How did the school get started and who were the headmasters that steered the school through the decades?  This and much, much more....

 

( Remember to check the top of the home-page to see if there have been any recent additions to this section.)

As outlined on the home page, it was intended that this website should give a flavour of what it was like and what went on at Sexey's over the past decades ( as well as what's going on there now), so I'm hoping that this becomes something a little different to the more formal histories of the school, which have been done so well by others before. 

However, the story of Sexey's and its pupils would not be complete without some reference to how the school started and factors that affected it over time, as well as the notable characters that drove the school forwards.

This section briefly describes some of the more important events and personalities over the past 100 years or so and puts Sexey's into some sort of historical context.

Most people, I'm sure, realise that the school's name is inherited from a gentleman in the past called Hugh Sexey - ( how that surname came about one can only imagine!!) What some people probably don't realise, is that Hugh Sexey was around many hundreds of years before Sexey's, Blackford was built and, therefore, he never saw the schools at either Blackford or Bruton  and it was the future trustees of his estate who decided that the schools should be built.

Jocelyn Lukins (41-46) has kindly sent (December 2010) in some additional information -

'Hugh Sexey was born c1537, before baptism records were kept, but very possibly was the son of a Robert Sexey, a merchant and one time Mayor of Bath.
Hugh was a lawyer who spent his professional life in association with Queen Elizabeth I's Exchequer managing her estates and monetary affairs. He also audited the estate of the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Thynne estate of Longleat. He was also a money lender and made a fortune. He owned many properties including the Manor of Blackford and Wanstrow, near Bruton, Somerset. Having no children, his money was used in charitable works including the setting up of two schools - one of them ours. At Bruton, an establishment was set up originally to educate 15 poor boys which prospered and flourishes today. In 1897 his funds were used to set up a school at Blackford. Whilst it was being built a temporary school was formed in a converted barn at Stoughton. In 1889 a school on the present site at Blackford was opened with 69 scholars, 42 boys and 27 girls, 22 of them boarders. It was then described as a 'Secondary boarding school, specialising in Rural Sciences'.'  (Thank you, Jocelyn for this extra informatiom - MJ)

As Jocelyn says, the official opening of the Blackford site, was in September of 1899 but prior to this , whilst  building was in progress, a temporary school had been set up in a converted barn at Stoughton - interestingly, a similar thing occurred when Sexey's Bruton school first started.

Researcher for the website, John Grant, came upon this article in the Bristol Mercury dated 27/9/1899. It outlines the goings on at the school's official opening ceremony which took place on September 24th 1899, about three weeks after the term had begun.

 

Unfortunately, due to the age of the text it makes for rather awkward reading, despite John's valliant efforts to make it more clear, so I have copied out the text below -

School Opening At Blackford 

Monday was a red letter day in the annals of Blackford,  the occasion being the opening of Sexey's School recently erected in this village at the cost of £4,500 of which amount £3,300 has been provided by the visitors of Sexey's Hospital at Bruton while £1,000 has been contributed by the Education Committee of Somerset County Council, in addition to £200 for the furnishing of the school. The buildings which accommodate both boys and girls, are of Wedmore stone with Wedmore and Bath stone dressings roofed with Highbridge tiles and standing in extensive grounds are admirably adapted for the purpose of a Secondary school. The managers are Mr H Hobhouse MP, Prebendary TS Holmes, Messrs TO Bennett, JC Smith, J Wall, GW Duckett and JB Millard, the Revs FW Whish and J Byrchmore.

The proceedings commenced with a luncheon, the Royal toast being duly honoured. The Earl of Cork proposed the toast of 'The School' and in an able speech narrated the circumstances which had led up to the inception of the newly erected buildings.

In the afternoon the spacious schoolroom was crowded by a representative gathering of those interested in education in the county of Somerset. The chairman of the Sexey's Foundation Committee Mr Henry Hobhouse MP presided and in an excellent speech introduced Sir Henry Roscoe FRS who dealt in a highly interesting manner with the very evident benefits accruing from a scientific education, and concluded by declaring the school open. Subsequent speeches were delivered by Sir Richard H Pigot? , Mr AJ Goodford (Chairman of the Education Committee of the Somerset County Council), Mr WT Warry (representing the Charity Commissioners) and Mr Smith (headmaster of the school). The prizes were then distributed by the Earl of Cork after which his Lordship and Sir Henry Roscoe were thanked for their services upon the proposition of the Right Hon. Sir Edward Fry, seconded by Professor Lloyd Morgan of University College, Bristol the chairman being also thanked upon the proposition of Mr Tutton (HM Science and Art Inspector), seconded by Mr JM Whish (vicar of Blackford), the meeting closing with the National Anthem. Tea was provided in a large marquee and the Wedmore Brass Band rendered selections of music.

This picture was taken of the 'new' school at Blackford shortly after completion. Pupils would have to wait over half a century before the hall was attached!

The photo is part of the Sexey's archives and was kindly loaned to the school by GW Duckett.

Whilst touching on the subject of Sexey's  Bruton, a careful look through the history page on their website, reveals that in January 1892, a number of 'county scholars' arrived. Remarkably, amongst them was a lad from Wedmore, a certain 'E.J. Price'.

In all probability, he was one of the very first children from the Wedmore area to be educated with the help of Hugh Sexey's trust money, but at Bruton Sexey's not Blackford!

The school's first headmaster was Edward Smith who was appointed in 1897- his wife helped with the domestic duties.

Once the building of the school was complete, it appears that there was a boarding community from the word go - there were around 60 pupils with approximately 20 boarders. 

The female boarders used the house in the grounds, the hostel, which was used by them right up to 1966 when the boarders disbanded. The hostel eventually became the 6th form block until the school changed to a Middle school. 

For many pupils, Sexey's was really 'out in the sticks' and in the early 1900's pupils living far away from the school could make use of Sexey's private 'taxi service' in the form of a horse drawn wagon called the Sexey's brake. Passengers were open to the elements so a winter journey must have been absolutely freezing!

It had always been the intention that Sexey's school should not be just for academic studies but also for subjects such as Domestic Science and Agriculture - to this end the school purchased an old  farmhouse, nearby on Wells Way, which was to be the 'Farm school' where these lessons were taught.

As I said earlier, I don't want to linger too long on the more formal history of the school so here, in a nutshell, are  some of the other important events of Mr Smith's 'reign', which lasted until 1923. 

 
Edward Henry Smith

                                             

In 1910, electric lighting was installed. Surprisingly, the power was provided by a company in Wedmore! (there were a number of 'local' suppliers throughout the country at this time);in World War 1, Mr Smith's son, Edward, was killed in action; staff salaries were linked to the 'Burnham' salary scale, which meant large pay increases for the staff. Finally, a new well was dug to cope with a shortage of water. 

Lawrence Abram took over the reins in 1923.This was to be a return to Blackford for Mr Abram as many years earlier he had actually been a class teacher at the school.

 Lawrence Abram

In brief, some of the main events when Mr Abram was Headmaster were - the formation of the 'Old Sexonians Association'; the school's first sports day; serious threats of school closure abounded but were thankfully lifted  in 1937. Mr Abram finished his 'tour of duty' at the school in 1939.

In 1939, Mr Tomlinson began his 25 year headship at the school.

This was at the beginning of World War 2 and evacuees from London arrived almost straight away. Mr Tomlinson was able to find places for them in the Blackford area - this must have been a very 'trying' time for him and his wife to say the least!

Other events that occurred during Mr Tomlinson's time in office were - the closure of the Farm School; Sexey's achieved official 'Grammar School' status; Mr Evans, teacher of French, died;special whole school assemblies for both the accession of Queen Elizabeth and the death of King George; a long battle against school closure; hard court tennis courts were laid; the building of the new school hall in 1957; the playing fields were enlarged and a new laboratory was built. Finally, the school's swimming pool was completed in 1963. 

Henry Tomlinson became the third headmaster at Sexey's Blackford in the year, 1939. Over his 25 years at the school we have heard of a number of accounts of his dealings with the staff and pupils who generally regarded him with great respect and still look back upon him with huge fondness.

This next account, though, is unique, as it is made up of the memories that have come from his own children who were taught locally in educational establishments other than Sexey's.

What follows are two daughters' memories of a very special father, who happened to be a very special headmaster - MJ 

Henry Fowler Tomlinson (1904-1988)

(Wife - Helen Sharp;Daughters - Norah Laurie & Helen Robinson)

Henry Tomlinson was born in 1904 at Stanley Farm in the village of Treales just Northwest of Preston in Lancashire. His mother, Margaret Fowler, was a weaver at the local cotton mill. His father Edward was one of 9 children and a local farmer's son. Henry was one of 8 children himself and helped on the farm from a very young age.

His first school was Treales Primary and then he went to Kirkham Grammar which is now an independent co-educational school. Despite leaving school between the age of 13 and 15 he still managed to excel especially at science and maths. There was no interest from home for his education or achievements. This was very sad but he was brought up in a poor farming community during World War I when a pair of working hands on the farm put food on the table. His daughters have, however, kept his beautifully leather bound school prize books for safekeeping now. 

Henry was also a talented athlete and reached county and national standard in long jump. He was also a good tennis player and played doubles with his wife before they were at Sexey's. We don't know who got him back into school but Norah found an entry on a plaque on Kirkham Grammar's hall wall, of his scholarship to Manchester University in 1923 and another in 1925 recording his degree.

The Earl of Derby, whose estate Henry's father's farm was on, awarded Henry a scholarship of £30 enabling him to do MSc at Manchester. A similar scholarship enabled him to do his degree. His exceptional brain would have been wasted had he not completed his school and university studies.

His older brother was told to run the farm and Henry escaped. We, his daughters, felt sad we weren't very clever at maths and just got our 'O'Level!

The Derby Scholarships from 1880 onwards were from an endowment from the 15th Earl of Derby. They were given annually to forward the study of maths, one for Manchester University and one for Liverpool. They were given to those with a first class degree on the recommendation of the professor of maths - Henry shared the award with 2 others in 1925 but did not do his MSc until 1932.

He registered for a Teachers' Diploma in 1925 but did not get it until 1930. We know his parents were desperate during the years around the 1926 General Strike and Henry probably had to gain employment instead of staying in higher education as he needed to send money home for them.

His first teaching job was in Brighton and, after his MSc, in Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire where he worked until 1939. He was a county long jumper. In 1939 he and his wife, Helen, came to Sexey's with their baby daughter, also called Helen, at the start of World War II.

Helen Sharp (Mrs 'T') grew up at Moss Side Farm in Clifton, 3 miles from Henry's parents' farm. She went to the Park School in Preston and then trained as a primary school teacher at Wood Green Home Colonial College in London. She then taught at a primary school for deprived children in the North until they married at Lund Church in walking distance from her parents' farm.

She regretted terribly never teaching again, except her 2 daughters who never went to primary school, to their regret. (Helen then attended Bishop Foxes School in Taunton and Norah went to Weston Grammar. Sexey's would have been more fun for them and no travelling and headmasters who followed Henry sent their children to it.

Norah loved sport and played tennis and squash to county level. Helen loved her music and still teaches piano in N Devon)  

Henry Tomlinson's Autobiography
(the early years)

(Sadly found unfinished by his daughters, unsure when written)

The comparatively flat area of land known as the Fylde district of Lancashire stretches roughly from the Pennines to the western coast at Blackpool with the Ribble estuary and Morecambe Bay as its southern and northern boundaries, respectively. It is rich agricultural land, mostly suited to dairy farming, but with considerable stretches of moss land suitable for market gardening. 

The famous Blackpool Tower is visible for miles away on a clear day and, of course, one gets a wonderful panoramic view of the whole area from the top of the tower.

At the time when my story opens, the first decade of the present century, agriculture was going through one of its comparatively depressed states.

I was born in a farmhouse occupied by my parents on February 9th 1904. Our farm was a small one, just over 50 acres, (later increased to 72) and was part of the estate of the Earl of Derby.

A hundred yards from our home was the centre of the village of Treales, dominated by the local pub, the Derby Arms. There was also a small village shop which sold sweets and some groceries. My mother used to send me to this shop to buy yeast or making bread even at the tender age of two and a half. It caused great amusement in the shop when I appeared with two pennies firmly clutched in my hand and asked for ' two pennorth of barm'.

But, in 1906 the country lanes round about my home hardly ever saw a motor car. Slow moving carthorses were common enough. The roads were partly cobbled and very dusty; tarmacadam had not yet reached to rural roads.
My father was the youngest son of a farmer; the home farm was at Warton near Lytham St Annes. He was, therefore, familiar with all the practical operations of a mixed farm. He did not, however, have the educational opportunities that would have equipped him with a full scientific understanding of general agricultural husbandry, a fact which limited, somewhat, his prosperity. Hard work of itself was not enough to reap the full benefit of his farm. 

My mother went to school at Freckleton, the school which was tragically destroyed by a plane accident during the second world war. She was the youngest daughter of a gamekeeper and, at the time of her marriage to my father, was a four-loom weaver in the local cotton mill.

To bring herself up to date with the demands of her role as a farmer's wife, she took a course on dairy work - butter and cheese making at the Huttonly Institute - a vital and necessary preparation for the exacting job she had to do. Of course we always baked our own bread and made our own butter. Most of the milk into cheese, whey for the pigs.

 

Our earliest schooling was just over a mile away. We had to walk except on very rainy days when we were taken in a horse and trap under cover of a tarpaulin sheet.

My older brother started at the normal age of five. We appealed for and got permission for me to join him at the age of three and a half! I was far too young to understand the mysteries of addition and subtraction propounded by Miss Hennifer but I joined in the social life of the playground in the lunch hour after consuming packed lunch (no school meals provided then). It was a large playground with a gravel surface. We competed how high we could jump up the steps.

The oak tree was another temptation - warning against climbing up it was followed by the stick for disobedience. Halfway to school, we passed the carpenter's workshop where men employed by the 'Lord' carried out maintenance operations for the estate of the Earl of Derby.

Mr and Mrs Winchester were greatly loved and admired by all the school. They left all too soon for another appointment. On one occasional revisit I met Mrs Winchester who chatted for a while and at the end gave me a penny -what wealth!!

Mr Stephenson followed Mr Winchester. He was not very popular. He was minus three fingers on his left hand. He taught the older pupils in the big room. He had a habit of leaving a class unattended for short periods, presumably to go to his house in the School House, and woe betide anyone misbehaving when he returned; naturally it created a certain amount of resentment. We worked away with slates and pencils only in those days.

A certain Mr Bagot used to visit the school occasionally. He was fond of children and 'perried' sweets, that is, threw them in a shower on the ground; an excited scramble followed. Was he a school attendance officer? If he was, he was succeeded by a Mr Buck who was rather severe and forbidding.

I remember at the age of six being asked by an excited group of older boys, at the time of the 1910 election, whether I was Liberal or Conservative. My political understanding at that time was nil.

I remember the severe winter of 1911. Snow was piled up on each side of the road for what appeared to be weeks on end.

There were field days called 'Harvest Home' with children's sports in the afternoon and adult sports in the evening. A free meal for all and sundry was provided in the school rooms. There were hobby horses and side shows and a brass band from Kirkham headed the procession.

Meanwhile, during school days, work at home on the farm continued to make demands. I remember milking at the age of seven and helping at hay time. My brother and I (aged eight and ten) coped with the milking while father and the farm man gathered in the hay.

The railway through the fields is rich with memories: the fields, the bridges, walking on the rail fence, crossing the railway, the platelayer gang. And that lovely game of putting pins and half pennies on the track so they were flattened by the train wheels. Later we experienced the congestion of trains for Blackpool. Clogs by Cleggs! The Kirkham Workhouse. Grandpa the gamekeeper and gunpowder.

I got a scholarship to the local Kirkham Grammar School. I had to have a cycle as it was two and a half miles away. Lunch at a café with cream buns etc. I met the Beestons. I started at Kirkham in 1915 at the age of eleven. 

 Mr T's Grammar School portrait.


Then there were all the labour difficulties of the war and the bore of milking night and morning. School leaving age was then thirteen and I left school in December 1916 just before my thirteenth birthday. I spent two years doing virtually a man's work on the farm, harvesting clover and making cheese. 

I went back to school again in January 1919 at the age of fifteen. Then came successes at work and play and later university at Manchester.

(Unfortunately this is all his daughters found typed up here from several typed sheets but it shows a humble beginning - how on earth did he manage to get to university missing two years of schooling and with such odds against him? )

'Epistle'

from Henry Tomlinson 

(To staff, pupils, friends and great-grandsons, on "revisiting" my school, Sexey's, through the eyes of my daughter, Helen on September 25th 1999 for its Centenary celebrations)

 I stare in amazement at the car-park
where my gooseberries and cider apples grew,
the music room where my bees used to hum,
the playground where my prize beans were chased by the wind,
the mural where my tomatoes ripened in the sun,
the head's study in our dining room,
the office in our kitchen,
computers everywhere!
 

Of course I am sad to see no farm school buildings,
no cowslip meadows,
no walnut trees or monkey puzzle,
no cherry blossom or corn on the cob,
no grass tennis court,
no billiard room,
no girls' hostel,
no Sixth Form Maths…..

But they were dark days in the war,
when land was soil
and crops fed boarders
and coal from the black stone cellar fed classroom stoves
and teamwork was bleak survival.

Now schools below the Mendips come in threes,
My calculus lessons were not vain riddles,
My chess moves not stalemate;
My twilight star over the long jump pit not eclipsed by chalk,
But instead enshrined in blue stained glass…

Now children grow in light, space and warmth,
in special units, in colour, in technology;
a different world of travel, wealth and global community;
a different rural harvest
of green minds and creativity,
of discipline and confidence (candles and balloons)
of love and peace.

But what catches me most, inside,
As I take a last look out,
Is the inner quadrangle, with its cabbages, greenhouse and tractor tyres,
Framed by the old square solid walls,
Still proudly standing,
The heart of Middle School,
And above, the old bell tower, calling across the century,
I hang up my torn black gown
On this Speechless Day.

And what lifts my heart the most, outside,
As I walk away,
Is the surprise view of Crook Peak beyond the sweep of poplars,
Tennis balls lobbed on to mossy rooftops,
Fir cones falling upon fertile ground,
Vibrant splashes of red flowers,
Excited maroon and gold faces everywhere,
Like a meadow of Heartsease pansies,
And a resident spirit taking care of everyone …..

  Memories of Childhood at Sexey's
by Henry Tomlinson's daughters.

'My email is norahrcv@btopenworld.com if anyone wants to drop us a line, I (Norah) live in Wallingford, Oxfordshire and Helen in North Devon.'

'This photo was taken in 1954 when I was 6 and Helen 15 with the beloved tennis court!'  

 
'The 2nd in 2007 when I visited with a friend - proof that the school still had an unbelievable name! '- Norah
 
 
'My war memories were governors' meetings and queues of villagers with ration books in our dining room. Gas masks, evacuees, air raids, an unexploded bomb in the field opposite, fires over Bristol, my father pouring over a map of Europe after years with no gardener, secretary or boiler stoker and shortages of food and fuel. Every bit of land was used for allotments or livestock. We repaired, revised and recycled everything.'

  'Every August we put out the long tables in the school dining room and covered them with jigsaws. Father liked doing them as well and he also played solo billiards to improve his break and chess too - following through Russian master chess games (he would have loved Sudoku!). Mother enjoyed crosswords and reading.'

'The family had annual caravan holidays after the war in Cornwall and later S Wales and the Lakes in a 14ft Fairholme Leprechaun we called 'Leppy'. We enjoyed tennis on the grass court at the front of the school and athletics on the sports field.'  

 

'Sometimes I crept into an empty classroom and gave 'chalk and talk' to an imaginary class! My sister and I built a 'ship house' inside the privet hedge by the school drive.'

 Helen Tomlinson

'My parents played bridge with Miss Barnes and Mr Lee at weekends. Mother always under bid and father overbid to compensate and liked to take more risks!'  

'Father's circular walnut table that he made was noisily wheeled on its edge along corridors to geometry lessons to demonstrate vividly 2pi x r etc. I still have the table and bookcase which he made.'

'Father tried to teach me to drive, showing off his new syncromesh gears across the sports field - then he guided me to Wedmore and I returned to try the awkward turn into the narrow school gates - screeching metal along my door sent me terrified, to hide in the loo and I only got my driving test decades later in 2002!'

'There was an archaeological dig in Blackford in the mid 1950's in an orchard known as the Bishop's Palace, organised by Miss Rendell with permission from the Bruton Estate - possibly on the site of the

 

Manor House of the Bishops of Wells, in the 14th century.'    

'We enjoyed all the Gilbert and Sullivan's and Toad concerts organised by My Tonkin. I learnt piano from the age of 6, violin and French at home.'    

 

'My maths lessons included tables chanted leant up against cherry and plum trees - I helped with the bees and learnt to plough a straight line but didn't try the home grown tobacco rolled in paper and offered to unsuspecting visitors!'

'Feeding chickens and collecting eggs and riding on tractors at haymaking time made me realise what a rural dream Dad had envisaged for his school.'  

  

 'My sister came to Sexey's as a small baby. I was born ten years later at Shute Shelve Hospital, which is now a private housing development. I was told at the centenary celebrations, to my amazement, that it had been kept a close secret in the family and so the pupils had quite a shock when a baby appeared from nowhere! My mother was 40 when I was born which was unheard of at the time!'

'I was quite a rebel even early on and have pictures of me at about two, on our front lawn hemmed in with chicken wire as I liked to pull all the flower heads off!'
 

 

'Phyllis Hembury was like a nanny to me. Her bedroom was opposite mine and she worked in the kitchens. She often walked me to Wedmore and I remember getting to the sweet shop of Mrs Bown's and pulling back a dark velvet curtain to get into this magical world of sweets!'

'I loved Phyllis dearly and was shocked when I was told she had died of cancer- we went to the grave at Godney once, with flowers - she died so young and hadn't really had a life of her own - I was very upset.'

'Our house was attached to the end of the school. We had two rooms downstairs and four bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs plus a storeroom. I could walk through to the kitchens and Dad's study.'

'I teased Miss Odell, the school secretary, pinching her coffee milk or running off with things to make her chase me. I had a black tricycle I used to race off round the kitchen table with her in hot pursuit.'

'I remember the old fashioned kitchen with the cool scullery at one end, the coal fired stove and tins of food stored down a narrow alley that I hid in. Cockroaches ran around at night and I stood on one in bare feet once - Yuk!'

'We often had our meals on a green fold up table and I loved the macaroni cheese and rhubarb crumbles and strawberries piled high in season and green runner beans put through the slicer.'

'Dad's study was under my bedroom and occasionally he caned someone for some misdemeanour. I would put my ear to the bedroom floor to try to hear what went on! Caning always upset Dad and what had led up to them and now, of course, it is not an option.'

'I wasn't allowed to read comics but remember creeping into the greenhouse by our lawn where the caretaker had papers delivered and reading the Beano in there!' 

 

 
Norah, Helen and MrsTomlinson

'I also learnt my tables outdoors often in the greenhouse while Dad watered the tomatoes - I always stuck on 7x8 and waited for his impatient shout. We neither of us had a hope of A level which was a pity for Dad as he never had the chance to enjoy studying with us as he was a true academic. My daughters and Helen's son got theirs - so it passed a generation Dad, that's all !! '

'He used to read to me sitting on his lap when he had time and he helped me learn to ride my blue bike when I was about 7. I never rode it outside the school, strangely, but I don't remember anyone else in the family with a bike.'

'I loved the school grounds and in the holidays roller skated on the tennis courts and ran about everywhere.'

'I had bad memories of the school dentist in a room opposite the old hall. At 7 I had a few fillings with the old drills that felt like he was digging up the road in my head!! A dental caravan visited later and I was always filled with horror at its arrival.'

'I remember the bees and getting stung going to watch the honey making in the science lab. I'd chat with Bunty picking apples and remember the blackcurrants and gooseberries where there is now a car park. I hit tennis balls against the new gym wall and pretended to win Wimbledon.'

'I loved to walk through the echoey classrooms and my best adventure was to get out on to the roof through a window and walk across to the science lab.' 

 
Norah's 'flat roof' playground. 

'Sometimes I jumped across an oil tank and down a coal heap and back home. Once Mum caught me and gave me the slipper! She got cross at very little but perhaps justified then.One time the window sash cord broke and it crashed onto my hands - I couldn't tell anyone as I wasn't meant to be there!

'We were both taught at home until secondary school as Mum was a primary school teacher (I was very careless and had loads of red C's on everything which didn't motivate me at all) I learnt piano as well but never practised and found it hard! (I did gym classes with the first years and preferred the outdoors).'

'Miss Vowles from Wedmore taught into her 90's I believe and Helen still teaches piano now - I took a bus to Weston Grammar and Helen a train to Taunton Bishop Foxes school. We had no real friends until then - how stupid but I suppose going to Sexey's was thought difficult for our parents.'

'When I took my 11 plus at Blackford Primary School it was the most wonderful day running about with all those children! Poor Dad drove us to sports matches and dances later, waiting around after 'Brian Poole and the Tremeloes' at the Winter Gardens can't have been fun!'  

'Helen being ten years older than me was doing A level French when I was still only 7 and I got fed up with all her studying and Victor Hugo! She did play tennis with me until I ran off in a sulk as she was obviously going to beat me then! I was very competitive and still play tennis and squash now. Dad played into his 50's.'

'I remember when Helen was about 17 bringing a boyfriend home and I would spy on them through keyholes hoping to catch them kissing! Our mother couldn't cope with anything like that!'

'There was a lovely big willow tree near the Girls' Hostel and we used to hide in it especially if mother was on the warpath! Sadly it was cut down when the new gym was built.' 

'We had no TV until I was about 10 I think and then we had a black and white one and I watched horse racing for hours in wonderment of this new toy! Before, we used to go to a friend in Wedmore to see just the Wimbledon final each year.'

'We also watched TV on the housemaster's in the holidays - the kitchen door was left open once and a mouse got in and we were screaming and Dad was cross at all the fuss - Mum was paranoid about the door being left open after that.'

'In term time I used to stand at the open kitchen door hoping for gossip from anyone passing by - when I got a bit older at weekends, when the boarders used to get too riotous racing about and Dad came thundering out of his study, I would warn them by holding my hands in a big W (for Wick - I never understood why the name and as no one would tell me I assumed it must be rude!).'

'My first cinema visit was by bus to Wells to see Snow White. We loved the school concerts and shows and it was fun spotting the teachers. I still have photos of them and the sports teams too.'

'I remember walking down to the old post office shop in Blackford over the stream that regularly got flooded near where the Methuens lived. I hated going to church so young and didn't understand what was going on so I refused when I got older - it was difficult for Dad when the boarders had to go.'

'I think we had an old Ford with green seats to start with. I remember day trips in our Austin 40 to Weston, Cheddar, Wells, Burnham, Bristol and Bath. I just about remember the bombed area in Bristol which is now shops. We went to Brean Down, Sand Point and Glastonbury Tor and on one ascent of the tor Dad fell and some matches in his pocket were set alight - that was fun! Mum didn't ever climb with us never sure why. Dad loved the hills and the coast and was happy taking us out.'

'He only went abroad once to Switzerland and a woman there fell off a cliff and that had shocked him. He never went abroad again. Mum longed to go to Paris but when anyone started to arrange it she was too scared to do it. She became more insecure with real life as she got older and lived through other people, which was sad.'   

'I never really knew who Hugh Sexey was until I read Hazel Puddy's book! We thought pretending to be someone's ghost a great idea for Dad and hope none of the boarders have had life long psychological problems because of his escapades each October!'

'Dad retired to Winscombe in 1964 after 25 years of challenges and achievements. He continued to enjoy his garden and walked to Peter Duckett's shop in Winscombe regularly. He drove perhaps longer than he should on days out with mother.'

'As children the cutting almost at Weston from the Bleadon road we called the 'Roundy roundy' and he used to get up high speed then at the top switch off the ignition and see how far he could get down the bends before starting it again - I'm sure the police would not have been impressed!'

'He hated to be behind any traffic and we had nail biting journeys especially when he towed the caravan on holiday each summer! He worked for a few more years helping with VI form studies at St Brandon's in Clevedon.'

'His ashes are scattered under an apple tree to the left at the top of the drive leading to Sunny Brae.'  

Norah - 2008
   

'I visited Dad's old grammar school at Kirkham near Preston a couple of years ago. In the school hall is a wall plaque noting his scholarship to Manchester University - how did he get there after two school years (13-15) were spent in World War 1 doing man's work on his father's farm with no schooling? He was a special father and, we know, meant a lot to so many of you.'                                               

( It's certainly been a privilege to have these rather poignant and personal memories on the website and I'm sure you have all enjoyed reading them even if you've never met Henry Tomlinson or his wife or daughters. Henry Tomlinson certainly guided the school through some very difficult times yet steadfastly remained committed to its well-being and that of his family.   I would like give heartfelt  thanks to Norah and Helen for this lovely contribution to the website - MJ) 

The following personal tribute to Mr Tomlinson was read out by Les Skidmore at Mr Tomlinson's funeral, many thanks to Jocelyn Lukins for providing it. 

Henry Tomlinson's Funeral Address by Leslie Skidmore.
 

Henry Tomlinson - died October 23rd, 1988 aged 84 years. A simple fact but one that needs elaboration.

 

One of 7 children, he left school at 14 during difficult times at the end of the Great War to work on the family farm. Fortunately he returned to continue his education later and came through the hard way to gain the remarkable achievement of a 1st class Honours degree in Mathematics at Manchester University. He had a brilliant mind. Before the 2nd World War he assisted Professor Appleton in the development of Radar.

 

He taught at Cambridge before becoming headmaster at Sexey's Grammar School, Blackford in 1939 for the next 25 years. Then followed 'retirement' , if you could call it that, of 24 years at Winscombe, mostly at Sunny Brae, During this time he taught part-time at Sidcot School and even helped Peter Duckett in his shop when decimal currency was introduced.

 

He cut a memorable figure - stooped, beady-eyed and silver-haired - always in a hurry, whether he was sweeping along school corridors, going shopping in the village or driving. Unless unavoidable, you only travelled as a passenger with him once - he sat hunched over the wheel urging the vehicle forward. I swear he calculated the maximum possible speed to take most corners. He did slow down for a while during his retirement, but a hip replacement operation soon changed that. He was a talented athlete, having long-jumped 22 feet in his younger days. I recall him demonstrating his technique at school, for he was a great enthusiast. Nothing surprising in that you probably say, but he must have been close to 55 and fully dressed in suit, waistcoat, tie as he hurtled himself down the run-up and into the pit.

 

He was a man with a wonderful sense of humour. He could be stern - what good schoolmaster can't - but there was a ready chuckle on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. He had a passion for mathematics, which he made no attempt to conceal. I am immensely grateful to him for opening up the pleasures and mysteries of mathematics for me. That I enjoy the subject so much is mostly due to him. He loved a problem, the more demanding the better, and there was always that broad smile of triumph at a successful solution even if it had taken 3 boards full of work in Room 6 and you were totally lost after the first half of the board.

 

He loved chess. He took an avid interest in the Stock Market, not to make money for himself, for he had a very simple lifestyle. He treated his financial dealings as an intellectual exercise.

 

He never shirked a challenge. He died as he lived, full of fighting spirit. There were dark days in the early 50's when Sexey's was in danger of closing. He wasn't going to let that happen to his school. He was proud of it and the standards achieved. He knew it was good and he fought for it.

 

He never lost his affinity for the rural life. An enthusiastic gardener, only a couple of months ago he was landscaping his garden at Brae Road, At Sexey's he fed the boarders with his lettuce, tomatoes and apples and then there were his bees , his chickens, ….

 

He was a great family man. A devoted husband who in the last couple of years had a particularly trying time looking after his wife, which he did uncomplainingly. He was a loving and adored father. Helen and Norah were well blessed in this respect. I watched him spend many an hour with them playing tennis, another of his pleasures. They tell me he was also a doting grandfather. I can well imagine it. He was a kind and thoughtful man - generous in his friendship; a person who made lasting friends and valued them greatly.

 

There is sadness at his departure, but this must be a celebration of a life which has given so much. Those of us who were fortunate to have our lives intertwined with his have gained much from him.

It is with affection that I say goodbye to Mr T, Wick, and simply say - 'thank you'.     Leslie Skidmore

In 1964, Malcolm Ravenscroft became headmaster of the school.His wife did the cooking for the boarders.

Malcolm Ravenscroft

During his time at Sexey's, a new library was built; the school went on a foreign visit (a first) to Switzerland;the boarders were disbanded;pupils helped with clearing up after the disastrous local floods (1968);the 75th anniversary of Sexey's was celebrated and in 1976 the school officially became 'Hugh Sexey's Middle School'. 

In 1964, the year he started, Mr Ravenscroft took a number of colour slides of various areas of the school and 'round-a-bout'. Many of the colour pictures on the website labelled '1964' are taken from his slides - of particular importance are his snaps of the boarder boys' dormitory which are likely to be the only ones in existence.  

This picture is the central section of the '76 whole school photo. In the centre is Mr Ravenscroft and to his right, Mr Brookes, his deputy. This is the very last whole school photo of Sexey's as a Grammar school. One particular thing to note is that by this time the school also contained at least one stream of Middle School pupils - these are the pupils in red uniform at the bottom of the picture.

After the change of school status, Malcolm Ravenscroft continued as headmaster of the Middle school until his death from leukaemia, in 1984 . 

The prefect system at Sexey's was probably in place from the very beginning with certain members of the 6th form being bestowed with additional 'powers' over the younger children. The first written reference I have found is in the 1926 Sexonian magazine where 6th form member, JL Burrows, states - 'We also possess three out of the four boy prefects...' .

 At some point the posts of 'Head Boy' and 'Head Girl' appeared (the earliest written record I have found is in the 1928 'Sexonian' magazine which mentions the Head Girl). These students, presumably, possessed some additional qualities which gave them this somewhat raised status over the other 6th formers/prefects. My own memories of these students were that they often performed on Speech days when visiting speakers would need to be thanked and, on occasions, presented with some form of gift. Needless to say, I'm sure their duties extended well beyond tasks on Speech day and I would be very grateful if any past Headboys/Girls who read this article could write in and tell us of the sort of things they got up to. Who, then, were these impeccable scholars who attained the dizzy heights of Head Boy or Head Girl status - I certainly can't put a name to those that were there during my 6th form years of '70/'71- can you name them from your time there?

Over the past year or so, ex pupil John Grant has worked extremely hard to put together the full list of names of Head Boys and Head Girls since the war years. John is to be thanked and congratulated as I know full well that this task was arduous, frustrating and extremely time consuming!

What appears next is John's description of the process together with the chart showing the full list of names and dates of office.

 

Once again, many thanks for all the hard work, John - lets hope the list jogs some memories and we get a few ex Head Boys/Girls writing in. (I'm afraid the gremlins have made another unwanted appearance and have stopped me displaying John's article to its very best - the chart of names and dates also appears in the General Images Gallery 2 - MJ)

The 2012 Roll of Honour and John Rowland Hill

It was back in January of this year (2012) that I was made aware by site researcher, John Grant, that past pupil, Jenny Wylde, had realised from browsing the website that her step great-uncle from the war years, John Rowland Hill, had not been included amongst the 'fallen' on the school's Roll of Honour which now hangs on one of the walls in the school's reception. Sadly, John, as a Flight Lieutenant, lost his life, along with the rest of his crew, whilst piloting a Lancaster bomber on the Wesseling bombing raid in 1944. The main aim had been to destroy a synthetic oil plant that the Germans had built.

Shortly after the second Word War, and probably after the first as well, relatives of those pupils who had laid down their lives were asked to send their names in to the school so they could be added to a list which would eventually be made up into a permanent Roll of Honour.

Needless to say this message didn't get to every single family involved and for whatever reason we can assume the name of John Rowland Hill, a past pupil of the 1920's and 1930's, never got so far as the list of names. Having realised this, Jenny Wylde set about gathering evidence that John was actually a past pupil of the school - it was a very long time ago when he attended as a pupil and quite understandably the school itself needed to be absolutely certain of Jenny's 'claim' before they would go ahead and alter the Roll of Honour.

I'm very pleased to say that this website was able to help Jenny with her evidence gathering. Fortunately, because very few were done, a picture of John appeared along with other prefects in the 1929  'Sexonian' magazine - this picture is part of my article for the website which appears in the 'School Magazines - Early' section. Additionally in the 1930 issue he is mentioned by name and it turns out he was Vice Captain of the cricket team. John also appeared in a small comedy sketch performed at one of the school's Speech days so it would appear he was a good all rounder.

Once Jenny could prove John's provenance both as a past pupil and a 'downed ' wartime RAF pilot the school were very happy to add his name to the Roll - in fact they have been very generous and have fully funded the addition to the Roll of Honour themselves without any costs whatsoever to Jenny.

(I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of Jenny Wylde and family and all Old Sexonians, to thank the school's headmistress, Jenny Venning and the members of staff and governors who were involved in having John's name added to the Roll, it has meant a great deal to us all.) 

It was decided that there would be a short ceremony to celebrate John Rowland Hill's name to Roll of Honour and so on Tuesday, September 18th 2012 a small group of Old Sexonians consisting of myself, Jenny Wylde (with husband Andrew) and Betty Morgan (who had been OSA secretary in the 1940's) along with the school's headmistress, Jenny Venning and the chair of governors, Gaynor Thomas gathered at the front of the newly inscribed Roll of Honour whilst curate, Eddie Wills said some short prayers of remembrance - It was quite moving to see an additional name there, the first to be added in about 65 years. The signwriter had done an excellent job using an identical size, colour and font of the original names and only the slightly brighter nature of the newly applied gold paint being the only clue that this was a later addition to the list of names.It was very fortunate indeed that a single space existed in the WW2 section for John's name to go in - 'it was almost as if the space had been waiting' remarked Jenny Wylde. 


Jenny Wylde proudly shows the newly added name of JR Hill.

Once finished the three members of the invited press  took their photos and we look forward to seeing the articles in print. Unfortunately, because of the very limited amount of space in front of the ROH this took rather a long time - the photographers certainly earnt their money trying to get us all in! In the meantime  a full assembly hall of year 5 and 6 children were patiently waiting for us all to arrive so Jenny Venning could introduce us to them - I must say i was very impressed by how quiet and well-behaved they were, they'd had quite a wait - a deserved 'thank you' to the staff involved.

With introductions over, Jenny Wylde spent a few minutes talking to the children about John Rowland Hill and the part he played in the war (these  particular children were studying WW2 as part of their history work). Finally, she presented the school with a booklet and other information that she had put together about John and the role of the RAF in WW2. Before leaving the hall, Curate Wills said another prayer of remembrance.

Before leaving I gave the school one of the press release packs which meant that children had access to photos of John both as a school prefect and as an airman (a copy of this photo is in Gallery 5).

Finally, we were treated to tea and biscuits in the first floor conference room which used to be the senior boys dormitory in the mid 1960's. We left the school just before midday feeling very grateful to the school for their hospitality and their generosity regarding the Roll of Honour. John Rowland Hill's name was now added to the list of the 'fallen' and will be seen by many generations of pupils to come.

(Jenny Wylde has recently finished a mini biography of John Rowland Hill The charge is £7.50 including P&P (UK only), £3.00 from each copy will be donated to 49Sqdn Association for their continuing memorial work and archive.Contact Jenny on jennywy@tesco.net)

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Miss Isabel Rendell - Obituary

Isabel Mary Rendell was born, the youngest of three sisters (Isabel , Joan and Freda) at Long Buckby in Northamptonshire in 1907. Her father was a Baptist Minister and so it is no surprise that religion played an important part in Isabel's life. Isabel attained the great age of 105 and sadly passed away in first week of May, 2012. Her funeral was held at the United Church in Wells on Friday, May 18thand was well attended by cousins , friends and past pupils of Sexey's.


A very cute Isabel aged 3?, circa 1910. (Rendell Collection)

 After her school years Isabel attended Southampton University where she obtained her degree before starting her teaching career in London. It wasn't until 1945 that Isabel began teaching at Sexey's , at that point the family home was in Yeovil so she stayed in Wedmore travelling home to see her family at weekends. She taught at Sexey's for 26 years and was well liked by the pupils and affectionately known as 'Izzy' (certainly during the 1960's and 70's) her main subjects being English and RE although she also taught Mathematics to the younger pupils in the early years of her career.


Isabel on the school field with other staff members. (Wendy Dene now Holtom)

Out of school Isabel led a very full and active life and was a member of the South Street Baptist Church for over 40 years where, amongst other things, she became a lay preacher and editor of the church magazine.

Isabel's hobbies included archaeology and she was a longstanding member of Yeovil Archaeological Society. She also enjoyed travelling world- wide and visited Japan on a number of occasions to see one of her cousins.


At lunch in a Japanese restaurant, 1994.  (Rendell Collection)

She regularly attended the main annual reunion for Sexey's School and was always pleased to say the grace before the meal.


Isabel aged 100!  (Wendy Dene now Holtom)

 Isabel's family are very grateful to Isabel's carer, Annie who, with great dedication, looked after Isabel in the last six years of her life - it meant that Isabel was able to stay in her own home right to the end.

(Sadly, we say a fond good bye to one of the last of the 'leading lights' of Sexey's Grammar school - speaking as a pupil, she will be remembered as one of those dedicated, long-standing members of staff that made Sexey's Grammar the formative and inspiring school it was.

Finally, I would like to thank Isabel's cousin June and carer, Annie for allowing me to view and use many of Isabel's own pictures for this obituary and elsewhere in the website - MJ)

 

 (Anyone wishing to find out, in more detail, about the first 100 years of the school's history, are strongly advised to purchase Hazel Hudson's excellent book, 'Hugh Sexey Church of England Middle School 1899-1999'- its foreword is written by Isabel Rendell - I believe it's still available from the school itself. - MJ)

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