Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 April 2021
THIS IMAGE OF an artful dodger posed in front of one of Chiddingstone Castle's ornamental lions hints that I may have been quite a bright child. A pile of school reports, recently unearthed, shows that before the outbreak of war, at Thorpe House, Norwich, I was top of the form every term, and it was the same story at Thetford Grammar. At Long Dene I was the only one in our year who did well enough in the School Certificate to get exemption from Matriculation, allowing me to study for the sixth-form exams. But at Long Dene there were no trained teachers at that level, so another school had to be found for me. One option was the public school at nearby Tonbridge, where even as a day boy I would surely have received the appropriate training to win a choral scholarship to Cambridge. But I had no ambition in that direction and I jibbed at the requirement that on Sundays I would have to attend services in the school chapel not once but twice: the thought of travelling ten miles each way by cycle or train was a powerful deterrent and I enrolled instead at the Judd School, a boys’ grammar school which was also in Tonbridge, but at the other end of the town. Judd had an honourable history. It had been established by the Worshipful Company of Skinners in 1888, basically to provide grammar-school education for the sons of upward-thrusting West Kent farmers and shopkeepers. In my time Judd was the first English school to benefit from the 1944 Butler Education Act, being nominated as a voluntary-aided state school, government funded but with a substantial degree of independence. My acceptance there was no doubt smoothed by the fact that Judd's excellent headmaster, Frank Taylor, had attended the same Cambridge College, Fitzwilliam House, as my father. So after four years at a progressive co-ed school I was back at a grammar school, sharing daily life with 400 boys – with the crucial difference that I was not a boarder (there were none) and went home not to a conventional family but to a vibrant community of a hundred souls with whom I shared evening meals, weekends and a very social life.