Sunday, 30 September 2007

More photos

I've recently scanned another six photos of Stouts Hill in 1996 and added them to the usual place (see the link in the right panel).

Later: I've also added a whole batch of photos from Alan Davis, mostly photos of the Stouts Hill prospectus for 1969. Some of these photos are small (640 × 480) and some are large (2560 × 1920).

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Scholarship list

Here is the list of names from the scholarship boards that used to hang in the gym/chapel; thanks to Alan Davis who photographed them recently. I give them in reverse order. I see that the school was still gaining a respectable crop of scholarships right up to the end (despite the gap in 1976).

  • 1978: P. Brooke (King's Taunton)
  • 1978: M. Tucker (Blundell's)
  • 1977: R. Ninnes (Wycliffe)
  • 1977: R. Flindell (Monmouth)
  • 1977: D. Stock (King's Taunton)
  • 1977: A. Thomason (Malvern)
  • 1977: P. Lee-Browne (Malvern)
  • 1975: E. Pearson (King's Canterbury)
  • 1975: J. Shaw (Malvern)
  • 1975: P. Clark (Harrow)
  • 1974: D. Clemes (St Edward's)
  • 1974: D. Prior (Gresham's)
  • 1974: P. Clark (Harrow) (one in 1974 and one in 1975?)
  • 1973: J. Morris (Blundell's)
  • 1972: S. Murphy (Kelly)
  • 1972: T. Sanders (Malvern)
  • 1972: S. Tytherleigh (Malvern)
  • 1971: C. Sangster (Haileybury)
  • 1969: A. Apps (King's Canterbury)
  • 1969: D. Cameron (Marlborough)
  • 1969: W. Annandale (Harrow)
  • 1969: D. Quinn (Malvern)
  • 1968: D. Povey (St Edward's)
  • 1967: G. Needham (King's Canterbury)
  • 1967: J. Palfrey (Blundell's)
  • 1967: T. Evans (Pangbourne)
  • 1967: J. Klinger (Malvern)
  • 1965: D. Ireland (Stowe)
  • 1965: R. Andrews (Malvern)
  • 1964: R. Bayly (Denstone)
  • 1962: R. Guha (Blundell's)
  • 1962: A. Adam (Denstone)
  • 1961: N. Moore (Oundle)
  • 1961: C. Annandale (Clifton)
  • 1961: C. Ward (Blundell's)
  • 1961: R. Evans (Harrow)
  • 1961: S. Alexander (Felsted)
  • 1960: P. Langford (Stowe)
  • 1960: I. Frazer (King's Canterbury)
  • 1959: C. McKane (Marlborough)
  • 1958: R. Summers (Wycliffe)
  • 1958: K. Merron (Epsom)
  • 1957: P. Espemhahn (Westminster)
  • 1952: J. Ginzler (Wycliffe)
  • 1952: J. Corps (Oundle)
  • 1948: D. Farr (Marlborough)
  • 1947: S. Rees (Stowe)
  • 1947: M. Connock (Marlborough)
  • 1947: J. Radcliffe (Cheltenham)
  • 1945: M. Bryan (Dartmouth)
  • 1945: J. Walton (Dartmouth)
  • 1944: I. Clarke (Dartmouth)
  • 1943: P. Caple (Pangbourne)
  • 1941: R. Corrie (Clifton)
  • 1938: J. Tatham (Malvern)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

No apostrophe

According to Nicholas Barton's history of Stouts Hill, the name of the place was taken from a family called Stut or Stout, in the 13th century. So, by the normal rules of English, it should be Stout's Hill with an apostrophe.

However, it seems that no apostrophe has ever been used in the name, by any owner or occupier of the property. So, by the full weight of centuries of tradition, the name is Stouts Hill without apostrophe.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Eat, drink, and be merry

A quote from Molesworth seems appropriate at this point:

Acktually whatever boys may sa about skool food the moment deaf master sa lord make us truly etc. whole skool descend upon food with roar like an H bomb and in 2 minits all hav been swept bare.

There's not a lot I remember about Stouts Hill food, but probably you lot out there remember more than I do, so this is just to get the ball rolling. I have a few isolated memories.

There were several dining rooms, presumably used by different age groups. One of them was quite large and squarish and conveniently adjacent to the kitchen. Another was long and narrow. And there was a third that I remember mainly from the Christmas feast; was it used only for that purpose? Seems unlikely.

The Christmas feast at the end of the autumn term was a genuine treat, and I think we all enjoyed it thoroughly. There were candles and plenty of traditionally appropriate food, and the masters served as waiters. I wonder if they had their own more alcoholic feast later.

At some time between meals (mid-morning?) we were given a snack of some kind, I remember oxtail soup in mugs in winter, which I rather liked.

At least once a day we found one or more vitamin pills beside our plates, which we were expected to swallow. I remember a yellow translucent pill; I don't remember whether there were other kinds. (Maybe they were really tranquillizers? Just kidding.)

I detested prunes and could hardly bear to eat them; except once when the chef had a brainstorm and cooked them in cider, when they became quite palatable. But it never happened again. I remember being kept back alone in the long narrow dining room with a plateful of uneaten prunes in front of me, and blurting out to the matron (Joan?) that they made me sick. I meant only that they disgusted me; but the matron evidently thought that I had an allergy and that they literally made me vomit, because she suddenly took pity and saved me from the deadly prunes thereafter.

I remember once accidentally tipping far too much sugar over my porridge. With my fine scientific brain, I theorized that salt is the opposite to sugar, and therefore all I had to do was to tip lots of salt on top to cancel out the sugar. The experiment failed to confirm my theory, and I didn't try it again.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Ten Little Niggers

This was the school play sometime, but I think it was performed by an age group older than me.

Ten Little Niggers

See the Wikipedia page about the book and play.

1066 And All That

This was the school play in 1964. I was too shy to act, and I suppose the main parts went to older boys anyway, so I just came on as a Roman soldier in the chorus.

I'm sick to death of fighting and slaughter
I'm sick of kissing the swineherd's daughter
I'm sick of marching along these roads
I'm sick of humping these heavy loads
I'm sick of Gaul and I'm sick of Greece
I want to go home and live in peace
Rome, Rome, sweet Rome
There's no place like Rome

I'll have you know this is pure memory from 43 years ago. I tried to check it on the Web but couldn't find it.

Class of 1962/63

I can make a start on this.

  • Jeremy Blatchford
  • Richard Guha
  • John Hadden
  • Robert Knight
  • Jonathan Marler
  • David St Maur Mills
  • Jonathan Moss
  • Mark Phillips
  • Adam Price
  • Atta/Ataur Rahman

Jeremy has contributed a school photo from 1962 (I think):

School photo 1962

The grounds and surroundings

Richard points out...

The fact is that the 150 acres was quite incredible for a small prep school — some universities do not have as much land. Amateurish and quaint as it may have been, it was really a rather special place.

Indeed, the rural environment was pleasant, and it was good to have so much varied scenery to roam over. Am I right that garlic grew wild in the woods, or was it something else? I'm not good at plants.

Stouts Hill lake, from near side

Julian remembers:

In the autumn we would be found throwing sticks into the branches of a large chestnut tree and collecting armfuls of conkers which were then smashed to pieces and scattered across the grounds in a school frenzy of conker matches.

I remember the conker season too.

When I went on to Blundell's, I found it quite dull by comparison. Blundell's also has quite a bit of land, but mostly devoted to buildings and playing fields, and relatively flat.

The matrons

These ladies of various ages were posted around the school and the dormitories as overseers. In most cases I'm afraid I don't remember their names; maybe in some cases I never knew their names.

Richard remembers...

Nicola Nelson ("the beautiful under matron," as Molesworth would have called her). She was, I believe, a friend of the Angus family, and worked at the school for a year or two. She was perhaps 17, very attractive, tall, and inspired boys to carry sprigs of mistletoe in their pockets close to Christmas with which to ambush her. I also remember, one of the off-site dormitories was run by a matron called Joan, who at perhaps 35, seemed terribly old to us, but looking back, was actually quite good-looking.

Julian remembers Nicola/Nikki leaving after his first year, so I suppose she was gone by the time I arrived.

Jonathan Marler also remembers her...

... leaning over the bathtub in the bathroom outside Long Dorm and someone whispering “I saw her nipples.” She smiled and no one was sent for a caning.

There was another young and attractive under-matron at South Bend for a short time, but I don't remember her name.

The principal matron at South Bend I remember as being short, plump, no longer young, and bossy. Someone was caned for calling her a gorilla in the course of an argument. She confiscated The Bishop's Jaegers (Thorne Smith, 1932) from me, although I protested truthfully that it was given to me by my parents. Later someone pinched it from her room and gave it back to me; though I don't know what happened to the book as I don't have it now.

I do remember Joan, but Julian remembers her at Beech House whereas I remember her operating in the main building with the younger boys. I also seem to remember her being present at meals. Evidently she got around a bit.

Digby Macpherson remembers on Friends Reunited a young matron called Melanie, whose surname was apparently Felton.

Sunday, 9 September 2007


At one time there was a vogue for hypnotism in the school. I'm not sure whether it was Azad Shivdasani who started it, but he certainly brought a book on the subject to the school. This must have been in the summer term; I remember he and I and Emile Farhi lying in the long grass around the edge of the main cricket pitch, trying to hypnotize each other according to the instructions in the book. We never succeeded, but we spent quite a long time trying.

Rumour suggested that others were more successful. According to an unverified story I heard, someone hypnotized a boy and told him that he could feel nothing in his hand. Another boy, who thought hypnotism was rubbish and wanted to prove it, hit the hypnotized boy's hand very hard with a cricket stump; and, sure enough, he didn't feel it. But later, when the hypnotism was removed or wore off, he felt it all right, and had to request medical attention.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Marble ramps

Of course, in the 6th form we were ever so senior, mature, and studious. Relatively speaking.

But we were schoolboys aged 12 or 13, and we still had some little diversions.

The desks at which we sat in class had lids that lifted to reveal an interior space for storing books, pens, rulers, etc. In the far right corner of the top of the desk was a round hole designed to hold an inkwell — although inkwells were already out of date in the 1960s. In the near left corner of the bottom of the desk was a slightly smaller round hole for convenience of cleaning: dust and debris could be swept into the corner and out through the hole.

It occurred to someone, somewhen, that a marble could be dropped into the first hole, and with suitable internal arrangements it could be made to drop out through the second hole. Thus was born the idea of the marble ramp.

A beginner's marble ramp, once he got it working correctly, would work rather fast: the marble would go rumble plonk, rumble plonk, rumble plonk, and drop out through the second hole. But this was rather boring and showed no finesse. A truly admirable marble ramp was distinguished by the length of time taken by the marble to emerge (the longer the better), and by the variety of interesting noises it made on the way.

One weekend we pooled our talents and materials, and set up an enormous marble ramp alongside two walls of the classroom — using piles of books, rulers, and other bits and pieces, as with a normal deskbound ramp. With a normal ramp, one marble at a time was used; but with this one, we dropped a whole bunch of marbles into it to see which would reach the end first. In places the marbles were visible as they raced; in other places they were hidden, and we could only hear the rumbling of them until they emerged into view again.

Having gone this far, we went further: we invited other boys in to bet on the marble races. A couple of us (don't look at me) knew about horse racing and were able to manage the betting in a professional manner. Of course it was all a bit silly because one marble is about as good as another; but it was a novelty and it seemed great sport.

Mr Angus got wind of the affair and was initially displeased; but he was persuaded to allow it to continue on condition that the proceeds went to charity. I suppose we had to dismantle the Great Ramp before lessons resumed on Monday.

Mr Day

Julian remembers a master named Day but thinks he wasn't long at the school. I'm afraid I don't remember him at all.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Starry starry night

In the valley at night there were only a few scattered lights of human habitation, and if clouds didn't intervene the stars had the sky to themselves. Since then I've hardly even seen them so clear, they're everywhere drowned out by the spreading of humanity and its hunger for light at all times.

It was easy to take some interest in astronomy then. Was it Klinger who had a telescope, with which the moons of Jupiter could be seen?

At any rate we could walk under the stars to Beech House and South Bend and go to bed with their distant blessing. The effect was somehow more friendly and reassuring than Asimov imagined in 'Nightfall':

Thirty thousand mighty suns shone down in a soul-searing splendour that was more frighteningly cold in its awful indifference than the bitter wind that now shivered across the world. The bright walls of the universe were shattered and their awful black fragments were falling down to crush and squeeze and obliterate men.

Commander Staveley

Commander Peter Staveley was an ex-naval man who taught French in the 6th form, although I had the impression that he would rather have been doing something else.

Despite that, and despite the fact that he wasn't French, he seemed to teach the language well enough (I still remember a little of it).

I have one isolated memory of a French class in the 6th form. We were reading a French Canadian story of a past century, called Les Compagnons de l'Arc en Ciel, in which there was a Red Indian woman called Wahiah. One day two boys arrived late for the class. They burst through the door into the room, and one of them announced, "Wahiah!"

Jonathan Marler remembers that the Commander was “a consummate gentleman and very interested in the welfare and education of the boys. He taught me how to row and he awarded me my rowing badge. I remember his speaking of his submarine days and teaching me the Valsalva manoeuvre, among other things.”

Crime and punishment

As far as I remember, the boys were about as law-abiding as you can expect boys to be, and I can't remember any particularly interesting crimes; perhaps you can?

The borderline between normal, harmless behaviour and misbehaviour is uncertain and fuzzy, it depends on the whim of the master. Even if the master is absolutely consistent and has a clear, sharp borderline in his own mind, boys are not telepathic and can't see exactly where it is. So we boys had to be a bit wary of masters in general, because we could never be quite sure what would set them off.

The common punishment for any non-trivial offence was the cane, administered by the headmaster (only). Boys were sent to the headmaster's study and would queue outside if necessary.

The cane was a punishment, not an assault. At least in my experience, he didn't put his full strength into it and didn't draw blood. The common sentence was one or two strokes, perhaps more for major offences.

I wasn't a troublesome boy and was caned rarely, about once a year as far as I remember. Some other boys were caned much more often.

Offences I remember being caned for:

  • Going to the lake by myself without permission (I didn't realize permission was required) and falling in (I was looking for tadpoles). Mr Cromie found me in my underwear beside the lake: I'd stretched out my clothes to dry.
  • Jabbing Gogs Wilson in the bottom with a fork, in the squarish dining room beside the kitchen; I was taking a minor revenge for something he'd done to me. I think it was Mr Cromie again who noticed.

There must have been lesser punishments used in the school but I find it difficult to remember them. In the earlier years, boys were sometimes required to stand in front of the class performing uncomfortable exercises, e.g. standing with arms outstretched for a long time. Some masters also had a knack of grasping the hair near the ear and twisting it painfully.

In retrospect, I think that caning children is probably neither necessary nor desirable, but I wouldn't claim to have suffered any serious harm from my small experience of it. There is a danger these days of giving children no discipline at all; but I don't claim to know the best way of bringing up children.

Jonathan Marler remembers...

... climbing down the fire escape with another boy, stealing weed killer from the shed and sugar from the kitchen, mixing them on a board and setting fire to them on the lake. I do not remember being caned for that, but I am sure I was. Being caned was a pretty regular occurrence for me. Another night, we stole sausages from the kitchen and cooked them on a scouting stove.


I have some photos of Stouts Hill taken in the 1960s, some others taken in 1996 when I visited the place briefly, and some contributed by other people.

I've uploaded them to Flickr; you can find them using the link in the right panel.

Do you have any relevant photos?


As some isolated communities do, the boys of the school developed their own vocabulary, which might have mystified any outsider listening in to our private conversations. Python-worshippers may remember the episode of the squadron leader's banter. But there was nothing intentionally secret about it, and the masters were probably able to follow it.

I've forgotten most of it by now, but a couple of examples come to mind. "Hard ched" meant "hard luck" (by way of "hard cheese" and "hard cheddar"). "The whack" meant being caned.

Because we all studied Latin, we sometimes threw in a few words of pidgin Latin for comic effect, or spoke English as if translating literally from Latin ("The match this afternoon is ought-to-be-watched.").

Once, at assembly, Mr Cromie got up in front of us all (evidently the headmaster had delegated this task to him) and announced that he had heard boys using the word "crappy". He presumed that those boys didn't know what the word meant, and suggested that we substitute the word "tatty" in future.

I don't think anyone took up the suggestion, but we found it amusing and somewhat to his credit that he thought of recommending a substitute instead of simply banning the offending word.

In the main changing room for use after sport there was a large communal shower area with multiple shower heads. On one occasion, a matron accompanying a visiting team was surveying the naked boys in the shower, and was overheard to comment, "They come in all shapes and sizes!" This was felt to be highly humorous and was much quoted thereafter.


Officially, the boys were divided into four "houses" (yes, like at Hogwarts). However, the physical characteristics of the school made it infeasible to assign boys to dormitories on this basis, so in practice the "houses" didn't correspond to anything in reality. It seemed a meaningless concept and I took little notice of it.

I think the houses were all named after creatures of some sort. One of them was probably the kingfisher, which was a symbol associated with the school for some reason. I think another one was the otter. Perhaps I was one of the Otters; I don't remember now.

The library

The library was at the foot of one of the corner towers, on the left of the main building in the photo below.

Stouts Hill front

A rather elegant round room with plenty of windows, it contained quite a varied collection of books — all fiction, as far as I remember — in shelves underneath the windows. It also contained (rather oddly) a grand piano and a cheap record player with a few records. There were records by the Beatles (Rubber Soul), the Rolling Stones (Big Hits: High Tide and Green Grass), the Monkees (More of the Monkees), and the Animals (The Most of the Animals).

The room had a highly polished wooden floor. We discovered that, if we sat on the floor and rotated with our legs extended, then pulled our feet in towards the centre, we rotated rather fast on our bottoms. This was quite fun as an occasional diversion.

I liked reading and spent a lot of time in the library. It was generally peaceful because I was often the only one there. Sometimes Mr Sawdon came in and played the piano, but that wasn't a problem.

Of course, piano lessons were also conducted in the library. My mother wanted me to have piano lessons, but I had no interest in playing music at the time, and went through the motions mechanically. Later, in my mid-teens, I taught myself to play the guitar badly, as many people did in those years.


We played soccer in the autumn term, except for the older boys, who played rugger. We played cricket in the summer term. I don't remember what we did in the spring term.

In general I wasn't a sporty type, but one year I had a fit of enthusiasm for soccer, and played keenly at centre half. I rather liked tennis, which I think we could play on Sundays in the summer, and sometimes I spent hours at it without stopping, although I've never been good at it. The school had both grass and hard courts, in front of the main building; I preferred the grass courts.

When a visiting team from another school came to play, we were obliged to watch the match (otherwise I wouldn't have bothered). Some boys liked to shout, "Up the Hill and down the other side!", which I thought was rather amusing, but the masters thought it unsporting and sternly discouraged it.

The school had a small outdoor swimming pool, located in the garden area at the back. After a couple of unpleasant experiences, I avoided it, because the water was always cold, even in high summer. My parents lived in Nigeria and I was accustomed to swim in comfortably lukewarm water; swimming in cold water seemed an extraordinary form of masochism. Fortunately, swimming wasn't obligatory.

There was an indoor shooting range at the bottom of the hill, for shooting rifles (I think) at targets. I seem to remember trying it once. It was an optional activity for boys who were interested in it.

There were rowing boats and perhaps one sailing boat for use on the lake; the lake was too small to do much sailing, but it served as an introduction. Older boys could go and sail at Frampton thanks to Mr Flood.

Jonathan Marler adds:

Riding was another highlight. The stables were “down the hill” near Mr Flood’s room. Mr Kemp and Mr Knight were in charge. I believe Mrs Knight was also involved. My parents did not have much money and I offered to give up riding after a year, because it cost them an extra guinea. In hindsight that was foolish. It would have been well worth a guinea to continue riding. Who knows, I might have married Princess Anne.

Thursday, 6 September 2007


There were various dormitories for younger boys on the first floor of the main building, each dormitory having curtains and bedcovers of a different colour. Julian and I remember blue, green, and pink dormitories; there may have been more.

On the same floor was the medical section: a small room in which boys could have their temperatures taken, etc., and another small room with a couple of beds in it, where boys could stay if they were deemed too ill to be walking around. In times of mass illness, I think the nearest dormitory was also pressed into service for this purpose.

There wasn't room for all boys to sleep in the main building. The older boys slept in one of three alternative locations: in another house on the same site, called The Cottage according to Robert, which had one small dormitory with bunk beds and was also lived in by Mr and Mrs Cromie; or in Beech House or South Bend, located in the village of Uley.

Beech House had a large dormitory on the first floor and perhaps one or two smaller dormitories on the ground floor; I forget. Mr Kemp also lived in the house.

South Bend had several small dormitories on the first floor. Julian says that Mr and Mrs Knight lived there; I don't remember. There was a matron who was in charge of the boys; one of whom was once caned for calling her a gorilla in a moment of bad temper. At one time there was also a rather young lady who slept in a bedroom above the stairs with an internal window of coloured glass. Some boys used to sit on the stairs to try to catch a glimpse of her undressing, but I think she was wise to that and managed to keep out of sight.

We didn't go back and forth freely between Beech House/South Bend and the school: we went all together at the same time, in a supervised column. There were few people or cars to be seen in Uley, but I suppose the school didn't want us wandering around the village unsupervised.

New thread suggestions

If you'd like to talk about something and there's no existing thread suitable for it, you can suggest a new thread here.

Notable old boys

Everyone seems to know that Stephen Fry (actor and author, born 1957) and Captain Mark Phillips (Princess Anne's first husband, born 1948) attended the school.

Stephen Fry and his brother Roger were at the school during my time, but because I was several years older I never noticed their existence and probably they never noticed mine.

Wikipedia's page about Uley mentions that Rik Mayall (comedian and actor, born 1958) is another old boy.

From when I was at the school, I seem to remember that Sir Peter Scott was mentioned as an old boy, but as he was born in 1909 he would have been about 26 when the school was founded. Maybe he was associated with it in some other way?

What is meant by "notable"? I have a rough rule of thumb that people become notable when a page about them appears in Wikipedia. And yet actors of quite modest accomplishments may appear in Wikipedia, while old boys such as Richard Guha and Azad Shivdasani (with very considerable accomplishments to their names) do not. This seems rather unsatisfactory.

Location of Stouts Hill

Stouts Hill was and is located just outside the village of Uley in Gloucestershire, England.

About this blog

This blog was suggested by Julian Williams as a way of allowing different people to contribute their memories of the school. I agreed to implement it. I was at the school from 1963 to 1967; Julian was there from 1962 to 1967.

It's possible that some other kind of Web site would be more suitable for this purpose, such as a wiki or forum, but Julian and I decided to try a blog first because it seems easiest.

The plan is that I start threads on various subjects and you continue them with comments if you have anything to add. You can add suggestions for new threads to the "New thread suggestions" topic.