My housemaster at Crossways was ‘Dow’ – D. H. Addleshaw. Dow was in his late fifties when I arrived, and left shortly after I moved on in 1963. Presumably he was then 60, and so would have been born around 1904. He was himself childless, a confirmed bachelor, but (as I have later realised) he was devoted to his boys. Although outwardly gruff and grumpy towards us, he was in fact incredibly indulgent. On Sundays we had a complete set of Sunday papers bought for us. In the senior school to the age of 18 we had to buy our own paper, and were only allowed the quality press, The Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph or The Observer. In Crossways we had the lot, from the Sunday Pictorial, The People and The News of the World onwards and upwards. The James Bond novels were then new, and rather shocking, but they were in our library with the proviso that they were only to be borrowed by those who were ‘thirteen and above’. Naturally the first books we read on passing our thirteenth birthday were the James Bond books.
In many ways we lived the Edwardian childhood that Dow himself had been brought up to. Every evening we put our shoes out to be collected by Peart and shined ready for the morning. This happened only once again in my life, when I had a ‘fag’ as a senior School prefect. In the summer at Crossways there was croquet and tennis on the lawn, and Peart’s immaculate herbaceous border. One evening in late summer term we had our House Supper for which a long table was arranged in the bike shed, and we were feasted with sausage rolls, ham sandwiches and fruit salad, all washed down with real cider. All this was exclusive to Crossways; Kenwynites, who lived just the other side of the hedge, were not invited. They lived a modern existence, with no flower borders, no croquet sets and definitely no cider! We were the indulged ones, existing in an early 20th century time-lapse.
November the fifth was celebrated by the whole of the Junior School, Crosswegians and Kenwynites together. There was a bonfire and sausage fry-up on Old Kenwyn ‘beach’, A triangular area of rough grass between Old Kenwyn and the Kelling road. It has become a housing estate these many years past. Crossways also had a ‘beach’. This word puzzled me, for it was obviously nothing to do with a sandy beach. Then, about 15 years ago, I was researching Spixworth Hall, and in an old map of the estate I discovered a similar stretch of grass which was marked as the bleach, i.e. the ground where linens were laid out to bleach in the sun. This, I am sure, is the origin of the word beach, corrupted by young boys who had never seen it used for bleaching laundry but knew a beach was where you played.
Old Kenwyn, I should explain, was the old boarding house on the other side of the road from Crossways and New Kenwyn. It was now used for our classrooms, and changing rooms for Crossways boys. One room was given over to natural history, and another to a small theatre complete with stage. Here Crossways boys could dream of doing plays to our heart’s content, but it was to dream only; no adult ever came near the stage to show us what to do with it.
Plays were done in the Junior School, but they were done by Kenwyn. And they were good. I particularly remember a production of Toad of Toad Hall with scenery painted depicting a very convincing Wild Wood and trees with long lugubrious faces. Badger was played by boy called Watson (later a helicopter pilot) with very convincing black and white make-up. One problem in those pre-coeducational days was that all female parts had to be played by boys, but it did not worry us. There are few female parts in Toad anyway.
Toad of Toad Hall