Personal file of Robert Lawton
This 'copy' of my personal file was gratefully received from Caldecott Foundation in 2014. Although interesting (to me) it was also disappointing. Dealing mainly with the administration of my time at Caldecott Community (CC). I was expecting 'personal' details relating to me - failures, successes, sickness, character development (or not!) all helping to show how being at CC had been beneficial to me.
This summary is published to indicate what one might expect from a 'Personal File' and to help others decide whether or not to seek their own copy from the Foundation.
Summary of Robert Lawton's Personal File
Caldecott Community 1942 – 1966
See also 'Written memories of Caldecott Community' at www.caldecott.org.uk.
My own comments in Italics.
The file contains a total of 234 items; and starts with various letters concerning the application for me to join the Community in 1942. A letter from a Principal Probation Officer in the London Probation Service to Leila Rendel referred to '...the distressing case of Mr Lawton and his tiny son...' (18 months old at the time). The application was supported by the Assistant Secretary of the London Police Court Mission. (there is no indication as to why these persons were involved. It may have had something to do with the fact that I had been 'spirited away' from my Mother, by my Father, and hidden away with some of his 'Friends'.)
Following acceptance into Caldecott Community (CC), then at Hyde House in Dorset, at the initial fee of £2 per week (from Father's earnings of £6.10.0 per week) a series of letters between CC and my Father (AL) discussed transfer of Ration Books, the lack of success by my Mother in attempting to obtain custody, the legal need for my Mother to be told of my whereabouts, and noting that she was not entitled to remove me from CC without a Court Order.
Followed shortly after, by AL being sent a timetable of a typical day in the Nursery.
Throughout the file, letters appear at regular intervals (at least once per term) requesting and receiving permission for AL to visit CC. A process CC deemed necessary for efficient management of the School. Very few relate to a visit by Mother.
During these early years (1942-43) various letters from my Mother to CC seemed to be an excuse to snipe at AL rather than a genuine interest in my welfare. In December 1943 AL advises CC that his Divorce Petition had been granted, Mother having right of access.
Toward the end of 1943, AL advises CC of an apparent disparity in their accounts. Communications of this sort continued back and forth throughout the whole of my period at CC but seemed to reduce in frequency after a change of CC Secretary. The situation wasn't helped by AL, seemingly, never quite being able to pay enough of the due fees to bring the account up to date.
In October 1953 AL writes '… you seem to have an accommodating system of book-keeping...' to which CC Secretary replies 'I think I try too hard to get your account right – it always causes me anxiety at the time!'
Early 1945 the Courts decided that I should spend Easter holidays with my Mother, other holidays not yet decided. Mid 1946 Courts decided that Christmas and Easter holidays be shared alternately between both parents, and Summer holidays half and half each. (the pattern of my holidays for the next eight years until my Mother emigrated to Australia).
Mid 1946 the results of a 'Stanford - Bluet Intelligence Test appear, describing me as '...nervous child, definitely above average...' (Wow!).
After CC returns to Kent in 1947 a series of letters related to CC requesting financial help from Kent Education Committee (under Section 8(d) of the 1944 Education Act) for my 'boarding education'. Miss Davies describing me as '...a promising child... not maladjusted...' Thankfully KEC agreed and a series of Annual Review records appear throughout the rest of the file.
Almost no records for 1948. AL advises CC of death of Mother's second Husband, and encloses a Claim Form forwarded from Mother for a Orphan's Pension. CC replies with a refusal to sign and an explanation. 1949 fares little better with a brief exchange about a perceived lost Identity Card.
Significant letters in 1950/51 mainly surround the imminent 11+ exams and the final result that having passed Part 1 and 2 of the exams I failed the interview at the Grammar School and subsequently attended North Secondary Modern School in Ashford. (School reports from this school absent from file – if there were any).
1952 documents deal almost exclusively with CC fees – confusion with accounts, arrears, errors. lost cheque etc. One other document is just a hand-written address in Deal, Kent. (this presumably relates to the one and only summer holiday I spent with my Mother and step-siblings in Deal when, not being met at Deal Railway station, I spent several hours walking the streets with my suitcase before finally finding the dis-interested group enjoying themselves on the beach).
1953 documents follow a similar pattern relating, in the main, to payment and non-payment of fees. One communication from CC advises AL that I had now been accepted into the Grammar School although the Headmaster expressed a view that I seemed half-hearted about the transfer. Miss Davies explains to AL her view that it was possible that having enjoyed being top of the classes, and one of the better athletes, at the Secondary School, my reluctance was not surprising, being that I would start at the bottom of the class at the new school.
A letter from AL to Miss Davies starts the 1954 period wherein AL announces his forthcoming marriage in March (unknown to me!), invites discussion on its effect upon me, and (for the first time) a mention of my Mother emigrating to Australia (also unknown to me). Other letters seek, and receive, from AL, permission for me to be part of a summer holiday cycling/camping expedition led by Simon Rodway (CC staff). Permission also sought from Mother but no reply. She had sailed for Australia six weeks earlier, confirmed by a letter to CC from her 3rd husband and earlier letter from AL to CC.
(The first intimation I had of maternal family emigrating was receipt of a post-card from Gibraltar saying 'Goodbye'. followed by a face-to-face discussion on my future with AL and Miss Davies, all sitting on the grass at the summer Gymkhana.)
The only records of note for 1955 are a Grammar School report for the Easter term wherein an attempt had been made to hide the CC comments added to the report. (by whom and why – not known). And a report of a discussion with the Grammar School headmaster regarding my prospects for the sitting of GCE exams.
He thought only four subjects in first year and four the following year.
The majority of letters during the first half of 1956 concerned my acceptance on an Outward Bound School course to be held in South Wales in August of that year, and all the necessary permissions and arrangements.
The second half, not surprisingly, related to the aftermath of this event together with the start of arrangements to attend exams and interviews for future engineering apprenticeship.
My last year at CC – 1957 – collects more documents than ever. A letter from my Mother to CC asking for news of me, asking about parcels I hadn't received, and including some sort of request. The letter is not on file, and the information above is gleaned from letters between CC and AL, having had the letters forwarded to him for response to request. I never saw my Mothers letter.
Permission was sought, and received, for me to sell my bicycle and to buy another.
A letter CC to AL explained that I was being sent home for two weeks as punishment for 'being silly with girls'. (This followed a warm summers night when a group of boys and girls sat out on the front lawn after dark; only to be 'discovered' by Simon Rodway. I suspect I was being made an example of, as I was the oldest and had no further attendance at Grammar school planned). A letter of apology from me to CC followed.
A miscellaneous collection of documents go from late 1957 to mid 1959 re: school reports and GCE results; requests for, and invitations to, visit CC; a mention of the 3 week motoring/camping tour of Ireland with Simon Rodway (and other CC boys); apology for non-attendance at 1962 reunion; an invitation to Miss Leila & Miss Davies to attend my wedding 1963 (Simon Rodway attended) and finally an apology for non-attendance at 1966 reunion.
Note:-Some letters of 1958 vintage, RL to CC and answers, have several instances where all the names of other CC boys (presumably) have been obliterated. Perhaps, and sadly, a somewhat unnecessary fear of the Data Protection Act (in my humble opinion).