Fan Court School

Cazalet, Class of 1966

David Hawley

Upon his arrival at Fan Court School, 'Cub' David was allocated to his already long-standing friend Garth, who was already at the school, as his 'Lion'. Memorable stories include his train journey to Chertsey from Rochester via Waterloo, the gong at the bottom of the stairs which was sounded for meal times, happy hours listening to the early Beatles' records in the prefects' room, and making fires on Sunday afternoons in the shrubbery:

“I was actually only at Fan Court for two years, between 1964 and 1966. Until 1964, when I was 11, I had been educated in the state system, infants and primary schools, but after I took and passed my ’11 Plus’, instead of going to the local boys’ grammar school, my mother decided to send me to Fan Court. My mother was a devout Christian Scientist, so with hindsight I wonder why I didn’t go there earlier. I can only speculate that financial constraints were the problem.
My oldest friend, Garth L, whose mother was a Christian Science Practitioner, and one of my mother’s oldest friends, had already been at Fan Court for a few years, so he naturally became my ‘Lion’! This was a sort of mentoring system where new pupils were paired with existing pupils as ‘Lion’ and ‘Cub’. The idea was that the ‘Lion’ would ease the ‘Cub’ into the school’s system and make them feel at home. I cannot remember at all which ‘house’ I was in at Fan Court. Garth seems to remember that he was in ‘Cazalet’ so I may well have been too.
We lived in Rochester in Kent, and the train journey to Chertsey via Waterloo seemed to me like going to the other end of the world! I well remember getting the taxi to the station with my trunk and tuckbox after the holidays, feeling very unhappy about having to go away again.
I do have fond memories of the school now though. I remember the gong at the bottom of the stairs which was sounded for meal times. I remember the ‘tuck cupboard’ in the corner of the dining room, where our sweets were stashed and rationed out!
I remember the lockers in the corner of the conservatory, and sitting in there on Sunday evenings listening to ‘Pick of the Pops’ on the radio on the mantelpiece.
I remember my school number (63) written in brass tacks on the bottom of my shoes, and the Cash’s name tapes sewn into all my other clothes. I remember the (ahead of its time) French language laboratory with reel to reel tapes (a wonderful picture of which I was delighted to find on this site!) I remember ‘free time’ on Sunday afternoons, which rather horrifyingly with hindsight included being allowed to take school-issued matches, newspaper, and kindling into the shrubbery to make fires! Could you imagine 12 year olds being allowed to go and do that now, completely unsupervised?! Somehow we survived.
I well remember going up the main staircase, into what was pretty much forbidden territory, to visit Mr. Snape in his study, where he would give you a two shilling piece (I think) if you could recite correctly all the kings and queens of England since William the Conqueror. That was a lot of money for a 12 year old in those days! I think it took me at least two attempts.
I remember the snooker table in the hallway, where I quickly discovered that my eyesight was much too poor to play the game (I only finally got glasses when I was 15) and I remember getting to the lofty heights of being a prefect in my final year, and finally being allowed to go into the prefects’ room next to the hallway. We spent many happy hours in there listening to the early Beatles’ singles and albums on the record player, and others like The Who and Rolling Stones, in those heady early days of mass-market pop music.
I remember the outdoor swimming pool, where I completely failed to learn to swim, and the playing fields, with the fascinating clicking electric fence at the bottom of them, and the line of electricity pylons beyond. I was not a natural sportsman I’m afraid.
It was at Fan Court that I remember sitting down and designing my signature, and I remember working out that I would be 47 in the year 2000, which really depressed me at the time as I was totally convinced that I would be much too old then to enjoy the domed cities and rocket bikes!
I remember the Sunday School, which was originally held in the school gymnasium. Later on we went in a coach to the then new Christian Science church in Walton-on-Thames. I’m pleased to see that unlike my home church in Rochester, it’s still extant.
Strangely I have little or no memory of the dormitories at Fan Court. I remember the matron, Miss Ward, and her assistant, Miss Morgan. I remember Miss Ward always wore a white coat, and Miss Morgan a blue coat! I remember the sick bay, where I was confined for several days with a bad earache, which was awful. While I was there I filled in the form to join the Mother Church in Boston. I still get correspondence from them now nearly sixty years later.
The masters I remember well are the aforementioned Mr. Snape, with his little bubble car, Mr. Willcox, whose wife also taught at the school, Mr. Tucker, Mr. Clark-Dearing, and Mr. Andreae the headmaster of course. (Apologies if any name spellings are wrong!) I still have books with Mr. Andreae’s initials ‘ABA’ written on the inside top corner of the front covers to say that they had been approved to be brought into the school!
I finally had to leave, as there was no Christian Science education available in the UK for boys above the age of 13 at that time. Claremont was girls only of course. I took and passed the Common Entrance exam. My mother was set on sending me to the Principia College in the United States, to continue my education in a Christian Science establishment, but for some reason this did not happen. My life would have been totally different if it had! I instead went to the King’s School in Rochester, the public school where we lived. I was horrified to find that I still had to be a boarder there, even though I lived literally fifteen minutes’ walk away, but that’s another story! When there I very quickly realised just how easy-going life had been at Fan Court. The new school was a very different and much harsher environment, with corporal punishment routine, even meted out by prefects who were fellow pupils, something I certainly don’t remember at Fan Court! My friend Garth eventually joined me at the King’s School, but as a dayboy.
All in all, I have very happy memories of my time at Fan Court, and I was sad to hear that it had closed down. Garth and I visited it in 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of my first going there. We were pleased to find much of it pretty much as we remembered. The gymnasium and changing rooms were the only major structures which hadn’t survived, and the building which housed the woodwork shop, which is now a detached house! We’re both hoping to be there for the open day in October, when we hope to be able to go inside some of the buildings instead of furtively peering through the windows hoping that nobody called the police!”