THAMES VALLEY SCHOOL, TWICKENHAM. (the memories of Robin Chandler)

Early Days.

Thames Valley County Grammar School was built in 1928 on a site in Fifth Cross Road, Twickenham and was the first co-ed secondary school in Middlesex at that time! In those days the idea of boys and girls over the age of 11 mixing on a day to day basis and even changing for gym in the same building, was unheard of!

The first headmaster was Henry William Bligh, a young classics scholar, and badminton Blue, from Cambridge, who remained in his post for some 30 years.

Under Mr.Bligh the school flourished both academically and on the sports field, but despite his, and the school's, successes, good old HW still rode his ancient bicycle into school, from his home in Teddington, until his last day in 1960 (older pupils told the story of how they painted his bike red white and blue for Coronation Day, on 2nd.June 1953).

New pupils were allocated into 1 of the 4 school houses, which were:-— Argonauts (yellow), Crusaders (red), Explorers (blue) and Spartans (green). These names were obviously chosen by Mr. Bligh to reflect his classics training. Many Old Thamesians will remember gaining credit points in house rugby, hockey and cricket matches or, alternatively, debit points in detention!

Mr.Bligh was succeeded by Dr.J.D.Mortimer who, again, was long serving and he remained head until the school finally closed in 1977, much to the regret of its current, and former, pupils, who realised that it had an almost indefinable "something" which made it, and them, a success. The school was resurrected a few years later, as Waldegrave Girls, and still has that aura of loyalty, self-esteem, success and achievement.

The Characters.

During his tenure as head, Mr.Bligh wrote the words to the school song "Hanc Exorna"™ (in Latin, honor, or adorn, this), whilst Mr.James, the music master, wrote the music. This was thumped out on the piano at every end-of-term assembly or prize-giving, by his successor Lorna Brooks.

The first Senior Master was Mr.Millward, followed, on his retirement, by Mr.Mogford. Both these gentlemen were well- respected as firm, but fair and woe betide any pupil sent to stand outside the door of their study at the end of the ground floor corridor! Mr.Walters (woodwork). A dour Yorkshireman, whose favourite punishment for erring "Twickenham greenhouse plants" was a sharp tap from the mallet which you had been forced to hold above your head whilst he rambled on about the state of the country and all else! "Uncle" Donald Lewis (physics). A nice chap who managed to make a boring subject seem interesting. Miss Salter (PE/English). The girls gym mistress, thin as a rake in her track-suit, and never married! Joe Kennedy (geography). The best thrower of a blackboard rubber ever! He could unfailingly hit his target (a boy's head) every time. John (shut the windows!) Giles (Latin/English). Sadly suffering from WW2 shell-shock Mr.Smith (English). Had a very unpleasant habit of poking his ears with the side-arm of his glasses Miss Nutley (RI/English). The Senior Mistress, a large, forbidding lady, who always wore her gown. Not to be messed with! "Ron" Jeremy (French). Moustachio'd and serious, you always did his homework! George Lynham (maths). How did he manage that perfect chalk circle on the blackboard? Bill Osterberg (PE). A bit of a ladies man, but an inspirational figure to most of the 5/6th.form boys. "Dolly" Dawson (Botany). A tiny, older, lady. Who can forget her plant-spotting trips to Box Hill? Joan Boucher (Biology). Always red-faced when explaining mammalian reproduction! Ken Boucher (Maths). Joan's husband, tall, and serious, a well- respected teacher, Phil Eldridge (Economics). A younger man, more of whom later. Work, Play and a Sense of Pride. The primary raison d'etre of the school was, of course, education and, in this, standards were high. It had a long-standing association with Southampton University and many pupils continued their studies there. One such recipient of a Southampton degree was ex head boy Clive Morley, who subsequently came back to teach at Thames Valley, and was President of Thamesians RFC (sadly, Clive passed away in February 2011). The school honours board in the new hall was also liberally sprinkled with the names of those pupils who had gone on to other prestige universities/colleges, including Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial, Loughborough, Borough Road (now Brunel University), UMIST, Durham, Nottingham, and many others.

School uniform was de rigeur, of course, although 6th.formers were not forced to wear a school cap. This was just as well since the older boys (even 5th.formers) regularly made up most of Thamesians 2nd. XV in the early days of the club, playing for the school on Saturday morning and the old boys (still in school uniform!) in the afternoon.

Sporting Excellence.

The sports master in the early 50's was Mr.Platford who was followed by Bill Osterberg, a keen young graduate from Carnegie College Leeds. Most pupils would say that he was their true mentor and started them on our rugby careers (football was not allowed at Thames Valley, by the way).

Bill also ran a very successful track and field athletics team in the summer. So much so that no less than 9 Thames Valley pupils were selected to represent Middlesex at the English Schools Athletics Championships at Shrewsbury in 1960. This was a record for any single school in the country at the time, and made the National newspapers.

However, rugby was really the game for most of the boys and in his coaching, Bill was ably assisted by a student teacher from Tenby in Wales, Ceri Darcy, a Saracens lst. team player and yet another mentor for eager young hearts and minds. Our great local rivals were Hampton Grammar School, with whom we always had tough, and fiercely-contested, matches. We felt they had a "better than us", snobbish attitude which we, of course, were determined to dispel on the rugby field. Thames Valley, however, had a secret weapon - GIRLS! Yes, we had real live girls, whereas they could only look longingly through the fence at the nubile young things from LEH playing lacrosse! Hence our regular invitation to Friday night disco's at the OHA pavilion, Dean Road (we always brought the girls!). On a more serious note, the main sports for girls at TVGS were hockey in the winter and track & field athletics in the summer, at which they excelled.

Meanwhile, with the boys, Bill worked tirelessly behind the scenes, pushing public schools and Royal Grammar Schools for better rugby fixtures against whom his keen young charges would be matched. This culminated, in 1962, with an entry to the Rosslyn Park Public Schools! Sevens (see photo and press cutting displayed in Thamesians clubhouse on Twickenham Green). By October of that same year, the school Ist.XV played, and won! a match against Harlequins A XV. (the programme for which is also displayed in the clubhouse). As a result of their performances in this game, Dave Stewart, Peter Swan and Robin Chandler were subsequently invited to play for the Quins. Not bad for a small local grammar school from Twickenham!

Shortly after this, Bill Osterberg was succeeded by a new sports master at TVGS, Ted Gummer, a Welshman who played rugby for Faling RFC. Needless to say, Ted carried on where Bill had left off and, assisted by another superb young student teacher, Lorne (man-mountain) Robertson, from London Scottish, produced another generation of fine school rugby players, including Bob Mordell, Adrian Alexander and Graham Birkett!

The old boys club was started in 1962, by a young economics master at Thames Valley, Phil Eldridge, who played rugby himself and referee'd some of the school rugby teams on Saturday mornings, or was the master-in-charge at away games.

Old Thamesians went from strength to strength on the playing field, and soon became a force to be reckoned with, particularly in 7's competitions, but that is another story......

Click to Read the history of Old Thamesians RFC .

Appendix 1. Thames Valley School Badge, & The School

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