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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.

Stephen Spurr

When he arrived at Westminster he felt the school needed to rediscover its purpose and reshape itself for the 21st century. [3:42] His aim in the first year was to consult people over the future of the school. [4:00] His previous school had been Clifton School in Bristol. Every school is different, and when you begin at a new school you must understand its ethos. [5:08] At Clifton he had learnt how important it was to have co-education. Clifton had been in a difficult financial state when he first arrived. He had learnt how important it is for the Headmaster to keep on top of finances. [6:25] He had been a housemaster and head of a large department at Eton. Before then he had been a university academic. Westminster is like a small university in some ways. [7:30] Westminster was originally ahead of other schools in co-education, but now can be seen as a dinosaur. Believes that the Westminster model is the right one. [9:18] Doubts about excluding girls from the years below. [10:34] He decided to change the composition and numbers in the sixth form, so that Westminster no longer felt like a boys’ school that happened to have some girls in it. Decided on 1/3 girls, 2/3 boys in 6th form, with minimum of ¼ boarders. [12:23] School increased overall to 740, to allow for more girls at 6th form. Introduced a head girl. [13:19] The number of women in the Common Room has also increased. [14:08] The greater number of newcomers in the sixth form helps the boys who are already pupils to see the sixth form as a new beginning. [14:35] Balancing money spent on social mobility and money spent improving facilities. [15:53] The importance of fundraising. [17:55] The choice between fundraising for a very large endowment or raising money every year to plough straight into financial assistance. Chose the latter. [19:08] Harris Westminster Academy. Westminster needs to look outwards more. [20:23] Westminster summer school. Inspiring pupils to go into higher education. [21:55] Media portrayal of Westminster. Most schools try to get into the press. At Westminster, it’s the reverse. Many calls from the press, which are not always relevant. Need a good relationship with journalists. [25:47] The impact of social media. Pupils need to be educated on how to use it responsibly. Can be a very positive thing. [27:10] Relationships should not just be virtual. [27:48] When first came to Westminster pupils had Walkmans and weren’t talking to each other. Needs to be a community in the school. The development of a parenting forum, where parents can discuss their concerns. [29:44] A moral education should be central to the school. Nurturing individual talent is important, but pupils must also have a sense of social responsibility. [32:38] Relationship between the School and the Abbey was re-assessed during the preparations for the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the school in 2010. Began working together more. Morality and spirituality became more central to the school. [35:30] Introduction of civic engagement, for every pupil to participate in, rather than community service, which was for pupils who weren’t interested in sports. [39:16] Many Westminster pupils will go on to be leaders, and leaders must be socially responsible. [40:17] Traditions. Latin Prayers. Deciding either to abolish it or take it seriously. [43:46] When he began, the Governors had been concerned that Westminster had lost some of its style. The importance of the Archives. [45:47] The introduction of girls’ uniform. It had previously made it appear as though girls were just an add-on. [48:48] Pupils have more generosity of spirit now, and are less brittle and competitive. [53:31] The importance of the Monitors and Head Boy and Girl. [55:17] The Common Room previously hadn’t had much of a common purpose. He tried to involve more staff in the development-planning of the school. [57:35] The Headmaster needs to protect teachers from management, legislation, financial matters, and so on. Their sacred task is the teacher / pupil relationship.

Peter Gysin

His prep school, Feltham Fleet, was much stricter than Westminster. Late for the Westminster entrance exam because his father’s car broke down. [3:10] A sherry party for the parents of new boys at Busby’s. [3:36] The characters of different houses. Busby’s was a good balance of liberality and discipline. [6:30] Theo Zinn, a Classics teacher, was a family friend and the reason Gysin came to Westminster. His teaching style complemented Denis Moylan’s. [8:03] A description of various contemporaries. [10:13] His involvement in the Busby play. [11:21] How his time at Westminster has helped him. A lack of exaggerated respect for status and hierarchies. [12:45] The Oxbridge exams. Interviews were less important then. [14:02] The College Street Clarion. Its sporadic appearance. [14:55] The Busby house ledgers. [16:43] The change in the tone of the school when Dr Rae took over in 1970. The school became more involved in wider society. [18:47] The food. Dull but edible. He was the house champion jelly-eater. [20:53] The benefits of the weekly boarding system. [21:42] His involvement in the Busby Society, for former Busbites, and its annual dinner.

Richard Townend

Arrived at Westminster from a prep school on a farm in Sussex where there were only 60 pupils. The Westminster Masters’ gowns and mortar boards. The Westminster pupils’ uniform was complicated and varied according to whether it was a saint’s day or in season or out of season. [3.54] Arrival at Westminster and learning Westminster slang. [5.54] They put on plays all the time in different languages. [6.43] Busby’s. [7.18] The Latin Play, which was in the summer then. [9.49] The timetable. There were very few day boys then. There were only three in Busby’s. [12.33] Spartan living conditions. No heating. Meals. They would draw lots not to sit next to the House Master’s wife. [15.25] Fagging. [17.02] The role of the House Tutors. [18.42] Lunches in Busby’s. The popularity of the House Matron. Personality of the House Master. [23.10] Busby’s a relatively liberal house. [23.50] Music his favourite subject. A German Master, Sanger, who played Mozart and Heiden symphonies through lessons. The French Teach, Hugo Garden, was a world expert on Mahler. Both were refugees. [27.19] Charles Keeley. His teaching style. [28.52] Class sizes. [30.00] Musical facilities and the Director of Music, Arnold Foster, who was Vaughan Williams’ musical secretary. Conditions for music teaching. [35.03] Viola lessons from Beryl Ireland in the Master of the Scholars’ drawing room. The school organist. [37.45] David Burke, the first full-time music teacher. [39.49] He sometimes covered for Burke when he had left the school. [40.36] Exams. [41.56] Reaction to his decision to go to a conservatoire. [44.57] Learning the organ with the Abbey organist. [48.03] The school Abbey choir. Changing standards in church music. [49.44] School and house concerts. Difficulties of re-starting the musical tradition in the school. [56.52] The choir. [59.18] The orchestra’s repertoire. [59.58] House concerts. [1.05.44] Busby house prayers. Ramona, the house maid, paid to sabotage house prayers. [1.09.43] Masters who stand out. [1.14.43] The importance of the Common Room. [1.16.03] Boys’ family backgrounds at the time. Career prospects. [1.27.57] Competition between House Masters to have the most attractive maids. Boys’ appreciation. Throwing oranges at the monks in the monastery opposite.

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.

Martin Rogers

[0.53] Why he became a teacher. Had worked in industry selling nickel alloys – always had teaching in the back of his mind. Father did not want him to teach – did not pay well enough, and would never see real world outside of schools. [1.53] Taught chemistry. Studied natural sciences, but had broad education which was helpful. [2.20] How he came to teach. Chemistry master suddenly had to leave – sudden vacancy was lucky since he had no qualifications other than degree. Had joined CCF (Combined Cadet Force) but disliked. Enjoyed rowing, tied in well with job. Easier to get there in those days. [3.50] Enjoyed ‘God Soc’, good link to the Abbey. There are now nearly sixty such societies. [4.50] Houses. Originally tutor in Busby’s from 1956. House Master of Rigaud’s in 1964. Master of the Queen’s Scholars in 1967, liked connections with Abbey. At the time Master of the Queen’s Scholars was Under Master. Got to know parents well. Asked to become Master, no application process. [7.30] John Rae. Rogers becomes Headmaster of Malvern in 1971. John Rae became Head Master year before Rogers left for Malvern. Knew him well from Somerset. Extra work with change of Head Master as Under Master. Controversial figure but did much for the school. Always seen on television, helped to raise funds etc. Parsimonious place, ordeal to move out. Jane Rogers had baby in hospital as the House Master’s bedroom was insufficiently private! College much more private. [13.00] House in College much more spacious. Ground floor for music practice and bookbinding; drawing room and upper two floors for them. Top floor is now an additional flat. No ghosts ever spotted. [15.10] Lodged first female pupil at that time in spare room. Had family connections to school – brother there too – but apprehensive to walk out into Yard. In 1970s girls primarily came for supplementary science lessons. [17.40] Science teaching. Mentions ‘Crump’ (Cyril John Crumpler), Geoffrey Foxcroft, Muffet (David William Muffett). Science still considered by older teachers to be inferior (to classics. Subject still developing at Westminster despite its being around on the curriculum for a while. Rogers enjoyed science very much, especially the practical aspect. Facilities not impressive by modern standards, but improved a lot and modernised during his time. Parents came to science open days. Only footage of science then is film of Queen visiting Sutcliff’s – greater event then than now. [23.55] His idea to begin Film Society, based in Busby’s. Started off as Busby’s affair, spread throughout the school. John Carlton at ease with cameras. Contrast with predecessor, Walter Hamilton – though he was nice too, first took him on as a teacher. Resentment (mocking) when he left for Rugby. By modern standards seven years is reasonable. Teachers staying too long has a ‘deadening’ effect. Hamilton returned to Magdalene College, Cambridge after Rugby. [29:50] Under Masters. Now expected to move on and become heads after five years. Not standard in Rogers’ time, but happened on occasion. [31:00] Jim Cogan. Could be very brusque – Rogers did not experience this, but may have been concentrating more on moving. Big decision for John Rae to appoint successor as Under Master. [33:00] Staying at Rigaud’s for only three years was the wrong thing to do – for children and parents. [33:55] Different houses had different characters. College particularly different – special responsibilities. Defining feature of Rigaud’s ‘totally mad cook’ – huge underground kitchens dripping with water, rodents, gas leaks. Many foreign staff, tenuous jobs. [37:55] Spanish cook in Busby’s could be bribed to drop teapot in important moment in prayers, sing songs. One Finnish maid amongst them. Broke hand cleaning early in morning and had to wake House Master up – most dramatic thing to happen. [39:20] Busby’s. Enjoyed working for House Master (‘boss’) as tutor. Had to stand in once for him – would now be called Resident Tutor. [41:00] Could park in Great College Street without a problem – unthinkable today. Unlike other boarding schools, Westminster was relaxed and not isolated. [42:00] Lycée Janson (Lycée Janson de Sailly) used to come each year, once found climbing out of Dean’s Yard to get out instead of opening the gate. [43:00] Footage of one pupil saying ‘there are no bounds’ at Westminster. Provenance unclear. [44:00] Different and freer atmosphere with less security. Used to run out at break to get theatre tickets. [46:00] Much more difficult to discipline – Westminster on doorstep, how to find anyone who has left? This liberalism is generally positive. Academic pressure has forced structure. In past five/ten years this has accelerated; greater risk of failure. Consequent loss of breadth. Sport has improved, if not main attraction. [50:00] Scholars particularly musical, Rigaud’s good jazz band. Can remember Roger Norrington conducting as a pupil. [51:20] Main differences since ‘60s. New buildings are main difference– out of Dean’s Yard makes it less centralised and less frantic. Actual classroom activity largely unchanged. [53:10] Election. Only half school around by the end of Election Term due to study leave. Election Dinner return from School to College Hall. Trying to slim down excess – music in particular: ‘vested interests’. Trying to bring more in from Westminster – had to reduce numbers of teacher as Common Room grew. [58:00] Yard cricket/football controversial since surface is being redone. Conspiracy theory has that surface is being changed in order to prevent Yard games. Cobbled pathways to stay. Rigaud’s has been cleaned and is very bright; some wish it hadn’t been cleaned. New sports’ centre – art deco building, mainly used by Under School. [1:05:00] Much more weekly boarding at Westminster than other boarding schools. [1:06:00] Decline of corporal punishment. Much more difficult to get rid of at Malvern; occasionally used at Westminster. Much more progressive attitudes in city boarding school. Two demonstrations in ‘60s, largely diffused by John Carlton. [1:08:00] Thames flood. Woke up once with loudspeakers bleating ‘danger of flooding’. Barrier erected to prevent floods. [1:10:20] Tyburn constantly dripped in Rigaud’s basement. Now Under Master’s house. Gutter went through house and discharged rainwater. [1:14:45] Commem. Thinking of making compulsory – not same atmosphere without whole school. [1:16:45] London makes big difference to school. New Head Master (PSJD) has much experience but none in London. As mentioned, much more liberal. Head Master and family living in Vincent Square – ‘radical change’. Headmasters have not lived in Little Dean’s Yard since David Summerscale (1986). Much more like normal house than awkward atmosphere of Lord North Street. [1:23:25] School has no longer any property on Eccleston Square. All moved to Vincent Square. Big expansion in property owned by school, especially along Victoria Line. Lord North Street property and 4 and 5 Barton Street have been sold.

George Law

Busy life 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. 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.

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