Monday, January 11, 2010

Nevill Holt prep school - stranger than Bonkers Hall

Because it is the most important model for Bonkers Hall, I have long taken an interest in Nevill Holt Hall. It has latterly been the home of David Ross, founder of the Carphone Warehouse and prominent supporter of David Cameron, but it has had a long and colourful history.

It was for centuries the home of the prominent Catholic Nevill family and belonged to the Cunard family between 1876 and 1912. Sir Bache Cunard, who devoted his time to hunting and metalwork rather than the family shipping line, is one of the models for Lord Bonkers whom I discovered long after I started writing his diaries, while his daughter Nancy Cunard was quite a girl.

But for most of the 20th century Nevill Holt was known as a boys' prep school which had strong connections with the public school at Uppingham. Wikipedia will tell you that the school closed in 1998 "because of falling rolls", but it doesn't tell you why those rolls were falling.

Because Nevill Holt school was the scene of a child abuse scandal. An article from the Birmingham Post dated 23 June 1998 tells the story:

A former preparatory school teacher who subjected six schoolboys in his care to a catalogue of "degrading and perverted" sexual abuse was yesterday jailed for 10 years.

Edmund Clements (59) abused the boys, then aged between eight and 12, from 1974 to 1984, Leicester Crown Court was told.

The abuse took place while he was a geography master at the Nevill Holt Prep School, near Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter De Mille told Clements, a married man, of Hove, Sussex, that he had committed a "gross breach of trust" and selected at least two of his victims because they were particularly vulnerable.

The judge added that Clements, who admitted 33 sex offences against the six boys, had subjected his victims to "what any right-minded person would regard as degrading and perverted behaviour".

A second master who faced charges took his own life, but that story seems to have disappeared from the net. (Later. I have now found the story. Note that coroner was a Symington - presumbaly one of the local soup and corset dynasty.)

There is, however, a posting (#115) on a Facebook group devoted to "Your Boarding School's Best Scandal" which describes events at Nevill Holt (perhaps a little colourfully):
1. Police storm the school one morning with cars, vans and even helicopters.
2. Teacher jumps out the window of breakfast when he's told they have arrived.
3. Hangs himself in the school grounds.
4. School shuts down the following and the manager of the Carphone Warehouse buys it.
5. Coffins found behind the panelling in the girls' dormitories.

This was obviously the biggest scandal, but there were hundreds of others.
All very remarkable, but my real reason for writing this post is another recent discovery. Because for most of its history the school was owned and run by the Phillips family.

Which makes this 2003 article from the Times Educational Supplement intriguing:

A headteacher who faked his name, age and qualifications to run a boarding school in Leicestershire for 40 years has been exposed as a fraud by his son.

Frederick Phillips cheated parents, pupils and his bank manager into believing he was a qualified French teacher and aristocrat with military honours in order to buy and run Nevill Holt preparatory school in Market Harborough. He died in 1982 ...

Swansea-born Frederick Phillips changed his accent and pretended he was a graduate from the Sorbonne to get a job teaching French at Nevill Holt.

He had, in fact, only attended summer school at Besancon university, France.

In 1927 he adopted the double-barrelled name Serille-Phillips and claimed he was the son of a gentleman (his father was a wheelwright) to secure a bank loan of £12,000 to buy the Grade I listed 13th century school building.

He said he was 30, to substantiate a lie that he was a former squadron leader, secret service agent and medal-winner in the First World War. In fact, he had only just completed his military training at Uxbridge.

And Phillips' daughter

recalls her father giving her the answers in advance of a scholarship entrance exam for a girls' school in Oxford.

She said: "I have no proof but I wonder if he did this for other pupils.

Bonkers Hall has enjoyed a colourful history, but it is not a patch on the real thing.

47 comments:

Simon Titley said...

Did Nevill Holt have its own railway station? If so, was it called Nevill Holt Halt?

Chris said...

There is no station, but if you visit the farm shop in Market Harborough you can purchase a fine whisky, Nevill Holt Malt.

Simon Titley said...

Presumably this whisky is matured in the Nevill Holt Vault.

Chris said...

Indeed it is.

jbarnabasl said...

Only now I learn that I was cheated out of a proper education by Frederick Serille-Phillips. I was at Nevill Holt from 1956 to 1961 (or thereabouts). I don't know where he got some the masters from, but they were not all competent teachers. I am staggered to learn that Phillips was such a fraudster.

Abi said...

Who are you Jonathan Calder? Reading this article makes me think you're a very strange person who has very odd thoughts and views! Perhaps you should take a moment to think of those people that had a very happy childhood at Nevill Holt and who would rather not have some random man commenting like this. Do you have nothing better to do?

Ginase said...

Hmmmmm. I was there up to 1960 and never got my confiscated knives back.
I remember E.E.C. coming down in the evenings. He always seemed to stagger a bit at that time of day.
Matron with her starched uniforms left me with a permanently trained ear for that rustle. F.S.P. was a nasty piece of work and his kids outed him!!!
My life became better when I left.

Matty Weir said...

I was at NH '71-'78. I was taught by Clements & Copas (who killed himself); I remember Copas as a kindly Christan man, and Clements as a short-tempered atheist (who conveniently "found God" after his arrest) who was a b*****d to the kids, though not actually violent. It was an odd place, though really not unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

I was at Neville Holt from 1989-1994 and I loved the place,!.. i cant believe the teacher in the scandal hung him self, i never thought of some one with his teaching skills and personality would be involved in such a thing, I new him very very well and spent allot of time with him and had no sense of funny goings on at all!!, he was so helpful in life, I still use his skills to this day that he tougt me. As for all the other fraud scandals I just been reading about, they have just cracked me up, the Phillips blagging his way through to be a teacher, I always thought these so called hight and mighty ponce had some thing going on in there past hahah!, that made my day ! Amazing. As for Clemants why only ten years the sick bastard!! I remember him total dick, if I'd known then I would have given him even more shit then than I did, prick!.... But all in all I had some of the best memories of my life at that place, I still keep in touch with people to this day form there. Shame its not still a school it could have given allot of kids good opportunities.

Anonymous said...

I was at NH between 76' and 81, i think Matty Weir must have a selective memory if he thinks Clements was never violent. I remember boys getting seven bells knocked out of them in geography lessons, thrown down staircases etc on one occasion a boy in the year above me got a standing ovation after Clements had left the room having knocked him senseless but not made him cry !! Never really got on with Copas so wouldn't comment. Hilarious about Phillips family, always thought they were frauds !!

Anonymous said...

I was a pupil there from 1966 -71. It was such a different world back then. Archaic rules, rather frightening and forbidding architecture, eccentric characters, very male dominated except for some very sweet young female art teachers and (for a brief interlude), a pretty Irish nurse. Looking back, the quality of the education was very good but much of it was lost on me at the time. I was too 'immature' to appreciate it then. But I certainly remember Mr Copas as a very inspiring English teacher. From what I can gather many of the pupils, including myself went on to achieve good things in their lives.
Although it may or may not have been a particularly ideal school for me personally I am grateful for the experience and the many opportunities it gave me.

Anonymous said...

For all of your information, Edmund Clemants is now living in a flat in EASTBOURNE town centre! He is a physco and has lost the plot completely.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Nevill Holt between 1990 & 92. I remember all the staff - David Phillips and his rags to riches wife Nina. I also remember the Woolies who took over running the school in 1991. Mr Wooley always gave me the creeps with his suggestive comments. Im not suprised by the scandal really about the perverts there, I just feel sorry for the children that suffered unbeknown to anyone. However, its a beautiful place and I have fond memories too. Why do you have such an interest JOnathan

Anonymous said...

I was there 74-77 remember Clements was bad tempered and shifty in extreme i got on with Copas remember going on school skiing trip with him and Deaso Where does Bonkers Hall come into it?

Jonathan said...

As I say at the start, I have come to regard Nevill Holt as the model for Bonkers Hall. So I take an interest in its history - the Cunards and David Ross as well as the school.

More on Lords Bonkers and his home here and here.

Anonymous said...

This was a school which would be impossible to imagine these days. Clements was a split personality type who could be pleasant one minute and violent the next. Fortunately I was warned not to accept any invitations for special tuition... Copas - I don't have the same rosy memories as others as he raped me. I'd also condemn anyone who taught there during that period since in a school that size they must have known what was going on. Nevill Holt is a place best forgotten.

Anonymous said...

I was at Nevill Holt from 86-92 and I have nothing but fond memories of the school. Whilst there were a few teachers who scared me a little I always found the Phillips's and Mr Copas to be really nice people. Whilst there may have been scandals at the school (I certainly wasn't aware of any at the time), most of the teachers were very good and a lot of us left there with a very good education.

Anonymous said...

I was a pupil at Nevill Holt from 1994-98 when it closed down and I witnessed first hand the horrific ending. I clearly remember the day the police came and Mr Copas ran out of breakfast and when they found his body hung in the nearby forest. I even had to go to his funeral in the chapel. This was horrific for all children involved, I was 8 at the time and was so confused and upset I was excused from class for the rest of the day.
The terrible things that went on at that school truely disturbed me and still haunt me now. I was incredibly unhappy at that school. I was sexually abused by my music teacher and when my parents complained, nothing was done about it. A school that size (only 100 pupils at the end) everyone must have been aware of what was going on...it utterly disgusts me I had to go through that and others did before me.

Anonymous said...

Mr Copas' funeral wasn't in the chapel... I should know, I was also a student in the final years of the school.

Since the dead cannot defend themselves, I have to wonder about the validity of the claim that he took part in the abuse.

You see, the Copas I remember was very much the heart of that school - unlike several of his colleagues who could have done with some anger management classes, however efficient they were in their fields. Mr Copas was a leader, a mentor and great English teacher - a source of comfort to many students in a rather gothic and isolated climate.

It's surreal to identify him with the darker aspects of that place, since he lives on in my memory with some of the most positive and inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Like 'Anonymous' who posted on 16 March last year, I was also a pupil at NH from '86 - '91. Overall, I enjoyed my time there, but as I get older I have to think that much of that was down to age and naivety, and not knowing anything different. I don't believe it would be possible for a school to be run that way today, and that's undoubtedly a good thing. It was a pretty mercilees environment for some, particularly the more vulnerable puils (of which, fortunately, I wasn't one). David Philips either chose to ignore the behaviour of some of his staff or otherwise didn't know it was occuring. Either way, he's guilty of a gross abuse of trust in my opinion. If I was ever to cross paths with him, I would say the same to his face. As for Clements and Copas, Clements was a violent and spiteful man, full stop. I was lucky not to be on the end of his temper but I remember plenty who were. He would regularly reduce classmates to tears and would do the same at night time when doing the dorm rounds with an equally mean spirited and vindictive matron called Miss Macdonald (remember her..?). Sadly, it didn't surprise me at all when he was later outed as a paedophile (one of the boys he abused was in my year and the police rang me to ask if I could provide corroborating evidence).
I find it very hard to reconcile the Copas I remember (kindly, caring, pretty much everything that was good about the school came from him) with some of the comments/innuendo I've read. My guess is that he wasn't a participant in any of the abuse but was aware of it and said nothing, as a (wholly misguided) way of protecting the school's reputation. For those who did suffer abuse, I have the utmost sympathy. Hopefully the rest of us can continue to use our experiences there (good and bad) to shape the way we live our lives, and to ensure we protect our own children in a way our parents perhaps didn't us.

Anonymous said...

Even after reading some of the comments posted quite a while after the one I made, I still think NH and the education it provided was very good. From today's perspective life there as it was back in the sixties/early seventies is bound to seem rather odd and peculiar. But there's never been any doubt in my own mind that the headmaster and the overwhelming majority of the staff were decent and caring people.

As Stephen Fry would say: "autre temps autres mœurs."

But for the tragic events described, combined with the ever present economic pressures, I believe the school would have continued with the process of modernization that similar prep schools have been doing since.

Anonymous said...

Me again! I also think it very unfair to blame the head, other staff, parents etc. They were all let down it seems by just one particular individual who had betrayed the trust bestowed upon him. In the end he was punished for it.

Anonymous said...

I went to Nevill Holt between 1966 and 1971, a strange transition time between old Mr Phillips and young Mr Phillips.

Old Mr Phillips was a stickler for discipline and rules, in my 1st term at school I remember the school rules being read out on our 1st evening. There were over 100, and more were added each term. There were very specific, including things like 'no running on the gravel', 'no throwing tennis balls onto the roof'. When young Mr Phillips took over the rules were altered and we ended up with 10 or 12, the last of which was "No anti-social behaviour' - which had to be explained to us.

I remember Mr Copas arriving at the school, but there wasn't any trouble with him from what I knew, unlike the geography teacher, who was made to leave the school after an incident.

There was Mr Cooke with his wooden leg (a limp!) Mr Lanyon with his external bag for wee, Mr Moorhouse and his treats for boys - CDMs given out to the quieter, prettier ones...

I remember the pretty female art teacher and also the irish nurse. I think she was the sister of a Man United footballer - at least that was the rumour. One of my friends tried the trick of putting a mirror on the floor to see up her skirt whilst we were having our malt extracts.

In the first years we used to go on walks - in a crocodile down the country roads, all in uniform. One year the queen was visiting many areas of the country and we all got dressed up in our white, blue and purple blazers and crocodiled off to the main road to Uppingham to see her. The cars shot past at about 50 so that was a glorious waste of time!

Anonymous said...

Iwas a pupil at this school from about 70 to 75.
It was a bastard of a place. Phillips was a real piece of work, and that French bastard Draggy abused me for years.
I always found Coppas to be quite nice, and Deaso was OK with me.
As for all the others it was completely mad.
Recently had a look on facebbok, and found a site about old schools, with a couple of familiar names talk about history!

a twisted wheel said...

I was a pupil at NH from 84-88. It was probably the best school I ever went to - although at the time i used to do as much as possible to break the rules and thus was caned almost every week!! Thankfully all the paedo stuff that happened, passed me by without a thought. I did however receive several phone calls from the police when this all went public asking if i had been abused as apparently my name 'kept coming up' in the investigation. Anyway, Clements was a total cunt...he threw me across the room a couple of times and was generally very unpleasant, and very glad he got punished, although in my opinion he should have been castrated and had his knees blown away!!! Copas however, seemed like a total gent. Can't believe he was actually involved in the abuse personally!!! My sympathy goes out to all the kids who were abused, and trust that they have not let a total scumbag ruin their lives completely. Live long. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember when someone ran away (he managed to get about ten miles before being picked up) then told Griz why he ran away and a couple of days later Griz had the all the boarders line up in the Old Library while the local plod came round to tell us all off. I think it would have been early 80s.

Seems even more odd now than it did then!

Ben C said...

I find it fascinating that comments are still being left on this piece, two years after its writing.

Another former pupil, '89-'94, and I'd like to add my voice to those speaking up for Peter Copas (or Griz, as he's been referred to above; suspect this was due to his extensive facial hair, but never did discover for sure). I recall him as a patient and affable man, fair in his dealings with pupils, and a great teacher of English and director of school plays. I was hugely saddened to learn about his death and could not credit the things which were said of him. I cannot recall a Clements at all, and suspect I (luckily) never encountered him.

I too greatly enjoyed my time at Nevill Holt, and now tend to describe it envious friends as akin to attending Hogwarts. The teachers I encountered I remember fondly to this day, and would want them to know that they provided me with an education that has enabled me to go far and become a leader in my small field.

To name a few (apologies for wrong spellings/first names): Claire Pearce-Smith, David Hopper, Geoff Hancock, Ron Deas, the Grodetskis, Mr. Coon and his tall tales of international espionage, Mr. Foreshaw (willingly) dressed in drag to entertain at Christmas (?) dinner, Mr. Hollingsworth who (quite reasonably) threw me out of his carpentry lesson for throwing sawdust around, several very patient matrons including Miss Webb, and one other amazing Maths teacher whose name I apologetically cannot recall, but who has my eternal gratitude for introducing me to the idea of Dungeons & Dragons (which I should not have pursued in his Maths lessons).

I wonder if the current owner would allow guests at his opera events to wander the halls...?

DerekT said...

Fascinated and horrified by previous posts. I was a pupil 43-48. Serille Phillips was a remote, frightening figure who tyrannised parents as well as boys. He hated sport so many boring walks. A super snob, he promoted a newly arrived sixthformer to headboy because he was the Honourable Leith. We prefects went on strike against this, a pretty daring act in the 40s! But the education was good thanks to some very gifted teachers. My Wyld taught English and played classical music after lights out to entertain and educate us. The incomparable Mr Cooke - he of the limp? was an outstanding teacher of Maths and much else besides and took us to very high levels. For two years I was top of the form in maths at Winchester till I finally had to learn something new - and promptly sank to the bottom. I was not aware of any sexual abuse; Phillips used the cane quite frequently but that was normal for the time but it was a repressive atmosphere. Best of all was the wonderful historic architecture which has given me a lifelong interest in history and architecture especially medieval.

I met the later head Woolley, after he had fallen out with IAPS and departed the school, teaching A-level economics during an inspection of a prestigious girls's school plausibly but entirely erroneously. His departure preceded that of the inspection team. So misrepresentation, to use a mild word, seems to have been a hallmark of those running the school.

As to Ben C's final question; the answer is 'perhaps'
I wrote to the current owner asking just this and received a very courteous reply directing me to his mother who lives on the estate. Sadly on the day we went to an opera production, the house was full of sponsors so the tour was not possible, but I did peek in to as many windows as possible! The present-day gardens are beautiful, just large vegetable patches in the 40s.

Anonymous said...

My god what a terrible shock - i was looking for some old pictures for the school online when I came across this acticle - I was at the school mid to late 70's along with my brother Adam - I read the article with somewhat removed interest and then down in the comments realised the teacher who took his life apparently was Copas (he got the nickname Griz when he first arrived during my time there and yes it was because of his beard) - a wonderful man - great teacher kind and patient - partuiculaly with us non acacdemic types - also I recall the infamous Mr Cooke - Lanyon and of course Deaso who was a such a kind person and an inspiraiton - I utterly refuse to believe Copas was involved directly in anything that happened there - it may well be that he was aware of it and he couldnt live with the shame of the fact he did nothing about it - I just dont know - no question there were some classic bully type teachers but he was not one of them

Anonymous said...

After all these years, and the vague stories I had heard, it shocks me to read about Griz. I went back to the school in 2005, and tried to look around but couldn't. Also was there in the 80's looking around and couldn't believe the size of the kids going on an away rugby game, but that was e back in the 70's. Griz worked with me when I did the reading at the church in Melbourne for the BBC christmas concert. Was in the choir with him, and never did I see or suspect anything. Dragescue, well everyone knew he was groping, but always felt the kids he had sitting in his lap didn't seem to object. Sad way to look at it now. Very sad and Griz must have felt responsible, cant think he was involved.

Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with you and remember attending your fathers funeral but spare a thought for those many fellow boys less fortunate than us who have had their lives ruined. For it to go on so long before one person actually had the confidence to do something about it I believe 20 years beggars belief.
You and others were the shield behind which they could operate and continue to do so spare a thought for what went on around us

Anonymous said...

I was at NH from 1979 until 1982. Those were some of my best years in education despite, looking back on it, the pretty harsh environment. I would like, for the sake of their reputations, to add that Mr Phillips and Griz were - in my experience - very caring indivduals. Griz lived part time right amongst the dorms and there was never the slightest hint of any unsavory interest. Clements however, was a brutal and sadistic individual. I, it seems, had a very narrow escape, being invited to his house (while his wife was out - whatever became of her?) to 'learn how to body-build'. For whatever reason, it didn't develop into anything nasty. But the daily bullying was relentless - freezing cold showers, bending fingers back to inspect nails, pulling by the ears etc. The matron mentioned above, by the way, was called MacRonald and remember the weirdest thing about her?... she insisted on being called Sir! Her and Clements used to love bed inspection. Does anyone remember how strict they were - the tiniest wrinkle on your bottom sheet usually meant the whole lot was tossed onto the floor and you had to remake it - those two loved the power. Ultimately, it's sad that individuals like this can cause the downfall of a very well-intentioned, valuable institution.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. When you get separated from your mother aged 8 and someone like Miss MacRonald becomes your principle female contact, it's bound to leave its marks. Meanwhile, I remember the general atmosphere of the school as being a happy one (I was there 82-87). No doubt a lot of the practices of the time would be unthinkable nowadays (not being allowed to call home, having your letters home read and moderated by the headmaster?), but I remember getting used to it pretty quickly and enjoying myself after that.
I remember Edmund Clements as a rather menacing and unpredictable character, although I was possibly more afraid of his wife, perhaps on account of the dobermanns constantly by her side... Meanwhile, I have very good memories of Peter Copas. All-round, he was probably the best teacher I ever had.
I don't think I approve any more of that kind of boarding education for children at such a young age. I think even (perhaps especially!) if you thrive, it is at the expense of some part of your personality that would be better served by remaining with your family. But being the person I am, I look back at that formative time with a lot of nostalgia....
I say all this, not having been abused. I can't imagine how damaging that must have been for those involved. And it does seem a dreadful oversight to have let Edmund Clements remain for so long without being found out.

David P said...

I was at Nevill Holt from 1962 to 1968. I remember little about FSP other than his ever-handy cane and his propensity to trot off to the White Hart in Uppingham for a snorter before dinner. I had great respect for DCSP and felt sorry for him with his terrible stammer.

EEC (he with the wooden leg and the terrible old jokes) was an outstanding teacher and was basically the sole reason I gained a Maths scholarship to Uppingham. He had me doing calculus but when I got to Uppingham it was all about modern maths which I really didn't grab and my academic career went into freefall!

I have fond memories of Nevill Holt and even find myself humming the School Song on occasions!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 74-79

On the whole I agree with most of the above. Had a great time at NH and would do it all again. Received the cane on many occasions along with the slipper, gym shoe, hockey stick and others...did not do me any harm. Just taught me not to get caught!!
Copas (griz) outstanding teacher who I can not believe could have been involved.
Clements on the other hand missed his time , should have been a member of the SS in Germany during WW2. I never suffered at his hand but he had a temper and a half.
Deas, Cooke all very good teachers I have them to thank for the success I've enjoyed since leaving.

Anonymous said...

I am JB and was at NH from 1964-69 and my brother followed me from about 1970-75, so we have continuity across 10 years of arguably the most notorious era. Much here about Clements who was clearly a frightening paedo shit after my time there, but probably equally as dangerous and psychotic as Eric Wraight who taught French & Geography in the 60's. He had apparently been shot in the gut on an MTB during the war (probably not true) - and fuelled by morphine and vodka (kept in his tan coloured brief-case - that matched his always shiny tan coloured shoes) to dull the stomach pains, proceeded to creep around taking 'prep'- often sporting bleeding knuckles after punching out classroom door panels, splitting desk-tops and pencil boxes or even karate-chopping the top of the grand piano (played by puffy-fingered music-master, the oily Mr Moorhouse (mentioned by someone earlier) who offered me 10 shillings to come round to his thatched cottage in the grounds for tea. Fortunately didn't go, or accept the CDM's also always on favour offer to prettier boys from Eric Wraight, (remember invitations to his private little Model Aircraft club?!) but have always felt for those of my era who did accept from either of them and what they went through. Wraight used to tell all the boys to watch out when he was in "dramatics" as he called it, (ie completely out of it) and we were all totally terrified. He threw a heavy brass school-bell at one of my friends that smashed a glass-fronted bookcase in the library and I was once despatched on an errand by Wraight to see a bemused and red-faced Ernie Cooke (in his little room filled with Dubonnet bottles) with the message 'Go and tell Mr Cooke that he's a little clockwork bastard and I'm going to knock his head off'. Ernie was a decent teacher, a shy little man with a funny walk who, although I was crap at his Maths at least gave me a lifelong interest in cricket. As for Wraight he died in a car crash and in pre-seat belt days flew through the windscreen of his VW Dormobile and landed in a hedge tangled in barbed wire. A rather appropriate end. My brother tells me the boys cheered when his death was announced to the school. Remember the cute nurse too who used to kiss you goodnight if you were lucky. Better than being bathed by the formidably ugly kitchen server Miss Crombie! Disturbing days for far too many young boys and seriously scarring for some. Yes, it is simply unbelievable than nobody adult knew what was going on there. As an 8-year-old I thought everyone had to go to a school like this.

Anonymous said...

Mr Clements is still living in Eastbourne. And still a freak

PM said...

I was was there between 1986 and 1990. I can believe everything here about Clements. Luckily I was not a victim but I remember him taking rugby and his methods were very much sexualised on the field and was very blatant. I hated him taking rugby. As for copas. It is very difficult to believe. I spoke to Ron deas about a year before the school closed. Ron was very open about his hatred for Clements. He never approved of Clements strict way and I even remembered walking into a classroom with Ron and Clements going at it about a punishment which Clements had handed out to a pupil. Having said that, mr deas indicated to me that Clements was forced to leave as a result of his strict nature and inappropriate punishments including pulling by the ears and physically throwing people around. I just wish he had been thrown out sooner

Anonymous said...

I was there till about 1971 so did know Clements. Remember Copas though, was a good teacher.... and his Hillman Imp. Nothing but the best for old Deeso and his order of the boot. Old man Phillips was like Captain Blythe, punish and ask questions later.

Anonymous said...

JB. I remember Wraight had a car crash during the holidays (in a Jag he had) and appeared some months later back at school with scars and a changed personality. Remember him chasing poor old Ernie up the stairs shouting something like clockwork man and spitting in the library? Scared us all.

Anonymous said...

I Worked at Neville holt as a assistant Matron in 1988,I was in charge of the younger boys and the girls dorm. I am shocked at the abuse that went on. I can honestly say I never witnessed any abuse that went on, I certainly would of reported any concerns I had.
Neville Holt is a beautiful place and I enjoyed my working time there so sorry to the victims of abuse.

Anonymous said...

I was the one that mentioned Mr Moorhouse first. (24th Jan 2012) I've returned to the page because of the recent publicity about abuse at prep schools and the mentions of Mr Wright.
Somewhere I have a photo of him and the airplane modelling club, with the plane called 'Bobby' that had a twin cylinder engine. Much fun for us boys, along with his stomach injury ability to burp "Arhbishop of Canterbury" and fart relentlessly.

He told a story of his car crash on the M1. He had left the longest skid marks on record there, as he had to avoid a car turning onto the road (palpable nonsense, I realised later) and apparently he was found by a policeman with his eye hanging down on his cheek.

He had a briefcase in which he had several Schweppes bottles of milk and alcohol and during Prep he'd disappear off into the Staff loo (near the Bims classroom) and obviously drink what was in these bottles. He'd then get more aggressive and outrageous. One boy brought his pet mouse into prep and it escaped. Wright stamped on it. He'd bash doors, slam them, and so on.

On another occasion when he was out of it - we weren't quiet enough in Prayers in the Library, so he flung the little brass bell across the room, narrowly missing a boy. Then he went to the Geography Library (just a few shelves in the corner) and went off on a terrifying rant about how we didn't treat the books right. It ended with us having to say a prayer for the Geography Library.

Finally he abused a friend of mine. We reported it to DCSP and Mr Wright disappeared from school. I wouldn't be surprised if his 'death' was made up to appease us.

Anonymous said...

I was also there during those years. 'Bobby' was an amazing remote controlled monoplane built by a boy called Wallace. The model club, of which Mr Wraight (Ratty) was supervising master used to fly this and other craft around the Warren. I remember 'Ratty' used to go "...Yabba-dabba-doo!" when he burped. He also made everyone use Chambers Dictionary alongside whichever book they were reading to learn new words each week. After his accident he returned to school somewhat scarred and slightly disfigured. Perhaps he ought not to have done that. He had been a good teacher of English, having amongst other things started up a short-lived newspaper/reporters club in and around the estate. But I can certainly vouch for some of the scary antics he was later responsible for, especially during evening prep - surely a direct result of the crash he was in.

Nevill Holt was a good school, especially in the years after 1968. But it was a very different world back then and one in which channels of communication and concern were quite restricted compared to what is now the case in similar establishments. Mixed in to the mundane there were plenty of comic moments that still make me laugh and there were a few tragedies along the way too.

As someone else recently observed, the collective experience was about as good a preparation for life as anyone might hope for.

Graham Walker said...

I was at NH from ’71 – ’74. I was saddened when I found out that Griz had hung himself. He was a good teacher and an excellent athletics coach. I had every NH record from 100 – 1500 Long Jump & High Jump and won the County Championships all under his tutelage. He took me to the National Trials where I placed 2nd in the 100, 200 and Long Jump.

I would also describe Mr Copas as a gentleman and refuse to believe he was involved in any abuse. He was never inappropriate with me and I spent a lot of time with him alone. His dog did bite me once though :-)

I agree that Clements was not pleasant

Anonymous said...

I was a pupil at this school from 1964-1969 and remember many of these characters well. Old Serrill Phillips used to beat selected children at whim, and beat them again if they cried. Miss Harbottle, who during class used to seize a handful of hair and walk around the desk until the child, contorted and screaming, blurted out the right answer. Being beaten behind the knees which the sharp edge of a ruler. Wraight was a vicious psychotic whose taste for small boys was legendary. I remember the bell hurling incident to this day and also recall him punching holes in the oak panels that lined the passageways. The coincidence of having two geography masters exhibiting the same tendencies, one after the other is extraordinary. One wonders how the role was advertised. I recall our letters home were censored, and Ernest Cooke was an excellent teacher who was relentlessly bullied by the monstrous Wraight. I shudder to think how that man coped. When David Serrill Philips took over, the school changed emphatically for the better. Proper teachers such as Deas were a credit to their profession.

I loathed the place and after passing my common Entrance exams to Uppingham was expelled after three further miserable years. I thought Gormenghast was a documentary until recently.

Anonymous said...

A couple of further memories from the sixties - Miss Graham, the scary housekeeper who wielded more influence over old Serrill Philips than any of the teaching staff. The pretty nurse called Miss Morgan and the story that she was Willie Morgan's sister was a joke put about by the young english master with whom she was having a fling. Mr Westlake, whose bizarre rants about the "rotten core of this school" we always supposed were directed at us. With hindsight I suspect they weren't.

Anonymous said...

My children went to NH - 87 - 89 (my son and daughter). I lived locally and visited the school regularly and def every Sunday (illegal Tuck day). I knew both teachers involved and the Phillips'. I never saw a child who was afraid of Griz, and the children all skipped happily around him. However Mr Clements had a fierce reputation, however it always seemed he was 'just strict'. I know he threw a lot of chalk at boys (like bullets). I kept a close eye on my children, but if I had known what was happening at the time I would have certainly have removed them and alerted all the relevant bodies. My heart breaks and I am haunted what I might have subjected my dear children to and indeed all the children in their care. I cannot change the past I know, but I will always feel …….. Mr Clements if you ever read any of these posts, 10 years was not nearly adequate for what you did and I hope and pray you are punished every day of your miserable life.