Transition to the Senior School
My move from the prep school part of Gresham’s to the Senior School was made difficult by the opening of the new house, Tallis, in the Michaelmas term of 1963. To put it bluntly, the school was bursting at the seams as the numbers were built up to fill the new house. The Lawns, which was ‘Jumbo’ Burroughs’s House, was there solely to take pupils destined for Tallis, and it closed as soon as Tallis was opened. The Lawns returned to being an hotel as it had been before, and still is. In any case the Lawns could only take so many (25 I think). The other houses – Howson’s, Woodlands, Old School House and Farfield were all taking in extra people. For instance, the study (number 23?) which normally took only three because the fourth space was mostly occupied by the doorway had four squeezed in – and guess who was made to sit in the doorway? Me!
The result was that although I should have gone up in Michaelmas 1962 when I was already 13, I was held back until the summer term of 1963 by which time I was 14. I didn’t have to take the Common Entrance exam it is true, because I had already reached the Upper Third form. In fact by the time I was eventually promoted to the senior school I was in the Fourth Form – 4G. Another disadvantage of the school being so crowded was the fact that I did not get my first choice of house; in fact I got no choice at all. I had wanted to go into Howson’s, the Headmaster’s house, but instead I was put into Farfield. Farfield was a house I dreaded. It had a reputation that the boys were harsh and very sporty. The housemaster, Bernard Sankey was austere and the house itself was nearly in Kelling. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived in the Junior Dorm and the study over the boiler room in April 1963. There were 3 others in the study. One was a day boy, Mallett (who was obviously intended to have the cramped corner, not being there so much) and one was Daniel. Was the third Bill Wragge? In those days he was just Wragge, and later John Wragge. It was only when he was about 16 that he morphed into Bill, which he has remained for the last 50 years. His first name is William, but he could not be called Bill at his home because that was his father’s name. At school he could be what he wanted, and he wanted to be Bill.
This picturte show Bill Wragge at the age we entered Farfield. Sitting to the left is Philip Searle-Barnes who I had been in with in Crossways, but who went into Dr Andrew’s house (Woodlands) in the senior school. He went on to Imperial College to study engineering and graduated in 1972. Bill studied English under London University’s external system at Buckland (then in Berkshire, since 1974 in Oxfordshire). The house at Bucland has returned to being a private house, albeit on a grand scale, and the place of learning is no more. I have stayed in touch with Bill, but Philip Searle Barnes I haven’t seen for over forty years. I have seen his brother Paul however at an Old Greshamian meeting last year. He was a musician of great skill and accomplishment, and has enjoyed a career as head of keyboard at Bryanston school. There were four Seale-Barnes brothers; I only knew the oldest two, Philip and Paul. Their father the Rev Charles Searle-Barnes was Vicar of Cromer.
Anyway, Farfield did not prove to be the dreadful place I had feared – quite the reverse. We were exceptionally privileged to be educated by a dedicated and for the most part effective team of teachers and to be living in such a remote but appealing place.