Memories of Tapton House School
Foreword by the Duchess of Devonshire
Perhaps the first link between Chatsworth and Tapton House was made when Joseph Paxton, gardener to the sixth Duke of Devonshire, met George Stephenson in the 1840s and helped him to create the conservatories of which he became so proud.
My own visit took place in June 1956, when I presented the prizes at Speech Day. I was impressed not only by the setting, for the presentations were made in the secluded gardens, but also by the easy-going and friendly atmosphere of the occasion.
Now the school has been closed for some years it is timely to gather together the thoughts and reminiscences of some of the people who taught and studied there.
It says much for those who established the school that the precepts of the original charter permeate the descriptions that former pupils give of their experiences at Tapton. Many contributors refer to the charismatic headmaster, Harry Mellor, who, together with his staff, created a particular ethos which endured for much of the school’s life. The responsibility for the house and the park that was their playground seems to have been gladly assumed by the children, who show their love and respect for their splendid surroundings as well as appreciation for the education they received there.
The school no longer exists, Paxton’s greenhouses have been demolished, but the spirit of Tapton’s charter endures in the accounts of these former pupils and staff.
I am sure that all those associated with the school will enjoy reading this book, which will bring back many memories as well as the history of Tapton House.
The Duchess of Devonshire
Rear cover text
The book is a compilation of memories of Tapton House School, from 1931, when it opened as a school, to 1991, when it closed. It contains a brief history of Tapton House in an article covering Tapton’s past during the period from the Romans to this century. The body of the book is made up of memories of Tapton House as a school, written by 74 ex-staff and pupils, and demonstrates the love for the school of all associated with it. The text is supported by numerous photographic images. It will no doubt cause more than a mist of nostalgia to rise in the eyes of many Old Taptonians and should bring back memories to all those who enjoyed their schooldays.
Also with the assistance of Chesterfield Library the book has now been converted professionally to CD, mainly for the benefit of anyone having reading difficulties, interested in local history or by people who prefer the convenience of listening to CDs.
Dear Mr Thompson
I have just finished reading the book ‘Memories Of Tapton House School’ and I felt that I just had to write to say ‘thank you’ for putting the thoughts of so many happy years into print. I did enjoy Tapton, and have many happy memories. The lovely misty autumn mornings, the spring daffodils, the winter of 1947. The woodland walk, the gardens, and the Commemoration Days. I may not have been one of Tapton’s Stars, but one couldn’t help but be influenced by being educated by such talented teachers in such wonderful surroundings. Once more, many thanks for compiling a memorial of such a wonderful time of my life.
Yours faithfully.Margaret Jean Ralph, Scarborough, OT 1945-49
Many thanks for the book – I am delighted with it. So far have only ‘dipped’ into it, but look forward to digesting thoroughly at leisure. Well done – congratulations!
Sincerely Margaret Lennon, Bedford, wife of Jock PE teacher 1946 onwards
Our old school no longer exists, except in our memories. We are not getting any younger, and we have moved all over the world. One thing is very clear to me; we all carry a similar set of impressions of the great start given to us by certain teachers and friends we knew at Tapton. I don’t believe a school quite like Tapton exists in today’s world. I find Len’s work to be very helpful in explaining the foundations for my personal set of values to my grandchildren and to my friends. The values given to us through the dedication of teachers like Wildin and Mellor are rare and precious; they must be shared, not lost. Personally, Tapton’s lessons have traveled with me to Africa, California, and now to Oregon. I have had the opportunity to shape the lives of others — my children and many, many employees. I have enjoyed his book, “Memories of Tapton House.” I highly recommend it. The value is in the realization of how much we all shared the same feelings about “Our school.” It may have been closed as a High School, but the daffodils will bloom each spring. What finer memorial could Tub Mellor have left than the “Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La,” and us, his pupils. Whether you studied directly under him, or under later Headmasters, “Tub’s” influence was profound.
With fondest regards,
Noreen Carless, Oregon USA, OT 1947-51
Attention Len Thompson,
I was delighted to receive, Memories of Tapton House School` as a Christmas gift and since that time have read it cover to cover several times. I was a pupil from 1950 to 1956 and could give you some input if you are considering a second edition. I have vivid memories of this great place of learning. My time there helped me immensely as I used its standards for my own benefit in the world of international commerce. I still have a copy of the 1956 Commemoration Day programme which I am sure would be of interest-this includes the School Charter which should I believe be given prominence in any future publication. I also have a photograph from 1953 showing part of the athletics team which had a successful meeting at the Inter school sports. Looking forward to hearing from you,
Kind Regards and Congratulations on a masterpiece,
Terry Ward, Chesterfield, OT 1950-56
Len – I intend sending for another ‘Memories…’, also ‘History of Tapton House’, and also if you still have any copies, one of your autobiography, could you let me know how much that is please, and I will send for all three. ‘Memories…’ is excellent – how the years rolled away! I am going to give one to my cousin, an OT 1941, for Christmas. The rest are for me, a total bookaholic due entirely to Phil Wildin and ‘Slasher’ Haslam. Many thanks, Eileen Cooper, High Wycombe, OT 1952-57
Thank you very much indeed for your work on Tapton House, which I received yesterday. I have enjoyed reading it and appreciate all the work you have put in to its compilation.
Yours sincerelyElizabeth Jennings, Sheffield, wife of Headmaster 1953-59
Thank you for your prompt reply to my request for your book, it is absolutely terrific and I am enjoying the memories it is evoking. I thank you and wish you well.
Valerie Blankley, South Australia, OT 1958-64
Thoroughly enjoyed the book, Memories of Tapton House. I was amazed to find two photos of myself. One in the 6th form 1973 and one of me in the whole school photo. The 6th form picture I can supply you with every full name as I have this photo and wrote everyone’s name on the back at the time. I am sat to the headmaster’s right on the front row.
Andrea Gregory, Cardiff, OT 1967-72
Thanks for sending the books. I have found it fascinating. When I was at Tapton I never knew the full history behind the house. I feel very privileged that I was a pupil there. I was in the picture for 1976.
Janette Birks, New Jersey USA, OT 1972-76
Memories of Tapton House School 1931-1991, compiled and published by Len Thompson is a typical school history: a collection of personal reminiscences which are often amusing, always affectionate, and sometimes a little chilling. A former pupil at the school near Chesterfield recalls the time in the late Thirties when a science teacher, Miss Stanley, bought a live rabbit with a view to studying its digestive system. Of course everyone became fond of the rabbit. Miss Stanley was undeterred. “Not being one to shirk a duty, she chloroformed the poor thing and we carefully dissected it and measured its lengthy intestine across the benches,” says the contributor. “History does not record if the rest of the animal was cooked and eaten. I hope it was.”
GERALD HAIGH Times Educational Supplement
Just a line to thank you for sending me a copy of the book and my congratulations on it. It is a very well researched piece of local history that is also readable and enjoyable. Good luck with it.
With best wishes. Tony Benn, House of Commons, MP Chesterfield