Daytimes at the Mote, by A.H.Day
Alfred H. Day was born around 1926 in the East side of London. He entered Caldecott Community in 1932 when it was housed in 'The Mote' (also known as Mote House) in Maidstone Kent, but the reason for his doing so is not known.
In 2010, at the ripe old age of 84, he wrote his memories of his seven years at Caldecott and published them in the form of a small (A5) booklet with the same title as this article. Several copies are distributed around members of the Caldecott Association (and possibly others) and a copy is held in the library section of the Caldecott Archives.
This article is a transcript of the text of the book (with a few editorial additions for clarity). The book itself contains a few relevant photographs that are not reproduced here.
Transcribed by Robert (Bob) Lawton August 2015
DAYTIMES at THE MOTE
And other childhood memories, by A.H.Day
I arrived at Mote House in Mote Park on the outskirts of Maidstone (ed: Kent) with my Dad and my suitcase in 1932, and as we walked up to the front entrance of this very imposing mansion house, we mounted the steps to the front entrance to be greeted by this beautiful dog, a Golden Retriever. A sonorous voice said 'Don't be afraid of Sally, she meets everybody' we looked around to see where the voice had come from, and there stood the most imposing being that I had ever seen, you knew from first sight that she was the 'Boss'. She gave out this air of authority, you knew,you just knew, that she was in charge.
She was tall to my reckoning, but then I was only small, smartly dressed and her hair was combed back and was iron grey, rather Lionine (ed: Leonine?) I thought it. In all the years that I was at the Caldecott I never knew her to change her style of dress. Dad and I waited her bidding and she took us into her sitting room, in the left wing as you went up the front steps, and into a room most beautifully furnished, the room overlooked the park with large windows on two sides. Apparently this magnificent mansion had been the seat of Lord Bearsted, the family portraits hung everywhere, although I don't think that the family had been in residence since well before the Great War, as there were fire escape chutes in all the first and second floor rooms, the house had been used as a hospital for troops in the Great War. I never saw theses chutes deployed, apparently they were hurled out of the window in the event of fire then secured down below then survivors would slide to the ground to safety much like the chutes in aircraft these days.
Too get back to my account of my arrival at the Caldecott Community, incidentally I should like to set on record that the Community was the best thing that ever happened to me, I am doing it again, wandering off and losing my thread – get a grip Day. Now where was I, just arrived with my Dad at my new school. Miss Leila, for that was her name, I never heard her called anything else in all the time I was there, rung a bell and sent for someone and shortly this lady with red hair and a face covered with freckles came into the room and after bidding my Father farewell off I trotted with this lady who I was to come to know as Miss E, she really was a lovely person, not in a pretty or beautiful way just a super person and in all my time at the Caldecott she made the most impression on me, right from the start. She told me that she had spent most of her life in South Africa, and indeed she had regular letters come from there. Straight away my imagination was fired by this truly remarkable lady, when she received any letters from South Africa she would give me the stamps (I still have some of them in an album to this day) in this way I was started in a hobby stamp collecting. It appears that she was to be my 'house leader' for want of a better term, all the new inmates that arrived were put in charge of Miss E. Her domain was on the second floor, and she apparently received all the new inmates with the exception of the very young children, they of course went into the nursery.
I should point out that the entire pupil strength was made up of children who came here for many different reasons, some had parents who were abroad, some from broken homes, some like me who were a bit too much for their parents, and so for one reason or another finished up at the Caldecott, and with hindsight I should say certainly in my case the biggest stroke of luck I ever had. So there I found myself in the small playroom up on the second floor, it was a very cosy room with a welcoming log fire blazing and a beautiful view on both sides over the park. Later seven or eight other children joined us and were introduced, these were to be my fellows, they were all recent pupils and we all appeared to be about the same age, it was a lovely atmosphere there were games, books, and chess, all manner of pastimes, and in the case of chess I soon picked that up for the simple reason that Miss E, bless her, went to no end of trouble to explain it too us.
Further down the corridor were several bedrooms plus a bathroom, girls in their own rooms boys in theirs so I had arrived. (Where you ask was my Dad whilst all this was going on?) After his audience with Miss Leila he had taken his leave, and do you know, from that day till this I have never been homesick, home as they say for me has always been where I hang my hat. Even in the army I always felt totally at home when I noted that some of the chaps were almost in tears at times, I could never make it out.
Life had a very well organised routine at the Mote, here everything was planned, although it didn't feel as though it was, as everything ran like clockwork. Shortly after my induction into the group it was time for tea so downstairs we all went to one of the two dining rooms. I should explain we always went to the same table at every meal. Miss E would sit at the head and the rest of us would take a place at her table, the whole school being assembled we would stand behind our chairs until Miss Leila had taken her place at the top table when she sat down everybody else took their seats and the meal would commence.
Now what surprised me was all at once a great hum of conversation broke out. I fully expected that there would be a call for less noise, if not silence during meals but this was not so, intelligent discussion during meals was encouraged, I thought this was very civilised. However, after a period of chatting and eating, a little bell would ring from the top table, this was the signal to shut up and eat up, followed by a second ring on the bell and the announcement that 'Tables may clear'. At that, two of the people on the table would get up, go and collect a knife box and a tray from the table in the corner by the lift that went down to the kitchen and pantry, and in a trice the tables were cleared ready to go down the lift for washing up, brilliant system.
The lift I have just mentioned connected to the kitchen, a huge, or so it seemed to me at the time, room which was part of the basement system that ran all under the house with a myriad or so it seemed of interesting places to investigate. There was a stoke hole with a great boiler when you looked through a little cover that was pivoted in the door you could see the flames roaring away busy at keeping the hot water and the radiators functioning. There was another room that was stacked with logs and kindling, this area was the domain of an elderly chap who seemed to do all the odd jobs, from bringing up logs for the fires to tending the boiler, and when we bounced on our beds and broke the springs he would come round with a little toolbox and a supply of wire and effect the necessary repairs.
Mr Chambers, for that was his name, lived in the rooms above the stable block (I said it was an imposing place), there were no horses now but there must have been in the days of Lord Bearsted who had the house built in the first place. On the roof of the stable block was a clock tower, the clock had golden hands and a black face. I can't remember hearing it chime. Now days the stables under the living apartments had been turned into school rooms for the younger children, this class was called 'The Hut', the other side was for the older pupils called the Junior Study.
Through the arch in the stable building to the right there was the school's farm. We had our own herd of cows for milking and as I showed an interest I found I was given a job there.
I should explain, we all, that is the pupils, had housework to do on Saturday mornings. I can't believe it now, but at the age of only six I would go out into the park and bring a herd of Friesians all dwarfing me in size. It wasn't too difficult as these animals had a leader and when I called the leader, her name was Misty Morn, she would head for the gate and into the farm and go into their milking stalls in the correct order. We produced all our own milk, and all our own eggs, the poultry lived in an orchard divided into large runs each with it's own chicken house. We, whoever was on farm work, would go out and collect the eggs in buckets and take them to the kitchen. Sometimes the hens would go all broody and refuse to get off the eggs, then they had to be persuaded with a shove to get off the nest with a devil of a clucking.
With all these hens, we now and then had chicken for dinner. We could always tell because there in the underground cold room we could see the dead chickens hanging up waiting to be cleaned, also in the cold room there would be large metal bowls of milk waiting for the cream to settle and be skimmed off.
We were far from self-sufficiency but we made an effort. In the Autumn the cook would make loads of Marmalade and one could volunteer to help in the kitchen, we would cut all the orange skins up, and get rid of all the pips, and whilst all this was going on we could listen to the (wonder of wonders) a portable radio that was owned by one of the staff and eat the bars of Cadbury's chocolate that was dished out as a reward.
Of course, as you can imagine there was plenty of 'housework' to be done so, on a Saturday morning, we all had our appointed jobs, we reported to our various tasks, the girls would do what girls did, we didn't worry too much about other people's jobs. I know most of the boys were occupied with floor polishing, this was great fun, we had large floor polishers we called 'Dumpers' these would polish the floors by pushing and pulling them back and forth until there was a beautiful shine on the floor boards. The only snag was if you were too enthusiastic with the Ronuk polish it was a hell of a job to get rid of it. This polish was thick and red and if one were to flip too much on the floor you could polish and polish, it just wouldn't go away.
Still I got away with all this as later I was given a job out on the farm. I didn't mind that, although the cow sheds had to be swilled out with a hose and all the cow's mess swept away and disposed of. When the cows came in they went into their stalls where we had already put their cattle feed, mostly cow cake or oats which they would munch happily while we washed their teats and back ends. Cows get in a horrible mess and you can't let that sort of condition prevail around milking.
I tried my hand at milking but I don't think I was cut out to be a milkmaid, what amazes me today is to think that I was only six or seven at the time and the cows seemed huge to me but I wasn't a bit afraid of them. When my Mother came down on Parent's day I took her out with me to get the cows in for their afternoon milking. I opened the gates to the park to let them (the cows) in and they all waited outside the gate. Well, she nearly had a fit, in her world the milkman brought the milk in a churn or even a bottle, and she was scared out of her wits. Still, she got over it. So you can see, everybody lent a hand to keep things moving.
Meal times were, as I've already mentioned, a social occasion with plenty of time to chat, that is until the bell went. One thing I haven't mentioned was birthdays, now whenever someone had a birthday, their place at breakfast table was laid out especially with their cards and floral decoration so that nobody had any chance of not knowing who's birthday it was. I thought this was a nice touch and something I only came across in Austria they, the management, would do a similar thing at the table on your last night.
Speaking of mealtimes, I recently received my current Newsletter from the Caldecott Association. In it was mentioned the refurbishment of the previous school at Mersham-le-Hatch and it would seem that it is still the time honoured custom to flick butter balls up onto the ceiling. I know we were guilty of this at Mote House. I must say that the way meals were presented certainly gave one an insight into a better way of living, for instance at lunch and dinner there was always a jug of water on the table and a glass at each place setting, and vegetables were passed round for one to help themselves, butter was in small balls rolled by kitchen staff, and bread in a basket.
In later life one could carry these habits on into adult life where you could expect these kind of civilised customs, but not to flick butter balls up on the ceiling.
I must now mention what I refer to as the Spartan aspect of life at the Mote. Don't misunderstand me, I am just pointing out the very healthy and athletic life style that we had. For instance first thing in the morning Matron would have us all out of bed then we would don our P.T. shorts and downstairs we would all tear, through the East door and run up the gravel path that ran between the two large lawns, then faced with a very large Oak tree that stood in it's own roundabout, here was a meeting point between two more lawns with paths also coming from left and right, so round the oak tree and on for about another two hundred yards, turn round and run back round the tree, straight on and arrive puffing and blowing at the east door, up the stairs you think it's all over, not a bit of it. I've saved the best bit until last. Straight on to the bathroom where Matron has run two baths of cold water ready for us to climb into, not a proper bath you understand, just a cold shower in effect.
The only trouble about this was nobody was about to hang about in a freezing cold bath for very long so what actually happened was we all jumped into the bath one after another, in out as quick as we could with the resultant colossal splash every time. This daily deluge finally started seeping through the floor and appeared on the dining room ceiling directly underneath. Now, if we imagined that this would bring an end to our morning cold baths, we had another think coming, workmen arrived with great rolls of lead and fashioned a large area around each bath to retain the water that was splashed, and life went on as before.
In passing I must mention that on rare occasions when it was snowing we would run round the big lawn to the right of the East door. This lawn had a tennis court to one side that finished with a 'Ha Ha' to one side as though the tennis court had been added as an afterthought at a later date. On this lawn could be found tiny orchids that we called 'Lady Slippers'.
On the whole a great deal of emphasis was placed on sport and outdoor pursuits. Every Sunday in our groups we would go for quite long walks with a member of staff, and usually Sally the Principal's Golden Retriever (it never occurred to me at the time but this saved the dog's owner taking her for walks, a very cunning plan). As well as that we also played football although the games mistress had only a rudimentary idea of the rules. I know I spent a fair part of each game well off-side in a vain attempt to poach a goal. Also our football boots weighed a ton and had to be 'Dubbined' after each game. We never played cricket. But what the school was really in to was Rounders, we all played it, boys and girls. I didn't mind it but I had one fault, I loved to whack the ball, that's all very well, but I would make a bee-line for first base, sure I was going to get a rounder this time, only to be called back because I had set off with the bat. So I evolved a foolproof scheme, take a mighty swing at the ball, hit or miss run like blazes, first leaving the bat behind.
But in my enthusiasm on the back swing I would let go of the bat and it would sail over my head and straight into the rhododendron of which we had two hedges each side of the path between the lawns. Now these hedges were about ten to fifteen feet high and as thick as the Amazon rain forest. So game over 'til we find the bat. There were dark mutterings about banning me altogether, but they never did.
We also had two climbing ropes attached to a stout branch on one of the trees, and before long many of us got very adept at rope climbing.
In another part of the grounds we had a purpose built gym, with climbing frames attached to the wall, and several mats and a 'horse' as well as a 'box'. So you can see that there was every chance for good exercise. Outside the gym was a large 'see-saw' as well as several swings. We had very attractive P.T. instructress ( I don't suppose it matters after all this time if I say) called Miss Webb. She had flaming red hair and all of us boys lusted after her, like you do if you are a red-blooded young school boy. Alas for our adulation, a young German arrived to take over the boy's physical well being and I think this created quite a stir amongst the female staff, that all our hopes and aspirations were outshone by this example of Germanic manhood.
One of the things he taught us was to throw the javelin. About this time the 1936 Olympic Games had been held in Berlin so all this kind of thing was all the 'rage'. I rather suspect that we were not very good at it, but at least nobody to my recollection came to any harm, although the whole procedure seemed fraught with danger as these javelins had a highly lethal steel point at one end and we were not very expert. However, long before I left the Mote, Herr Ackermann disappeared. We all supposed that he had been called back to the Fatherland as this was the time Hitler was in the ascendancy, and he certainly looked as though he was a budding S.S. man. I often wonder what happened to him, so many young men in the next decade perished. Hitler certainly had a lot to answer for.
Another character that I recall was a chap we used to call Mr Fred. He used to turn up with a horse and cart and collect the manure from the cow shed. This was cleaned out twice a day and as there were about eight to ten cows there was quite a lot of manure, this was all tipped into a pit round by the stables, and overhanging this pit was a large walnut tree. When it was covered with walnuts we would climb along the branches to collect the nuts. Sad to relate we often fell into the pit. This seemed to have a rather sweet smell not at all unpleasant, anyway nobody seemed to come to any harm. I suppose this was due to the large proportion of straw in the mix. Mr Fred would take us for rides around the grounds in his cart. Up there in the cart, behind the huge carthorse, the cart used to sway from side to side, we thought it was wonderful.
Another occasion that I recall, it was decided that we would all benefit from a trip to the cinema, apparently there was a film showing in Maidstone called 'Captain Courageous' starring a boy actor called Freddie Bartholomew and Spencer Tracy; all about fishermen plying their trade off the coast of Newfoundland. I can remember the bit where all the top hamper falls into the sea on top of our hero and Tracy gallantly giving his life to save the young lad. But not much else.
What stands out in my memory more is the fact that the staff had got the programme times all wrong and in common with all cinemas in those far off times the picture house ran a continuous showing so if you were to go to the picture house at say two in the afternoon there was nothing to stop you from staying there all day, right to the National Anthem and go home or get thrown out.
Anyway, to come to the point, we all went into the cinema and took our seats, with instructions to assemble outside when the main feature had finished. Well, just as we all got comfortable the 'B' picture started. As far as I can remember it was called 'Armoured Car' and was all about gangsters holding up this armoured car which was taking a huge amount of dollars somewhere, and these crooks were going to hold it up and steal all the money. I am sure that if Miss Leila had vetted the film we would not have been allowed to witness the programme, for crooks with tommy guns blasting each other was not the sort of thing encouraged at the Caldecott. In fact we were not allowed to have boy's comic magazines like the 'Rover' and 'Hotspur'. These were smuggled in by the elder chaps who went out to Grammar School in Maidstone, and these were hidden under our mattresses.
Another trip that we used to go on was to the town swimming baths, these were round by the 'Sharpes' toffee factory. The elder children would go in a coach with our towels and costumes. I couldn't swim when we started but we very soon learnt. I don't recall a lot of instruction but we all seemed to get there. I remember one occasion I found myself alone in the shallow end and for some reason the water was lapping up and over the sides, and my feet wouldn't touch the bottom. There was nobody near me and I was spluttering and I nearly gave up, then all of a sudden I got the trick. I found I was floating on my back, no trouble at all, and from that time on I never had any trouble with swimming or diving, all because nobody was watching me. On the other hand I could have drowned in which case I wouldn't be here seventy odd years later, typing this for posterity or anyone else who cares to read it.
Another time I recall we all, that is our class, were taken to the Springfield Paper Mills on the Ashford Road, just outside the park that the Mote House was situated in. Now this time I really was interested. The various processes that were explained to us really interested me, for instance the high grade writing paper that was made from good quality rags that were torn up and soaked until they were reduced to pulp; and the paper that was to be blotting paper, this paper was not sized so that it would remain absorbent. That visit has remained in my memory.
Also I remember that after lunch we would go to our respective playrooms for 'Rest'. We would go to a rather large box in which were a large number of red rugs, then selecting a book we would read, or rest, for about half an hour before retuning to lessons. It really was a sight for any visitor, all these children lying on the floor reading their books and a member of staff at a table reading her book or magazine, and not a sound. I think that my love of reading was encouraged here as there was a comprehensive library and guided by a member of staff we could select the book that we fancied. I remember being handed 'Ivanhoe' and read it from cover to cover.
Sunday was a special day at the Caldecott; Chapel after breakfast, then after lunch the various groups would go for a walk, there was always a bit of a discussion as to the destination. Sometimes the vote would be to go round the lake. Now the lake in Mote Park was pretty big one and then there was a good deal of investigation to do. Right across the the lake as seen from the Mote House was a folly that looked a bit like a Roman temple. This always evoked a good deal of interest although the entrance was locked up. Just as well as it appeared to be a bit unstable with chunks of stone all over the floor. Another favourite walk was up the Detling Road, there were many Oast houses, I don't think we ever got to Detling, but I know it was all uphill. There was a turn off the road into what must have been a rubbish tip, in what looked like an old cave. There were bats and anything your imagination liked to conjure up, but I think it was actually some old chalk workings. Then after what seemed like a very long walk it was back to the Mote and tea. We always had cake on Sundays then, highlight of the week, the whole school would assemble in the library, a beautiful room, then all in their best clothes for 'Sing Song'. There would be singing and country dances, then someone would read a poem, then we would have, highlight of the evening for me, the wind-up gramophone was bought into action and a piece of classical music put on the turntable for our edification, and speaking for myself, my enjoyment. It was on one of these occasions that I first became aware of Chopin. Later when I became keen on classical music I recognised one piece Chopin's beautiful Concerto No. 1, that was the first time that I had listened to this composer's music and along with Mozart they have given me a lifetime of pleasure.
Each year there were two other highlights. Miss Leila's birthday party and the Christmas party. Now the birthday one was very nice. The cook, Miss Hill as she was know to us all, would make a magnificent layered sponge birthday cake, in green, yellow, and pink sponge, and everyone got a large slice.
The Christmas party was another thing altogether. There was a huge Christmas tree erected in the Hall decorated in the most beautiful glass decorations, and I remember that there would be the most wonderful Xmas crackers. I think that they were a gift from one of the patrons of the school, of which there were many. It really was a wonderful party and something that we all looked forward to all autumn term.
Shortly after the party we were getting near to the end of the Autumn term and going home for the Christmas holiday. On the morning of our departure we, that is us in our dormitory, would have to stack all of the mattresses onto one bed and all the pillows on another. This was handy for Mr Chambers, the handyman, to inspect the springs for any breakages and then he would get busy with his tool box and roll of wire on the never ending job of mending the springs where we had broken them with bouncing about.
We used to have high jinks in the 'dorm' at night slinging slippers at each other and, what with the odd pillow fight, we would attract the attention of one of the staff who happened to be in the vicinity, whereupon the door would open and the unlucky one that was caught out of bed would be led out into the corridor and sat on a chair, the better to 'ponder their sins'. I tell you it seemed hours until the Matron would come back and the unlucky sinner was allowed back into their snug bed.
One night I recall, after lights out we could see an orange glow on the ceiling, and in the morning we found that Crystal Palace had burned down (ed:1936). another thing that used to occur without any sort of warning was fire drill. You would just have got into a really nice sleep when all of a sudden all hell would break out. Some joker was going all along the landings ringing a dirty great bell. Out of bed we would all tumble, rubbing the sleep from our eyes and go down the great staircase into the hall. Nobody thought to warm the the stone flags of the floor and there we would all stand shuffling from one foot to the other whilst the entire school assembled and the register was marked. When everyone was accounted for, back we would all go to our beds. Thank goodness that this didn't happen very often, but of course in a school like any other place, fire drill is very important.
But after the Christmas Party the end of term could not be very far off. Anyway, the great day comes and, as I mentioned earlier, all the beds were stacked, cases packed and we are all hanging out of the windows for the first sight of the Maidstone & District coach to convey us to Victoria Coach Station (ed: London) where we would all meet up with our parents to be taken home. I must confess that I never looked forward to end of term. One reason I didn't look forward to going home, I was much happier at school, the other reason being that I always got very travel sick on the coach. To such an extent that one member of staff would take me in her car, and we would follow the coach to Victoria. Later, as I got older, thankfully I grew out of this, but at the time it was awful.
My Dad would meet me and we only had a short journey on the District Line (ed: Underground) to get to Dagenham and home.
After the holidays, the reverse procedure, and thank goodness, we would all be returned to the Caldecott where normal life would be resumed. It really was like coming home, at least to me. This particular term I was to go up into the Senior Study where lessons were a bit more advanced. This year we would be under the eye of Miss Muster. There was a strange, to me, system of education. On reaching eleven, the lads would go (if they were bright enough) to Maidstone Grammar School, and the rest of us would be despatched as day boys to a local secondary school, which in our case, turned out to be in Snodland, a fair way from the Mote so we had to walk to Weavering Street gate then get a Maidstone & District bus into the Bus Station in Maidstone, and wait to get on a bus to Snodland. Whilst we were waiting there was a chap who ran a stall that sold tea, cakes and biscuits and cigarettes, and he would let down the flap on which the customers stood with their mugs of tea and whatever, and then he would hand through the little display boxes that held the bars of chocolate etc. and we would put them in the right position where he told us. This saved him coming round to the front of the stall. Then he would give us each a bar of chocolate, or sometimes a Wagon Wheel, for helping him which, in hindsight, was very generous of him. Now I've never forgotten that old chap, he must have known where we came from, and a bit of kindness goes a long way.
I've done it again, lost my thread. At the time that the elder boys would go out to school, the elder girls were involved in an education system by the name of P.N.E.U. - 'Parents National Education Union' whatever, they carried on with their schooling 'in house' as it were.
To get back to our daily trip to Snodland, having boarded the bus we would proceed via East Malling and West Malling, back across the London Road and on to Snodland which was not very far from Rochester, a hell of a long way to go to school every morning. The school turned out to be a large Secondary School, and our little group was soon singled out for a great deal of bullying. At first we just put up with it but as time went on we got a bit fed up with it. Now there was one particular kid about my age who was at it all the time, safe he thought because he had an elder brother there. This kid had a horrible squint. I was getting a bit fed up with him, so one morning when he started going on about being boarding school, this and that, I had just about had enough of it, and so I punched him one right in his ugly mug. Before you could blink there were a couple of hundred milling boys all chanting ' Fight Fight Fight' at the top of their voices.
Now with the school all in a tight ring around us, there was no escape, so I thought at least his big ugly brother couldn't intervene so I just stood up straight and boxed him while he rushed about swinging his punches, all very unscientific. After a while several teachers broke through the swarming boys and put an end to the excitement. I never heard anymore about it and what's more I never had any trouble with his big brother. So it just goes to show, stick up for yourself, and also as a group none of us Caldecott chaps had any more bullying.
Another interesting thing about Snodland was the fact that it was very near the River Medway, and here was the aircraft factory of 'Shorts' who made seaplanes, amongst which was known Sunderland flying boat. These were supplied in great numbers to the RAF Coastal Command and were to play a leading role in the coming war. They were used on U-boat patrols. But at this time the Sunderland was still the Empire flying boat and was on regular service all over the world conveying paying passengers.
Now there was a scheme to fly mail non-stop to the USA, but no plane at this time had the range to do this trip non-stop, so the Mayo Murcury (ed: Mercury) was to be developed by Shorts here in Rochester. This project was in fact an Empire flying boat with a smaller four engined seaplane secured on top. The idea being to take off with the more powerful Empire flying boat and then after the composite had gained sufficient height, the smaller Mercury would be released to fly to America on its own. It worked, and we saw it in flight many times during our days at Snodland. I don't know what became of the whole scheme. I strongly suspect that it was overtaken by forthcoming events and the development of longer range aircraft. Still we found it fascinating during our school days.
I'm a great one for jumping all over the place, but as I go on I keep recalling incidents that occurred long ago. This particular memory concerns our one and only stage appearance in London. In the Caldecott there was an enthusiasm for (ed: Dalcroze) Eurythmics. I don't think the boys thought much of it, but the girls seemed to enjoy it. All that prancing about to music was not really my style but there, it was on the programme so that was that. We all changed into our black costumes and pranced about to the music, usually in the library. I remember that it was decided that we would perform a biblical play. I know that a Golden Calf all formed from wooded bricks appeared and the main parts were sorted out. One of the lads who later, so I heard, had a successful career in this field, was cast as the Egyptian King, someone else was Moses, and so on until all the main parts were cast. I had a very small part. I know I had to dash in and announce to the King 'Begone thou ravisher of crowns'. Sadly to say somebody dared me to deliver a slightly different version. I could never resist a dare. On I dashed and disclaimed in a loud voice 'Begone you radish from the ground'. That was the end of my stage career. I was recast as one of the frogs in the plague that swept Egypt.
The stage appearance that I mentioned above was at the 'Ring' Blackfriars, (ed: London) sadly 'blitzed' to the ground in 1940. This was a performance of said Eurythmics exercises and dance movement. Why anybody would pay to watch that I don't know, maybe we were on in the interval, I'll never know now.
Another high point in the summer term was Parent's Day. My Mother rarely put in an appearance, but my Dad always came. I remember one year, it was the year Britain won the Schneider Trophy; and being a skilled art metal worker he had made several sets of castings in bronze of the winning aircraft, the Supermarine S6. (ed: slight error on dates here. The last Schneider trophy, won by Britain who then retained the trophy in perpetuity, and thus brought an end to the race, occurred in 1931. The year before A.H.Day entered Caldecott).
He put one of these up for competition, people had to throw three darts at the blackboard on which he had pinned a whole deck of playing cards. At the end of the day, the one with the most points was declared the winner. The plane was mounted on a mahogany base, with the floats recessed into the base. I recall several sets of these castings kicking about at home for many years.
He also made half a dozen candle brackets for the wall of the chapel. I don't know if these went to Hyde House when the Community moved in the War, but they certainly were not in the chapel at Mersham when I came to Reunion gatherings.
The Chapel at Caldecott was possibly the most tranquil place of worship I have ever experienced. It was in a grey stone outhouse facing a courtyard, the one side was the King's Kitchen. This was Miss E's workshop, and was reached by a flight of stairs that also connected to the passage under the house. Facing this was the stone building used as the Senior Study where the elder pupils, that is up to eleven, and this was the responsibility of Miss M. I think I progressed much better at this level although I never was much of a scholar. although I was keen on History and English, and of course carpentry across the courtyard under Miss E. She was wonderful. I'm sure she could have made a cold rice pudding sound interesting. She really was my favourite member of staff. Later, in my visits to Mersham, on enquiring they told me that she had retired and moved back to Ireland.
To go back to the Chapel, there were rows of seats each side of the aisle, and at the back was the harmonium that Miss Sayer (who also was the gardener) used to play (everybody was multi-tasking). To the front there was the alter with a beautiful statuette of Jesus with his hand raised blessing a little child; and further up on the alter was a blood-red glass chalice which I always thought was the Holy Grail. To the left, Miss Leila had her lecturn-cum-kneeler. I can see her to this day on Sunday morning, leading us in prayer, and she always had very interesting lessons. There were always flowers or autumn foliage in the winter months, and it was altogether a very peaceful atmosphere, and it was much the same when I went to the reunion and we went to the Chapel for service before lunch. Everyone knew exactly what the order of service was, we had all been there so many time before, and felt totally at home even though one had been away for many years. I've always thought, once a Caldecott, always a Caldecott.
Talking of Reunions, the first one after the war, when I was back in civilian life, there arrived in the post one morning a card, with a picture of the Mote House from Miss Dave inviting me to a reunion. Now I had just bought my first motorcycle and round the corner was another Caldecott 'old boy' Tony B. We had arranged to meet up on the Saturday morning and together we rode down to Mersham -le- Hatch. There were a fair number of old inmates and we stayed overnight and that was the best reunion that I have ever been to, just like being back at school. Just to make sure that the weekend stayed in my memory it poured down with rain all the way back to Dagenham. Strange to relate in all the times that I attended reunions at Mersham, I never once meet up with Tony again.
My time at the Mote is drawing to a close. I've still got my reports and I see that I was there close on seven years, though I must say that here I am, it's now ten years into the twenty first century, and I still value my association with the Caldecott, which has stood me in good stead throughout my life.