What was life like without mum and dad being around?
( Remember to check the top of the home-page to see if there have been any recent additions to this section.)
Boarding had been an intrinsic part of the school since the very beginning and facilities for them were built into its design. These took the form of a 1st floor boys' dormitory,wash room, toilets and sick room plus a room for the resident housemaster and an extra large kitchen area attached to the headmaster's house.
At some point a makeshift 'boot room' was added to the main building (of wooden construction) where the male boarders kept their football kits and shoe cleaning equipment.
Later, a stone built, common room was added with extra indoor games facilities for the boys - I remember the billiards table well!
The girl boarders, along with a resident housemistress, were housed in the hostel at the front of the school.
Mary Baker joined the school as a young schoolgirl in the September of 1932, as Mary Dodge. With her family living in Bristol, Mary was to become a boarder at the school for the following five years, leaving in the summer of 1937.
Surprisingly, not all the female boarders at that time, actually slept in the hostel or even on the site. Mary tells me that - 'two slept in the schoolhouse and four in a cottage on the way to the village. I can remember that the cottage was owned by a Mrs Burnett - one day she took away my Yo- Yo!'
Mary can remember that the facilities for the boarders were quite adequate but still rather basic - 'there were no flush toilets except upstairs in the hostel which were used by staff only.'
'Inside the hostel was a large, comfortable sitting room with a piano, outside was a shrubbery and orchard with a lawn at the back.'
The Hostel in the 1930's - Mary remembers playing this piano! Hubert Fisher tells me that this room bcame his lounge when the boarders left in 1966.
'Mr Abram, the headmaster, was very religious. We had to walk down the road in 'crocodile' to church twice every Sunday - anyone who was confirmed was expected to go a third time! It put me off church for a long time once I'd left school!'
'Although we were only allowed to keep 6d a week pocket money, the collection bag was brought round each time we went, so only a ½ penny was put in. It didn't leave us with much after buying stamps to write home or to send the occasional birthday card, when we were allowed to visit the village Post Office on a Saturday afternoon. We had to choose between sweets or the ice cream van which visited the school during the summer dinner times.'
'We went to a schoolroom each evening for prep (In the 60's the boarders used room 4 (boys) and room 5 (girls) -MJ) which was usually followed by a hymn.'
Mary (left) next to Barbara Wookey and Heather Waite.
'Each year we took the Archbishop's Exams (which, I believe, only took place in England and Wales) - it is no wonder that one of the five credits I gained in Oxford School Certificate was for Religious Knowledge!'
'We had no Gym in those days, just exercises in the courtyard, but tennis and hockey were available for those girls who liked them, which I certainly did. We had the annual sports day each year.'
Even in those days the younger children had to go through various initiation ceremonies dreamt up by the older pupils - 'We (the boarder girls) had to 'sing ourselves in' when we first arrived. I didn't know the words of anything but suddenly remembered 'John Brown's Body', that was fine, thank goodness!'
'The senior girls were very strict at that time and meted out punishment for the smallest thing. Standing with hands on our heads was sheer agony after a while.'
'Two of them hated sausages for high tea and another punishment was making the 'offender' eat theirs. Now, I was always hungry (throughout the history of the school, boarders always were!! - MJ) and loved sausages, so I did my best to annoy them on sausage day (luckily the same day each week) but had to pretend that I hated them. I made up my mind never to be like them when I was a senior and I know we were all much happier then.'
'The strangest thing, I thought, was being told we were not to speak to or not have anything to do with the boys!! (If it seemed strange then, it seems absolutely incredible now! - MJ) 'It was, therefore, a great dare to sneak up through the orchard on a dark evening, meet a boy for a few minutes chat and then creep safely back to the Hostel - we were never caught.'
' One happy occasion was the year we won the Hockey Cup, probably in 1936. We had the cup in the Long Dormitory and felt we should have a victory drink from it. The nearest we could get to fizzy Champagne was 'Andrews Liver Salts'. Unfortunately, the 'fizzy' soon disappeared and so we kept adding more and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! The after effects were most unpleasant (I bet! - MJ) the same as those suffered from eating green rhubarb or green, unripe apples which tempted us when we were hungry!'
'I loved boarding and although I enjoyed the first two weeks at home for the holidays, I was always impatient to get back to school.'
(Thank you so much for these memories, Mary. Being an ex boarder myself, I do find the boarder articles really fascinating, they had a totally different set of experiences to the day pupils. This article must surely remain one of the website's oldest, first-hand set of memories of any of the school's pupils. - MJ)
In 1941 John Tarzey began boarding at Sexey's and stayed until 1943 -
'I arrived ay the age of nine in May 1941 (together with my sister who was five years older than myself and went into the boarding girl's hostel), we were children from Bristol evacuated by our parents to escape the air raids which had been quite heavy through the previous winter.'
'I was a bit bewildered as a small boy who had never been away from home but I quickly realized that I had to stand on my own two feet, a lesson whichI would be grateful for ever after.'
'There were two dormitories at first floor level over the main school building,one running lengthwise along the main building and a smaller senior one across one end of the building and facing towards the girl's hostel. In between the dormitories was a washing area of which I only have vague memories. There were about fourteen in the big dormitory and seven in the smaller one.'
'A regular occurrence at the end of term, were dorm raids by the seniors when they would burst into the junior dormitory in the middle of the night and tip over all the beds and their occupants; it caused chaos!.'
'I don't remember any one in authority being near the dormitories but eventually Miss Thrower (Cherry) took residence in a room at the top of the staircase near the kitchen. I remember she used to have some of us into her room late evening and reading us "The Hound of the Baskervilles", gripping stuff!'
'As regards meals, we ate in the dining hall facing the front of the building on the ground floor. The food was obviously pretty basic but quite edible and probably a very healthy diet. I can remember vegetable bowls of porridge at breakfast time which were well made and also a sort of marmalade with a high apple content which I enjoyed a lot.(We were surrounded by orchards and apples were plentiful (including those we got by scrumping).'
'I know a lot of our meat was rabbit but I didn't think it tasted a lot different to chicken.There was a nice lady who worked in the kitchen called Phyllis who I got to know who often gave me bits and pieces (the kitchen was just up the corridor more or less next to the Tomlinson's quarters).'
'At this time there was no common room for the boarders and we made do with the large classroom facing the playing field and next to the main staircase; the same room was also used for prep. I always rather envied the girls with quite a homely room in the hostel.'
'The staff I remember at this time were Mr Tomlinson the headmaster. I was never taught by him but I well remember him one evening coming over to the sports field to show us how to run and producing his running shoes, a pair of spikes, which I had never seen the like of before. There was Mr Evans who taught french and who lived in a rather nice house in Blackford village.. ;Mr and Mrs Wright, she taught biology and they were living in Moor House, a large detached residence next to our football pitch, a short way along the road to Wedmore.'
'Erica Padfield teaching English and who was the daughter of the headmaster of the village school along the road .Miss Thrower (Cherry) who taught us R.E. There was a north country lady, Miss Brookes, who was our geography teacher. Mr Pavey came in from Wedmore to take us for woodwork. I also seem to remember a matron called Miss Bird but the only time I came into contact with her was a telling off for putting too much Brylcream on my hair.'
'As regards organised sport, the main thing I remember was football. I was in a school team where I played at full back together with a chap called Davtd Marsh. We played matches quite frequently but due, I suppose, to lack of travel facilities, it was always against the same school whjch was Hove College who were evacuated to Wedmore during the war. We usually played them on the Wedmore recreation ground and nearly always won (on one occasion by about 20-nil); this was not because we were particularly good but because they were a rather weak side.'
'I also remember playing house matches, Black versus Amber, on our football pitch which was on a field next to the house on the Wedmore road where Mr and Mrs Wright lived. I was in Black house and we were generally beaten by Amber who had two particularly good players in Mapstone and Wilmott.'
'In our free time we played informal cricket on the school field, looked after little patches of vegetables in the area of land beyond the newish laboratory block and played five stones.'
'I and some others acquired a collection of birds eggs ( not illegal in those days) and kept mine in a cardboard box in the chest of drawers next to my bed. We had no radio or newspapers so I can't recall how we new what was going on at quite acritical time in the war..'
'Some of the lads from country backgrounds brought their rabbits and guinea pigs to school and kept them ln hutches in a corner of the playing field behind the woodwork shop and I took quite an interest in these and helped with cleaning them out etc.'
'We had a couple of pairs of boxing gloves and I remember being forced by some of the older boys to put them on and fight an opponent, in my case Michael Stannet, a nice placid boy bigger than myself, I punched him on the nose and it started to bleed profusely, he just stood there and did nothing, I felt quite sick and would never put the gloves on again and told him I was sorry.'
'At weekends we were allowed to go down to Blackford village and generally went to Lockyers Stores and bought buns to eat and walked up some of the lanes birdnesting in season and generally looking around. The names of many of the people living around the village were either Ducket or Vowles.'
'On Sundays we walked in a file to the octagonal village church for the morning service; the vicar was the Rev. Mackie who was quite elderly and had a speech impediment which I thought was rather unfortunate in his occupation and seemed to make the sermons even longer.'
'At the end of term we boarders who came from further away were put on a brake ( mini-coach in modern terms) early in the morning and driven to Highbridge station to catch the London train and in the case of myself and my sister, getting off at Bristol and others, such as probably Paddy Hudgell, going on to Paddington. At the beginning of term my father used to borrow a car from a friend, scrounge a bit of petrol and drive us back to the school.'
'Just after the start of term in January 1942 one morning, I was sat in a classroom for RE with Miss Thrower a bit bored and a little homesick when she was called out of the room, she shortly came back to say "You're all going home for three weeks due to an outbreak of scarlet fever"; I thought what a miracle. We went home and had swabs taken by our own doctors. We eventually came back to school and had a lengthened term with shorter Easter holiday.'
'That about completes my memories of nearly seventy years ago and its all a little hazy. I went on at the age of twelve to another boarding school (all boys) near Bristol but still look, back with some affection to my days at Sexeys.' (Thank you very much for these, John. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them - MJ)
In 1953 Liz Burchell joined the school, staying until 1958. Here are her memories -
'I started as a very small boarder in 1953. I was just 4'6" tall and have only grown another 6" since then!! I was very homesick, especially after returning after the holidays. I earned the nickname Lizzie Dripping which was shortened to "drip". I am embarrassed just remembering it but have to admit that I am still a bit of a "weepie".'
Liz in 1954.
'I was in the Long Dorm with about 5 other girls and graduated to a double room with Angela Cryer who sadly died very young of cancer. All new girls were initiated by meeting the ghost of Hugh Sexey- can't remember who dressed up in a white sheet but I don't remember being particularly scared. Another thing new boarders had to do was to run away during our Sunday afternoon walks with Miss Barnes or Miss Cotton as well as hiding when it was time for bed. I can remember being up in an apple tree!!'
'My memory of church services in Blackford Church was that we went in the morning on alternate Sundays and in the evening on the other. I think the church shared the vicar with another parish. I wasn't very attentive and didn't put much in the collection plate - I think we even used buttons on occasions.'
'Evening prep was done in Miss Irons' geography room in the school followed by supper in the dining room. This was interrupted for me once a week by a piano lesson with Mr.Tonkin. I used to accompany the singers at rehearsals for the Gilbert and Sullivan productions. I also played the piano some of the time for morning assembly. I think everyone was out of breath at the end of the hymns as I was known for playing much too quickly!!'
'On Saturday afternoons we were allowed to go out on our own - sometimes to a local football match in Wedmore or to a little place called The Copper Kettle where we could buy a drink,etc. It was on the moors somewhere but my memory is a bit vague. There was also a little shop in Blackford village where you could buy honeycomb - I still remember that every time I eat a Crunchie bar.'
'I wasn't much good at sport except for hockey where I eventually became hockey captain and got my "colours" which meant I could wear a different tie. Tennis and athletics weren't for me!'
'These days there is no corporal punishment but I remember the boys lining up in the corridor outside Mr.Tomlinson's study to "get the cane". How things have changed.'
'All this fuss now about school dinners - I really enjoyed mine, probably because I was always hungry. These were brought in every day in metal containers. The meals for the boarders weren't so appetising. Afternoon tea was dry bread with a lettuce leaf - you had to rummage through the container of bread to find one that wasn't mouldy!! We had a treat for Sunday tea - flapjacks. I still hate them. Sunday lunch was always stew followed by rice pudding. This was because the cook had the day off and it had to be something that was prepared in advance. Breakfast was a lonely fried egg on a plate - no toast and I don't think we got that every day. I remember the fire in the common room on which we put apples from the orchard to bake them. It's no wonder I'm not a fussy eater now - we didn't exactly get "cordon bleu" food. But I survived.' (Thank you very much for your memories, Liz - MJ)
In 1956 John Ives joined the school as a boarder -
'I was a boy boarder from 1956 -1963. Unfortunately all the things I can remember are the capers we got up to which usually involved "gating for a term".'
- 'I can remember being a member of the Somerville cricket team and proudly being given the scoring book to keep a record of a match, Just before the game I walked into Room 4 where I thought the rather rotund cleaning lady, a Mrs Vowles, was bent over. I naturally gave her a whack on the backside only to discover that when the female form stood upright it was Miss Barnes the history teacher! I was gated for a term.'
- 'Then one night in the boys dormitory which was on the opposite side to the school belfry we borrowed some wool from the girl boarders and attached it to the gong. Late at night we started pulling it and waited for Mr Tomlinson's light to come on. Out he came so we pulled it tight and he was baffled.
Ten minutes later the same again but we saw him heading up the stairs so we let the wool down (it came in through the windows and into our cases on the window cills. We were dead to the world. Ten minutes later out he came again this time with a torch and shone it up in the sky and we were dead meat. I think we all got gated as no one would own up!'
- 'I can remember setting fire to the wood pile accidentally with a tuppeny banger and smuggling my air gun in after half term.'
- 'I can also remember actually getting expelled on a Saturday. I'm in trouble here I thought, so on the Sunday morning I got up early and starting walking down the corridor where Mr and Mrs T were cooking breakfast and sure enough out he came . 'Where are you off to Ives', he said "Well sir, I'm off to church to beg for forgiveness" - and guess what I got away with it!'
- 'I can remember all the boarders waiting for the fish and chip van on a Saturday at the end of the Sports field.'
- 'While I eventually left with 4 'O'levels I was really good at sport and won the school cup 5 years out of 6. We had to do 3 field and 3 track events in those days and my specialism was the javelin for which I made the all England.'
'I still carry the shoulder injuries I picked up then to this day. I remember taking 5 for 0 when bowling leg breaks for Somerville in a house match and scoring the winner at 4-3 for football after Blake were 3-0 up.'
- 'And lastly I can remember our jaunts up to the Copper Kettle where we bought 10 Anchor for 1s 3d and after finding them all mildew, sending them off to the manufacturers and getting 30 new ones back. We then drew out all our pocket money and went to buy some more before discovering that the manufacturers had withdrawn the lot!'
'The love of my life was one Gail Pharo but nobody seems to have heard of her since.' (Can anyone shed any light on the whereabouts of Gail? - many thanks for the amusing article, John - MJ)
Ian 'Wispy' Wilder joined the school as a boarder just one year later than John, in 1957. Here are some his memories -
'I've just come across the Old Sexonians website so thought I'd send a quick email to say thanks for setting this up.'
'I was at Sexey's as a Boarder from 1957 to 1964 and have some very fond memories of my time there. In fact, I've been to a couple of Reunions of the class of 57, which were great, each held close to the School. It was really lovely to meet up with people whom I hadn't met for almost 40 years!'
'I've noticed a couple of photos of G&S Productions (Pirates of Penzance and The Gondoliers) which I took part in, in the chorus. Those productions were hard work but also a lot of fun and it was good that staff and pupils took part together.'
'Pete Lee, Gordon Churchyard, Fred Roberts and Glyn Moore were the staff who took part, while I think Erica Padfield, the Senior Mistress and English teacher, directed the shows. Mr Tonkin was, of course, the Musical Director.'
'One of the events I remember was when Margaret Barnes, the Boarding mistress and history teacher, retired. We decided to do a "This is Your Life" for her, I got the Eamonn Andrews/Michael Aspel role and we got various people to recall events involving Miss Barnes, including "Gym Wall" who recounted the time when Miss Barnes had walked into him on her way back to the girl's boarding house!'
'You mention the Head's use of the cane - Mr Tomlinson was "Wick" incidentally. He did use it occasionally as I know to my cost (!) but only very rarely. The Boarding Master also occasionally used a slipper with recalcitrant boarders!'
'One such occasion was when the boy boarders decided to have a party after lights out, having acquired copious quantities of cider from the local farm! I still have a lump on my nose where I tripped over the end of the bed and banged my nose on the other end - the frame was metal!' (With all that scrumpy I bet you didn't feel a thing - thanks, Ian! - MJ)
Ian has kindly 'put pen to paper' again and sent me some other 'boarder memories'.
'There were 26 boarders (12 boys and 14 girls) coming from quite a wide area of what was then Somerset. James Ross, who was in my year and who was a keen sportsman, was the exception in that he lived in the Falkland Islands where he father owned a jewellery shop.'
'During school hours we took part of course in the usual school activities and after school we had homework, which we used to do up until 5th form in the geography Room. We had a set period for that after tea, I think.'
'Immediately after school some of us used to go down to the local village shop (in Blackford) going across the fields through Sexey's Farm. They made their own cider (scrumpy) which was a truly evil concoction - although we thought it was great! - and we used to persuade an old farm labourer to let us have a drink. He seemed to be very old and spoke with such a strong local accent that he was almost totally incomprehensible. We used to say that he was pickled on the cider - and that probably wasn't too far from the truth!'
'When the weather was decent we used to play on the school fields until it got dark and we also had a common room with table tennis and a small billiard table. The head (Wick) was a keen billiard and snooker player and quite often used to come into the common room for a game. He was also a very good chess player and taught a number of the boys, including me, how to play. The girls of course had their own hostel and spent most of their spare time in there during the week.'
'On Saturdays we were able to go out on our own so we used to walk into Wedmore or hitch a lift - which we weren't supposed to do - into Wells or Cheddar or Highbridge. If we couldn't get a lift we'd catch a bus, but most of the time we got lifts, even if it was with Mr Swallow.
'The highlight of Saturday evenings was the visit of a mobile fish 'n' chip shop - from Burnham, I think - called Alberto Bertorelli.' (I can't believe it, they must have stopped that in the year I arrived - spoilsports!! - MJ)
'We had church parade every Sunday, I think, going to the local church in Blackford - that strange octagonal building. As far as I recall we made up the largest number in the congregation.'
'All the boys slept in one dormitory on the first floor close to the 6th Form Common Room. When we were in the first and second year we had to amuse the older boarders after lights out by climbing onto a big cupboard at one end of of the dormitory and singing or reciting poetry. If our efforts weren't appreciated we got pelted with a variety of shoes and boots!' (That white wardrobe was used for everything! - MJ)
'When I joined in 1957, the older boarders whom I remember were Robin Mitchell, John Sparshatt, Alan(?) Vaulter and David Jones. The other new boys in 1957 were John Silcox (Fred) who lived in Yeovil, subsequently joined the RAF and now lives in France, Roger Ashman, who lived in Yatton, and Geoffrey Strong (Gas) who lived near Dulverton. James Ross, joined us later I think.'
'The following year we were joined by John Woodward (Worm) from Porlock and Timothy Wellington, whose brother Jeremy came a couple of years later. They lived in Midsomer Norton. Later on we were joined by Julian Rutter and Alan West-Sadler. Can't remember where Julian came from, but Alan lived on Exmoor I think.' (These are names I can remember - one of them gave me a particularly hard time! - MJ)
'I can't remember many of the girls, but two in my year were Pat Groves, also from the Porlock area and Anita Seal from the Bristol area.'
'Our matron was Miss Cotton. She was very prim and proper. We had a succession of Boarding Masters, Chalky White, Lionel Slatter (who was a sports teacher), Glyn Moore (who taught Latin) and - I think Brian Elvins (who taught history and came from Mevagissey in Cornwall). He was a great teacher and I particularly enjoyed his classes in the 6th form when I took history.'
'Margaret Barnes - whom I mentioned previously - was the Boarding Mistress and when she retired her replacement was a much younger lady whose name I can't remember but who drove an Austin A30! (Isn't the memory strange?)'
'When I was in the 6th Form, I used to go with Mr Moore to Cheddar to play rugby for the local team - coarse rugby at its best!! - and on the occasional Sunday would go with the boarding mistress to a service in Well Cathedral.'
'I was interested in your reference to the bit of scandal involving a boarder! I don't remember any details of that although I do recall that Lionel Slatter was reputed to have had an affair with one of the girls.'(I think I can hear the solicitors knocking on my door! - MJ)
'Most of our activities were pretty innocent. I mentioned the after-lights party that the boarders had on one occasion. On another occasion we decided after lights-out, to go down to local pub, The Sexey's Arms, (which we also used to frequent on a Saturday lunchtime as they had a juke-box). Having sneaked out across the fields, we went in the door of the pub - the bar was very tiny opposite the front door - only to spot the boarding master who should have been on duty at school standing at the bar! So we beat a hasty retreat.'
'On another occasion Worm set fire to a tree by letting off a banger in the tree. And we were all gated quite frequently for various misdemeanours.'
'I also seem to remember that on one occasion someone managed to get onto the roof and tie some string to the bell in the belfry and then rang it in the dark from the dormitory! (Excellent idea! - MJ) Can't remember who was responsible for that though.'
'But on the whole we were well looked after by the Head and his wife, who used to do a lot of the cooking along with a Mrs Vowles. The Tomlinson's daughter Norah was also often around.'
'There were some real characters among the staff. You've mentioned Pete Lee and I've already mentioned Lionel Slatter and Brian Elvins. Arthur Swallow was the Senior Master and a Science teacher. In fact, we used a textbook written by him for our general science lessons in the early years.'
'He lived in a lovely cottage - Grantchester - in Wedmore and made a great selection of wines from various fruit and vegetables. Erica Padfield lived in a big house just up the road from the school. She was a very good English teacher, but was chiefly remembered for the way she used to fold her arms and lift her bosom before chastising anyone!.'
'Miss Irons was a diminutive geography teacher who described herself as being "5 feet and threepenny bit". Gordon Churchyard taught Science and music and got me interested in classical music. But I don't think he could sing as well as he thought he could! Les Pavey whom you've mentioned was a real craftsman - he owned his own carpentry and joiner's shop in Wedmore - but his skills were not appreciated by all the boys.'
'Deirdre Lambe was a Scots lady who also joined as a Science teacher. She was also very keen. We also also had Mr and Mrs Bartlett. Mr Bartlett taught maths I think and Mrs Bartlett taught PE. Mr Bartlett was a big man, over 6 feet tall and his wife was very short but extremely well endowed, much to the delight of the boys who went to her PE lessons!'
'Mr Packer was a brilliant language teacher and we had a succession of French assistantes who made learning French very enjoyable. But, although I took French in the 6th form I still haven't discovered to this day why or how I was supposed to translate 17th century French (Les Femmes Savantes) into modern English!'
'Apart from being Boarding Master, Chalky White also taught Latin, but left, I think, after I'd been at Sexey's a couple of years.'
I (MJ) asked Ian about the position of the boarders' common room when he was at Sexey's . He can only remember it being in one place throughout his time as a boarder, which was at the end of the Domestic Science room. As I arrived in the same year that he left, the Common room I used ( a stone built affair,outside Room 4) must have been new and in use from September 1964. (Looking at the position of 'Ian's' Common room on the 1957 map in Arthur Swallows 'School History', I'm sure that this was the same room that eventually Fred Roberts used to teach us Maths) After some thought Ian could also remember the wooden, boarders' bootroom -
'The boarders' Common Room was in one of those prefabricated huts and was at the opposite end of the school from the Gym (so yes, at the end of the school closest to the road to Heath House). It was close to the domestic science block and there was a school entrance with the girl's cloakroom by the entrance.' (it appears that the Common room was moved about quite regularly.If my memory serves me correctly, in my 2nd year (1966) it was moved to the Old Prep room until boarding was stopped. I'm pretty sure that the room ouside Room 4 was then changed into an Art Room. - MJ)
'Now you mention the bootroom and its location, I do remember it. We used to clean our shoes and football boots in there and when I was in the 6th form I seem to recall keeping a bike in there as well which I used to ride home to Weston occasionally at weekends.' (Once again, many thanks for your contribution, Ian. - MJ)
As Ian stated in his article, Roger Ashman was one of the other boarders that started as the same time as he did. Roger has written in and here are his memories -
'Henry Tomlinson was called "Wick" and he caned me with six of the best, one Saturday afternoon and John Woodward as well. Our "crime" climbing a tree and disturbing a squirrel's dray. During my 6 years as a boarder there were a few canings.'
'Whilst the Hungarian revolution was on we were asked to knit blanket squares, however we decided to climb the Belfry roof and tie wool to the bell and at midnight rang the bell but then jerked it hard to break the wool. Wick took ages to suss this out as we told him it must be the ghost of Sir Hugh Sexey. No caning but a fire drill at 2am. Wick's wife then made us all cocoa.'
'If you were a boarder it will be remembered that on October 21st was Hugh Sexey night when his ghost appeared. At the time we had a new housemaster he was "Blodwyn" Somebody called Reece from Wales and taught Latin. We inaugurated him only to find he was inaugurating a French teacher from France and only about 20 years old.'
'John Woodward was 1 year below me as was Tim Wellington (boots). His brother Jeremy came in about a year before I left. I started in September 1956 (was it 56 or 57 as per Ian's article ? -MJ) with Fred Silcox , Ian Wilder, Geoff Strong. John Ives was the year before me.'
'On the girls side we had ,same year, Anita Seal, Pat ????, Sheila Hopwood and Carol Day, though she left after 2 years.Teacher wise we had Mrs Irons (Tinny), Erica Padfield, Joe Swallow, Les Pavey, Brian Elvins, Packer for French, Pete Lee, Isobell Rendall, Churchyard for chemistry and obviously Wick.'
'Tinny was replaced by a tall skinny lady who taught Geography and was the girls house mistress. We also had Miss Cotton as Matron. Before Brian Elvins we had a lady that taught History and she went off to become senior mistress at Beaminster Girls School.'
'Our year won the under 15 area trophy and went the whole season without losing one match, Tim Wellington, James Ross, Kevin Thorner, Pete Gregory (in goal) Jim Parsons, Clive Watts, Rob Abbott to name a few.'
'We put on a performance of Pirates of Penzance and I played Samuel. Churchyard was Frederick. Girls in the class were Audrey Crocker, Liz Rose, Janet Barrington, Anne Gough, Angela Goodman, Steph Marshall. Les Skidmore who was in the sixth when I joined was a good friend as we came from the same village.'
'I used to see "Wick" after he retired and he lived at a house called Sunnybrae, Winscombe. I always had a Xmas card from him and his wife up until he died.' (Thanks for your contribution, Roger. - MJ)
Pauline Thompson (Damiano) joined the school in the early '60's, as a boarder. Her very first visit was in the summer of '62, to have a look at what the school had to offer. Here's a snap she took of the school field.
( If you look in the 'Sexey's Middle School ' section of the website, you can see that this view looks very different nowadays.)
It appears that a cricket match is going on, with many pupils sitting around the boundary - you can make out someone 'padded up' on one of the chairs. Just in front of the tennis courts is the sand pit for the high jump. To the right is the old cricket pavilion.
Pauline went on to take a number of shots of the other boarders in her year, there were five girls and two boys.
This picture was taken outside the hostel and includes Pauline (front left) - alongside Pauline is Melita Edwards.
The back row (left to right) is Pauline Andrews, Beverley Owen and Dianne Hayman .
This is the same group of girls having fun outside the hostel .
Here are Pauline A. and Beverley - practising something they've learnt in a dance lesson? Very nice, girls!
These boarders were older than Pauline and were photographed in the doorway of the hostel. The girl on the left was Jane ? and was in the 3rd form at the time. The two other girls were 4th formers. (Can anyone remember their names? - MJ).
Melita Edwards also sent in a number of photos of fellow boarders. Here's a nice colour shot of Melita (2nd left) outside the hostel, with Pauline Thompson to her left and Beverley Owen and Pauline Andrews to her right. Comparing the hairstyles to other photographs, I would imagine this was in the early '60's.
The boarders had more of an opportunity to use the sports facilities than the day pupils and Melita took this photo of Pauline A, Dianne , PaulineT and Beverley - anyone for tennis?!
Here are the same group around the school pool - not going in, girls?
The boarder boys and girls did mix occasionally! - here's Dianne Hayman and Pauline Andrews getting to know David Alexander (Caesar). David began boarding in the same year as myself, along with Geoff Thorne and Francis Gillett, the four of us being the total, male boarder intake for 1964. If I remember correctly, David had spent much of his early life in Kenya.
(If that's snow on the ground, the picture was taken in the winter of '64 or '65.)
'Mousey, stop crawling over me, I'm trying to have a quiet moment with Beverley!' This shot shows Michael Edwards (Mousey), Adrian Lloyd (Ader) and Beverley Owen on the grass at one end of the swimming pool.
Melita remembers - ' looking at the swimming pool pictures, how versatile our car rugs were. We really needed them in winter on the beds as we didn't have many blankets and the only form of heating were bathroom heaters on the walls, which had to be turned off at 'lights out. '
'We nearly froze to death many a time (so did we in the boys' dorm! - MJ), even though we used to curl up in the (somewhat grassy!) car rugs, then wriggle down in the bed after putting on several jumpers.'
Melita took this next photo from inside the tennis courts. It's of particular interest not just because it shows the 'new' library but it also shows the old Art room (long gone) off to the left.
Back in the sixties, Melita took this shot of the front of the school. ( I think the current Maths topic must have been 'Symmetry'! - MJ).
In 1965, Melita played one of the jury members in 'Alice in Wonderland'. This was a Class 2 production and took place on March 12/13th.
Fortunately,before leaving Sexey's, Melita wrote down the names of the class members and the roles they played - King- Chris Callow, Rabbit- Linda Washer, Gryphon- Pauline Andrews, Turtle- Bernard Lawrence, Duchess- Margaret Olive, Knave- Clive Ham, Cook- Pamela Callow, Dormouse- Michael Edwards, Mad Hatter- Marvin Cooper, March Hare- Tony Cousins, Cheshire Cat- Susan Dias, Alice- Cherry Haws, Gardener- Paul Thomas, Gardener- Pete Nichlson, Gardener- Stephen Caulderon, Guards- Stephen Smith,David Brock, Nicholas Evans, Royston Scott, Robert Fear. Jury (L-R, standing on RHS of stage) Sandra Vile, Diana Brown, Marian Evans, Barbara Cox, Jane Withers, Jenny Butt. Front Row- Melita Edwards, Beverley Owens, Christine Line, Jackie Plimsole, Susan Steer, Jane Cox.
Melita must have been quite 'sporty' as here she is in both the 1966, Under 15's Tennis and Hockey teams as well as the 1966, 2nd X1 Hockey team.
Standing L-R are Susan Steer, Miss Leach, Pauline Andrews and Melita Edwards.In the front are Sarah Price, Bev Lane and Margaret Thomas.
Here's the Under 15 Hockey team -
Back row, L-R, Melita Edwards, Sue Steer, Margaret Thomas, ?, ?, Miss (Beryl) Leach. front row Beverley Owens, Pauline Andrews, Pam Ford ,Christine Fear, Pamela Callow.
- and here are the 2nd X1, from the same year.
Back row, L-R, Melita Edwards, Pauline Andrews, ?, Helen Boswell, Margaret Thomas, ? . In the front are Rachael Salway, ?, ?, Jane Chapman and Christine Fear.
(Can anyone help get rid of the dreaded '?'s, ? - MJ)
Melita listed a number of other memories for her time as a boarder -
'We had to collect the cider apples from the two orchards in the school grounds (one in front of the hostel, the other at the front, left of the school as you face it). Not a job for the squeamish - the apples were not to be picked from the trees, but from the ground, with slugs, snails, maggots the lot. Yuk!'
'Having only three lots of school clothes (That many!! - MJ). One set to wear, one in the laundry and one on the way back from the laundry. We girls used to scrub our blouse collars and put them under our mattress to dry overnight ! Games kit was washed when we went home, about every 3 weeks - it must have stood up on its own!'
'When 'You'll Never Walk Alone' by Gerry and the Pacemakers was on the radio, the senior girls used to close the curtains in the common room and put out all the lights, We had an old piano in our common room. Pauline taught me 'chopsticks'! '
'Watching Dr Who on Saturday evenings in the boys' common room - the girls didn't have a TV. Also,Top of the Pops on a Thursday.'
'Long walks on weekends. I think in groups of 3 or 4. We walked to Wedmore on Saturdays and out on the moors on Sundays.We often came back wet and muddy after falling in a rhyne or losing a welly in the mud!'
'In the summer terms we spent a lot of time by the swimming pool. We went swimming a few times at midnight - strictly not allowed! Once it was thunder and lightning, that was quite an experience.'
'One Saturday a group of us girls went to Wells by bus to the pictures (flea pit) - not sure we were supposed to travel that far! We went to see 'The Knack'. It was an 18 and we thought we were so grown up to have got in. I saw the film again a few years ago - what a load of rubbish!'
'Midnight feasts - we used to have these quite often - seems food played quite an important part in our lives, then.
'Midnight walks - if we'd been caught, I'm sure we would have been instantly expelled! There were some peacocks somewhere along the top road behind the school - they always made such a racket when we walked past!'
'Boarders' Rugby - No holds barred indoor football in the gym. Bet we wouldn't be allowed to play that sort of game now - far too dangerous!'
'Sometime towards the end of October, in my first year, 'The Ghost of Hugh Sexey' woke us in the middle of the night! One of the older girls had a sheet over her head with a torch glowing under it. The others were rattling the chains taken from the loos.'
'We were tossed out of bed and made to bow to 'Hugh'- quite scary for an 11 year old. I suppose it would be classed as bullying now, but we took it as part and parcel of the tradition of the school, along with other 'raggings' such as Apple Pie beds, pyjamas sown up and being made to drink 'Hugh's Brew'- a concoction of anything that was remotely edible - toothpaste, shampoo, apple juice, rotten apples etc.'
'All very tame in comparison to the boys, no doubt, (Quite right, Mel - all the things the older boys dreamt up for us, always had an element of pain in them! - MJ) but we were still very much in awe of the older girls and on occasions a bit scared of them.'
'Miss Cotton was the matron and Mr Breeze the Housemaster. We also had a Miss Dix as Housemistress, then Miss Leach. Mr Tomlinson (Wick) was the head when I first went and then it was Mr Ravenscroft - I'm almost afraid to put his nickname,'The Nose'.'
'The boarders in my year missed out on a trip abroad because some 'dilly' wrote 'we hate the Nose' on a desk in our classroom - Mrs Ravenscroft was so angry (she hated his nickname). She blamed the boarder girls even though we weren't guilty (a likely story! - MJ) and banned us from the trip. I have never forgiven her!'
In brief, Melita also remembers - 'helping to score the cricket matches... walking, crocodile fashion, to church... and watching 'most of the rehearsals for 'Midsummer Night's Dream'.'
(Melita tells me that when she finished at Sexey's, after the boarders had been disbanded, she went to Sunnyhill School, Bruton along with no less than eight of the other girl boarders! These were Pauline Andrews, Diana ?, Bernice Ball, Jane Kilgannon, Celia Cox, Sue Thompson, Linda Greenwood and Patsy Thorne - MJ)
Boarding for me (Martyn James) was quite tough in my first year ('64-'65) as some of the older boarders would take great delight in inflicting pain and discomfort on us younger ones! (For some reason, I did have more than my fair share, though, and in my first year I was desperate to leave).
Fortunately, I kept detailed diaries for 1965 and 1966 - these have helped immensely with this article, hence some of the very precise dates.
Initially, (1964) all the boys were in one first floor dormitory, in the old building, ( up the old, worn, stone steps and turn right).This housed about 12 of us. The only feature in the room apart from our beds, chests of drawers and small bedside chairs was a very large, built in wardrobe.
In 1964, Mr Ravenscroft, the school's headmaster took a number of 35mm slides of the school and the surrounding area. Luckily for us he took two shots of the boarders dormitory and are probably the only two in existence.
This photo was taken from the wardrobe end and shows my bed (in the centre with the sun on it) with Geoff Thorne's bed to the right. As you can see we were well packed in!
This picture was taken from the washroom end and shows the large white wardrobe. The door to its left led to the bathroom, staffroom and Mr Breeze's room. Another set of stairs led down to the ground floor.
Later, in the following year, when numbers increased, we were separated into a junior and a smaller senior dormitory.
Next to these dormitories were the house master's room (Brian Breeze) a washroom and a Medical room. At the bottom of the stone staircase was the 'bootroom'( mentioned previously). Here, as well as cleaning our own shoes and football boots, we had to do the 6th form boarders ones as well - my diary entry for my 12th birthday tells me that I ' cleaned football boots for Tim and John' - what a lovely birthday present !! (That would have been John Woodword and Tim Wellington).
On occasions, our school shoes were inspected by Mr Ravenscroft - you cleaned them till they sparkled or else! On 13/1/65, Mr R. decided my 'winklepickers' (passed down to me from my older brother) weren't suitable for school (too pointed) and new shoes had to be bought!
Local shops were regularly used by the boarders, as long as permission was obtained to leave the site, and consisted of the local village store, which must have done very well from the extra business of the boarding community (sadly, it closed in 1994) as well as a lesser known shop called 'The Copper Kettle', (nicknamed 'Nancy's'), at Heath House.
It was there that we sometimes took old pop bottles (mostly collected from ditches on the way) to get the 3d back - on 26/1/65 I collected 1s 3d worth! - I'm afraid the shop is no longer with us.
My fellow boarder, Geoff Thorne, recently reminded me that, on occasions, crates of empty bottles were left outside by the shop's owners and we would often take a few from the crates to add to the number's we had brought in that day - that's what I call 'recycling'!!
One big advantage of boarding was the fact that the sports facilities were freely available . When we had finished our compulsory evening 'prep' ( in class 4 , by the rear entrance - the girls were next door in class 5) and supper, we could use the gym for football etc.
On lighter evenings, we could use the tennis courts, pitches and running track and if we were really lucky, use the new swimming pool. I learnt to swim in the school pool and I can remember being lifted out on many occasions suffering terribly from cramp!
I also learnt to throw the discus to a reasonable standard - ( 53 feet on 2/5/65) - diaries are marvellous things! The throwing circle was perilously close to the tennis courts, and I can remember more than one discus going over the wire fence whilst tennis was being played - I don't remember any accidents, thankfully.
We must have been tougher in those days, as my diary entry for ten days later tells me we went in the pool for a swim - bear in mind it was outdoors, the pool was unheated and only the beginning of May - no wonder I suffered with cramp!
Here, members of the boarders in my class (1964) are having fun around the pool. Francis Gillett (Gullett) is trying to play a tune on the hose whilst David Alexander (Caesar) and Janice Smith have a water-fight - a bemused Marvin Cooper (Pokey) looks on.
One of the big advantages of boarding, was that you were out of sight of mum and dad. We had some great fun when we were out of sight of the teachers, too!
One of the most risky things we did was to sneak out of the dorm at some unearthly hour in the morning and go 'strawberrying'- looking back, goodness knows what would have happened if we'd been caught !
This involved a number of us creeping out of school at some unearthly hour, very early in the morning,making sure we put the outer door on the latch (by class 4) so we could get back in, and 'raiding' a nearby strawberry field. I remember that the field was towards Heath House, on the left hand side.
Once we'd 'stuffed our faces', we would fill up large tins we'd taken with us, and take them back to school, getting back into our beds (about 5a.m.) and then we'd eat them at our leisure.
Unfortunately, we couldn't eat them fast enough and many of them went off in their tins before we could get to them. Unfortunately, the awful smell attracted the attention of the headmaster, Mr Ravenscroft! I can still see him opening a huge tin of strawberries in the boys' Recreation Room and asking how they'd got there - I don't think anyone owned up, and I think the noble art of 'strawberrying' died a death after that - think of all that Vitamin C we missed out on!
Another very enjoyable 'after lights out' type outing, was going out to a nearby barn with the girls! The barn was about two fields away from the school and most of the time it was just for an innocent natter, although some kissing and cuddling did go on - the least said about that, the better!! On one occasion our chatting and giggling made too much noise and we attracted the attention of the farmer- did we run!
One of the funniest, personal incidents I can remember of boarding days (although it won't seem particularly funny in print) was when I had flu, (14/1/66), and was put in the sick room. I was in there for one day by myself, only to be joined by Robert 'Tubby' Davis, who had also succumbed to the virus. The school nurse, Mrs Cotton (nicknamed 'Fagan') made us the most atrocious, 'medicinal' squash that had 'goodness knows what' in it.
The moment she had left the room, I poured the whole lot down the sink . Unfortunately, about 5 seconds later she came back in and , seeing that we must have 'enjoyed our medicine so much', she cheerfully made us another jug-full ! Somehow, we managed to keep straight faces until she went out and then we absolutely exploded! - I'm even laughing as I type this!!
Other boarder memories in brief include watching an amazing meteor shower (17/11/66) from our dormitory beds, one night (Leonids?), the annual visit by the barber (from Wedmore?) to cut the boys' hair, going to church every Sunday morning and getting tuck parcels sent by parents (only to have most of the contents taken by the older boys!)
Sadly, in 1966 having just started my third year of boarding, without any warning that I was aware of, the unthinkable happened - it was decided that the boarding facilities at Sexey's would close! My 24/11/66 diary entry simply reads, 'Dissolution of the boarders'. This meant, of course, that any boarders who lived any real distance away would have to leave to go to be educated at another school.
I can't bring to mind my feelings about this, at the time. Although it obviously meant a big change. Being so young, I don't think I really understood the full implications and living relatively close by, meant that I could still attend the school, anyway.
It must have been a much more upsetting time for the vast majority of boarders, that had to leave Sexey's, though. ( Any memories of those final days, boarders? - MJ)
Geoff Thorne and myself were lucky enough to be able to carry on till 6th form, as we only lived a relatively short distance away, in the Burnham area -the two of us ended up being the very last boarders to leave Sexey's Grammar (in 1971) ending 67 years of tradition.
Looking back, boarding certainly had its ups and downs but I wouldn't have missed it for the world! Boarding life would definitely have improved as we'd got older, as we would have become the 'top dogs'. Unfortunately, with the closure in '66, we never had an opportunity to experience it. ( I've had to clean my own shoes ever since!)'
I've put this next photo into the boarders section because it contains so many of them! It includes many of the last intake of boarders (in Year 2) before boarding was disbanded .
This is actually the cast of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' , the production taking place on March 24th, 1966. The photo was supplied by Celia Cox (standing on the back row, 2nd left) who was also a boarder at the time.
Other boarders include Francis Gillet (Gullet), Marvin Cooper (Pokey), Adrian Lloyd (Ader), Jeremy Wellington, Michael Edwards (Mousey), Jane Kilgannon, Sue Thompson, Deborah Hawkins,Janice Smith and Jane Chapman.
Other boarders include Francis Gillet (Gullet), Marvin Cooper (Pokey), Adrian Lloyd (Ader), Jeremy Wellington, Michael Edwards (Mousey), Jane Kilgannon, Sue Thompson, Deborah Hawkins,Janice Smith and Jane Chapman.
Celia Cox has also sent me her school-day memories. Celia was a boarder in the same class as myself (starting in '64) and left Sexey's when the boarders were disbanded in 1966. Here are her memories, in her own words.
'The girls were housed in a separate building to the main school, called the Hostel. It was quite a large building comprising 3? dorms upstairs, a sick room, a further dorm downstairs called The Annexe and accommodation for two resident housemistresses; one of whom taught geography and sport, and the other acted as matron. Also on the ground floor was a large washroom, a common room with a piano, and kitchen where we used to get our hot water bottles filled (The boys didn't have these!! - MJ) and a cup of cocoa at night time.'
'I don't know whose idea it was to start our nocturnal ramblings, but several of us would go out at night... we would get dark clothes ready, two of us would be designated to take turns to stay awake until the appointed time- usually midnight or thereabouts - then wake the others.'
'We would get dressed, then creep down the front stairs (normally out of bounds) to rendezvous in the Annexe, then exit through the window. How on earth we were never caught I can't imagine, as we weren't that quiet, and the old house creaked and groaned with every footstep.'
'One time, when Janice (Smith?- MJ) and I were sharing a room, Janice smuggled in a length of rope she'd found somewhere in the grounds. Being quite athletic, she decided it would be a good idea to come and go through our own window on the first floor.'
'We tied the rope to the leg of a bed, and off Janice went, out of the window.( I think you girls were even more daring and devious than the boys!! - MJ) But, although we only weighed about five stone at that time, it was more than enough to start to pull the bed along the wooden floor, with a terrible scraping sound! I was desperately trying to stop it, but weighing no more than her it was impossible. Again, how we were not discovered defies belief !'
'However, before the rope could be smuggled back where it came from, it was discovered under Janice's bed. Always a quick thinker, without batting an eyelid, she innocently said she had the idea to make a swing using one of the low beams in our ceiling. I don't think she even got much of a telling off !'
'We made two excursions to the boys' dorm that I remember. ( I can't remember either of these, Celia - you couldn't have woken me up, spoil-sports! - MJ) It must have been arranged to leave the window of Room 4 ajar, and we got into the school that way, and up the stairs. The heavy door of the accommodation made a dreadful sound opening and closing, but Mr Breeze must have been a very sound sleeper!'
'In midsummer, someone had the bright idea of a midnight swim. It was freezing cold, so we didn't hang about, and it was not repeated!'
'Something we did on more than one occasion, though, was to raid the local strawberry fields ( I really thought it was just the boys! - MJ) I don't think 'pick your own' had been invented then, but we certainly had more than our fair share.'
'I remember one moonlit night, when we were up to no good, piercing screams shattered the stillness: what one of our group had bitten into, thinking it was a tasty strawberry, had turned out to be a slimy slug!' ( Serve her right, you should have left 'strawberrying' to us boys!! - MJ)
More recently, Celia has remembered some other events from her boarding days....
'I've remembered a few other bits . . . on the last day of term it was the thing for the girls to take their mattresses off their beds and sleep on the floor. Don't ask me why - I haven't a clue!'
'On the last night, before we all went our separate ways, we had the mattresses on the floor as usual, plus a midnight feast going - mainly consisting of cold baked beans I think - and a number of the boys came over to the hostal. We were all in tears!'
'Otherwise we always seemed to be playing out of doors, and every type of sport was encouraged. We boarders were fortunate to be able to use the facilities out of hours, and Mr Breeze really encouraged this by giving up a lot of his own free time to supervise us playing 'Pirates' with all the gym equipment out, in the pool in the summer, badminton, tennis etc.'
'I think we had the most fantastic teachers who made it a joy to learn. Certainly I didn't do as well as I might after two changes of school after Sexey's.'
'Also, us girls were allowed to do woodwork after hours courtesy of the woodwork teacher - don't remember his name.(Mr Atkins? - MJ) We firstly made 'gonks' on the lathe, and then went on to make wooden fruit bowls. I remember I was commissioned to make one for the Chairman of the School Governors which was presented to him one speech day. My only claim to fame!'
'I smoked my first cigarette (Woodbine - of course) sitting up a tree (I have an image of that and it's making me laugh ! - MJ) at the very far end of the playing fields. It made me so dizzy and sick it was I wonder I didn't fall. Fortunately I was able to kick the habit about 25 years ago . . .'
'It was interesting to see the picture with 'Ceasar' in . . . wasn't his Dad a gamekeeper or somesuch, in Africa? I wonder if Gullet went on to be a concert pianist? He was so talented (and all the girls loved him!).'
(Many thanks for your contributions, Celia. It was really great to hear about the boarders from a female perspective. Can we have a few more from some others, please? - MJ)
If you have any memories/anecdotes/pictures from this era, whether they're 1st, 2nd or 3rd hand, please send them in to