I was at Caldecott for under 6 yrs (1926-31) but the fact that my son, Gerald, in connection with my 100th birthday, has reestablished a link has brought a flood of memories. A few comments may be of interest but the sequence may be a bit confused and I should warn that spelling is still a weak point.
Pride of place should go to John Dee as I note that there is still a contact with his daughter. He was some years older than me, but we did have a very happy family link. One Christmas it was found that he had nowhere to go and we were asked to include him in our family party. This was such a success that it was repeated every year until he met the lady who became his wife. My father kept in touch until John's death and, I think with his widow thereafter.
[John was good company and a gifted sportsman]
My contemporaries included Hector Lyons, Douglas Spinks, Lennie Conroy, Vernon Veal, Robert Amsdon (& sister Irene), Ronald Leach (older brother of Denis), Willie Drawneek and Russell Owen. Among girls there were Peggy Taylor, Vera Jepson (known as Tinker), Rebe Grant and Mavis Noon. There were more girls than boys (for one match I was the only boy in the netball team) and not enough boys for cricket or football. Once or twice we boys were sent to join in with one or other of the local private boys schools (Lee House and The Hall).
As the only day boy I had the best of both worlds, a very special school and a normal happy family home all in an idyllic country setting including the wonders of the Caldecott estate even when the others went away in the holidays. Those wonders included fields, woods, a small farm, a lake (with boathouse & punt) and a walled kitchen garden. No doubt that started my great love of the countryside. Even now I have a daily walk down a lovely lane.
One feature of Caldecott at Goffs Oak which I have not yet mentioned is the conservatory on the S.W. corner of the house, in which the school erected a small stage with rear access from just by the main front door of the house. The main entrance to the conservatory was from the garden and the rest of its interior provided space for seating an audience. There were also 2 or 3 work benches and it was there that I learned the basics of carpentry from Miss Syer whose main position was in charge of the gardens. My daughter still has the wooden tray which I made, under guidance, as a present for my mother in my final year.
The stage leads me on to the plays which were produced by Miss Potter & Miss Beck and in which I had very small parts. The first of these was loosely based on the tournament in Ivanhoe in which I was one of the knights and I still recall the design on my cardboard shield. This play did not lead to any performance at the Rudolph Steiner Hall in Baker Street as two later plays did, but it did bring about my first contact with the British peerage. I do not know whether it was a money raising event but it was arranged that we should give a performance of the tournament in the grounds of Knebworth House for the entertainment of guests of Lord Lytton who was a patron of the school. A day or two beforehand we went to Knebworth for a rehearsal and Lord Lytton, knowing that, on the day itself he would be busy with his guests, made a point of spending time with us, taking us to his maze and to make use of the equipment in his gym.
I have recently rediscovered that my father had kept the programmes of the other two plays in which I took part, namely "King Saul" and "Son of Jochebed." Among other things my father was a scene shifter for these. For Saul I was merely a sentry at the camp but the programme has reminded me that a Miss Donaldson had made a mask for Goliath to wear, looking through the open mouth. This not only dealt with the fact that our "David" was taller than our "Goliath" but enabled David, after the fight, to hold aloft the severed "head".
For "Son of Jochebed" I had a few words to say as a wise man advising Pharaoh regarding the plagues and also as one of the small team representing the burning bush. This involved our lying flat in a small circle on the stage, until our moment, and then, with appropriate lighting, we exercised vigorously upwards to represent the flames. This was done to the music of what I have since discovered was Greig's "In the hall of the mountain king".
Reverting to the wonders of the estate at Goffs Oak I recall that, if the boathouse at the lake was unlocked and one could look down into the water, there were almost always newts to be seen. On a couple of occasions during my time there was a sufficiently cold winter for the lake to freeze over and allow skating and sliding on the ice, while I have a particularly vivid memory, one summers day, of crouching on the low bank at the lakeside and watching tiny fish and waterboatment but, most of all, a caddis-worm working on the building of his casing.
Finally I think that my switch to a boys school in London and Miss Potter's departure from Caldecott were within a year or two of each other. My father kept in touch with Miss Potter and, at least once, we visited her home in Essex after she became, I think, director of religious drama for the Diocese of Chelmsford. It so happens that one of my grandsons is now an assistant vicar of a parish in that diocese.