Some memories of life at Collenswood in the 1960’s

Ian Henning

I am responding to the request from Mr Dunster for school records and photos.

I attended Collenswood Secondary Modern from 1964 until 1969. I remember the head being Mr MacArthur, with Miss Loveridge the deputy, latterly joined by Mr Lyndsey. The caretaker (Mr O’Rourke?) and his family used to live in a bungalow by the entrance. I also remember the school as being quite small and ‘young’ when I started, and at that time, I think a fifth form (& exams!) may not yet have happened. There was certainly no sixth form, but in my later years, plans did emerge for one and a new sixth-form block may have been under way at about the time I left.

Over my time, it seemed like a lot of teachers came and went, but from my very earliest years at the school I remember that PE started with Mr Barker, who was followed by Mr Hanford, helped by Mr Sparrow. I remember winter cross-country runs to Aston, wearing football boots which would get heavily caked with mud as we ran back along muddy lanes — something to try to avoid. (“Please, Sir, my kit’s in the wash!”).

I have an old sports fixtures list from the year 1968/1969, when I played for the football team, and there are some scores which I wrote in. I think we did OK but we didn’t win anything notable. I see there were quite a few postponements, which I can only think was due to the weather. There was always a post match oral report given by one of the team during Monday morning assembly. I ducked and dived to avoid doing this, but finally, I had to do a report on a game in which I scored an own goal, and we lost. I also played for the cricket team.

I got on well with the Maths teaching of Mr Plumb (dodecahedrons were made out of card, and my stellated one lasted years), and briefly with Mr Grafton, Science/Chemistry (who was a wicket keeper in the staff cricket team I think), but both moved on to pastures new during my time there. Woodwork was with Mr Carter (not a bad medium pace bowler) — I recall making a teak tea tray. Mr Prince took us for metalwork, and I liked working in the forge -– we made a metal scroll and toolmaker’s clamp which was case hardened (cutting a mild steel bar with a blunt hacksaw blade seems to stick in my mind). Geography was Mr Jeffries and Miss Latimer. I recall a Geography field trip to Caol (Fort William, Scotland), where we stayed in the local school, sleeping on the floors in classrooms. The field work comprised local surveys, mapping etc. There was a pulp and paper mill near there. We walked up Ben Nevis in the mist and didn’t see very much at all. I got to drive Mr Jeffries Rover 90 around the school playing field – magic !!

Miss Loveridge took us for RE and Mr Jacques tried his best to teach us French, but we were hard work! Mr Braithwaite taught us Engineering Drawing, which was quite popular. At various times, Mr Sparrow, Mr Aspden and a supply teacher, Mr Benskin, taught Physics (we couldn’t do Chemistry, as no teacher). I think Art was Mr French and Rural Science was Mr Jones — but I had to drop these (and History) at the end of the 3rd year when subject choices for CSE/GCE had to be made.  I still have some of my old school exercise books; each subject seemed to have its own colour. I suspect the teachers dictated some of these notes, particularly the work in the ‘Divinity’ books, which seems far too good to have been written by me (teacher was Miss Loveridge).

I was reminded of the annual round of ‘House’ competitions by a random collection of small blue slips I still have and which were given out for house points: there is one from Mr Handford for 880yds (I only remember one athletics match and I won the 880, my one and only athletics event ever), Technical Drawing (‘LB’ is Les Braithwaite), Physics could be Mr Sparrow(?), one from Mr/Ms Denison, English in year 2 (who I don’t remember at all). I was clearly in Scott House (Yellow). Then there are a couple of badges, I guess, for representing the school(?). Again, I don’t remember getting these. Note the school colour: kingfisher blue.

We had some excellent school trips; Mr Hanford & Mr Sparrow took a group of a dozen or so boys to Snowdonia on a couple of occasions – brave teachers! I think the first was in Sept. 1967, and we stayed at a Hertfordshire Snowdonia Centre at Beddgelertt: an old stone building (ex-coach house?) with pretty basic (but quite comfortable) metal framed bunk beds and huge pots & pans in the kitchen. A couple of us took a turn at the cooking and I well remember the reaction to our greasy half cooked chips and our bright green lime-flavoured Instant Whip, which wasn’t quite set or mixed properly !  We didn’t do any proper climbing with ropes, just lots of scrambling, but even so I will never forget the mist lifting as we neared the top of Tryfan. These photos were taken with a Brownie 127 showing: where we stayed, us all on the top of Snowden, the dormitory and a very poor picture of a few lads sitting on the Canon at the top of Tryfan (health and safety – Ha). I went a second time as a ‘helper’ with a group from the year below I think in 1969.

Other trips included a visit to Coventry Cathedral, and a visit to a gun-making factory (I think it was Enfield). I seem to remember an enclosed (underground?) test range for machine guns.  A one-off, I think, but we were taken to Grafham Water for an afternoon by one or two teachers in their own cars (I can’t remember who) to do some dinghy sailing. Great fun .

After-school activities included a ‘Collenswood Cinematography Club’ and the 1968 Easter season programme showed some good films, I do remember some of these, they were shown in the hall.

A bit unrelated but I found an old job card. I remember having a Saturday morning job at Spencers’ nursery which I think was off Broadwater Crescent but I may be wrong. The card was issued by Hertfordshire Education Dept. and was approved by Mr MacArthur, head at Collenswood (1968). I don’t remember this at all but there must’ve been a ‘process’ whereby I had to apply to do this. I quite enjoyed the work which was a bit of digging, and lot of moving seed boxes around (which were wooden and always seemed to fall apart when I picked then up).  I can’t remember how much I was paid.

I left Collenswood after taking my GCE ‘O’ levels, and CSE’s (CSE = Certificate of Secondary Education, it was a long time ago!) very much against the advice of Mr MacArthur who was keen I should stay on for A levels.  However, I chose work, starting at Warren Spring Laboratories (DTI), Stevenage, in the Mineral Processing Division with day release at Mid Herts College of Further Education, Welwyn, which turned out to be the right move for me. As with most people, my school days were a mixed experience, nevertheless I have fond Collenswood memories, of many school friendships, and of teachers for their hard work and encouragement.



This page was added on 31/08/2022.

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  • I to were at Collingwood school from 66 to 71 and to went on that field trip to Fort William all I remember about that is it rained for the whole 2 weeks except for 1 day a trip to Mallaig.
    Friends at the time were John Thorn, Martin Cook, Barry Kenzie

    By Paul Pitman (28/07/2023)
  • That is amazing Ian. You put a lot of names in that I had completely forgot about. Brings back such memories. Thank you

    By Frank Simpson (05/02/2023)