers and my father, having heard of a lady in Filey who owned a number of Welsh ponies and could teach riding, invited her to move to Langton and join the staff. So, Thea Evans came and lived at the Norcliffe Arms (unlicensed and used by staff from the beginning of our tenancy), and the ponies moved into the stables. Thus, riding lessons began and proved to be very popular. I used to help Thea a lot in games time with cleaning out the stables, grooming, cleaning tack etc. After a while, it became evident that as riding lessons took place during games time, there was a conflict of interests. Also Thea and Mr. MacFarlane, one of the masters, had become engaged, so the experiment came to an end. There just weren't enough hours in each day.

Sam Taylor

English teacher 1953-1958

In more than 40 years of teaching experience and inside knowledge of five schools, I have never come across a headmaster who put in anything like the hours that ARE did or kept such tight control of everything that went on within the school. He taught every period; he took assembly every day; he was present on the games field every afternoon; he did his own house-decorating (I remember discovering him at the top of a ladder in the dining room one day before the beginning of term, furiously applying distemper - these were the days before emulsion); he had no secretary, so must have personally dealt with all his cotrespondence, bills etc.; he drew up teaching timetables; he doled out the food ali every meal; he, with a little help from Alfred Bogg, grew and harvested the fruit and vegetables in the walled garden; he mowed the lawns - often very late at night, since that was the only time he had to do it. How he survived till the age of 81 I do not know: a lesser man would have died of a stroke before the age of 50.

One reason for his taking on this huge burden of work was a reluctance to delegate, which probably stemmed from a belief that he could do the job (any job) better than anyone else: teaching staff I think he regarded as a necessary evil and he kept a fairly tight control over what and how they taught. This (I speak of the 1950s) was before the days of the universal Christian name: staff were always referred to by their surnames (without a title); female staff, I suppose, were allowed a title. I think there was only one occasion when he used my Christian name - with some embarrassment - and that was when I was leaving.


The teaching staff all lived at the Inn (The Norcliffe Arms, still sporting its inn sign, which invited summer trippers on their way to Scarborough, knowalls who had cleverly avoided the bottle-neck of Malton, to stop for a drink: how many we gleefully turned away!) There were usually five teachers there. They included: Frank Wiseman, elderly teacher of history, liberal user of bay rhum (Joanna - and black shoe polish to darken his white hair!); John Graham, ex-Royal Navy with hair-raising stories of the Arctic convoys, teacher of French, useful games player and unique amongst us as the owner of a car; John Wightwick (exAldenham), gangling and languid and very good-looking, who came and went either side of his course at Oxford, a poet manque who amazingly ended up as headmaster of Darrington Hall; John Daniels, about whom I remember almost nothing; Nicholas Swarbrick, exSedbergh and rather bumptious; Elizabeth Lawrence, 1 st form mistress, bright and vivacious, a former Repertory Company actress; Mary Jones, her successor, red-haired and incapable of spelling 'Thursday' correctly.

A Miss Norcliffe, descendant of the 'ancient family who owned the estate before the Howard- Vyses, appeared on the doorstep unannounced one day in the middle of term and informed ARE that he and his school would have to leave immediately as she was re-taking possession. Someone (probably Barbara) quietly telephoned the police while ARE humoured Miss Norcliffe, and she was returned to the care home from which she had absconded, within the hour.

Entertainment for the staff, in a pre-television, almost pre-car age, and given a very full working day, was sparse and simple. Listening to the radio - we probably still called it the wireless - as we worked our way through the' inn-tin', which contained sandwiches and a slab of cake, in the sitting room of the inn in front of a coal fire. 'The Goon Show' was the highlight of the week: it infiltrated our vocabulary and conversation to an alarming extent, I remember, Graham's especially. There was also 'Friday Night is Music Night' - middlebrow stuff that suited us musical illiterates - and 'The Saturday Play'. Saturday evening was the time when a mobile grocery van came round and stopped at the gates. It was run by a cheerful rogue whom we christened Ratty. Our regular purchase was a few bottles of Newcastle Brown, which probably gave a spurious quality to the Saturday Play which we

then settled down to listen to. . _ .......

When John Graham acquired his Ford Prefect (it might have been an Anglia), our horizons widened quite a bit. There were evening excursions to the pub at North Griinston, accompanied usually by a stuffed cormorant, which John Wightwick insisted on bringing. This was thrust out of the car window, with appropriate eldritch shrieks, when we passed the rare farm-worker on his way to the pub. There were less frequent trips to York, at the weekend, sometimes by bus, occasionally in Graham's car, the main object of which was a slapup meal in the basement at Betty's (a mixed grill or a cuny, usually); a secondary purpose was to buy books for the long winter evenings (we had no easy access to a library). I remember a visit to the York Mystery Plays, held in St. Mary's Abbey - spectacular even in drizzling rain - and a jolly supper at the Assembly Rooms afterwards, with Robin as one of the patty.


There were occasional undergraduate-type pranks to break the monotony. Someone found some bowler hats at the inn, and we (Wightwick, Swarbrick and J) thought they might add a touch of class to the greyhounds at the gates, so we climbed up one night and crowned them with the hats. Barbara thought it was quite amusing and giggled, but was worried about ARE's reaction, so they had to be removed early next day.

The pupils (we had better say something about them since we are talking about a school) were a mixed lot: a few were very bright indeed (I think John Ward was the cleverest child I have ever taught - later career: Oundle, Oxford and the Civil Service) and some, good East Riding farming stock, who were barely literate and struggled to pass Common Entrance even to undemanding schools like Denstone and Oakham (the latter being the very last resort at this time). Discipline was never a problem: children behaved, perhaps because they knew the consequences if they didn't - but there was no reign of terror. Teaching was pretty traditional: I took English and remember regular spelling tests, the weekly essay and reading aloud round the class - agony to stammerers like Megginson. What did we read? 'Jock of the Bushveldt' and 'Brother to the Ox' (I can't remember the author of either).

I joined the Woodleigh staff in September, 1953; it was my first permanent teaching job. left in July, 1958, but took a sort of sabbatical in the summer of 1955 when I tutored an Indian boy in Switzerland for five months. Less than five years, but it seems a lot longer, because such a lot seems to have happened in that time, not least my meeting and marrying Pam Jones, who was a matron at the school.

Back to Mary

Another task my father set himself for the holidays was to redecorate as much as possible. I can remember him teetering on top of a giant pair of steps painting the ceiling in the school dining room, and all the intricate moulding had to be done too of course. Some of the larger bedrooms upstairs had been wallpapered in the past and the ceilings had paper with clouds on, whereas over the front stairs the ceiling had stars on the paper. We thought it was wonderful. All the big bedrooms had adjoining dressing roorris, so the large front corner bedroom became my parent's drawing room and it's dressing-room became their bedroom. The back corner bedroom became the youngest boys' dormitory, st. Andrew, and its dressing room became the Sick Room, eventually "Mary's Room". The large bedroom which

became St. George had been painted an amazingly powerful pink by the Howard- Vyses, and a mirror fitted the space between two windows. Its dressing room became a small dormitory, St. Francis, and Robin and I slept there in the holidays. It is now a surgery, staff bathroom and lavatories.

As the school grew, my father felt able to propose playing matches with more prep schools in the area. As well as Terrington, we played Bramcote, Lisvane, Cundall Manor, St. Martins, Aysgarth and Howsham Hall. As well as cricket and football, rugger was also introduced in the spring term.


My father was very keen that the children should be encouraged to sing, play instruments and listen to music. With more boys to choose from, the choir became an important part of school life. The Carol Service was a particular favourite with parents and boys and one Christmas a record was made of the service and a huge number were sold. Ultimately, the School Band played for the marching on Speech Day, and the choir would sing an anthem at the special service held at Birdsall Church.

Woodleigh Choir - 1958

Robin left Aldenham School when he was eighteen and then did his two years National Service. Like his father and elder brother, he then went to Cambridge, Clare College, and finished there in 1957. His first job was teaching at Hildersham House in Broadstairs. My father wanted him to gain experience of other prep schools before joining the family firm! At Hildersham House, he met Teazle (Theresa) Fricker and James Maclaurin. He and Teazle who was South African were married in South Africa where, on leaving Hildersham House, they both taught for a couple of years. When they returned to England, they joined the staff at Woodleigh and moved into one of the staff bungalows. James Maclaurin was offered a post at the school and he and his wife Mary moved in next to Robin and Teazle. Mary was bringing up their two small children, but eventually worked as.matron at the school. Robin and Teazle produced two sons, William and Michael. However, when Michael was just a toddler, Robin was found to have cancer in the cartilage of his leg, and he therefore had to have his leg amputated. This was a terrible blow and the whole family were deeply

shocked. Robin did adapt to his artificial leg but he was never taught to walk well and it seemed an enormous effort to move about. He had an automatic car and a small tractor was bought so that he could ride it down to the playing fields.

Mrs. Bradley, an old lady who lived in Langton and whose husband, Isaac, had worked for the Estate, had to have a leg amputated when she was very elderly. She was completely unfazed at the prospect of losing a leg because, as she said: "Mr. Robin did". Her husband was a lovely old man, famously quoted for saying "A garden? It's worse than a woman"!


The health of the children had always been in my mother's hands, supervised by a local G.P. - Dr. Lapage while we were at Firby and for some time at Langton until he retired when Dr. Low took over. Joanna remembers Dr. Lapage's loving care when she and Dick had whooping cough and as he left the sick room, he picked up a gymshoe and threw it at her! 1 think she had perhaps been a trifle pert! There was an occasion when Dr. Lapage brought a specialist to see one of the boys who was running a very high temperature. He suspected scarlet fever, and my mother informed him that there was no way it was that! Dr. Lapage had to explain to the specialist that "Mrs. England makes her own diagnoses". She was right of course! She had a very effective cure for homesickness, which I must say was not needed very often. On the odd occasion when a boy came to my mother and asked for a homesickness pill, that would usually be the end of the problem. I now reveal that these homesickness pills were in fact Milk of Magnesia tablets!

There was a little boy who really did not want to play football. Every games time he would go to my mother with some ailment 01' other. In the end, my mother said to him "if you come to me once more saying you can't play football because you're ill, I'll SCREAM". Sure enough, next day he was back and my mother screamed!! He never came back after that. One of the older boys witnessed this and my mother heard him laughing as he walked away saying "Oh, Mrs. England is funny".

As far as we know, the first School Inspection happened at Langton. Eveything was fine until one of the Inspectors told my mother that he had found fluff under one of the beds. That did 'it! My mother said to him "We have 90 healthy, happy children here and all you can say is there's some fluff under a bed". The Inspector was taken aback and considerably chastened. "You're doing an excellent job, Mrs. England" he said.

On Sunday evenings, the BBC Home Service always had a good serial, often Dickens, and the senior boys used to come into my parents' drawing room in their dressing gowns to listen. I have a very clear picture in my mind of boys gathered to listen to the wireless in the drawing room, but it must have been for some national event because it finished with the National Anthem and we all had to stand, of course. I can see my mother standing with a pair of boy's shorts hanging from her hand; she had been mending them as they listened to

the programme. . . -' .... - ..

Later, a puppeteer named Clifford Heap, would come once a year and give a performance of much loved stories such as Sleeping Beauty. Later still, Robin acquired a l6mm cine projector and would hire films, such as Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue, and Kidnapped, to entertain the boys once or twice a term.

We had two dogs over the years. The first was a terrier called Rags. Initially he came in the summer holidays for a fortnight as his owners, the Vicar of Cram be and his wife, were going on holiday. They had two dogs who didn't get on, so they separated them while they were away. We all grew very fond of Rags though my mother was the only person in his life. When his owners returned from holiday, they said we could keep him if we wanted to. So he stayed. He was a real character. If boys started fighting, Rags would tug at their shorts until they stopped. He enjoyed hiding bones, often under a boy's pillow.


In cold weather, Rags sometimes cut a paw on ice. He would run upstairs to the sick room and jump on to the bed and lie on his back with his cut paw held up until my mother came to bandage him. It was a case of following the blood stains up the stairs. He was very protective of my mother and on the first day of term he would walk around with her holding the hem of her skirt in his mouth. Whenever Joanna and I came home from our jobs in London, we always got a rapturous greeting. Once when Dr. Lapage was there, Rags jumped up so high that he caught Joanna's nose with his teeth. Dr. Lapage said of course that would mean very painful injections in the stomach for rabies! Ultimately Rags went blind and was run over more than once, but the last time, the vet said we had to let him go.


The school continued to thrive but my parents were getting old! My father had always been prone to leg ulcers and was very good at ignoring them, hoping they would go away! In 1978 he ignored one until he was so ill that he had to go into hospital. The ulcer was so deeply infected, he had to be given antibiotics via a drip. My mother was exhausted but had felt she must keep going as long as my father did. Signs of Alzheimers were also becoming apparent, though none of us knew what was wrong. Eventually my father capitulated and in July 1978, aged 74 and 75, they retired and went to live in Hertfordshire near Joanna.


So, at last, Robin took over the running of the school. He made a lot of changes of course, one of which was to admit girls to the school and another was to have day children. Over the years parents had mentioned how' they would like their daughters to come to Woodleigh. It would be so convenient to have their children at the same school. So in September 1978 three girls, one being Emma, my daughter, started at the school. We were housed in the third bungalow which had had an extension added while Robin and Teazle lived there. Robin and Teazle had moved into the main school by now, eventually converting the middle section, formerly St. Christopher, the yellow bathroom and the sickroom (by then opposite the yellow bathroom) plus the room 'next to it, into a flat with the bathroom converted into a kitchen. It made sense to be right in the middle of the building.

When Robin took over the school, he decided to appoint a Board of Governors who met once a term and were a great support to Robin.

In fact,' when Robin died so tragically young, Jim Gordon, then Chairman of the Governors, was a tower of strength and supported Michael and me unstintingly. The school owes a great deal to Jim Gordon especially for the calm and sensible way he kept parents informed of the situation as it unfolded. Robin's secretary, Paula O'Kane, was also wonderfully loyal and supportive at that terrible time.

It was not long after Robin took over the school that he and Teazle decided to part. She had been very ill and, having always missed South Africa, she longed to be back there. The Governors asked me to do the job that my mother had done so well for so long. I was also teaching singing and Robin felt that the girls would be better integrated into the school if we were all under the same roof. So, we moved into the back corridor and that worked very well.

Emma in her Woodleigh uniform


Langton County Primary School, next to the Church, is a school for several villages and Robin wanted to do something to knock down barriers between the State and Private education. He invited any boys from the Primary School who wanted to, to come and play football with the Woodleigh boys. They enjoyed it, but after a year or so, the headmistress of the C.P. School stopped them coming, because the children were bringing mud into the School and that caused problems. Of course, the kit got muddy too. To encourage the C.P. School children to use the swimming pool was a non-starter. The regulations regarding life savers having to be present and one thing or another were prohibitive.

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School Group 1978


Over the years there have been many alterations and improvements made. When we moved to Langton, there were buildings, coal stores, laundry etc. right across the courtyard, so that no deliveries could be made directly to the back door. My father and we children had a wonderful time dismantling it all. The courtyard was virtually a quagmire and so all the bricks from the demolished buildings were neatly laid by us before tarmac covered the whole area. An old stone potting shed below the walled garden was pulled down and the children carried stone after stone to the games field where a pavilion was built using the old stone.


In the house, redecorating was always going on and at the bottom of the steps outside the dining room, an empty cuI de sac passageway became urinals and wash basins, with discreet swing doors added. A new boiler, oil fired, was installed and an enormous hot water tank. The old maid's bathroom was enlarged and six baths installed with wash basins as well as . wash basins for teeth brushing at the top of the back stairs. A new boiler was installed for all these baths etc. under the new bathroom. Central heating for the back corridor ran from this boiler.

A very small (probably no more than 8' x 8') ex-pantry was made into a rather bleak office for ARE. It had a flag stone floor and a single naked bulb to provide lighting. ARE was very bad at tax returns and, unbelievably, after waiting and waiting and numerous reminders, two young men came out from the York Tax Office and solemnly waded through all the paper work and filled in the return! That happened several years running but he had to conform in the end and employ an accountant.

For years, my father used to clean the fireplaces and re-Iay and light fires in the classrooms first thing in the morning. He carried the coal in and the ashes out. One summer night, one of the matrons who slept in a room along the "back corridor" was woken by the sound of scrabbling at her window. Eventually she plucked up courage to look through the curtains to see what was going on, only to see ARE on a ladder pulling ivy off the wall from around her window! Next day was Speech Day!

Outside the loose boxes were demolished and a gate made in the wall so we had access to the back of the house without having to go all round the front and through the rose garden. A wall was built across the end of the courtyard where the loose boxes had been so there was no longer access to the farm buildings.

The garages were converted into an Art Room with carpentry and other technological subjects housed upstairs. The gym had been operational in the old fold yard but, to celebrate the school's 50th jubilee, this was enlarged to make a two storey high gymnasium with a gallery. The building was called the Jubilee Hall and was formally opened by ARE a year after he retired.

I • _.~ .. " ~ ..

Robin converted a disused room on the ground floor of the back corridor into a Science

Room and next door, the old gun room was converted into boys' lavatories and washbasins and a section for girls when they arrived at the school. The presence of these lavatories made it possible for the Jubilee Hall to be used for outside functions.

A swimming pool was built after considerable argument with the Georgian Society who said it would ruin the southern aspect of the house. As far as my father could see, the only creatures to see this view of the house were the cattle. The suggestion that the pool might be housed in a wooden structure met with a resounding "No". Some years later, the pool was enlarged and a filter system and heating included. Eventually permission was given to build some SOli of cover for the pool but, by then, it was felt that an outdoor pool was preferable. My mother used to swim very early every morning in the summer, often watched by the cattle in the park. On one occasion, a glider came down right next to the pool!



When we first went to Langton, the lawns were hayfields with just the width of a lawn mower cut down each side of the drive. ARE soon got the place tidied up with the help of Alfred Bogg who had been gardener for some time before we arrived.

The walled garden was brought into use, providing vegetables, even new potatoes in season. I can remember boys crying over having to eat asparagus! We none of us realised until much later what a luxury it was! We had damsons, plums, gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, tayberries, strawberries, a few pears and loads of apples, both eating and cooking. ARE always forced some rhubarb and that was a real treat to have before the main crop. He was always working in the garden at weekends and he would be seen making his way across to the walled garden. As he went, more and more boys joined him - a veritable Pied Piper.

As well as all this edible abundance ARE, and Robin later, grew wonderful flowers for cutting in the walled garden; sweet peas, sweet williams, peonies that Joy Howard Vyse's mother had planted many years before, then freesias, even orchids, a climbing geranium and a climbing heliotrope in the greenhouse. The white jasmine there had been grown from Lady Howard- Vyse's wedding bouquet. The rose garden became a mass of colour in the summer term and in the spring, wallflowers filled the garden with colour and their wonderful scent.

Tomatoes grew in the greenhouses which somewhat exasperated my mother as they all ripened in the summer holidays. We did sell some to a greengrocer in Norton, but people were very suspicious of the beautiful yellow tomatoes ARE grew. There were cucumbers too. Later, Robin grew aubergines and peppers in the greenhouses. There was a superb peach tree in the furthest greenhouse, also black and white grapes which was hugely popular with the family!

There were two enormous copper beech trees at the back of the house and another at the front. Sadly, over the years, they became unsafe, and now all three have had to go.

The children were allowed to climb trees. I can' remember-some boys poking their heads out of the top of the copper beeches. A few tree dens were made by the boys, but the main treat was to dig an underground den, which always had a fireplace. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons we were each given two matches and were allowed to have fires in our dens. We made little niches for candles. I was a popular member of a den as it was thought I would have access to chocolate biscuits and other delights from the storeroom! The dens were situated just the other side of the wall behind which was the strawberry patch!

ARE kept chickens at Langton as well as at Firby but at Langton they lived down in the games field, next to a small wood. They did well there and helped to provide the school with eggs. There were dramas involving a fox and on one ghastly occasion the lamp keeping day old chicks warm tipped over and set the chicken hut on fire. I don't think I have ever seen my father so upset!



Like a lot of his generation, ARE thought he was immortal! He had not, sadly, made any provision for his old age. He had almost no capital and an old boy, Tom Farrell, managed 'to get him a mortgage so that he could buy a little house in Welwyn Garden City. Our mother, Barbara, had been more provident and had a few thousand stashed away with which they were able to put in central heating, make a new shower room, build a garage, put up a greenhouse etc. Very soon after their move, ARE was involved with coaching quite a number of local children in Maths, English and Latin. He paid off the mortgage in five years! He was paid for the coaching in cash and managed to direct most of that to the mortgage. In the six years they were there, the house doubled in value so, much to our surprise, we all inherited something. In the end, ARE needed cataract surgery and Barbara could not be left, so they moved back to Yorkshire, to Bury thorpe, where the old Rectory had become an old people's home. ARE attended cricket matches at the school and services in Langton Church, and was happy to be back in his native county. Barbara was cared for at the home, but was an increasing worry as she was quite capable of going missing. All this took its toll on ARE who already had angina, and six months after returning to Yorkshire, he had a huge heart attack and died soon afterwards.

Almost exactly three years before Robin died, ARE's funeral was held at Langton Church and a truly remarkable number of old boys attended and then came back to the school for tea. Brother Dick had flown in from Singapore so the whole family were together - except for our mother who didn't know what was going on and, in fact, she died some six months later. He was 81 years old and she was 80.


In his speech on Founders Day, just after our mother died, Robin recalled how she, as a child, had had diphtheria, a life-threatening illness in those days. She said she didn't know why everyone had been so concerned about her at the time, because "I knew 1 had a job to do". This was, of course, Woodleigh.

When Robin died, his younger son, Michael, was at home, having gained a degree at Manchester University and done a Certificate of Education at York University. He had some experience of teaching at a school in Harrogate and was in the process of looking for a teaching post. After consideration, the Governors decided to appoint Michael as Headmaster, although he was then only 23 years old.