Also check out the interior and exterior photos on the Topography Pages
Thoughts of a Lost Spirit
I have lived so long
In enclosing parallels of rusting black tin;
I have limped too long -
A languid mind, so pallid and thin.
I, the grey ghost of fancy, the lady in grey,
Invisible and now forgotten in the cobwebs of the covered way.
I, the spirit of what was, chimed away
At midnight, lost in the broken dawn of a 'new day.'
Just a grey pool of memory
Drifting from hut to hut -
The interval between silence and silence.
But in the red rust I see the dry reflection
Of all those I once knew. Beneath the tin,
The oaken desks and black iron uprights
The metal ruler ring of solidity, still heard.
And in the glittering flash of galvanization
I see the superficial smile and the thin
Plastic furniture; the slogan proclaiming 'Our rights ...'
This is the new dawn? - the feeble echoes of the evening bird.
And I am sad to leave,
Sad as the Autumn leaf twisting through the air.
Sad; but I shall not grieve
For the tree I left - so stark and bare.
Simon Gooch (written 1975)
I have one strong memory of the winter of 1965 when as a second year boy I had to sleep in a Nissen hut (the 'Annexe') as overspill from the Halls. When the weather got colder, rats migrated into the spaces between the plaster board and the outer tin shell and we could hear them scrambling over the top of the hut during the night. The occasional rat-hole would appear down at floor level but nothing was done until it became clear that the rats were also running about on the beds whilst we slept. Most of us threw our dressing gowns over the bed-clothes because it was so cold, but the rats would jump up and nibble holes in the dressing gown pockets; presumably after biscuit crumbs and the like. After that they blocked up the rat holes and put down poison, but there was never any question of us moving out until the little buggers were got rid of. I still get a small frisson of horror when I think about it.
John Ord (Norwich House 64-70)
When we were in Butler 34, the end room was our Common Room and as David Freeman (Art) taught some of the lads Bridge, there was quite a bridge school. In 35, the end room was dormitory space, as I was in the back left corner as you went into it. I have a feeling the junior dorms used the end room for play, but the seniors' side was beds as we/they had the 'club;' a red sort of prefab with dart board and magazines etc. up past the workshops [building 121 - Ed.]. I especially enjoyed F.J. Camm 'Practical' magazines. They were all very worn, but had amazing gadgets in them. I love tools and gadgets that 'do things!'
My dorm was Hut 25, nearest to the Empire and the Water Tower. The entrance was up the water tower end, away from the covered way. The 'top' 25% was a narrow corridor with rooms off each side for matron, bath , toilets etc. and the main area was completely open plan. There were no screens, or anything like that, just the furniture.
'Sectors ' of 8 beds were arranged 4 either side of a central aisle (for Matron patrol!). I think there were about 5 or 6 'sectors,' i.e. 40/48 boys per hut. Each set of 4 was arranged as pairs, aligned 'toe to toe'. Each pair had a window side and an aisle side separated by a small bedside cabinet (chest of drawers) and a wardrobe - can't remember if this was a shared double wardrobe or 2 singles - so it was bed, cabinet, wardrobe(s), cabinet, bed. Does that make sense?
I think there was an alternative arrangement whereby the window bed had its cabinet (locker) at the foot of the bed and the aisle bed had theirs at the head of the bed opening out into the aisle area. I was in about the 3rd or 4th sector aisle bed on the right hand side (which was good, in as much as it gave a bit of warning for Matron patrol, but I still lost count of the number of radios I had confiscated!).
Can you remember in Dorm 26 being awakened as the lights were switched on because someone was talking, having to strip your bed, fold the blankets and remake the bed, often as many as three times? I could sleep through the whispering but not the bed making!
Peter Willimott (North/Durham 58-65)
A very unofficial party in a dorm side room after hours, featuring assorted tuck and illegal Gaymer's cider.
Left to right: Terry Riches, Bob Syrett, George Watson, Michael Herring, A. Morrison, Dave Turner & Ian Osbourne.
For part of my 3rd year(?) I was in 'the Annexe,' a nissen hut dormitory, near to the sick-bay. Boys were sent to serve time in it because there were so many pupils each house. Matron (Miss Dolan - 'Scrotum') had a pet whippet which we used to race down the highly polished floor of the annexe, but whereas we could stop before we reached the doors, it often couldn't ... Mr. Wood was the 'Housemaster.'
Jon(athan) 'Polly' Parrott
I was in Dorm 18 [East] for two years 1959-61 as a 1st and 2nd year (did I actually sleep in that?), with prefects occupying some or all of the side rooms. In the second year I had great honour of being in end room. At that time:
Huts 12 or 14 (or both) were being used as girls dormitories. Not sure from which house, but I distinctly remember some lads going on a late night walk an being caught in that area. All hell was let loose and there were dark mutterings of expulsions.
Hut 16 had been cleared and was used for the junior film on a Saturday night and for films for Geography Society. I think they were on a Wednesday after school. Later in 16 there was an early TV projector which was sometimes used on a Saturday afternoon if the weather was bad and there was a rugby match on that Mr. Marney wanted to watch. [I remember the projection TV - a right Heath-Robinson affair. On wet days we also used to be subjected to 16mm film loops of rugby skills, run on the ancient projector that preceded the Bell & Howells with the aid of a weird system of rollers and pulleys. - Herb Atkins]
17 had been truncated and was being used as storage for broken furniture and the like. I must now own up to destroying a toilet bowl with a "floor bumper" used for polishing the "battleship" lino (only to be walked on in slippers).
20 was a common room, with a very small snooker table in the end room. There was an evening cocoa run after prep, involving a hazardous journey with a trolley and an urn of cocoa from Hut 12 to 20. It had been left standing for so long that even if it had tipped over, the skin on the top would have contained the contents! I've never been able to drink the stuff since.
22 and 24 were being used as dormitories for older East House boys. I think "Dolly" Dolan had her base in 24. She held our pocket money. Five shillings [25p - Ed.] per week was the maximum allowed; dished out on a Friday.
There was a cleaner (Sam? Charlie?) who came to work on a bicycle with small 2-stroke engine in the back wheel and was very supportive. Mind you it was after lunchtime.
Paul Stochaj (1959-64 East and Salisbury)
In the second form we had to sleep in what was called the "annexe" because the Houses were full. This was a long undivided Nissen hut and we shared it with the second form from one of the other houses. The annexe had different matrons and the job was probably given to the least able ones. In our year we managed to get through three matrons - 2 having departed with nervous breakdowns. We set out deliberately to achieve this and if fifty 12 to 13 year olds decide to play up there is not much anyone can do. One of our favourite pastimes after dark was the Ouija board, accompanied by high pitched screams because (of course) the glass moved. It must have been the ghosts of the soldiers who died there (or so we told the more nervous pupils).
Julia Nicholls (1963-70)
Huts 26 to 31, the old Butler boys dorms, had the corridor area enclosed by brickwork, with doors leading out between 27 & 29 and 29 & 31. This was only constructed after the school first opened, probably sometime in 1952 or '53. Tomlinson was probably treated to the same enclosure for the girls.
Re. the pathways shown on the plans, I remember there being a path out from the doorways but there was no door into the side of the hut. It would have gone into what was the "shoe room", opposite the door into the shoe room from the corridor. Along that side of the hut, first room was "case room", only end window, so no side window. Next was "shoe room", a double section room as were all the others along that side. Each had a window section and then a curved wall section, with door opposite wall section. Next two rooms were either used as a bed and sitting room by a staff member or as prefects common room and bed room for two prefects, and the last one, nearest the dorm. wall, was usually used by the matron with the one on the other side of the corridor as well. Moving back on that side was the washroom, with three toilets, urinal (at least in the boys dorms!), three wash basins and a shower. Next was a bathroom and toilet usually used by matron, then the drying room with wooden racks, then two bathrooms with, I think, two wash basins in each. The wash basins were on either side of the last dividing wall so the bathroom at the end only had an end window, immediately over the bath. There was often a hole through the plaster board in the bathrooms that acted as a razor blade container - bet a few rats had cut feet from that lot! Think that should fit into Dave Turner's plan.
However, at the start in 1951, each boy had a bed, head to the outside wall, then about two to three feet away but facing the bed were a locker against the wall (remember the walls curved inwards so shortest near the wall), then a chest of drawers with a mirror, and then the wardrobe, all painted bright green. Then at the back of said locker, chest and wardrobe was the next bed, so each person had their own cubicle. Later it was done in blocks of four, four beds arranged along the dorm, two against the wall, two near middle pathway, with a chest and wardrobe between the two bed heads and shared between the two people. I think the lockers were then placed at the top end of the beds, either against the wall or facing into the central pathway. The floors of the main dorm area were covered in brown lino, polished regularly by the cleaners. On more than one occasion, usually during the weekends, the cleaners "rag box" was raided for old rags that were wrapped around the feet to form what might be called cloth boots. Some of the floor polish was applied to the lino and you could then "skate" up and down the dorm or play football without scratching the all-important lino. Can't do that in the new houses I'll bet!!! Mind you, we couldn't hang from the stairways; there weren't any. But it was not unknown for somebody to go hand over hand down the full length of the dorm hanging from the water pipes that ran down along the centre of the ceiling. But where did the wall finish and the ceiling start?
Former Inmate (1950s)
During my first year (1952/53) I was in dormitory 28, in the next bed space to Bruce Stephenson, and we were situated right next to the end common room as it then was. Each dormitory had the same common room arrangement. This was before the 'House' system had been inaugurated. I remember making a cardboard model of the College layout, pertaining to the boys' residential and all the classroom huts, and it used to sit on top of my bed space locker. I believe I must have taken it home on one of the school holidays. It was close to being a scale model. Anyway, it subsequently vanished; possibly during moving house to another one in Harling, where I used to live, and that would have been in 1956. There were a tiny few of my things that I couldn't, and never did, find again after the move. The model may have been one of those that went missing.
In my first year in 28, our matron was a Miss Nichol. Subsequent to her retirement I believe that particular post was filled by Miss Frowen. Now Miss F had a large pet Labrador, and one could be walking in the open meadow beyond the woodland, suddenly to be grabbed around the waist from behind by two giant front paws. I guess he thought we were another canine breed and would attempt to 'have his way with us,' to put it delicately!
The rest of my time at the College was spent in 29, in at least 5 different spaces. There was a Robert Collier in the same year as myself who, like a few others, joined the College between 1953-54. Sometime during the early Fifties, but when I was in hut 29, we were both allocated one of the two side-rooms leading off the main dormitory corridor for a term or two. These side-rooms were normally occupied by senior prefects. Previous to that, but after I was in 28 (the first year only) I was in the other side-room with Barry Wootton. See the sketch plan enclosed [on the Maps and Plans page - Ed.] which may well be not very accurate as regards relative positions of these rooms.
Upon entering a dormitory, the golden rule was to proceed straight to the boot and shoe room off the corridor and put on slippers, as no shoes were allowed in the sleeping areas at any time (in order to protect the lino on the floor; understandable when you had 20+ rowdy souls occupying every dormitory!).
It wasn't until the start of the second year (September 1953) that we were assigned to 'Houses,' corresponding to the cardinal points of the compass. I was in South House although, in practice, this didn't seem to have much significance except on sports days (I believe South won the first of these). When the first Houses were inaugurated I have a feeling that dorms 26, 28 and 30 housed only first year pupils who were not assigned a House designation until their second year. Can anyone confirm this, or otherwise, I wonder?
At the College during winter time, for heating purposes, I don't remember any radiators as such, but there were large diameter hot pipes running through all buildings and continuing above ground, well insulated, in a maze that ran from the boiler houses. They weren't always adequate. I remember one particularly cold winter's night when, to keep warm in bed, I had to sleep with my raincoat on beneath the bedcovers, plus the bedside mat laying over the counterpane! This was when I was in the main dormitory area of 29 and might have been on the night of the great storm in 1953. Most pupils, when I was in the common room of 28, used to make sure, if possible, of getting a sitting position near or upon these pipes that ran round the perimeter of the room at about 18 inches to 2 feet above floor level. In winter that was the warmest position to be in! Of course, after the first year these common rooms were turned into extra bed spaces, probably about 8 to a room, and we were allocated a large common room used by all, situated at the back of the craft blocks. This had a large open fireplace if I remember correctly and used to throw out plenty of heat.
The builders of the College as it is now were only three quarters way through finishing the very first modern residential block [Peel Hall - Ed.] by the time I had left school. This was situated right opposite the hut in which the tuck shop used to be. I remember sweets being on ration for the first year at least.
The one feature that distinguished classroom 38D (my 1st Year form room) was the presence of a small flat-roofed brick storage shed which overlooked the rear windows of this room, and was only about 8-10 feet away from the back. After year one our form room was either 36C or 38C. The A stream occupied B, the B stream occupied C and the C stream occupied D (all in the same Year naturally). Of course individual lessons could take place in any of the classroom sections and, after having been given our timetable, it was easy to memorise where we had to be for our next lesson. I have an idea that classroom 39 was used as the tech. drawing office before the path. lab. [Morgue - Ed.] became available. In some cases the B and C groups were combined for the same lesson, notably Botany/Biology and PE.
Beyond the straight covered way leading from the boys' dormitories and past the turning which led to the dining hall complex, on the same side as classrooms 36 and 38, was 39, which contained the headmaster's study (Mr Metcalfe). Then right at the end of this long stretch were situated the science blocks. Turning right there, one came to the nissen hut gymnasium and then the changing rooms (converted around 1954 I guess).
Somewhere in the girls' dormitory accommodation complex there was another assembly hall called Tomlinson, which the girls may have used as their common room at some time as the boys' common room near the craft blocks came into use when all the dormitory end rooms became extra bed spaces. I remember seeing the 'Commercial' students at mealtimes, but I cannot remember whether they were boarders or came on a daily basis.
Of course, the girls' dormitories were forever out of bounds, the nearest I ever got to them being an occasional visit with the odd bout of flu, or flu-like symptoms, to the Sanatorium which was connected to those dormitories by a long walled covered way. Similar to the girls' dormitories, most of those of the boys' (26-31) were interconnected by the same type of walled covered way which, after proceeding in the classroom direction, became open columns with a roof only.
The first building was the general assembly hall, where the entire Technical School gathered every morning, Monday through Friday, for mandatory prayers and a hymn, the 'congregation' being addressed by Mr Metcalfe, except for Roman Catholics who went off to another building with Miss Brunning for Catholic prayers and possibly morning Mass. They were all bussed to Wymondham RC church on Sundays, while all C of E students attended Morley St Peter or St Botolph. I believe I was confirmed around 1956 and took communion at one or the other.
Maurice Jackson (1950s)
My recollections are more of the kind:
David Freeman (he who drove very fast, played fantastic improvised jazz on the piano) was my dorm master and in a drunken haze once referred to me as " a pink lizard sitting in a pool of alcohol" as I sat in a not very hot bathtub. Not certain why I was taking a bath as even though we had very few wash basins between us nobody took more than 30 seconds to get washed. Miss Easter was our matron so there was very little chance of enforced bath night.
Waking up in the morning to find that a bed was empty as the result of someone disappearing (usually never to return) and wondering if I could move from my bed in the middle corridor to one on the side - or grab a better mat or cover.
Discovering that the inside wall board was not all that strong when "Drac" Goodson put his fist through it. He had arrived late to the school and was in the third form even though at his age he should have been in the 4th form - we had a side room as a 4th form room and denied him access. He proved that not only did he have a beard capable of blunting a razor blade after one shave, was later to prove that he was fantastic at math but also that he was very strong and powerful - he made his point and we made an exception and let him in!!!!
David "Eddie" Edwards (1957-62)
Wymondham College Remembered