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News > Alumni News > Giles Hopkinson (OWL'45) Excerpt from a Memoir

Giles Hopkinson (OWL'45) Excerpt from a Memoir

Windlesham, founded in the 1820s by a Naval forebear of the current Headmaster Christopher Scott-Malden, was seen as the oldest preparatory school in the country.
1 Feb 2016
Written by Lee Haines
Alumni News
Croft Lodge, Ambleside
Croft Lodge, Ambleside
With the outbreak of war a number of schools had been evacuated from London and the south to the Lake District.  Windlesham House, a long established family run prep school from near Worthing, had taken over a large 1830s house in Clappersgate, near Ambleside, fronting the road with grounds behind rising steeply through substantial rhododendron woods to the fellside, an ideal play area for active young boys.  Mother had been told by a friend that it was a much better school than the Craig and she should send me there.  I didn’t want to be moved; better the devil you know.  I started as a boarder at Windlesham House in the summer term 1940, aged 8.  With the hindsight of over seventy years I can now fully appreciate my privileged and exceptional good fortune in having been able to enjoy such a sound and rounded educational start in life at a time when the world was ravaged by war. Windlesham was a haven of peace and security, untouched by enemy action. 
 
Windlesham, founded in the 1820s by a Naval forebear of the current headmaster Christopher Scot- Malden, claimed to be the oldest continuously family run prep school in the country. ‘Mr Chris’ was a pleasant gentle soul who had inherited the school from his mother,  
Mrs Charles.  His strong willed wife, Mrs Chris (‘Tina Bogey’), had evidently taken his mother’s place as the necessary driving force in his life.  He charmed the parents and pulled in the business whilst she ensured the good management of the institution.  A strict disciplinarian guided by the principle that ‘manners makyth man’, she did an excellent job.  The senior boys, monitors, sat at the top table for main meals, a round table with Mr and Mrs Chris opposite each other. We had to move a place a day around the table; we dreaded the days sitting next to her watching over table manners and her ear tuned to meal-time conversation.  I well remember her turning to me: “We’ve talked about the weather and the news (wartime remember); what are we going to talk about now, Hopkinson?”  Harrowing at the time, but a great preparation for later life.
 
With strict food rationing and limited choice we were inevitably made to eat all of whatever was put on the plate in front of us.  My main bugbears were custard, and skin on milk puddings.  One day, thinking I was out of hearing, I quietly asked for just a very little custard on my pudding: “Are you being fussy, Hopkinson?” came the stentorian challenge.  Many years later at dinner with Erica and her family I had said something to Erica only to hear the 8 year old voice of granddaughter Laura piping up: “Are you being fussy, Hopkinson?”   More recently, being asked in hospital for the umpteenth time the routine question about allergies I replied “only sago pudding”.  The nurse’s pen hesitated – she had probably never heard of sago, let alone sago pudding.
 
Mr Chris didn’t do any teaching and the academic side of the school was presided over by the deputy headmaster, ‘Mr Jones’, a 40ish Oxford classics graduate from Somerset; a sympathetic personality which connected with us boys, a natural teacher looked up to and respected by all.  He made the school what it was, a happy institution providing a thorough all round education in the exceptionally challenging circumstances of wartime Britain.   The basic groundwork in english, french, maths, history, geography, latin (greek for scholarship candidates), with religious studies and practice strictly C of E, prepared us well and thoroughly for the onward move to secondary education at a good public school. Music did not feature prominently in the curriculum.  Piano lessons were available, but I gave up whilst still ‘working for’ Grade 2.  But I loved singing in the choir for ‘Chapel’ each morning and twice on Sundays.  I can still recite chunks of the BCP liturgy.  An inspiring young music teacher, Miss Spence, turned up when I was 11-12, who recognised my enthusiasm for singing and had informal sessions with me in her music room after school in the evenings.  I learned some well known classics, Handel and Purcell arias, Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear my Prayer’ and ‘Oh, For the Wings of a Dove’, all of which inspired my love of music. 
 
I remain eternally grateful to Mr and Mrs Chris Malden and Mr Jones in particular, and other teachers at Windlesham, for having opened my eyes and mind, and given me such a sound start in facing the wider world. It was only later that I came to recognise that factors central to my life at this formative stage, which I took for granted having no other experience at the time, are by no means universal: a loving and caring close family, a familiar extended family and a secure home base, to which I would add a happy start boarding at an excellent private prep-school.   I have certainly been privileged in respect of each of those factors.

Giles Hopkinson, December 2015

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