Ledsham Court, St Leonards, Sussex ...Great Memories! By John Franks, (Ex Rascal Boarder).

A Memory of Great Parndon.

Well, I would like to bring a little history of our wonderful school in St Leonards back to life with the real colour and warmth of the time when I was there in the early sixties.
First I would like to acknowledge the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Redfarn who owned the school at that time, and their lovely adult daughter, who was a matron there, she was also my pal. The Redfarns were very strict, but I must say, very fair. I would also like to pay my respects to the memory of and to the family of our wonderful cricket coach - Mr. Jack Hobbs - yes the famous English cricketer. He was a wonderful fellow, and he taught us much more about how to live a good life, than just how to play cricket.
My sister Jacqui, was also there for a while. We used to often go riding on a Saturday. I remember we had to polish the shoes of the younger kids each morning. There was a sideboard with a sink in it in our dorm room, and we were given hot water in a large enamelled metal jug to use to wash ourselves, and we had to use it sparingly! Hot water was a luxury! Our breakfast was often fried bread and an egg or kippers, or porridge, and our other meals were basic, but sustaining. I remember many kids didn't like porridge, so being very active, I always had a good appetite and so i devised a system of swapping, by sliding our bowls along the long wooden table, with great accuracy and speed. The matrons probably knew more than we thought they did, but they never chipped us, perhaps they thought it makes washing up less of a chore - we had to do the washing up and the drying.
One thing we (the boys) used to get most annoyed about was that we had to get up half an hour early and run around the perimeter of the school's lovely grounds in shorts, even in winter ! BUT THE GIRLS DIDN'T HAVE TO !! So unfair in the minds of small schoolboys! It definitely didn't hurt us, all part of the system to toughen us up for our own good. I also had to greet my father as "Sir"....definitely no hugging.....only a handshake!
I can't remember how often, but when necessary, on a Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Redfarn used to take a drive down to Eastbourne to do their own shopping and pick up extra food and other items for the general running of the school. I remember that, because they always took me along to carry everything. I actually enjoyed those Saturdays because Mr. Redfarn was somewhat of a leadfoot, and used to "fang" it across the moors. I enjoyed it because he had a huge and very fast mark 7 Jaguar, and I got to sit in the big back seat with my pal - their adult daughter - she was a very kind person, I really liked her, and she was always good to me.
I remember I had an "illegal" 3 cell long Eveready rubber torch, and an "illegal" tiny six transistor Sony radio, both of which I had worked hard to earn in my holidays. She would come around our dorms after lights out and whisper "I can hear music in there.......John.....I don't want to hear it when I come back in two minutes, goodnight!" She was a good sport, she knew where I hid them, but she never confiscated them, indeed I had a secret ally. I adored her.
I also used to get "chocs" on the way to church on Sundays, by jumping out of the back of our marching column, into a lolly shop, and spend my pocket money in there, then my pals and I would have secret little night time parties in a huge old broom cupboard and use my torch for light. Billy Bunter had nothing on us !! Oddly, we never got caught, but I think, again, we were spared, by Ms. Redfarn.
I had a very special little girlfriend in that school, I absolutely adored her....as an 11 year old, I truly thought I loved her, and her dormitory was on the other side of the upstairs landing, not that far away from ours, but with the very strict rules about "things that were out of bounds", it seemed miles away....drat!. This gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous girl, had beautiful red hair and green eyes, and i will embarrass her now, her name was Monica O'boyle.... I guess at our age now it doesn't matter, that was around 1961/62. I can remember at one time on the way to church, there was a little antique store, and I spotted either two or three little Royal Doulton ceramic Clydesdale horses about 5 inches high, all joined together by a gold chain harness, they were magnificent, and Monica's birthday was a couple of months away. So, again I dropped off the back of our column and asked the lovely lady in the shop how much they were, and was quite shocked at the price. However, she then asked me "who are you buying them for...yourself or someone else?" I replied that it was for someone else, and she smiled and said...."it wouldn't be that pretty little redheaded girl I see you holding hands with sometimes would it?" I was very embarrassed, but I acknowledged that it was. She then asked me if I had that much, and I said "no, but I will save it up", forgetting that someone else might buy them in the meantime. The lady then said "how long will it take you to save that much", and I replied a couple of months, to which she told me she would keep them for me until I could pay for them - and that she would give me a discount ! Wow, where do you find lovely souls like that today? I was truly overjoyed, and quite surprised at her kindness, perhaps she believed in old fashioned young love...I think that must be it, she was a genuine romantic, bless her soul..
Now I had to get this money by hook or by crook, and I saved every bit of my pocket money (which was supposed to be for toothpaste and other little things we might need). We got three bob a week, ( I used salt and totally wore out my only toothbrush). Finally, after quite some bartering and saving, I had the money, just in time for Monica's birthday. I remember I sold some of my "treasures" which were "Airfix" aeroplanes (which I had made during afternoons after school when it was raining), and matchbox cars, in order to get all the money in time.
I bought the beautiful horses from the lovely lady in the antique shop, and she wrapped the horses up, I remember, in white "crepe paper" and gave me a lovely birthday card, which she must have bought especially. How kind and thoughtful she really was - I must have mentioned that it was for Monica's birthday. She had been thinking ahead of me because she said, "here, I will put them in a large paper bag with handles on it, so you can say that you had bought some things for your self". There were several shops on the way to church.
On Monica's birthday, I told her I would go to her dormitory after midnight and wake her up to give her a birthday present, and she was thrilled, but extremely worried that I might get caught. I'm not sure if you could get expelled for doing that, but I imagine it would be "six-of-the-best" at the very least along with having to learn great passages of Shakespeare, or translate Chaucer, or learn a lot of poetry, and...a black mark up on the special black mark notice board....and three "strikes" (black marks) and you would be expelled, I remember. But wasn't puppy love at age 11 worth the risk? I did make my way around the landing and went into her dorm and woke her, and I did give her a peck on the cheek, and then gave her her lovely horses. She really loved them, but the sad thing was that my sister and I were taken out of that school just after that, and we moved from Iran back to Australia, and I lost touch with Monica. I was broken hearted, in the fashion of an 11 year old.
If Monica, should happen to read this little piece of boarding school history, she would remember my gift to her, and I would be thrilled if she dropped me a little email, just to catch up. Her younger brother Ronald was there with us as well.
At that time, we lived in Iran, and my father worked for KLM in Iran, he was chief pilot of a group who flew four new F27 Fokker Friendships which were leased by KLM to the Shah's government who owned NIOC - National Iranian Oil Company in Abadan.
I can remember riding an old chap's magnificent Arab stallions in amongst the giant oil tanks in the huge oil tank farm. Those Arab stallions didn't respond to your heel in their flank to accelerate, you had to hold the reins wide apart - the wider you held them the faster they went. It took a bit of getting used to.
My sister and I used to either spend our holidays by catching the train up to London, and staying with my Grandmother (my mother's mum) or one of our great Aunts, or alternatively we would catch the train to Heathrow...(called London Airport back then),
and go to the KLM office and pick up our tickets and jump on a KLM Lockheed Electra and fly to Abadan in Iran where we lived at that time. My dad was Australian and I now live in Australia, my sister passed on just after Christmas 2019.
Some other memories I have, are that occasionally on a Saturday we would walk all the way to Hastings, and one particular time I remember being fascinated at seeing for the first time, brand new food and drink vending machines being installed in an arcade there, and when we were given a little extra pocket money for special occasions, we would save it for the vending machines. We also went on many bus excursions to places such as Hatfield House, which I remember had either a Centurion or Churchill tank parked beside the front gate. We went to St Albans Abbey where there were "mummified" bodies on display, we visited Bath, with all its viaducts and baths, and we also went to visit a famous hangman's post near a famous pub.
There are so many memories of that Ledsham Court School, and we did wear bright maroon, grey and yellow striped blazers, with straw boaters and my school badge pinned to the maroon ribbon which ran around the hat used to clunk loudly with every footstep. As one lady commented on an old boarding schools' website ( titled.....boarding schools up the Old London Road),....."it couldn't have been us old darling, we dressed like St Trinians".....how true indeed..we or at least the girls did look just like St Trinian's girls.
So that is a little window into boarding school life as I experienced it way back then in the early sixties - I would not swap those memories for anything, and if I can find some old photos of the school, I will post them here.
J.F. August 2020.
I would just like to bring to readers' attention the fact that i have altered (corrected) the title of this little narrative above, it refers to the boarding school in Ledsham Court, St Leonards, Sussex, and not Fedsdon School, Parndon Hall, which was in Harlow Essex, but i did also attend that boarding school prior to Ledham Court in Sussex. I do remember Mrs Clare, and various others mentioned by other people on this site. Apolgies if i had caused any confusion to readers.
I have some old photos of both schools, which i will sort out, and upload them here, they may be of interest to some folk. J.F.
August 2020.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION....posted on 1/11/22. It has come to my attention on enquiry, ( after many attempts to find a way to upload photos on this site), that it has never been possible for us to upload photos, however, there is work being undertaken, by Francis Frith, to make it possible for us to upload photos in the near future. J.F.

Added 27 August 2020


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