|Memories of a boarder at All Saints Choir School after the Second World War|
| At the conclusion of the
second world war, in 1945, it was immediately decided by my parents that I should attend
a Christian boarding school. I was ten years old and thus far, my education had been at
the local C of E village school.
Following advice given by my local vicar, All Saints Choir School, Bristol, was chosen and duly approached. My mother was asked to take me to the Charing Cross Hotel, London, to meet with a Father John D. Hankey one afternoon, and there we were interviewed and my future education was discussed. It was agreed that in the Autumn term of 1945 I would commence at the newly opened Boarding House, situated at Randall House, 5 All Saints Road, along with sixteen other boys.
Before we moved in to Randall House, we spent one term at the Home of Mr and Mrs Gunn, Brentry House, as Randall House was not ready. They had a pony and cart that we used to travel around in and lovely fields out the back into woods. Wonderful. They were so kind to us and eased us into Randall House in a truly wonderful way. I remember in the winter of 1945 we actually tobogganed down the hill opposite the house. They also had several Standard motor cars in which they would take us for rides. Where they obtained the petrol in those days I know not. I also recall that the Gunn family were Scottish and therefore, for breakfast it was without question porridge. What is more it was porridge without sugar or milk and salt in place of sugar. I love porridge and ever since then I take mine without milk, but sugar has replaced the obligatory salt!
The Housemaster was the aforesaid Father Hankey, supported by Matron, sadly her name escapes me but she was the cousin of Father Hankey. In addition there were catering staff who ran the kitchens, situated in the basement alongside the dining room. Outside of which we were each given a separate locker.
On the first, or ground floor we found a Common Room overlooking All Saints Road, and alongside this was a Prep room where every evening we would assemble and carry out our studies, or preparation for the following day. Father Hankey had his study in the next room, at the foot of the staircase, which led up to three bedrooms, a shower room and then to a farther flight of stairs leading up to Matron's flat and a sick room.
In the garden, at the rear of the building, the flower beds surrounding the central lawn were laid out in sections and those of us so desirous, each had a plot of our own to cultivate. Those of us who had pet rabbits had these situated on the back wall. Informal games were played on the lawn, such as cricket.
In the most junior of the dormitories we slept on bunks of two beds and it was here that my first punishment was earned. Pillow fighting one night brought Father Hankey to the door and we each received one strike of his cane!
In the wash room, each boy had a grey metal mug with his initials upon it, and our toothbrush and toothpaste were kept in it. Our washing was carefully monitored, and when it came to showers, compulsory after games and a regular once a week on top of that, Father Hankey carried out scrupulous attention.
Each morning, we would troop down stairs to breakfast, and one of the two prefects would stand at the top of the stairs and inspect us, hands on both sides, before we assembled for a meal. This drill was carried out before every meal of the day.
The Latin grace was said both before and after meal times and to this day I know them. Meals were wholesome but due to rationing were memorable only by what we did not like rather than by any favourites. At the weekend, cook would try to make us a simple treat and I recall the various flavours of ice that we tried. From lemon, to tea, anything that was edible and liquid would be frozen!
Every week-day morning we would walk to School and following assembly and prayers, go to our respective class rooms. I recall teachers named Miss Levy, Miss Allsop ( both from Clevedon) and a Father Bertrand among others.
Behind the school there ran a lane containing mews buildings and a field. This was accessed by road from Alma Vale Road or by foot from the bottom of the school play ground.
In the field one summer we held a Physical Training display and among the displays I remember the school lined the four walls of the field and we each had to fall forward at attention one by one in time to music. How odd!
Also in one of the mews buildings we kept any bicycles we might own, and one of the staff kept an Austin 7 car, laid up through the war and still on petrol ration. This was a great place to get up to mischief.
Returning to food, each morning at school we lined up for a ration of a small bottle of milk during morning break and then when we had time off we would walk through to Alma Road where a sweet and toy shop existed and was very well supported by boys from All Saints.
Dinky toys came back onto the market in 1947 and the boys from the boarding house started to collect these with saved up pocket money. We raced them home along the walls of the gardens on our route back to Randall House.
Father Hankey encouraged the Boy Scout movement, and the Bristol Scout Troop (All Saints Choir School) met in the gymnasium which was also situated in All Saints Road near to the bombed ruins of All Saints Church. It was here that I rose from being a Wolf Cub to a Boy Scout and it was here that I received, and still posses, my copy of Scouting for Boys specially for Bristol Scout Week.
I cannot recall the caretaker who also operated the gym, but I do recall that he owned a black dog named Nixi which was a great favourite of the boarders.
Sunday was strictly controlled. Best clothes, walk down All Saints Road, footpath behind the gym into the Church Hall back entrance for Matins, and again in the evening for Vespers. We boarders sat at the back of the hall on a raised dais and watched all the ceremonies and functions. It was here that I was confirmed by the Bishop of Bristol and it was here that I recall the newly appointed Bishop of Trinidad, who had been a priest at All Saints Church, give a tremendous sermon. I still possess the prayer book inscribed by Father Hankey who prepared me for Holy Communion.
Sports consisted of a dreary walk to the Downs and taking our boots or kit each way. Marsh's of Clifton were the school outfitters and mother would make a special journey down from Aldenham to meet me and see me properly kitted out. Later in life, after my wife and I moved to Somerset, this firm became our favourite clothing shop and had a fine restaurant that we regularly frequented. Sadly, they are no longer.
Back in Randall House we moved steadily through the ranks and I eventually was given my own separate bed (no bunk) in a dormitory overlooking All Saints Road. During this period I also developed bad ear ache and spent a week in the sanatorium and after the careful attention of Matron, I was permitted back to my own bed and came across Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. Still my favourite children's author, I read all he produced, and I have given copies to my children and grandchildren.
Then came the real test. During evening prep we were caught talking and swapping answers. We were lined up outside Father Hanky's study. In we went one by one. Five of the best for each of us.!
However, he later introduced a projector and arranged for silent films to be shown each Saturday evening in the prep room and I recall that we had a fad one year for films on skiing. Why, I have no idea.
Each week we had to assemble in the prep room one evening and write a letter home. This was compulsory and my mother kept mine which invariably I had failed to stick a stamp on. Pocket money was severely rationed.
Staff I recall include a Father Bertrand, also a Father Borland and there were other Fathers, and I have already mentioned the Misses Levy and Alsop.
I still have two photographs of Randall House boarders, one from 1946 and one from 1947, both included in this article (above). Please excuse my childish attempts to insert names; I can translate if you wish me to! Wells was the son of the Bishop of Hereford, Gordon came from a farm near Almondsbury and I stayed with him on occasions and vice versa. Baker and Ginger Hardwicke were the two prefects who inspected us. Lukin was the son of the well known Bristol Baker. John Dalton came from Barry Island and Philip Willingale came from Essex. Ian Woodruffe I believe came from Exeter. Gordon Westron I was told married a girl from my home village, whom he met while staying with me on holiday. Wow!
In 1948 I took the Common Entrance exam for Dover College, in Kent and moved on to other exciting things. Eventually I gained a commission in the Royal Air Force, and after fifteen years I became an Incorporated Insurance Broker.
In 1962 I moved to Somerset and opened my business in Clevedon. That year the Old Boys of All Saints School got together and we gave a prayer stall to the lovely new Church which you may still find in there.
These were great days and benefited me enormously. I was able to go onto public school, and to continue. what became a life long relationship with the Scout Movement with a firm base to build upon.
Sadly All Saints Choir School Boarders disappeared in what we call the march of progress. I believe that Father Hankey went on to became Headmaster at Ullenwood School in Cheltenham. I corresponded with him for a short period but that changed as did my life. However, All Saints, with its three houses of St George, St Andrew and St David, and with Randall House for we boarders proved something worth while and of great value to me in the years that lay ahead.
Leslie Fox, Blagdon, Somerset, July 2008.