A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
UPFIELD PREPARATORY SCHOOL FOR BOYS, Stratford Lodge, Stroud
by Richard Barton
Stratford Lodge was built in the early 19th century. It was the last home of Walter Stanton M.P
The Stroud Journal of 5th June 1875 has this advert for Stratford Lodge:
“Stratford Lodge to rent for £80. Dining and drawing rooms. Library. 4 bedrooms, 3 dressing rooms, kitchens, pantry, attics. Stabling for 3 horses, flower garden, croquet lawn, large kitchen garden. Advertised by Mr Clark, Bookseller, Stroud”
‘In the immediate post-war years many parents were unable to find a satisfactory Boys’ School in the Stroud area. Upfield Boys’ Preparatory School was therefore opened at Stratford Lodge in September 1949 to meet this need.’
This succinct account of the school’s history introduces the school prospectus, a copy of which was given to my father when I was enrolled into Form I during the summer of 1966. Upfield flourished for over twenty-four years under its founder, Mr John Buchanan Nelson, who was born on 26th June 1912 and who died in 1989. The school was then given a new lease of life, under Mr Tony Smith, as ‘Nelsons School’. The school eventually closed its door in the summer of 1988. Now that Stratford Lodge is a thriving eating house its days as a school will soon be forgotten even though former pupils are still able to identify the old flagpole situated near to the roadside which proudly proclaimed to the people of Stroud, each week, whether red house or blue house was in the lead. Although my connection with the school only lasted three years I feel something of the story should be recorded. This was confirmed for me when I recently visited Sue Nelson and discovered that she has carefully preserved record cards of former pupils, photographs, films and other ephemera – a treasury of memories of the old school.
Obituaries generally appear at the end of a biography but the one provided below, by Adrian Liddell Hart, offers a good place to begin the story and helps us to identify something of the ethos of Upfield.
Writing in the Stroud News and Journal, for 22nd June 1989, Mr Hart provided the following vignette of John Nelson:
‘One of life’s beloved teachers. Sir, – The death of John Nelson comes, sadly, after the recent closure of the Stroud school that he founded 40 years ago and which, after his departure in 1973, proudly bore his name. For a quarter of a century he actively contributed to the human development of our community as a generation of Nelson’s pupils and their families would testify. I may speak as an old friend and neighbour, from his original move to Stratford Lodge, that had belonged to my family – and where I now watched others playing under the headmaster’s eagle eye.
John Nelson was a forthright man whose ideas on education (to say nothing of co-education) might seem old-fashioned, as did those requirements in behaviour that reflected his own upbringing and war experience as an artilleryman. He proved, however, that these were what many parents in the neighbourhood wanted and were ready, though of modest means, to pay for. His retirement was only brought about by serious illness.
Characteristically, he fought back from his lung cancer operation. Soon, gaunter than ever, he was seen roller skating at the Leisure Centre in Gloucester, on which he used to descend from his rural retreat near Newent where he was looked after by his ever-attentive wife and indefatigable riding companion. It proved, too a good match with Susan, though it had caused some surprise to the neighbours when the headmaster had married a local girl who then seemed little different from the older boys involved in his outdoor pursuits.
At his simple funeral last week we were pleasantly surprised, too, when his well-trained Labrador also walked behind the coffin and sat quietly in the front row while the Reverend John Roberts, who had assiduously attended the school as vicar of Whiteshill, reminded us of once-familiar (and sometimes disturbing) feature of Nelson’s life: the donkey, the peacock, the motor-bike, as well as the much used canoe and skis…
Stern, forbearing, courteous, light of touch; one of life’s beloved teachers; one of the life-givers.
Adrian Liddell Hart The Castle, Stroud.’
The School is pleasantly and conveniently situated; Stratford Lodge being at the Stroud end of the Stratford Road and within easy reach of the Town Centre and all bus services.
The classrooms are large, light and airy. Careful attention has been given to lighting, heating and arrangement of desks.
The School is a Boys Preparatory School with a Pre-Preparatory Department. The age range is from 5 to 14, or 15 years. Pupils are prepared to the common Examination for Entrance to Public Schools and for scholarships where ability warrants it.
Pupils whose parents clearly state that they prefer to take advantage of Government Education may be prepared for the Grammar Schools Examination, which is taken during the year in which they reach the age of eleven.
The size of forms is such as to combine the maximum of individual attention with a competitive spirit.
Pupils are normally expected to join the School at the age of five. Entry forms can be obtained on application to the Headmaster and should be completed and returned with an Entry fee of 2 gns.
Application should be made well in advance as the School is full and has a waiting list.
Entry can be accepted only for the term in which the pupil reaches the age of five or for the term immediately following his fifth birthday.
Pupils of other ages can be accepted only when a suitable vacancy arises and should join when called upon to do so. A vacancy cannot be kept open after a pupil has reached the age of five and/or has been called upon to enter.
The building and development of character is an important part of education. The School provides every incentive for self-reliance and self-discipline together with the principle of service to others.
The atmosphere of the school is definitely Christian. Morning Prayers are conducted daily and the School Padre visits the School twice a week.
Discipline is firm and boys are encouraged to stand on their own feet. Curriculum
The general form subjects include Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, French, Latin, History, Geography, Divinity and General Knowledge.
Games Association Football and Cricket are the main school games and are arranged to take advantage of the best weather. Swimming is taught in the Summer Terms only.
Various other sporting activities are encouraged.
All boys are expected to take a full part in games unless excused on medical grounds or by the written authority of the parent.
The School has its own Projector and films of educational and entertainment value are screened from time to time.
A film Scrap Book is also made covering various aspects of School life.
Television is available on suitable occasions.
Carpentry and Basketry work
There are carpentry classes for the older boys in which much of the work is done in soft wood. This encourages a high degree of skill with the hands as well as patience. The usual Tools and good Fret Machines are available. A wide variety of articles is made.
School Lunches are provided at the Laurels Hotel.
The charge for lunch is now 2/9 per day (13/9 per five day week) payable on Fridays as detailed in the appropriate paragraph. The staff lunch with the boys so that adequate supervision is assured.Lunch money together with savings (the school runs a savings group) should be brought in a sealed envelope clearly marked with the boy’s name and stating the amount enclosed. Boys are expected to lunch either at home or with the school and are not permitted to visit local cafes or restaurants unaccompanied.
A careful watch is maintained over the health of all boys. In the event of a boy being kept at home through illness parents are requested to notify the headmaster. The School health certificate will be returned duly signed at the commencement of term. Boys are weighed at the beginning and the end of term and their weights entered on the school report.
Milk (hot or cold) is served during “break.”
9.0 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. 1.45p.m. to 4.0.p.m.
The Pre-Preparatory Department finishes at 3.30 p.m. No homework is set.
Saturday is a holiday.
Lower Forms one prep. Middle Forms two preps. Top forms three preps. Each prep. Is of half an hour’s duration.
All pupils are required to wear the full school uniform obtainable from Daniel Neal & Sons Ltd., Clarence Street, Cheltenham. Every item of clothing must be clearly marked with pupil’s name and initials.
The School Year.
The school year consists of three terms each of about twelve weeks duration. Terms begin in January, May and September.
Remission Scheme No reduction in fees can be made due to absence. Parents can however participate in a policy subscribed by Lloyds Underwriters and so save the wastage of school fees which absence involves. Particulars of the scheme are available on application.
The Headmaster is usually available between 8.30 and 8.55 a.m. and 10.45 to 11 a.m.
The Headmaster is generally available for interviews by appointment on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday preceding the commencement of each term. Other appointments can be made by arrangement in advance.
Notice of Removal.
A term’s notice in writing or a term’s fees in lieu of notice, is required before the removal of a pupil. The school reserves the right to request the removal of a boy should he prove inadaptable to the conditions and requirements of the School.
Lunch at the prices stated
Swimming tickets charged at the rate in force at time of purchase.
(Optional) Pianoforte 3 gns. Per term.
Payable in advance and due during the week preceding the commencement of term.
Age 5 to 7 years – 20 gns. per term.
Age 7 to 8 years – 25 gns. per term.
Age 8 to 10 years – 27 gns. per term.
Age 10 years and over 30 gns per term.
Additional Hobbies include motor cycling as an optional extra.
Note This prospectus cancels any previous prospectus and is subject to revision without notice.’
An additional note tucked in the back of the prospectus gives a clothing list and a reminder that all pupils must wear the correct School uniform although stating that certain articles of Sports Clothing were not compulsory for boys in the Junior School. The articles included – School Blazer (4 gns.), Grey Flannel shorts or trousers, Grey Cord shorts, Grey pullover, Navy rain-coat, Grey flannel shirt with collar attached, School cap (12s 6d), School tie (7s 6d), School football shirt, House football shirt (blue), Black or navy football shorts with elastic tops, White sweater, White cricket shirt and White flannel shots or trousers. Footwear included Grey stockings (supplied in summer and winter weights), Football stockings, Cricket socks, Brown or Black leather walking shoes, House slippers or sandals, White gym shoes, Cricket boots or shoes, or white gym shoes and Football boots. In addition parents were reminded that all articles of clothing were to be marked with Cash’s name tapes and each shoe, boot and slipper clearly marked by other means. Gloves and scarves were optional, but gloves, if worn, must be grey and scarves, if worn, must be of regulation school type.
The bill from Daniel Neal for my school uniform, in July 1966, was £14-8-0d. In November my mother made further enquiries and she was informed that an Upfield School scarf would cost 15s 6d, gloves 8s 11d, a red school football jersey 23s 6d and a navy one 19s 11d. I still have my school cap, tie, and school football shirt.