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News > Alumni stories > Ken Mortimer talks to us about Moulsford when it first opened in 1961

Ken Mortimer talks to us about Moulsford when it first opened in 1961

Son of one of the founders, Ken and his brother Rod were amongst the first intake of boys at Moulsford Prep School.
11 Oct 2022
Alumni stories

Looking back on the school’s 60-year history, we took the opportunity to talk to Ken about when it was first established. He told us that in 1961, his father, Alistair Mortimer and John Hale, who was the financial backer of the venture, bought the site off Cranford House School in order to start an all-boys prep school. When Moulsford first opened with a class of thirteen pupils, all roughly the same age, Ken’s father was its first headmaster and teacher, whilst his mother was the matron, cook and cleaner. The number of pupils increased significantly over the coming years as the school expanded and evolved. 

Can you tell us what the site looked like back in the 1960s?

There was one building, which was the main Victorian school building that you see today, and everything was located there, from the main classroom to the dining room and the boarding house above. Outside, there was a walled garden and a vegetable patch. It also had an outdoor swimming pool (not the same one as today), and extensive grounds down to the river. There was also a wooden gym, which was replaced long ago.

What was it like being in such a small school?

Well, it was fun, everyone knew everyone very well. I remember a lot of the names even so many years on, Brian Purdifer, Hura Padavash, Phil Tarry, the Grants and Nick Parrish all come to mind. I know Colin Roper was one of the first staff to join, teaching us PE and Maths I think, and he lived at the top of the drive. Dad taught all the other subjects including Latin, which was his favourite, although no one else’s. Meanwhile, mum looked after so many aspects of the school, acting as matron, cooking all the meals on the Aga in the school kitchen, and keeping the place shipshape. We slept all year round in the dormitories, not just term-time, as I was one of four children and the Headmaster’s flat didn’t have the space for us to have our own rooms. At least, we didn’t have to unpack when the term started!

It was a slightly odd arrangement, and I can’t say we were close as a family. Mum was always there for us, but dad could be quite distant as Headmaster, and we referred to him as Sir. He put his all into being a successful Headmaster.

What sports activities and excursions did you have at school?

I remember having access to a football field and cricket pitch, and there was a gym facility, which had bars on the wall for exercises, which was shared with Cranford House. We used the swimming pool in the summer, and of course, often had a swim in the Thames too. I also recall a sailing boat, which was there for the use of the boys, which provided us with lots of fun! I remember that in the winter of 1964 the river froze over, and we were able to walk across the Thames, much to dad’s disapproval.

At weekends, we were sometimes all hoofed into the blue Bedford van and set off to a farm for the day. One time we built a 34-foot-long tunnel in the haystacks, and had a great time of it!

What are your fondest memories of your time at Moulsford?

I think I most enjoyed lazing on the river, playing in the grounds on summer days, and of course, having my first cigarette behind the hedge on the upper paddock. I remember many games of hide-and-seek in the school building, which was the perfect warren for it.

How long were you at Moulsford?

I was only there a relatively short time, as dad moved on to become Headmaster at All Hallows Prep School in Somerset in 1964. In any case, the time had come for me to sit my common entrance exams, and I move on to senior school. I do remember the Moulsford days with great fondness.

Have you visited the school since?

Most recently, I visited Moulsford for the 50th Anniversary Party, when my late mum Maureen was also able to attend. My brother Rod and I were also planning to go to the 60th Celebrations in September this year with our wives, and we hope to make it when it is rescheduled. It is always interesting to see how much the school has developed and come on since we started there back in 1961.

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