Former Ashtead boarding school pupil writes about electric shocks, food mutiny and escapades

Chris Ward, 59, who has written under pen name Michael Warren

Chris Ward, 59, who has written under pen name Michael Warren

First published in News This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A rebellious former schoolboy has lifted the lid on what life was really like at a prestigious boarding school during the 60s.

Chris Ward, 59, from Epsom Downs, used pen name Michael Warren while writing a colourful account of his time at City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead.

His book, Boarding in Ashtead 1964, regales the reader with tales of electric shocks, prefect tyranny, a food mutiny and the many escapades of pupils.

This Is Local London:

Chris Ward as a boy

Mr Ward, now a marketing consultant, said back then there was no control over the prefects who effectively "ran the school" and administered punishments.

He said: "There was an electric shock for pupils, beatings. You name it, they did it. Of course you wouldn’t get away with it these days. Then it was just normal."

Once, Mr Ward said he saw a fellow pupil having his face cut with a razor blade.

He said: "I can’t think of a good reason why the prefects did it. Someone said afterwards they were testing the razor."

During seven years at the school, Mr Ward got up to his fair share of mischief and often climbed out of his dormitory window.

One night, he and two friends tried to run away to Wales, but they only got as far as climbing over the fence at Epsom station.

A station official, armed with an axe, confronted the boys and threatened to call the police so they ran straight back to school.

He said: "We abandoned the idea of running away and went back to bed."

This Is Local London:

Chris Ward on holiday with his father

Mr Ward also recounted taking part in a food mutiny when students refused to eat spam fritters one evening. The headmaster caned them, but the detested fritters were never served again.

He said: "We got three of the best. We had sore bums but we won the battle."

He summed up his school-days as "mixed", adding: "I wouldn’t dream of sending any of my own children to boarding school."

Mr Ward has written the first two books in a gangster thriller trilogy - Bermondsey Trifle came out in June and Bermondsey Prosecco comes out on September 1.

He self-published Boarding in Ashtead 1964 in June.

It is available on Amazon’s website and from Bumbles, 90 The Street, Ashtead.

Comments (1)

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5:33am Mon 18 Aug 14

Expatasb says...

One of my primary school friends went to that school; I might have been steered to a place called Horncastle, in Sussex if I had shown enough interest. Instead I went to a boarding school in Yorkshire where I was happy for several years till the novelty wore off. It may not be for eveyone but I can't imagine my life without the boarding school experience. For me, physical abuse was kept down to a minimum, though impossible to stamp out entirely. I would say that there was a bigger problem with mental abuse although it was hard to detect. If I remember anything from those days , it was the way some of the pupils tended to act a bit crazy in the local town after being cooped up in the school for too long. After I left, a book came out called 'The Hothouse Society' which captured the atmosphere of boarding schools quite well. There was, of necessity , a closer relatioship betwen the staff and the pupils which was good for many people but others were disillusioned afterwards. I have often wondered what Stoneleigh East would have been like - the school I would otherwise have been at - probably harsh and boring in comparison to where I went but probably better prepared for 'real life'.
One of my primary school friends went to that school; I might have been steered to a place called Horncastle, in Sussex if I had shown enough interest. Instead I went to a boarding school in Yorkshire where I was happy for several years till the novelty wore off. It may not be for eveyone but I can't imagine my life without the boarding school experience. For me, physical abuse was kept down to a minimum, though impossible to stamp out entirely. I would say that there was a bigger problem with mental abuse although it was hard to detect. If I remember anything from those days , it was the way some of the pupils tended to act a bit crazy in the local town after being cooped up in the school for too long. After I left, a book came out called 'The Hothouse Society' which captured the atmosphere of boarding schools quite well. There was, of necessity , a closer relatioship betwen the staff and the pupils which was good for many people but others were disillusioned afterwards. I have often wondered what Stoneleigh East would have been like - the school I would otherwise have been at - probably harsh and boring in comparison to where I went but probably better prepared for 'real life'. Expatasb
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