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Aldwickbury School

School History

In 1937 Kenneth Castle became Headmaster of Lea House School, a small day prep school in Harpenden with about 15 boys (and a few girls!).

1n 1943 Capt K B Castle (as he was then known) was elected to the IAPS (Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools) as Head of Lea House.

In 1947 Mary Kincaid joined the staff of Lea House and later that year she and Kenneth Castle announced their engagement.   The purchase of Aldwickbury mansion and its 14-acre estate was in the process of negotiation after Mr Castle, who had seen the potential of Aldwickbury as a day and boarding school had invited Brian Chidell, who joined the permanent staff of Lea House in 1946, to become his junior partner. Brian Chidell had previously worked at the School as a Junior Master before going to university and serving in the army.

Aldwickbury Ltd was incorporated in 1947 (Company no. 453745) with Mr Castle holding two- thirds of the shares and Mr Chidell one-third.

In April 1948 Mr Castle and Miss Kincaid were married and moved into Aldwickbury mansion.   Some 70 boys and 7 staff moved into their new premises from Lea House at the start of the summer term with Mr Castle as Headmaster and Mr Chidell as his deputy.

The first Aldwickbury magazine of May 1949 gives a hint of the challenges that had to be faced in that first year:

‘There is something to be proud of in being one year old, and to have confounded the gloomy prophets who foretold that disaster would overcome us if we moved to such large premises in these difficult days.

‘We feel justified in looking back over the year with some satisfaction in that we have not only survived, but made Aldwickbury very much more suitable for use as a school by means of various internal and external alterations, maintained and increased the number and efficiency of Day Boys, and started the Boarding side of the School with 18 boys.’

With just one boarder at the very beginning in 1948, the boarding side grew to a total of 52 boarders by September 1957, which the magazine of July 1958 refers to as ‘Capacity load’.   Up until 1960, Mrs Mary Castle personally supervised the domestic arrangements and catering and oversaw the boarding department where matron cared for the boys’ needs.   The 1958 magazine reports:  ‘The buildings and grounds have been slowly and steadily improved, furniture and equipment of all kinds have been gradually obtained, and we feel that now after a decade, we have converted an old-fashioned private house into a reasonably modern and well-equipped school.’

After the death of Mr Castle in 1960, Mr Chidell became Headmaster. Mrs Castle continued to serve the school as mistress of the 2nd form until her retirement in 1971.   After purchasing Mrs Castle’s two-thirds shareholding in 1963, Mr Chidell became sole proprietor until 1969 when Aldwickbury School Trust Ltd was formed with a Board of Governors.

In 1952 Miss Avril Fairman joined the staff as a music teacher and by 1953 she had become Mrs Chidell. After 1960 she supported Brian Chidell in the way of Headmasters’ wives working tirelessly to keep things running smoothly in every area of the School.

In 1967 an existing Kindergarten, run by Mrs Dorothy Prime, was invited onto the site and incorporated into Aldwickbury in the same year. With the completion of   the swimming pool in 1960 and the  hall/chapel in 1963, the purchase of the Nursery garden in 1967 - the greenhouses, outhouses and cottages restored and modernised as well as many other improvements the School was a thriving, vigorous institution by 1969.

Between 1969 and 1979 as Mr Chidell continued as Headmaster and new buildings and facilities were added – a gymnasium, the hall/chapel extended, classrooms and hard tennis courts. He taught maths and music and was his own bursar.

In 1979 Brian Chidell handed over the running of the school to Mr Peter Jeffery with his wife Christine.

The School developed further under the new Head’s guidance with new and refurbished buildings including a new kitchen, a science block with classrooms and music practice rooms, a superb indoor swimming pool, junior classroom block and new pre-prep building, as well as overseeing the introduction of computers, increasing numbers of staff and boys, but with its distinctive traditions and values largely unchanged. Like his predecessor, Peter taught maths and also coached rugby

Christine Jeffery supported Peter as Headmaster’s wife in the inevitably diverse and varied way that the position dictates as well as teaching English, running the library and bookshop, entertaining the School community and in the latter years being Night Matron.

In 2003 Mr and Mrs Jeffery retired after 24 years of dedicated service to the School. The present Headmaster is Mr Vernon Hales with his wife Claire continuing the tradition of supporting Headmaster’s wife.

Aldwickbury School

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