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Kenneth Redfern

[00:43] Family background and personal history. [03:15] Westminster Under School at Little Dean’s Yard. Description of College post-war. [04:25] Memories of sport - football at Grove Park, Vincent Square, Old gym in the Abbey. [06:14] Westminster at the end of Second World War and post-war years. Memories of science lessons. [11:16] Memories of History Master, and Master in charge of Gym. [12:25] Day boy at Busby’s. ‘Honorary King’s Scholar’, sitting the Challenge. Stayed overnight once, kept awake by Big Ben. [15:00] Rowing successes and failures. [17:02] Transition from Under School to Great School. New schoolmates and teachers. [21:04] Music lessons, piano duets. ‘Far too many plays’. Choir concerts. [24:30] Changeover of Head Masters from John Christie to Walter Hamilton. Dislike of the change. [27:05] Taught a maths class in absence of teacher. [28:14] Elizabethan. [30:29] College Street Clarion. Fisher as Housemaster. [34:28] Latin prayers. [35:38] CCF and Scouts. Scout arrested for dressing up as a girl. [39:40] School food, Free School Milk Act. [42:04] Divide between school subjects, hierarchy. [46:53] Trinity College, Cambridge. Election. Scholarship exam. [51:23] Rebuilding of College post-war. Temporary roof of School. [53:38] Knowledge of other houses. [54:50] Liddell’s. [58:50] Gym display, held in College Garden. Parents’ party. [01:05:40] Rowing, Godsey White’s attitudes to rowing. [01:19:33] Challenge subjects. Languages. [01:22:05] Russian, useful in Navy. [01:25:30] Strikes, walking to school.

Andrew Johnson

His life as a pupil at Westminster. Cliques and the effect of the arrival of girls in sixth form. [4.09] Stayed in touch with surprisingly few Westminster schoolmates. [6.21] Phab [experience week in partnership with a charity working with disabled and non-disabled children]. How it has changed over the years. His work gave it more stability, health and safety clearance and financial stability. [10.54] Phab’s expansion over the years, and possible reasons for its growth. [13.54] Difference between his school days and time as a teacher. School now seems better able to help pupils who are less academically gifted than the others. School takes part in more outreach and charity work. School facilities much better. The Manoukian Music Centre, Millicent Fawcett Hall [theatre], Weston’s [classrooms] and Lawrence Hall [sports centre] were all acquired after his schooldays. [16.20] Difficult to tell if there’s been a change in ethos. Still promotes individuality. [18.07] Effects of internet. [19.25] Effects of increased numbers of pupils. [21.28] How his experience of the school has changed now he’s a teacher. [23.06] Will miss colleagues and pupils, but not the physical place. [26.12] His future plans. His move to the London Academy of Excellence. Potential to make a difference to social mobility. How he will interpret the role. [31.11] Proud moments as a pupil. [33.22] Proud moments as a teacher. The changed atmosphere in Ashburnham. The house publication The Ash Tree and house concerts and plays. The house has become a community. Has enjoyed his time as a teacher.

Gavin Griffiths

No strong impulse to go to Westminster. Serendipity rather than conscious plan. Just wanted to leave his school in Wimbledon. [2:07] Sees teaching as a job rather than a career. Accommodation at school meant he had a better lifestyle than he would otherwise have been able to afford, so unable to leave Westminster. [3:50] Enjoyed all his roles in the school. Attempts to prevent him from being Head of English. Without an SMT, it was easier for elderly teachers to put pressure on Head Masters than it is now. [7:05] Ashburnham House Master. Great job. Its location meant it was difficult to get people over there. Supervision of the house had not previously been very thorough. [8:31] Grant’s was fun but very tiring, since it was a boarding house and therefore very long hours. This improved after another boarding house master had a nervous breakdown. [10:18] Far greater parental involvement than before. Can make it more difficult for the children. [12:17] Westminster looks after children better than it used to. More involvement and pastoral support from the House Master now. [13:26] Change in the texts studied. Othello and Lolita now no longer on the syllabus. [18:33] Teachers’ tendency to perform. Used to being the centre of attention. [19:13] Big figures in the Common Room. Ernest Sanger, an Austrian Jew who left Europe before the outbreak of war. Should have been an academic. Theo Zinn, an enormous influence. [21:47] Inspirational teachers can often be the bully as well. [22:29] Common Room 30 years ago. All men apart from one teacher. Smoking and conspiring. An example of plotting against the Head Master, John Rae. [24:21] Improvements to Common Room photocopying during his time as Common Room President. Also finding a helpful Common Room secretary. [27:47] Computers have made some tasks easier but have created more work. Enjoyed teaching in different classrooms when there was more pressure for space. [31:14] Introduction of girls to the school. Frances Holland School didn’t have laboratories, so girls came for the science lessons. It began as an informal arrangement. [32:57] The introduction of girls meant there was more socialising in Yard. House differences became less important. [35:24] Much harder to get into Oxbridge than it used to be. [38:21] The importance of straightforward criticism. [41:24] Theory of the developing intellect. [42:01] Negative effects of child protection policies. More cumbersome now and instructs children to distrust all adults. Morally offensive. [45:20] Miss the 7th term for Oxbridge, when the most difficult topics were tackled, but otherwise the intellectual element of teaching is just as challenging. [46:49] Teachers that he particularly remembers. Russell Dudley-Smith, a polymath. Richard Jacobs, an inspiration as an English teacher. [48:58] The predominance of Maths, the only subject with no moral content. On whether this will continue. [51:43] Advice to teachers joining Westminster. Advice to pupils at Westminster. [54:51] The virtues of conformity or independent thinking. [55:41] Will miss having an audience when he leaves. [56:50] An anecdote about a pupil’s late prep. [58:22] Unsure what he will do after Westminster. Perhaps writing. [1:00:19] Preventing the stripper-gram from accosting John Rae.

Rod Beavan, 2013-06-24

Greatly enjoyed his time at King Edward VI Camp Hill Grammar School in Birmingham. Worked as a technician at the University of Birmingham for Neville Cartwright, a bacteriologist. Then worked in the Physics Department. Completed a PhD. [2:24] Started to consider teaching at a school. Enjoys the collegiate atmosphere and learning from colleagues about different subjects. [2:53] Started teaching at Sherbourne School in 1972 and stayed there for 19 years. [3:18] Head of Science at Westminster. Was attracted to the role’s combination of different sciences and the great reputation of the science department at the time. [4:51] The school is now a kinder place than it used to be, but hasn’t lost its academic edge or its tolerance for unusual people. Before, the school’s atmosphere could be quite abrasive and girls had to be survivors to enjoy it. [8:13] How to change the atmosphere in a school. [10:13] The characteristics of a Westminster pupil. Often more confident. Intellectual curiosity. [12:53] The importance of pupils progressing in every aspect of their lives. [15:10] Moved to SMT and gave up most teaching. Became the Senior Master and got to know more pupils. [18:30] He has really enjoyed his time in the SMT. Insight into the work behind the scenes. [19:58] Different Head Masters had little effect on him when he was Head of Science. They trusted him and left him to run the department. [22:33] Enormous increase in the number of pupils taking science. There is much more energy in the department than when he first came. [24:38] Changes in the science curriculum. Now more emphasis on understanding than in just knowing things. [26:48] Chemistry influences how he looks at the world. [28:42] His time as Chief Examiner for Edexcel.

Jeffrey Eker

Westminster Under School restarted in 1943 in Grant’s, when the Great School was evacuated. Joined the Great School in 1945, when it was back in London. [1:10] A day boy. Lived above Baker Street station. School still finding its feet being back in London. There were barrage balloons and anti-aircraft guns in Vincent Square. Rationing of food and clothing. [2:52] He entered via the 4th form, which no longer exists. [3:43] Weekly form orders, when the pupils were ordered according to their marks the previous week. A very competitive atmosphere. Moved up two years due to his academic promise. [4:29] Took the School Certificate at 14. [5:00] Maundy money prizes and book tokens. [6:06] Physical training in Little Dean’s Yard in the morning. [7:10] The war was very traumatic for him, as a Jew. He was excused going to religious services, although some other Jewish boys did go. Was allowed to be away from school for the major Jewish religious holidays. He was an atheist. [8:42] The Under School evacuated for 4 weeks when the flying bombs came to London. [10:22] School numbers were very low when he arrived. No more than 220 boys. [11:05] Greaze took place in the roofless School. [12:52] Memorable Masters. W. F. Monk, an inspiring teacher. Dr Burch, who had no control over his class at all. [14:55] No bullying, and corporal punishment was very rare. [17:03] Enjoyed rowing. [18:05] His mother and siblings were sent to America in June 1940 by his father, because they were Jewish. His father probably thought he was never going to see them again. [18:50] Father came to England in 1911. Landed at Tower Pier, penniless and not speaking the language. First job was in Petticoat Lane, selling fabric off a barrel. Ended up with a textile business. [20:36] Knew he was going into business but didn’t tell anyone at school. [21:46] Brother went to Westminster when it was evacuated, and had a totally different impression of the school. Felt that the Housemaster was a bully and an anti-Semite. Jeffrey felt no anti-Semitism at all when he was there. [22:27] Saw the first meeting of the committee that set up the United Nations, which took place in Church House in 1944. Boys felt they were at the centre of the world. [23:47] Went into his father’s business after school. Sold the business and retired at 57. [24:29] Was in Ashburnham House, but there wasn't much house spirit. Felt more a member of the school than his house.

Patrick Kennedy

War broke out as he started at Westminster. [3:16] Evacuated with the school. Dwindling numbers of pupils. [6:10] Left Lancing when France fell. [7:21] Chocolate rationed. School moved to Lancing College. [13:10] Chose Maths as his main subject. Tony Benn was in his class. A booby-trapped door that caught the Head Master, John Christie. [18:39] Comments on John Christie. [19:30] The house magazine for Grant’s. [21:46] Stayed at a farmhouse. Good quality dairy products there. [23:13] The Home Guard at Buckenhill. The House Master, Murray Rust, was a Major in the Home Guard. [25:24] Robert Bruce, a friend. Walks together in the mountains after university. [27:35] Football. [31:15] Tennis. [32:20] Activities in the boys’ spare time. [33:49] Reading evenings. Walks. [34:36] Harvesting mistletoe. [37:33] Tony Benn, who was called Wedgewood Benn. A time Benn was beaten for putting his feet up on the desk during a lesson. [49:20] Masters’ wives were very integrated with the school. They used to cook for the boys. [51:53] Cycling at the weekend was very popular with the boys. [52:55] An example of Murray Rust’s quick thinking in an encounter with a hand grenade in the Home Guard. [59:25] Long-distance race across the common, called the Bringsty Relay. [1.04.03] Academic studies. Weekends dedicated to music and arts. House choirs.

John Porteous and Catherine Porteous

Catherine’s earliest memories of the school. Visiting St James’ Park with Nanny. A visit by the Princesses to Westminster Abbey. [2:37] King’s visit to the Latin Play in 1937. [3:24] War and evacuation to Ireland, where she stayed until April 1940. [4:38] Wearing lifebelts on the boat back to England. [4:56] Staying at Lancing College. Listening to Churchill on the radio. Soldiers returned from Dunkirk sleeping in gardens. [6:25] Moved from the coast. Blitz begins. [7:42] Living in Herefordshire. The Blitz at Westminster School. [8:41] Herefordshire. A governess shared with the other Masters’ children. Rode a pony to school every day. [10:49] Made friends with an old poacher. [12:00] Moved into the town. More involved in the community there. Westminster boys learning how to live in the country. [15:18] Her mother, Mrs Christie’s, food parcels from Australia. Tony Benn helps her with her long division. [16:08] Learnt to swim in the river. [16:25] Awareness of war news. [16:45] Religious service and local vicars. [18:12] Excitement on D-Day. [20:42] Arnold Foster, Head of Music, organised a local choir and orchestra with the boys. Enjoyed by the locals. [21:27] Plays by the boys. Her first Shakespeare. [22:20] Vanessa and Colin Redgrave, who were also evacuated and joined their classes with the governess. [22:40] Masters’ wives and matrons worked hard to cater for the boys without servants. [23:49] Return to London. It felt dirty, broken and sad. [24:30] Masters’ children took lessons with a member of staff. [26:10] Living in no. 17. Cycling around on top of the water tanks in Dean’s Yard. [27:09] Hide-and-seek in the Cloisters. American soldiers. Playing around on the school roofs. [29:02] Bomb damage to the school. Impact on father’s health of the strain of war and school bomb damage. His illness in 1947. [31:35] Went to boarding school. [32:17] First saw John playing Gwendolyn in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’. [33:47] Occasional returns to Westminster. The Greaze. Later watching her son in the Greaze. [36:00] Mother kept hens at school. Boys thought she was very eccentric. [37:15] Mother became very good at entertaining. Would visit boys who were ill. [39:50] Christie’s lasting friendships with the boys. [41:59] Catherine and John meet. [43:33] John’s experience of WWII. Tormore School Prep School. Trained for the Challenge quite intensively. [46:04] Many boys he knew from his prep school were at Westminster. [46:57] Westminster was very liberal after his strict prep school. Food at Westminster. An unpleasant experience with the school food. Post-war rationing. [49:43] Post-war Westminster bleak and dirty. The Abbey coal-black inside. Princess Elizabeth’s wedding. [50:50] The robes and huge jewels of the Indian Princes. [51:50] Smog and the effect of city living on the Westminster boys. [53:39] College was very ‘churchy’. [54:44] Found work too easy in the Shell. [56:20] They were precocious and gave themselves extra work in non-school subjects, for example learning Tamil. He learnt Anglo-Saxon. [58:08] Teaching classrooms. [59:20] Seen as infra dig to take A Levels. Trained for the Oxbridge exams. [1:00:51] Scared of John Christie, who taught them and made them learn Greek by heart. [1:02:25] Descriptions of teachers. Munck, killed in an aeroplane crash. Charles Keeley, shy historian. [1:04:01] Deeply churchy place. Prayers every morning. Some King’s Scholars considered becoming Catholic. [1:05:33] Description of the Westminster tradition of Decals and evening calls. [1:09:29] Initiation ceremony to learn Westminster slang. Changes in the tradition while he was at school. [1:12:31] Scholars all slept in the same dormitory apart from the prefectus, who had a separate room which had formerly been the bedroom of Catherine Porteous when she was younger. [1:13:42] Abbey an important part of Westminster life. [1:14:54] Queen Mary came to the Abbey when her favourite curate was preaching. Looked old-fashioned. The misbehaviour of Catherine’s sister on one occasion. [1:16:03] Eccentric Masters. Troutbeg, who wore tailcoats. Rugbig, who carried a cane. Simpson. [1:18:53] John Carleton, an excellent House Master and a huge influence on John. Remained a friend with Carleton. [1:21:17] Catherine was required to call all the Masters by their surnames, unlike the other Masters’ children. [1:22:39] Gradually starting to use Christian names for pupils. [1:23:53] The re-opening of College and the royal visit. John Carleton’s first year as House Master of College. Terrible acoustics of the new building. [1:25:16] The opening of College by the King and Queen. [1:28:58] An instance of John Carleton’s ingenuity. [1:32:59] House ledgers. John’s character as a young man. [1:34:40] Uncertainty what would have happened to him if he hadn’t won a closed scholarship. [1:36:43] Good friends made at Westminster. [1:39:31] Being in the 6th and 7th form at Westminster was very like university. Boys educated each other. Informal classes were like tutorials. [1:40:36] Debate with Eton. Etonians were more sophisticated. The Westminsters felt like ‘ignorant schoolchildren’ in comparison. [1:42:39] More difficult for John to make ends meet at Oxford than it had been at Westminster. [1:43:45] College was the elite. Very strong sense of cohesion as a house. The gowns meant they were more easily distinguished from the other houses then. [1:45:16] Catherine had lots of friends in Oxford. Sent to Germany by her parents, who thought she was being too frivolous and that she was getting too involved with Robin. Learnt German.

Dr Douglas East

Had a prep school friend who went to Westminster School and visited him there. He remembers the King’s Scholars and their splendid costumes. [1:20] He was asked to rebind the Abbey library in 1983. Charles Low became aware of him and asked him to start bookbinding at Westminster. He had just retired from classes, then started bookbinding classes a day or two later. [4:45] The amount of pressure on pupils, who are working with their minds all the time. Important for them to have a break and work with their hands. [9:55] Bookbinding saved several people from nervous breakdowns. [11:02] More competition to get into Oxbridge than there used to be. [13:24] The bookbinding exhibition gets better each year. [15:59] Hasn’t had time to make a binding of his own in years. Description of inlay onlay bookbinding technique. [17:33] Doesn’t have a favourite binding by a pupil. They’re all different and good in their own way. Not keen on the idea of prizes. [19:29] Benefits for teachers doing bookbinding. A break from academic work. [23:11] Description of a flood from a tap left on in a top floor flat. His tools covered in rust when he returned from the summer holidays. [24:09] The new bookbinding room. Severely claustrophobic from his time in the Navy. Hasn’t been on the Tube since the war. Was once trapped in a lift and hasn’t been in one since. [26:36] An unhappy childhood. [26:47] Started teaching at 17. Went to Oxford later. There were more people than usual at Oxford, back from the war. He studied history, the only proper subject, which embraces everything else. [29:08] Start of the Cold War in 1947. Crisis in Berlin. Felt that he could have been called back into the armed services at any moment. [31:56] Diploma in Education. [33:23] Went to Abbotsholme School, a pioneer for progressive schools. Forestry, farming, music and crafts were all part of the timetable. [34:21] Seeing a bookbinding class for the first time. Had never thought about bookbinding before. [35:21] Started running bookbinding classes at Abbotsholme. [37:50] Worked at the Public Records Office Conservation Department. Very good experience. Lecturing at Camberwell for the professional course on archives and records. Local Authority had funding cuts and sold Camberwell. [39:55] Recommended to the Abbey Library and came to Westminster. [41:38] Maundy money, a reward for good work, given by the Queen in the Abbey. [44:22] Writing poetry. Wants to continue with bookbinding. [44:45] Wants happiness for his pupils. [47:47] Has been vegetarian for 70 years and is still very fit. Became vegetarian during the war, surrounded by slaughter. He decided he could stop some slaughter. [49:06] Not a vegan, although this is the logical thing to be. Veganism can be a bit of a nuisance to other people. [50:01] Used to have many colds every year. After two year of being vegetarian, he hasn’t had a cold since. [51:10] Much easier to be a vegetarian now. Before, there was no provision made in restaurants. [51:40] At Oxford there was only one other vegetarian in his college. They were given things on toast. [51:10] Nelson, his favourite historical figure. He doesn’t understand digital things. [53:41] Misses his analogue camera. Doesn’t have a computer. [54:30] Least favourite historical figure is Elizabeth I. Dismissed the Navy without pay as soon as it defeated the Armada, leaving sailors starving in Plymouth. Dismissed the militia without pay too. Description of the discovery of Philip II’s private diary. [1:00:01] Criticisms of the statue of Elizabeth I. [1:00:52] Enjoys some Dickens. Liked reading The Cruel Sea, which reflects his experience of convoys during the war. From Londonderry to Gibraltar in 1943. Port Said and the Suez Canal. [1:05:50] Enjoyable experience of South Africa. Likes the accent even now. [1:06:53] Mentions different pupils. [1:08:12] The idea of perfect happiness is having the right people around you, marrying the right person and having nice children. His marriage was a mistake for both of them. Their son died before he was born and they then drifted apart. He’s been on his own for 45 years. Being at the school is his idea of perfect happiness. [1:09:57] He believe in the next world and will communicate with people he’s left if he can.

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