St. Nicholas School, White Lion Road, Little Chalfont
By Peter Healy
On the site of what is now St. Nicholas Close, Little Chalfont stood a small kindergarten school between 1926 and 1962. The School had been started around 1925 in Loudhams Road by Miss Grace Harvey and Mrs Whittaker who ran it from its inception through to the late 1946s. In the 1920 and early 1930s, in line with many other schools of this period, you could be educated at St. Nicholas up to the school leaving age of 14. Miss Harvey, as head mistress, would ‘interview parents (of prospective pupils) on the day previous to the first day of term’ according to a 1930s prospectus. Fees were initially 5 guineas per term for kindergarten, 6 guineas for Juniors and 8 guineas for seniors over 11 years old with lunch at 1s per day.
School uniforms were obtained from Constance Glaze’s shop next door to the telephone exchange in White Lion Road. Girls uniforms included a brown serge tunic, a brown flannel blazer and overcoat with a mauve tie. In the summer, girls wore a brown and white Gingham dress. Boys wore a brown flannel blazer and shorts, a brown overcoat. Both indoor and outdoor shoes had to be brown.
From 1946 onwards, the school was operated by Mrs Rhona Prodger and her son, John although other staff included Hilda Dean and Rosemary Bloxham who taught what would now be called ‘Reception’. John (born c.1931) and Graham (born c.1936) both attended St. Nicholas in the Grace Harvey era and this is how Mrs Prodger knew of the school. For a year or so before she took over St. Nicholas, Mrs Prodger had run a small kindergarten school from a building near Chalfont & Latimer station. With Rhona in charge, the school continued as a kindergarten/Infant school with most pupils leaving St. Nicholas aged 7 or 8. Mrs Prodger, her son John and the other staff ran the school through to 1962 when they succumbed to the lure of property development on the extensive site, which stretched down to the railway embankment and the school closed.
Before moving to St. Nicholas, the Prodger family lived in Orchard Lane, Amersham, only a few houses from Hilda Dean and her family. Eventually Rhona Prodger’s son, Graham married Hilda Dean’s daughter Gill. Mrs. Prodger died a few years ago aged 106 while her teacher son, John died 20 years ago. Graham & Gill are still alive and living happily in Penzance.
Pupils – 1930s-1940s
Many local children attended St. Nicholas (wrongly titled Nicolas) on our postcard above. Early memories from Graeme Sills (who attended between 1936 and 1939) included being taught by both Miss Harvey and Mrs Whittaker plus the-mile-long walk from Church Grove to school with his elder sister, Lorna, who used to meet her school friend at the entrance to Village Way. Also, at St. Nicholas at that time and travelling from Church Grove was Michael Thomas, one of a three-generation family of ten. Michael remembers Miss Harvey being strict and the gentler Mrs. Whittaker, being a foil to her. He also thought the lunchtime food was inedible.
During World War II, Anthony du Parc, who still lives in the same Village Way house, also walked to school with his friend, Roger Preen. Anthony, who was at the school from 1942-48, clearly remembers his first meeting with Miss Harvey where he had to read from a book that she provided. There was one word that he couldn’t read – moustache – and Miss Harvey helped him with it, realising that the word was beyond Anthony’s reading age. He also remembers the air raid shelter in the garden and waving to the Great Central Railway trains that ran on the embankment at the bottom of the garden.
Other pupils from the Grace Harvey era included Barbara Webber who attended St. Nicholas from 1940 to 1945. She also remembers the air raid shelter.
Pupils – 1950s
The middle years of the 50s saw a group of local children as pupils some of whom met up again in their late teens and have stayed in touch, to a greater and lesser degree ever since. Among the group was Janice Healy whose 1954-word book is shown below and her younger brother Peter
• Piers Codling
• Jonathan Bliss
• John Robinson
• Susan, Sally & Nicholas Edwards
• Michael Rourke and
• Charles Day
Jonathan Bliss has the many memories of St. Nicholas’ life including hymn singing, school ‘houses’ with names like St George and St. Joan plus many friends from the era. Piers Codling remembered little of the school but found the picture below, which shows Piers’ birthday party with Peter Healy at the far end of the table. The picture was photographed in the Malt House restaurant in the Broadway around 1955.
Sue Edwards (now Brigden) has memories of quite a few pupils and staff from her era including a teacher, Mrs Millner together with a number of pupils including Diana Tubbs and Margaret Lines. She remembers an incident where the school guinea pigs had a brood of babies so the Millner family, including a son at St. Nicholas, took them home. Sue could still remember the lean-to cloakroom where we hung our outdoor clothes and changed our shoes.
Sue’s other memories are “… of sitting on the floor of the room at the back on the right cutting out photos of a royal visit abroad, amongst other things. There was also a classroom upstairs, on the left, I think. I think I recall Sailor who slept in a basket and who was I think a wire-haired fox terrier, or similar”.
Mike Rourke remembers being rapped over the knuckles, by Mrs Prodger if he was naughty. Sue Edwards has similar memories where the head mistress would prod a pupil and make a play on her name!
Among other pupils in this period was Bookey Scammell (now Booky Peek) who runs the Stone Hill wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe with her husband and son. Bookey’s father ran Scammell trucks in Watford – they manufactured 3-wheel tractor units for early articulated lorries. She has written several books about the wildlife reserve, but they all appear out of print.
Further pupils remembered from this era (for whom we have few details) include:
• David & Nigel LeNeve-Foster from a local Chalfont St. Giles family.
• Alistair Peebles whose father, Ian Peebles was a first-class cricketer.
• Angela Korda, who was a member of the Korda film dynasty
• Nicholas and Michaela Vandervell whose father, grandfather Tony ran CAV and Vanwall FI cars
• Johnnie Wyn-Williams.
• Martin Yerby.