The Hitchin Site

Three Early Advertisements, from about 1910, and the History of Hitchin to 1984.


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Caldicott School was founded in 1904 by Mr J. Heald Jenkins, who continues to take a keen interest in the school. The object of the school is to ensure that the four or five years spent there lays a true foundation of character and learning, so that a boy receives a real preparation for future life in a Public School.
The question of food values has had the special attention of medical advisers, and there is a liberal allowance of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk, throughout the year.

It is at the Preparatory School that the foundations of learning and culture are laid down, and every effort is made to inculcate habits of conscientious study. House competition proves a big incentive to the latter.

Two playing fields provide ample scope for games, of which the main are Association Football, Hockey, Cricket and Tennis, and the Annual Athletic Sports are held early in the Summer Term. Gymnasium Classes are held in Winter Terms and Swimming is taught during the summer. Scouting is greatly encouraged and the School has its own Troop.

All precautions are taken to preserve the health of the boys. A careful examination of each boy is made twice a term by the School doctor, and an experienced trained nurse is on the resident staff.

The above notes give only a meagre idea of the principles and work of the School, but as such essential qualities as tone and atmosphere cannot be conveyed through this medium, a visit to the School is suggested as the only real way of forming a true opinion of the success of the methods and merit of the work.

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More History Notes: 

1904 - 1914 various extensions were added. The greenhouses were turned into a schoolroom cut into a wooded hill. The job was done without an architect by Messrs Willmott and Sons of Hitchin for £190. The school was so delighted with work that they persuaded them to dig out a little classroom called "A" for £45. The school accommodated 24 boys, and a trained nurse added to staff.

In 1909 the School Chapel was built. The architect was Mr Hayes of London, and the foundation stone was laid by Miss Emily Wood of Southport. The Chapel was in use by 1910. (Emily Wood was an Aunt of Gordon Wood and Miss Ingram who had joined the staff by then, she was also an aunt of Mr Heald Jenkins). A harmonium was bought for £25, and was used by Miss Guest LRAM, organist. It was christened by Mr Wood as Squeaking Jimmy, and when Miss Guest left, Mr Wood became organist.

1912 - The Scouts groups began. Gordon Wood was a very keen scoutmaster, and it became a strong interest of the school. Gordon Wood then joined the Navy in October 1914.


At a very early Scout camp - 1914

By 1915 additions to the school were complete. Boys have fond memories of the walnut tree - still standing in 1984. The dining hall was a long, somewhat dark room with leaded windows, 3 tables seating 6 or 7 a side, a big sideboard, service hatch and big bookcase (including issues of Punch back to No 1). Over the dining hall was the staff accommodation, Nurse MacKay and her sick room plus the famous medicine cupboard, one bathroom (two baths) and a toi1et!
On the floor above there were dormitories for boys. The school was gas lit - and one pupil has a dubious memory of some form of gas heating but that it was hellish cold in the grim winter of 1917 when even the gas-meter froze - no work was done that afternoon, and (Pony) Jenkins as the boys called him, read to the boys by lamplight. Outside the back door was a big classroom to hold 50-ish boys and a small classroom, "A". Alongside the big room was the quad or playground, asphalted, with space for minor rough and tumble games, exercises, and slides in winter. Above this on the tree-covered hill, dug into it was the two storey edifice,the ground floor occupied by carpenter's shop. Scouts built their handcart there. An outside stairway led to long multipurpose room with desks, ping pong table, two stoves, a big bookcase and tiers of lockers for personal effects. The third side of the quad had a corrugated bicycle shed and a small woodshed. Leaving the Quad there was a single storey building which housed the changing room for games with a tiled trough as a communal bath, boot lockers and toilets (right outside the dining hall), walnut tree overhangs on the right hand side and, above, steps leading to gym. The gym was the biggest room in the school and served for Speech Days, concerts and lectures, and could take 100 people. It had a high, raftered roof with climbing rope. On the left leaving the gym was the garage (a spendidly-polished though never-used Vauxhall Landaulette, a shed for Ranee the Shetland pony and trap and a pig-sty.


Punishment (the cane) was given in the private section of the house - usually followed by piece of cake to show no hard feelings. Pony Jenkins came around at lights out and to wake the boys up. A small room by front door was used as a day sickroom, and there were books and a gramophone (His Masters Voice) - with horn! There was a rookery up on the hill and owls used to frighten the boys with their screeches at night.

The main playing field was on the London Road about a quarter of a mile on the right after the Stevenage turn. It was later transferred to the left complete with Pavilion about three quarters of a mile further on.

On every Sunday at 11 o' clock a service was conducted in the Chapel by Mr Bindon. Each boy was given 6d to put in the collection box, which was added to the school bill.

Each Monday pupils were walked im a crocodile to Hitchin Town swimming baths in Queen Street. Baths were emptied every Sunday and refilled from the River Hia. School fees for April 1927 were £22/8/6.

The "San" was a dormitory. Mr Wood was Housemaster, had a cosy room with coal fires, and read to boys books like 'Dr Nicola' at bedtime. All had water jugs and basins for washing, but sometimes had to break the ice.

Near the end of the 1914-1918 war, Hitchin was bombed by a Zeppelin. All the pupils were in bed when a huge overhead rattling noise developed - like several express trains - followed by some loud bangs, and the ground shook. Mr Jenkins came round the dormitories and took all the boys down to the dining room where apples and biscuits were dispensed. Some of the staff took refuge (very sensibly in fact) under the tables, while others thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Next day a general expedition was undertaken to inspect some holes about 10ft across and 3 or 4 feet deep fairly near the railway.

The boys also used to help the war effort by working on the land. They were issued with a pronged device called a "spud" and dug up docks, followed by a lunch of bread and dripping. They also, in Scout uniform, went down town to an army canteen where they washed up thousands of cups of tea while stifling in steam and cigarette smoke.

1919 - Summer term - dedication of war memorial gate (on Walsworth Road) to pupils who died in the First World War - inscription


GF Batty HB Gould GB Hargreaves
B Chandler GT Goodman T Crodwell
BB George PWC Northcroft RB Hubbard
B J Stafford J W H Trenchard B D Adam
    A Parke

Methinks that death such as there has been gives the true measure of a man's worth.

Present at the dedication were all pupils, HM Mr JH Jenkins, Dr William Theodore Aquilla Barber (HM of The Leys, Cambridge) and Brigadier?

1919 - F Vereker Bindon appointed HM 1919 on probation for 1 year - became HM in 1920: J Heald Jenkins and his family moved to Letchworth in 1920

Mr Jenkins became interested in St Christopher's School.

1920 - Ephraim Dawson, Mrs Bettinson's gardener who had stayed on with the school, died.

1921 - Mr Jenkins leased 'The Lodge' to Mr Bindon 3/10/21. Mr Bindon and Mr Jenkins (?) lease all property to Mr F Gordon Wood around October 1921

According to the Caldicott School Magazine, Summer Term 1927, to the delight of the boys, Mrs Bindon learnt to drive and bought a Stellite which eventually would only go backwards and on being examined revealed it was minus many important and necessary parts. Mr Bucknall brought a Rover Sports car to the school and by the end of the term every boy had done something to add to the lustre of the aluminium bonnet but after a crash it was replaced by a Palladium. Later still a GN - known by the pupils as either the Great Noise or Great Nuisance - came to the school, but it appears that the boys did not think much of the 'perambulator on wide wheels with its tiny little squeak hooter'.

Mr Bindon left in 1927 - and Mr Gordon Wood took over responsibilities. He ran the school along with Margaret Ingram. The boys did not know they were related and often wondered why they did not marry.


1932 - Dedication and opening of organ in Chapel - mentioned in the Express May 23, 1932. (The door to Chapel was moved from the side to the front to accommodate the organ).

A proud group of Scouts in 1932
1936 - Margaret Ingram died, and a tablet was erected near her seat in Chapel. She had joined the staff in 1913

1936 - Gordon Wood MA and Mr J Shewell Cooper became joint headmasters of Caldicott School.

To Farnham Royal

1938 - F Gordon Wood surrendered the lease 1/3/1938 and the school moved to Farnham Royal (really Farnham Common, but as this was not considered too uplifting a name the Post Office was persuaded that it was really Farnham Royal - the school retained the name Caldicott School and is still in operation).

The Hitchin Property was taken over by the War Office. Among those stationed at Caldicott School prior to going overseas were:
200th Field Ambulance RAMC - March to June 1940
2/4 Bn Royal Hampshire Regiment - May to November 1940
22nd Anti Tank Regiment 1942 to 1943.

1944- 1945 - Mr Jenkins sold the property to Col JF Harrison of Kingswalden who presented it to the Hitchin Youth Centre Association Ltd 29/11/44. By coincidence one of the ex pupils served with Col Harrison during the Second World War with the Royal Horseguards. 1947 - Department of the Environment made extensive alterations to internal amenities and it was leased to a succession of Government Departments.

HYC sold the caretaker's lodge to provide funds for a new youth centre building.

1984 - Spring - several sets of the fancy chimneys were removed as they were considered unsafe.

1984 - August - Hitchin Youth Centre decides to close its doors and all the buildings and grounds put up for sale for redevelopment.