Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Helbert/Brymer Era, 1897-1922

Sent in by Sir Edward Ford – His twin’s letters

Extracts from Christopher Ford’s letters from West Downs 1919-1923 (1922 unfortunately missing)

1919, Nov 11

We had a Shakespeare play yesterday it was called “Julius Caesar.” It was acted by the Top dormitory.

Dec 7.

The French play was very nice. Its name was “L’avocat Patelin.” We (1st year) sang a song called “Cadet Rousselle.”

1920, Feb 1st

We had a lecture last night. It was about the iclipses of the sun, moon and stars. Mr. Rose gave it it was most awfully good. Today we went a walk with Mr. Ledgard and he told us some lovely stories.

A new paper has come out in memory of Mr. Helbert’s death. It is called the Hesperid.

Feb 15

We had a lecture last night. Mr. Benson gave it it was most awfully good.

Feb 29.

Yesterday evening, Mr. Hulay came to give us a lecture on Flying Reptiles it was most awfully good.

Mar 9

Mr. Ranger gave a lecture on Kashmir..

June 13

Yesterday being kept as Mr. Helbert’s birthday we had a day off. The timetable was

1 Get up; 2 Cold plunge; 3 Downstairs; 4 Breakfast; 5 San Prep; 6 Chapel; 7 Shakespeare; 8 Milk & biscuits; 9 Get rasions (rations?); 10 March to Stokes Down; 11 Game of cricket; 12 Lunch; 13 Went home; 14 Shakespeare; 15 Swimming sports; 16 Late gym; 17 Tea; 18 Scramble for sweets in Gym; 19 read book in class room; 20 Shakespeare; 21 Sing-Song; 22 Milk and biscuits; 23 Up to bed; 24 Good night.


Today we had the Peacock Cup, Edward and Holland-Martin competing. Edward played and Holland-Martin sung. They sang and played “The King of Heaven.” The winners were Brocklebank and Richardson, Brocklebank the organist and Richardson by far the best singer in the school Dr. Fellowes who is the father of a boy here came down to judge, played some of the best music on the violin that I have ever heard. He first began with music that was made up in the olden days and worked up to modern days. One of the best pieces was made up by a grandfather of one of the boys.

July 11th

Today Malcolm McCorquodale and Bobby Bostock (two O.W.D.s who had gone to Harrow) have come. Mr. McCorquodale had given £100 to Mr. Helbert and it is going to be given to us in form prizes for the scripture exam this term, one boy in each of the form years.

I have got some caterpillars and some criselises (chrysalises) in the Caterpillar tent. There is a most lovely garden tiger moth up there. I belong to the Caterpillar Club. The head of it is a boy named Cripps.

Mr. Kirby is having an operation up at the Nursing Home, so that Mr. Brymer is taking IIa.

July 25

On Monday Mr. Kirby died up in the Nursing Home and he ...

Oct 17

Mr. K.B. Tindall gave a lantern lecture on England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

Oct 31

Yesterday evening the masters acted a most topping and spanking play, of two parts, one was serious and the other very funny. I will tell you all about it .. The story was called “The Bishop’s Candlesticks” ... The second was how Mr. Watmuff and his nephew try to freeze Mrs. Whatmuff.

5 Nov

Last night Mr. Wyatt gave a lovely concert, in which Cousin Guy (Stephenson) took part. He started by a waltz and wistled (sic) the tune, and then some marches.


Today being the anniversary of Mr. Helbert’s death, Mr. Nowell-Smith, HM of Sherborne, came down and preached. And we had special decorations and special hymns etc, etc.

13 Nov.

Yesterday there was a Shakespeare play in which I acted and Mr. Tindall said it was far and away the best this term as it was not foolish like other ones. It was “Romeo and Juliet” and I took the part of Paris and was killed on the stage.

12 Dec

Last night Mr. Rose gave a first rate lecture on Electricity He worked a lot of things but at the end he gave us a little shock and he had an electric machine which he fastened to a man shooting at birds. As the machine started the bird flew up and the man shot a kind of flame and hit the bird.


Jan 30

Yesterday Mr. Benson gave a lecture with the lantern: it was on water and ice: he showed us a good many pictures of such things as the Niagara Falls, etc.

My Form Master is Mr. Rawson and I like him very much.

Feb 20

Mr. Brymer gave a very interesting lecture on India. He was out there and took a good many slides himself. He also described his journey.

Mar 6

Yesterday we had a sing song. Mr. Perry Gore did some very good tricks and he had me onto the stage to help him.

Mar 20

We have had three lantern lectures in Chapel. Mr. Tindall has got a lovely new one which he can fit up in Chapel at any time as the wires have been connected. The hand-painted slides are the best in the world. On Good Friday we are going to have a lecture of all the hand paintings on “The Passion.”

May 29

We are having a collection for the Waif, to which I am giving 3/- exactly, which I consider quite enough. I have not twice as much as that.

June 12

We are having a whole holiday tomorrow, as it is the anniversary of Mr. Helbert’s birthday. We are going to the New Forest in charabancs for lunch and tea.

July 3

On Friday evening “The Merchant of Venice” was acted. Yesterday was the “Paters’ Match.” We had a big band of the 6th Battalion Hampshire Pioneers, who were very good and played during the whole of the afternoon.

Many people were down, whom you know. They were Guy Stephenson, Lady Florence Norman, Peg Antrim, Dicky Antrim, Lady Sybil Smith and family, Mr. Mrs. and Miss Buxton, Lady Phippa, Mr. Harris, E. Talbot, etc

July 10

We had two matches yesterday against the OWDs.

This morning we had a Holy Communion Service — Edward and I both went. A lot of OWDs also attended the service.

July 17

Today Mr. Ledgard is going to read us either “Three Men in a Boat,” “Sherlock Holmes” or “The Unlucky Family.”

Nov 27

The two boys we sent up for Common Entrance — Harcourt and Brocklebank — both passed into the Remove, which is the highest you can get.

Dec 4th We had a Shakespeare play. It was “Othello,” a very good play.

I am sorry I can write so little. My fingers are numb.

Dec 11

Yesterday a very good Shakespeare play was acted. It was called King Lear ... Poor old King Lear was extraordinary unhappy when his daughter Cordelia died, and he fell down dead very sympathetically and really with Cordelia in his hand.

Dec 18

Yesterday we had a topping time. We started with getting out of bed, which was quite necessary and usual, then we had breakfast. After breakfast came Chapel, where we had to have practice for the unveiling of the War Memorials. Both the War Memorials (i.e. the School’s and the West Hill one) were unveiled by Mr. Nowell-Smith. They are both beautifully done.

1923. Jan 28

There are two new masters this term. One is Mr. Nurden, who takes Edward’s form, and Mr. Ponsonby, who is wicket keeper for Worcestershire.

Yesterday evening we had a very nice lecture on birds, given by a certain Mr. Onslow.

Feb 4th

I have played fives twice this week, once with Edward, who I beat 15-8, and once with Mr. Ponsonby, the new master who beat me 15-8.

Feb 11.

Yesterday we had a sing-song in the afternoon, in which some quartets by the masters were very good. And after tea we had a comic lecture with funny stories on slides.

Feb 15

Yesterday we had a lantern lecture called “Wonders of the World.” It had very good slides, many of which changed from day to night.

Mar 11

Yesterday evening we had a sing-song, which was not of first rate class, but it had to be got up in a day, so there was not much time.

July 6th

Today there is going to be a full rehearsal of the Shakespeare play (As You Like It). I am acting as Charles, wrestler to the Duke. I am unfortunately thrown by Orlando, who is a boy who is half my size.

Supplied by his twin brother, Sir Edward Ford