John Withers

1964 - 1965. The end of an era - the beginning of an era.

John Withers, transcribed by Tess Taylor.

Chipping Campden Grammar School began life in the 15th century and continued as such into the second half of the 20th century – quite an achievement by any standards.

Whilst we may not know exactly what the school was like back in the 15th century there are still quite a few number of people who will remember the ‘passing’ of the Grammar School in 1964-65.

Let me try to give a ‘snapshot’ of the school in its final year with Grammar School status and put it into some context:-

  • All students were born in the second half of 1940s through to early 1950s
  • Students probably around 370 in total
  • Travel to school was by foot, bike, bus or train (diesel replacing steam by the early 1960s)
  • Students were born after the end of WW2 and would have been subject to food and other rationing as younger children
  • Older students would remember gas lamps, paraffin heaters, outside toilets, the wireless and days before television and telephones

In the heady days of the ‘Swinging 60s’ we were treated to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Carnaby Street, Mods and Rockers with scooters and motorbikes, TV, transistor radios and personal cassette players, the first satellite in space, the first UK motorway ans James Bond films.

  • The world was in a state of turmoil with the Cold War, the Cuban Missile crisis, the assassinations of President John F Kennedy, and Martin Luther King and the death of Winston Churchill

So what of the school itself?

  • No swimming pool was available at the school, so lessons were taken at Broad Campden Baths – a stream fed open air pool.  Transport by own bike.
  • Inoculations/vaccinations – were undertaken class by class in a very low ceilinged room in the High Street, near the Old Grammar School.  I remember coming out looking and feeling very green from the smell of whatever the nurse used to swab your arm before the ‘jab’.  Strangely that nausea lived with me for many years after when visiting hospitals.
    • Curriculum: core subjects to GCE ‘O’ level, having switched to Languages or Technical streams in the third year. Streaming to Science or Arts for ‘A’ level studies.
    • Sports: Football, cross country, cricket and athletics for the boys. Hockey, netball, tennis and athletics for the girls
    • Teachers – how could I say anything other than a splendid group of long suffering people who had to put up with all of us ‘kids’ for at least 5 years and mould us into someone able to go out into the wide world and deal with all that it could throw at us. Seriously, they were a wonderful group of teachers – and much appreciated.

      Other Activities

      • Art (after school) held in the Old Grammar School building in the High Street
      • ATC (the Grammar School had its own Squadron)
      • Junior History Society / Railway Club / School Choir and probably other clubs
      • The original main block of the school is still easily identifiable but accompanied by a variety of wooden buildings.  Approaching the school from the old drive bike sheds were on the left and immediately in front and just past the main block was the woodwork / metalwork hut.  Beyond that heading towards the sports pavilion was a ‘temporary’ hut housing a classroom, the domestic science room, and a small locked room used for storage of Air Training Corps (ATC) equipment and kit. At the other end of the school opposite the then girls cloakrooms were two further wooden classrooms, beyond them the dining hall.  One further room, a more substantial structure beyond the dining hall housed the Physics lab. & sixth form common room
      • Through 1964/65 there was a large amount of building work being done – during which school had to function as normal.  The school hall was being extended, a swimming pool was being built, temporary buildings were due to be replaced and much more.  Entrances were closed and new ones opened.  What seemed to be miles of chestnut paling appeared and was moved on a regular basis to keep school functions and building works safely apart.  Some may say chaotic but it was organised chaos and the school functioned very much as normal despite the noise and being right in the centre of this major building site.
  • As the hall was being rebuilt morning Assembly had to be moved to the dining hall, which was not large enough to accommodate all pupils.  So a tannoy system was set up with links to the Physics lab and one of the adjacent wooden classrooms.  A little Heath Robinson, but it worked.
  • I left school in 1965 having stayed on a further year to retake A levels as I did not feel my results were good enough.  I studied Chemistry, Physics and Maths and had a place at Brunel to study Plastics Technology.  My final year was also the final year of the Grammar School and I had the privilege and great honour to be Head Boy.  Having completed studies I had a change of mind, decided that industry was not for me and went into banking, following my best friend who had done so the previous year.
    I thought I would try it for a few months, stayed for 31 years, took early retirement as a Corporate Lending Manager then took up agency work which afforded me the flexibility to do charity work – particularly humanitarian aid work to Croatia, which as needs changed, developed into more specific work with various institutions, setting up links between professional bodies in Croatia and UK.1964-65  the end of an era?  No – a new era started in 1965-66 with a much enlarged school which has gone from strength to stength andcontinues to prosper well into the 21st Century.

John Withers.


This page was added on 22/03/2015.

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