150 Memories

Share some memories of former NCW students and staff here, as we counted down to 16th December 2016, when we ended our celebratory year in style with a concert at Worcester Cathedral.

Memory 1

Today is the end of the Countdown and the Celebratory Christmas concert. Thank you for the positive feedback we have had on the Countdown, and, of course, thanks to current and former staff and students without whom there would have been no memories. Our final memory comes from Mrs Mardy Smith, who is retiring after 14 years as our Principal:

I have so many memories of my 27 years at the College, I found it very difficult to choose one. So I decided I would think back to my memories of my very first week of employment at the College, in September 1989, when I arrived to be Head of Economics and Politics. Susan Boreham met me on the first day and made me feel very welcome, explaining what the programme and routines were for the day. Four new teachers joined NCW on the same day, the others being Maggie Verdeyen/Harrison, Trish Smith and Frances Betts, and we felt some fellowship being on a steep learning curve together! Gerald Gunton worked in my department and I found him to the most kind and courteous colleague I could have hoped for.

My teaching room at that time was Room 38 and I can still remember the students I taught in my first week, too many to name, and together they allayed many of my concerns about teaching visually impaired students for the first time. I have always appreciated the humour of our students and there were many examples that first week or so, not least when I made memorable clangers about issues related to visual impairment! I remember dodging Perkins braillers as the students carried them from lesson to lesson, being shown where the small number of BBC Micros (computers) were and being issued with a 5.25 inch floppy disk!

Little did I think I would still be at the College 27 years later, but I would not have had it any other way!

Memory 2

Students are enjoying end of Autumn term events, including staff/student football matches and the College Christmas dinner. Also, the Choir and other performers are busy preparing seasonal music for tomorrow’s concert. The Christmas concert has been an important part of the history of Worcester, Chorleywood and New Colleges Anne and Eileen recalled Chorleywood carol concerts from the 1950s and Trish and Julie remembered the 1960s and 1970s:

Christmas in the fifties was a much more low key affair than it is now. The nation was still recovering from the war and, although we weren’t hungry, there wasn’t an abundance of food. This was very much reflected at Chorleywood. What we remembered about Christmas at school is mainly music. They practised and sang carols for weeks in readiness for the Carol Service which was held in what was then the hall. A few people from the neighbourhood were invited and how we all squashed into that small space is beyond me. The one thing we do remember very clearly is the party given by the Rickmansworth Firemen. It was brilliant. We all went to the Fire Station and they entertained us and then we sang, “All in the April Evening” which reduced the hulks of men to quivering heaps.

By the late 1960s, we still spent weeks practising carols, especially as in some years we had a carol concert, to which parents were invited, in addition to the more private carol service. We walked in procession down the oak stairs, across the entrance hall, through the library into the winter garden and coming through into the back of the hall for the carol service? What a performance!

Miss McHugh loved carols, and in the Christmas term before she retired, we started singing carols in our morning prayers from early November. No firemen’s parties for us, though sometimes the choir did have a trip to Ford’s at Dagenham, where our carols were relayed all through the factory. We were rewarded with a very good lunch, and usually were each given a box of chocolates or other small gift.

Memory 3

The CDs with extracts from the Oral History interviews have been delivered today, ready for Friday. At the end of the Oral History Project, students interviewed each other. Amy and Ellie told Matthew what they liked about NCW today:

The best thing is that it is like a community. It is like a family. If you are in the corridor and don’t look happy, someone you are guaranteed will say ‘How are you’. It is really caring. As students we really respect that we all have similar problems and we really support one another, which I think is a really nice thing to have. And there are lots of teachers you can to talk to if you are having a bad day. In the morning it is cheery. I think it is such a positive and happy place. It is nice to come into a positive learning place.

Memory 4

At the end of his Oral History interview, Adrian reflected on his time at Worcester College in the late 1950s:

It was excellent. I enjoyed it very much. I was pleased I had the opportunity of being here, because it so easily could not have happened. I had a better academic education than I would have got anywhere else. I developed a sort of spirit that if I wanted to do anything enough I could find a way of doing it. I was reasonable about it as well: I obviously wasn’t going to be an airline pilot or something like that. But if there was something I really wanted to do, I could probably do it, and I went on and did so.

Memory 5

During her oral history interview, Julie reflected on what she gained from her time at Chorleywood:

The thing that has shaped me the most has been learning how to make friends and relate to people, which happened there very much. Also what came through my parents, and was fostered by both my schools, was having high expectations of myself and not seeing limits. Seeing only opportunities – to have a go and try to find a way to do it, and not, ‘oh dear I can’t do that because I’m blind, it’s too difficult.’ Chorleywood did foster that sense of not feeling limited. We always assumed we would get jobs, husbands, houses and do stuff. That is what we thought would be the norm. We didn’t think in terms of this might be difficult. Sometimes it was difficult, but it wasn’t the first thing we thought of. This is what has shaped me because I’ve always wanted to have a go at things. It is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.

Memory 6

Our new students will be reflecting this week on the end of their first term at NCW. In the early 1960s, Richard reflected on his first term at Worcester College:

I came to Worcester on 7th May 1913. This was the second term of Mr. G.C. Brown’s headmastership. With his characteristic courage and determination, he was destined to build a great school. I was the tenth boy only, but in spite of the small numbers, Mr. Brown shaped with us the beginnings of a range of activities.

My first term, for instance, saw the foundation of our first Troop of Scouts; in the following term, as two or three more boys came along, we formed a second Patrol, and the highlight of our Scouting career occurred when we went to London, eight strong, to act as guard of honour for King George V at the opening of the Headquarters of the R.N.I.B. We were inspected by His Majesty and by the Chief Scout after the opening ceremony.

This was on 19th March, 1914. We used to think we were the first blind Scouts and it would be interesting to know if this is really so.

Mr. Brown was a very enthusiastic swimmer and a very able life-saver, and the beginning of this successful College activity dates from the day on which he took Wilkinson and myself to the City Baths, about a three mile walk, for what proved to be the first of a series of almost weekly visits.

On Saturday evenings during my first summer term we were encouraged to practise athletic sports on the lawn, and produced quite a reputable sports afternoon during Speech Week.

To me, this first term at Worcester was most enjoyable, especially after the severities of my first school. The human kindness, the family life and the deep sense of relaxation at Worcester, compared with the rigours of that other school, have remained a happy memory throughout my life.

Memory 7

In 2005-6, the History and Drama departments, with outside students from LOOK, were involved in the ‘Prisoner 4099’ project with the National Archives. Students visited the archives in Kew and then studied the documents relating to the family and imprisonment of William Towers, a Victorian child prisoner; he was in prison for stealing two pet rabbits. As the National Archives website describes, the work culminated in the production of a dramatisation, which can be still heard at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/prisoner4099/listen-to-the-play/default.htm

The Performance

The performance took place on a Saturday in May at New College Worcester. The play was to be a ‘rehearsed improvisation’. This meant there were to be no scripts; the students would have to create and then remember their parts! Everyone was nervous and excited and we spent the morning practising.

Lights… Sound… ACTION!

We staged the performance in the afternoon. The actors and musician played their parts with great enthusiasm, some of them wearing Victorian costumes. All the LOOK journalists had press hats and carried homemade microphones!

The play was recorded and edited by the team at Youthcomm Radio, a Worcester-based radio and online service run for young people, with the help of Worcestershire County Council. The atmosphere was fun but the young people were also determined to do justice to the play and to the characters they had created.

After the final scene was recorded, there was a huge outbreak of applause and shouts of joy! Everyone was really excited about what had been achieved. We celebrated with tea and cake and were very grateful that we didn’t have to go to prison, wear Victorian costumes or have bread and water for dinner!

Memory 8

As the newsletter of 2013 describes, New College students have collaborated with a local theatre company:

Students came together to perform an adaptation of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, the Shakespearean comedy which follows two sets of young lovers as they make their way through a magical wood of fairies and sprites.

36 students were involved in two productions: the play itself and a devised piece which was created by the young people of the college with local theatre company, Perfect Circle.

The Drama studio was transformed into the world of a film set with director’s chairs and clapperboards whilst the characters were dressed in 1930s costumes, black and white, with the fairies representing the colour in their purple costumes. Music by Glenn Miller was used to the set the scenes and in the interval the audience were treated to a performance by NCW’s jazz band.

It was fantastic to hear our young people working so beautifully with Shakespeare’s lines and making them sound so natural. The audience’s response to both plays was genuine delight – Shakespeare is definitely thriving at NCW.

Memory 9

In 1952, Chorleywood and Worcester College students took part in a film called ‘Pathway Into Light’, which had a commentary provided by the actor Jack Hawkins. John describes his involvement:

While I was at Worcester RNIB sent a crew down to make a publicity film and they wanted some activity in the gym. I was singled out for this and I had to kick a football at Ray Follett, who was in goal, i.e. the window ladders at the end of the gym. Ray rolled the ball out and I promptly belted it back at him. The cameraman said this would not do and insisted that I bent down to feel the ball with my hand before kicking it. I tried to explain that this was not what we did, but was silenced and told that if I kicked the ball without touching it people would not believe I could not see. Much to my shame I capitulated and did what I was told.

Memory 10

Another occasion when students were able to be part of an artistic collaboration came in 2012. The NCW choir sang ‘Raise the Sky’ at the Olympic Torch Relay celebration and a group of students assisted the lyricist when he was considering Sir Edward Elgar and looking for ideas. Chris Baldwin, the lyricist, described what happened in the Souvenir Programme:

When I had the pleasure of working with the young people from New College, I discovered that they had much in common with the composer. One young woman could identify trees from the call of the birds roosting in them. Another young man knew the kind of building he was approaching by the nature of the echo it produced.

So a group of students from New College Worcester, their tutors and myself planned a journey of our own. We visited Elgar’s Worcester and Worcestershire. And we also visited the Worcester that these young people know and love – experiencing it from the perspective of those more interested in ‘fixing the sounds’ than most of us. And from this journey a series of themes and songs emerged which now form this song cycle. We have created a celebration of Worcester and Worcestershire through an imagined conversation between the late Elgar and contemporary blind and partially sighted young people.

Memory 11

In 1959, the Chorleywood Choir produced a 45 RPM extended play record called ‘The First Christmas’ which was issued in the HMV Junior Record Club series. As the record sleeve describes:

Christmas is inevitably linked with carols and many of the most popular of them are sung on this record by the Chorleywood College Blind Children’s Choir. They form the musical background against which the story of the shepherds watching their flocks by might, of the three kings from the East following the star to Bethlehem, of the child Jesus in the manger, is told by Dame Edith Evans, one of Britain’s best loved and distinguished actresses.

Memory 12

The tradition of a students’ informal Christmas concert was continued at NCW, as recalled in the magazine of 2000 by Mrs Campbell:

A range of dedicated students shared their wonderful talents in an evening packed with songs, jokes, music, sketches and poems. During the course of the evening, our funny bones were tickled by Charlotte with an amusing rendition of a monologue about Anne Boleyn’s Ghost. Philip performed a selection of very funny limericks, while a selection of Y11 students performed a satirical sketch, written by themselves. All the singers entertained us with a wide range of music, from the latest chart lists to enduring classics. Students also played keyboards, the piano and the accordion.

On a more sober note, students performed a short Drama piece about the plight of the homeless. This piece lent itself well to the evening, as the concert this year raised money for the homeless charity SHELTER.

Memory 13

Another Chorleywood Christmas tradition was recalled by Trish when she was interviewed as part of our Oral History Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Sixth Form would get up early on the last day of term and walk around the main building singing carols. Each dormitory would have submitted a choice of carol and the members of staff did too. And so they would sing that particular carol up at the windows; coming from outside it just sounded beautiful. We used to wait for the carols coming. You could hear the carols coming from around the other side of the building. When we were younger, we used to follow it round. We used go into other people’s dorms to listen to their carols. I took part twice. One morning it was a real winter’s morning and by the time we had finished we were absolutely frozen, but it was good fun. Some of the dorms would throw bags of sweets down after you had sung the carol.

The Sixth form also went out on two evenings during the last week, round the village to sing carols to the friends of the school, like the local vicar or some of the cleaners who lived locally. They weren’t expecting us. Then there was one lady who had been a housekeeper at the school and she was expecting us. We always made that the last port of call and she would invite us all in and she would be ready with hot mince pies and hot drinks. We used to spend the rest of the evening with her and sing the occasional carol; and that was really good.

Memory 14

The NCW Boarding Houses organise their own Christmas events, alongside those held during the school day. As the magazine of 1996 shows, the choice for a meal has varied considerably:

Bradnack’s pre-Christmas meal was on Friday 1st December at Perdiswell. The food was very good, and the boys certainly enjoyed dancing to the band with the ladies they met there. After the excellent Bradnack Christmas meal on 11th December, we all had a good sing-song around the camp fire in the lounge. On Friday 1st December, Fletcher House held a Summer party to remind people the Winter would not last forever. Some guests unearthed their shorts and T-shirts to add to the summery theme. A barbecue provided refreshments. A visit to ‘Summer Father Christmas’ in his grotto proved to be a tempting attraction! The proceeds from the evening went to Acorn’s Children’s Hospice.

This year the Dorothy McHugh house Christmas dinner was held at a pub in Hallow. It was a very good evening with lots of food, and everybody agreed it was a great success.

Memory 15

David describes some of the Worcester traditions of the 1950s (the boys were divided into Malvern and Stratford Houses):

Each House, would have its own separate party, and even here, there was competition as to whose party was better. These parties involved all sorts of party games, but most importantly there was the chance of a more interesting supper than had been available earlier in the term.

The Stratford House party invariably enabled Ray Follett (Assistant Housemaster) to entertain. Invariably, he sang in his wheezy tenor voice, “A Policeman’s Lot Is Not an ‘Appy One”.

The Christmas dinner was held on the last Sunday of term, and was the only occasion on which chicken would be served for the whole year. It was followed by Christmas pudding, and it would be probably the only meal that would be appreciated by all.

The Christmas Variety was a concert put on, and organised, by the students. Staff were invited, and some actually came. There were some parts which were expected: the College Band, the skiffle group (that I led), the more musical playing the piano, some other instruments, but most importantly, was the song, which was especially written each year, to satirise staff, students and happenings. This was sung to the tune of “Much Binding In The marsh”.

Here’s a verse from circa 1955, inspired by a flu epidemic:

‘At Worcester College for the Blind

We’re getting very close to Armageddon!

At Worcester College for the Blind

It’s hard to tell a live one from a dead ‘un!

The sickroom’s full of people with the fever or the flu,

They say that Brad has made his will and fled to Timbuktu.

I’d book in at the nearest B and B if I were you

At Worcester College for the Blind.’

Memory 16

With the end of term and Cathedral concert approaching, the students are looking forward to Christmas. The girls at Chorleywood have fond memories of their Christmas traditions, although Susan, a student from the 1970s, remembers her worry of one year:

I dreaded the day before the October half term when, as we filed out of assembly, we each took a piece of paper from a drum. The paper bore the name of the person for whom we had to make a “tree present”, to be given out at the Christmas party. These were to be made rather than bought, they weren’t supposed to cost much and food (though plentiful) was discouraged.

One year my worst nightmare happened – I was to make something for our headmistress. Nobody wanted to swap. What did she get? A spring bonnet pin-cushion made out of a paper plate turned upside down, a round bath sponge, a bit of an old dress and some different coloured pins and a spray of artificial flowers. Miss Markes found out who made it and thanked me.

Memory 17

In the late 1930s, the boys of Worcester College were joined by Hans, a Jewish German refugee. In 1939, his mother, although sadly not his father, was able to escape the Nazi Holocaust, by coming to Britain:

I entered Worcester College in May 1938 aged 15 and went back to my parental home for the Summer holidays with Reg Dowell, one of the teachers at the time who stayed with us. The following term witnessed the events of “Kristallnacht” on the 9th of November. After that my parents wrote to say that I should not return “home” for the Christmas holidays because of the worsening conditions for Jewish people. Our headmaster at the time, B.O. Bradnack, appealed in the chapel for someone to take me in for the holidays.

The first one to respond, I remember clearly, was the son of a Welsh miner. The final choice fell on Alan whose father was a butcher in Leicester. There I was well fed and learned to sing “underneath the spreading Christmas tree” and to kiss females under the mistletoe. The Easter 1939 holidays I spent with Jim and his family in Guildford.

Memory 18

The NCW group returned from Amsterdam on Sunday, tired but full of stories of an enjoyable, but thought-provoking trip. We visited Anne Frank’s House and the Resistance Museum, as well as doing a boat and walking tour. As Marjorie reported in their magazine, on 22nd August 1939, two Upper School Chorleywood students travelled to the Netherlands for an International Camp:

Both Isobel and I had long looked forward to going to camp in Holland, as it was to be our first experience of going abroad. The crossing from Harwich to Flushing took just under five hours and was very smooth, but we still had to get to Amsterdam which meant a journey of at least three hours. The final stage of our journey was an hour’s taxi ride.

The building in which we camped is normally used for the Dutch Socialist Youth Movement. In the middle of next morning, we were told that we should have to move out from the Hostel, as it was to be used by the army. The rest of the day was spent in putting up tents. The next day, we began camp in earnest. In the morning, a scavenger hunt took place. Later in the day, we had study circles, followed by sports.

On the following day we went to Amsterdam. It is like Venice in that there are canals running through many of its streets. There are no motor-buses, but small single-decker tram-cars.

That afternoon came the startling news that we were to return home. There is no need to say that we were disappointed. In these three days, there had grown up a great feeling of friendship between French, Dutch and British.

We British were advised to travel to Flushing that day, owing to the extensive movement of troops which was to take place on the following day. The departure of the boat was delayed over an hour, owing to the large influx of German refugees. We had a chance of meeting some of these personally when some of us shared a compartment with them on the train from Harwich to London.

Memory 19

When the College began in 1866, it was a very different institution, as is evident in the description of the ‘Origin of the College’ from the prospectus c. 1880:

The College for Blind Sons of Gentlemen was founded in 1866 by the Rev. R. H. Blair. It was opened with the view of giving to the families of the better class an opportunity of educating their children in a systematic manner, with a due regard to home comforts, and with surroundings their position. The advantages secured by a school, where books are in abundance, and every branch of education is attended to by well qualified masters, appeared to justify this effort. This idea, conceived with foresight, Mr. Blair worked out with enthusiasm and energy: many influential gentlemen of Worcester and elsewhere, subsequently entered into his plans: and the Lord Bishop of Worcester has continued the warm and untiring friend of the institution. These and later efforts have resulted in the settlement of the College on a healthy and prosperous basis, and in a growing conviction of its necessity and value.

Memory 20

Worcester College was founded by Rev. Hugh Blair and Rev. William Taylor. When Blair resigned from his position as headmaster in 1872, Rev. Samuel Strong Forster took over. He remained as headmaster for nineteen years. After Forster’s death, Charles Medhurst published ‘A Brief Account of his Life and Work on Behalf of the Higher Education of the Blind’:

It was not upon educating the Mind alone that Mr Forster was bent, he was equally careful to urge bracing pursuits for the Body. Bathing, Rowing and Walking, together with a varied Gymnasium, helped forward to health and strength the weakly and the strong. Drill was seldom allowed to be omitted from school routine. He was always of opinion that the Blind required more open air exercise than the sighted, and, very wisely, many of the School’s days were spent in long excursions into the country. Sunday afternoons too were nearly always thus occupied. Public speaking Mr Forster always held to be another essential of Higher Education. Through his efforts, a Debating Society was established, which flourished healthily for some 10 years, membership being extended to outsiders.

Memory 21

In the 1980s, students of Worcester and then RNIB New College went in July to Saumur in France. The spring 1988 magazine, Graham described one of the first trips to include one of the girls:

In Saumur we were met by three families and we split into groups: myself and Mark with Mr Diment, who with Mr Dean often had to translate my ‘franglais’. The Begnon family were very hospitable and made us feel very much at home. They spoke no English and we had to muddle through.

Visits from Saumur included several churches and chateaux, much to Mr Dean’s delight: also a lovely old windmill, whose friendly restorer could also blow glass, make tapestries and play the organ. Naturally we visited some ‘caves’ where the famous sparkling Saumur wine is produced.

Most mornings we had French conversation classes with Mme Hereau who was the efficient organizer of the French families we stayed with.

Memory 22

As described in the Spring 1986 magazine, three Worcester boys also went tandem riding to Austria:

Our cycling took us through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Austria. We met with many mountains and steep hills en-route: one of the steepest was to the Alberg Pass. Angus and Suhas climbed almost to the top of this, but because of bad weather and thin air, we had to call it a day. We were two miles short of the top.

The tandem ride was sponsored by a well-established travel company called ‘the Travel Club of Upminster’. Funds raised from this project are being put towards the artificial ski slope on the already graded slope below the Malvern Lawn.

Memory 23

In February 1978, a group of eight girls and four staff went from Chorleywood to Sappada in Italy on a ski-ing holiday. Miss Blunt described their experiences:

We stayed in the Hotel Europe where the girls enjoyed the juke-box in the lounge after supper. As the ski slopes were close by we ate three meals in the hotel, with not much variety except in the shape of the pasta. However, an ice cream parlour next door and a patisserie at the top of the ski slope helped supplement our diet.

Skating on the outdoor rink and tobogganing were enjoyable activities on the first two days, but rain spoilt these for us. A chair-lift taking us up 2,000 metres above the village was another memorable experience. Most of the group tackled down-hill ski-ing with commendable success, considering the poor weather conditions. We spent four to five hours on the last day, and two of the girls were rewarded with an exciting run down the full piste, returning for the first time on a drag lift.

Memory 24

Tomorrow morning a group of sixteen staff and students are off to Amsterdam for four days. We are going to the Anne Frank House and Resistance Museum. Last year’s expedition was to Berlin as Dr Normanton Erry recalled in the Autumn 2015 newsletter:

Wir sind Berliners!

In October, ten members of Years 10 to 13 went on a History and Citizenship trip to Berlin. We were in a hotel built on the site of the former Berlin Wall so we were constantly crossing between the old Eastern and Western sectors. Helped by Boris, our German-Chilean-American tour guide, we had an exhausting, but fascinating, four days travelling around the city by foot, taxi, tram, train and boat.

Here are some of our highlights:

For many of us, the best moment was the group being given the special privilege of standing on the floor of the German Parliament. This is an incredible building which was rebuilt after reunification by Norman Foster and remembers the history of dictatorship and war, but also reflects the openness of contemporary German democracy.

Also, Charlie was fascinated by the eerie atmosphere of the nuclear fall-out shelter. We went down the stairs of a car park and then felt as if we were transported back to the Cold War.

Rufus and Hannah enjoyed visiting the East Side Gallery where a section of the Wall has been preserved and artists are allowed to create pictures.

For Zoe, a highlight was the DDR museum. It told us so much about the differences of life in East Germany.

Rhys found the whole trip exciting, but he particularly enjoyed the food.

Memory 25

The Worcester College boys did get involved in fund-raising. Steve describes two tandem rides from Land’s End to John O’Groats. The ride in 1981 purchased equipment for the multi-gym.

The first one we ever did was sponsored by Lloyds Bank. It was quite plush because we were put in nice hotels. We had a minibus and front-riders from the cycle club. They were semi-professional. I think there were 15 pairs altogether. It took a bit longer than it would normally. Because Lloyds were sponsoring, we had to stop off in major town centres so they could do the press. The second time we did it, it was much more down-market. It was still a charity event but this time with little support. We stayed in church halls and youth hostels. It was just as much fun. We would raise money for the school. The first time we raised about £5000.

Memory 26

Over the years, Chorleywood students devoted their time to a variety of philanthropic activities. In the Second World War years, these were devoted to helping with the war effort, as described in the College magazine of 1942-3:

This year the school has again helped with domestic duties, knitted comforts for the troops, gathered eight-four pounds of hips needed by the Government for hip syrup and sent the money thus obtained to the Red Cross.

Memory 27

The memories have shown how life at the College has changed. Some of the differences are evident from Stewart’s 1935 account of Worcester College:

To colour our picture more vividly, let us present a brief outline of the days programme for summer and winter; remembering of course, that they are only generalisations, and that there are many exceptions to them under varying circumstances.

Breakfast is at 8 o’clock (9 on Sundays and after special festivities), prayers at 8.55am. Then comes the first working period until 10.5 after which there is a short working period until 10.45 at which milk, and bread and butter are served. Then follow two long working periods until 12.45. Lunch is served at 1 o’clock. Afternoon class in the winter is from 3.30 to 5; in the summer from 2.30 to 4, between which time and tea there is bathing. Tea is provided at 5 o’clock (4.30 on Sundays). Preparation (except on Saturdays and Sundays) from 6.30 to 8, after which supper is served. Lights out at 10.30, 11 on Saturdays.

In view of the facts here set out it would appear that we do very little work; but if this is at all in the reader’s mind, one can only point to our remarkable examinations results.

Memory 28

NCW students have been active fund-raising for a number of organisations over the years. The Newsletter of Spring Summer 2012 described a ‘Rough Idea:

Fundraising Sixth Form students and staff slept rough in the college grounds, in aid of St Paul’s Hostel who provide night shelter and emergency accommodation for homeless people in Worcester. They made shelters from cardboard boxes and slept in sleeping bags for the night raising over £250.00.

Sixth Form student Krishen said, “I feel that the sleep out was a big success. I’m really pleased that nobody gave up and sneaked off back to their warm bed! I felt I gained some experience of what it’s like to sleep rough and I’m pleased that we could raise money knowing that this will help St Paul’s support the homeless in Worcester.”

Memory 29

Today is Children in Need day. The Senior Student team have been busy organising fund-raising events all this week. The Newsletter of Autumn 2014 described that year’s NCW events:

Students had a busy week organising various activities in aid of Children in Need which included ‘Change your name for a day’, a bake sale, a ‘Made Hair Day’ and selling bacon sandwiches at breakfast time.

They also ran a number of competitions, including ‘guess the number of sweets in the jar’ and ‘name the owl’ and also organised the ever popular student talent show. They had a very busy and fun week with their fundraising activities and managed to raise over £400.00 for Children in Need.

Memory 30

In the 1930s, Chorleywood had a Crafts’ Guild. The College magazine of 1934-35 described some of their activities:

The Country Life Group worked vigorously throughout the summer term. Interest was stimulated by various competitions, these were: I to recognize the leaves of various trees; II to recognise a number of wild flowers; III to arrange wild flowers; IV to make miniature gardens; V to imitate bird songs.

The Emergency Group had a series of lectures on ‘Some general principles of First Aid,’ illustrated by practical work. The other members devoted most of their time to simple bandaging.

Memory 31

Meccano Club was another popular pastime at Worcester College. The College magazine of 1946 described their activities:

Our membership in September was 15, and it is gratifying to note that at the time of writing it has risen to 24. A full programme of meetings was arranged for the year, the major part of the first term was taken up with the building of two large models – a crane four feet in height and a locomotive and tender over three feet long. Last term various model building competitions were held, and also a most enjoyable and instructive afternoon was spent in the G.W.R. shed and yards at Shrub Hill station on March 24th. Another departure from our normal programme was the demonstration of various methods of gearing, which was ably undertaken by several senior members for the benefit of beginners.

Borrowings of the club’s meccano have been heavy this year owing to the increased membership. We were fortunate in obtaining two consignments of parts, one from the Meccano Guild in November.

Memory 32

Adrian was the first student to get an amateur radio licence while at Worcester College. Below, he and then his brother Brendan recall their enthusiasm for this hobby in the early 1960s:

I was more interested in the soldering iron than the Morse key. I was more interested in building things than chatting, although I did a fair amount of chatting to people as well. I built my own transmitter that could transmit in Morse Code.

In the College we had an amateur radio station down below the stage in the gym. We used speech and we used Morse Code. We used to talk to people all over the world. I talked to people in Worcester and I talked to people in Australia and the United States. I had a good friend in Kyrgyzstan who was a blind radio amateur. Radio amateurs used to see how many countries they could contact; it was a very competitive activity. The Worcester ones I am still in contact with – they are real friends.

Memory 33

Students of the Colleges have pursued a range of hobbies and interests. From the 1950s, Worcester College boys were involved in amateur radio. In the 1970s, Chorleywood started an amateur radio club, as is demonstrated in this Progress Report from November 1978:

The club was formed in 1974 by Shirley Hesketh, a teacher at the school, who had recently obtained a Transmitting License as G81WU. The Club now has a small operating room, an assortment of aerials, and a steadily growing amount of equipment, loaned or donated by friends, including a VHF transceiver which the licensed members use to make contact with other amateurs in the area and around the Home Counties. The Club holds the appropriate callsign G4GRL, and our girls are becoming well known and popular on the amateur bands.

What next for the Club? We hope to enable our members to make contacts all over the world by providing modified equipment for the high frequency amateur bands.

Just as the effort involved in qualifying for a licence is particularly great for our members, so is the achievement that much greater, being just the starting point for a uniquely appropriate and satisfying hobby.

Memory 34

The Worshipful Company of Lightmongers also invite the Head Boy and Girl to the Court (black tie) dinner which was described by Matthew, the Head Boy, in the newsletter of Summer 2011:

Every year in May our Principal, along with Head Boy and Head Girl, attend one of the Company’s quarterly black-tie dinners to celebrate our affiliation. The dinner was a delightful affair, taking place at the beautiful old Tallow Chandlers’ Hall, in London.

The three of us enjoyed the warm, friendly company of the members of the Lightmongers’ Court and other guests and an extravagant dinner. The whole event was very enjoyable and an experience no one shall ever forget. This was a fitting event to celebrate our association with the Lightmongers and continuing work together. The Head Boy and Girl were recognised for their work this year with the presentation of an award from the Lightmongers.

Memory 35

Today Mrs Smith and a group of students and staff of NCW are with the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London. NCW is affiliated with the Lightmongers and they maintain an interest in our work and support us in a number of ways. Support includes a contribution to funds, Head Boy and Girl awards and a Science prize. In the Autumn newsletters of 2009 and 2014, the Lord Mayor’s Show was described:

Six students took part in this prestigious event and 6000 strong parade, giving them a unique experience of London’s proud cultural heritage. Connor and Nathan made us all proud when they were interviewed about their sporting achievements by the BBC as part of their live coverage!

As guests of the Lightmongers, one of the London trade guilds, they walked through the streets of the City of London on the traditional 800 year old route headed by a beautiful carriage pulled by two magnificent black horses alongside a giant floating pig!

With the bells of the City of London ringing, and cheered by the large crowd, they were surrounded by marching bands, flotillas of armed forces and hundreds of different trades. It was a great day for all involved and a wonderful opportunity to be part of such an historic occasion.

Memory 36

As part of NCW’s 150th Celebrations, a Jubilee Day was held in April. There was a street party lunch, a celebrity cricket match, vintage tea tent and performances and displays throughout the day. In 1966, Worcester College held a Centenary Garden Party and Open Day on the 29th June. The programme included a range of activities:

Indoors

Libraries: Display of Braille books, methods of printing braille and braille writing machines.

Chapel: A boy will play the organ.

Typing room: Display of typing and examples of work.

Commonroom1 : Display of hobbies.

Commonroom 2: Display of Mathematics apparatus and teaching methods, and methods of surface representation.

Commonroom 4: Display of indoor games’ apparatus.

Laboratory: Display of Science apparatus and methods of teaching Science.

Language laboratory: Language teaching.

Woodwork and Pottery Room: Display of craft work, apparatus and methods.

Transmitter:

Gymnasium: A programme of drama and music between 2.15 and 3.00pm.

Outdoors

Swimming bath: Canoeing 2.15-3.45; Swimming 3.00-3.30pm.

Orchard and South Lawn: Display of apparatus for camping, rambling and meteorology: agility apparatus.

Playground: informal activity after 3.00pm.

Memory 37

The 150th Anniversary celebrations include a number of very different events (culminating in the Christmas concert in Worcester Cathedral). The College newsletter for Autumn 2015 described the involvement of students and staff in the Ceramic Tile Project:

Jon Williams from Eastnor Pottery worked alongside the Head of Art to develop the concept of a ceramic tile mural, a project that everyone could contribute to and that would form a lasting commemorative display for the 150th year.

Students researched the history of the College and reflected on what the College means to them today. Jon visited for a day to run a special workshop and each student designed and produced from clay a tile in the shape of an apple or leaf, along the theme of ‘What NCW means to you’. The sixth formers contributed the pieces of ‘bark’ for the trunk of the tree. The students used all the techniques they have learnt in ceramics classes to produce a fabulous array of tiles, which were taken by Jon to be fired, and collated to make the final piece.

The result is stunning and the ceramic mural now forms a poignant permanent display on the wall of the recently refurbished study area in the library. Students, staff and visitors to the College will enjoy it for many years to come.

Memory 38

Former students of King’s School have also sent in memories for the 150th anniversary. Phillip describes some of the links between students in Worcester:

I was a boarder in Castle House from 1943 to 1952 and well remember The Worcester College for The Blind as it was known in those far off days. In the senior school we had contact with them through what we knew as The Sixth Form Club – a must for boarders as it gave us social contact with other sixth formers – especially those who were in the Alice Ottley!!

Our blind colleagues played an active part in our activities and to the best of my now somewhat distant memory, we were made very welcome by them. Those of us who may have had a degree of apprehension when we first met them, soon realised how well they overcame their difficulties and lived all but normal lives and did their best to foster communications with us.

Memory 39

Worcester College started at the Commandery and moved to the current site in Whittington Road in 1902. However, for fifteen years from 1887, the college was at Slaughter’s Court, Powick, three miles from the centre of Worcester. Mary Thomas in her book of 1937 “The First Seventy Years: Worcester College for the Blind” described the location:

Slaughter’s Court, owned by Earl Beauchamp, was more spacious (with four acres, including “pleasure grounds” and a garden), and was generally much healthier for the 36 boys who passed through its portals. However, there was nowhere that the manual organ could be installed, nor was there room for bulky Braille books. So “The Iron Room” was built, where lectures, concerts and services could also take place. This was moved to Whittington Road (and was used until the Chapel was built).

Memory 40

Auriol describes the new College in the months after the merger:

All the rest of the girls arrived at Worcester on Tuesday 8 September 1987. I arrived in time for lunch, then I was taken to the Gables, (now Brown House). There were twenty-three girls all packed into the one house: all the would-be occupants of Dorothy McHugh and Peggy Markes houses put together. After several weeks, the Peggy Markes people moved out of the Gables, so there was much more space. Then we moved into Dorothy McHugh shortly before Christmas.

As the months turned into a year or two, we found our way between the main building, the houses and the temporary buildings, apparently coping well with areas of building site. In the spring term 1989, the leisure block opened. It was very full of echo and noisy at first, but basically I was impressed: there was much more choice and the food was a considerable improvement. The carpet was a later addition.

Our first Christmas after the merger seemed a massive undertaking. On Saturday the 19th, there was the first informal Christmas concert. It was held in the gym. No other concert was ever quite like it to my mind: but then, there is always a magic about the first event of that kind. Two senior boys were the comperes, posing as cleaners, and the programme included a recorder duet, the college blues, the first of the school psalms on fire regulations, the deafening and almost frighteningly noisy “If At First” to finish with, and my unaccompanied rendition of “Hark The Herald”, in which I forgot the words and the audience helped me out. On Sunday the 20th, we had my first carol service at Saint Martin’s.

Memory 41

An historian can have a difficult task, when dependent solely on written sources, finding out all the factors behind the scenes which influenced a decision. David, one of the Old Boys involved by the Headmaster, suggests that the Report’s choice of Worcester was partly the result of local lobbying:

Early in the 1980s, the principle of the two schools merging was adopted. The practical decision of where the merged school should be based, however, had not been decided upon: should it be based on the Chorleywood or Worcester sites, or, should both sites be sold, and a neutral new site be found and developed?

In November, 1984, Bob Manthorp, with the help of some Old Boys of Worcester, gave a multi-media presentation on the past, present and future of Worcester College to the great and the good of the City and County.

The Mayor for the year expressed his shock at the possibility that the College would move away from the City, and expressed his resolution that he, and the City, would do all in their powers to make sure that the merged schools would remain in Worcester. And they were true to their word!

Memory 42

In 2002, for an exhibition linked to the centenary of the Whittington Road site, Sarah, then a Y9 student, reflected on some of the changes to the College buildings which had occurred after the merger:

The school building has changed in many ways, especially since the merger in 1987. Before the girls came to this school everything was different. There used to be a stage in the gym, where plays and concerts would be performed: the stage was removed and a drama studio was built. the drama studio is still used for lessons but plays are performed in the new extension, which also contains a new chapel and library. Before the leisure block was built, the dining-room and kitchens were where the old library was. This now has been turned into offices for the senior management team, and the principal’s PA.

Now, the kitchens and dining-room are in the leisure block with the surgery and the coffee bar for the students’ use. A new wing was built onto the school, including a science corridor with more than just one room. This has come in very useful! The Music, English and Humanities corridor was used for boys’ dormitories, but now however there are houses. Most of the houses are purpose built.

Memory 43

When the decision was made to merge Chorleywood and Worcester Colleges, there was considerable discussion about where the new college should be located and its nature. Two reports were written and both came to the decision that the site in Worcester should be chosen. The Report of the Working Party led by Miss Chapman stated:

4. Members wish to record their admiration for the present schools. At both, a most impressive list of academic subjects is studied with conspicuous success in GCE examinations and in university entrance. The schools have established an academic reputation which is unequalled anywhere in the world, and an excellent range of sporting activities takes place at both schools.

5. The working party believe it important to stress that whatever arrangements are made for the future they should be such as to ensure that these high standards continue. We believe the functions of the new school should be to provide for pupils the opportunity for optimum personal, social and academic development, and enable them to realise their potential, and that it should continue to provide for those pupils capable of benefiting from it an education leading to university and equivalent higher education.

8. There is a need for an energetic special school to enable parents to express a preference for educational placement and to act as a focus for specialised curriculum development and for the development of teaching methods and materials within groups of visually handicapped pupils.

11. We believe that there is relatively little to choose between the Worcester buildings and the Chorleywood buildings, though either site would need considerable development. We did, however, form the opinion that Worcester is a preferable location. It is a lively and friendly market town in which young blind people have been naturally accepted, and it has good accessibility for all parts of the country.

Memory 44

There was some sadness when Chorleywood was closed. Concorde dipped in salute to the girls as it flew over the last garden party in June 1987. The last year was described in the Old Girls’ Association Newsletter of 1987:

1986 was frequently punctuated with the remarks “this will be the last time we do this”, and “we won’t need these any more after this” – reminding us constantly that the life of Chorleywood College as such was gradually winding down. During the year a number of staff left. After the Summer Mrs. Kirkwood and Miss Murdie began commuting between Worcester and Chorleywood, so we see much less of them.

In spite of, or probably because of the above circumstances, the spirit in school during the first half of 1986 was very positive. Both the sixth form and the fifth years (who knew they would all leave) gave a great deal to the school in leadership and initiative, and by many of them staying on to the end of the Summer term instead of leaving straight after their exams.

Of course since September with our numbers in the mid-twenties and only six full-time teachers it has seemed like a different world. Nevertheless the year as a whole has been much like any other in that we have participated in the usual sports, swimming and athletics at numerous events, sailing, tandem marathon, fun run, judo and, new to us, goalball; in various kinds of speech, drama and music, culminating in an excellent performance of “Toad”; outside activities like Red Cross, Guides, church youth clubs; in fund raising through sales and sponsorships, and in theatre outings and educational visits. The usual parties and annual events have been celebrated – much photographed and videoed for posterity! Two girls were privileged to be chosen to visit Japan and Australia respectively, while the furthest most people ventured otherwise was France.

Memory 45

Although the merger of Worcester and Chorleywood Colleges to become New College took place in September 1987, the first girls who were beginning GCSE and A Level courses arrived in the Autumn term 1986. Anita, who came in 1987, describes her feelings about the change:

As the merger grew closer, there was an almost 50 – 50 split in my year group in terms of those in favour and those against the idea. I most definitely belonged to the latter group. I was very comfortable in my Hertfordshire “home”. During the final days at Chorleywood, many tears were shed by many of us.

Then, summer came and for me it changed everything. I had the opportunity of getting to know some of the boys from Worcester at an international goalball competition in Milton Keynes and I began to realise that things might not be as black as they appeared to be. September came and with it many novelties – new friends, a new place to live, and a new course (first year of A-levels). I don’t recall those early days at Worcester being half as traumatic as I had imagined and I think that this was due to the fact that although I had left many good people and things behind at Chorleywood, I had also taken to Worcester perhaps the most important part of my life at that time – my friends. We gave each other the confidence and support needed to adapt to the new situation. The environment at Worcester also helped us along the way. It was more open and willing to embrace differences than Chorleywood; there were a wealth of new experiences to be discovered and enjoyed.

Memory 46

One of the most pleasing aspects of running the countdown, has been the memories a number of people have been inspired to send. Harvey, a Worcester College student of the 1950s, described the important part that rowing played in his College life:

Summer term was magical for me because it meant rowing. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were spent on the river bank and out on the water in Fours, Pairs or Skullers, always with a cox, Ray Follett or Doug Folley.

The drill for getting the long boats, clinker built Fours, from their racks to the river was as follows:

Under the supervision of Ray Follett, six or so boys, some with a little sight, some with none at all, would lift the boat from its rack and swing it over our heads, keel up, and carry it out of the boathouse, across the towpath, down a flight of wooden steps cut into the river bank, and on to the landing stage. We would then move to the very edge of the landing stage and slowly and carefully lower the boat from over our heads, keel down, down onto the water, tricky because the landing stage was fixed, and the river level varied according to the rainfall in Wales! Once safely afloat, the boat would be tied to the stage, and ready for action.

The astonishing thing is that, as far as I remember, this launching drill always went without a hitch – nobody fell in the river, the boats were never dropped or damaged, and nobody tripped on the steps.

Rowing was good too: upstream under the echoing road bridge, and the rail bridge further on, downstream towards the cathedral, and the scary bit when we could hear the roar of the weir, and it was time to turn for home.

Memory 47

Students are travelling home for half-term so the countdown will resume again on the 1st November. Half-term breaks provide a chance for students to have a rest and spend extended time with their families. As David recalls there was no such opportunity in the 1950s:

In Mr. Bradnack’s time, and mine at Worcester College, we were only allowed one visit a term. This had to be on a Sunday, from after chapel and its length was dictated by the time of trains back to wherever our visitors came from. The last London train left at around four.

In the days before Sunday trading, things to do were limited in Worcester. No cafes, so lunch would be had at almost certainly the Diglis Hotel. Nothing was open, except cinemas, and the boats offered a trip down the river. And all this in the days before everyone owned a car! So, I remember one trip down the river, one visit to the cinema, to see ‘High Society’, and a few pleasant lunches at the Diglis. Any change of food was welcome, however good or bad it was! One half day break from the claustrophobia of sharing a form, a dormitory, a dining table and a common-room! Or three half days in a year of thirty-nine weeks of College existence. One way of extending this was to take another boy with you, in the hope that his parents would reciprocate the kindness.

Memory 48

The third KS3 and KS4 boarding house is named after Peggy Markes. Miss Markes was the final headmistress of Chorleywood. Former students, Susie and Julie, provide some recollections:

Miss Markes believed that anything was possible for her girls to achieve, and would do all she could to enable a girl to study her chosen subjects if she showed interest and stickability. She would fight, too. It was only through the sheer tenacity of Miss Markes that I ever walked through the doors of Chorleywood as a pupil.

She was very clear in what she thought was right to do. I thought she did a lot of very good things, such as getting greater involvement with the community. She set up long weekends so that we could get out and meet up with our parents more regularly and for longer and there was fund-raising for a caravan on the premises so that parents could take their daughters out for two or three nights. She was a very strong champion of “her gals”. She was very proud of our achievements. I respect a lot of her achievements, but oh she used to shout.

Memory 49

The Gables, which was purchased by the NIB for Worcester College in 1919, and was for many years the Headmaster’s house, became Brown House at the time of the merger. G.C. Brown, headmaster from 1913 to 1938 was a key figure in the development of Worcester College. Paul, a former student of the late 1930s, described him as ‘a very approachable and friendly personality’ and the affection of former students for their old headmaster was demonstrated when they purchased the College clock in his memory. In April 1928, Brown was the subject of an article in the Beacon:

The unique and progressive School known as Worcester College for the Blind owes so much to its ‘Head’ for the last fifteen years. The College, both at work and play is now highly efficient. A good sighted standard has now been reached in study as well as rowing, chess and swimming. The College was also the pioneer of scouting for the Blind. In 1914, their band of scouts undertook a tour on which they were presented to the King by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, were received by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, and were entertained at the House of Commons.

Worcester College and all that belongs to it colours Mr Brown’s life so vividly that it hardly seems possible to use the words ‘hobby’ and ‘relaxation’ where he is concerned without bringing in its name. His success is due very largely to the fact that he is not an unapproachable disciplinarian, but enters wholeheartedly into the life of the pupils.

Memory 50

The Sixth Form House at NCW is named after Mr Fletcher, the Headmaster of Worcester College from 1969-1980. Mrs Brock, who was for many years Head of English at NCW, contributed an Obituary, but also a picture of a very different time and school, in the magazine of 1986:

My first memories of Worcester College for the Blind are inextricably linked with thoughts of Richard Fletcher. I had come to the College, one blustery November afternoon, to attend an interview for a temporary job, and, in many ways, it is thanks to Richard, that, seventeen years later, I am still here! The memories of that day are a strange collection – tea and cucumber sandwiches, a prep bell, the noises peculiar to an all-male establishment – but, over all these, the impression of twinkling eyes, a willingness to listen beyond the nervous stammerings of the newcomer, and the immediate warmth of kindness.

And that was so over all the years I knew him. He rejoiced in the successes of others, and was never afraid to face difficulties, even when he knew a decision to be right but perhaps unpopular. I never knew him to act hastily, and his patience and human understanding benefitted so many people.

Memory 51

After the memories of the changes in Information Technology, Silas, who is now a Computer Scientist at Cambridge, has sent his recollections:

In 1995 I arrived as a sixth-form student and noticed that partially-sighted students were able to play collaborative computer games over the network during off-hours, but that the technology was not yet advanced enough for the totally blind students to join in. So I made a text adventure game and started an adventure club, inviting other students to submit descriptions of new places for the game. I was amazed how well received this was; we ended up with over 700 place descriptions and we even had an English teacher join in the game to see what her students had written.

Meanwhile I started to see what else I could do with the computer network, trying to make it compose music and other experiments; I did make one or two mistakes that disrupted things for everybody, but it was a learning experience and I ended up doing lots of interesting networky things after I left, including helping on the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative and also working on networked computer simulations to help find treatments for cancer.

Sorry to say though that I lost the adventure game files because the disk I saved them to broke on the journey when I left in 1997. But I’d like to thank everyone who joined in; I couldn’t have done it without you. Our adventure goes on.

Memory 52

The Sixth Form Hostel at NCW is named after Phyllis Monk, headmistress of Chorleywood from 1921 to 1944. Peter Foale, Miss Monk’s great nephew, has loaned NCW some of her diaries and her MBE for the 150th celebrations, and provides his recollections:

Phyllis Monk – or Great Aunt Phyllis as she was known to us – was a part of my life from my earliest memories until she died when I was aged 16. As children, we knew that she had done some remarkable things in her life. Her school prizes – lots of them – sat on our book shelves at home. We knew that she had gone to Cambridge University but had to go to Dublin to get her degree. Most importantly, we knew that she had been the first Head of Chorleywood, which was a ground-breaking school in so many ways.

I have clear memories of visiting her in the 1960s at the home she retired to in Jordans in Buckinghamshire: an elderly, dignified and rather serious woman but still with a twinkle in her eye and a great line in afternoon tea for her great nephews.

It’s only as I have got older that I have really come to understand what she achieved and I count myself very lucky to have known her.

Memory 53

Bradnack House also contains students from Key Stages 3 and 4. Brian Bradnack was headmaster of Worcester College from 1938 for twenty-one years. He was appointed to sort out the finances after the difficulties of the 1930s and he brought a new discipline to the College. Mr Bradnack was described in obituaries in the New Beacon by JW and PQ, two former students (the chapel at the time was a separate one-storey building):

Not long after taking up office, Bradnack was faced with the difficulties resulting from the outbreak of the Second World War. Some staff were conscripted, and gradually food rationing and other shortages hit the school. Bradnack rose to the occasion, taking classes himself, supervising emergency food supplies, and encouraging the boys to take part in what he called the U.S.A. (Useful Services Association). I well remember taking part in an exciting scramble over the chapel roof, where U.S.A. had been called upon to do some creosoting.

From his pupils he received respect rather than admiration. He was receptive to innovation, and not hamstrung by tradition.

He did not court personal popularity. He set himself to weld the school, which comprised boys of exceptionally diverse backgrounds and capabilities, into a healthy and well-disciplined community where all might hope to thrive. His undoubted success was due partly to his unusually virile manner and word of command but also to his selfless devotion to duty.

Memory 54

The residential houses are named after some of the former heads of Worcester and Chorleywood Colleges. Dorothy McHugh House has students from Key Stages 3 and 4. Miss McHugh was headmistress of Chorleywood from 1945 to 1968. She is described by Barbara, a former student from 1942 to 1951:

Miss McHugh taught Science to many of the classes. She was Irish and, although she spoke with an accent, she spoke well. She introduced a system of prefects and sub-prefects. Prefects were from the Sixth form. Members of the school nominated the prefects. They took prep with the Third and Fourth forms. They would also be at the ends of the meal tables to keep order.

Miss McHugh was very keen on every girl being able to perform. During Lent the school was divided into 4 or 5 groups. The groups had to do a Saturday evening concert. This would include sole items such as a piece of poetry, a story or a piano piece, or a vocal duet. Miss McHugh did not like girls to sing on their own as she felt this made them big-headed. Teachers would check the items before performance.

Miss McHugh was considered very democratic as she would even go and help cleaning shoes. Nothing was beneath her. She would read books to older girls for an hour in the evening.

Memory 55

NCW students all have individual Mobility training. Edward recalls his lessons in the 1990s:

Mobility training was much more formalised by the time I went to Worcester in 1992. By and large, mobility was taught one to one, and proceeded at the pace of the student. There were various routes that were taught, including the nearest petrol station (for the shop presumably), Kilbury, Sebright and Worcester itself. The rule was that you couldn’t go to any of these places by yourself until you were deemed to have passed the route, though you could go with someone who had passed.

The practice of getting taxis wasn’t particularly widespread when I was there. I was there before the introduction of free bus travel, but we did get a bus pass meaning that travel into town was heavily discounted. The only time I can recall getting taxis was in the sixth form, either on the way to a night out if there were several of us and the buses were unreliable, or on the way back.

Memory 56

David recalls how he was encouraged to develop Mobility skills:

Until at least 1959, walks were compulsory at Worcester, six days a week! The only day we didn’t have to leave the building for three quarters of an hour was Saturday. On Sundays, the walk was after Church, from noon.

In summer and autumn terms the walk was after school, from four pm but in the Easter term it was after lunch: two pm, and back for afternoon school. The main entrance of the school was guarded by the prefect on duty, whose task was to ensure that no one got back into the building before the end of the walk. In the summer, swimming could be an alternative to the walk.

We most certainly didn’t carry white sticks, and the only clue to local citizens was the caps we had to wear except if we stayed the Whittington side of Spetchley Road. Most of us would try to team up with someone with sight, but often this was not possible.

The options for these walks were very limited: if you wanted sweets you had to go to Whittington, Sebright, or even Worcester. Otherwise, you wandered round Walkers Lane, down Redhill, usually to watch the trains, or along Spetchley Road. The first rule in our Rule Book was: “No eating or drinking out of bottles in the street!”

Memory 57

Changes in the approach to Mobility is a very rich vein of memories. Formal training only began in the 1960s. Judy recalls going out of Chorleywood in the late 1940s:

We walked for miles and there were many really lovely walks. We predated the using of long canes or any formal mobility training. Looking back, I’m amazed at the responsibility that the partially sighted girls were given. I don’t think it occurred to us at the time though.

Of course, there wasn’t a great deal of traffic because petrol was probably still rationed. However, we took it for granted that our partially sighted partners would get us on and off the correct bus and that we’d arrive back in one piece.

Memory 58

A feature of NCW often remarked upon by visitors is the large wooden maps around the corridors. These are useful as an aid for Mobility, as well as being of great use to aid learning. The Worcester College magazine of Spring 1986 commented on their introduction (although the concerns about changes haven’t been realised because the map of Europe is near to the History department and is used to show developments during the Cold War):

Mr Greer has produced six different maps, covering the counties of the British Isles, Africa, South East Asia, North and South America, Europe and the World. They are made from varnished wood with a distinct gap between the component parts to facilitate the location of boundaries by the blind, and have both Braille and sighted labels. There are two possible snags Mr Greer has to face now: first, what happens if there is a war resulting in the moving of national boundaries (quite possible) or even county boundaries (less likely, admittedly). Secondly, there have been several instances already of pupils mistaking one of the new maps for that of the College made by Mr Greer several years ago, This quite naturally results in perplexed questions at the staff room door – since when has the senior bootroom been part of Indo-China, and who told the Russians they could move into the Currey Garden?

Memory 59

This weekend’s activities include a water-skiing weekend and a day canoeing. As described in the Autumn/Winter Newsletter of 2012-13, some students were taking the opportunity to learn Bush Craft:

Bush Craft is a new activity that has been introduced at the College this term by Matt Mandrell, a Forest School Practitioner and a new member of the Activities team. Students have been in the woods to learn about nature and practical skills such as sawing fire wood, making shelters and camp-fire cooking. They have also been enjoying relaxing in hammocks, learning to identify flora and fauna, making art out of natural materials and eating tasty meals they have helped prepare. The Bush Craft activities have helped the students in building confidence and self-esteem through setting achievable tasks and encouraged social interaction through various fun and engaging games. Matt has had a great time getting to know the students and of course helping out eating the forest banquets!

Memory 60

Weekends are now free time for the students. They can go home or take part in a range of activities which are organised. The students of both Worcester and Chorleywood Colleges had Saturday morning lessons, as Miss Boreham, a former member of staff at Chorleywood, recalls:

Saturday Morning School was from 9am to 1pm and involved living skills and music besides academic lessons. To compensate for Saturday lessons, Wednesday afternoons were broadly extra-curricular activities but could also include visits to the dentist or buying new shoes.

Care Staff slept in school as did the Headteacher or member of staff deputising for her. Teaching staff did weekend duties twice a year following Saturday morning School. The duty ran from after lunch on Saturday until 11pm on Sunday and the Teacher would have to sleep in school (often in Sick Bay) during that time.

Memory 61

Wendy also remembers some aspects of the Chorleywood uniform requirements of the late 1950s less than fondly:

The uniform was all brown on top, and for many years after leaving school I would refuse to buy any clothes which were brown. The tunics were Harris tweed, as were the heavy overcoats. I had a beret but never wore it, as there were velour hats for the winter and panamas for the summer. I’m sure half the uniform was unnecessary, but apparently the laundry took three weeks to turn round, hence the numbers of items needed.

We had two pairs of lace up walking shoes and a pair of house shoes, which I think had a strap and buckle. I seem to remember that we had to have 24 small handkerchiefs and 6 larger ones for the winter colds. Also, six white pairs of knickers for the summer, and six pairs of brown knickers for the winter. At least I missed the dreadful lisle stockings worn by older girls in my time. In my day once we had got through the junior forms wearing the sort of socks men might wear for football; we were allowed to wear 60 denier stockings in our senior years.

We also had very short tunics for gym which only came down to the tops of our thighs. Then there were overalls for science which got holes in them from the acid we used in the lab. I remember the gingham summer dresses, and again I would never buy any gingham clothes after leaving school.

Memory 62

Uniform is a topic which creates interesting discussion amongst former students of any school. David remembers the Worcester College requirements of the 1950s:

At Worcester, the uniform regulations were no other clothes than blazer and flannels, and two suits. Our everyday suit was worn one week, and the blazer and flannels the next. On Sundays, we had to put on our Sunday suit, which could only be worn in addition to Sundays for dances. Ties had to be worn all the time. Very rarely, in the hottest summers, we were permitted to take off our jackets and ties, but only if the staff gave permission.

Memory 63

At NCW, Geography is taught to GCSE and Advanced Level. Much of the pioneering work in making advanced study accessible for students with a visual impairment was done by Geography teachers at Worcester and Chorleywood in the 1970s and 1980s. Jenni Rolls was head of Geography at Worcester, and then New College, from the 1970s into the 1990s. In the RNIB Curriculum Close-Up of 1999, Miss Rolls described methods of making field trips accessible:

Difficulties in access to maps may be overcome if the map is broken down into component parts. A series of overlays can then be used to gradually rebuild the map. A base map may only show simple contouring and rivers, and acetate overlays may add the features relevant to the study topic. A similar approach with tactile maps can be used, bearing in mind that the size of the map should not exceed a handspan.

Use of real objects such as rocks and soil can be beneficial. Also models of landscapes can be made from sand, clay, Plasticine etc and can help the understanding of scale.

Use of photos can help partially sighted pupils to understand scale and particular features, if the photos are clear and include a known object such as a person for scale reference.

Memory 64

In his autobiography, ‘See It My Way’, Peter White recalled Mr Herbert Clarke the Deputy Headmaster, who taught Science as well as Geography:

Oddly, the two masters for whom I had most respect and affection at Worcester both taught Science, a subject at which I was a total liability. Indeed, as Nobby Clarke said when he caught me blowing bubbles in a bottle of acid, “I’d rather have a barrel load of monkeys in my lab than you.” (On another occasion it was a sack full of rabbits, but the implication was the same.) In my first year in his brand new laboratory, opened as part of a whole new wing on my first weekend at the College, I also succeeded in singeing my hair with a Bunsen burner – several times – reducing a pair of weighing scales to a pile of unrecognisable screws and rods and leaning on two gas taps, almost sending Class 4C into a toxic coma. Despite this, Nobby Clarke and I got on rather well. Despite his abrupt manner – something I was well used to from my father – he was a kindly, caring man with an eccentric sense of humour which sometimes passed us by.

Memory 65

Christine Cousins, a Biology teacher at Chorleywood, discussed the use of Fieldwork at a Curriculum Conference held at Worcester College in 1978:

This is the most exciting part of Biology, and should provide lasting memories. At Chorleywood, it is assumed that we will attempt anything that sighted people do.

The most important thing is to select your area carefully, and then to prepare your course extremely thoroughly: you must be certain that at the time you arrive, the tide will be right out, and that there will be so many fossils that you can’t walk between them.

Projects range from the grand ones, including rock surveying and construction of belt and line transects, to quadrat method (tie the quadrats to the pupils before they start to throw them), analysis of rock pool fauna, use of the dichotomous key and so, ending with simple ‘obvious’ things like the frequency of waves, tide changes, the nature of groynes, direction of flow of a stream. And when someone walks over the side of the bridge into the stream, we just turn this into an experiment!

Memory 66

Worcester College played a key role in advancing the delivery of Mathematics to students with a visual impairment. Reg Bonham, a former student of WCB and Oxford mathematics graduate, taught students to Ordinary and Advanced Levels. He was a major contributor on the Committee which produced the Braille Mathematics code in 1954. This allowed the analytical side of Mathematics to be handled by blind pupils and led to the production of textbooks in all the main areas of Mathematics, including Advanced Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. At a time before the development of drawing film (again you can see this in action on the NCW ‘How to’ videos), Mr Bonham improvised to help with the creation of geometrical diagrams; this device was not adopted generally but was reported to have produced ‘tolerably accurate diagrams’. Mark described its basic nature:

It was in the image of its creator, rugged and functional. What looked like a length of hacksaw was set teeth upwards in a board, you placed your braille paper over it and ran a rubber roller over the top to produce raised dotted lines for diagram-making. I think there was some bent hacksaw for curves as well.

Memory 67

Miss Phyllis Monk, the first headmistress of Chorleywood, was a Science teacher. In ‘Though Land be Out of Sight’, she described some of the adaptations made in the inter-war years (to find out about how staff and students make diagrams, light a bunsen burner and use a light probe today, see the ‘How to’ videos on the NCW You Tube Channel):

In simple experiments there would be several groups at work, but in chemistry, as for instance when studying the composition of water, when hydrogen was passed over heated copper oxide, the class shared the work of putting through the apparatus for a single experiment, and it was carried through with the sense of touch, hearing, smell and sight all employed. Plant physiology experiments were carried through as teamwork by the girls. We had many of the bones of a skeleton and a few models – ear, eye, throat.

Reproductions of my simple section diagrams, made with a spur wheel, for re-calling the chemistry and plant physiology experiments, were made by a volunteer, who wrote that he used an old sewing machine for the purpose.

Memory 68

Science Club has restarted today. Worcester, Chorleywood and New College have all played a pioneering role in promoting the teaching of Science to students with a visual impairment. For the 1995 magazine, Saqib conducted interviews with Mrs Betts and students about the activities of Science Club:

‘Lately we’ve been designing different types of alarms. We’ve made fire, flood and burglar alarms. Other experiments have included trying to get an egg into a jar with a circumference small than the jar, making a gadget to time exactly two minutes and how to make a car safe in a crash.’

‘Sebby, what would you say was your favourite and most successful experiment?’

Well, it was when we had to make a machine to make a balloon burst. I wired up an electrical circuit and attached it to a thin piece of nichrome. The metal got very hot. When we touched the metal to the balloon it burst.’

‘And what about you Andrew?’

‘My best experiment was my electricity-free flood alarm. I had a float on the top of the water. The float had a pin attached to it. The float had a pin attached to it. There was a balloon dangling above the water. When the water rose to a certain level, the balloon would burst.’

Memory 69

NCW students have taken the opportunity to challenge themselves. In October 2011 students from NCW teamed up with students from the King’s School, Worcester to go on an adventure of a lifetime to Morocco. The trip was described in the College Newsletter:

The students spent ten days trekking through remote villages, climbing steep rugged mountains, camping in hidden valleys and riding camels along the spectacular Atlantic coast line.

The group landed in Marrakech to be greeted with the every day hustle and bustle of Moroccan life and stayed the first night in a hotel hidden away down an alley in the heart of the city. The next day involved a long mini bus drive through the Atlas Mountains on narrow winding roads with spectacular views, stopping at a roadside restaurant for lunch.

The group then trekked through the anti Atlas region for five days, camping each night, waking to the sounds of mules braying and the camp cooks preparing breakfast. The high point of the mountain trek was reaching the summit of Guillez at 2900m above sea level. It was hard going, very steep and unstable at times but every one persevered and eventually reached the summit for the all important summit photo and a rendition of happy birthday for one of the group.

Memory 70

One former Worcester tradition, that NCW today, and any other school in the country, would not be able to follow, was part of their celebration of Founder’s Day. On 29th May each year, all students would be given a packed lunch, some money, and told to go wherever they wished. Venues chosen, and initiatives shown were many and varied, as Richard Fletcher, the Headmaster of the time, revealed in his letter to the Old Boys’ Journal for 1968:

A group of our small boys on Founder’s Day showed courage and initiative by taking buses to Birmingham and the Warwickshire Cricket Ground, where they found their way to the Members’ Pavilion and received a running commentary on the game from the Australian players. My first knowledge of this undertaking came when I received a letter from the Australian Manager, commending the good manners of the College boys and asking my permission for them to receive six Privilege Tickets for a forthcoming Test Match. Headmasters are noted for being inverted Micawbers, always waiting for something to turn down, but in that case I felt bound to say yes.

Memory 70

One former Worcester tradition, that NCW today, and any other school in the country, would not be able to follow, was part of their celebration of Founder’s Day. On 29th May each year, all students would be given a packed lunch, some money, and told to go wherever they wished. Venues chosen, and initiatives shown were many and varied, as Richard Fletcher, the Headmaster of the time, revealed in his letter to the Old Boys’ Journal for 1968:

A group of our small boys on Founder’s Day showed courage and initiative by taking buses to Birmingham and the Warwickshire Cricket Ground, where they found their way to the Members’ Pavilion and received a running commentary on the game from the Australian players. My first knowledge of this undertaking came when I received a letter from the Australian Manager, commending the good manners of the College boys and asking my permission for them to receive six Privilege Tickets for a forthcoming Test Match. Headmasters are noted for being inverted Micawbers, always waiting for something to turn down, but in that case I felt bound to say yes.

Memory 71

Judy, a former Chorleywood student, has also reflected on how life has changed:

In the late forties and early fifties the words “Health and safety” seemed to mean that hands must be washed before meals, outdoor shoes worn outside and house shoes inside. There seemed to be so much freedom and none of the staff seemed to bother at all that we took considerable risks jumping up and down the staircases, climbing the trees and running over the bridge across the ha-ha down to the tennis court and small wood.

How different our lovely old house and wonderful grounds were from descriptions made by pupils who arrived years later when the stone stair case had become known as the rubber stairs, and had special rails made to prevent the girls from falling over the ordinary banister.

For those of us who were interested we could have a small garden partway down the back drive, look after hens, cleaning them out or gathering the eggs. A pony and donkey joined us after some time, followed by a lamb which was so pretty and sweet when it was young.

Memory 72

Students at NCW have the opportunity to do a wide range of activities. When they pass assessments in Mobility, they can go to these places with friends. However, for some of our former students, Health and Safety considerations have produced changes they regret. Adrian recalls some of the activities he enjoyed at Worcester College in the 1950s:

When I came to Worcester you ‘had to’ go out for a walk every day. You could do what you wanted most of the time without anyone breathing down your neck. There was always a ‘master on duty’ but he wasn’t watching you all the time.

In our day there were some organized activities (such as rowing), but we had to do more for ourselves, and that was a skill that I believe has stood us in good stead ever since. When I was in what today would be years 9 to 11, I used to build small radios and pieces of electronics (with a hot soldering iron) completely unsupervised, though of course health & safety rules would never allow that today! I even prepared for and took the City & Guilds exam that was needed for getting an amateur radio transmitting licence (and taught two friends at the same time), all without any help from members of staff.

Memory 73

As well as students from Marburg visiting us for a week, some of their students have spent a few weeks at NCW at the beginning of the Autumn Term. Last academic year, Lena then came back to us to spend a ‘Gap’ year as a Community Service Volunteer. In 1999, Hannah described her time as a German visitor:

I really enjoyed staying here. I think it is a great idea to go to another country to learn or improve a language anyway, but it is particularly good if you like the school where you are staying and the pupils around there. At the end I did not have too many problems following the teachers and most people understood what I was trying to say. That was a really good experience.

I was not really homesick. Fortunately there were lots of people around I could talk to at school, but especially in Peggy Markes House I had never expected so much help. I have never been to a boarding school before. Everything seemed quite strange to me, but I got used to it, although I never think I will get used to the English food, because it is just so different. Living in Peggy Markes was really good for me. I have learned confidence here. I found friends I will stay in contact with and indeed I was able to make my own breakfast and tea.

Memory 74

For the past twenty-eight years, NCW has been an exchange partner with the Carl-Strehl-Schule in Marburg. This school for the visually impaired is celebrating its one hundred year anniversary. In the College magazine of 1999, Mr Roberts described a visit to Germany:

This was a special exchange trip, since we were celebrating ten years of travelling to the Carl-Strehle-Schule. The teachers had planned a full and varied programme, which included tea and cakes with the Headmaster on our arrival and a meeting with the mayor in the ‘Rathaus’. A new trip was added to the programme this year – to ‘Hessepark’ near Frankfurt (a cross between the Black Country museum and the Avoncroft Museum of buildings) which proved to be a huge success. The highlight of the whole trip came right at the end when we celebrated ten years of visiting the German school.

The party started with a guest appearance from the ‘Acapella’ group, ‘Schlag 6’ which has become famous in and around Marburg. The speeches became quite emotional.

Memory 75

NCW students get involved in a range of charity activities. The Senior Student Team are particularly active in promoting fund-raising for Children in Need and Comic Relief. For many years, staff and students joined the Malvern Hills Walk in aid of St. Richard’s Hospice. In the 1998 College Magazine, Mrs McKinley and Mrs Betts described the walk on May 8th:

Three students walked two miles, eighteen students did the five-mile circular walk and twelve students accomplished the whole eleven miles, walking the full length of the Malvern Hills.

The hardest thing about the eleven-mile walk is getting up early on a Saturday morning!

This year the bluebells at the southern end were spectacular and gave us lots of excuses to stop and admire them. The lunch break at British Camp gave us chance to meet up with the others and compare blisters before continuing northwards towards the Worcestershire Beacon. There is not much shade on the afternoon stretch and it all seems uphill!

We all arrived at the finish together. Were we tired? Did we have blisters? Would we do it again next year? I expect the answer to some of these question is ‘yes’ and I hope the last one gets a definite ‘yes’!

Memory 76

Chorleywood under Miss Monk had an active Social Service group. Its activities are described in the College magazine of 1938-9:

Weekly working parties have been held on Sunday evenings, resulting in a large parcel of children’s knitted garments and some woolly balls from the juniors being sent at Christmas to the National Children’s Home at Harpenden.

Wood-gathering has been the work of Middle School, and the traditional neat bundles have been taken on Saturday to the Almshouse ladies on the Common, who paid a return visit at the Estate Christmas Party.

A new idea of sending occasional parcels of catkins, cones and horse-chestnuts for the Chelsea Day Nursery children was started.

Chorleywood is sending a terminal collection to Queen Mary’s High School, Walsall, so contributing towards the help given to three refugee children.

Memory 77

Chess continued to be an activity that brought the boys of Worcester College into contact with the local community. Malcolm recalls some of these matches:

I was at Worcester Kings School as a boarder from 1949/58, and have memories of playing chess for the school in matches versus the College for the Blind who produced good players under the excellent guidance of Mr R. W. Bonham, who beat me soundly (at chess, that is!) in 26 moves in a Worcester & District league match on the 8th December 1956.

In that same 1956/57 chess season, 5 boys from the College were entered into the Worcestershire County Individual Junior Championship (Under 18s). Between them they produced one of the finalists – Jones – who lost to me on 17th March 1957 in an exciting 44 move game which started at the College on 13th December and had to be adjourned because of time.

Memory 78

When G.C. Brown became headmaster, he promoted chess as a game in which the boys could compete with their sighted peers. The boy’s enthusiasm and success was described by John in 1935:

Foremost in winter comes the inevitable chess. This fascinating game attracts almost universal interest in the college and matches frequently take place between the college teams and other clubs including, Oxford University, Birmingham City and many others. We have also held the Worcestershire Public Schools Championship for many years, and in 1928, carried off a shield awarded to the champion of the public schools of England. We also compete in several other chess leagues, and it may also be noted that for the last sixteen years the college has provided Oxford University with its chess champion. Tournaments and informal instruction circles are arranged; whilst chess masters are invited to give lectures and to play the members of the school simultaneously. During my short residence here I have met over the board: The Sultan Khan (former British Empire Champion), Moroczy, Sir George Thomas (President British Empire Champion), T. H. Tyler (a well-known competitor at the Hastings Congress and an Old Boy of the college), Herr Misses. and Froulein Sonia Graff (The Girl Champion of Germany).

Memory 79

Worcester had a College hymn. The Latin words were written by a former student who returned as a master, H.J.R. Marston and the music by another former student – the composer William Wolstenholme. The translation here was written by the then teacher of Latin, Mr Dean, in 2002. Around the turn of the century, the Department for Education had designated some schools, including New College Worcester as Beacon schools, given the task of passing on their good practice:

Blessed Holy Trinity, with your protection our school has been kept safe, and even though it has had to stand alone for so long, it will carry on and on.

With Your Goodwill, now let us sing of this wonderful school we possess, fortunate in God’s Aid to us and to those who have preceded us.

It was here first that light, brought to blind eyes, emerged from darkness, and here light first spread among those once stricken by cruel and harsh fate.
Now it is that manners, books, skills, study of law all enrich us for a life of ease or hardship. We shall go on to high positions, we whose forebears were deprived by destiny of all such things.

Now it is that healthy exercise drives our limbs, while learning fosters our minds; nor are we ashamed to have practised games, we whose courage thus thrives the more.
So our school stands as a Beacon; nor in future will it stand alone; as mother of so many blind pupils who in turn care for others, their flocks.

Memory 80

The financial challenges of the early years of Chorleywood College inspired two of the members of staff to write a school song called ‘Our ship’. The music was by Albert E. Bevan, and the words by Gwen Upcott:

The wind in the rigging, a clamorous salt sea,
Fair or dirty weather, it matters not to me,
For I’m afloat
In a sea-going boat,
And she won’t go down, not she! not she!
And she won’t go down, not she!

Though skies be overcast, and land be out of sight, The company I’ve shipped with is navigating right,
As seamen do
When the needle’s true,
And the racing sea foams white! foams white!
And the racing sea foams white!

Once aboard the Cedars, you’re never going back,
The wind is blowing forward, an awkward wind to tack,
You’ve swung your cot
With a pioneer lot,
You’ll very soon get the knack! the knack!
You’ll very soon get the knack!

Voyaging, voyaging! It’s not a pleasure trip,
Passengers not wanted, but if you’ll take a tip,
You’ll join the crew
And steer her through,
Here’s to all aboard our ship! Our ship!
Here’s to all aboard our ship!

Memory 81

Despite the problems with getting hold of class sets of textbooks in Braille before the Second World War, the girls of Chorleywood were very successful in their studies for English examinations. Miss Deavin, the teacher of English, Mathematics and Latin, describes the experience in lessons in Though Land be out of Sight: The Early Years of Chorleywood College:

I was always very glad that English fell to my lot, as it was a subject with infinite scope and universally popular. I look back with pleasure on out literature lessons, and remember the poetry and plays we enjoyed together. I have never much elsewhere such interested and attentive listeners or such spontaneous response. Even before fluency in Braille has been achieved, classwork in this subject presents few difficulties, and when pupils can read for themselves it has few limitations. The majority of our language work was incidental to our reading. We have cause to be thankful that we were spared the multiplicity of books of English exercises with which the educational market has been flooded for years past.

Memory 82

NCW students are encouraged to read widely and the College library has audiobooks as well as books in Braille and Large Print. In the 1870s, Braille had yet to be formerly recognised in Britain as the most effective method of reading and writing. In 1879, the Worcester College boys wrote to Thomas Hughes for permission to have Tom Brown’s Schooldays embossed in Roman type. He replied:

My dear boys,
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to add in any way in my power to your enjoyments. Of course you are welcome to emboss Tom Brown or any work of mine, and I will gladly give you a guinea towards the expenses if you will let me know to whom I shall pay it. I am not rich, or I would give you the twenty pounds required, and I hope you may soon be able to get other and better books to read yourselves. I will ask Messrs. Macmillan, my publishers, whether they can help in this matter, which I am sure they will gladly do if they can.
Believe me always,
Yours very truly,
Thomas Hughes.

Memory 83

A concern with learning to touch-type is not a New College Worcester development. By the 1940s, students at both Chorleywood and Worcester were being taught to type. This helped in the work-place and in higher education, but, as David reflects, also had other consequences:

Probably the most important lessons I and many of my contemporaries learnt in the 1950s was typing. Being taught to type meant we were able to keep in touch with family and friends by writing to them not in Braille but in type. When, of course, computers came in it stood us in hugely good stead for coping with the skills needed.

Memory 84

All students at NCW now get issued with a laptop. Since the merger, students at NCW have had to adapt to changes in technology, which have brought many advantages, but have also created initial challenges. In the magazine of 1999, Mrs O’Donnell, an ICT teacher, described the situation for Years 8 and 9:

This year has seen a vast change for all the students and staff using the new computers. I’ve had a number of the younger students asking where all the DOS computers have gone and wanting the old familiar computers back. Mainly because they knew how to use them and were familiar with them. As for all people change is often hard to cope with, but we had to use ‘Industry Standard’ software and hardware so that our students will be able to move into the workplace and be using the same things. As we have got used to the computers the speech has improved and all the menus talk. We have learnt the basics of Word, Excel and Access. Now all we need to find are some talking games that work with Windows ’98.

Memory 85

Students use different working methods today. Some use print or Braille on a Perkins Brailler, as well as developing their skills on a laptop. As Adrian recalls learning Braille in the 1950s had additional complexities:

I, like many others of my generation, learned to read Braille and to write it on a hand frame when I was five. I often think that the hand frame must have been very confusing. When you read Braille the dots 1, 2, 3 are on the left of the cell and dots 4, 5, 6 are on the right; however when you write it on a hand frame dots 1, 2, 3 are on the right and dots 4, 5, 6 are on the left, so we had to learn this rotation about the north-south line right from the start.

Memory 86 – 12 September

Today is the date that Worcester College opened in 1866. ‘Berrow’s Worcester Journal’ announced:

A college has been established in this city for the education of the blind among the higher classes, and amongst the patrons and supporters are the Bishop of Worcester, the Dean of Worcester, Lord Lyttelton, Sir John Pakington, and the Rev. W. Taylor, formerly of York. The Rev. Robert Hugh Blair is the Principal of the College. It is proposed to impart a liberal education, including preparation for the universities. The project has been well received.

Memory 87

One of the oldest documents in the College archive is a record book used by the Headmaster of Worcester College in 1870. This contains some of the examination papers used with a list of the marks each pupil gained (the results are mixed, which is perhaps not surprising given some of the questions, particularly in the context of the time). There are papers for Divinity, Classics and Astronomy, as well as History and Arithmetic. The questions on the junior papers included:

Why do the stars shine and the Planets?
Describe an ellipse mechanically, and explain the terms axis, major and minor focus and eccentricity.
Assign causes for the downfall of the Roman Commonwealth.
The last six Kings of Judah with dates.
State the occasions on which Jewish and Babylonian history touch.
How can Hydrogen be obtained from water?
How first can it be obtained more easily?

Memory 88

The request for memories has produced some evocative accounts, such as this description of Chorleywood from Janet:

Sitting in the oak panelled library of Chorleywood College, on a warm, Summer Sunday evening, with the bells ringing out from the local church, you could imagine yourself in the countryside. The grounds were extensive with lots of specimen trees and gave the impression of peace and space. Just like the romantic poetry you were studying for exams. The school was a small country house but had a gracious atmosphere and always smelt of polish. The large entrance hall had bay windows looking onto a circular lawn with a sundial. The library led off to the right and itself led into a Victorian Winter Garden. In these surroundings, it was easy to transport yourself into another era and lose the thread of your books. Whenever I hear country church bells, on the radio, I always think of Chorleywood.

Memory 89

Lyndall was one of the first girls to come to New College as part of the merger with Chorleywood. As part of our 150 years, we have gained Heritage Lottery Funding for an Oral History Project. In her interview, she recalled what she gained:

It’s my study and my friends that I really love most from what I did here. There are loads of people I am still in contact with. There is something about boarding school, about sharing life with people like that, that I think makes you closer, so my friendships are a really big thing for me from here. That was once we’d got over the weird boys, and that they didn’t want to talk to us.

One break time someone said something and made someone else laugh and suddenly all the girls went over and we were all talking to each other. It was about four weeks in, but when we did start talking to each other, we became very close. Those people would still be people I talk to today.

Memory 90

Amongst the new arrivals at NCW this week, are some new Community Service volunteers from Canada and the USA who will be joining two others from Australia and New Zealand. These young people, who are taking a gap year, play a valuable role assisting in the houses and around College. In the College magazine of 2008, Monica described her time with us:

Of course there are the holidays and long weekends which every GAP student uses to travel the UK and Europe, but NCW offers their GAP students the experiences of a huge variety of activities, from those which are sporting and educationally based, to fun and leisure trips. The trips to Alton Towers and Cadbury World are obviously a lot of fun but the weekly excursions to horse-riding, wind-surfing and Guides keep us busy and teach us skills we would never have been able to learn previously. We’ve seen how students deal with visual impairment and the implications of it on their daily lives. Having known nothing about braille, speech programs, magnifiers and mobility, we will all go home far wiser.

Memory 91

Our new students this year have all arrived by car. When Brendan first arrived in 1957, travelling with his brother Adrian who was already a Worcester student, his journey was more complicated.

For the first journey we came over by boat from our home in Belfast, down to the docks onto the boat. We sailed overnight to Liverpool. Then from Liverpool, we went and got a coach down to Birmingham. My aunt, who lived in the Black Country, met us and saw us onto the bus which got us down to Worcester.

Memory 92

Today is the first day of the Autumn Term and the beginning of induction for new students and new sixth formers. Judy describes her excitement when she transferred to Chorleywood in 1946 at the age of eleven from another residential special school; she shows how uniforms and residential accommodation have changed:

My mother spent hours stitching name labels on to all the uniform items. There were six of all the underwear items and blouses, two pairs of outdoor shoes and one of indoor. A winter coat and gabardine mac and a hat with a brim and a beret were all packed into a trunk which were sent off by rail a couple of days before the term began.

How thrilling it was to sleep in a dormitory with only six beds covered by a pretty patchwork counterpane with a wool rug to step on to when I got out of bed. Now we each had our own washstand/dressing table at the bottom of our bed, with several drawers in which to keep our clothes, and a jug and bowl on top of one half which was covered with marble.

Off we would go in the morning soon after the waking up bell, carrying our jug and filling it in a small lobby at the end of the corridor with hot water in which we washed after we’d taken it back to the dormitory and tipped it into our wash bowl.

How smart I felt sitting on a comfortable cane seated chair at one of the seven refectory tables in the dining room and being able to choose to drink tea or coffee and to use marmalade which I removed from a dish in the middle of the table rather than the spoonful that had been placed on the rim at the edge of my plate.

Oh yes, this was certainly a wonderful place and one day it would have taught me to be a real lady, of that I was certain.

Memory 93

Today is Travel Day for the end of the summer term, and so this is our last memory until 6th September when the autumn term begins. These days most students go home by taxi or family car. This wasn’t the case for most students in the twentieth century. Miss Boreham describes the role of Chorleywood staff:

Students were escorted both ways; to London (Paddington/Marylebone), Heathrow Airport and Sheffield. Each member of staff took 4 pupils on the train to London. On one occasion one pupil wore all her clothes to enable her to take her radio/tape player in her case. She fainted from the resulting overheating of her body! Pupils were normally only allowed to carry a suitcase and a white cane, although a musical instrument was permitted. Staff were not supposed to help students carry their luggage, but we often did. In the early days we had to walk from the station across the common, but later on a coach was provided.

Memory 94

As part of Activities week, students are marketing their smoothies to our ‘dragons’ today. They went out fruit-picking in the sun yesterday. As the Worcester Evening News reported, the weather on 20th July 1917 the weather was nowhere near as good.

Worcester College for the Blind held their annual regatta. The weather was rather stormy, and many of the races were rowed in a heavy downpour. The rowing was of a very excellent character.

Memory 95

A particularly exciting trip of recent years was the trip organised by the Geography department to Costa Rica. Adam described the trip in the 2003 College magazine:

We travelled the whole country, from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean. The climate was humid, and could reach up to 40 degrees centigrade.

We stayed in a turtle research sanctuary for three nights, where we went on patrol, walking along the beach every night, searching for leatherback turtles. They are amazing creatures. We saw them lay their eggs and swim. We all found them fascinating. We even got to touch them. There are only about 30 thousand of this type of turtle in the world, so to think I saw three of them is amazing.

We slept in wooden cabins, but I can’t complain It was brilliant. Despite the lack of electricity, and the fact that water easily ran out, we coped very well, and we all had a fantastic time!

Memory 96

Today is Sports Day. This morning students are in teams for a number of athletics and rowing events. This afternoon there are sprint races. Athletics started at Worcester College when a running track was created on land on the other side of the dual carriageway (where there is now a housing estate). The track was officially opened in 1932 by Lord Burghley, an Olympic gold medal winning 400m hurdler. The Times reported comments made by Headmaster G.C. Brown at the opening on 31st May 1932:

It was obvious that the boys would have to use the track for some time before they could be familiar with it and go full steam round the bends. After experience and adaptations he should make in consultation with the boys, he thought they should be able to overcome the difficulties facing them, and that the boys would come up to ‘sighted’ standard. The object of the track was to provide opportunity of exercise when the boys could not row and swim. Sometimes in the autumn, when the river was in flood, they could not row, and they could only walk which was not good enough for the boys.

Memory 97

During a holiday in the mid-1990s, a group of NCW students and staff went to a French school for the visually impaired in Clermont-Ferrand, a town in the Auvergne, near the volcanic Chaîne des Puys mountain range. Mr Roberts recalls one experience which came from the privilege of being part of an exchange partnership:

There were two members of staff from the French school, the teacher of English, Ghislaine and her colleague, Odile. They decided we were going to have lunch at Odile’s parents’ house, part of which was their business where animal skins were tanned and made into leather! We were greeted by Odile’s parents and were given some revolting tasting drink. Mr Dean and I ended up having to surreptitiously tip the contents of the students’ cups into any available plant pot in the garden. Once we had eaten our packed lunch, we were given a guided tour of the old house. Old? It was more like Miss Havisham’s mansion or the Addams family home! I must admit, whilst in the kitchen, out of sheer devilment, I couldn’t resist giving some of the students a tactile tour of the walls through the decades of grease and grime. Then there was the bathroom with Jack and Jill doors. Lo and behold, Odile’s rather tired and extremely elderly grandfather suddenly appeared in the room from one of them, with a pained expression on his face and we knew it was time to bring the guided tour of the bathroom and its treasures to an abrupt end. Eventually, we arrived in the factory, the part of the house with all the furs and skins. More tactile exploring, more dust, dirt, grime. This was followed by one of our students modelling some of the furs. Surreal indeed!

Memory 98

During the Easter holiday of 1961, a group of 11 Worcester College boys and 6 staff went to Paris. He described the trip in the College magazine of 1961, but with no extra detail about the minor mishap:

An early highlight was the Civic Reception held at the Hotel De Ville, at which we were welcomed to Paris along with several thousand other young people. At the other end of the scale we spent the whole of one morning casting around for bargains at the Flea Market. This excursion in particular enabled us to absorb local colour in plenty, and rub shoulders with the Parisian, as indeed we doing every time we used the Metro, which we did with some skill by the end of the trip.

Although we covered most ground by day, nevertheless it was the evenings which proved the real highlights of the trip. We were able to attend a radio broadcast as members of an invited audience, while on the following night we were the guests of a crack Parisian chess tem which thrashed a team made up from our party, but at the same time entertained us in a wonderful manner.

Luckily, the party was fairly free of accidents and mishaps, the only small exception occurring when three of us remained stranded on the Eiffel Tower for a while.

Memory 99

In July 1964, a group of fourteen Chorleywood students, accompanied by four staff went to Bergen, Norway. A scrapbook includes accounts by the students of visits to museums, markets and churches, as well as walking in the mountains and folk-dancing. Jane and Judith described one trip:
We began a slippery climb up a steep narrow path, with only a barbed wire fence on our right, and a precipitous drop on our left into the bog beneath. This took us quite a time, and we were glad to be able to sit down about an hour later for lunch. We chose a pretty spot under a high bank, and in front of us a wood, where we could hear the sound of a waterfall. We were all very hungry, and the buns, meat, cheese and tomatoes were soon all demolished. We proceeded to climb a wall into another boggy field, where we crossed a river on stepping stones, and after further hazardous climbing found ourselves on the lower slopes of the Liajfell, or Lia mountain.

Memory 100

We are in our last week countdown to the summer holiday. Last summer, a group of NCW students went with students from King’s School in Worcester to Iceland. Amy reflects on her experiences:

We went caving, white water rafting, exploring glaciers using crampons and ice axes, and we went to see the biggest waterfall in Europe. After that we trekked for 6 days through mountainous terrain, whilst on our trek we saw some beautiful sights along the way. There was still a lot of snow around which was unusual for the time of year. During the trek we also came across some hot springs, which were naturally heated rivers and streams. It was really nice at the end of a hard days trek to be able to relax in the lovely hot water.

Overall it was a once in a lifetime trip. I think we all gained social skills and became more confident in our abilities. It was really nice to meet new people from outside of the College and make new friends. We were challenged both physically and mentally, and at times wanted to crawl back into our tents. But we started this expedition as a team and, with everyone supporting each other, we pulled through.

Memory 101

Today is very quiet in College. Key Stage 3 are out on their annual Humanities trip. This year they are going to Caerphilly Castle in the morning and on to Coney Beach Porthcawl in the afternoon. Dr Normanton Erry describes previous years:

Mrs Harrison and I set up the KS3 Humanities trip as a response to a suggestion that faculties might like to take students out during the last week of term and fourteen years later it is still going. Apart from one particularly rainy year, when we went for a quick walk at Barry Island, we have kept to more or less the same schedule of a History-linked visit in the morning and then the beach. I have really enjoyed the morning visits: over the years these produced memories of Mrs Harrison getting into role as a Victorian elementary school teacher at the old schoolroom in the Museum of Welsh Life, and students wonder at the surroundings underground at Big Pit. Jack’s impromptu, and much appreciated, performance on the piano on the SS Great Britain was another highlight. However, I also have fond memories of seeing students on the beach, running freely in the open, flat space. It has always amazed me how wet many have wanted to become despite only being allowed to paddle in the cold seawater.

Memory 102

An important benefactor in the development of Worcester College was Miss Eliza Warrington. Her will shows the range of her interests, with reference to her microscope and stereoscope, as well as donations to local, national and international organisations. In the 1880s, she provided the money for a music scholarship. Then she helped enable the College to relocate to its current site, as described by Mary Thomas in The First Seventy Years:

In 1894 the Governors decided that the time had come to consider removal from Powick, and the selection of a site, either at Malvern or Wor¬cester, for the erection of new buildings, though it was not until nearly two years later that the site of the present College buildings on the Whitting¬ton Road was finally bought, once more owing to the generosity of Miss Warrington who granted the whole purchase money of £720. It was characteris¬tic of her that she believed surroundings of natural beauty were as important a factor in the well-being of the sightless as of those who could see.

In 1900 Miss War¬rington intimated through her solicitor that if building were begun at once she would not only pay over the [promised] £5,000, but make a further contribution up to £3,000 if required. Her offer was most gratefully accepted, and plans for building prepared.

Miss Warrington, whose interest in the College had been both generous and warm-hearted, un¬happily did not live to see her work come to fruition, for in 1901 the Governors had to record “their deep sense of the irreparable loss the College has sustained by the death of its foremost bene¬factress”.

Memory 103

Another of the ‘Personalities in the World of the Blind’ who influenced the history of Chorleywood and Worcester Colleges, as well as the RNIB, was Sir Beachcroft Towse. Towse was a former Gordon Highlanders’ Captain who had lost his sight as a result of a Boer War action which had gained him the Victoria Cross. He had official state duties as a member of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-At-Arms during the reigns of King Edward VII and George V, and played a leading role with a number of charities. He became first Chairman of the Chorleywood Governors, where, according to Miss Monk, ‘he supported, encouraged and inspired full life for the school and its individual members’. Something of his character is evident in The Beacon’s 1924 description of his private life:

He makes his own pergolas and rustic walks, and if a tree is to be taken down, he himself climbs it – 50 or 60 feet – and fixes the ropes. Animals and birds are to him a constant source of delight; each bird he distinguishes by its note or its flight. He is a breeder of Large Black Pedigree Pigs. In the summer months sculling is his favourite pastime, but this energetic man is most happy when creating something, and many hours are spent in his carpenter’s shop, where interesting and useful objects are produced.

Memory 104

A number of students from the Colleges have gone on to become professional musicians. One of the most notable from the early years was William Wolstenholme. He was an organist, choirmaster and performer, touring the USA. He was taught organ at Worcester by the Cathedral organist and violin by Sir Edward Elgar. An article in a series on ‘Personalities in the World of the Blind’ in The Beacon demonstrated the support he gained from Elgar:

While Wolstenholme was at Oxford, in October 1887, Elgar received a desperate request from the student who found himself unable to get on with the official assistant assigned to him. Elgar then acted as an amanuensis for his degree, having helped prepare him for examination. Elgar is reputed to have pointed out a mistake in the examination paper to the Examiner, Sir Frederick Bridge but stated that the only assistance he had needed to give on Wolstenholme’s script was to insert ‘VS’ (Volti Subito – turn over quickly) at the end of one of the written pages.

Memory 105

Over the years, many students have organized their own bands. In 2004, Adam formed ‘Manic Rage’, which he described in the NCW College magazine:

We’re not really a punk, grunge, or heavy metal band, because although some of our songs do contain elements of those styles, really we do our own thing. I am the bassist and main lyricist with the band. I’ve been playing for about sixteen months and I practise for at least ninety minutes a day.

We began practising in September and have now reached the point where we can play in public. We have already played in the end of Christmas term concert and have taken part in a lunchtime concert for Shelter just after Easter. We have several gigs planned within the next few months, including one at Marrs Bar, joint gigs with local bands, and a few in the summer in Shrewsbury and Blackpool. It’s really hard work, but definitely worth the effort.

Memory 106

At Chorleywood, Music was taught from the beginning which included ‘pianoforte, class singing, and Musical Appreciation’, and twenty per cent of the girls in the first twenty years achieving Grade V or above at cello or piano. The Music Society reported on activities in the College Magazine of 1942-3:

Three lecture recitals have been given by members of the committee, one on Schumann in the Christmas term by Josephine, another in the Easter term by Muriel on Schubert, and the Third in the Summer term on Mendelssohn given by Pat. At each recital illustration of piano solos and singing were provided by members of the Club.

We have had one visitor, Miss Isabel Wilson, LRAM, to perform for us during the year. Besides many smaller works she played the solo part of the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ piano concerto. The Junior school sang and played their percussion band at one of our meetings.

Some competitions and ‘quizzes’ have been held, a few songs have been learnt and we have also heard a little about the music of other countries.

Memory 107

In the 1930s, Worcester had a College Dance Band. They were mentioned in the ‘Melody Maker’ of 1935, which praised them for protecting the livelihood of professional musicians by insisting that another band was employed at their engagements. The College magazine of 1935 described some of their activities:

During the last two terms the College Players have continued to grow, both in size and in reputation.

On the first day of the Winter Term we played at the Guildhall for the Royal Infirmary Dance. This is the largest dance held in Worcester, at which four of the best local bands are asked to play. This was our public debut – as we had not previously played outside the College – and we definitely made the big ‘hit’ of the evening.

Our next appearance was at the Catholic Hall, where we were asked to play on the stage between numbers. We made up a programme of popular hits for the moment, old favourite tunes and comedy numbers and arranged them for a listening audience and not for a dancing one.

Memory 108

In 1997 three NCW students reached the finals of the County Young Musician of the Year. Sally described the experience in the College magazine:

As the competition drew near, a mixture of feelings ran through my mind. Would I be ready in time? What would the other musicians be like? After all my worries and apprehension, I decided that I would try and relax and enjoy the music, and if I won, well that would be a bonus.

The competition was a week away, and everything was going well, until I woke up on Monday morning with a tickle in my throat. On Friday morning, the day of the competition, my voice was virtually non-existent and every note I tried to sing sounded like a drowned cat with a cold. My singing teacher encouraged me to take part, if only for the experience.

After all that, I did really enjoy singing, and I enjoyed listening to the excellent music performed by the others, including James and Silas. James came a close second with his brilliant recorder playing.

Memory 109

Julie, a student in the late 1960s and early 1970s, recalls some of her experiences of music at Chorleywood:

We all started piano and then some of us took up additional instruments. One slightly scary thing was that many of us learnt to play at least one hymn so that we could, from time to time, accompany the singing for daily prayers. I learned “Father, hear the prayer we offer” and I so remember the total nervous state I and all of us experienced when it was approaching our turn to play. We were terrified that we would make an awful mistake, stop dead, start up in the wrong octave and have to begin again, or get lost and be totally left behind. Sometimes we did, which was very embarrassing but I guess at least taught us that life doesn’t end because a “performance” goes wrong. More often things went well and we felt very relieved to have got the task done and to know we probably wouldn’t have to repeat it for, at least, some months, possibly never again.

Memory 110

Music and Drama has always played an important role in the Colleges, although the repertoire, and instruments played, have broadened, as is shown in the Speech Day programme for July 24th 1884. William Wolstenholme was to go to become an internationally renowned organist and composer.

1. Solo Organ – Grand Chorus in A, Salome: W. Wolstenholme
2. Greek Scene ‘Oedipus Coloneus’ vv.800-905.
3. Solo pianoforte: ‘Lieder ohne Worte’, Mendelssohn: H. Warmington
4. Vocal Trio – ‘On the sea’, Gounod: The Juniors
5. Solo Pianoforte: W. Wolstenholme
6. Junior English Scene: ‘Vanity Cured’
7. Duet pianoforte – Grand Victoria Waltz, J. Schuloff: W. Wolstenholme and H. Warmington
8. Shakespeare – ‘Merchant of Venice’ Act IV Sc. 1
9. Organ – Choral Song and Fugue, S. S. Wesley: W. Wolstenholme
10. Song – ‘The Bivouac’: E.D. Carr
11. Glee – ‘Jack Frost’, Gaul: The Students

Presentation of Prizes

Memory 111

The prizes in June 1963 were presented by the Chairman of Governors, Viscount Cobham, who had just returned from five years as Governor-General of New Zealand. The Worcester Evening News described his speech:

Lord Cobham – treasurer of the M.C.C. and anxiously awaiting the latest score in the Test match with the West Indies at Lord’s which he had missed in order to come to Worcester – told the boys after presenting the prizes, ‘Although you are limited to a certain extent in the range of things you can do, there is no limit to the quality of work you can perform. But unless you are going to make life an adventure of the mind you are not going to do anything very well.’

The College, he added, had produced many fine men already who had made their mark in a variety of fields.

Memory 112

Today is Celebration Day, with a concert in the morning and prize-giving in the afternoon. Prizes are being presented by Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE. Mrs Wright (Key Stage 3 leader and librarian) remembers some of the previous speakers:

There are many memories of Speech Day, now called Celebration Day. I remember when Speech Day was held in a marquee on the Malvern Lawn – it was very grand, the ladies wore tea dresses and hats, and all the gentlemen wore suits. After the Learning Resource Centre was built, Celebration Day came inside. Many former students have come back to speak, including broadcasters Peter White and Gary O’Donoghue, barrister and political activist, Mark Higgins (who sadly did not entertain us with his memorable impression of William Hague), and Paralympic athletes Naomi Riches and Will Norman. Other speakers have included Estelle Morris and David Blunkett. Lord Blunkett told us how as a young man he was fiercely independent and never liked to ask for help. One day he was a guest of Her Majesty the Queen at a grand dinner and, reluctant to admit defeat with a pork chop, managed to send his dinner flying across the table. As Her Majesty kindly rescued his chop and cut it up for him she reassured him that she did this for the corgis. I’m sure that made him feel much better.

Memory 113

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 British soldiers died on the first day. In total, the battle cost over a million lives. Ian Fraser, who was to become a WCB governor and was later given the first life peerage, was blinded in action during this battle. NCW students have been on a number of visits to the First World War battlefields. Stephen described a trip to Ieper in the school magazine of 2004:

We visited Tyne Cot Cemetery where approximately 30,000 allied soldiers are buried. Seeing the rows upon rows of tombstones just brings home the trauma that they had to go through for us. We then went to see the Langemark German cemetery. The German gravestones are flat on the ground whereas the Allied gravestones are upright. It was shocking to hear how the German soldiers were all put in a big pit and buried together, whereas at Tyne Cot every soldier is buried and honoured individually.

We went to hear the Last Post played at the Menin Gate. There was absolute silence which meant that a solemnity came over you and made you think about what it really signified.

This had been a worthwhile trip, because the sacrifices people had made during the wars to preserve our freedom really came home to us.

Memory 114

Tonight is the NCW Leavers’ Dinner. Julia Winkworth from Reception gives us a flavour of what happens:

Once a year NCW upper students all dress up, along with staff, and join in celebrations at the Worcester Rugby Club for the annual Sixth Form Leavers Dinner.
It is a fantastic night of fun, laughs, sadness, good food and drink in flow! The chance for a photograph or three too.

The students all go to town with getting dressed up and even the chaps look great. Everyone gets the chance to vote for Prom King or Queen on the night, so this creates lots of chatter and excitement.

After a lovely 3 course meal, fully served, we all get ready for the famous after dinner speech. Over the years, Dr Chris Stonehouse has carried this out fabulously, sometimes with the help of our very own Mr Peden on Guitar, or one of the students singing/rapping along. Each year this is the highlight for the majority of the staff and students and the speech leaves us aching from laughter! All credit must go to the Rugby club for a lovely evening, Head of Care for organising, and lastly but by no means least the house staff for assisting with the students many needs when getting ready – they do a fantastic job in such a small amount of time!

Memory 115

Susan recalls prize-giving in the 1970s:

Prize giving was an auspicious event at Chorleywood. As far as I remember, students had no prior knowledge that they had been awarded a prize. The prizes were especially chosen for each individual student. As well as the prizes there was the reading out of each girl’s braille reading speed (we all learned braille), and also posture grades, when everyone sat up a little straighter in their seats as if this could make some last-minute difference to their grade. I won one prize and I was commended for my posture – this was in the year when it was decided that commendees should no longer receive badges for their achievement. Shame.

Memory 116

Saturday is Celebration Day, including a concert and then prize-giving. In the build-up to this, there are various leavers’ activities. In 1935, Stewart described the Worcester College “Speechweek”.

It falls usually the last week of June; during which time the Old Boys are invited to stay at the college. On the Thursday afternoon there is the distribution of prizes together with a considerable amount of formal speechmaking and an organ recital after which tea is provided for the guests. The following two afternoons are taken up with the regatta. During the course of the week we also compete against the Old Boys in the baths, and over the chess board. The whole week, in fact, is festivity, and everyone concerned thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Memory 117

Hans was a Jewish student whose parents had sent him to Worcester to get him out of Germany. He recalls some of the problems he faced in the early part of the Second World War.

My life at Worcester was to a large extent dominated by my legal status of “enemy alien”, and the intention of the Worcester police to emulate if not outshine the Metropolitan. I was hauled before the magistrate to prove that I was blind. The J.P. handed me a banknote with the words that I could keep it if I correctly identified its value. I had sense enough to give the wrong answer, but still, the College ophthalmologist was called to swear under oath that I was totally blind. This was, of course, due to the scare the Government had, after the discovery that the reason of the rapid seizure of the Netherlands in the spring of 1940 was due to many Germans posing as refugees turned out to be Nazi spies, at which internment of aliens started in earnest here.

One of the restrictions was that aliens had to request police permission to travel more than 5 miles away from their residence. This bothered Reg Bonham so much, that sought and obtained police permission to enable me to join the chess team for “away” matches.

It also meant that I was unable to join the customary trip to Stratford for a performance of the set-book Shakespeare, because police permission did not arrive in time. Mrs. Bradnack nobly stepped into the breach and took me later by myself.

Memory 118

Chorleywood’s girls, and the boys of the kindergarten, were joined at the beginning of the war by adult evacuees from the headquarters of the NIB. Mary Thomas, the Information Officer of the N.I.B., described the experience of an air raid warning in the College magazine of 1939:

On that first night, it was a warning. We all went down in perfect order, said ‘Here’ very bravely as the Roll was called and then sat down somewhat demurely on our soap boxes in the rather dim light of cycle lamps. The cellars are most impressive, having the smell of mushroom characteristic of all the best cellars.

Soon the All Clear sounded and, complete with the black kitten, which had been brought down partly for his own sake and partly as a solace for the smallest of the small boys and girls, we trooped upstairs again and back to bed.

Memory 119

During the Second World War, Brian Bradnack set up a “Useful Services Association” to encourage the boys to carry out jobs such as shovelling coal. Staff shortages meant boys had to make their own beds and rationing resulted in an area of lawn being dug up for vegetables. As Michael recalls there were not the only consequences:

Sugar, like so many other products during the war, was rationed, and those of us who liked it certainly liked it! We had a Students’ Union, and we demanded a ration of sugar each week to be held individually in sugar tins. Well, we fought for this for a long time, and we won our way in the end.

We also had another benefit. We received food parcels. In our case, they were sent from Canada, and they usually contained tins of jam and other commodities, and they bolstered the improved food supply, but lads of that age can never get enough to eat, can they? So we benefited from those parcels and also we benefited from dried egg (though I’m not sure that “benefited is the right word). This was something else! – we habitually had it for breakfast.

Wartime was certainly a time when I felt, even as a young child, that people pulled together and faced the emergency with that degree of cheerfulness, which meant that people stuck together all the time.

Memory 120

In the build up to war, many of the Chorleywood staff met the challenge of qualifying in first aid and air raid precautions. Miss Deavin put her experiences into a poem, the extract from which is quoted in Phyllis Monk’s book ‘Though Land Be Out of Sight’:

Of many gaseous substances my ignorance I try and hide
But not of Lewisite, C-L or Bromo-benzyl-cyanide,
I’ve sniffed at all the tubes and wept at gases lacrimatory,
And learnt the use of anti-dim in matters respiratory,
I know that there are times when one must needs become a troglodyte,
Especially at dusk or on a warm and foggy night,
I’ve heard the call of buzzers and of sirens ululatory,
And memorised the layout of sheds decontaminatory.

Memory 121

During the Second World War, Worcester College was visited by representatives from the Royal Air Force, but not requisitioned. This was probably linked to plans for the Government’s “Black Move’ out of London in case of invasion. The College was close to Spetchley Court where Churchill was to be re-located after an invasion. The Air Ministry offices which were then across the road were to have been the centre of the city’s outer defence line with plans for a road block. Brian Bradnack practised co-ordinating his Home Guard forces from the end of the Baldwin wing, as John, a former student of the 1940s, recalled:

Bradnack had been an army officer in World war I, winning a military cross for bravery. And he had some fun in the Home Guard, defending the college. In an exercise, he claimed to have killed all the attackers, while they claimed to have killed him and the defending troops.

Memory 122

GCSE History students at NCW are currently studying the impact of the Second World War on the people of Britain. They have requested some wartime memories of Chorleywood and Worcester College. Chorleywood was situated north-west of London. Although they were not close enough to evacuate, the girls did have to go down in the cellar whenever there was an air raid, and a bomb did fall on the grounds. Several members of staff were trained as Air Raid Wardens, with one air raid drill described by Miss Monk in a 1939 Report to the Governors:

An exercise was staged at Chorleywood College on 9th December. The ‘Major incident’ included high explosives, incendiary bombs and mustard gas and called out the Fire Brigade, Demolition Squad, Ambulances and First Aid Parties to deal with nine casualties. The Junior School visited local friends during the exercise, and the rest of the school got much interest out of the experience.

Memory 123

Swimming has prompted memories from two current students, Matthew, a Y12 who has swum in international competitions, and Toby, a member of Y8:

Matthew: The Senior Student Team set a Sport Relief Challenge. The target we had to achieve working together was to reach 1460 lengths of the College swimming pool, as this would equate to the stretch of the English Channel from Dover to Calais. I was very satisfied with the amount of lengths that I contributed as I reached 310 lengths. Overall, I am proud to say that as a College we managed to exceed our target and in the process raised a considerable amount of money for Sport Relief. The Sport Relief Challenge showed how many people were willing to put in a lot of hard work to help many different sporting charities.

Toby: I have liked going under water in the swimming pool at New College Worcester. I couldn’t swim at first but now I can because I have swimming lesson every Wednesday.

Memory 124

Unfortunately, we have a rainy morning in Worcester. Today’s Blind Cricket match against visitors from the MCC has been abandoned. In 1999, players from the Australian World Cup team came and experienced batting and bowling while blindfolded. The College magazine included an article by Gareth Davies of The Daily Telegraph describing their experience:

The Australian batsman found the conditions unplayable. In turn Michael Bevan, Shane Lee, Damien Fleming and Adam Dale were bamboozled by flight and guile playing and missing, over after over, against school-age bowlers.

‘Great fun but very difficult,’ was the statement from Fleming after bowling several wides and with not a single run to his name. Bevan said, ‘This visit has made us appreciate the value of sight and how well these guys and girls are doing in their cricket.’

A good day was had by all.

Memory 125

In the days before the development of recognised sports for the visually impaired, the staff at Chorleywood experimented with a variety of outdoor games, as the first headmistress Phyllis Monk described in her book ‘Though Land be out of Sight..’ The Early Years of Chorleywood College:

For the summer we made up a new game that we called Quickit. It was played with a wicker ball and wickets from which the ball could rebound – no batsmen required! But, as no one had invented a ball that would sound after it was still, fielding by a blind player was haphazard. A bowling board was erected, marked out with scores that enabled those practising bowling to be told how near – or far! – their ball lay from the target. Bumble-puppy and a kind of clock-golf were also tried out, especially for those with sight, but netball-tennis for them was the really successful summer game, and became well established in 1929. This was a modification of lawn tennis, using its rules and scoring, but played with a netball which was flung, when served, from the court line, caught and returned after, or before, the first bounce.

Memory 126

PE has also helped with the development of a range of important skills for life. As David, a former student of the 1950s, remembers:

Many students will retain memories of special teachers! One such teacher was Ray Follett. He taught P.E. and swimming (in school time), and rowing and athletics (out of school time) for more than twenty-five years. In the days before formal mobility training was introduced in the mid-60s, he had a range of activities and exercises which were crucial in developing spatial awareness, posture, sense of direction, and the ability to get about safely. And this was in the days when it was assumed that mobility was a god-given gift, and if you didn’t have it, then there was nothing that could be done. As well as all this, he ran the Meccano Club, so I wonder when he saw his family?

Memory 127

Worcester and Chorleywood both encouraged students to swim and started by having outdoor pools. New College students have regular swimming lessons in the indoor pool, with some learning the skill and others improving and reaching international standard. Andrew described a successful year in the magazine of 1999.

The swimming year has been good. We have taken the swimming world by storm. When we went to the Disability Sport England Senior Nationals we did well. In the March National Schools Gala 24 students took part. There were new championship records. Katy, Katie-George, Andrew and Darren were selected for the England squad. Katie-George and Andrew have been selected to go to Barcelona for the Spanish Open.

Memory 128

When Worcester College began at the Commandery, the importance of exercise was appreciated. The limited space restricted the scope for sport, but a partial solution was found, as Mary Thomas described in her book of 1937 “The First Seventy Years: Worcester College for the Blind”:

The Commandery garden was used for games and exercise. Stilt-walkers especially reached a high standard of proficiency. The art of stilt-walking must have been pretty hazardous when tournaments were involved, for the boys took sides, stood in rows facing one another, and at the word of command charged their opponents. There were accidents of course, but nothing terrible seems to have happened.

Memory 129

For the boys of Worcester College, rowing was a sport which was first promoted when G.C. Brown was headmaster between 1913 and 1938; he valued the opportunity for the boys to compete against their sighted peers. Alec describes his experiences of rowing in the early 1960s:
Rowing was not compulsory, but roughly half the school belonged to the club. The river was, of course, the Severn, a busy river in those days, with commercial traffic voyaging as far as Worcester and beyond. I mention this detail because more than once we were nearly swamped by tankers while rowing. By the time I had worked up to membership of our First Four, I relished the sport and all its associations. As well as physical stamina, rowing demands balance, concentration and timing. The feel of the boat when all four oarsmen are perfectly in tune, is quite exhilarating. You develop an ear for the rhythm of the boat and especially the “bell sounds” of blade cleaving water.

We competed at all of the local regattas. Lounging in a contented state of exhaustion on the picturesque bank of the Avon, opposite the Shakespeare Theatre, is one of many happy memories that floats back through the years, that and being treated to strawberries in the bus going back home.

Memory 130

Girls at New College have taken part in a range of sports, including football. In this account written by Rachel in the College magazine of 1996, they won in the final of a national event held at the Aston Villa Leisure Centre:

This year we started playing and practising once a week. We had enough for two five-a-side teams and one substitute. It came to the final: Worcester A against Exhall Grange. It was a very close game. They took the lead and I think it is a credit to the girls that they didn’t let it slip after the first goal. We got one back. We took the pressure and hit them on the break and got a third and fourth. We won four three. The feeling was really wonderful.

Memory 131

Phyllis Monk, the first headmistress of Chorleywood College, had seen the value of team sports when she had worked at Roedean School. As there were no team sports for students with a visual impairment in the 1920s, she created ‘Sport X’. The girls would play this against other schools, having taught them the rules first. Anne describes the game which she played in the 1950s:

Sport X was based on three sections of field, the central section being twice as large as the two side sections; these were surrounded by a tarmac running track with raised humps at all four corners, and paths separated the small sections from the larger one. Teams consisted of eleven, four partially sighted fielders and seven blind runners. The fielders passed the football to each other after it had been thrown into play by a runner, the aim being to keep passing it to a member of your own team so when the opposition caught the ball they ran to the side path to get the ball across and out of play. The runners could only run whilst their fielders kept the ball, but they were the ones who scored by completing full circuits being guided by tapping baskets at each end and the above mentioned raised corners.

Memory 132

Many students and staff are watching Euro 2016. Alec describes playing football in the mid-1950s:

Sport in general and cricket and football in particular, were compulsive ingredients of our daily existence. Football was played in a number of guises. We played informally in the Gym, where I usually played in goal. In this I was helped by having a white ball against the beige colouring of the floor. Back in the common room we continued the game, this time using a rolled up magazine for our ball.

Nor was the “beautiful Game” ignored by the School. For most of my time at Worcester there were just enough boys with just enough sight to put out a team on the full-sized soccer pitch. In a good year we might get 6 fixtures, home and away to blind schools at Bristol and Shrewsbury, and the Secondary Modern from up the road. We sported an Oxbridge strip of light blue with dark blue facings, and thought ourselves quite smart. I usually played left half or left wing, though I had to change wings at half time if it was a sunny day. I scored few goals, finding it hard to focus on the target, but claimed a degree of fame for the ferocity of my tackling!

Unfortunately, one of my epic tackles was on a spectator who ended up at the far side of the running-track.

Memory 133

Chorleywood College for Girls was based in Hertfordshire. It opened in 1921, when the Cedars, a Renaissance-style mansion, was given to the NIB by J.H. Battye. The building had a large conservatory, known as the ‘Winter Garden’ and large grounds, as described by Miss Boreham:

The school was set in beautiful parkland grounds of 32 acres and there were lots of wild rabbits, deer and a good variety of birds. It stood apart from Chorleywood village, being separated by the Common. It was therefore somewhat isolated. Some of the grounds were sold to build the M25 motorway and a badger sett had to be reconstructed to protect the badgers when they were moved. A lot of new housing was built around the school during the latter years which brought civilisation up to the back door.

Memory 134

Lack of space led Worcester College to move to Slaughter’s Court in Powick in 1887, before the generosity of Eliza Warrington led to the purchase of the current site on Whittington Road and the first building work. In 1935, Stewart Lawton described a much smaller College than we have today:

The college itself consists of a long two storied building on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Severn Valley. It is a pleasant little place in brick and pebble-dash surrounded by lawns and orchards from which can be seen a glorious panorama, terminating in the grassy slopes of the Malvern Hills. In all, we are quite a small family: forty five boys of varying ages from seven to nineteen; a permanent staff of seven energetic graduates, visiting dancing, music and woodwork masters; and a domestic staff of five maids, a matron and a cook, together with a houseman and boot-boys.

Memory 135

Worcester College began 150 years ago down at the Commandery, now a museum, in the centre of Worcester. The College’s facilities were described in a report of 1869:

The College Building is pleasantly situated in safe and spacious grounds, and contains a fine Mediaeval Hall, with a new and very complete organ with two rows of manuals and modern improvements; good class and dining rooms, airy dormitories, lavatory and bath-rooms, gymnasium &c.

Memory 136

Plays were also an important part of the College year for students from Worcester. The NCW archive includes a photograph of the cast of King Lear in 1913. Some plays presented particular challenges for the boys, as becomes evident in this review of ‘Not in the Book’ from the Pimpernel, the College magazine of 1961.

We have seen a number of promising newcomers and at the same time the old hands have pleasantly surprised us by their capability of tackling divers parts. The cast was very well chosen, especially regarding the most difficult part, that of Sylvia Bennett. Sylvia’s deep voice was a little startling at the beginning of the play, but Frank’s portrayal of the part was so convincing that there seemed to be nothing wrong with the voice as the play went on. His movements and reactions, his whole bearing and expressive mimicry were just right, and the spectator forgot there was a boy behind that vivacious and energetic and rather charming woman in her forties.
When this play was over the audience looked happy and as if they had enjoyed themselves, as I’m sure they had.

Memory 137

The production of a College play requires not only the demands of performance, but has sometimes required considerable invention in acquiring props. This was obviously the case when the Chorleywood magazine described their 1935 production of Barrie’s children’s play ‘A Kiss for Cinderella’:

The production was not only ambitious in the size of the cast but also in the completeness of its costume effects and stage properties, the most unlikely garments and homely articles, ruthlessly commandeered from the whole establishment, surprisingly proving, upon trial, to be the exact requirements. Even a street scene, complete with lamps and snow-storm, was provided! The whole was exceedingly well cast and all the players entered fully into the spirit of the play.

Memory 138

There is growing excitement as the next College play is about to be cast. Toby, one of our new Y7 students, recalls acting in the College musical in February.

We did a play called Guys and Dolls. I can remember how long it took! All this rehearsing! How many lines did I have to learn? Well, I tell you now, it was a mighty task, people. There were so many practices in which we were all to find a good position, all have the right lines, at the right volume, etc. However, on the days of the performance, I could never have enjoyed myself more. There has never been so much enthusiasm in a performance.

Memory 139

Y7 came back from camp yesterday. Students at New College regularly go on expeditions and trips. Staff spend a lot of time on Risk Assessments to ensure that students are as safe as possible. Health and Safety expectations have changed greatly as Terry, a student of the 1960s, remembers:

I have fond memories of the Welsh trips that Jim Pickles used to organise. Like others I could mention, they provided such an excellent introduction to hill walking and kindled an interest that probably wouldn’t have stirred otherwise. On one occasions, we were coming down a steep hill with a stream at the bottom. As we approached the stream, Mr Pickles shouted now —, you’ll have to jump this one! Said person did, from about eight feet up the bank, straight in! Mr Pickles, “Oh, I didn’t mean you to do it from there!” Well, no-one got hurt and despite getting regularly soaked, we still came back for more.

Memory 140

Derek, a Worcester resident, who later became a volunteer helping with some of the outdoor activities, remembers the old College swimming pool:

I first went into the College when they used to open up the open air swimming pool to the Scouts and held regular Galas. The students from the College used to participate in it, too. You had a mixture there, and they used to line off the lanes, and my memories is of all the badges we took. All the scouts took their watery badges at the College. So that was my first introduction to the College.The difference from then to later was, if you like, the lack of health and safety! I used to watch the boys getting great pleasure from going up on to the top diving board and jumping off. There was nobody supervising this: they would listen and wait, and please themselves when they jumped. That would never occur later on! I used to have to stand there and tell them when it was safe to jump. In the early days, never. I think it took something away from them, actually, because they had to make the decision themselves.

Memory 141

At New College Worcester, students are currently busy with exams. Today many students are able to use laptops or electronic Braille devices. Very few produce Braille scripts which wasn’t the case in the days before the merger, as Miss Boreham, a former teacher at Chorleywood College, describes:

Saucers of French chalk (like talcum powder) were placed on each exam candidate’s desk. The exam papers were produced on Braillon (a plastic paper used to make multiple copies)and it used to get very slippery particularly in the hot weather.

Candidates would dip their fingers in the saucer of chalk to enable them to read more efficiently. Everyone sat in the school gym for exams, except the occasional pupil who had to dictate their script if they didn’t know Braille. The exam would then take place in a separate room. Computers were introduced in the closing years of the school but they were very primitive and large, compared with what we have today. They often went wrong and were not considered to be reliable for exams. Therefore, most of the exams were brailled and all the staff had to transcribe the scripts. We often sat up into the early hours of the morning in order to be able to post the exam papers within 24 hours of the exam. Our reward was a tin of toffees between us supplied by the Headteacher each week. One year we were given a bottle of sherry to share!

Memory 142

Girls from schools in Worcester came to Worcester College for regular dance sessions in the gym. Alec describes how he met his first girlfriend:

Sue and I met up at dance class. This was one of Worcester’s better ideas when it came to fitting us for the world outside. It took place each Monday night in the College gym, and never failed to attract a sweet-smelling phalanx of partners from the Girls Grammar and The Convent. In my case it came perilously close to clashing with Confirmation classes at the church down the hill, but maybe it was my obvious keenness to race back for the dancing that appealed, at least to Sue.

Memory 143

Chorleywood College was housed in ‘The Cedars’ a Renaissance-style mansion. Anita, one of the final students before the merger, remembers her time at Chorleywood College:

I generally have very good memories of my time there. For me, this was the perfect environment in which to try anything and everything, and we did – sport, music, drama, singing (any time we got on a bus!), and anything else we could think of. Personally, if I were given the chance to turn back time, I wouldn’t change anything about my time at Chorleywood. The things I liked about the place have filled my memory with good recollections and the things I disliked have in hindsight served as a means of consolidating my opinions and strength of mind. I was very comfortable in my Hertfordshire “home”. I had everything I could wish for and had grown very used to our way of living and studying and the beautiful surroundings of the college.

Memory 144

College dramatic performances have been a highlight of the year since the early days at the Commandery. Students and staff rise to the challenge, as Miss Rix, the current head of Drama at New College recalls:

When I started teaching at NCW I had never directed a play with a blind cast before. I vividly remember the read through for my first school production – Sparkleshark. I looked around at my cast who were all accessing their script in different ways: braille, large print, audio.. and wondered –how on earth will we ever come together to make this work? But, we did. It was a revelation to me – and continues to be so.

Memory 145

Developments in technology can make information accessible to people with a visual impairment. When the College began at the Commandery in 1866, in an era when Braille had not even been recognized as the best method of reading and writing for blind people, the first headmaster Rev. Hugh Blair struggled to get hold of materials. He described his problems in 1869 (at the time, according to the National Archives website’s currency converter, £24 was the cost of a craftsman’s wages for two days work in the building trade):

Now and then we come across a raised copy of some solitary book of Virgil, or a table of logarithms or a geography, or some such curiosity. Ten to one it is full of mistakes and ten thousand to one it is the only copy extant. In this dilemma, as teachers of the blind, we find our¬selves: wanting maps, we have to make them our-selves; wanting geographies, we buy a few, and find them containing more of history and Scripture than of the science they profess to disclose; want¬ing books in Euclid we wait till they are printed, and then pay £24 for three copies contained in seven volumes each; wanting arithmetics and algebras we must do without them. You see then what we want: maps, globes, slates, writing implements, raised books.

Memory 146

Today’s Royal visit by HRH the Countess of Wessex has led to a search for memories of previous visitors. In 1961, HRH princess Margaret opened the Wolfsen Wing. Brendan, a former student, recalls that:

When stepping from her helicopter onto the front lawn, HRH laddered her stockings. A lady in waiting spoke with the then Matron, Miss Hartwell, who provided a replacement pair. As far as I know, Matron was never rewarded in any way for this vital help.

Memory 147

New College Worcester was formed when Chorleywood College for Girls merged with Worcester College. Susan, a former student in the 1970s, reflects on what she gained from the College.

At Chorleywood, the long view was always taken. Yes, we did our lessons, but not just for that time or that year or the next exam, etc. – everything was structured so that we would be made competent enough to stand on our own in the world and be as good as the next person (if not better) in whatever we chose to excel at because the skills we had were finely honed and tuned. I’m absolutely convinced that this is why I have a good memory, because we were taught that to memorise was a life-saver to us because we did not have the prompts that sighted people have all the time, wherever they go and whatever they are doing. Taking the long view was something I admired then, cherish now, and try to put into practice whenever I can.

Memory 148

Students at New College have been given the chance to take part in a range of extra-curricular activities. In 2002, Vicki described her experience of climbing.

I enjoyed this activity in particular as it gave me the chance to try as many different and varied climbing walls as possible, and it also increased my confidence. I made steady progress, getting some excellent support and encouragement along the way as and when it was needed.

Of course, as a visually impaired person, you sometimes need help to be able to accomplish a certain challenge and this was no different. As I was climbing up the wall, I needed one of the activity coordinators to tell me where to put my hands and feet. Even so, the activity itself brought me great achievement. It was tough sometimes and pretty tiring but at the end of the day every time I reached the top of one wall I had achieved my aim.

Memory 149

Worcester College for the Blind started when the Rev. Blair, a teacher at King’s School Worcester, realized that a College was needed to provide a secondary education for blind boys. Links have been maintained with King’s. In the 1950s, Paul was loaned to cox the Worcester rowing team.

The four rowers needed to hear the voice of the cox continually for their sense of direction, balance and rhythm. My instructions were to keep my face forward without variation so that the crew could focus on the consistent direction of my voice to help their balance. I had to call every stroke and for each introduce a modulation in tone to help them further. My cadence needed to vary so that they could pick up on the rhythm and so row in synchronicity.
I remember the humour of the crew, their resilience when our passage through the waters of the Severn was, to say politely, less than smooth or elegant. Also their determination to compete on even terms with other crews in the various Regattas in which we were entered.

Memory 150

New College Worcester began in 1987 when the boys’ school, Worcester College for the Blind, merged with Chorleywood College for Girls. James describes how his life altered.

Perhaps the most notable change for us was the building being altered and adapted. Prior to September 1987 we had all been in the dormitory system, five or six to a room. Moving into the house system we instead came into contact with more people from other years. There were other upshots of the house system, such as having meals in the house as well as in the main school dining room … and don’t forget, a new house parent … with new ways and … a family!

There were new experiences like certain members of the house all going out for the week’s shopping … and we had to do some cooking for ourselves in the evening. Ah, now, what do you do with potatoes? Peel them? And precisely how does this peeler thing work? How do you peel them so it doesn’t take half an hour for one?

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