Harry Wilkinson was born at Sinderby Grange near Thirsk, in the English county of Yorkshire, in 1909.
Young Harry first attended Cheltenham junior preparatory school. He progressed into the senior school of Cheltenham College where he gained a place for Cambridge University.
Unfortunately his father could not afford the fees for Harry to attend university, or support him financially . Determined to teach, Harry returned to college to gain his teaching diploma.
Rev. H. Wilkinson 1949
An eye infection as a baby left Harry blind in one eye. This condition was to preclude him from serving in any of the armed forces when it came time to do his national service.
Qualifying to teach he took various posts at a number of preparatory schools across the country. It was whilst teaching at Cheltenham junior preparatory school in 1939 that war broke out .
Harry took holy orders training at King's College in the Strand, London. Regardless of his medical condition he also took on the perilous task of a fire watcher for the duration of the war. Working mainly at St. Paul's Cathedral. Harry was ordained in Gloucester Cathedral.
After the war in 1946. He married his fiancé, Joan, whilst he was a curate in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He held this post for some two and a half years. During this time, in 1947, their first child was born - a son, Martin. Harry and Joan moved from Stroud to Camberley in Surrey.
It was in 1949 that Harry and Joan arrived at Kingham Hill. Our historian has had this fact confirmed by two old boys from that time. Also from Harry and Joan's second child - their daughter, Mary.
One old boy, Brian Dean the son of Dixie Dean (member of the school staff) and a boarder in Sheffield House, confirmed that it was in 1949 that Harry and Joan Wilkinson arrived at school.
At Sheffield House, Summer 1949
They arrived on the Hill to replace the Reverend Shirehampton and, as this early photo shows, Harry was assigned to Sheffield House. The boys dressed in shirt sleeves would suggest the photo was taken in the summer term of that year.
Harry assisted the house master of the day, Mr. Phelps seated next to Harry, and also Mr. David Gooding, seated far left. He later became house master to Sheffield House, and was still housemaster in Sheffield when our historian joined in 1957. Brian can be spotted in this photo standing in front of the window in the back row.
During this time the Wilkinson family lived in Swansea House directly opposite Sheffield House - that house above Norwich House. The next major event in the life of the family was the arrival of their daughter, Mary, born in 1952. Later on, with the retirement of Reginald and Ruth Durrant (affectionately referred to as Uncle Reg and Aunty Ruth) in 1957 Harry and Joan moved down to take on the responsibilities of becoming house master and mistress to our reception house, Plymouth. This was very much a partnership between them both. [Readers will also find references to the family in this section].
Harry and Joan stayed as house parents to Plymouth House for a further twelve years. Then in 1970 they retired from this role, and moved to the local village of Churchill. Harry did not retire from school life though. Oh no, he remained as a teacher and school Chaplain, taking added responsibility as Deputy Head Master to Teddy Cooper for a further seven years until he retired in 1977.
Plymouth House circa 1965 Click image to enlarge
Harry continued his pastoral ministry locally in the parishes of Churchill, Daylesford, Kingham and Sarsden - officiating at christenings, funerals and weddings.
Sadly in 1992 Joan passed away. Harry continued his work for a further three years until he also passed away, after a short illness, on the 4 February 1995 at the age of 85 years. As was their wish, there are no gravestones to record or register these two wonderful people. Their ashes were scattered in Churchill church yard. Our historian wishes to thank Mary Wilkinson their daughter for her kind and able assistance in compiling this article enabling us to cherish the memories in our history of two devoted members of our staff.