Doveridge, Derbyshire, DE6 5PA
I was at Brocksford for four short years between 1988 and 1992 – most of these recollections are from my time there. This page is far from complete, but I felt the need to at least start writing it before my memories of this wonderful place faded totally into oblivion.
There should be some photos taken by my parents, myself and a few friends appearing here in the not-too-distant future.
If I’ve omitted anything, something you’d like to share or if there’s a glaring error, do leave a comment on this page and I’ll get it sorted.
Like many public schools, Brocksford had its student populus divided into houses – four in our case: Holmfield, Hassop, Ashford and Doveridge; each house named after the village in which the school had been situated over the years. I was initially in Holmfield, but in my last year I was moved to Hassop in order to become House Captain.
In the school year ending 1992, Kevin Martin was Holmfield House Captain, I (Harry Sheppard) was House Captain of Hassop, Rupert Woolley was Ashford’s and Joe Henry for Doveridge. We all shared a dorm (Dorm Six, IIRC) which was generally considered to be the House Captains’ dorm, but things seemed to be reassigned on a fairly regular basis.
School Magazine – The Brocksfordian
The school produced a magazine at the end of each year called “The Brocksfordian”, intended to extoll the virtues of the pupils to both parents and Old Brocksfordians alike.
Dorms One and Two were on the first floor at the top of the main student staircase and were the Girls’ dorms. Dorms Three to Seven were on the second floor for the boys. Dorm Three was generally for the House Seconds (two bunks of two), Four for third and fourth formers (four bunks of two), Five for first and second formers (four beds, one bunk of two), Six for the house captains (four beds) and Seven for fifth and sixth formers (eight beds and one bunk of two).
As with any school, there were staff members that stood out, both for good and ‘bad’ reasons 🙂 They’re in no specific order here – just as they come to mind…
Mark (MIWF) and Jan Flynn
The Headmaster and his wife, who also doubled as the school nurse. Mark Flynn was a character out of an Enyd Blighton novel – wild hair, untamable eyebrows and dressed in a well-darned tweed suit with leather patches on the elbows. He taught French, was a character in his own right and would stalk around the playground at break time, taking an aloof but genuine interest in all of his young charges (each of whom, it must be noted, he made it his business to know well). Mrs. Flynn was a no-nonsense nurse who would regularly tell pupils to
stop fussing – it’s just a scratch, but simultaneously cared deeply about us kids. It might not have seemed like it at the time, admittedly, but it was all a cleverly crafted act to help us to stand on our own two feet.
David Russell (DWR)
The real core of the school and, as far as most of us could work out, a member of staff who’d been there since the year dot. The man lived for Cricket (and failing that, Hockey) and was offended at a cellular level to find one pupil – me – who preferred fiddling around with computers to hitting balls with lumps of dead tree. The call of
Get off the COMPUTER, Sheppard! still rings in my mind!
Other particularly amusing traits included the greeting of
Sit down, boys when walking into a class of both boys and girls, and the standard question near the end of the lesson of
What’s the time, Warr?, to which Tim Warr would always dutifully reply,
Seven minutes-to, sir,…
The head of the Junior School and director of the School Plays, Mrs. Kerrel was a genuinely wonderful person. Softly spoken, she could earn your respect very quickly, but woe betide you if you should cross her! Larger than life in many ways, she unfortunately seccumbed to cancer and died well before her time. She was – and still is – sorely missed.
Graham Kirkham (GK)
A great inspiration to myself, Mr. Kirkham was our Maths and Science teacher. He had a brilliant sense of humour, entertained us with a superb rendition of Ralph McTell’s ‘The Streets of London’ when we were snowed in and the power was out one winter, and allowed me to play with the electronics kits in the science labs in my spare time. I also appear to have inherited his method of writing the letter ‘d’… I haven’t heard from him in a while, although last I know he and his wife were happily running a retirement home in Derby.
Mrs. Henshaw was our (incredibly) long-suffering Latin teacher to whom, on retrospect, we were beastly. She was kind-hearted and enthused about her subject, but the bunch of eleven-year-olds to whom she was trying to impart at least a shred of a classical language simply weren’t interested. If it’s any consolation, Mrs. Henshaw, the few scraps of Latin I retained have as it turns out been very useful!
Derrick Jakes (DAJ)
With a handlebar moustache and sideburns to his chin, DAJ was firmly stuck in the eighties. He was a brilliant Geography teacher, though, and was so energetic in some of his gesticulations that posters, chalk, exercise books and furniture could easily be sent flying. Catch phrases included
Spread OUT when trying to coach all of the sporting dregs that were not worthy of David Russell’s attention (most definitely including me!) into playing Hockey or Football; and
Yes – it’ll be nice when it’s finished… after presenting the map of some third world country in your Geography text book that you’d dutifully spent the last half-period tracing and colouring in (green inline, blue outline in crayon and a black border, please!).
Graham Patterson (GRP)
Mr. Patterson succeeded Graham Kirkham as our science teacher when he left the school. He was a slightly rotund, bearded gentleman that on hindsight reminds me of one of the Bo Selecta! characters in his general appearance. He was much more of a stickler for details and rejoiced in handing out vast quantities of leaflets that he harvested from various sources which were relevent to our area of study at the time. He bucked the trend in that he was the first member of staff to get us kids using lever-arch files for our science notes and exercises (they were a necessity, however, due to the quantity of leaflets that had to be retained!) and was known for dropping the occasional very-adult joke into Biology lessons, causing animated discussions between his pupils afterwards as to what he could possibly mean when on about a Japanese golfer shouting
Wrong hole! Wrong hole!…
My English teacher for a year, Mr. Fuller-Sessions is best summed up as
Fowler from Chicken Run, although that simply doesn’t do him justice. He was tall, aloof in character, very well spoken and to all intents and purposes should have been a retired RAF Squadron Leader. He also used to take great pleasure in lighting up his pipe the second he emerged from one of the school buildings and produced huge, billowing clouds of smoke in his wake. He also never managed to exinguish it before sitting down at the desk in his next class, casting a blue-grey haze over the entire period. Health and Safety? Bah 🙂
Mrs. Green was our art teacher and although she often dispaired at me, she never failed to encourage. Admittedly a dead cat probably had more artistic ability in its tail than I did at the time, but it never disuaded her from trying to inspire me 🙂
A wonderfully jolly lady with a brilliant wit and tenacity about her, it was her unfortunate job to teach us music and to orchestrate the musical side of the school’s dramatic productions and end-of-year shows. The Ryder-Kerrel partnership was truely awesome, though, amazing even us as to what they managed to get us to do. The most memorable (and oft-repeated!) quote for me was her
No, no, NO, NO! with a dischorded punctuation from the piano on the last ‘no’ when, for the hundredth time, we’d sung
…born the king o-vayn-gels… in a carol service rehersal. Fantastic 🙂
I’m sorry, Clare – I only ever knew you as Matron! Possibly the youngest of Brocksford’s staff, all of the kids knew that she knew what we wanted and how we generally behaved while backs were turned, but she never let on. Another long-suffering member of staff, she must have had the patience of a saint to put up with us lot on a daily basis. After much poorly-hidden flirting with Mr. Jakes, I understand that they are now married with kids.
Head groundsman and handyman, the poor chap always looked completely tired out. He was a lovely guy, perpetually smiling and took the time to talk to the kids who were disturbing his work and delaying his cup of tea. For some reason, I shall always remember the fight he had every morning with the school’s ageing Nuffield tractor. It was difficult to start in summer, but in winter it was nigh-on impossible. You’d hear the decrepit thing cranking away for minutes, grandually getting faster as the diesel started to burn, eventually skipping on the starter for a few more seconds before finally running under its own steam. Sensibly, it was never stopped for the rest of the day 🙂
Submitted material from Old Brocksfordians
Links and other resources
- The “I went to Brocksford Hall School” facebook group
Jeremy Theaker has very kindly brought over a VHS cassette (shot by his brother Richard) of the Brocksford Borders enjoying the snowfall of December 1991 with a snowball fight, marshaled by David Russell, including such greats as
Not across the square you… idiot! and
Be careful, he’s a hockey player!
The school play 1992: Carrots