In 1960 pupils were still allocated to one of four houses, namely De la Warr, Flower, Shakespeare and Warneford, each with its own housemaster. They were the survivors of six houses introduced in 1921 to cultivate a competitive spirit both in games and academic work, intended thereby to enhance both.
However, two of the houses were dissolved in 1924. They were Bird House and Corelli House. Mr G M Bird had been a governor of the school from 1908 until his death in 1916. Marie Corelli, who had close connections with the School, lived at the other end of Church Street in Mason Croft and had been a very successful Victorian novelist.
Of the remaining four houses, De la Warr was named after Earl De la Warr, High Steward of the Borough. At the Stratford Tercentenary Celebrations on 30 June 1853, during a dinner in the Town Hall he responded handsomely to an invitation to found an exhibition at the school to be known as the De la Warr Exhibition.
Flower House was named after Charles Flower of the local brewing family, who was responsible for the reconstruction and repair of the school buildings around the Pedagogue's House at the end of the last century. The Flower family was closely connected with the School for over 150 years.
Shakespeare House was named after William, who, it is believed, was educated in the room Big School. I always feel a shiver of mysterious excitement whenever I enter Big School, mindful of the brass plate on the wall at the chapel end, which reads, rather unconvincingly to this effect, "Near this place, according to a tradition handed down from one scholar to another and attested by one whose schooldays fell in the early years of this century, sat as a schoolboy William Shakespeare."
The fourth house, Warneford, commemorates Flight Lieutenant Reginald Alexander John Warneford of the Royal Naval Service and an old boy of this school, who was awarded the VC for single-handedly shooting down a German Zeppelin on 7 June 1915. You can see a memorial tablet to Rex Warneford in the parish church of Highworth near Swindon.
During the academic year, the four houses competed for the Willoughby Smallwood House Shield, for which there was a points system that until 1967 covered rugby, cricket, athletics, cross-country, swimming, rowing, basketball, fencing, shooting, fives - and academic performance in the 5th to 1st forms. From 1967 on, it was decided to make the Willoughby Smallwood an exclusively games trophy and there were separate competitions for the CCF and academic achievements. After the foundation of the Friends of King Edward VI School Association in 1964, a trophy for the house with the best academic record was kindly donated by the Friends and was presented for the first time in 1967 to Flower House of which Michael Taylor was housemaster.
The 1960s' period of expansion moved on apace, enlarging the sixth-form to create a more viable grammar school, increasing staff numbers to teach a widening curriculum and, of course, putting up more buildings to accommodate a swelling school population. At the same time a growing awareness of the relevance of life outside school appeared in pupils' activities both inside and outside the school itself.
Leslie Watkins, freed at last from the constraints of cash and building permission had started the process and by 1959 four new classrooms, Shakespeare 7, 8, 9 and 10 had been added to the original Shakespeare block completed in 1931. Flushed with success, Leslie Watkins began more building.
In October 1960, work began in Little Yard to add, from the old physics laboratory, space to accommodate access to the observatory and a further store room, a new classroom near the fives court for general science and Michael Taylor's demonstration Morris Minor, a chemistry laboratory and round the corner a biology laboratory.
In 1964, the year marking the quatercentenary celebrations in Stratford of Shakespeare's birth, the governors contributed by providing an open air swimming pool and the Old Boys' Association handsomely provided seats, diving boards and other equipment for use at the pool. The pool was duly opened by Angus Maude, the MP for Stratford.
At Speech Day in 1964, Stephen Pratt announced that with 73 boys in the sixth-form and the school's total of 360 boys, "accommodation for the senior part of the school had been strained to breaking point", and he forecast a major development plan to be undertaken in the reasonably near future. It was not long in coming and there began a period in which, like the wandering tribes of Israel, some forms, and the staff, periodically migrated from pillar to post and had no where to lay their heads. For a brief time one of Douglas Tuckey's forms had to keep their books in a huge Victorian bookcase under the stairs leading up to Big School.
In May 1966 the new Guildhall Library was opened by Sir Ifor Evans of University College, London. The library was and is magnificent. The one-time damp and barely used Guildhall was converted into the main school library with underfloor heating and furniture specially designed by Gordon Russell.
In November 1966, the dismemberment of the graceful judas tree outside the new biology laboratory signalled the start of the major building programmes. At the Old Boys Dinner on 3 December 1966, Stephen Pratt detailed the new building plans, including the greatly improved amenities for the new staff room. "I don't know whether you realise," he remarked: amid laughter from the assembled diners, "that for the past 700 years the headmaster has never had a private toilet."
On 26 May 1967, Neville Evans was reported as prostrate with grief at the demolition of his beloved gymnasium inherited from Tom Barnsley. In September 1967, school reassembled to find that the whole of the one-time New Classroom block and the old tuckshop had disappeared during the summer holiday, to be replaced by new washrooms, two new classrooms and an art room over a handicraft room.
By December 1967, the new large dining hall, alongside the present school car park, was under construction with a cunning design to raise part of the floor to form a stage and to provide tiered seating. In addition, the governors financed the building of a 'fly tower' to house the scenery, which the Friends generously donated. The new dining hall was completed in July 1966. By then, too, the open air swimming pool had been out of action for a year, so that it could be roofed over, and the new gymnasium had been completed in all its glory.
A final phase of building was begun, which involved further demolition, including the Victorian chemistry laboratory and its lecture room.
By 1969, the school had constructed a sixth-form block with a roomy common room, as well as a luxurious staff common room. The sixth-form could relax after its temporary sojourn in Big School, and so could the staff after their interim incarceration in the new handicraft block.
Speech Days have always been a feature of school life, though they varied in venue, in visiting speakers and sometimes in prizes donated, but they afford a useful measure of progress in the headmaster's reports.
Since King Edward's lacked a suitable hall, the first Speech Day I attended in 1950 was held in the Hippodrome, Wood Street, long since vanished. By 1957 Speech Day was being held in the Conference Hall of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which also doubled as a rehearsal stage for the actors. It stood on the site of the present Swan Theatre.
In October 1961, Speech Day was held for the first time in what had become the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The audience of boys and parents had a more comfortable time of it than the staff and governors, who were always seated on the stage.
Having walked in silence from the stalls bar to the front row of the stalls, we encountered the first obstacle placed by the stage hands, namely a flight of very steep steps draped in black without any handrail, to bring us onto the stage. One false move with one's feet or loss of balance and one would be sprawling at the feet of the prizewinners in the front row. At the top we met the steep rake of the stage which threatened to make us overbalance into the footlights. Have you ever walked sideways across a mountain slope?
In 1960 Leslie Watkins reported that the number of boys for the first time ever amounted to 300, the sixth-form numbering 37. There was an implicit recognition that the school course was a 7-year one rather than a 5-year one with 2 years added if needed. In 1961 he looked forward to a wider range of subjects from which candidates might choose.
In 1963 Stephen Pratt's first report placed an emphasis on the importance of an industrious and responsible 6th Form which was vital to the life of the School.
In the quatercentenary year of 1964, Stephen Pratt explained the expansion that was taking place. There were 360 boys of whom 73 were in the sixth-form and the sixth-form timetable was becoming more complicated as more subjects were offered at GCE A Level. It was planned to launch a full general studies course in 1965. King Edward's sixth-formers had joined with the sixth-formers of the girls grammar school to form the Stratford Sixth Form Club. A record number of 11 sixth-formers had gained university places. Several parents' evenings had been held during the year and it was hoped that they would develop further. His hope for the formation of a parents' association was realised at the end of the year with the founding of the Friends of King Edward VI School.
At Speech Day in 1966 the headmaster allowed himself a curt and pointed digression on the threat of educational reform, which was greeted with enthusiastic approval. The word 'comprehensive' was not used all afternoon.
In 1967 Stephen Pratt announced that schoolmasters generally were meeting challenges from many quarters on a wide national level. New methods, ideas and devices in modern education were legion - for example, in the audio-visual method of learning French.
In 1969 the headmaster's report was an optimistic survey of many school activities. He touched upon the record number of university places obtained - 29, the formation of a scout troop by John Sullivan, that colleague of many parts, the activities of the CCF and expressed himself satisfied with the wide range of sporting activities and the high level of academic achievement.
And in the Speech Day programme that year, among the old boys distinctions, there was mention of Flight Sergeant M M Fitton, Royal Air Force, who had been awarded the Air Force Medal for skill, cool calculated courage and outstanding determination in the successful rescue by helicopter of three airmen who had crashed in the Malayan, jungle.
The dramatic society flourished during the decade of the sixties. It was an admirable vehicle for breeding confidence in public speaking, for developing skills on and off the stage, for uniting young people in a common purpose, and in Alan Wood's Shakespearian productions vast numbers of boys were involved. There were 11 plays produced between 1960 and 1969, of which 8 were presented in Big School.
I'd been interested in and helped with the dramatic productions since the 1950s and had been dismayed to observe the merry chaos that reigned in the Council Chamber off stage. It was like a mediaeval market. I vowed that I would try to improve things by removing the costumes and make-up elsewhere. Jack Spencer, the chemist in the High Street held a sale of stage make-up. I collared virtually the lot. I temporarily converted the Guildhall into a roomy Green Room with the costumes on mobile stands of hook racks, installed paraffin heaters and benches and used the Armoury as a make-up room with a team of make-up artistes, who, in the 1965 production of 'The Winter's Tale' included Gerald Jaggard, Alan Wood, Margaret Pigott-Smith, John Denis (ex Memorial Theatre actor), John Graham and myself.
Before that play there had been Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' in 1963 with David Edwards as Hamlet, Tim Pigott-Smith as Claudius, R P Walker as Gertrude and T A Hawkins as Ophelia.
As a contribution to the quatercentenary celebrations in July 1964, Alan Wood devised and directed 'Playing Day at Stratford', an abridgement of 'The Famous Victories of Henry V' with excerpts from the plays of William Shakespeare. It was presented in the courtyard between Pedagogue's House and the Guildhall and moved into the Guildhall itself. There was a cast of 38 including musicians.
In December of that year, R C Sheriff's play 'Journey's End' was produced in Big School. Denis Dyson built a new stage to remedy the slope of Big School floor towards Church Street and its other slope towards the Guild Chapel. The result was a perfectly horizontal stage.
In December 1966 came 'The Taming of the Shrew' to be followed in 1967 by Ibsen's An Enemy of the People', co-directed by Alan Wood and John Graham
The school participated in Stratford's celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the Guild of the Holy Cross in July 1969 with John Wright's direction of 'The Harrowing of Hell' presented for three nights in the Guild Chapel. To end the decade in 1969 Robert Bolt's play 'A Man For All Seasons' was produced in the new lecture theatre and was co-directed by R G Walker and John Graham. The stage make-up team moved to the new Division Room No 2. The play saw the first appearance of Shottery grammar school girls in a King Edward's play. Ian Sadler played Sir Thomas More, Ian Pettigrew Cardinal Wolsey, Rosemary Monk Alice More and Sarah Wright Margaret More.
Games were part of the staple diet in 1960 during the afternoons on Mondays for senior forms, Wednesdays for the whole school and Fridays for the junior forms. It took about 20 minutes to walk up to the playing field and it was a long way for those boys who had to walk back to the railway station at the end of the afternoon.
Space on the field for changing into games clothes was severely limited. The school pavilion, erected by the old boys in 1928, was designed to accommodate only two rugby XVs, and boys had to change on the front and rear verandas, in the tea room and at times in the groundsman's green shed at the top of the field. It wasn't until 26 June 1971 that a new pavilion was formally opened by Mr Angus Maude, MP.
However, in 1960 the games offered were rugby football in the charge of Bill Cross; rowing run by Douglas Tuckey; cricket run by me; athletics and cross-country running, organised by Neville Evans; and fives in the care of Horace Horn. About half a dozen other members of staff assisted with these games and were in charge of rugby and cricket teams. Athletics were organised in the spring terms but were almost always interfered with by poor weather. In March 1960 the athletics programme comprised the 100yds, 220yds, hurdles, quarter-mile, half-mile, mile, relays, steeplechase, high jump, long jump, throwing the cricket ball, tug o' war and old boys race. Neville Evans, the new PE master, tried to elevate athletics to a loftier activity and by April 1965 the shot put, discus and javelin had been added to the programme and to the perils of spectators. The experiment, however, did not last long and by 1966 the three steeplechases remained as the only athletics activity.
In September 1968 a golf club was founded for a small, exclusive group of sixth-formers under Bill Cross's pioneering
authority. By 1971, the games on offer were rugby (the school managed to field 5 XVs); rowing; cricket: (the school fielded 4 XIs); tennis; fencing; cross country; basketball and golf.
It was still possible for the school 1st XV to play the match against the old boys but much later on the Rugby Football Union banned matches between schoolboys and adult players.
During the 1960s my wife and I continued to take parties of boys from King Edward's abroad in an attempt to widen boys' horizons at a time when foreign travel was not so commonplace as it is now.
In August 1962, accompanied by 30 boys from the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd forms, we toured Paris and the Loire Valley. Trains took us from Stratford to London and on to Folkestone. The ferry brought us to Calais, thence a train to Paris where we lodged at the Hotel du Grand Turenne in the Rue de Turenne.
The next day we had a coach excursion round modern Paris and a lecture tour of Palais du Louvre.
The following day, by coach through the 'bread basket' of France to Tours on the Loire. 'En route' a tour of the Palace of Versailles and its gardens, then on to Chartres and its beautiful cathedral. We arrived at the Hotel de la Poste in Tours to be greeted by Mons. Tardy, the short, elderly, kind proprietor in shirt-sleeves. Without further delay and with a wide smile on his toothless mouth, he lisped, "Qu'est-ce qu'on boit ?" and I had to drink a liqueur then and there.
explored the Chateaux of Chenonceaux, Amboise and Vouvray and went to 'Son, et Lumiere' performances at the Chateaux of Azay le Rideau and of Villandry. They were quite magical. We returned to Paris via the Chateau of Blois, with its marvellous spiral staircases and where the guide claimed to be a descendant of King Francis the First. Then on to the Chateau Chambord and finally we passed through Orleans. Back in Paris, we had a free day for private excursions and I allowed the boys to explore Paris in groups of not less than three. The oldest boy became separated from his two companions outside a bank. He entered the bank through one door and emerged through another. Nonplussed after waiting, his companions decided to return and inform me at lunch time. The senior boy, meanwhile, not one of our best French speakers, enquired the way back to the Rue du Grand Turenne but was directed to the Rue Surene, somewhere in the northern suburbs. His common sense prevailed and eventually he joined us half way through lunch. Was I relieved! To mislay a sixth-former would have been very careless.
After another day for a coach excursion round historical Paris and a boat trip up the Seine we left the following morning to return the way we had come. For this tour of Paris and the Loire Valley the boys had to pay the enormous sum of £27-8-4d.
One of Leslie Watkins' ideas to foster a more informal contact between staff and pupils was the pursuit of a common interest which produced talks, discussions and activities which were not purely scholastic. Such were the societies, which took place during the last period on Thursday afternoons. Since some boys wanted to belong to two of these they were divided into A and B societies meeting in alternate weeks, each one under the care of a member of staff.
There were 11 of these in 1960, namely the Art Society, the Biological, Senior and Junior Chess Clubs, Model Engineering Society, the Photographic, the Railway Society, the Stamp Society, the Young Farmers Club run by Leslie Watkins and Alan Wood ran the School Orchestra, the Recorder Society and the Debating Society, probably one of the most valuable and long lasting societies. As newcomers joined the staff, they would take over a society or found a new one, such as the Gramophone Society, the Handbell Society and the Film Society. There was even an Unidentified Flying Object and Psychical Research Society.
The abandonment of Saturday morning school in 1964 brought severe pressure on time available on Thursdays and societies had to become purely voluntary with a consequent dwindling in numbers for quite a few of them.
The Combined Cadet Force, which had been founded as the cadet corps in 1915 with its own cadet corps band, continued to develop in the 1960s and on Speech Day in 1960 it was reported as having 120 cadets, a third of the school's pupils. Leslie Watkins described it as 'a priceless asset', no doubt mindful of its inculcation of discipline, initiative, resourcefulness, skills and pride in appearance.
Captain P H Taylor, the commanding officer of the CCF decided to retire in 1960. It was acknowledged that he had made King Edward's CCF one of the top units, not only of this area but of the whole country. He was succeeded by Lieutenant R P Price who had Lieutenant J M Taylor on his staff.
In March 1964 Neville Evans joined as a 2nd Lieutenant and during 1964/65 a new cadet block was completed. During 1965/66 plans were in hand for the construction of the CCF's own rifle range. That Easter cadets joined the outward bound course at Towyn in North Wales. The annual inspection included a canoe demonstration and construction of aerial runaway. There was a strong emphasis on outdoor skills.
In 1967 Lieutenant J Q Wright joined the CCF and organised the long awaited Duke of Edinburgh Award Section. There were plans for a radio section. In 1969 there was an overdue reformation of the cadet band and there was the formation of a small mountaineering section.
At the annual inspection in 1970, Colonel Webb-Owen OBE declared himself extremely pleased with the CCF's turn out. The corps still had many years of activity ahead of it and was disbanded only on the retirement of Major R P Price from the staff in 1983.
During the spring term of 1962, the RAF section of the CCF, under the command of Flying Officer D A Tuckey, was disbanded after 12 successful years but not on a dismal note, rather in glory. The last annual camp was considered by all to have been the best attended and a very enjoyable gliding course was attended by some cadets. So, we were destined no longer to watch the launch of the Grasshopper glider on the school field, hauled on its elastic ropes by perspiring cadets to lift it fully 3 feet into the air, and the sight of a white-knuckled Douglas Tuckey praying that it would rise no higher!
Patrick Adams, French master 1950-1988, deputy headmaster 1977-1988
edited version of a talk given in 1999