In July 1958 aged eleven I bought my first 'Jennings' book, Jennings Goes to School. This was an auspicious moment for me. I had been listening to the Jennings 'Children's Hour1 shows for some years previously, indeed Jennings always got the top vote in my 'Request Week'** lists. In the autumn of 1958 I started at my new school, a Secondary Modern called Hadham Hall.
WOW, for me it was just like Linbury Court had come to life. Like Linbury the school was set in rolling countryside, in this case Hertfordshire. It had ponds, a real bike shed, and boarders, who were sons of farmers. Oh how I wished I was a boarder. 1 dreamt of all those late night feasts, tuck boxes, letters from home, etc. However, living only a one mile bike ride away, my chances of being a boarder were nil. The school did have girls, but at age eleven or twelve they could be safely ignored for all practical adventure purposes. The playing fields were huge, and as per Jennings we played spiffing soccer in the winter, along with ozard usually wet cross-country runs over the local muddy farm tracks. Like Jennings we would if at all possible stray off the chosen route to shorten the slog. One shortcut involved running about 1/2 mile along a river bed, if the water wasn't too deep. In summer we played cricket and did athletics. I was a Darbishire cross-country runner and cricketer and a Jennings footballer and athlete.
Some outbuildings were Tudor (1520's), the main building of the school was Elizabethan, (1570's) and had lovely oak panelled classrooms, small rooms where we could hide away from the teachers, washrooms, the boarder's bathrooms, the kitchens, and the long endless corridors of the Jennings stories. The local village was about 3/4 mile away and was as at Linbury, 'out of bounds'. Our small library was, like Linbury, stocked with stuffed birds and small animals in glass cases. However, none of us were as brave, or was it as stupid as Jennings to touch them, let alone try them on as space helmets.
Our headmaster, Mr Douglas was bald and aloof. Our French teacher, as per Mr Wilkins, shouted at all of us pupils and was a good shot with a piece of chalk. We had a portly Matron, the wife of one of the teachers. Many of our adventures at school revolved around the ponds. The odd model boat did make the odd voyage, but as far as I can remember nobody ever actually fell into any of the three ponds. The ponds were considered by most of the boys as ajolly good place to dispose of any of their unsuccessful metalwork projects. "Sorry Sir, I don't know where my toasting fork (et.al.) has got to!"
It was a wonderful school for us young lads to play 'Cops & Robbers,' 'Hide ' n ' Seek', etc. There were so many places to hide, most of them at risk of detention if we were discovered by a teacher. In retrospect, even the detention classes were not all that bad. A few ingenious but ultimately failed designs were developed to enable multiple rows of 'lines' to be produced simultaneously.
Like Jennings and Co. we had classrooms equipped with lift up seat desks, china inkwells, black boards and easels, and best of all (for maximum mischief value) chalk and dusters! On one occasion two boys were sent off to another classroom to collect a blackboard upon which the history teacher had written his notes for the current lesson. Because it was a rainy day they came back with the blackboard held above their heads. Writing upwards! I can still see the terrible look of disappointment and sadness on Mr Logan's face as they put the board on the easel to reveal nothing but a set of white smears. Shame really he was such a nice man. I'm really glad I never became a teacher.
Being an avid fan of Jennings books did prove helpful on more than one occasion. For example soon after starting at the school we had to write an essay on the subject:- 'Your new school'. I got 8/10, not bad considering the impressions were cribbed almost entirely from 'Jennings goes to School'.
In conclusion, I must say that generally speaking I had a great time at Linbury Court. Oh sorry! Hadham Hall and it was with great sadness that I heard in the late 1980's that it was to be closed and the pupils and staff transferred to a school at a nearby town. For me Hadham Hall having Tudor/Elizabethan buildings and being set in the countryside was an 'education', and an 'inspiration' in itself.
** [The BBC ran an annual “Children’s Hour” Request Week
where us listeners wrote in to nominate our favourite programme. Jennings stories
often came top of the Request Week chart].
© Roland Jaggard Oct 1998 . ©Revised July 2004.