Updated September 2020


School Productions

(plagiarised from FriendsReunited)

I was in "Where the rainbow ends" and flew across the stage on a wire, I was a dragon... I've never been the same since!

Janet Woodford (née Creed)

I remember Toad of Toad Hall and Peter Pan.  I had a small part in each - and have some photos.  Does anyone remember these plays?  What fun we had… and it got us out of lessons.

Maureen Charlton (née Taylor)

My fondest memory of Blackwell is that of appearing in the school plays.  I think the first one was 'Where the Rainbow Ends' when I was about 11 and played an elf!  I was also in something about a Little Christmas tree and 'The Snow Queen'.  I played an angel in one play and a teacher on secondment from Canada or America took one look at me in my costume and said "Gee, the people they pick for angels!".  I'd love to hear from anyone else who was as stage-struck as me.

Mary Gomm (née Pryke/Skinner)

A few anecdotes from Anne Moxley - a pupil from 1953-58:

We had to sing the school song every morning in assembly.  From memory the second line was: "...till we have forged the links that yet remain... ".

Mr Woolrich, assisted by Mr Hawes, gave us ballroom dancing lessons in The Great Hall.  I eventually applied my learning at several London venues including The Cafe de Paris.

Mr Lonhgurst was a wonderful man.  Our home was close to Blackwell.  Some evenings my father, 'Jack', would exchange jokes with Mr Longhurst in the pub in Headstone Lane near the school.  Sometimes my dad would come home crying with laughter at his jokes.

Mr Longhurst's theatrical productions were pretty elaborate.  I was in 'Wind in the Willows', 'Queen of Hearts' and 'Peter Pan' in which I played Wendy.  This was one of the parts requiring the use of 'flying' wires supported from a rig controlled off-stage by two teachers.  I had to wear a sort of harness which clipped to the wires and I found rather uncomfortable as it chaffed.  The rig was loaned to the school by the company at The Scala Theatre, which put on J M Barrie's play every year and hired it out.  The principal players in our 'Peter Pan' were duplicated for redundancy and to spread the work-load.  The other Wendy was played by Elaine Nelson; Pat Hunter played one of the two Peter Pans.  See Anne's memorabilia.

A. M. ('53-'59), November 2011

I recollect the Compton organ being assembled in the classroom, in fact I remember working on it, although I think that was for punishment. - Les Pearce

Keith Salmon's Memorabilia

Keith attended Blackwell from 1955 to 1961 and has retained a couple of class photos and associated pupil lists.

School Dinners

We all had a set table to sit at with a fifth former as head of the table.

The meals would come delivered to the table and you had to help yourself and pass these metal containers around.  If you didn't fancy something you could arrange to 'swop' with somebody for something else.  We had those big copper water jugs in the middle of the table too.

At the end of the dishing out process it became a bit like a stock exchange 'pit' with tables offering extra this or that for something in return.

If there was something really nice on the menu and you were last in order you got about a mouthful!  I think it was because of this that we eventually went to the line-up system that was introduced.

Paul Millar  (plagiarised from FriendsReunited)

Letchford Terrace

The cafe opposite the school, frequented by younger pupils, and the same location pre-cafe in 1902.  Headstone Lane goes to the left with Letchford Terrace to the right, this was the home of the Letchford Arms frequented by more senior pupils and teachers - but not at the same time.  The cafe is now a mini grocery store, whilst the Letchford Arms is closed.

…surprise that a tall science teacher fitted into his 3 wheeled Bond Minicar.

Mr Woolrich, he had a similar sounding nickname which I'll let you deduce, sucking spittle through his empty pipe.

A trip to Windsor where Messrs Longhurst and Thomas were heard speaking Welsh to each other.  It was only later that we realised that they were discussing the same thing as us pupils.  They got to the pub before we did.

Keith Salmon ('55-'61), January 2012

An Alternative Perspective

A few anecdotes remembered and kindly drafted by Sue Baker who taught at Blackwell in 1968:

I remember being impressed with the school staff in particular.  They were all extremely nice and capable and certainly made me very welcome.  I only remember one complete name - Joan Sanderson.  She was a fellow science and biology teacher, about my age and obviously well-liked by pupils and staff.  She was very good to me.

All the school labs were well equipped compared to what I was used to in New Zealand and we even had a lab assistant who would set up lab equipment etc. for us.  The Head of Science was a guy called Mike (can't remember his surname) and there was another young male science teacher, Welsh, with a very Welsh name like Rhys Davies, also nice to work with.

One of the labs had a large aquarium built into the wall and its resident was a pike about 18" long.  It was one tough fish.  Occasionally we would come into the lab to find that it had jumped out and was on the floor.  We were never sure how long it had been out of the water but we'd lift it back in and it survived.  It had a chronic fungal infection and would develop what looked like a fine fur coat all over its body.  We'd prepare a container of potassium permanganate solution, dip the fish in it for a short time and then put it back in the aquarium.  The fur coat would disappear and the fish, to my astonishment, seemed none the worse for the treatment.

One of Mr Olphin's rules was that, in the presence of a lady teacher, all boys had to wear their jackets.  In June we had a spell of very hot weather.  It was stifling in the classroom and the boys were obviously very uncomfortable so I invited them to take off their jackets if they wished.  I immediately regretted it as the resulting body odour was overpowering.

The pupils were pretty much all white and ranged from very bright all the way down to 'special ed.' types and there was a substantial criminal element there.  We had to keep everything locked-up.  Each teacher had a master key and we had to unlock and lock classrooms ahead of each class.  In what I thought was an empty classroom, one day, I left my handbag unattended for a couple of minutes to go into a supply room, and my master key was stolen from it.  I got reprimanded for that.

A senior colleague used to buy clothes from one of his pupils who was a 'fence' for stolen goods.  I thought that was wrong.

My first few days were quite a test as I was the third relieving teacher of the year.  Some of my classes had problem kids in them that had been kicked-out of other classes and there was one class of 16 year-old boys who were old enough not to have to attend school by law, but were forced to attend by parents and didn't want to be there.  They were initially a real handful but a few of the worst ones did end-up leaving and I was left with about 12 who were quite delightful away from the troublemakers - they ended-up as my favourite class.

The school had an impressive auditorium and Mr Olphin held a very formal assembly there first thing every morning.  The kids would go into assembly screaming and punching each other and file-out quite subdued and civilised.  It was very effective.

A hot school dinner was served every day.  The pupils were seated at tables, each headed by a teacher or senior pupil who were expected to impose some standards of table manners.  I was invited to head one of the tables in return for a free lunch.  The food was pretty stodgy and overcooked but I was grateful for the free lunch as I was being taxed at 50% and money was a bit scarce and the kids were generally pretty good.

I enjoyed my 4 months at Blackwell.  The school was very well run, it had a good atmosphere.  After the first couple of weeks, I got to like my classes and I certainly enjoyed working with the other staff.

S. B., December 2010

What schooling meant to me…

I was born in 1947.  I attended Blackwell from 1958 till 1963 when I transferred to Harrow Weald Grammar sixth form.

I had failed my eleven plus and expected little of Blackwell as it was a big school and had attracted a lot of the local bullies etc.

But looking back, Blackwell did well for me really and I got into university eventually - so it must have given me a good grounding educationally.

The big thing I remember was the building of the swimming pool.  We all put a little money in each week and this meant a lot as my mother didn't have much money.  When it was opened I couldn't use it as I had science lessons instead of swimming.  We protested but the Head told us off for objecting.  I remember the sense of injustice even now!

Rodger Walker, March 2012  (plagiarised from FriendsReunited)

…coming in on Saturdays to make tea for the dads and boys who were building the swimming pool.

Maureen Charlton (née Taylor)  (plagiarised from FriendsReunited)

Don’t spread the word…

… but I made a school skeleton-key in metalwork so that when I arrived before the staff we could get into the classroom.  My key was made from an imprint using the old lag’s method of a bar of soap from a key borrowed from a member of staff.  Blackwell had quite a reputation in my day, so such activities were second nature.


Someone made a copy of the school master key in metal work and found it fitted the tuck shop door - needless to say a lot of pupils had their fill of chocky bars and crisps etc. … allegedly!!

Graham Page  (plagiarised from FriendsReunited)

Memories of Blackwell 1950-1952

At lunch break, we used to trade comics.  There were Western and Superman comics at that time.  The latter was worth 2 Westerns.  At recess we also played marbles.

We were having lunch in the dining room when we heard the announcement, “The King is dead.  Long live the Queen.”

David Soward (from the Downer contingent), April 2013

I was kind of nerdy back in those days, although we all got a bit toughened in the Blackwell playground as we and the girls wore uniforms that made us stand out in the playgrounds and easy to pick-on by the, somewhat tougher, Blackwell crowd.  Mind you, we had a couple of our own bullies as well.

Anton Tyler (from the Downer contingent)

A New Programme

My name was Rita Ann Ledger.  I started at the new part of the school in 1950 aged 14 in a brand new program.

My school reports do not say that the program was 'Commercial' but that certainly makes sense.  The members of that class were chosen from all the schools in the area - one from each school.  We were told about the opportunity at our regular secondary schools and, if we wanted to go into the program, we submitted our names.  From my school I was chosen.  It was the first mixed (sexes) class that I had been in.  Those in the same year were getting an extra year beyond the leaving school at 15.  It was specialized to business - if my memory is correct and, of course, you never know!  It was a great opportunity and a great program.  I didn't have to take home-economics classes and instead took woodwork and other new classes!  Yay!!!  Basically it was a very positive experience and I was excited to be part of a new program.  I looked forward to the new experience and it was all that I expected.

I was 16 when I and the rest of the class completed the program.  And life went on from there…

Anne Seager
Seattle, WA USA

Memories of the late '60s

We moved to Harrow in the year of 1964.  I had come from a small country school where I was on first name terms with everyone and had never seen anything quite so large as Blackwell.  All the long grey corridors looked exactly the same and it took me quite a while to figure out exactly where I was and which direction should I take to get to the next class.

I started a few months into the term so was situated in the Library and given a few test papers in order for the school to establish which grade I should enter.  The teachers that stand out in my mind most are Mrs Munday - English, Mr Andrews - English (my favourite teacher), Mr Vicary - History, Mrs Mitchel - Maths and Miss Lindsay the Registration teacher who were all very dedicated to the cause of teaching and guiding our paths.  Mr Andrews especially as he always took great interest in my English and always had words of encouragement and read with great interest anything I produced.  A lovely person.  Mrs Guy, our PE teacher, who as I remember had a disfigurement on one foot.  This however did not prevent her from fulfilling her tasks as a PE instructor.

I remember the New Zealand teacher Sue Baker.  She took our science class a few times and I was interested in what she had to say about her country as my sister was living there at the time.

In the summer months during break time I remember when we would run to the top of the playground to get a drink from the water fountain situated outside the school.

Blackwell had its own swimming pool and I dreaded the coming of every new year when they would try and get us into the pool earlier and earlier.  On one occasion I think it was early in March, a very cold affair.

Years after I had left, I enrolled my mother in an evening art class.  She had the same teacher as I had, Mr Galbraith, who remembered me when I went to meet my Mum after her first lesson.  I was very surprised to find that the classroom was exactly the same as when I had been a pupil - the same broken easels and much the same equipment.

I enrolled in the evening needlework class and that classroom hadn’t changed either.

N.C., May 2013