Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Share your memories and stories from the Hertford Christ's Hospital School, which closed in 1985, when the two schools integrated to the Horsham site....

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NEILL THE NOTORIOUS
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by NEILL THE NOTORIOUS » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:46 am

I am. in a way, sorry that I asked the question in the first place --- but I was really interested in "Who was DR"? and also why those at Hertford seem to have been subjected to "Psychological" punishment.

I am sure that some of us at Horsham have some bad memories, --- perhaps by being bullied by other boys --- but Posts on the CH Forum seem to be, generally, positive.

I cannot imagine how I would have coped (Had I been a girl !!) at Hertford, with that sort of Regime.

I was glad to see at least one positive comment ------- Memory is a strange thing !!

No "Smileys" --- serious subject !

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by Angela Woodford » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:20 am

I wish I didn't have such total recall of the awful things said by DR; to me and to others.

It would be much better if I could have forgotten. But those hurtful remarks, reports and damaging judgements have stayed with me all my life and will never go away.

I was never going to get into the good books of Miss Blench, Miss Wilson or Miss Jukes! :? In their different ways they were excellent women - although I could never come up to their high standards. I can honestly say that I forgave Miss Richards.... I could see what a bitter unhappy woman she was.

But DR! She could and should have striven to encourage and understand all of us, not just those who fitted into the Hertford ideal mode - as you did, Kerren; worthy schoolgirl and sports star.

I was looking again at the Audrey Griggs memoir. In the foreword by Norman Longmate there is quoted an assessment of DR which even I find a bit severe.

In particular, Audrey mentions the immense pride and hope felt by those of us who were LCC scholarship winners. At the age of eleven, we were destined for great things! How I felt the shock of being consigned to useless by DR from the L1V onwards... How isolated I felt with no affection and encouragement.

Does anyone else feel a slight pang when we see our daughters' Facebook photos: arms around each other, unashamedly demonstrative and mutually supportive?
"Baldrick, you wouldn't recognise a cunning plan if it painted itself purple, and danced naked on top of a harpsichord singing "Cunning plans are here again.""

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by J.R. » Mon Apr 05, 2010 12:51 pm

ANGELA :

Re, your post above.

Does it not occur ? All mentioned are MISS.

I cannot help but think about the furore going on over Easter in the Catholic Church, and a certain Pontiff not referring to it directly.

Hidden passions and favourites possibly ?

Personally, I'd always have my doubts about middle-aged spinster teachers in an all girls school.

(I expect THAT will cause another explosion !)
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by anniexf » Mon Apr 05, 2010 1:46 pm

J.R., you make a good point there. Few if any of us had any idea about homosexuality, or even the possible implications of same-sex relationships. I certainly hadn't a clue until I was well into my twenties. However, any close relationships between girls were monitored, and if considered "inappropriate", were stamped on. (Paula's book describes this very clearly).Yet in my time there were several established pairs among the staff. A particularly horrifying suicide attempt took place in my Ward as a result of this warped set-up.
During my time there I think there were no married women among the staff. The Ward mistresses too were usually widowed or single.

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by Jo » Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:49 pm

I'm not convinced by that. Celibacy is a requirement for roman catholic priests so they have no outlet for sexual and romantic feelings amongst consenting adults. Not that I am excusing their behaviour, just stating a fact. There was nothing to stop our teachers getting married, and for those with homosexual tendencies they could discreetly, as Annie says, pair up without too much raising of eyebrows.

I do think there was some significance in the number of unmarried women on the staff (though amongst the housemistresses rather than the teachers), but for different reasons. The impression I get about Horsham is that many male teachers were married and doubled up, with their wives, as houseparents, trying to create, as far as possible, something resembling a family atmosphere in the houses. I've heard people talking with some fondness about motherly housemother/housemistress types.

At Hertford the teaching staff had nothing to do with houses, and there were completely separate housemistresses. None of them were married - they had to live in, in accommodation that was not much better than ours (at least until the mid 70s when their flats were installed). So they were either widowed, divorced or single. We know from some of the accounts here that there wasn't much to choose between the various statuses - Mrs Dean, for all that she was a mother herself, was just as bonkers as Miss Screen. There were a few normal ones but mostly they were bitter and twisted, or weak and incompetent - or a combination of these unlovely attributes. I realise that some people had problems with some teachers, but for me, it was definitely the pastoral care that was lacking. And I've said it before: I'm sure the salary was peanuts, so with that and the miserable accommodation on offer, most times I'm guessing DR didn't have much choice in who she employed. :cry:
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by fra828 » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:12 pm

englishangel wrote:Frances, funnily enough I had the opposite experience, I have never had any close female friends and I have no difficulty mixing in many social milieus, but I agree with the rest, though I was an oldest child and always had extremely high self-esteem from home, and I WOULD NOT allow any out of touch old bat to reduce me to tears. ("The Incredible Journey" now, if that is ever on the TV everyone rushes around looking for the tissues for me)
Aaaar! The Incredible Journey was one of my favourite films as a child and it always made me cry too-probably would do now! Thinking of a positive side to DR: When I was in 4th form, I had a bad incident concerning Nellie N and I was sent home for 2 weeks. DR handled this incident with tact and sensitivity; I saw a human, caring side to her. And that is more that can be said for the likes of SWNBN.

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by AKAP » Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:00 pm

Jo
I think you hit the nail on the head when you identify that at Horsham the Housemasters were all on the teaching staff and being a housemaster was a fairly high status within the organisation, each house would have a senior house master and two junior house masters. ( In the 60's and 70's their wives, if they were married, did not play the role of houseparent, that must have developed later.)
The other difference that strikes me, at Horsham we had almost nil contact with the head master unless you were destined for greater things (normally involving Latin and Greek). I do not remember ever talking to either Mr Seaman or Mr Newsome. I was a science grecian and would never have been considered for Oxbridge (I went to University in Nottingham). I was a house monitor and not a school monitor, the housemaster was effectively our head master.

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by kerrensimmonds » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:14 pm

Just to put the record straight. I was not a 'worthy schoolgirl' (I quote Munch), though I may have been a sporting star (which is somewhat ironic, given the cards which life dealt me, afterwards). I was terrified of Miss West when I was a pupil at the school. My parents were scared stiff of her, too. My dad called her the 'Battleship in Full Sail'.
But she showed to me (later) and to them (during my schooling) that she was caring and considerate and had deep concerns for the wellbeing of an individual pupil. My parents (then) and I (later) all respected her for that. Her acts of kindness are legendary, even evidenced on this Forum.
If you were to re-read the eulogy I delivered at her/Ruth's funeral, you will see that I even mentioned how I went into stammering stupidity when she telephoned me, a couple of years after I had left the school. It was only in later life that I got to know her, discovered how gauche and naieve she had been. Somewhere I even said that maybe she should not have been appointed by the Council of Almoners to the post, at such a young age, given also that even before she started, she was bombarded with anonymous correspondence about 'inappropriate' relationships among staff at the school. As a result, she ended up terrified of the Council of Almoners (who had told her to sort out that little problem - when she had no personal experience of what it was. She had led a sheltered life and was only 29 at the time) and for the rest of her time at the school (30 years) she did all she could to squash 'inappropriate relationships' (in her limited understanding of what that meant). Her childhood had been stifled and subdued by the death of her father, her education straightened, and as a result her public manner (by the time she got to CH) was reserved, hidden behind a certain brusqueness and, which we found to be intimidating when we were children. I would suggest that in the wider world, in my time, which was in the 1960's, no-one elsewhere had a 'cuddly feely' headteacher. Why should we have expected to have had one? Times have changed now and I wonder what effect the Children's Act would have had upon Hertford if it had been implemented in the 1940's-1970's? Who knows?
IAnyway, I think that people are judging her now by today's standards, which in my view is unfair.

I would also add that if you were to re-read my eulogy for her funeral you will find that I refer to the last visit which I made to her when she was compos mentis (I also went again after that...). I asked her if she had had enough of me, and in her brusque manner she said 'Yes..'.. so I gathered together my bits and pieces, kissed her goodbye and said 'God Bless', and left. I did not take offence, because by then I knew of her manner and her insecurities.

With regard to this discussion, I was not intending to continue this debate which actually I find distasteful, but I will end here by saying that :
a) I KNOW that Ruth was a decent person, albeit brusque in her job (for reasons which I now understand)
b) The number of people on this Forum who, 30/40/50 years later, continue to vilify her are in the vast minority of all the girls who passed through her care in Hertford, though this is not to diminish the pain which they as individuals continue to feel. However, I suggest in this regard that if for them there is a genuine need for closure and healing, they should have moved through that several years ago, and moved on. She left Hertford nearly 40 years ago.
c) I spoke to an OG today, ten years ahead of me, and not a member of this Forum. She said that when she had been at the school, Miss West had told her and her family that she would come to nothing (and she got 5% for a scripture essay, when her Dad was a respected theologian). But at the time she took it on the chin, recognised that she needed to continue to strive to meet standards, did her best to do so, moved on after school into nursing and has subsequently had a successful career. In no way does she 'blame' Miss West for anything that has happened to her, neither when she was at school or subsequently.

It would be good if other people could feel the same.
Kerren Simmonds
5's and 2's Hertford, 1957-1966

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by anniexf » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:46 pm

kerrensimmonds wrote: this is not to diminish the pain which they as individuals continue to feel. However, I suggest in this regard that if for them there is a genuine need for closure and healing, they should have moved through that several years ago, and moved on.
Should have??? Kerren, while respecting your views I must protest - are you uniquely qualified to determine the length of time pain should last? Is there a cut-off point at which you would say "Pull yourself together"? If so, I feel you're overstepping the mark.

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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by kerrensimmonds » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:57 pm

THANK YOU. I stand corrected as someone unworthy of your consideration and I will no longer contrbute to this discussion, being obviously unsuitable to do so.
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by Jo » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:16 am

I hate to see people falling out over this. Can we agree that DR had a negative effect on some people, but also that she did not set out to be deliberately hurtful? I think there are a lot of mitigating factors which explain why she could appear at worst intimidating and at best unsympathetic.

I also think it's not entirely fair to say that people should have moved on by now. Sure, it was 40+ years ago but some people have clearly carried the effects until recently, suffering from low self-esteem, until they found this forum, talked to other people, and discovered they weren't alone. So the catharsis and healing are pretty recent. I hope they do start to find some sort of closure and maybe forgive DR a little, even if they can't forget.
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by Pixie » Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:56 am

Well said Jo - the voice of reason on this thread.

Kerren, DR was good to me too especially at the end of my school career. With my A level results I received a note of apology from her as I'd lost my place at medical school and she also offered to help with the following year's UCCA application. I went to a crammer college in London to retake all three subjects and she did her best to support me with her comments on the UCCA form. She didn't have to do that and I was very grateful , although it didn't get me into medicine. However, it may have made a difference when I applied for Pharmacy in clearing and was offered a place at Manchester. So, although I feel that DR was a significant factor in keeping the school in the dark ages, personally I am grateful for her benign interest in me and attempts to help me.

Having said that, whilst at school I was very much aware that others were experiencing a different side of DR. We should have all received equal treatment and I felt this was unfair. For these girls it seemed to last throughout their school careers and understandably they were left with feelings of hurt and rejection that have had far reaching consequences. Unlike you and I, Kerren, they haven't seen the caring side of DR so you can't blame them for expressing their feelings which are obviously still raw even after all these years.
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by Angela Pratt 56-63 » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:41 pm

Yes, Kerren and Pixie, I agree with much of what you have said. Like in most establishments, different people react in different ways to circumstances and others efforts to communicate or their lack of communication skills. Yes, it is the responsibility of the adult rather than the child when failures occur, but surely as adults we can look back with tolerence on such situations in our lives, whether they involve teachers, parents or other pupils (or later boyfriends, employers,colleagues or family -sons daughters etc).
It is a shame that on this forum we don't get a more balanced set of opinions but hopefully this will teach us all that we need to respect each others rights to express these opinions. It would be so easy to consider that some of us are "smug" or that others should "get over it".
Like, I imagine the vast majority, my childhood and schooldays were a mixture of good and bad experiences- destructive and constructive. Heigh ho, thats life I suppose...
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by Angela Woodford » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:53 pm

Angela Pratt 56-63 wrote:It is a shame that on this forum we don't get a more balanced set of opinions
Hmm.
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Re: Hertford hygeine, hierarchies and heartache (from CH Forum)

Post by sejintenej » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:57 pm

Kerren,
Like it or not, we are all affected by events and people in our environment. The effect is amplified by the period of time to which we are exposed to such events / environmnent and the "victim's" age at the time.

We are not discuusing the intention behind a negative event / environment, simply its existance.

Such effect can be for the good, it can be for the bad. IF it is for the bad then the effect can be reversed but it is not easy. Generally the reversal needs an opposite catalyst (if you can accept the simile). That could be family support (but CH was principally for children where such home support was mising or was itself negative) or perhaps an understanding of the negative environment (which I suspect you went through by getting to know the lady better) or perhaps something entirely different.
A parallel is the criminal; nobody and nothing can reform a criminal except his/her personal decision to reform. Such reformation can come about through terror of being locked uo again (make prisons horrible to the inmates) OR the criminal's personal decision and willingness to reform for some other reason.

Please, Kerren, I can understand where you are coming from but please simply accept that there are others who did not have the "reverse catalyst" which you enjoyed.

I have quoted the Facts of Life often enough and her we have an illustration; "life is unfair. We have no choice but to find a way round the effects of negative forces because "we are responsible for our own happiness"./"

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