1950 - 1980
For a period of almost 90 years the old Plymouth House - situated nearly a mile from the senior school - was for most new pupils their first experience of house life at Kingham Hill. On this page we present some recollections of Plymouth and its staff during that time.
Plymouth House opened as the Junior School in 1893 and was rebuilt after fire damage in 1938. Sadly Plymouth House was sold off in 1980. Its role as reception house was transferred up onto The Hill into the old Norwich House which was renamed Plymouth House.
Clyde House, which re-opened after refurbishment in 1980, was then renamed Norwich House.
Sadly, just like those famously named regiments that get consigned to the history books by the whims of changing governments, the name Clyde lingers on only in the memories of former pupils. Long live the memory of Clyde House.
Your Historian. May 2007
Flying over Plymouth House. Click images to enlarge. Images open in new window.
Photos courtesy of James Woolliams who was a teacher at KHS from
1961 to 1981and Plymouth Housemaster from 1973 to 1981.
Philip Hildesley (1954 to 1962):
In September 1954 I arrived at KHS. I was ten and a half years old and the youngest boy in the school at that particular time. I was, of course, placed in Plymouth House, which was the Junior House and situated down by the farm. The housemaster was Reg Durant, who sometimes liked to be known as Uncle Reg, or, if in a good mood, "Pop". Mrs Durant, or Aunty Ruth as we were encouraged to call her, acted as a matron and she was assisted by Aunty Lucy (whose name I can not remember, but who married an employee of the school, I think, whilst I was there).
Mr and Mrs Durrant, and the school
nurse - Sister Pauline Wright (1959).
Because I was under age I spent two years in Plymouth. This was probably not a bad thing as it helped me settle down and gradually get used to the idea of boarding
Read Our Life in Sheffield House by Peter Hildesley.
I spent my first year in Plymouth House; the Rev Wilkinson and his family were the House master and matron. We all got a rude awakening when we found out where the senior school was located. Nearly a mile up hill in all weathers!! It was like army fitness training lugging satchels, books, P.E. kit. So having survived that early discipline, we were prepared for the transfer to the senior houses.
Read Kenny Wingfield's Recollections of Norwich House.
Seated: Mary Wilkinson, Joan Wilkinson & Padre Harry Wilkinson and Mrs. Knight.
Plymouth House with Mrs. Knight
By Mary Wilkinson, daughter of the late Harry & Joan Wilkinson
House parents at Plymouth from 1957 to 1970.
Gladys Lillian Knight was born on 12th May in 1911 and was brought up on a farm with her parents. This is where she developed her great love for caring for both animals and children. She, like many daughters, was very close to her father, but was heartbroken when, as a relatively young man, he died.
On leaving school, at a young age, some years after the end of the great war - very changing times in our history - Gladys decided that she wanted to become a childs' nanny, which she did. She became a very accomplished nanny working in London with a family, then on to a large children's nursery. The children of Lord Hailsham, both Douglas and Mary, were looked after by Mrs. Knight. (Lord Hailsham visited school as the guest speaker on speech day in July 1961).
It's true to say that wherever Gladys worked the children were always happy, safe and loved. She worked with a school in Great Missenden for just over six years, together with her son Peter. It was from this school in Buckinghamshire that both Mrs. Knight and Peter arrived at Kingham Hill. Gladys joined my mother and father in Plymouth, and assisted with looking after the boys. Young Peter, being a little older than most of the junior boys who first enter school via Plymouth house, was placed in Clyde House with the Rev. Glyn-James and his family. Sadly, Peter was one of the five boys, together with Mr. Colin Noble (KHS teacher 1948 - 1959) and his friend John Clewett, whose lives where lost in the Rohilla sailing yacht tragedy, in the English Channel, in September 1959. The sea gave back both the boys from Clyde House and they are buried, along with other boys who died at school, in Kingham Church yard.
Gladys has mentioned that, despite being grief stricken over the loss of Peter, her best therapy was to plough herself into her work, and be a mother to all the boys who needed it in their early years on the hill. During the school holidays she would return to the children's nursery in London . When my mother and father retired as house parents of Plymouth in 1970, to maintain continuity in the house, Gladys remain at her post for a further year. This was to assist the new house parents. Then a year later, around 1972, she joined Top School on the domestic staff. Here she worked on with her close friend Esme Mehan - the daughter of one of ground staff. They became known affectionately as "Esmee & Snite"
In the 1980s she finally retired to Duck End Cottage, together with her cats, and lived for many more happy and contented years. However, due to failing eyesight, being almost completely blind, she moved into Castle View Old People's Home in Chipping Norton.
Despite having lost her eyesight, she still recalls her days on The Hill, and so many of the boys. Most recently, on the 12th of May last, she enjoyed her 96th birthday.
She is another remarkable lady of our time who gave so much to others. I know first hand because I was privileged to grow up also as a young person with her.
Mary Wilkinson, May 2007
Lord Andrew Adonis DPhil, BA:
I arrived at Plymouth in April 1974 after an extremely unsettled few years in a children's home. It was one of the first times I had seen the English countryside, and the first time in England I had been so far from London. It was also mid-way through the school year. So all in all, it was a shock to the system, and to begin with an unhappy experience.
But Plymouth and KHS soon came to supply all I lacked in life outside: stability, friends, values and a sense of self-worth and self-belief. My housemaster, Mr Woolliams, and his then house tutor, Mr Rees, played a big part in this, as did Mr Cooper from a benign distance.
Read Lord Andrew Adonis' complete article.