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News > THROUGH THE DECADES > Jon Pallin on Hordle House in the 1950s

Jon Pallin on Hordle House in the 1950s

Jon gives us a detailed insight of Hordle House: latin, greek, cricket against Walhampton and New Forest picnics....
Hordle House Cricket Team
Hordle House Cricket Team

Jon Pallin gives us a fascinating look into school at Hordle House in the 1950s...

F.J.P.L. Pallin OBE MBA FCA aka Jon (Jonny) Pallin 

Hordle House 1954-1958

By early 1954 the family had moved to Woodhaven in Hampshire and aged 9, as from the summer term, I was enrolled at Hordle House. Woodhaven was a large house in the hamlet of Downton, a few miles from Milford-on-Sea situated, as with the school, on the coast of Hampshire about midway between Lymington and Bournemouth. The house itself was in a wonderful setting, especially for young children, with a large garden, on one side surrounded by its own woods and approached through the woods up a fairly steep curving drive covered by an arch of rhododendrons. There was another adjoining wood, Bluebell wood, with a strange empty wooden building, which we used for roller-skating. At the bottom were neighbouring fields with a stream running along the length of the property. The other side looked over farm land with Hordle House clearly visible across the fields and beyond, and although not visible, the cliffs and the ocean. Regardless of proximity, I was enrolled as a border - this predated the era of day-boys and was still very much the norm.

Hordle House was one of the many boys preparatory schools of that era designed for and in preparation for entrance at 13 to the so-called public schools. The school had been founded in 1926 by the Rev. E. Whately-Smith who by 1954 had retired, but was still very much visible living on the property, with the school being run by the two of his sons that had survived the war - Mr. John and Mr. Peter as they were referred to both formally and affectionately - and who with their wives, Mrs. John and Mrs. Peter, remained in contact with my mother for the rest of her life. The 1958 school photo includes 88 of us with just two girls - from the next generation of Whately-Smiths - so it was and felt like a small close family community.

The main building was set back from the sea but the sports grounds were literally on the cliffs of the Solent overlooking The Needles and bore the brunt of endless howling gales …. or so it seemed. There was a very happy atmosphere at Hordle House and the school was undoubtedly run with this intent. Corporal punishment still existed but this was limited to infrequent, and presumably merited, canings by Mr. John in his study - I, in fact, already had a point of reference on this front having come from a not so friendly environment. This was still very much the post war era with life somewhat spartan with rationing not far from sight, although by no means obvious at Hordle House.

The mainstays of the teaching staff, other than the two brothers, were a Mr. Branfoot, who had suffered horribly at the hands of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore and still spent time each year in Switzerland; Captain Eriks, a pipe-smoking Dutchman formerly of the Royal Netherland Brigade, who had lost a leg in a motorcycle accident and subsequently became personal assistant to the Dutch minister of war, who taught French; Mr. Lewman who had played rugby for the Royal Navy, and taught Maths; Mr. Backhouse, who had also been in the Navy; and there was also a more elderly Mr. Howard who daily completed the Times crossword and taught English. Each left their indelible impressions on me - all positive. These were supported by Miss Trinder then the matron - who had the unique privilege of having slapped me in the face, no doubt well deserved - and the young and beautiful under-matron, Miss Daniels, who for the favoured few would sing you to sleep …. “The foggy foggy due” as I recall. 

Academically I understand that the school must have held its own, although I have absolutely no recollection of any pressure on this front - even as an “average at best” student that never even made the top Form 1A. Of note, there was still an exaggerated focus on rote learning, the extraordinary inclusion of latin and greek in the curriculum, taught by Mr. Peter, but with divinity and (with hindsight) an absence of science. I don’t even remember taking let alone preparing for the common entrance. Indeed I wouldn’t even have known I had taken it if my mother hadn’t kept the post card from my future housemaster at Sherborne congratulating me. No doubt my passage into Sherborne, which had not been my originally intended school (my father had been at Uppingham), was also facilitated by Mr. John who had been, as with his brothers, at Sherborne.

As with probably most schools Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons were devoted to sports with Saturdays for matches against other local prep schools - including of course Walhampton. In the Easter term football organised by Mr. Branfoot; in the summer cricket organised by Mr. John; and in the Christmas term rugby for those over a certain age under Mr. Lewman. The annual cricket match against the fathers, captained by Mr. John in that era, was an event much looked forward to. There was a tennis and squash club at Milford on Sea of which the family were members so I had the rudiments of both sports from a relatively young age. So as well as playing in the cricket, football and rugby teams, I played tennis and squash both under the guidance of Mr. Branfoot; as I recall there weren’t tennis and squash teams as such - the school had two grass tennis courts used for in-school matches against each other, the staff and parents. We were, of course, completely over-shadowed by the prowess of the Angus brothers, the younger nearer my age. There was also sailing at Keyhaven yacht club with Mr. Backhouse in his dinghy and shooting with Captain Eriks in the “Hut”.

That said the favourite pastimes were the monkey climb, a game whose name escapes me in the Big Hall - found to be not so big on a much later visit, and bicycling on the “bumps”. The former involved passing along the length of a wood either at the bottom of the trees (the lower monkey) or at the top of the trees (the upper monkey) without touching the ground. The game was played in the Big Hall, with its stage at one end, whereby one team had to pass from one end of the hall to the other without being brought down by the other team whose members were spread out on the floor but could only move about on their knees; once brought down you became part of that ever-increasing team.

As well as all the normal sporting and academic activities there was the annual New Forest picnic when we were bussed out into the New Forest with hampers full of goodies and our butterfly nets and stink bottles - this was still the pre-TV era when you collected just about anything … matchbox tops, cigarette cards, birds eggs; the Fireworks show on Guy Fawkes night; following the beagles; the annual fire practice with everyone being hoisted down from an upstairs dormitory window; and regular swimming and picnics down on the beach below the cliffs. The beach of stones in a series of layers so that every few yards there was a drop of about 4 to 5 feet which continued into the seemingly always rough water where you were quickly and suddenly way out of your depth. My Brazilian wife could not believe that youngsters were allowed anywhere near it - but as I recall we loved it. Then there were special outings - one that I particularly recall was “participating” in the Fleet exercises of the Royal Navy on a ship captained by a former pupil or parent - in fact, this can be seen on You Tube.

Every year there was a school play - not my forte although I remember having one of the lead roles, albeit as Mama, in “The Cautionary Tale of Shock-Headed Peter”. Then there was the annual feast at Christmas which culminated with the singing of a special song by the Head Prefect, the Captain of the School and the Bad Lad; this also gently poked fun at the staff - in 1957 as head boy I had the “privilege” of participating. Sundays at chapel - was this a converted stable? - and Sunday lunch always a mega-joint usually roast beef carved by Mr. John, and, as I recall the food generally excellent although some lifelong loathings developed - cooked apple, suet puddings and milk - that dreaded daily bottle of that era. We were also encouraged to maintain a garden plot in the walled garden. For those lucky enough to be invited there were outings on the Whately-Smith family 20 foot (?) “boat” or to dine with them on Sunday evenings in the kitchen.

Woodhaven was also the perfect setting for inviting friends for Sunday lunch on the rare occasions in those times that one was allowed out of school. In addition in the later years, I would regularly break all rules and sneak out after dark for a bit of home cooking, dodging into the bushes or undergrowth with any approaching headlights - whether known or not, certainly never acknowledged.

In all a period of very happy memories and undoubtedly I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Hordle House and, in particular, to the Whately-Smiths. On leaving at the end of the Summer term of 1958 the family moved to London and I to Sherborne and contact with both gradually lost. I remember names of friends at the time and can even place some faces in the school photo but that is it. Having lived in Brazil since 1969, a time when even a long-distance telephone call was a difficult event, and brief holidays in England rare, regrettably I completely lost touch with Hordle House and the Whately-Smiths but was nevertheless saddened when noting the school’s effective demise.  

February 2020


Delving into the archives...

The school archivist took a look through the Hordle House magazines and F.J.L Pallin features in all the sports fixtures! 

1957 mentions swimming medals received in the summer term. 

In 1958 Jonathan Pallin is mentioned in the Christmas Term for his role in the "Cautionary Tale of Shock-Headed Peter" as Mama! By Easter he was Mrs Darling in the production of Peter Pan and played squash against the teachers. He became a prefect for football XI, rugby XIII, cricket XI. On leaving Hordle House the magazine mentions his move to Sherborne school.   

News of the Old School Boys are mentioned in each school magazine, which include the following inserts for J. Pallin:

1959 house junior cricket team and has done well in rugger.

1960 played for the school junior squash team on one occasion, an played for his house in junior hockey, cricket and rugger teams. 

1961 has been busy with his O'levels.  He played cricket for his house, but squash and tennis appear to be his strong points; he was on the school ladder for both.

1965 is articled to a firm of chartered accountants in the City.

1966/9 engagement

1970 is with Price Waterhouse in Rio de Janiero


Jonny has sent us this photo of the cricket team:

"Of (most of the) 1958 cricket team I can only name two others with any degree of certainty. I am sitting on the right; next to me sitting is Ian Duckworth; and behind his right shoulder George Dibben."

We also found the following photo of The First Eleven in our school archive. Hopefully these names will ring a bell Jon:

Owen, Ian Duckworth, Richard Holmden, Peter Brooks, Thompson-Coon, Jonathan Pallin, Richard Eyton-Lloyd, Murray-Johnson, Gordon Thomson, Mackenzie-Smith, Nixon (NB names don't relate to positions in photo).




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