Essays on Life at Lord Wandsworth College circa 1950
A short history of School caps researched and compiled for
The Sternians’ Association
by Mike Millichamp, A88
Hon. Archivist (Summer 2000)
I remember some School rules more than I remember others. ‘No smoking’ – ‘ No running in the corridors’ – ‘Caps must be worn at all times’. The rules have changed over the years to reflect modern day attitudes and disciplines. ‘No smoking’ and ‘No running in the corridors’ quite rightly still exist today but a new one has been added which was not needed in my day – ‘No visiting the girls’ boarding houses’.
The old rule ‘Caps must be worn at all times’ has died a natural death since caps were faded out of the School uniform when it was brought up to date, but to those of us old enough to remember wearing them, do so with mixed views when recalling our memories.
The list of School Rules issued in 1941 was quite comprehensive in detailing which areas of the Estate were ‘In Bounds’ and which areas were ‘Out of Bounds’. Rule (d) was one of sixteen General Rules which listed forbidden activities and ‘Walking about without caps or with hands in pockets’ was one of them.
Caps were introduced from the very beginning in 1922 and were worn at all times on and off the School Estate. In all the early photographs in the archives the boys are seen wearing their caps on all occasions; from going to church on a Sunday, walking back to their houses after lessons, playing cricket in the summer, watching rugby in the winter, travelling to and from the School by railway at the beginning and end of each term and even when wearing shorts but no shirt in the summer.
The first style of cap was made of 8 triangular segments of black woollen material with the sides sewn together and red piping added. A small version of the School blazer badge was sewn in the middle on the front above the peak and a small woollen material button affixed in the crown where the red piping met.
These and other clothing needs were provided free by the School and issued from a central clothing store situated above the main classroom block and run by ex Quarter Master Chaddock with help from Mr Drew. The caps bore the label ‘ Scolla Cap – Regd. Trade Mark’ and stamped in indelible ink from wood block numbers with the next consecutive school number.
However, despite the closure of Gosden House some four years earlier as a cost cutting exercise, the Trustees decided that from September 1949 fee paying pupils would be admitted and all parents would accept responsibility for boys’ clothing. They hoped that this move would counteract the ever rising expenses against a declining investment income.
Thus the clothing store was closed, but what memories remain.
Bill Betts (24; 1924-28) wrote ‘If the Warden was present he would look at our clothes we were wearing. If some were getting a bit ragged he would open up the stores at the back of the Office block and give us some new ones when we put the old ones in’
Bill Wood (85; 1924-33) remembers the first woman in charge of stores ‘who dished out clothes to all and sundry; right, left and centre, and had to be replaced quickly before there was a financial crisis’
Jim Allen (173; 1930-35) recalls the guess work basis on which they were issued with Chaddock’s cry ‘Bring them back if they don’t fit’. He recalls ‘Common to us all were school caps, a tie, two shirts, two pairs of coarse woolly pants and a pair of American army boots curved at the toes like Cornish pasties. I was issued at one time with a ‘Freddie Bartholomew’ outfit of buckle at the knee trousers and a sort of shooting jacket with odd pockets and a belt. I felt conspicuously different from the others and it did nothing for moral. I did manage to wear it out quickly by rubbing the elbows on bricks’.
Stan Davies (274; 1933-41) wrote ‘My joining instructions stated that it was not necessary to purchase new clothing and that School Caps would be supplied on arrival at the College. They were stamped with the individual School number’.
Hugh Podger (565; 1942 –48) is less forgiving and says ‘At the end of term there was ‘Prinny’s (Col. Little) inspection without Prinny when the boys could never win and they were generally persuaded that the clothes that they had never like and long disliked were adequate for a bit longer; those who qualified for replacements had to go through the ordeal of Chaddock’s stores, which was a time for trembling, much more than the inspection itself’
John Carter (705; 1945-51) remembers ‘collecting clothes and shoes from the store over the classrooms. I got a brown herring bone suit once and a boy called Allen got a blue pin stripe one such as I coveted’
Gerald Smith (742; 1946-55) recalls ‘Messrs Chaddock and Drew, that nice guy, nasty guy pair and I can still hear Chaddock’s raucous ‘Next’ as one was subjected to his beady eye, hoping perhaps to persuade him that one really did need a new jacket’
Mainly for the benefit of the new fee paying parents the School then appointed Lanhams, Outfitters in Basingstoke as the official School supplier, but in 1950 the style was changed and the red piping was removed leaving the cap entirely black although the small crest remained unaltered. The peak was a little larger than before and readily became a useful eye shade in brilliant sunny conditions during a cricket match. At the same time the blazer was changed from an all black one with the School badge on the breast pocket to a grey one with red braiding around each sleeve, a few inches above the cuff, and red braiding above each pocket including the breast pocket which still retained the School badge.
There were also caps with wire tassels awarded to Prefects; but this practice ceased with the change in style in 1950 and each Prefect was awarded a black blazer instead; a more practical and distinctive reward of their office now that they were no longer part of the standard uniform. At this time caps with yellow tassels were awarded to certain outstanding 1st XV Rugby team players as their ‘colours’. These caps bore the label ‘Pleton Cap – Regd. Trade Mark’ together with the familiar ‘Utility Design’ label so often seen in this austere period of British History after the War.
There were also two distinct designs of the 1st XI Cricket caps; a completely white one with ‘XI’ on the front awarded to certain outstanding players until 1950, and then one with alternate gold and wine red segments, making a total of 6 segments, with a black peak and ‘XI’ on the front in substitution of a School crest. The Junior House boys wore an all green cricket cap.
With the change of style came a change of official supplier, and they could only be purchased from Heelas of Broad Street, Reading, who were already suppliers of School uniforms to other leading schools in the area. This could mean a trial and error sizing arrangement through the post. My cap, tie and blazer were all sent by Royal Mail to Cornwall where I was living at the time.
Duncan Smith, A871, 1967 – 1974, received his entire school wardrobe from Heelas which was posted to him at Keighley in Yorkshire at a cost of five shillings. The cap cost 10/11d; the tie 7/11d and the blazer £3 – 15s – 9d. His total clothing bill was for £67 – 1s – 4d.
I wore a black cap as a new boy in 1954. The only identification needed was my School number – A88 – in red on a tape (similar to Cash’s woven name tape and provided by the School) and sewn inside. There was no need to add your name. I wore it constantly as did my contemporaries as custom dictated but by the 4th Form my memories of wearing it fade and by 1960 I was no longer wearing it. I have no idea what happened to it when I left. I kept my tie but the cap must have gone with the passage of time.
By 1961 the rules on clothing were relaxed a little. Junior boys should wear a school blazer and grey flannels. Older boys could either wear a blazer or a sports jacket with their grey flannel trousers. The sports jacket had to be of the type supplied by Heelas of Reading; Peter Jones of Sloane Square or the John Lewis Partnership. It had to be either St.George’s green tweed pattern or Felsted blue tweed pattern. No other would be allowed, just as the Sunday suit remained grey in colour.
In 1966 the Headmaster felt it necessary to remind all parents that boys should be in School uniform when returning to School at the beginning of each term, and that when met at Waterloo Station by members of the Staff, the boys were immediately expected to conform to the School rules particularly those which affect smoking and drinking. It meant that the Junior boys had to continue to wear their caps on the journey to and from the School.
A mother of a Foundationer who had struggled to find the money to purchase the complete School uniform for her son was dismayed to find that the cap was rarely worn except under the Headmaster’s edict, and this common opinion led to the removal of caps as part of the School uniform with effect from the Autumn term 1970.
The cap was now officially dead, but what memories have lived on. We all remember of course the walk to and from Long Sutton Church on a Sunday to attend the service there. Attendance was compulsory but varied according to what House you were in and which term. Boys would be lined up in pairs, in a crocodile order, dressed in their regulation grey Sunday suit. Before the start of the journey the Master in charge would order all boys to raise one hand in the air holding a cap as proof that they had got one before starting the journey.
Bill Betts (24; 1924-28) remembered that ‘Sunday was the day on which we had to put our best suits on. We attended the morning and evening services at the village church. We were known by our School caps.’ Once when Bill was riding on the tail gate of the School lorry with Henry Beckett (22; 1924-29) they were stopped by the Police; not for riding insecurely but because two boys were missing from a school in the area they were passing through. They were immediately placed beyond suspicion because they were both wearing their School caps !.
Harry Albert (715; 1946-50) says ‘I believe my cap may still be stored in the loft somewhere but with the advancing years and the similarly advancing girth and the reduction in size of the loft entrance, I guess it will most likely stay there’
Stan Morris (737; 1946-54) writes ‘I still have my practically unworn cap with a yellow tassel. My wife has been nagging me to throw it away for years, but somehow I hang on to it.’
Gerald Smith (742; 1946-55) recalls ‘for those who had School Colours it was an opportunity to show off the gold tassel, otherwise we spent most of our time endeavouring not to wear it’.
Mike Smith (883, 1950-58) was part of the 1950 intake issued with the new entirely black cap and grey blazer with red braiding from Heelas of Reading. He recalls ‘One thing that is very clear in my mind is that some of the new starters in my year who had elder brothers at LWC wore their elder siblings black blazers although I cannot recall them wearing the older style caps’.
Charles Lawrence (A22; 1953-60) writes ‘Mine was black. I don’t have further details except that we weren’t very enamoured with the headwear.’
Peter Anderson (A29; 1953-61) writes ‘I had a black cap, a Rugby 1st VX and a Cricket 1st XI’ Peter donated the red and yellow 1st XI cap to the archives saying ‘it dates from 1959 and has played in the Middle East, Far East and Caribbean since LWC’
Guy Consterdine (A31; 1953-60) says ‘I had a black cap as well. I remember some of the older boys in the School had caps with red piping. I’ve looked in the loft for mine but can’t find it, so I must have thrown it away years ago.’
Mike Sims (A41; 1953-60) says ‘I wore a black cap. I seem to recall that everyone still had to wear caps to church throughout my time. I was ‘capped’ for rugby in 1959 and still have the cap.’
Theo Beslee (A61; 1954-59) writes ‘I most certainly did have a School cap and a pretty ghastly thing it was. A most essential piece of the uniform owing to the tremendous distances we had to ‘trog’ in the pouring rain and bad weather.’
Mike Higham (A84; 1954-61) was part of the same intake as me and he recalls ‘I too had the all black cap. In those times there was never a problem wearing it because it was a way of life. I used to have a long journey to School travelling by train from Wigan to Euston, then down the Northern Line, assembling at Waterloo with Browno for the journey to Winchfield, mob handed so to speak. On the journey down I met up with John Brierley (A79) and Malcolm Wibberley(A210) who boarded the train at Warrington, caps on head.’
Peter Ritchie (A136; 1955-62) relates ‘with cap on head I caught the bus to go to Kettering to catch the train to St.Pancras, Waterloo and Winchfield’.
Paul Winson (A139; 1955-62) says ‘the last I saw of my cap was on my stepfather’s head during his house painting activities. I do seem to recollect that on an occasion there was a ritual burning of such items, cap, tie etc just prior to certain of us leaving for the last time.’
Graham Barnes (A198; 1956-64) recalls ‘I remember my mother taking me to Heelas in Reading to buy the items on the clothing list sent from the School. I particularly remember this time because it was when I discovered I had a big head !. Heelas found that the only size that fitted was 7 ¾ inch cap which was the biggest they said they produced. When I got to LWC I found that only one other in my year had a 7 ¾ cap and this proved very useful because it meant no one else would ‘borrow’ my cap if they lost theirs. I feel that around the time one reached the 5th or 6th form the ‘must wear caps’ rule was relaxed as a sign of seniority but certainly all Juniors still wore them without fail. I particularly remember the Sunday church parade where we were all inspected for a cap beforehand but then took it off and carried it once we set off walking to church’
Harry Ellis (A232; 1957-64) recalls ‘my first Sunday at Junior House when I joined the 1st Form in September 1957. We were a forlorn bunch of children with little experience of being parted from our parents and some of the boys were a very long way from ‘home’. I followed all my new colleagues to and from the village church for the morning service, as I was bid, down the drive and along the road. On my return to Junior House the word was passed about that all boys not wearing a cap to church were to line up outside the Duty Master’s office in the long corridor. I obediently joined the line, to find I was to be given two strokes for my offence even though I did not know it was an offence. Years later I learned that that on that fateful day Sandy Henderson slowed down in his Jaguar car as he passed the Junior House Master and Duty Master and told him he must beat all boys not wearing a cap. Over the years I got to know Sandy Henderson a little and concluded that the events on my first Sunday were curiously out of character’.
Chris Bray (A573; 1963-69) says ‘The cap was still part of the uniform throughout my period though seldom worn. More often they were used as footballs on the walk from Junior House to the main School. My last memory of mine was despatching it from a car window into the hedgerow as I left LWC for the last time in December 1969.’
Roger Barberis (A795; 1966-70) ‘I was only too keen to get rid of my scruffy black cap as soon as I left on 30th June 1970.’
Ian Ellis (A947; 1968-74) ‘I most certainly remember having a school cap. It was acquired as part of kitting me out for School in the summer of 1968. In September I was dressed up in full uniform and taken to Waterloo station to catch the train to Winchfield. Apart from other new boys no one else was wearing a cap and I believe we quickly removed ours after other boys returning to School made us aware of how silly we looked. I don’t believe I ever wore it again and I have no idea what happened to it.’
Tim Hinton (B57; 1970-75) ‘ I did not have a cap’ and Mark James (B58; 1970-77) ‘Caps were not in use at all when I joined. I do not recall any caps at all during my time there.’
And thus ended almost half a century of tradition. The irony is that the demise of the School cap brought about the demise of the School Rule ‘Caps must be worn at all times’ and that cannot be a bad thing do I hear 2,000 Old Boys cry ?.
(I am indebted to all the Old Boys who have entered into correspondence with me in providing research material, and to all those who have donated caps of various styles to the Archives. Some of the quotations used have been taken from written personal memories held in the Archives.)