On Wednesday 15th August 2007 my wife and I were travelling home to Torquay after visiting my daughters in Waltham Cross..
At an early stage in our journey around the M25 we learned of an accident on the M4 which was causing tailbacks onto the M25.
The traffic came to a grinding halt just as the turnoff to Rickmansworth came into view so we decided to detour for a sentimental visit to Amersham, where I spent most of my boyhood, and then to continue our journey via High Wycombe so as to pass by my old school.
I had not been in the school since 1956. The last time I had passed by, about 15 years ago, I had been appalled to see a monstrous factory entrance like structure obscuring the vista of the school. My wife was not impressed.
This time I was determined to show her what the school really looked like so we turned off the main road and parked in the visitors car park.
Boldy entering in front of the old library we spotted some workmen removing the window frames from the Headmaster's study.
I was about to exchange in pleasantries with them with a view to asking them for a quick peek inside the school when we were "collared" by a gentleman who introduced himself as Ken Nelson, the Estate Manager of the school.
Ken turned out to be an extremely engaging person and he invited us to see the school with him.
Despite incessant demands for his attention from various tradesmen engaged in refurbishment being carried out during the school holidays, Ken took us on a tour of the school which included:-
The "factory" at the front of the school.
I have to say that this building doesn't look quite so bad when viewed from the rear as it does from the road. Maybe the builders misread the plans!
The view of the school facade looking back from the new building is as impressive as ever and the landscaping in front of the parade ground really adds to the beauty.
Functionally this building turns out to be an excellent music facility with recording studios etc, an undercover area ideal for art exhibitions, social gatherings and the like, and contains the largest school assembly hall in Bucks. Operas etc are staged in this hall and they actually use real girls for the female roles!
However I still think the building is an abomination which destroys not only the beautiful view of the school from the road but also the view from the "parade ground" (now a "Quad") across the once open fields to Totteridge and beyond.
Passing to the right of the school we made our way past the Geography Block
to the Gymn building
The slope shown here in the photo was the site of a massive ice slide in the winter months and I remember coming a cropper on it a couple of days before appearing in "The Yeomen Of The Guard" and having to be heavily made up to obscure the black eye I received..
Sadly the gymn is now only a shadow of its former self. The wallbars and all the old fittings have been removed and it is now used as a gymn in the modern sense, i.e for body building etc.
I really used to enjoy the old gymn, jumping over the horses, swinging from the ropes etc and especially our annual treat before Christmas when we would play "pirates". Apparently ropes and wallbars don't accord with modern H & S regulations.
The new gymnasium however is vast and is hired out to local organisations. There is also a swimming pool now. In my schooldays, if you wanted to swim it meant a trip to Burnham Beeches or Hemel Hempstead, both outdoor and always very cold!
The school playing field is still impressively spacious despite the new Gymn etc being built on part of it. The Pavillion (for which our parents paid sixpence per brick) still looks good. Apparently the running track is no longer in existence so it doesn't look as though RGS will be contributing to the Olympic track events.
The Fives Courts are still there and apparently in use occasionally.
The old wooden Tuck Shop has now been replaced by a brick "School Shop" and no longer is it possible to buy Wagon Wheels - shame!
The old Hall is now The Library. This is actually a most impressive conversion of the old Hall. Gone is the dark wood panelling and parquet flooring and the end where the stage used to be is now an IT room with a mezzanine floor above. Only the windows high up near the ceiling seem familiar, but I have to say it is an excellently designed addition to the school. What a pity the designer of the library didn't have a hand in the design of the factory entrance.
Ken asked if I remembered the Chapel behind the gallery overlooking the Hall. Amazingly I have no recollection of this chapel despite me being quite religeous at the time. Maybe it was consecrated after 1956. Ken said the chapel was deconsecrated last year as the number of different religions at the school has now outgrown the room.
Ken invited us to meet Roy Page, the present Headmaster, but unfortunately he
was engaged with a visitor at the time.
It would have been interesting to see how he compared with "Boss" Tucker. The Boss could be a very severe and menacing presence but I always recall how kindly he treated us new boys in our first term when he taught us our first steps in Latin.
I would like to thank Ken once again for his very friendly and informative tour of the school. His commitment and affection for the school comes across very clearly. I would guess that he is a very popular figure and a great asset to the school.
Amazingly Ken says he has only been at the school for five years but he has an extensive knowledge of the schools history.
I would recommend any "boy" passing the school, out of the blue as I did, to have a look in try your luck.
I've just noticed that the attached obit answers one of your questions in your
recent story about going back to the school - the founding of the school chapel
They converted an old chemistry laboratory which was right underneath the clock tower. I confess I never so much as stepped inside it!
Alan is H & S Officer with Blackburn and Darwen BC: Alan writes:--
As a H&S officer however, I must take issue with your assertion that wallbars
and ropes don't fit in with H&S. Oh yes, they do!! No reason not to use
them providing they are being used safely, have been assessed and there is sufficient
supervision. Poor old H&S - we get blamed for everything! Sense and sensibility
and its thoughtful application are what's needed.
Actually there is very little on the HSE website about gymnasia and their equipment. The new stuff on working at height etc is probably what has caused some people to err on the cautious side.