Reminiscences of Form Alpha 1928-44

Chichester High School for Boys

Form Alpha 1930 – 1944
A fee paying alternative to the scholarship for entry into the school

A small article appeared in the 2006 Spring Newsletter requesting contributions from Members relating to the history of Form Alpha together with other ancillary recollections. This resulted in the stirring of memories of a number of members and indeed prompted putting pen to paper – or hands to the keyboards – to record their memories of this now long defunct class. Sadly, a number of the contributors have now passed away.

Form Alpha was most certainly introduced very early in the 1930s period and “expired” in July 1944 following the introduction of the 1944 Education Act. Prior to 1944, entry to the High School was by scholarship entry (non-fee paying) or by entrance examination (fee paying) for those students who either failed, or failed to take for some reason or another, the scholarship examination. The scholarship examination was set and marked on a county wide basis whereas the entrance examination was unique to the school. Fees were 5 guineas per term in 1943-44 and certainly the writer has evidence of this amount in the form of a receipted account addressed to his parents.

The age of entry was 10, although most certainly, one of our members – Tony Hazell – entered Form Alpha at the age of 9.

Geoff Wills

Contributions received from members are reproduced wholly or in part as follows:

Maurice Evans

(Vice-Captain of the school 1939)

It has to be remembered that from the foundation of the school in 1928, until after the war, it was, in part, a fee paying school. The fees were £5 per term, which was quite a sum in those days. About half of the intake of 60 or so per year were paid for by the County Council as scholarships. These were competed for in all the schools in the catchment area at the age of 11 on 1st September of that year.I wonder if the purpose of Form Alpha might have been to attract an entry from some who might have been persuaded to go elsewhere. Although it was always a County Council School, was the level of fees of benefit to the school through its Governing Body, or did they go into general County Funds? Does anybody know?

Those of us who had these scholarships were placed in Form1a.The fee-paying entry was placed mainly in Form Alpha, but the boys here were often accepted as young as 9 or 10.After their year in Alpha, they moved to 1b and a further entry was accepted directly into this class if there was room. Alpha therefore was the main intake form for non-scholarship entries. There was an entrance examination for all boys entering the school as fee-payers.

The school then operated a strict progress system, by which the “a” forms took four years to school certificate, but the “b” forms took five. There was a form 3, but not a form 3a or 3b, the “a” stream moving from 2a to 4a.

At the year for school certificate, which was normally at 15/16, the forms were completely remixed. There was a Five Arts, which had two languages, and only one natural science, probably Biology; the Five Science had one language and two natural sciences, Physics and Biology. In order to keep the class sizes down at this level, a third form called Five M was created, this took those boys who had no particular aptitude for either arts or science, and who would probably leave after the School Certificate examination at the age of 16.

The languages were Latin, French and German. I believe that the choice in Five Arts was French plus Latin or German. Others will know better than I will! In the school we were never conscious of any difference between fee paying and scholarship boys, but it must have been a matter of considerable concern to our parents!

One weeks’ wages for a blue collar worker in the 30’s was £5 and two weeks for a labourer. What would that be to-day? Am I right that Alpha was for 9 to 10 year olds, and did they all progress to 1b in the next year? And were there any additions at that time? And did the 1b all go to 2b, or was there a shuttle between the a and b streams?

I cannot remember much about form rooms. I know that my first year in 1933 included Dick Tompsett (a current CHALOBS member and Secretary of the former Old Cicestrians old boys association in the 1950’s and 60’s). Form 1a was in room 1 with O’B (Mr O’Brien) as Form master. Form 2a I think was in the Lecture Theatre, but after that my mind goes blank.

All a very long time ago.

Graham Fielder

The form may have existed in 1928, but as the first “Martlet” (the school magazine) did not appear until Autumn 1931, I am unable to confirm it. However, the list of prize-winners for 1930-31 shows that Form Alpha existed in that year. Speech day prize lists show that it existed throughout the 1930’s, but ended in 1944.

The prize list in that last year of 1943-44 lists two boys – A.G.Neill and A.S.Humphries.

The Martlet reports that from September 1944 there was no Form Alpha, but five first year forms (known as ) which were replaced by four in the following year.

I can only guess at the reasons for the demise of Form Alpha: the Education Act 1944 – entry age to Secondary Schools to be 11; rapid growth of pupil numbers putting pressure on accommodation and staffing, serious during the war years.

The form apparently had its own room, but the original one was dismantled in 1933 to make way for the building work going on at the time. I believe it may have been in the vicinity of the gymnasium – an Old Boy from that time may know.

David Cumbers

Form Alpha was a “remove” type form. My brother – John – and I were both in the form in the summer of 1938, our family having moved to Chichester in Easter 1938. John went on to the “A” forms and left school in 1942. I went on to the “B” forms and the 6th form, leaving in 1945.

(Note : a photograph of the boys of Form Alpha taken in the summer term of 1938 was included with the letter. Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to reproduce photographs in the Newsletter but if anyone would like to view the photograph it can be made available.)

The P.E. teacher in the photograph was Michael Colgan, but I don’t think he was the form master. I don’t remember the names of most of the other pupils. One I’ve met regularly is John Wickham who was a surgeon in one of the London hospitals until recently. He and I attend the Grasshoppers rugby re-unions so have kept in touch. He is next but one to Mr Colgan sitting on his right, and I am sitting next but one on his left side. My brother is sitting on the ground on the right end of the picture – the same side as me.

The Rev. Ken Clinch

Form Alpha was in existence when I joined the school in 1933. In those days there were two different streams – the paying pupils and the scholarship boys. The paying boys started in Alpha and went on from there to Form 3, 4b and the 5th forms (Arts or Science), where the Oxford School Certificate was taken. Scholarship boys began in 1a, then 2a, 4a, and the 5th form.

I started in 1a which was in the Chemistry Lecture Room at the north-east corner of the east quadrangle. Alpha were in Room 1 which was the first of the range of classrooms along the south side of both quadrangles. I can’t remember who the Alpha form master was – possibly Mr Gahan.

Peter Rogers

Peter Rogers now lives in Texas and is the CHALOBS American representative. He recently visited the U K with his wife and spent a few days on Jersey where his Mother was born. He met up with Geoff Wills – now a Jersey resident – who recorded the following notes during their meeting

Peter entered Form Alpha in 1942. Their form room was Room 2 and the form mistress was Miss Lewis. He remembers some names of fellow students in 1942 – Peter Wellington, John Turner (who later became an Architect) and “Ginger” Marshall. There was also a boy called “Goofy” Griffiths who received a “public thrashing” before the whole school and was subsequently expelled.

Peter also commented on various members of the teaching staff in his time at the High School: Miss Bishop – “a good looking girl”, Messrs Beaman (singing) Holland (arithmetic) Ashton (P.E.) Lambert (woodwork) Skey (geography) and Lloyd (English) He also remembered Miss Webber (French), but his comments regarding this lady were not recorded.

He also remembered the then Headmaster (Dr E W Bishop) being awarded his PhD and the whole school being assembled to hear the news and to applaud accordingly.

Geoff Wills

I was a member of Form Alpha in the last year of its existence – 1943-44. The Autumn Term commenced on the 16th September, 1943 and 27 boys assembled in Room 2 under the Form mastership of Oscar Lloyd. I recollect that one or two of the boys seemed to be repeating the year for some reason or another – names which come to mind include Davies, Gardner and Gauntlett, but I may be wrong. No one was addressed by their Christian name in those days!

Names in addition which I do remember include Page, Gostling, Harding, Peter White,, Neal, Lillywhite, Dennis, Neal, Tony Humphries, Barry Muddle, Ken Kendal – a current OC member together with Tony Hazell and Mick Gallafent – Symonds, Painter, Stephenson, Berniston, Woodrow and others.

We were taught by Oscar Lloyd (History) Miss Lewis (English) “Duchy” Holland (arithmetic, which did not include algebra or geometry!), Biology (Miss Bishop) Geography (also Miss Bishop – we were a fortunate class!) PE (Thomas) Art (guess who?!) Scripture (Gibbon) and Games (Ashton, I believe).

It was probably not common knowledge that Oscar Lloyd contributed on a weekly basis to the West Sussex Gazette under the pseudonym of “Strix”, whatever that name may mean, and also served in the forces not only the World War, but also in the Boer War.

Wartime conditions very much prevailed and there were frequent visits to the air raid shelters during the summer term of 1944 when the flying bomb raids (“doodlebugs”) were taking place. We were regaled in the shelters by Oscar Lloyd reading extracts from Treasure Island which at times were more frightening with the introduction of Blind Pew tapping his way along the road – and recorded in considerable dramatic tones by Oscar Lloyd – than the possibility of being blown up by a flying bomb! Other wartime memories of that time include the Liberator aircraft crashing on a laundry in Chichester with considerable loss of life, watching some of the members of the crew descending by parachute, and travelling to school by train with Italian prisoners of war to Chichester from their camp at Billingshurst.