Memories of Red Hill

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Date: October 20, 2010 11:20 AM
Subject: Old Art Room

I recall the outside room that was burned out as the 'prep room' into which we all filed after 6.0pm for self-revision. I never knew it as an art room (which in my day was a building up the drive on the right-hand side beyond the pond!). It was in the 'prep room' that we took all the bulbs out of their fitting - six in all - and replaced them with six broken bulbs in which we had individually twisted the filaments together . It was autumn time, and was the first 'solo run' at staff on duty was poor old Paul Plottke. As he entered the room, on his first check of attendance therein, he commented on the dull ambience of the room and clicked both light switches by the door - as we'd hoped he would. All the bulbs 'exploded' amidst howls of "Sir! What have you done?!" I also remember going to that room with David Fisher the night before our geography exam. We chose to draw a map of Africa on the board, outlining the climatic regions, major rivers etc. Next morning, on opening our exam paper I glanced at David with a grin, 'cause already printed inside was an outline of Africa on to which one was asked to show the climatic regions, rivers etc etc ......

Best wishes

Malcolm Leggett (RHS 1948-1953)


Date: October 1, 2010 12:34 PM
Subject: The Chalets

Those six chalets. I used to dream about them at night! I was the lad who always used to replace the frequently blowing fuses in the vast Victorian fuse box in the passage opposite the kitchen - not because I was any kind of electrician, but because Shaw felt everybody needed a job, and my lot fell to electrical matters. So, I helped to put the chalets together, and do all the electricals. Shaw accompanied me to Maidstone, and we went to Curry's to buy the miles of cable needed, the switches, lamp fittings, etc. etc. He made the usual fuss in the shop about getting discount and credit, of course, to my great embarrassment. I loaded it all in to the car boot, and off we went back to East Sutton. Miraculously, I did all the work, and when I switched it on, it all worked! Those chalets were all delivered in pieces, totally unpainted. We had an army of those Ronuk heavy floor polishers at RHS, and we had to use them to polish the rough, splintery floors until you could see your face in them. Ah, nostalgia, nostalgia!

Keith Wright (RHS 1945-1950)


Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 08:49:15 +0100
Subject: Charlton Court - restoration work, voids, tunnels and a coffin!

** safety hard hat, safety shoes and reflective jacket are required for visitors to go on any construction site and Peter being in Health & Safety had these items with him. IMPORTANT NOTE: prior approval is required from Fernham Homes to enter the Charlton Court construction site.


I've just had the most amazing day. On Thursday September 14, 2006 I found myself in Kent on business, and my meeting was cancelled. Took a bit of manipulating... anyway I drove to Charlton Court, thinking I might take a few photos of the building site over the fence. When I told the site foreman why I was there he said I could walk around the site if I kept out of the way. When I told him one of my duties is Health & Safety**, he let me into the building! I spent 2 hours walking about, taking photos, and chatting to the builders. One even lent me a torch so I could go down to the cellar. Apparently the intent is to sell the building as a single dwelling, with 7 en-suite bedrooms. They are also building 4 new 'executive' houses on site.

The builders are making a reasonably sympathetic job of restoring the house to its 17th century state. All the post-war additions have been removed, but the Victorian Junior Bathroom remains, complete with its cast-iron pillar, but without the bell outside! One of the builders is keen to find some better illustrations of the original chimneys that were demolished before our time - any ideas? Apparently the builders have a historian, who had researched the house. I'll try to contact him or her in case they know anything interesting. Some letters from the fifties and later were found during the clearing of the house, but the guy who told me
wasn't sure what had happened to them.

The rumour about the priest hole was true. There was a void with no obvious function in the wall near the entrance to the dorm on the 1st floor (left of the main landing). It seems to have had airholes, but was bricked-up in Victorian times. The story about the tunnel to East Sutton church also has some credibility, one of the builders has something to do with the church, and there is apparently some underground construction that might be the start of a long-collapsed tunnel.

What was the room between the Back Stairs and the Music Room? Was it a staff room? There was a false ceiling in it. When they removed it they found a coffin! All work stopped while the police and coroner were called, it was then found to be empty.

I also took a walk around the grounds. Was the football pitch level when we were there? I didn't think so. Apparently one of the letters referred to the Army levelling the pitch. You must have been looking in the wrong place when you were in the woods, the ridge is still there, as is the big oak from which Smithy hung a wire that could be slid down. There are also lots of pits that, with a little imagination, could be the remains of camps, and a few smaller ridges that might have been dams.

I then drove to Sutton Valence, and as I stopped just before Millfield House, an elderly couple were driving out. I introduced myself and was immediately invited in, shown round the house and garden, asked about Shaw, fed tea and sandwiches. The couple are Colonel (Pat) and Mrs (Elaine) Beaumont, and they said they would be delighted to hear from anyone with stories about the house and its owners. Also if there is another reunion in SV they would offer hospitality if given enough notice. Wonderful couple, Pat is 72 and very fit, ex-paratrooper. I suggested that Pat should go to your web site and read Ralph Gee's works to learn more about Shaw.

Best wishes

Pete (RHS 1961-1966)


From: "Michael Irving" <>
Subject: Ted Brown's Chariot & Smithy's Dam
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 13:13:20 +0000

I just had another little memory jog of a similar kind (see "Barney Walsh" below), when looking at a photo on the website of a Ford car in the 'Gangplace'. I don't know if it was this car in it's later life, but Ted Brown had a completely stripped down Ford which he used as a means of transporting things around the grounds. This was also the source of one of our midnight adventures in the early 1960s. John Fitzsimons knew, don't ask me how, a way of fashioning a key to fit it, by holding a blank key over a candle until it was covered in soot, then inserting it very carefully into the ignition and turning it as far as it would allow. When it was equally carefully removed, there were marks in the soot showing where to file. This we did, successfully, over a couple of nights and were able, John Fitzsimons, Barney Walsh and myself to push the car silently down the drive, out of the front gate and freewheel it down the hill before starting it up. Barney drove. He insisted that he knew how, but I seem to remember a bit of trouble with and discussion about, double de-clutching before we falteringly and madly drove around those narrow country lanes. It was great, hanging on to the completely open chariot, the air rushing past, completely oblivious (well, perhaps not completely oblivious) to the stupidly dangerous nature of the enterprise. However, the payment we had to make, was the fact that we had to turn the engine off and push the car up that last bit of road before the gates and up the drive. This was a seriously heavy effort, not made any easier by the observation of one of us, when halfway up the drive, that it would have been "more sensible to have driven round to the top of the hill and free wheeled down". When I think about it now I'm not so sure that that would have been such a good idea.

And lastly THE DAM (Smithy's Dam). It's rather nice to think that the name of the builder persisted. Yes, I did build it. And almost entirely alone, It was great fun. I floated tree trunks down the stream by building a series of smaller dams and crashing the trunks into them and making use of the resulting surge. The main dam had quite a sizeable lake behind it and produced Hydro-Electricity for my camp at one time. We also strung a steel cable between a large oak tree in the top corner of the woods and a smaller tree near the dam and with the use of a device running on the cable used to launch ourselves from the larger tree and drop off into the lake before smashing into the smaller tree.Until, that is, sombody didn't let go soon enough.
Then we had to take it down!

Michael Smith (now Michael Irving) RHS 1957-1963


From: "Michael Irving" <>
Subject: Barney Walsh
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 01:08:15 +0000

Regarding Barney Walsh, herein, the true cause of his chin injury. It was a very warm, clear, moonlit night in the summer of 1960 when Barney, myself and, I think but am not sure, John Fitzsimons sneaked out on bicycles and sped off in the early hours to the River Beult near Headcorn, for a nude swim. Everything went according to plan, lots of laughs at the river, and the decision was made to dry ourselves by riding some of the way back without clothes on. Anyone seeing from behind the moonlit, furiously pedalling, bottom waggling figures, would, I am sure, have laughed as much as we did. However, we had done about half of the journey when I decided to overtake Barney who responded to the challenge by pulling slightly ahead again. At this point I saw him pull so hard on the handlebars that the front of the bicycle lifted up and the front wheel dropped neatly out of the forks and Barney went chin first onto the road. I thought he must be dead, but far from it, he protested almost immediately that all was well and we hastily donned our clothes and made our way back to school and into our beds. It was a shocking sight that greeted Barney the next morning. His pillow was almost entirely blood-stained and there was some difficult explaining to do. I can't remember whether we 'came clean', or concocted some absurd story. So, there you have it. The true story of Barney's chin.

Michael Smith (now Michael Irving) RHS 1957-1963

Note: two photos of Barney with his chin in a cast can be seen here


From: "Mark Staplehurst" <>
To: "Terry Wilson" <>
Subject: Memories
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2003 13:14:39 +0100

Doug Sleep - the cook! Some may remember that if you were a tad peckish in the evenings, a knock on Doug's door and pleading starvation would result in a few evening morsels!! However, one evening he was not in such an amenable mood, so I and another went up into the attic (above Althea Perfect's office which was adjacent to his penthouse suite!!). We went above his room and made eerie noises and tapped on his ceiling, it was highly amusing because it really wound him up. This went on for about half an hour and he was getting well annoyed, and unbeknown to us there was another way up into the loft from his rooms, which he duly entered from. Well, we nearly died of fright and in a mad rush to get away, the other chap made it down the steps and I came down the more direct route - through the ceiling above the back stairs! Anyone that may recall will remember the dry plaster and straw that made up the ceiling becoming an integral part of the back stairs for several days afterwards! (much to Chris Harvey's annoyance!)

Family Swimming day! One hot weekend we were not allowed in the swimming pool because it was the Family's day to have it! Not to be put off, a trip to the chemistry lab and a few pieces of sodium later soon cleared the swimming pool of bodies! (hmmm - not a very good move, but hindsight is a wonderful thing isnt it?)

Chris Harvey - on the subject of explosive mixtures, I think it was potassium permanganate and sodium chlorate, which when mixed and dried was quite explosive because he did it with us as well, trouble was the mix was a little too rich and Althea came into the lab to look for someone and it almost blew her foot off! But something far more interesting was the concoction Chris made from instant mashed potatoes and raisins, well we brewed it over a week or so, then distilled it! Wow it was quite potent!! Making things was a passtime everyone had time for. I remember Althea with fondness - she was a lovely little old lady who was always willing to help, she once showed me how to make a chutney from tomatoes and chillies, a recipe I remember to this day! I call it my "Old Ladies Chutney" with a kick!!

I remember things like mud slinger fights down in the woods, what fun that was and scrumping for apples! Going to Otto's for dinner once in a blue moon and seeing how the other half lived! Other memories are going to Larry Jane's room for toast and listening to the continuous drones of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge over troubled water".

But to me the biggest memories were the endless charges by every man and his dog for all manner of misdemeanors (from taking the mickey out of Michael "Tuck Parcel" Leggett to going through the ceilings, etc.....), and forever polishing the main well stairs and walls and sweeping the main drive of leaves!

Mark Staplehurst (RHS 1970-1974)


Subject: Red Hill
Date: Thursday, January 23, 2003 4:00 AM

I have several good stories from my time at Redhill, including the occasion when I printed postcards stating that laxatives had been added to the Maidstone water supply as an experiment and sent them to many people in Week Street, Maidstone - the home of the Kent Messenger newspaper. It got on the front page and after he heard rumours that they had been sent from Red Hill School, Shaw did a little investigating. When confronted, I of course admitted the offence, and awaited my punishment. He smiled, went into his pocket and gave me 5 shillings towards the postage! I still have an original copy of the postcard and the newspaper article!

Lots of other memories, the pub runs on a black bicycle to Headcorn for cigarettes and cider, the science teacher ( I believe it was Chris Harvey) who, unlike any other teacher I have ever known, encouraged us to make home made fireworks and mini explosives. He taught us to make a liquid that you could put on door handles that when dry, exploded on touch! I wouldn't mind the recipe to pass on to my sons!!

I particularly remember the aged Morley Gayton who gave us our weekly pocket money, cycling on his trusty bicycle to and from school. He is still the only person I remember religiously using bicycle clips every single trip. Shaw once asked me to run and find out if MG was at school. I just looked out of the window in the corridor and said yes, his bike's here Shaw! He had expected me to run down the corridor and check his office. Shaw gave me a bar of chocolate for being 'observant'!

Michael Fotheringham (RHS 1966-1969)




Subject: Larry Jane
Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 06:56:09 EDT

Hi Terry,

Thanks for your interesting e-mail. It's a pity our years at RHS didn't overlap.

Larry Jane - yes, a truly nice man. You probably remember the Cortina, but not the high-performance Jaguar!. In my day, Larry was also much admired and respected for his bull-like physical strength and we often devised tests for him to demonstrate it. A popular way of getting new furniture for one's dorm was to seize a suitable new boy when Larry was Staff-on-Duty. Take the victim to your dorm, barricade the door with all your old furniture, and then "persuade" the little 'un to scream in terror as Larry walked past. Larry would enquire what was going on, then you had to make (not-very subtle) "hushing" noises. Larry would try the door handle, then you had to make noises of busy panic. Larry would SHOULDER-CHARGE the door --- and, HEY PRESTO! all your rotten old furniture was matchwood! The new boy (coached in advance) would say that he had just been unduly nervous. Larry wouldn't blame anyone. And the dorm got new furniture.

We tried to keep this ploy within reason, but inevitably some people used it too often and staff counter-planning eventually aborted it. Larry used to take groups of us on terrifying high-speed drives in his souped-up white Jag Mark IV (the model much used by gangsters as a gettaway vehicle). I was one of three boys whom Larry took with him (in that Jag) the day he went to St. Leonards to complete the purchase of the cottage to which he retired (with a very voluptuous blonde lady of forty-something who was to reside with him!!).

I will never forget the perfect blend of fun and education of those days in the countryside of Kent, and only Army comradeship could rival the appreciation and happiness with which I remember my old pals from Redhill School.

Keep up the good work Terry. Honestly -- it IS appreciated, even by those who might prefer to keep a low profile.

Dennis Grainger (RHS 1965-1969)


From: "Ralph Gee"
Subject: Twit
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 11:50:38 -0000

Bernard Smith got the name Twit before I knew him, to differentiate him from Brian "Biff" Smith, but it wasn't a disparagement. It may have been from a tendency to twitter. He came from Southwick, near Shoreham. After you remembering cycling to Rye, I referred to being dunked in the Royal Military Canal. Twit did that. We were on our way to Camber. Twit always rode fixed wheel, and bowling down Appledore Hill, he passed me, his legs going like "Mallard's" pistons, arms flailing as he pulled his shirt off, and screaming blue murder. Blinded by his shirt, his whirring pedal clipped my calf, and I went left across the grass into the canal. Fortunately I kept the bike on the bank. He bounced right, across the radiator of an oncoming East Kent bus, into a hop-field, still yelling - but it was my leg that was bleeding. He'd been stung by a bee or two, trapped in his shirt. I had little sympathy for him as I squelched the rest of the day in wet trousers; threatened by pneumonia, gangrene, tetanus and typhoid.

Even less some weeks later when I cycled to Ashford, for train-spotting, again with him, and with Denis Ward and Phillip Coutanche. Phillip knew a way to the yards through allotments, along a path that chicaned suddenly right and left. Twit and I were racing, and he was passing me with those flashing pedals on fixed wheel. I could free wheel round the chicane, but he couldn't, and he forced me straight on into a foul water-filled ditch about crossbar-deep, landing upright and still on my bike. There was a Q1 in steam in the yards, with no-one on the footplate, so I climbed up and was working out how to dry my trousers when the fireman appeared and wanted to know what the hell I was up to. I told him, and he put them on his shovel, opened the fire-door and thrust them in. In those few seconds I was riding back to school half-clothed and explaining to Mof what had happened to my trousers. Fortunately it worked, but that's how he cooked his eggs and bacon; and I nearly scorched my balls off putting them back on, so I had to sit around awhile until they stopped steaming on a catch-points lever. Meanwhile the others had left me and got into the sheds, filling up half their spotting-books. But the fireman gave me a plate of bacon and egg, cooked on his shovel in a Q1. Oh, for the golden age of steam!

So you see, twits are not always the wettest.

Ralph Gee (RHS 1947-1953)


From: "Ralph Gee" <>
To: "Terry Wilson" <>
Subject: Morley G. + Main Stairs Well
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 22:19:41 -0000

Morley Gayton's bicycle
What you saw in 1964 I saw first in 1947, and the same bike - a pre-war Nottingham-built (like MG himself) Rudge with a classically unusual front wheel. The spokes did not join the rim tangentially, crossing two other spokes on the same side twice, but at 90 degrees from the hub, at the radii. Then Morley lived in Hollingbourne, and I was surprised the wheel had survived East Sutton hill daily without collapsing, let alone spin on towards the new millennium. I once offered Morley to rebuild it, but he got so cross he nearly swallowed his dog-end*. I never again saw any such cycle wheel. Funny what one remembers. Morley was in his nineties when he died, so that bike did something for him. I wonder what happened to that wheel?

Main Stairs Well
You may be Red Hill's last Wilson, but not it's first. There was Michael, from Willesden, who left in 1951 or so. But there was a more tangible connection with Charlton Court. Before its sale to Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) in the 19th century, it was owned by the Filmer-Wilson family, and somewhere (can't remember) is a stone with "F-W" cut into it. I think the dog spot (grave in alleyway) was a Filmer-Wilson, and there's a Wilson grave in East Sutton churchyard. In my early days, all new boys began Red Hill life in the Top Dorm, and were put to sleep with the story of Mrs. Wilson, who jumped to her death from the top of the Main Stairs, "just outside this very room" splattering her brains all over the flagstones in the bottom well. It happened can guess the date... and every year since, "on this very day", the ghost of Mrs Wilson walks from the point of her death to that from which she jumped - "just outside this very door". Chilling, isn't it?

Any disbelief could be met with an offer to show the bloodstains still visible in the cracks of the stone she hit, and there was a torch for that very purpose (it was actually there because then the voltage supply was 60v DC and the Main Stairs were very dimly lit). Few new boys on their first lonely night in the attic of a Jacobean pile heard that tale with disbelief, particularly when I told it later, and even fewer would accept the offer to look at the blood. Bursting for a piss at my first midnight, I discovered why many boys wet the bed. One new boy, and a real liar would have him as that Michael Wilson, woke up the dorm by scrambling onto the top of the chest-of-drawers to piss out of the window over the terrace. I wish I'd thought of that.

Happy dreams....... Ralph Gee (RHS 1947-1953)..........* English slang for cigarette butt