Tony must have been one of a few people who's life at Caldecott had four different phases. Starting at the main building of Mersham-le-Hatch, then moving on to life at The Paddocks, followed by two years at Lacton Hall, before returning to the Colt House Annex in the Brewery Yard attached to the West Wing of 'Hatch'. A much travelled boy!

Here he offers some of his memories of Colt House life.

 

The Caldecott Community at Mersham-le-Hatch, Ashford, Kent.

Life in the Colt House 1967 – 1969

(A personal view by Tony Inwood).

The Colt House was a separate unit in the grounds at Hatch, adjacent to the main house and provided living accommodation for the senior boys (14 to 18 year olds). I joined it in 1967 having spent some years at the Paddocks followed by Lacton Hall under the aegis of James and Tessa King. I enjoyed this very much despite some of the other things that were going on in my life at the time.

My first term in the Colt House happened to be the last term that Colin Griffiths was in charge and life was a bit different for me, to say the least. However, I soon adapted and something that I did benefit from whilst he was there, as did many of us boys, was the great tuition and encouragement he gave with playing table tennis. I loved that game and it was a great source of amusement. He was also very good at encouraging children with playing all kinds of other sports.

When he left, Joe Marshall took over and the regime, if I may call it that, was very much more relaxed. Thankfully we were given more in the way of freedom then in order to encourage us to take a little more responsibility for our own lives and this was manifested in various ways, one of which was that we were given a clothing allowance. This could be spent on more or less whatever we chose. This was just what we craved especially as it was the height of the “Flower Power” era and the chance to try and look and dress like the Beatles, Pink Floyd or other pop groups at the time was fabulous!

So on a Saturday afternoon we could go to Ashford, unsupervised and go to a film at the Odeon (James Bond always seemed to feature prominently) and then blow our allowance on the most outrageous outfits we could lay our hands on. I recall buying once a bright yellow corduroy suit and then very flowery zip up shirts to go with it.

Wrangler jackets were all the rage at that time too and as the months went by, I used to supplement my new clothing style by making my own, (very crude) clothes. I once found an old coat in a dressing up box and added some very frilly cuffs to it and dyed it mauve, and then dyed some old jeans orange to go with it! I also bought some black cord jeans and sprayed some silver stars on them using stencils and then followed that with my “coup de grace”. This took the form of an old grey school girl’s felt hat which I removed the ribbon from, cut diamond shaped holes into it and then pulled through little stands of my ever growing hair!

This new freedom for clothes was made even better by the fact that we were also allowed to grow our hair a bit longer, (hence the aforementioned hat) which was such a relief after years of “short back and sides”. Indeed I considered any form of haircut at that time to be an abomination, so the new style and look was just great. Perhaps the pinnacle of this new found freedom, though, was the chance to wear our newly bought psychedelic gear into supper on a Saturday night rather than the dreadful blue and grey uniform - freedom indeed!!

As for other recreational activities at that time, I suppose it was inevitable given the explosion of pop music that quite a few of us had guitars and tried to master them by playing 3 chords (probably not terribly well!) and trying very hard to enter the spirit of the times. Ultimately it was folk music that took precedence over everything else, and this really due to John Green who actually did master his guitar very well and we would have great sing-songs of Pete Seeger et al in the little lounge room at the front of the Colt House and Gerald Moran would sing really enthusiastically into his hockey stick, which was a most imaginative microphone!

John Green, who had actually officially left at that time but came back to help out in the boiler room at evenings and weekends, no doubt also enjoyed the camaraderie of us Colt House lads. He would sometimes supply us, rather reluctantly, with a few of his Players No.6 cigarettes and was great to have around.

His main job was working for “Houchins”, an engineering firm in Ashford and this came in very useful in my last term at Hatch because he had the idea to make a Go-Kart by using an old moped engine attached to a very grand style soap box trolley. We lads thought this was brilliant and we mucked in with him to help build it. It was so good when he would come back triumphantly from work some evenings and produce from his bag, with a great flourish, a gear stick that he had made or some pedal for the brakes and accelerator. He was a real inspiration to us.

Finally, when the Go-Kart was completed, we all took turns to drive it round the grounds of Hatch with the engine roaring, the whole thing vibrating with what seemed like enormous power and a crowd of spectators to share in the fun!

Another freedom that was great to us too was that Chris Ogden was allowed to buy a second hand Lambretta Scooter from a mate of his at Ashford Grammar. He took great delight in haring round the place on this “Mod Machine”, but wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about safety, or so it seemed. One day he went roaring off down the switchback at great speed and when he got to the bottom was going too fast to take the bend, so he slammed on the brakes in an effort to do a broadside, skidded spectacularly on the loose gravel and came flying off onto the grass! Mercifully he was largely unhurt apart from a few bruises, but it did rather put him off the idea of having a scooter and he subsequently sold it to me!

My skills at riding were not much better than his, however, but were decidedly slower. However, one day when out on the road I was following the No10 bus into Ashford. It so happened that there, looking out of the back window at the top of the bus, were a few of the Colt House Chaps, who started waving and jeering at me on my new machine. My attention was, therefore, somewhat diverted at that point and as I waved back enthusiastically, I didn’t notice that the bus was coming to a stop. Thus I very nearly went smack into the back of it. Fortunately for me, I was then given some very sound advice by a passing policeman who strongly advised that I get a lot of off-road practice on the machine before unleashing myself on the unwitting public again!

One form of encouragement and loose discipline that was in place for 14 year olds and upwards, was a system of privileges. This was known as “Privileged Uniform” (PU for short). So if a child had behaved responsibly during the week and had not been caught indulging in smoking or other naughty things, then they had their name announced at Saturday supper as being a PU for the week ahead. This carried with it such privileges as going to bed half an hour later than normal, being able to make coffee after supper and other small things.

The bedtimes were really very early for us in those days, I am not sure why, so the extra half hour really was most welcome. My record of achieving my PU, however, was not overly successful, and it added to my growing resentment of authority. For those whose record was consistent, though, there was the supreme honour of becoming a “Permanently Privileged Uniform (PPU) and that meant, in effect being a prefect and having some minor authority over the other boys, as well as all the privileges. Needles to say, I never managed to achieve this lofty status!

During the period of the late 60’s, there were a number of staff, both male and female who were in their early 20’s. This was good for us teenagers, as we were able to relate to them a little easier. One such member of staff introduced me to the music of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and after I left blues and rock became a very important thing in my life and in a strange way kind of kept me going.

So much for the easier more fun side of life at the Colt House, but there was the inevitable background of problems in other areas of life, which came to bear rather painfully during the holidays, especially in my last year. As such, I was not in a very positive mood for much of the time and had no real interest in school or any thoughts of what to do when I left.

My last term was a mixed blessing for me. I finished school early having done my exams and then spent the last few weeks of my 8 year stay at Caldecott working in the school garden with a couple of my friends. We had some great fun and the whole thing filled me with a somewhat illusory sense of freedom until the actual time of leaving drew near. A part of me wanted badly to leave because of my rather misplaced negative feelings about the place, but another part was very apprehensive indeed about what lay ahead.

In the event, Caldecott arranged for me to have a shared room in a TOC-H Hostel in Tower Hill in London. I moved in, registered with an employment agency and got myself a job as a labourer in a wine merchant’s cellar nearby. At that time in its history Caldecott did not provide any real support for children when they left and I was ill-equipped to deal with life in the outside world. I found it very hard to adjust to it.