England: John's Senior School during the 1960s

Figure 1.--Here I am at 13 in my school blazer and my cap thankfully gone, although I wish now I had kept it as a memento. Notice the badge and piping on the blazer.

My senior school was called The Shrubbery--a tiny private school. It was a very small school indeed. There were a total of ten in my class when I first started there, 6 boys and 4 girls. By the time I was 16 we were down to 7 of us. The year below mine was the biggest, with 20 pupils. The average class size was around 15 pupils. My parents sent me there because my Junior School headmistress said I was too quiet to survive in a big school. I wasn't told this until quite recently, but looking back I think they were probably right to send me there. It was a very happy, homely school. [HNC note: "homely" in Brit English means "homey" in American English. To Americans "homely" means ugly.] And it was a mixed school, i.e. there were girls there too. I think mixing girls and boys probably made it more civlised than an all boys school. Like most children, I appreciate my old school more in retrospect than I did at the time. But even before I left The Shrubbery, I recognised that my Art master and English mistress had given me an appreciation of those subjects that would last a lifetime.

The School

The Shrubbery School had Kindergarten, Junior and Senior departments and was accommodated in two large 18th or 19th Century houses on the outskirts of Cambridge (The English University city). Unfortunately the school no longer exists. It had always been run by the same family, and I think it closed down when my headmaster retired around 10 or 15 years ago. There has been at least one reunion, which I was not able to attend, but I'm hoping there may be others in the future.

Our Uniform


Our cap was plain grey with the school badge on the front. They were not very popular with us boys. We had a ceremonial burning of them in the meadow behind the school at the end of the third year, when we no longer had to wear them. We all hated the caps. This was mainly because a school cap marked you out as attending a private school, so you were more likely to be picked on by kids from the mainstream schools. None of the local state schools still had caps as part of their uniform (I think in the US you'd call them Public Schools, whereas in the UK a Public School is a very expensive private school). We felt really aggrieved because we had to wear them for a year longer than any of the other private schools, until we were 14 years old! While I can not remember discussing school clothes with my schoolmates, the one exception was the cap. I think I could sum up the discussion as: "It's not fair." "I hate wearing a cap." "I'll be glad when I can burn it." I remember that kids from other schools used to grab our caps from our heads and play frisbee with them, while we frantically tried to get them back, knowing we'd get lines if we turned up at school without a cap the next day.


Figure 1 shows me in the Shrubbery School blazer, aged 13. It was grey, with red and silver piping around the edges, bright metal buttons, and the school badge on the breast pocket.


At some Senior Schools, mostly the private ones, boys still had to wear shorts in the first year or two. The Shrubbery gave pupils the choice of wearing long or short trousers in the first year.

I chose to wear long trousers when I entered senior school, of course, because I wanted to be grown up. I soon regretted it though. My new school suit was made of a woollen material, and the trousers made my legs itch and prickle. I wished I'd stuck to my comfortable old shorts, especially as two of the other boys in my class were still able to wear them without being teased about it. In the second year, my parents bought me a more comfortable pair of long trousers, and the blazer, which I was happy with.

We didn't discuss trousers, which seems strange when I read some of the other contributions to the site. The two boys who still wore shorts were not teased about it. This may be because they and two of the other boys in my year had moved up from the Junior department of our school together, so they were already friends and just accepted what each other wore.

John Thompson


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Created: October 23, 2001
Last updated: October 23, 2001