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Memories of The School in Malvern Link

Everett JonesEverett Jones, the son of a Herefordshire farmer, who now lives on the south coast, sent this vivid account of boarding at a prestigious prep school in Malvern Link, Worcestershire in the 1960s (ref 1). The establishment was simply known as The School, and based in the grand Railway Hotel next to Malvern Link station, which was demolished in 1967 and replaced by a modern block of flats (ref 2)

Photo opposite: Everett aged 11 in Link School pullover.

Starting school

In 1962 at the age of eleven, I and my brother Peter, who was a little older than me, were bundled off to the Link School. It all happened quite quickly. The school had been recommended by a Herefordshire farmer in the next village who had sent his son, Melville Coppack, there. Melville had finished his time at the school the previous year.

We had our own farm and I was a bit like young Gerald Durrell, spending hours in a big 'playground' of wildlife on the common at the bottom of our meadows, totally oblivious of the fact that my life would soon be shattered by this unwanted change!

Link School Malvern 1963

Link School photo 1963 (click photo to enlarge)

Everett remembers some of the pupils; can you remember any of the others?

6th top row from left to right: 8th Antony Madely  10th Tony Woodward, 11th Michael Power, 12th Digby Wall.

5th row from left to right:  9th Everett Jones, 10th Keith Elmer, 11th Pratt, 13th Maisey, 14th Somerville, 18th Hickling.

4th row from left to right: 1st Charles Banwell, 12th Adrian Collins, 7th Connell (a teacher's son).

3rd row from left to right: 5th Nicky Wendon, 15th Ian Vanner, 20th Peter Jones.

2nd row staff from left to right: 4th Sarge, 6th Mr Connell, 7th Mrs Postgate, 8th Mr Postgate, 9th Wing commander Ingram Johnson, 11th Mr Hicks, 13th Mr Bex,14th Head Matron Somerville,16th Matron Linda.

1st row juniors left to right,   10th Jeremy Palmer,12th Vanner (2)

Headmaster's report summer term 1963

More mention of pupils can be found in the summer term report of Headmaster Ormond Oliver Postgate, the uncle of Oliver Postgate the author of those childrens' favourites 'Ivor the Engine' and 'Noggin the Nog'.

Link school headmaster's report page one 1963

Head's report summer 1963 page 1

Link school head's report summer 1963 page 2

Head's report summer 1963 page 2

 

Bullying

With hindsight, I think I would have been fine if I had not been so badly bullied by the headmaster's wife, Mrs Postgate, who was one of our teachers. Her methods were brutal and I was quickly singled out. Quite simply, I had difficulty in learning and so having French and Latin lessons was a kind of hell.

 At one point, during our first year, the bullying (which could be being hit, slapped and pulled out by the ear to the front of the class, as well as being made to stand in the corridor for whole lessons) came to a head when another boy, suffering similar treatment, either spoke back or complained in some way. While he was viciously pulled out, I actually wet myself being so fearful that I would get the same treatment.

I suppose you could say that we were both "counselled" by another female teacher who was very kind. Her name was Miss Haines and she asked us to write our own account of what had been going on. I remember our saying "well, you really know, so why ask? All we want is not to be bullied". It did have some effect as the bullying subsided. Now it would just be 'verbal' rather than physical abuse.

For over twenty years I hated Mondays as that had been the day for double French lessons with Latin homework in the evening! It just goes to show that even if you are a strong character you can still be deeply affected by bullying. I can honestly say it totally ruined my chances of ever becoming scholarly.

Link School photo 1964

Link School photo 1964 (click photo to enlarge)

6th top row left to right: 9th Vanner, 14th Cole junior.

5th row left to right: 1st Hickling, 4th Jeremy Palmer, 15th Maisey.

4th row left to right: 3rd Digby Wall, 6th Ian simpson, 8th Peter Simpson, 9th Collins, 10th Michael Power, 13th Anthony Madeley,14th Charlie Banwell,17th Somerville (matron's son).

3rd row left to right: 1st Reynolds,14th Nick Wendon,15th Peter Jones,16th Simeon cole, 17th Everett jones, 18th Connell (teachers son) 19th Keith Elmer.

 2nd row left to right: 9th Wing Commander Ingram Johnson, 10th Mr Postgate, 11th Mrs Postgate, 12th Mr Connell, 14th Sarge, 15th Head matron Somerville, 17th Matron Linda.

 1st row: juniors, no names known.

The swimming pool

 The swimming pool stories recounted by others were correct. Mrs Postgate revelled when any of the boys were nervous about going in the water or had forgotten their trunks. They would be forced to undress and swim in the nude. Very often, these lads were the ones who could not swim and so they would be attached to a harness and literally dragged through the water by Mrs Postgate. What was sad was that we knew by her manner and looks that she actually enjoyed humiliating them. If this lady were alive today I personally believe that she would have been prosecuted.

The pool was filled with water from the railway. The pipe, which came out of the hillside, was used for filling up the water tanks of trains, as there were still some steam trains going through the station at that time. The water was very clear when fresh but incredibly cold and after a couple of weeks it would turn pea green-just like soup! I had a microscope for one of my birthdays and took some samples which showed that, aside from visible mosquito larvae, it had every type of organism you would expect to find in a pond.

Link School photo 1965

Link School photo 1965 (click photo to enlarge)

5th row juniors no names known.

 4th row left to right: 12th Vanner (2),  13th Cole (2).

3rd row left to right: 1st Jeremy Palmer, 7th Hickling,  11th Anthony Madeley, 12th Charlie Banwell, 16th Somerville (matron's son), 17th Digby Wall.

2nd row left to right: 1st Michael Power, 3rd Ian Simpson, 6th Pratt, 9th Simeon Cole, 10th,Everett Jones, 11th Keith Elmer,12th Connell (son of teacher), 13th Adrian Collins, 14th Reynolds, 15th Woodward, 17th Peter Simpson.

1st row left to right: 3rd Matron Linda, 4th Head Matron Somerville, 6th Sarge, 8th Connell, 9th Mrs Postgate, 10th Mr Postgate, 11th Wing commander Ingram Johnson, 12 Miss Haines.

Boxing

The Camaraderie between the boys was quite strong and I did make some good friends, keeping in contact with two, in particular, after the school had closed. There were also some teachers we all really liked. We had a PE teacher (whose proper name now eludes me after 56yrs) who we called "Sarge." He always had his black Labrador in tow. He was a great guy who not only taught us general PE, but Woodwork and Boxing as well. If you enrolled with him for both Woodwork and Boxing a "sweetener" was offered and every couple of weeks we would be allowed to do air rifle shooting! This was well organised, with an eye to safety and considered a real treat. From time to time we had tournaments against other boarding schools. If truth be told, I had enrolled in boxing lessons to get to do air rifle practice and was a little bit nervous when, at the start of our third year, we boxers were entered into a competition against Bromsgrove school. I remember Sarge was very excited when asking us boys if we would like to compete. You could tell he was really happy with our progress and we did work very hard to improve our boxing skills before the competition took place, however, I was still a bit edgy when we finally set off in the coach. But it would prove one of my happiest days. I remember we had a really wonderful reception with delicious food and were really quite envious of the far better facilities provided for Bromsgrove pupils. How it happened I don't know but my match was the last one of the day and was to be a 'tie breaker' - no pressure, of course! It could have ended badly but I was really encouraged by a pupil called Charlie Banwell and one or two others. I lasted all three rounds and managed to win on points! I have to say that was really my only claim to fame throughout my years at the school. The boys hailed me as a hero-which was actually unfair as some of our better boxers had taken quite a beating and they were the real heroes. Sarge, I remember, was very proud of us all.

Everett sent a copy of his first school report; how many of us have kept these!

Link school report

Link School report summer term 1963

Sports day

At the end of every summer term we held a Sports Day when our parents would come to pick us up for the holidays and often participate in the day's events. I always managed to be a spectator as I was not really the sporty type but did enjoy watching the cricket match where teachers played a friendly against "The Dads". On one of these days we had a surprise visitor who arrived in a helicopter! This was Digby Wall's dad. Mr Postgate ran over to greet the arrivals only to be halted by the pilot who was frantically pointing and sliding his hand and finger across his throat to warn the silly man to keep out of the way of the propeller blades.

Link School cricket team

Link School Cricket Team (click photo to enlarge)

Bottom row left to right: Ian Simpson, Jeremy Palmer, ? ,Hickling junior.

 Middle row left to right: Charlie Banwell, Keith Elmer,  Adrian Collins.

Top row, left to right:   Chris Reynolds, ?, ?, Wing Commander Ingram Johnson, Simeon Cole, Peter Simpson,  Antony Woodward.

School meals

I also remember the barrels of limes from the Palmer family very well. On a different occasion my parents had given two large boxes of dessert pears for the boys, which were cooked and cheekily presented as a pudding by the school, which was not what they were intended for! My father had sent them as an extra treat for pupils to help themselves to after their evening tea. Whenever my brother and I returned home at half term, or at the end of term, our mother would always do a height and weight "check". We were getting taller each time we came home but had often lost a lot of weight which was quite simply because of poor food and poor rations. Some may recall an occasion when we were served boiled fish (I think this was on a Saturday as there were very few teachers on duty) we were left and told we had to eat this rancid stuff. Luckily, it was summer and all windows were open! Our plates were gradually handed down the table to those pupils sitting nearest to the windows who binned the disgusting food outside. I do not think there was a single boy who could eat it! Pudding-wise, my pet hate was school semolina with a splodge of jam which I always managed to give to someone else at the table. To be fair, we did have one good cook. I wish I could remember her name because she was a cheerful, motherly person and her meals were wonderful. Aside from the lovely 'roasters' she gave us for Sunday lunch she also made scrambled egg beautifully - whoever else made it would let it overcook and congeal to a solid lump in the container. I do remember that her husband also worked at the school as a handyman. He looked after the big coal-fired boiler and the fire in the corner of our dining room near the headmasters table as well as gardening etc.

Link School cravat

The Link School cravat

Sunday walks

Every Sunday, weather permitting, we would go for a walk in the afternoon having been to church in the morning. I think for most of us this walk up to the top of the Malverns, past St Ann's Well, was our favourite walk. If you had a few pennies in your pocket (which was not actually allowed) and, if you could get up to the cafe at the top ahead of your teacher, you might manage to buy some sweets from their shop! What I found interesting about the cafe were one or two old photographs stuck to it's windows which showed how all their supplies had been taken up the track either by mule or donkey, before the advent of the four wheel drive. At the top of the Worcestershire Beacon was a brass plaque, set in concrete and stone, with an inscribed map of the area as far as the eye could see on a clear day. This was just wonderful to look at -especially with a forbidden bar of chocolate in your pocket!

Link School building

Impression of the Link School in 1920s

About the school building and grounds

Like Adrian Leopard recalls, I could visually walk around this beautiful building as though it was yesterday. I was told that the dining hall (on the ground floor right of picture) had been added when the building became a school. If the building was damaged in the Second World War, as suggested, I don't remember any evidence of previous repairs. There were two entrances - one was in Osborne Road and the other in Somers Road. The Osborne Road entrance - for staff, not boys - had lawned gardens, which can still be seen on old postcards today and also an extra gate that led straight out on to Malvern Link Station; boys coming in by train could also use this entrance. This was a throwback to it's days as a Railway Hotel. The Osborne Road entrance was on the ground floor with tiled corridors leading to various classes, the headmaster's study, the staffroom, the boiler - shoe room and toilets, the music room, the dining hall and the kitchens. Boys were not generally allowed into these gardens other than on some warm Sundays in the Summer Term where you were allowed to sit out in the sun and read "Biggles" on your own rug. The main entrance for all boys was in Somers Road. To the left of this entrance was a vegetable patch, a bicycle shed and parking area for one car. That was an old 1930's car, belonging to Miss Haines, which was parked next to the railway bridge.

Above our main entrance in Somers Road was a sort of concrete 'canopy,' which was in fact part of the bridge that took you over Somers road to the grounds on the other side. When we went through this school entrance, we entered a large tiled hallway with bathrooms opposite Matron's office. From there, a tiled corridor stretched the whole length of the building leading to some of the staff's private rooms, most of our dormitories, and a miserable sick bay which I remember smelling strongly of fresh paint when I was consigned for over two weeks with an awful stomach problem. The top floor was another solid, tiled floor. Going through the double doors to the left took you over the bridge to the grounds on the other side of Somers Road. Going the opposite way took you to the room used for our daily assemblies, two classrooms, the famous 'Tuck Shop', the library and then, more class rooms. To get into the grounds you would go left from the stairs and over the bridge, through the gym room, where the floor was always being wetted to stop the dust, to the tennis courts where our main school photo was taken every year. You would see a large woodworking shed behind. Opposite the tennis courts was a green area surrounded by trees where boys could kick a ball around and play, further on was a grassy bank leading down quite steeply to a small field with the dreaded swimming pool to the right.

Finally, to get to the sports field, we would march in a "crocodile" down Somers Road, trudging left into Howsell Road past Nicholson's pipe organ factory, sharp right at the junction into Church Road, taking a left at the end, then first right into Regency Road and then we were there. I'm fairly sure the land was used by other schools and organisations as well. My Google Earth informs me it is still there today. Some pupils, like me, were lucky and had a bike at school. We were allowed to cycle down there.

Link School bill

You may wonder how much it cost to be privately educated at a prep boarding school in those days. My father was charged just £70 for Christmas Term in 1963, equivalent to a month's pay for a newly qualified teacher.

Link School bill 

Example of Link School bill 1963

Epilogue

My parents sold their farm in 1967 just before the foot-and-mouth outbreak and we went to live on the coast in Dorset. I am now retired in Mudeford, Christchurch having got married at 49 just over twenty years ago and am now happily playing with my vintage Bentley and Abingdon tuned Cooper 'S'. We have two sons. One is at Southampton University doing a Masters in physics and maths and the other is still undecided and having a "gap" year. Neither of them were sent to boarding school!

If you would like to share memories of the Link School with Everett please send your email address to the webmaster with a request to forward it to Everett Jones.

 

Reference

  1. Communication from Everett Jones, November 2020

  2. Iles, Brian, The Malverns, Tempus Publishing, 2005


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