Blackmore Area Local History

The Gatehouse, Ingatestone

Stories about the Victorian villa built and owned by architect, George Sherrin, and about the School which was there during the second quarter of the twentieth century.  There are notes also about The Hyde, where the school moved to later.
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Gatehouse Memories

Michael Walden writes:

On my family's return from
Brazil in late 1949 we stayed at the old Chase Hotel and my parents arranged for my brother and I to be boarded at the school probably in the October of that year. The pupils went to the hotel swimming bath where I learnt to swim in freezing water!

I seem to remember that a young member of the Petre family was at the school with us although not as a boarder and I recollect going to a birthday party at Ingatestone Hall.

I was still at the school when it moved to Hyde Hall and have many memories of my time there, one especially springs to mind; the electricity for the hall was provided by a large single cylinder engine puffing away in an outhouse and recharging very large batteries arranged on shelves around the wall.

The name of the Headmaster eludes me but I believe the Matron was a Miss Shorney and one of the teachers was a Miss Herd.

A few other memories ....

Watching and waving to the engine drivers on the Britannia class locos as they sped past. The cross country runs around the lanes. Passing in crocodile line past the Head whilst at
Hyde School to collect a Penny for the offertory before walking off to Fryerning Church for Sunday morning service. Morning assembly with hymns in the great hall at the Hyde.   Walking down to the village once a week with a very small amount of pocket money and buying Nelson Cakes and a bottle of Corona pop from the local shops! 

Seems an age ago.. and it is!

Alan Cristall wrote:

I was delighted see the photographs and narrative by Michael Walden.  I found the photographs fascinating, particularly the one of the schoolroom. It must have been taken some time back in the 1930s under a previous head because, as I recall, there were a number of significant differences in the 1940s. For instance the paper on the walls; I am pretty sure that we had two rows of desks rather than three; there were black-out curtains at the windows during WW2; and by the amount of light coming through the windows on the right it appears that there was still a glass roof on the conservatory whereas by 1940 it had been slated over.

I was a boarder at the school from 1940 until 1948 and my brother, Brian, from 1942. He went on to
Chelmsford Grammar School but continued to board at the Gate House and moved with the school to The Hyde by which time I had left. The full-time boarders, as distinct from weekly boarders, were Post Office Boarders, their fees being paid by the Post Office Orphan Homes Benevolent Society - their fathers, former GPO employees, having either died or been killed. 

The Headmaster at the time, known as the Boss, was David Asquith. 

Being a bit of an amateur historian myself I have numerous notes on life at the school during the Second World War and also a photograph of the staff and pupils, together with names, taken in about 1943 or 1944.

I attach another photograph of the building taken in the early 1940s.

Gate House School Photograph

Back Row Left to Right

Brian Smith [DB]; Billy Baker [DB]; Morrison [DB]; Roy Dove [DB]; David Freeman [POB]; John Bull? [DB]; ‘Dekky’ Cross [POB]; ‘Nanger’ Smith [POB]; John Lavender [DB]; Stockton Sen. [DB]; Ralph Bonney [DB]; Ronald Ottey [POB]; Greg Finlay [DB]; Ken Collins [WB]; Alec Collins [later Henderson] [WB]; Peter Townsend [DB]; ‘Tiddler’ Driscoll [POB].

Centre Row Left to Right

John Hutchins [POB]; ‘Ginger’ Whiting [POB]; Gordon Brodie [POB]; Peter Bish [WB];
Ronnie Back [POB]; Alan Cristall [POB]; girl *; Miss Clark [later Mrs Smith] [teacher]; Miss Shorney [matron]; David Asquith [head]; Miss Bond [teacher]; Barbara Slawson [DG]; Michael Slawson [DB]; Alex Gordon [DB]; Leonard Leech [DB]; ‘Basher’ Brooks [DB]; Stockton Jnr. [DB]. 

Front Row Left to Right

Michael Raven [DB]; Alan Rose [POB]; Derek Whiting [POB]; Martin Bacon [DB]; ‘Chips’ Harrison [POB]; Chris Conn [POB]; David Cotton [DB]; Brian Cristall [POB]; John Tyler [WB]; Peter Tyler [WB].

Other boys remembered but not on the photograph:

Teddy Strange [POB]; Grieves [POB]; ‘Derby’ Allen [POB]; Geoffrey Saich [DB]; ‘Punka’ Gates [DB] and ‘Fatty’ Duncan [POB]. 

Teachers remembered but not in the photograph: Mr Hutley; Mr Cook; Mrs Herd.

DB=day boy; DG= day girl; POB=Post Office boarder; WB=weekly boarder.

Notes:  The nameless girl lived at the Red House next door.  Barbara and Michael Slawson were the children of the chemist in Ingatestone High Street.  Michael Raven was the son of the baker in the High Street.

Thank you for the photograph of The Gate House.  The book, ‘Ingatestone and District in old picture postcards’ (published April 1985) shows a similar photograph of the building and garden mentioning that the part of the house facing Station Lane and the railway station was actually the rear and the front (now built over) facing the lake was on the other side.

John Hutchins [Hutch] wrote:

I have recently located your web page regarding Ingatestone, and it certainly brought back memories, as I attended the
Gatehouse School, during those dark war years, to be precise 1942 – 1949, and was head boy for the last year or so.  Miss Shorney was indeed the matron and the headmaster was Mr. David Asquith. They are both buried in the churchyard of the Fryening church, having passed away in 1965.   Other teachers as I recall were a Mr. Cook, and a Miss Hussey. I spent many hours practicing the piano and violin under Mr Cook’s eagle eye. The piano was located on the stage of the main classroom shown in one of your pictures. After completing National Service, I emigrated to Canada in 1954.  It is good to be able to contact someone who was involved with the school. Hope the above is of interest.

The Hyde. 

Alan Cristall wrote:

The school later moved to the Hyde.  It was after my time so it must have been in about 1949 or 1950 – my brother Brian was there at the time. The Hyde burnt down, probably in the early 1960s and, as far as I am aware, David Asquith then retired and the school did not reopen.

I have been reading about the Hyde and am surprised to learn that the fire which completely destroyed it in the early 1960s was started deliberately.  Do you have any further information about this, e.g. why and by whom was it started?

Paul Brown wrote:

I discovered your website when doing a search for images of my old school, The Hyde. Your correspondent Michael Waldman writes that he cannot recall the name of the headmaster - it was Mr Asquith. I remember Miss Herd very well, she was my first teacher. Also I remember Mrs Smith who was in charge of games. I didn't recall matron's name, but I was a day boy and didn't have very much contact with her. It is also rather a long time ago!

My father used to rent the workshops that were sited to the rear of The Hyde and it was he who discovered the fire that resulted in The Hyde being demolished. The future of The Hyde was in question following the death of Mr Asquith. My father had gone to the workshops by chance to collect some tools. It was a Saturday afternoon and the boarders had been taken into the village, but my father entered the building after alerting the fire brigade to check that nobody was inside. He found the cook - her name escapes me - in a hysterical state, intending to immolate herself in the fire. It took my father and a couple of firemen to bodily remove her from the building. She committed the arson after being left out of Mr Asquith's will.

Alan Cristall wrote:

The information about the fire was most interesting. I have discussed this with my brother, Brian, who was at the Gatehouse and the Hyde until about 1952 or 1953 and we are somewhat surprised at Paul Brown’s version of events. Brian of course knew far more about the Hyde than me and he was under the impression that the building burnt down during the school holidays; that it was started by vandals from the village, and it was while David Asquith [DAA] was still alive. 

This is hearsay of course, but Brian was a pupil at
Chelmsford Grammar School and continued to board, firstly at the Gatehouse and later at the Hyde, and he heard this story from his old geography master who was friendly with DAA and they would occasionally lunch together.

During Brian’s time at the Hyde, the cook, Mrs Leeks, was a fairly elderly lady whose husband was the handyman.

I imagine that if an individual or individuals were responsible there would have been a court case. I will try to follow that up.

I have taken a look at the more recent books on Ingatestone in my possession.  One titled, ‘Ingatestone and District in old picture postcards’ (published April 1985) describes The Hyde as: “A splendid mansion set in a well-timbered park of two hundred acres. It contained an outstanding collection of antiquities, most of which were donated to Cambridge University.  The Disney family owned the house.  In 1950 it became a school, but fifteen years later was destroyed by fire, thought to have been started by a disgruntled servant.  Only part of the entrance, and a short length of wall remain”. 

Chris Berry wrote:

I attended The Hyde School as a day boy from 1956 to 1959. The Headmaster was David Asquith and I remember Miss Herd who taught the youngest class, Mrs Smith the next class and Mr Asquith the eldest class. But I seem to remember Miss Shorney was in fact 'Miss Shawnee'? Perhaps the memory is clouded? 

I lived in Kelvedon Common which was not that far by car but the only way for me usually was to get a bus into
Brentwood and then out again to Ingatestone - quite tedious at that age and on those old country buses! 

The standard of tuition couldn't have been bad because I passed my Eleven-Plus there, went on to
Beal Grammar School for boys in South Woodford and then the The Royal Veterinary College London where I graduated in 1971. The demise of The Hyde by fire after such a long history filled me with sadness. The school only carried on for a few years after the death of David Asquith and was terminated by the loss of The Hyde as far as I know. 

I thought you might be interested in a couple of postcard photos of The Hyde, Ingatestone [above],  which at a guess are circa 1939 by the style but not sure.

The Gatehouse and Hyde Schools

Mrs Joan M Smith wrote:

I am really pleased to see the pictures and some of the reminiscences of former pupils but I would like to put straight some of the hazy recollections.

I actually started teaching at the Gatehouse in 1944 and taught Form 2 for one year. I rejoined the Gatehouse in 1949 and relocated the school to the Hyde in 1950 before leaving in 1951 to give birth to my son, Ian. After four months, in January 1952 I went back to school, keeping Ian with me until July.

The teaching staff from the outset at the Hyde were Mr David Askwith (Headmaster and teacher to the Senior Class), Miss Heard (Junior Class) and myself (Class 2 and Sports). As a matter of interest, unlike today's system, progression through the Forms was based on ability and not age.

The other members of the team were Miss Kay Shorney (Matron), Mr Ligo (Gardener and Handyman - died in the '50s), Mrs Ligo (Cook), Mrs Pretty and Joan (Cleaners).  Mrs Pretty died in 2009 aged 106 years.

Events at the school took a turn during the February 1965 half term when David Askwith was taken ill and hospitalised.  Unfortunately he died in hospital shortly after the start of the Easter holidays.  He was subsequently buried at Fryerning Church cemetery. A decision was made to sell the school as an ongoing concern at the end of the school year.

The 1965 summer term started on a Tuesday with me acting as Headmistress. On the Saturday, there weren't any boys at the school and only Mrs Ligo was in attendance.  At lunchtime I received a telephone call asking me to go to the school as it was on fire. The damage was considerable and it was only a little later that I was told Mrs Ligo had been charged with arson.  Subsequently she served a custodial sentence.

Some pupils moved to other schools but those remained moved to a temporary site in Fryerning Lane.  There were two classrooms, I took one and Miss Heard the other. The school remained open for the remainder of that school year and closed in late July when it was dissolved.

I am still in contact with some of the old boys. I look forward to reading more stories and hopefully seeing more pictures.

Last updated: 16 June 2011