Moreton End School

Compiled from the prospectus and notes in our archives

By Rosemary Ross

Prompted by Comments on Harpenden Cinemas left by 'old boys' of Moreton End School, we searched our archives (BF.21A).  See also John Wyborn's account of the school in wartime

Photo:Moreton End soon after opening - perhaps spring 1934 - with the first five pupils, including John Ryck Wolfe Lydekker, seated with the dog at this feet.*

Moreton End soon after opening - perhaps spring 1934 - with the first five pupils, including John Ryck Wolfe Lydekker, seated with the dog at this feet.*

Mr Best, Dalkeith Road

Photo:The first pupils - marked 1935, but likely to be 1933 - with John Ryck Wolfe Lydekker in the middle of the back row.

The first pupils - marked 1935, but likely to be 1933 - with John Ryck Wolfe Lydekker in the middle of the back row.

Mr Best, Dalkeith Road

Photo:The school assembled outside the front, with Mr Card, Headmaster, April 1939. In "It Started with a Green Line Bus", Ralph Webster lists the 37 boys and staff as recorded by the photographer, Oliver G Harvey of 35 High Street, Back Row: Barlow, Jeremy, Carter (Jnr), Wade, Samuels, Burt, Webster (Ralph), Downey, Hooker, Garrod, Richmond (Peter), Auerbach, Webster (Brian), Greaves. Centre: Hawkes, Carter (Snr), Jones, Williams, Isaacs, Adams, Kime (Snr), Boughey, Perkins, Richmond (John), Davidson (Jnr), Ross, Gregory, Johnson, Robinson. Front: Kime (Jnr), Fatty Chapman, Faulkner Lee, Randall, Mr McDonald, Mrs Card, Mr Card, Miss Morgan, Mr Ritchie, Hill, Chapman (Snr), Childs (Brian), Woods.

The school assembled outside the front, with Mr Card, Headmaster, April 1939. In "It Started with a Green Line Bus", Ralph Webster lists the 37 boys and staff as recorded by the photographer, Oliver G Harvey of 35 High Street, Back Row: Barlow, Jeremy, Carter (Jnr), Wade, Samuels, Burt, Webster (Ralph), Downey, Hooker, Garrod, Richmond (Peter), Auerbach, Webster (Brian), Greaves. Centre: Hawkes, Carter (Snr), Jones, Williams, Isaacs, Adams, Kime (Snr), Boughey, Perkins, Richmond (John), Davidson (Jnr), Ross, Gregory, Johnson, Robinson. Front: Kime (Jnr), Fatty Chapman, Faulkner Lee, Randall, Mr McDonald, Mrs Card, Mr Card, Miss Morgan, Mr Ritchie, Hill, Chapman (Snr), Childs (Brian), Woods.

LHS archives, donated by Mr Bell of Dalkeith Road in 1970s

Launch in 1933

Moreton End School opened in September 1933 in a large Victorian semi-detached house at 53 Luton Road, Harpenden. The first headmaster, Mr Victor Edward Hubert Card, had previously been a Maths teacher at Hardenwick School. For the first term there were five boys - Randall, [John] Lydekker, Faulkner Lee, Perkins and one other. The staff consisted of Mr Card and his wife Vera, who took on the role of Matron, and one male and one female teacher.

Photo:Staff in late 1930s

Staff in late 1930s

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x MacDonald collection

Photo:Mr and Mrs Card - Headmaster and Matron, with unidentified teacher

Mr and Mrs Card - Headmaster and Matron, with unidentified teacher

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x MacDonald collection

In the 1930s the average number of pupils was 36, including six boarders. Over 10% later qualified as doctors. In the period 1950-73, under Mr Billington's headship the number of pupils rose to 85. Girls were first admitted from September 1978, but only up to the age of 7.

Some pre-war memories recorded in notes made in the late 1970s

Term-time always began with "The Parable of the Talents". This would link to the Cup inscribed "TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH", which was presented annually on Sports Day. One recipient of this cup was Michael Hawkes, who was very nervous, almost afraid of games, but who later became a Cambridge rowing Blue.

Visiting speakers included the Sacristan of Westminster Abbey who told the pupils about preparations for the 1937 coronation; and a deep sea diver in his complete outfit, with underwater cutting tools, which he demonstrated in a large water-filled biscuit tin. The Headmaster's wife spent two hours afterwards mopping up the water.

There were visits to the Morris car factory (which they compared unfavourably with the methods used at Vauxhalls), to a local hat factory and printing works, and to Chatham Dockyard in 1939, with special permission from the Admiralty, since the fleet was preparing for war.

Photo:Physical training - later 1930s in the school garden

Physical training - later 1930s in the school garden

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x MacDonald collection

Photo:More exercises

More exercises

LHS archives, BF 21A.2x Macdonald collection


Photo:Football at Roundwood Park playing field, c.1940

Football at Roundwood Park playing field, c.1940

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x MacDonald collection

Photo:Cricket at Roundwood Park playing fields

Cricket at Roundwood Park playing fields

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x MacDonald collection

Sports included boxing, which took place once a week in the Badminton Hall in a nearby field, which was also used for the school fireworks. The Badminton Hall burned down during the second world war. Soccer and cricket were played on the school's sports field (now occupied by Roundwood Park School). The boys changed in the school cellar before walking up Moreton End Lane. 

Photo:School sports day - undated Herts Ad cutting.  Fathers against sons was a regular feature

School sports day - undated Herts Ad cutting. Fathers against sons was a regular feature

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x

After the annual sports day in the summer, parents and boys returned to the school for the presentation of prizes on the lawn, and tea provided by Mrs Card. On wet days, when it was too inclement for sports, there would be a lecture in the front ground floor room with an early epidiascope. The sheet used for the projection screen was a linen bed sheet dated 1874.

Photo:This play was a fund-raising event for Dr Barnado's - late 1930s

This play was a fund-raising event for Dr Barnado's - late 1930s

LHS archives - BF 21A.2x

School plays were also a feature of pre-war Morton End and were sometimes performed at Rothamsted Manor.

Note * John Ryck Wolfe Lydekker (known in the family as Ryck) was the son of John Lydekker who died in 1946 having never recovered from Ryck’s death. His sister Jane, in Australia, recalls the family's grief when Ryck drowned whilst trying to save his Ship’s Captain’s dog after being torpedoed in 1943.  He is honoured on the Harpenden War Memorial and in St Nicholas Church.

Ralph Webster, in "It Started with a Green Line Bus" (The Book Castle, 2003), devoted a chapter to Life at Moreton End School. He listed the approximate dates of the headmasters:

  • Mr V E H Card             1933-1939
  • Mr O'Hara                   1939-1940 (died at the school)
  • Mrs O'Hara                 1941-1945
  • Mr Codrington             1945-1950
  • Mr Billinghurst            1950-1973
  • Temporary HM            1973
  • Mr R A Cansfield         1974-1990
  • Mrs Angela Clements   1990-1995  


Photo:Moreton End School from the garden - possibly summer 1940

Moreton End School from the garden - possibly summer 1940

LHS archives, MacDonald collection, RB/BF 21A.2

Photo:The school group, marked 1937

The school group, marked 1937

LHS archives, BF 21A.2 Mr Best of Dalkeith Rpad

Photo:The school prospectus, annotated - c.1933

The school prospectus, annotated - c.1933

LHS archives, BF 21A.2 Mr Best of Dalkeith Rpad

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Moreton End School' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Moreton End School' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Moreton End School' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Moreton End School' page
Photo:Moreton End school photo, c.1946. The bank behind the group on which flowers are growing was actually an old WWII air-raid shelter

Moreton End school photo, c.1946. The bank behind the group on which flowers are growing was actually an old WWII air-raid shelter

Scan sent by Peter Ford

This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 15/12/2015.
Comments about this page

I attended Moreton End School from 1947 until July 1949. Mr Billington took over as Head during my time. Staff I remember were Mr McDonald, Miss Harrison and Miss Fontaine for Art on Saturday mornings. The sports field was at the top of Moreton End Lane. Our classes were held in a large hut divided into 3 classrooms. We then lived in Welwyn Garden City and I travelled by bus via St Albans. About 5 years ago I stayed in WGC and used the buses to come to Harpenden. The staff of the nursery school now occupying the house kindly allowed me to see the ground floor and to look into the garden. There is a replacement hut on the same site. I still have the programme for a production of Toad of Toad Hall which was given in a hall on the St Albans side of the town. Mr Martin played the piano very loudly! 

By Jim Maxwell
On 05/07/2016

I have just read the Moreton End School in Wartime page. Of course it was Mr Billinghurst who took over from Mr Codrington. I also now remember Mrs O'Hara. I was a border for my last term as my stepfather had taken a job in Manchester. I now live in North East Wales.

By Jim Maxwell
On 12/07/2016

Regarding Jim Maxwells comment, I too remember the 'Toad of Toad Hall' production as I myself played a non-speaking part of a small animal in that production! 'Toady' was going to be played by a boy named Errol Bishop but because of certain factors during the numerous rehearsals, he was replaced by a fellow named Crowson snr. The hall was on the East side of Harpenden Common.

Ed: it sounds as though the performance was on the stage of the Harpenden Public Halls.

By Brian Block
On 11/10/2016

I went to Moreton End School from September 1947 until July 1956. Mr Codrington was headmaster but shortly after I arrived Dr Billinghurst took over. His presence was rather intimidating for a young boy as he was very tall, gaunt and with a fearsome profile, accentuated by his prominent nose.

By Michael Jones
On 31/01/2017

Happened upon this site. Thank you for creating this! My parents owned The Silver Cup in Harpenden and I attended the school from circa 1950 to 1958. 

Billinghurst was quite dreadful and along with his (probably queer) assistant Pinkus, would enjoy giving me the slipper and pushing me back into class doing up my short trousers. I was probably around seven at the time.

Those of you who were there, would clearly remember the maths teacher and sports master Mr Phillips, who, if you got something wrong would pull your sideburn up painfully and slap you around the face. He blinded himself in one eye from an accident. He was however, a good teacher and a great Rugby coach.

Playing conkers was always memorable. One would either walk to school or take the bus if it was raining. One friend's name comes to mind: a chap whose last name was Ritchie ... 

I had bad asthma at the time from the awful yellow smog emanating from local coal burning. I was subsequently sent off to a school in Seaford, Sussex where my health improved immensely. 

Would love to hear from anyone who attended during my own period and their thoughts and experience. I am currently living in Northern California with my wife and three dogs.

By David Hyde
On 04/04/2017

Hi David, I was at the school too. I remember Billinghurst and Pinkus. A bit like a Carry On film with violence. I was hit by Phillips too, and for picking up a few conkers in the grounds of the Glen Eagles hotel received two weeks detention. My time at Moreton End helped me do OK in life. But not my happiest days. Best wishes Keith Sammels

By Keith Sammels
On 28/06/2017

I attended the school between 1949 and 1952. I don't know why my parents sent me there. I remember Mr Billinghurst who near terrified me, and who enjoyed administering the slipper. I also remember the matron who used to line us up once a week for a wooden spoonful of malt, not cleaning the spoon between boys.

There were two cousins in my class family name Parrich, and a very clever lad called Bamford.

There were 14 boys in my class. Our teacher was Mr B A Roberts. We were tested every week on Friday in all subjects  and given a class position and the next week we were sat in order of our positions the previous week.

I usually came about 5th and once achieved third. The academic standard was high. We wrote with dip-in pens and ink from inkwells. God help you if your work had blots on it (and mine usually did).

I think of it as Dotheboys Hall.* Ed. From Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.

By Adrian Mandel
On 12/09/2017

Hello David. I was there 1950 -57 so we may have known each other but sorry I can't remember. I was terrified of Billinghurst who was not a nice man in my opinion. Also his strange son (or so I thought) Pinkie. Billinghurst had a young and pretty wife who was much nicer. l also remember Mr Phillips pulling my sideburns till I was on tiptoes. I didn't do well there but thrived after I left. I remember a friend called Pryke but not well enough to remember his first name and another called Grundy I think who became a member of "the Zombies " pop group. Thanks for memories.

By Martin Underwood
On 24/10/2017


I was a pupil at Moreton End from 1957-1963 and, from what all of you have said, things had certainly not improved! 

The Maths Teacher we had was not Mr Phillips; it was Mr Thompson. The most violent of them all, he would work himself up into a lather by calling the unlucky lad whose attention he was then focused on, 'cheeky little rat' hitting them on the back of the head, then proceed to beat them in a sort of frenzy. I once saw him pull a 7 year old boy actually out of his desk and and lay into him with both fists.

The French teacher was Mr McCall. He once threw a wooden backed board rubber at me for talking in class, which hit me on my cheekbone under one eye. My eye closed up with swelling and my Mother complained the next day. He apologised to her but the next day, Billinghurst pulled me out of morning assembly and mocked me by saying "Timmy's Mummy came to the school yesterday and so on........" It was a fear-based regime, especially on the few school inspection days!

The whole Billinghurst/Pinkus thing was bizarre, if not perverse. In my time, Billinghurst had, by then, passed the corporal punishment thing over to Pinkus - a much stronger, fitter exponent of the art. To this day, I don't know what the set up between the two of them was but to give you an example of the mental place Billinghurst had arrived at by that time, he brought some of his cashmere cardigans down to class and made us all feel how soft the they were washed in Stergene! You couldn't make this stuff up, could you!

My friends and I loathed the place and when I went on to a Grammar School, after Mr Dad's death, my educational life took a huge turn for the better. 

If they were alive today, some of Moreton End's old teachers would be behind bars for the physical and mental abuse they dished out.

By Tim Whiteley
On 31/10/2017

Hello Everyone, I was at M.E. about the same time as you David Hyde. Yes I remember to this day the being lifted by the sideburns by Mr. Philips. It made the point, and my overriding opinion of him was that he very firm but fair, and a jolly good teacher, and as you say Rugby man as well.

Overall I enjoyed my time Moreton End. I remember the Saturday detentions that I got a good few of; I remember trying to convince my parents when I got home late (having missed the normal bus back to Luton), that I had stayed behind for extra Art lessons,. Of course they did not believe me, but it was one of those situations, that at that time my parents would have said "you probably deserved it". How times have changed.

By Keith Burgess
On 17/11/2017

Dear Fellow Old Boys

I clearly remember David Hyde, Martin Underwood and Hugh Grundy on this thread together with many others including the weekly boarders from Moreton End 1951-1958. David, twice I got taken into the Silver Cup to dry off when I fell into the pond.

I recall all the teachers including Mr Thompson throwing chalk (and sometimes the duster), Mr McCall walking to work from Leasey Bridge Lane and being given a lift home by E G Phillips on his motor bike. I am glad I discovered this site as there seems to be nothing recorded of the school after the arrival of Dr Billinghurst.

By Edmund Worthy
On 28/11/2017

I was at the school from early 1952 until 1957 and therefore cover much of the same period as a number of you. I completely underwrite all your comments about Billinghurst - he really sticks in the mind for all the wrong reasons. Was he not the cause of scandal, maybe sometime in the 70’s, and in the national press accused of ‘harassing’ certain young boys?

My abiding memory, as for many of you, is of Mr Phillips. In preparation for a school cricket match one Saturday he asked me around lunchtime to ‘organise the telegraph‘. So I dutifully went down to Hockadays, then the local newsagent, and bought for him a copy of The Daily Telegraph which I duly gave him on the pitch just before the start of the match - I think he was an umpire. It was only then, and he certainly hit me although I am thankfully hazy about the details, that I was given to understand that ‘the telegraph’ was actually another name for the scoreboard which I had apparently been asked to set up for the match!

I remember a few names of my contemporaries but one friend left a lasting impression - A boy called Hirschfield whose family lived in Luton and whose father took me with his son to my first Luton Town FC game - back then a first division team -comfortably beating Newcastle. Ever since I have been a lifelong Luton fan, having been to hundreds of games and still following them to this day from where I now live in Bucharest, in Romania.

By David Fuller
On 05/12/2017

I attended Moreton from the end of 1957-‘63. I recall similar events: -

  • Mr.Thompson, grey hair, linen jacket, red tie, lived in Nottingham, unmarried, good teacher if one didn’t object to rule by fear.
  • McCall wore a double breasted, dark blue pinstripe suit & had very greasy hair.
  • The staff room (cupboard) was revoltingly smoky!
  • I recall a kindly Mrs.Simpson in charge of 11b, (today’s Y2), at the top of the school.
  • ‘Pinkers’, Philip Billinghurst, was certainly strange (VERY!). He used to take us kids to games in Rothamstead Park in a big, green, Humber ‘woody’ estate car. He was a useful tennis player & balding in his early 20s ...creepy!...(super deluxe!)

I went on to St.Albans...largely happy memories but I was ‘academically capable’ thus able to avoid the worst of the violence!

By Tim Harbot
On 17/02/2018

Ii was a pupil here from 1970 to 1976. Billingshurst, Pinkhurst and Thomson were all still there when I arrived. Thomson was still teaching maths. I remember him shouting “stuffed owl” and any unfortunates that couldn’t grasp the subject followed by painful prodding in the side of the head with chalk or the wooden blackboard wiper hurled across the class room at them. Billingshurst/Pinkhurst retired and the school was run temporarily by a Mr Budds until a new owner was found. The next headmaster appointed was Mr R A Cansfield who indulged himself with paedophilic practices with some of the pupils and was sentenced to a long stretch in prison. The goings on at that school are almost beyond belief.

By Mark Jones
On 24/03/2018

I too was a pupil at Morton End in the early 50's and also underwent the mental & physical abuse handed out by Billinghurst, Pinkus, Phillips & co. Hair pulling, slapping around the face & open chastisement in front of the school. The slipper was often used while lying across the lap of Billinghurst. Standing outside the head's office with nose against the wall at playtime & dinnertime.

Unfortunately not being able to attain the high academic standard required I was also punished. This treatment left me with a lack of self worth, low esteem & no confidence.

Who would believe me I was at a "private school"?  After many years of almost denial I found someone who believed in me & was willing to listen it changed my life. I was then diagnosed with Dyslexia which was not recognised at that awful time.

On a chance comment about first school I googled Morton End and was shocked to find other pupils who underwent the same abuse, I thought I was the only one. Thank you for having the courage to do so and help me understand what went on. There are many names I recognise.

Thank you all.


By Anthony Singleton
On 21/08/2018

I can barely remember the exact years when I attended Moreton End 70-72, but lived not 100 yards away. What I do remember is the bomb shelter, we all queuing up to leap off the end above the old entrance.

Billinghurst, Miss Jones, mousetraps usually with dead mice in them ....curious school dinners, Small tin tables and chairs in sky blue. A wooden hut it seemed for maths by a teacher that would make you stand in the corner quite often. But my best memory was sports day....Rothamsted Park, we would march up the hill and through, whereupon The Herts Advertiser photographer there, to photo the obstacle race.......which I won..Philip Such coming second. The picture made it to the paper but have long lost it with Billinghurst staring down my throat to assure that the bun had been eaten and that I had won....curious times....I left and went to Beechwood Park. Thank you to the persons/people that have put this up to prompt my memory. 

Best regards James Selby

By James Selby
On 19/10/2018

I was a pupil from about 1963 to 65. It was an awful place. I was labelled the naughtiest boy in the school at some point. Detention on Saturday mornings. Mr McCall, greasy haired chain smoker. Mr Thompson, who we flicked ink up the back of his tweed jacket!  Miss Simpson wasn't much nicer either. Board dusters flying around the Nissen huts. As for Billingshurst and Pinkarse, no you couldn't make it up! Topsie the lovely boxer dog, the monkey puzzle tree in the playground, the same food every day each week. Other pupils at the time Christopher Baker - we travelled on our own to Stoke Newington to stay with his mum one weekend - Howard Graham, Charlie Down, Steve Parker, Reggie Holman,Nick Reynolds, Jeremy Andrews.... It seems a life time away.

By Doug Whitelaw
On 26/03/2019

Michael Middleton Green. Salisbury Ave. Harp. Attended ME..1955 to 64.

Every year we had to run that sprint 100 yard the main garden.

Since then I travelled the Globe for 30 years as a pilot and jungle surveyor. Been there done that..went on to Duke University, Naturopathic medicine... 

Currently enjoying life in paradise..Cocoa Beach Florida

Great to hear your stories..!

By Michael Middleton Green
On 13/08/2019

Wow!!! You've all awoken memories here!! I was at Moreton End for a few years in the mid-late '60's. I vividly remember Dr. Billinghurst, Mr Pinkus, Ms Jones (first teacher) then Mrs Simpson; Mr Thompson (maths or was it science??), crappy school lunches, the air-raid shelter, Billinghurst letting us watch Winston Churchill's funeral in his study TV, the main circular staircase and banister, sports days, conker fights, the 'Monkey Tree in the courtyard....

Parents had me removed after a couple of years after the French teacher - Mr Kursen? - put his fingers in my mouth and pulled my mouth apart! Not a very good introduction to schooling.

By Dominic Appleton
On 01/10/2019

Fascinating reminiscences from fellow contributors: thank you all. I attended Moreton End School from 1952 to 1958. Whilst avoiding repetition of the recollections of others I can add a few rather disjointed memories.

Dr Billinghurst the headmaster: parsimonious attitude to stationery: a "full" exercise book could only be replaced with a new one after a boy had confronted the gauntlet of Dr Billinghurst seated in a small upstairs room (stationery cupboard?) where he took delight in going through a boy's current book to find and delineate with a flourished pencil any, every and all unused blank spaces or partly used pages. His clear objective was to refuse the request; if any spaces were found and marked this resulted in him hurling back the exercise book to the boy for continued use. I'd be curious to hear if anyone else remembers this. Billinghurst taught Latin in the last two years of a pupil's stay at Moreton End: how immensely useful this has proven through life.

Mr Thompson ("Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry"!) had a schoolboy nickname of "Tommy Thompson". During his not infrequent outbursts - about which others have already commented - I recollect that he often projected his lower jaw so that its teeth overlapped those of his upper jaw: he had an animalistic response to whatever he regarded as provocation, but was an excellent Maths teacher if one co-operated.

Mr McCall's dress and appearance are accurately described by Tim Harbot. I have a recollection that Mr McCall may have had an Irish accent. Tim Whiteley mentions that Mr McCall taught French: I also have a recollection of being taught French by a Monsieur Garnier (short, rotund and inevitably nicknamed "Frog").

I concur with Tim Harbot's favourable mention of Mrs Simpson. It was she who taught one how to tell the time from a paper replica clock face and how to produce neat "joined up writing" using paper with pairs of parallel lines an x-height apart. Does anyone else remember the curly capital "Q" she was insistent upon - resembling the number 2 with a flourish? Was it also she (or another?) who took us up the often muddy - then unadopted - Moreton End Lane to a patch of open greenery down a short path on the right hand side (now Moreton End Close) for the Nature Study class where we were overlooked by the Nickey Line and the delights of its occasional passing train and wave from the train-driver.

Pinkus. Ah, Pinkus (various spellings)! Exact status and origins unknown, but tall with blonde hair and an Aryan appearance (somewhat resembling a young Christopher Walken?). May have had a continental accent (German?). Took some delight in the ritual of choosing which boys would ride with him to the school playing fields (at Roundwood Park, I think) in Billinghurst's Humber Shooting Brake vehicle. Pinkus had an interesting line in sneers (providing him with pleasure?) as he rejected some boys from accompanying him in the vehicle.

Pupils. "Ritchie" is mentioned (by David Hyde), I think that would have been Andrew Ritchie - a consistent top performer as I recall. (Later, successful inventor and manufacturer of Brompton folding bicycle). Alistair (or Alastair?) Mills a favourite of the kindergarten teacher(s) perhaps due to his then baby-like face? Edmund Worthy - I think you and I were in the same year's class at Moreton End after which we both progressed to St. Albans School.

And let's not forget that wonderful Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) in the playground at the side of the school. Or the blue and grey school uniform complete with striped blazers for the Summer and, of course, school caps emblazoned with overlapped "M" and "E". For those declining school lunches (hardly a surprise - if you remember pink blancmange, tapioca or spotted dick), the Oxo tins brought in from home and containing perhaps a sandwich and an apple.

Some contributors draw attention to the less savoury aspects of life at Moreton End School - but I think it gave me a head start in educational life that it took me quite a while to dissipate.

By Rod Terrett
On 15/10/2019

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