A View from the Red House

Share your memories and stories from your days at school, and find out the truth behind the rumours....Remember the teachers and pupils, tell us who you remember and why...

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bgw
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A View from the Red House

Post by bgw » Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:54 pm

Hello. I'm Brenda (not Blodwyn, or Barbara) Griffith-Williams. I taught French, German and Latin at CH in Hertford from 1970 to 1972 - not quite 'straight down from Oxford', as I'd done a research degree in London, but it was my first job. I've just found a copy of The Penguin Book of German Verse that was given to me as a leaving present by my form, 3b. They all signed their names inside the cover: P--y, Anne, Judy, Jane HP, Elaine, Jane, Gaye, Maggie, Margaret, Janet, Di, Fiona, Amanda, Ann and PLea. My recollection of them is sadly vague, but I remember being very touched to receive the gift. Probably my most enjoyable experience at CH was teaching French literature to a 6th form group. Mary Gaskell and Judy Furnivall are names that spring to mind (so sorry to hear about your cat, Mary) but there were certainly others. I remember a girl who didn't get on with my chosen set text, Voltaire's Lettres Philosophiques, because she had no conception of irony. I also enjoyed teaching Latin to a beginners' class. I'd always been rather excited by the idea of learning a language that was spoken thousands of years ago, and - to my surprise - they seemed to catch my enthusiasm. But then I left them to get to grips with the harsher realities of Latin grammar, in the care of the formidable Miss Blench. Another form (4b, in my first year) was more of a challenge, but I felt sorry for most of them as victims of the CH policy that everyone - however unsuited - had to be pushed through 'O' level. There was one girl - completely non-academic, but good at practical things - who was a bit of a nuisance but basically nice. She wanted to be a nurse, and couldn't see why she had to struggle with French. Neither could I. But I hope it did at least some of them some good.
bgw

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by fra828 » Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:46 pm

Hello bgw! I think I was in that 4b class, but French was one of my favourite subjects- and mostly thanks to you, one of my better Olevel grades. I apologize now on a very belated behalf of my former classmates for giving you such a hard time all those years ago :lol: That smilie is not meant to be sarcastic, it's because it is so long ago that I hope now it all seems such a very distant memory not to matter any more.

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by icomefromalanddownunder » Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:49 am

Hi bgw

I escaped Hertford in the summer of 1970, so was never taught by you.

I'm guessing that for someone fresh from uni, the Hertford establishment was as intimidating to you as it was to some of us. I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like to teach Latin while Queenie was still in residence: perhpas a bit like someone who, pre-CH, was considered to be musical, ending up in the same house and class as the hugely talented Catherine Ennis :) ,

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by CHAZ » Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:17 pm

Our friend Jo may have read French at this time at Hertford?
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Kim2s70-77
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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by Kim2s70-77 » Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:04 pm

You taught me too - at a rather tough time in my life! You actually really motivated me in French, even though I don't think I did well for a couple of years. I missed your accent after you left and we had Mr Watson's 'Lancashire French'!! Sincere apologies for being a little snot!!

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by bgw » Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:54 pm

fra828 wrote:Hello bgw! I think I was in that 4b class, but French was one of my favourite subjects- and mostly thanks to you, one of my better Olevel grades. I apologize now on a very belated behalf of my former classmates for giving you such a hard time all those years ago :lol: That smilie is not meant to be sarcastic, it's because it is so long ago that I hope now it all seems such a very distant memory not to matter any more.
Thank you, fra - it's always good to be appreciated! And you're quite right - it's a VERY long time ago, and 4b didn't leave any lasting scars, so there's no need to apologize. 8)
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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by Jo » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:44 am

Hello and welcome, Brenda. Gosh, even nearly 40 years on, it still feels a bit naughty to be calling a teacher by her first name :)

I remember you teaching us. I think I recounted somewhere else that you gave us a Russian lesson one time when half the class was off on an outing somewhere. It was fascinating and I still remember you demonstrating that, once decoded, the word "restaurant" was recognisable. I'm sorry you weren't around when I was doing A levels as I think you would have made the literature more interesting.

I don't remember you teaching German but then I didn't take it up until 18 months before O level and I think we possibly had Miss Riddiford at that stage. I also didn't realise you taught Latin - I only had Miss Morrison for a year, followed by Miss Blench. It sounds as though you would have made it "live" more than they did, although Queenie was interesting if you could get her off script and recounting myths and legends.

I went on to do a degree in French at UCL, though I confess I haven't used it in my career.

Did you prefer teaching French or German? Or were they just totally different? Did the senior/older teachers give the younger staff as hard a time as they gave us pupils?? :D :D
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bgw
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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by bgw » Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:05 am

Kim2s70-77 wrote: I missed your accent after you left and we had Mr Watson's 'Lancashire French'!!
I remember James Watson, who took over the senior French post from Jean Rutherford - he started in my second year (1971). He and Mr Mulholland were the only male teachers then. I think he found CH a bit of a culture shock (didn't we all?) after working in state schools, but he'd left because he didn't like the comprehensive system. This must have been a problem for a lot of experienced teachers who were used to selective schools; Miss Riddiford was in the same position, I think.
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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by Kim2s70-77 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 3:00 pm

Brenda - did you ever keep in touch with any of the younger teachers? Where did you go after CH? Wasn't it an amazing 'Time Warp' in Hertford? I can't imagine what it must have been like as a young woman being on the faculty side of things. Do tell us more about it.

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by fra828 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:27 pm

Brenda-I can't remember you teaching German either! Nutto Von Stetton I can remember from about 2nd form and then I am sure we had Miss Riddiford in the 2 years or so before Olevel.

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by bgw » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:43 pm

Jo wrote:Hello and welcome, Brenda. Gosh, even nearly 40 years on, it still feels a bit naughty to be calling a teacher by her first name :)

I remember you teaching us. I think I recounted somewhere else that you gave us a Russian lesson one time when half the class was off on an outing somewhere. It was fascinating and I still remember you demonstrating that, once decoded, the word "restaurant" was recognisable. I'm sorry you weren't around when I was doing A levels as I think you would have made the literature more interesting.

I don't remember you teaching German but then I didn't take it up until 18 months before O level and I think we possibly had Miss Riddiford at that stage. I also didn't realise you taught Latin - I only had Miss Morrison for a year, followed by Miss Blench. It sounds as though you would have made it "live" more than they did, although Queenie was interesting if you could get her off script and recounting myths and legends.

I went on to do a degree in French at UCL, though I confess I haven't used it in my career.

Did you prefer teaching French or German? Or were they just totally different? Did the senior/older teachers give the younger staff as hard a time as they gave us pupils?? :D :D
Good to hear from you, Jo! I remember the 'Russian lesson'. When Mr Watson heard about it, he assumed I'd just transliterated some English words into the Cyrillic alphabet, and he was very impressed when he realized I actually knew some Russian! (In fact I didn't, and still don't, know all that much.) :)

Several people have said they don't remember me teaching German, and I don't think I did very much. (I do wish my memory was clearer!) It was my main degree subject, but I took the job at CH on the basis that it would be mainly French. I think I must have taught German to 2b, later 3b - otherwise why would they have given me the book of German verse book when I left - so perhaps they were the only ones. I didn't know Miss von Stetten, who must have left before I started - Miss Riddiford was in charge of German for my two years.

I'm not sure quite how I came to teach Latin (only in my second year) but I know it was something I was keen to do, so presumably Queenie was happy to let me loose on the beginners. As far as I remember, I got on quite well with her, though like everyone else I was very much in awe of her.

There was definitely a generation gap between the junior and senior staff. I'm sure we gossiped / laughed / complained about them as much as the pupils did about all the teachers! (We were not on first name terms, either, but that wasn't quite so odd in the early 70s as it would be now.) And no doubt they did give us a hard time, though my failing memory sadly hasn't come up with any juicy examples. I do remember thinking (rightly or wrongly) that Jean Rutherford had deliberately given me all the toughest teaching assignments, and kept the best for herself. I think we kept out of each other's way, on the whole, but I'm pretty sure she disapproved of me because I wasn't the dedicated teacher that she was, and didn't take life quite so seriously. (I was hardly a rebel, but I did do some quite unconventional things, by CH standards - like taking the train to London for the evening, to meet friends and go to the theatre :shock: )

Despite the continuing haziness, I'm amazed how many memories this website has brought back, reminding me of many people (staff and pupils) I'd almost completely forgotten about. In fact, until I found the site, I'd hardly even thought about CH for years - but I'll be back with more reminiscences before long! :lol: Brenda
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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by Kim2s70-77 » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:31 am

How refreshing to have a perspective from the 'other side' !! Look forward to hearing more from your viewpoint, Brenda!

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by bgw » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:55 pm

Yes, it was certainly a time warp! I remember once having to buy a hat -presumably for Founders' Day - for the first and last time in my life, I think! :) After I left Hertford I worked in academic and government libraries, then spent about 20 years in the admin. civil service. I left to do an MA in Classics at UCL 2003-4, and I've now just completed a PhD there. I did keep in touch with one or two of the Hertford staff (mainly Jill Farrow and Veronica Gravett), but not for long so I can't tell you anything about what happened to them.I remember visiting Jill for a weekend once, in her cottage somewhere in the Cotswolds.

I got to know Jill and Veronica as fellow residents of the Red House. The other young colleague there was a biology teacher, whose name I'd initially forgotten, but from other threads on this website I think she probably became Mrs Beck. She must have got married between my first and second years, because she moved out and I took over her rooms. In my first year I had an attic room - small but cosy, which I liked, but then I 'graduated' to two rooms. I remember buying a standard lamp for my new sitting room from a furniture shop in Hertford. I couldn't carry it back on my own, so I got some of the girls to help me. (Isn't it strange how some of these trivial memories stick in the mind, while more important things are forgotten?) Miss Morrison was very much in charge of the Red House. I agree with those who saw her 'better' side; she wasn't spiteful or bitter, like some of the others. And she had a sense of humour :!:

Another Red House inmate was Miss Stokes - does anyone remember her :?: (I can't find her on the site.) She taught maths, but despite being a 'junior' in teaching terms she was probably in her 50s. I don't think she had any particular friends on the staff, and perhaps she wasn't there all that long.
bgw

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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by englishangel » Sun Oct 11, 2009 1:31 pm

Veronica Gravett is on the Hertford section of Friends Reunited, she stayed at CH until the move to Horsham. Interesting though that you describe yourselves as 'inmates' of the Red House. Says it all really.
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Re: A View from the Red House

Post by MKM » Sun Oct 11, 2009 3:04 pm

I think I remember Miss Stokes. If I'm thinking of the right person, then she taught me Applied Maths in the 6th form. I was too young (or immature) to get to know her as a person rather than just a teacher, but she seemed a kind, gentle woman. We started as a small set of 3, but by the end it was just me and her! I was quite shy, and found the 1-1 teaching awkward. Miss Stokes tried to make the lessons interesting. When the syllabus required her to teach me about levers she turned up with her car jack, and gave me a practical demonstration.

I may be confusing her with another teacher, but I think she had lived a long time in India, and came back to England to look after her elderly father, returning to India after he died. She was proud to have met Gandhi (and it wasn't me who upset her by responding "who's Gandhi").
Mary
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