Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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School in Exile

The following memories have been extracted from the Silver Jubilee edition of the Willesden County Grammar School Magazine (1950), written by M. W. K.

It seems a very long while ago now, since that hot autumn day when the long procession of snail-like forms, with their possessions on their backs, wound its tortuous way to Willesden Junction and evacuation.  Rumours were rife as to our destination, and there were doleful speculations about "John o'Groats" and "places off the map" - so that we were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be Northampton, a friendly and lively town less than seventy miles from home.

The first pangs of uprooting and the difficulties of settling in were smoothed by the marvellous weather, which enabled us to use Abington park, around the lake, as our rallying ground while some sort of school was found for us.  For, you see, we were rather a problem - Northampton, with no co-educational secondary school, didn't know what to do with us!  We were sad to have to split up, but that had to be the first solution, with the Girls at Derngate High School and the Boys at the Town and County.  It was a topsy-turvy, "Alice through the Looking Glass" sort of life, with mornings free and lessons lasting into the evening; and the staff who to trudge between the two schools had some bitter comments to make during that winter of two months of snow!  But we appreciated the fine Georgian house in Derngate, with its pleasant terraced gardens, and the boys made full use of the spacious playing fields in Billing Road.

The next phase came when, with the return of many pupils, the girls joined Brondesbury and Kilburn High School in sharing the Girls' Secondary School, while the boys linked up with Kilburn Grammar.  We couldn't expect to keep Mr. Wallis who, with several of the Staff, had the difficult task of re-opening the home school, but he came up to visit and encourage us when he could and we found stimulation in working with our sister and brother schools and a great deal of friendly help and good facilities in the schools of our hosts.

Our third and final metamorphosis was when we became the "Middlesex Secondary School in Northampton" - co-educational once again and housed in Vernon Terrace, in a building of such grubby exterior that the boys' less polite version of its name was really justifiable!  But within this unprepossessing edifice the new little school took shape - with high standards and a friendly team-spirit which even seemed to gain in strength from the influx of pupils from several other Middlesex grammar schools.  First under Miss Butterworth, of Kilburn and Brondesbury, and then our own Mr. Jenkins, this school carried on until the end of the summer term in which the war ended.

For those who experienced this sojourn in the provinces there will be lots of special memories, some undoubtedly grim but many happy - of fun and games at Barry Road social evenings; of Youth House - founded by Kilburn Grammar School - which gave us all so much friendly good fellowship; of the Boys' Hostel under Mr. Parker's kindly eye with its lovely garden and tennis court; of the Girls' Hostel with its dormitory feasts; of the successes of the Rugby and Netball teams and the triumph of the tennis six in the Schools' County Tournament; of the parties and the badminton at the Roadmender Club, of the School Play - whose leading lady is now a star with the Young Vic; and finally of the friendships with people in the town - which still bear fruit in visits to foster-parents.

That is why we feel that this Jubilee number of the School Magazine should carry this short account of the adventures of the school during the war years - when its traditions stood so successfully the tests of upheaval and of exile.

M. W. K.
School Magazine 1950