The Early Days
Thorpe Grammar School
First Phase (1957-67)
Second Phase (1971-73)
Third Phase (1978)
Changes to House names and the associated movements of accommodation have caused significant upheaval in the College's social and domestic life over the first 50 years, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. The aim of this page is to show briefly how the structure has evolved over the years, and trace the links between young and old generations of past-pupils.
The information given here isn't claimed to be either complete or totally accurate, so please feel free to feed in additions and corrections, as well as your own recollections on the impact of these changes.
The Early Days
The first 60 pupils arrived in April 1951 and formed the initial Pilot Course of 13 and 14 year olds. They were joined in September 1951 by further 11 and 12 year old entrants to make up the Technical School 1st, 2nd and 3rd forms. Their Headmaster was R. V. Metcalfe. Also in September 1951, two streams of 13/14 year olds combined with twenty two 'Thetford Transferees' (aged 15/16) to form the Special Grammar School, headed by Miss E. J. Tebbutt. In addition to these two schools, training facilities were provided at the College for girls' Commercial (boarding) courses and boys' Agricultural (day) courses.
Initially, boys occupied the rows of huts to the east of the site, known as 'Butler,' and the girls lived in the western area ('Tomlinson') . There is a map of the site on the Maps and Plans page. Even after the introduction of the House system, pupils were not grouped in the physical sense until the 1957/58 academic year. If you were at the College in the 1950s, please let us know where you lived and if/when you moved.
The hut next to the Pit (34) housed boys from Easton College, under Mr Bill Wheeler, during the years 1951/52 and 1952/53 while their own accommodation was being prepared at Easton. Bill (age 85 in 2006 and living in New Zealand) tells us that there were two intakes of 20 boys aged about 15 and they went daily to Easton for instruction using the Wymondham College bus for the journey.
Bill Wheeler has kindly sent in more information on the Easton students:
The Norfolk County Council purchased the Easton Hall estates in 1949 with the object of setting up training in what then was known as a Farm Institute . However this term was not liked and from the outset it became known as the Norfolk School of Agriculture to match the existing School of Horticulture at Burlingham . The title of College was adopted many years later . Initially there was no student accommodation and for the first two years of operation, 1951/2 , twenty students were housed at Wymondham College and transported daily to Easton . To fit in with the Wymondham College intake the Easton students were younger than was the norm for agricultural education . They were therefore given what was called a Pre-Institute Course . This proved popular and was continued alongside the more usual level when Easton itself opened in 1953 .
As a foundation member of the Easton staff my involvement was to act as warden for the boys at Wymondham and to travel with them daily to Easton . My contacts mainly at Wymondham were with Dr. Mosby for administration matters and also with Andy Seeley who assisted me with the after hours supervision .
The new buildings at Easton, then housing 40 students, were opened in 1953 by Lord Carrington, the Minister of Agriculture .
Writing in 2009 it is a sobering thought to realise that several of the original students from the Wymondham College years became well known Norfolk farmers and are now retired men.
Bill Wheeler New Zealand 2009
College sports teams were formed from pupils of both Schools. The North, South, East and West House system was introduced in early 1953 (just in time for the athletics season), and this encouraged local competition in all of sports, but there was no physical grouping into House dorms until much later. There was little association or commonality between the different sexes of a similarly-named House and segregation was strict.
By the end of the 1954/55 school year, there were 365 pupils in the Technical School and 142 in the Grammar School. The College magazine of the time was entitled 'The Alliance' and comprised a separate section for each school. Articles related to the Commercial and Agricultural students were included in the Technical School section. The 1953 Alliance, the first printing, discussed the 1951/2 and 1952/3 academic years and only included inter-school matches.
A process of amalgamation between the Technical and Grammar Schools began in September 1955, under R.V. Metcalfe as Warden.
Thorpe Grammar School
In 1946 the Development Plan of the Norfolk County Education Committee envisaged at least one new Grammar School near Norwich. Throughout Britain shortages of all kinds combined with other factors to make decision on national priorities difficult. In addition there were local difficulties in finding a suitable site. Ultimately, in 1954, plans for the present Thorpe Grammar School building, to house 360 pupils, were completed, submitted to the Ministry of Education, and accepted as part of the national plan for commencement in 1955. Building began in July of that year.
In September 1955, the nucleus of TGS was established at Wymondham College on a temporary basis and comprised fifty eleven-year-olds and headmaster Mr M.A. Jolly. For the next two and a half years Mr Metcalfe and his colleagues helped wholeheartedly in housing, teaching and feeding the rapidly growing new community, which reached close to 200 (with eight teachers) before the school moved from "Wynthorpe" to Thorpe in April 1958.
First Phase (1957-1967)
The first of the new brick-built accommodation blocks (Peel Hall) was occupied by North and South girls in September 1957, and the remaining two girls' Houses moved into Lincoln Hall in January 1958. Not all girls could be accommodated and an Annexe was formed for 4th Form girls + Prefects (and the 'Commercials') in the huts at the north end of the Tomlinson area next to Sickbay. These initial moves were the start of a sliding block puzzle that would take over a decade to complete.
East and West boys (but not all of them) then moved across into the vacant Tomlinson huts, allowing their previous homes to be converted into classrooms. The 1958 magazine implies that this move took place in January 1958 (please get in touch if you can confirm/disprove this). North and South boys were then able to regroup at the northern end of Butler, in the huts connected by the enclosed covered way.
September 1958 - West 1st form in 16. Common Room 20. The dorm next to ours as you faced the road (14) was occupied during the week by the 'Commercials' who used to undress with their curtains and windows open for the benefit of the 6th formers! From David Mills.
I was not moved to Tomlinson area, and only recall I left 35 [West] at the end of July 1958. I was only ever in 34 (1955/56) and 35 (until 1958) apart from a few days in South senior place as a sanatorium when we had a flu epidemic. I think my teenage hormones would have detected being a lot closer to the girls if I was moved over High Street to the 'Promised Land!' From John Chapman.
In September 1959 East and West girls moved into Fry Hall from Lincoln, being replaced by North and South boys, with the excess boys forming an Annexe in the old North hutted accommodation. The most exciting aspect for many of the Lincoln boys was the close proximity to the girls in Peel - notably for those in dorms with a southern aspect! There was much ogling and posing, especially in the summer periods when the intervening grassed areas were used for recreation. Perhaps there should be more about this elsewhere on the site!
September 1959 to Summer 1961 - East 1st/2nd Form in 18, with seniors in 22 and 24. Common Room 20. Dorm 16 (see above) was the Juniors' film theatre. From Paul Stochaj.
I'd forgotten about 16 becoming the Juniors' film room ... Geog soc too? We had a Christmas Party in there too once! Didn't Al Nobbs, -Errol Bryant and possibly Roger Lincoln play ( perhaps Roger played Drums later at a party in Canterbury) I remember Eddie Fincham lending me the Dance Amp for one of their performances! The party I refer to was my first venture into the field of PA work!!!! We broadcast something called Fluke Box Fury and I commented, "I stink zat ziz record ish a floppzy!" Wonder what the amp was? It came from the Physics lab and had one large output valve. From David Mills
At some time before September 1961, West boys moved back to the Butler area.
We moved to 29 complete with its ghost ... (1960?). When we were in 29 etc (other dorms were 28 and 30) our common room was 31, I'm sure. - David Mills
In 1960 West House dorms were 28 and 29, common room was 30 and 31 had some small classrooms used for evening prep. When parts of East and West formed Norwich for school year 1961 we moved to some huts above the old gym - say 20 - 22. Matron in 29 was Miss Porter - affectionately known as Cyrano. - Jim Gathercole
The experience gained after the early moves, added to a consideration of plans for future development on the site, forced a reappraisal of the House system. According to the 1962 College magazine it was Mrs Rutherford's idea to use the names of cathedral cities for the new regime that came into force at the beginning of the 1961/62 school year to create 6 boys' Houses and rename the existing 4 girls' Houses. A third of the members of each boys' House were transferred and amalgamated into the 5th and 6th units. Several groups of friends were split up by this process - but this figured little in the grand scheme of things.
In September 1961 the Houses were renamed officially (see diagram below) and Kett Hall was occupied by Salisbury (two thirds of East) and Canterbury (two thirds of West) boys. The remainder, Norwich, remained in the Annexe for a term with Durham before they could move into Peel. During that term at least some of the Durham boys had a dorm at the southern end of the Tomlinson area.
I was one of the lucky ones spending a term and a bit ... down near the gym before Durham was fully operational. We spent the last night before Christmas doing all sorts of things we regretted later when the new building failed to be ready. Colin Grant
There were delays in completion of Cavell, but in January 1962 it was ready to be occupied Worcester and Winchester, even though the dining hall couldn't be used until May and the girls had to make do with the MDH in the interim.
A third of the girls from each of the existing Houses were selected to form Wakefield and Washington and they occupied what was later to become New Hall in September 1967.
Second Phase (1971-73)
The occupation of New Hall in 1967 was expected to be the last significant change so far as accommodation was concerned, however, within 2 years of Mr Wolsey's arrival the County Grammar School (CGS) was absorbed fully into Wymondham College, Houses lost their cathedral names in favour of the buildings that they occupied, and segregation went out of the window.
What was the CGS doing at Wymondham College anyway? Ian Gomeche explains:
In the 1950's, Norfolk and Norwich had very separate councils and education departments. There was a lot of 'needle' and rivalry. The Norfolk Education Committee decided that they desperately needed a new school, mainly due to the huge expansion of the Costessey and Hethersett areas (I moved to Costessey in 1956 and I vividly recall standing around in the snow with my parents in loads of half-built houses trying to chose one). A major problem was that the Norwich/Norfolk administrative boundary was not stable then and they wanted the school to be close to Norwich, but definitely in Norfolk and not Norwich. It was therefore decided that the school would 'camp out' at Wy Col until a suitable Norfolk site could be found for the school. Of course, there were endless delays and budgetary cut-backs and so the school was never actually built. Further, as I recall, no site was ever chosen, although Cringleford and Bawburgh were favourites apparently.
Finally, in the early 1970's, the CGS was fully absorbed into Wy Col. Prior to that, the two schools had separate classes, except for a combined Sixth Form where the small classes made economic sense. There was very much an 'us' and 'them' culture then. The staffs were generally separate, except for PE for some reason. Metcalfe was the College Head and the Rev. Purchase was the CGS head. My neighbour in Costessey (after Colin moved out!) Nicky and I hardly ever saw each other at all during term time as I was in the College and he was in the CGS and the two were not encouraged to mix for some reason that I never did fathom.
Overview of the Reorganisation
In September 1971 the Houses were rearranged into 6 administrative 'Groups' although it would be some time before they were physically achieved. Each Group comprised a girls' and boys' House and half of one of the day Houses, as follows:
Boy Boarders Girl Boarders CGS Final Hall (with date of physical integration) Salisbury Wells Yare (half) Fry (September 1972) Durham Wakefield Wensum (half) New (September 1971) Gloucester Winchester Bure (half) Cavell (September 1973) Canterbury Westminster Wensum (half) Kett (September 1971) York Worcester Bure (half) Lincoln (September 1973) Norwich Washington Yare (half) Peel (September 1972)
The College Magazine (June 1972) records numbers of pupils in the first merged school year as:
Boarding Day Boys 355 332 Girls 337 327
The diagram that follows shows how and when the 'old' houses moved to achieve the physical groupings, shedding their names in the process. Salisbury and Washington suffered the most disruption and there must have been older members of those houses who had already gone through a similar process in 1967, when New Hall was first occupied. Are there any claims for the title of 'most-travelled pupil?'
Third Phase (1978)
From September 1978, Lincoln and Peel became 6th Form accommodation and, as well as the existing non-6th occupants being spread among the other four blocks, there were additional movements of pupils to balance numbers. It's understood that morale was affected by the uprooting, but this was offset (to an extent) by attempting to maintain 'friendship clusters.' This phase effectively returned the College to a four-House system.
Peel 6th formers came from Peel, Cavell and Fry.
Lincoln 6th formers came from Lincoln, New and Kett.
Wymondham College Remembered