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Charles Toase interview: Early school years

Where did you go to school?

I don’t remember ever going to a primary school. The first school I remember was a boarding school in Worthing called Broadwater Manor House when I was seven. After that we moved from Wimbledon to Steyning in Sussex and I went to Steyning Grammar School which was a real old grammar school founded in 1614 one of the old traditional ones. I remember being there when George V died, because the school flag was at half mast and that was in 1936. A few years after that we came back to Wimbledon, lived in Panmuir Road and I went to Donhead, the preparatory school for Wimbledon College for a couple of years I think. It was while I was there that I and some of the other boys who were interested in collecting things started a museum club in the school. The other day I came across a badge with MC on it that reminded me of this. They gave us a cupboard to put things in – mostly rocks and minerals but then probably shrapnel as all schoolboys collected shrapnel in that war. So that was my beginning in museums.

What do you recollect most about your school days other than what you have just mentioned? Do you remember the teachers for example?

Yes. I remember not doing too much work. Hardly ever did my homework and always getting into trouble. I was a very lazy schoolboy until later when I went to a more inspiring school. Following on from Donhead this was the Blitz starting so my mother and I went to stay with friends in Worthing. There wasn’t a school evacuation. I went to Worthing Grammar School which as it happened was directly opposite my original school and then because of the threat of invasion – we were on the south coast – that school was evacuated to Nottinghamshire. I was billeted on a farm miles from anywhere with no services laid on – electricity, gas, sewerage, anything. The main thing I remember there was that there was a bath in the very large kitchen and a range on which the water was heated, taken in buckets and tipped into the bath, and everybody took it in turns to have a bath in the same water. Because I was a guest I was allowed to have the first bath.  I didn’t stay there very long because I wrote my first letter home and mentioned that I was sleeping in a large double bed with the grandfather of the family. My mother said “Oh no!” and whisked up to Newark which was the nearest town and brought me home again. So I went back to the school and a lot of the children came back – didn’t stay evacuated – came back of their own accord. Half of the school was in Worthing, run by the deputy head, and the other half was up in Nottinghamshire.