Brambletye school, well set between the beautiful Ashdown Forest and thriving town of East Grinstead on the Sussex/Surrey border was a paradise on Earth for any schoolboy with an aesthetically romantic (!) imagination. I was fortunate to be a boarder there between 1955-1960 even though my family lived only a few miles away near Sharpthorne, a village 'much connected' with the Bluebell railway, until 1959.
The aforementioned year produced a very hot summer, aertex shirts and khaki shorts being the school dress code I seem to recall. The main building, originally built as a private mansion, was a grand stone house of spacious proportion standing on a rise overlooking the Weir Wood Reservoir. The grounds were extensive, including a large wood fringed by a small lake.
This was in halcyon days when computers (generally) didn't exist of course and life seemed so much simpler and uncomplicated. In some ways the late 50s was a period of 'making do', bearing in mind we were all still suffering from post war shortages and memories of rationing,etc. But when only eleven years old, certainly one don't miss what one never had, if you get my drift.
Just being there was more than enough. I always felt as if I 'properly belonged', so to speak. This to some extent was due to the approachable staff in place, the premier example being our great headmaster at the time, one H.V. 'Bob' Jones, a man with a talent for leadership and wise and kindly counsel. He was ably assisted by such educating luminaries as Peter Blencowe (history, and later headmaster himself, being the son of the school founder), the wryly humorous 'Batty' Batsford (Geography), the delighftully eccentric 'Peanuts' Glandfield (English) and Hugh Trevanion (Maths).
The last named, at first rather terrified me as a 'stern adult' but later I began to realise what really frightened me much more was Mathematics itself, a subject which I just couldn't get my head around. It was down to the persistent H.T. that eventually I mastered the basics of Maths, including of course algebra and geometry. (Well, enough to average over 60\% in the three elements when sitting Common Entrance to Wellington College, at least.) Mr. T. was stunned when later he discovered I had achieved 83\% in the geometry paper (!) He had the grace to tell me this unlikely 'good news' himself, thus giving due indication of the humanity of the man, a trait I had considered previously to be 'missing' in his character. How wrong I was, eh, on mature reflection.
My sporting prowess was not considerable but I managed to reach the dizzy heights of the football 2nd eleven as an erratic left wing and enjoyed house cricket games and the start of my rugby playing 'career'. Incidentally, I was witness to the extroardinary sight of a pilot parachuting to safety down on to the school's top pitch during a footie game I was participating in. Apparently his plane's engine had totally malfunctioned. This crisis caused him to ditch the Hawker Hunter jet at the last moment; it then crashed into the woods below the school buildings, rather fortuitously. No prizes for guessing which subject formed the basis of an essay required by 'Peanuts' the following monday, as chosen by petit moi and nearly all my agog form mates.
There are many tales I could recount about my time at Brambleye but I shall relieve my reader (s?) by not attempting to add any more, here and now. In the meantime if any of the following get around to reading this article, I would be delighted to hear from them. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. John Mason... once encounterd in the boxing ring! I was disqualified for unknowinlgly sticking my tongue out during the bout... even though I reckoned to have the better of him over the three rounds. (Still got the race horse, John?) His 'take off' of the drawling cricket commentator John Arlott was brilliantly conceived and performed!
2. John Hawkins. A big powerful lad, who never once used this as an excuse to badger lesser souls such as myself. A gentle giant, sort of!
3. Simon Betts. The demon 1st eleven winger who I met quite by chance recently when I visited a village near Winchcombe, Glos. I happened to notice a plate on an entrance gate displaying the name BRAMBLETYE HOUSE. The owner was seen to be pottering about in his garden...... so I just had to ask him, didn't I?...... Bingo! (He once sentenced me, as a prefect, to 45 minutes detention for being cheeky. Obviously he didn't remember this petty incident...... but I did!)
4. Dermot Grove-White. His parents lived at Kemble near Cirencester, the Cotswold town I have been proud to call home for near-on forty years. I believe he is/was a doctor and am aware that this is a tradional profession in his family
5. Chris Stanger. A splendid and popular fellow who went to Radley College, along with one Simon Milner-Barry. Hello, Simon, too.
6. Many others, including Richard and Nicky Jones (son and nephew of H.V.J), James Glancy, Willie Peel (O.W.), Michael and Nicky Bedford, David Trevanion (son of H.T.), Dorian St. George Bond (O.W.), Richard Dawson, John Leafe, James Mills, the Whitlock Bros., Keith Sykes, Spike Preston, Duncan Bratt, John Churchman, Guy Greaves, Philip Hailey, Philip Mason (bro.), and Jeremy Gartside...... By the way, has anybody heard from Brian Rudguard 'over the years' ?
Although this poorly effort at 'infant remembrance' will be only of the merest interest specifically to former Brambletye pupils of the late 1950s, I do hope some of these at least will chance upon it and may be prompted to recall the best years of their life.
A memory shared byon Mar 24th, 2011.
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