Memories of Manley Hall School
Memories of Manley Hall School

I will start by saying that my time at the school was not a happy one.

My father had started a four-year contract with a company in India. He had some health issues and my mother also went, in order to look after him. As there were no family members who could accommodate me, I was sent off to boarding school. The most important part of this arrangement was that I had no visitors and this had a disturbing effect on a boy of only six years of age.

Reverend Canner, the Headmaster, had the nickname of KV. These were the Registration Letters of his car, an early 1930’s Morris ‘Cowley’. The vehicle was kept at the Gatehouse, which was situated at the end of the main driveway.

There were three classes. The first one was for infants, with about nine or ten boys. The teacher was a Miss Parker who lived in a cottage at the end of the drive towards Shenstone. The next class was a middle form of about fifteen boys, which was looked after by Mr Hart (nicknamed ‘Heartless’). Finally, there was the senior class overseen by the Headmaster himself. KV also took classes for Mathematics and Latin. There were about thirty or so boys in total.

The day was split into three sessions of lessons, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and, in summer, sport in the evening. In the winter, sport was undertaken in the afternoon with lessons in the evening. Sometimes, in summer, lessons were taken outside under the branches of a huge conifer tree.

I forget how many dormitories there were, but I was in dormitory No. 5, with about ten other boys. There were lots of high jinks with the water jugs, as there was no running water, also flicking towels at each other etc. Bath night was on a Friday, with individual bathing, but the water had to be shared.

The toilet used at night was on the same floor as the dormitories and there was often a queue to use it. This led to a great deal of chatter and noise and sometimes the Headmaster’s wife appeared to quieten things down. I think her name was Minnie and she may have been Chinese.

Visiting times for pupils were on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, presumably to coincide with the sport sessions, and so, during the summer, the Wednesday visit would have been put back to the evening. As a pre-curser to the visiting there was a sort of cleanliness inspection where KV would check our necks and ears. As I didn’t have any visitors, this was a hard time for me.

Once, we were taken on a school outing by coach to Walsall Swimming Baths. I think this was an experiment because, although we enjoyed it, even though a lot of the boys couldn’t swim, it was not repeated.

Half-term was a holiday and dummy rifles were issued for us to play with and there was once a paper chase.

The names of other boys that I remember were Spencer and Morley Neal Camalinaat. The latter being the only Christian name I can recall, because surnames were always used. The Head Boy was called Ramsden or something like that.

The clothing we wore was some sort of uniform obtainable from Horne Brothers Ltd., who were Men’s Outfitters in New Street, Birmingham. I can only really remember the tie, particularly because, as a sign of my mental distress, I chewed mine until it was only about two or three inches long. I also chewed my shirt collars.

Discipline was fairly strict and the cane was often used. Miscreants were made to wait in the ‘Big Hall’ for punishment under a magnificent chandelier.

There was once a musical concert, with parents in attendance. I, together with a boy called Vincent, sang a duet standing by the piano. As I write this memoir, I am trying unsuccessfully to remember what we sang!

There was an occasion when we went paddling in a stream which flowed beneath the driveway. I had a model boat, although goodness knows why I took it there, as it was so full of holes it immediately sank and was lost without trace!

I also remember one time when there was a Guy Fawkes celebration, with fireworks on the terrace.

There was also a time when I had trouble with my bed. Beds then were of the primitive type with wire and springs beneath a horsehair mattress. For some reason, probably due to wear and tear, my bed started to disintegrate and soon the mattress started to drop through an ever-widening hole. Eventually, I was trying to sleep without falling through onto the floor. I don’t know why I didn’t tell KV, but eventually he noticed, on my birthday, would you believe. Because I had collected the bits of wire and disposed of them, KV did not have enough to undertake a repair. The net result was another wait under the chandelier etc.!!

Right at the end of one term, I did get a visit from an Aunt and Uncle, but they arrived just as we were walking back to school after a sports afternoon, so there was no time to say much more than “hello”. I was so emotionally upset at seeing them that I burst into tears!

After I had been at the school for about 18 months my parents, having cut short their intended stay in India, unexpectedly arrived to visit. The first indication I had was when KV told me to go and put on my best ‘knickers’, or trousers as they are known today. I was then ushered into a sitting room and there they were. Needless to say, I hardly recognised them!

In later life, when I lived near Lichfield, I visited the site but only found a small stone commemorative tablet telling me that the Hall was demolished in 1963. Often, when driving past, I thought of my time spent at Manley Hall.