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“The happiest days of your life”.

Posted by Big John on October 10, 2006

I have noted recently that a number of people have found this blog by way of ‘Googling’ for ‘Archbishop Temple’s School’, so although I have touched on this subject in previous posts, I thought that I might recall  a few memories of my schooldays from more than half a century ago.

headmasters-house.jpgHalf a century ! It was more like something from the time of Charles Dickens, with freezing classrooms heated by one small coal fire (if there was any coal), old wooden desks with inkwells, and blackboards mounted on easels. The only things missing were quill pens. The headmaster strolled about in a black gown and lived in the gatehouse tower over the main entrance to the school. An entrance which we boys were forbidden to use.

To me there was always a strange ambience about the place. Sort of psuedo public school* combined with smelly reformatory.

Games were compulsory as was physical education. I hated both. Getting hit in the ‘nuts’ by a cricket ball and wearing a white singlet, navy blue shorts and black plimsoles and being forced to run around Archbishop’s Park on a winter’s morning put me off sport for ever. 

The school’s most famous old boy was Hollywood’s cane twirling Charlie Chaplin. Similar canes were much favoured by sadistic staff members masquerading as teachers. The worst of these bastards was responsible for teaching me Latin and French. He failed. The grinning arsehole is pictured below, when I was unfortunate enough also to have him as my form master. (I’m the one standing on the far left).


The school was a Church of England Central School and was situated  close to Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also the head of the school governors. Obviously religion played a big part in my education and every Friday I had to attend services at St. Mary’s Church which stands next to Lambeth Palace. All that Christian brainwashing and listening to some priest as he intoned his meaningless mumbo jumbo soon set me on the road to atheism.

I do remember a few decent teachers, like the out of work actor who taught drama and took groups of us to The Old Vic and other London theatres; and I enjoyed subjects like art, history and English literature, but I never did understand what Pythagoras and his bloody ‘Theorem’ was all about.

So you see that I wasn’t miserable all of the time  ……  

………    just most of it !

* Note to my American readers.   A ‘Public School’ in the UK is an independant fee paying school favoured by the ‘upper classes’


19 Responses to ““The happiest days of your life”.”

  1. Longrider said

    but I never did understand what Pythagoras and his bloody ’Theorem’ was all about.

    Very useful for roof building. Pythagoras was a doddle – it was the rest I couldn’t fathom…

  2. Betty said

    Your post has brought back some memories of professors I had in college. Maybe I’ll talk about them one day, if I can stand it.

  3. gawilli said

    “All that Christian brainwashing and listening to some priest as he intoned his meaningless mumbo jumbo soon set me on the road to atheism.”

    It’s amazing to me the things that are done in the name of Christianity. And it’s been going on forever.

  4. Ginnie said

    My lord, John, it does sound like a page from Dickens! Just think, it was all that schooling that made you the soft, temperate man that you are today!

  5. Now come John, it wasn’t all that bad, I know that some of the teachers were a bit sadistic but most schols were the same. I went from Temple’s to Tenison’s (just up the road by the Oval) when I left the 5th Form and that was a really …. You must have been in my class because I can name most of the lads in the photo. It was only a few years after the war so I suppose nobody had much. One story about your Form master I remember. He used to check our fingernails after lunch and if we had dirty fingernails we would get the ruler (not a big enough crime for the cane). However, if after amonth you hadn’t “got the ruler” he would give it to you anyway for trying to curry favour. Now that’s what I call inventive. I failed Latin as well so he must have spent too much time flogging rather than teaching.

  6. Big John said

    Tony. Many thanks for the comments. I am sending you an e mail with complete photo attached.

  7. Maria said

    I went to a private (public I suppose in England) called Holy Angels. I was a questioner and that was never popular with the nuns. I find it difficult to attend any church and if I were not hedging my bets, I would be an atheist. . . but a damn good one!

  8. Terri said

    I agree with Ginnie…it does sound like a story straight out of Dickens. And like Maria…I also attended a private, parochial school….I think those nuns took their training from your head masters. And as a result…all that religion they tried to cram into me…totally gone once I got into my late teens. Fear was not the way to educate children…but guess they missed that point!

  9. barry fantoni said

    I remember Fieldgate. Tell me more. I was there about the same time as you. I was in Hernaman House. Baz

  10. Big John said

    Blimey Barry ! A ‘celeb’ no less :-). I remember you very well. We were the ‘arty’ pair in the class. As I remember you lived on Brixton Hill ? I have a photograph with the two of us on a school trip. I gave up on this blog some time ago. e mail me at and I’ll e mail the photo to you by return. Great to hear from you.

  11. went to temples myself ,remember BELL ,my name ,John ( john Armstrong ) I was in hernaman house yellow on my badge . Crap sardistic school ,John

  12. Big John said

    I was there 1950-1955 John. Sorry, but the names of others all fade away after all these years. I had a red badge. I think that was Lawrence house. Hated the bloody place ! Kids today don’t know what they are missing … 😉

  13. Barry Fantoni said

    Thanks for passing that on, mate. I hope all is well. Baz


  14. I was at temples from 1959 to 1963 and yes very cruel school ,some people may disagree ,only my own comments though . I don’t think teachers would get away with there canning these days . Im 68 now unfortunately no fond memories of my school days . regards John

  15. Derek Gainsborough said

    Hello John, I went to this school on the late 60s and I must agree the teachers were sadistic bastards,caning seemed to common place nearly every day. I do remember freezing in the winter because the little fire at the front was useless. Kids of today wouldn’t cope,cheers Derek.

  16. Big John said

    Thanks for the comment Derek. Today’s kids (and their smartphones) would have even a threat of such treatment splashed all over social media. How this old world has changed .. 🙂

  17. Richard Thorngate said

    Hello John I sometimes attended school from 48 to 52 I was called MEAT by masters no pupils payed football also in choir Mr Knight Mr Barnes masters my mother had the pleasure of sorting Mr Fieldgate out I became hero of school

  18. Barry Fantoni said

    How did she sort him out? Hit the bastard with a rolling pin?

  19. Big John said

    Hello Richard … I remember Mr. Barnes allowing us boys to call him Arthur when we were in the 5th form. ‘Dumbo’ Evans was also a nice man as was ‘Jock’ Cameron. As I remember Knight was a bit like Fieldgate’s creepy ‘side-kick’.

    “a rolling pin” ? … Baz .. I would have used a Samurai sword if I had the chance.

    I do recall that an older brother of one pupil threatening to ‘beat the shit’ out of Fieldgate if he touched his young brother. The fat bastard never touched the kid.

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