History

Please enjoy reading about the School’s history below, which is based on the work of two authors, Reginald Snell St Christopher School 1915-1975 and Chris McNab St Christopher School: A Short History. Thanks also to David Cursons, Secretary of the St Christopher Club, for additional information and edits.

If you have photographs you think it would be good to include, or suggestions of key dates we may have missed, please email rhiannon.butlin@stchris.co.uk

26 December 1912
George Arundale delivers speech at the annual convention of the Theosophical Society.
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George Arundale delivers speech at the annual convention of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, India about ‘Education as Service’ based on the book of the same name by Jiddu Krishnamurti, which became a foundation for much of the early educational development at St Chris. On hearing the speech, Theosophist Ada Hope Russell Rea writes to the Theosophical Society in the UK asking for support in establishing ‘a school definitely and openly on Theosophic lines’.

1913
The London Convention of the Theosophical Society.
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At the London Convention of the Theosophical Society speeches by Hope Rea and George Arundale inspire fundraising to begin for a new type of school, under the leadership of theosophists Josephine and Sidney Ransom (https://theosophy.wiki/en/Josephine_Ransom). The President of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, is consulted and declares Letchworth to be “good ground.”

1914
Letchworth Garden City, the world’s first Garden City.
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 Letchworth Garden City, the world’s first Garden City, which was created as a solution to the squalor and poverty of urban life in Britain in the late 19th Century, identified as the ideal location for the new school, and two small houses purchased on Broadwater Avenue. Image courtesy of the Garden City Collection.

20 January 1915
St Christopher School (then known as the ‘Garden City Theosophical School’)
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St Christopher School (then known as the ‘Garden City Theosophical School’) was established by headmaster, Dr. Armstrong Smith, and opened on a wet and windy winters day with five members of staff and fourteen pupils, four boarders and ten day pupils, and ready for a new style of education.

Key principles included a tolerant attitude to all races and religions, an emphasis on the spiritual benefits of beautiful, natural surroundings, a keen focus on physical health through sport and exercise and a vegetarian school diet. On top of a ‘sound general education’ each child was encouraged to develop their own special talents, through subjects in which the child held a special interest, so that education became a reward in itself.

September 1915
Pupil numbers quickly expanded and new buildings acquired for the...
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re-named Arundale School, on Barrington Road, which still form the heart of St Christopher School today. The buildings included boarding accommodation for more than 40 pupils, a science laboratory, a craft shop, more classroom space, a playground, cricket field, attractive gardens and an orchard!

1915 - 16
Sport begins to be played more widely at the School with football, hockey, cricket...
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…and athletics teams, and cultural societies such as the Guild of Arts & Crafts and the Scientific Society are founded.

18 February 1916
The School played its first football match, against Hitchin Boys’ School, on its new field, and won, 4-3.
15 July 1916
The first athletic sports events held with almost every pupil in the School..
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…taking part in at least one event, from infants upwards; it was combined with a demonstration of Dalcroze Eurhythmics. During the early part of 1916 a gym was erected, said to be a “temporary structure”.  After successive extensions and renovation it is still going strong as the current St Chris dining room!

March 1916
The School is brought under the management of the Theosophical Educational Trust, where it remains for 14 years.
1916
Beatrice Ensor becomes the Organising Inspector
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Beatrice Ensor becomes the Organising Inspector, overseeing the Theosophical Educational Trust’s work.  She had been a founding member of Edmund Holmes’ New Ideals in Education group, and in 1915 had set up the Theosophical Fraternity in Education as a co-operative group for teachers who wished to work towards a more child-centred approach to education.

25 November 1916
‘The Moot’ founded by a senior group of students
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which took on governing functions, debating and legislating on school issues such as the care of library books or policies on bullying. In 1918 it was declared ‘the whole school is to be the Moot’ and the pupil body in general took on a more significant role in running the School.Servers” were introduced – six appointed by Armstrong Smith, six elected by the school. The name was important: they were not prefects, but there to serve the community.

June 1917
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First meeting of the Guild of Arts and Crafts, formed by the School’s arts and crafts master Ludwig Van der Straeten, son of a music professor and himself an excellent ‘cellist. The idea of the Guild was to induce children to care for their environment, and create means of making it more attractive.  The object of seeking membership of the Guild was declared to be “to serve by expressing the divine in its aspect of the beautiful” and members must be engaged in some activity to beautify the School.  “Vandy,” as he was known, also helped introduce the pupils to printing, using a hand press lent by a Letchworth resident. Programmes for events were printed by the pupils themselves, with pupils producing the first school magazine in December 1917. This started a tradition of pupil-edited magazines which would last for seventy years.

Autumn 1917
The Arundale Magazine started which later became the St Christopher Magazine.
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The magazine was produced by students and recorded the latest school news and events. It was organised and printed by students including, from 1918, Vernon Booth. After completing his schooling, Vernon undertook a four year print apprenticeship and returned to manage the Press, which, by the 1960s, had 55 staff and had moved to separate premises in the town’s industrial district.

The magazine went from strength to strength and in 1950s the Times Educational Supplement said of it: “Superbly printed on fine quality paper, the spring issue [of the magazine] contains scraperboard and line drawings of an unusually high standard, and its prose and poems are in the best sense progressive…School editors everywhere would profit by studying the St Christopher technique.”

1918
Theosophical Educational Trust takes over the Modern School
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which had been run by Miss Frances Cartwright at 325 and 327 Norton Way South in Letchworth; she was selling up due to bad health.  Beatrice Ensor was not particularly in favour of mixed boarding and day schools; she saw the Modern School as the day school and Arundale as the boarding school.  Some specialist teachers were shared between the two schools.

January 1919
Armstrong Smith retires due to ill health
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partly from the stress of conducting the School during the difficult time of the First World War, and the flu epidemic which followed it. Wilfred Layton, a school parent, takes over as Head.  (He retired in December 1918)

25 September 1919
Foundation stone for a new day school
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separate to the boarding buildings, laid on the Broadway in Letchworth by Annie Besant. In autumn 1920 the Modern School and Arundale amalgamate, the Arundale premises becoming home to the boarders, and all pupils having their lessons at the new Broadway buildings. The Head of the Modern School, Isabel King, becomes head of the new school, with Wilfred Layton as Head of Arundale.  Annie Besant gave the new school the name of St Christopher School.

20 September 1920
Initial meeting of the St Christopher School Council
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The Council consisted of 32 students and staff and met on a fortnightly basis to discuss and legislate on school matters.

In December 1920 they adopted the arrangement which would persist for almost a century, whereby decisions made by the Council were later ratified by a meeting of the whole school.

Summer 1920
The first class run specifically on Montessori
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principles started at St Christopher School.

Isabel King and Beatrice Ensor had both been interested in the ideas of Maria Montessori, and St Christopher School was built with a specially designed Montessori room, complete with dining area, bathrooms, etc, specially adapted for the needs of small people.

Autumn 1920
The Parents’ Circle founded – one of the country’s first Parent-Teacher Associations.
April 1921
Brackenhill Home School, founded
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in Kent by suffragette Kate Harvey for war orphans and other disadvantaged children, moved to the Old Rectory in Letchworth and managed by the Theosophical Educational Trust, alongside the other schools.  (It had been managed by the Trust since 1917, at Bromley.)

Easter 1921
Ethos of the School carried forward by Isabel King
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Head of St Christopher School, in partnership with Beatrice Ensor who was Director of the Theosophical Educational Trust. They both left to found Frensham Heights School in Surrey in 1925.

Spring 1921
Four school houses founded
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(orange, purple, blue and white) which were reduced to two from 1927 until 1943, called green and gold.  (Council had the good sense to defeat a proposal from the Games Committee to call them Whurple and Blange.)  There are currently three school houses named after the three local Lords of the Manor: Gernon, Godwin and Lytton.

1921
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School forms renamed to Groups in the Senior School, numbered I to VI, (not initially – this numbering did not come in until Autumn 1960.  See below.) a tradition which remains today (Year 7 is I Group, Year 8 is II Group and so on.) Unlike today, the groups were graded according to standards achieved, rather than purely by age, with pupils allocated to groups for different subjects on the basis of their progress in that subject. Thus a thirteen year old who already knew a great deal of French might be in a class with sixteen year olds for that subject, but in a group with younger pupils in a subject in which he or she was weak. Essentially, every pupil could have their own individual programme.  Two long-standing St Chris traditions came from this.  First, there were “optionals” – periods when staff were available in their subject rooms and pupils could choose where to go depending on what they most needed help on.  Secondly there was the “company” system.  Each pupil belonged to a company, with a member of staff as adviser, who could provide oversight, and guide pupils so they did not spend all their time on assignments they liked, to the neglect of those they didn’t.

It also led to the Junior School class system which uses the older lettering system, and pupils progress from the K Group (Reception) to the D Group (Year 6) much to the confusion of new parents!

December 1921
Coleacre bought, and renamed Barrington Lodge
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subsequently Little Arundale.  At first used as a house for staff, but from the summer of 1924 adapted for use as a house for younger boarders.

1920s
The St Christopher Camera Club in action in the 1920s
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a decade full of enthusiasm for the new art of photography. There was also considerable interest in the new science of wireless, and the pupils built their own set, at a time when there was only one BBC station.

1922-24
St Christopher School roll increases to 189 pupils.
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Plans drawn up to expand the Broadway site which had only been designed for 120. By autumn 1923 new classrooms, cloakrooms, staffroom, music room, art room, a sanctuary (a non-denominational chapel), theatre and hall are built.

January 1925
The programme for Through the Crack
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the first play produced in the 600 seat theatre when it opened. The assistant stage manager for the show was none other than Laurence Olivier. The School’s dramatic excellence continued with further productions around this time of play’s including Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Betty Jenkins’ More Things and J.M. Barrie’s Pantaloon.

1920-25
Development of the Guilds
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School-based artisan organisations, dedicated to a specific art or craft run by adults. The Guilds provided practical services for the local community including printing; bicycle repair; small house repairs and gardening which attempted to provide profits for bursaries to the School. These mini businesses also provided eggs (1700 laying birds), fruit, honey, photography, tailoring and confectionary to St Chris. Pictured here are members of the Tailoring Guild hard at work making men’s jackets for staff and students! The Guilds paid salaries and there was an element of democracy, in which Guild workers met and discussed how best to organise themselves. The presence of printers, woodworkers and so on within the School enabled pupils to work alongside craftsmen doing a real job and to see them at work.

With the prospect of a dairy farm in the future, in 1923 Lady de la Warr, one of the Directors of the Trust, gave the School a herd of pedigree cattle, which she continued to house. As a consequence the School was the proud winner of the Challenge Cup for Kerry cattle at the Royal Counties Show, among other prizes.

The Trust even bought a Letchworth factory and equipped it to produce milk and other products from soya beans, and from 1924 had a Guild shop in Letchworth (where David’s Bookshop now is) selling produce from its enterprises, and other health and vegetarian foodstuffs.)

1920-25
The Training College set up to train a ‘new style of teacher’.
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There were various courses, the main being Montessori preparation, which culminated in Madame Montessori’s own course in London.  Students practised and observed at St Chris and there were many international students, one being Krishna Menon, who deputed for the history teacher who was ill for much of the spring of 1925, later studied at the LSE, was a Labour Councillor in St Pancras before becoming India’s first High Commissioner in London on independence, and later their man at the United Nations.

1924-25
Isabel King and Beatrice Ensor resign
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and with the help of Mrs Douglas-Hamilton, found Frensham Heights School, which opened in autumn 1925.  Some dozen teachers and a significant number of boarder pupils went with them. At the same time some money promised for developments at Letchworth was diverted to India to support Krishnamurti’s educational enterprises there.  Between the summer and autumn terms of 1925 pupil numbers at St Christopher fell from 223 to 166.

1925
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Headship taken over by Lyn Harris (1925 – 1953), aided by his wife, Eleanor. Lyn was a Quaker and many of his beliefs and principles shaped the School and are still in evidence today.

1926-27
The Board had alienated one of its former donors
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(in 1925), who now supported Frensham Heights.  (She died in the summer of 1927) ( Its other main donor was affected by the financial situation in the U.S.A.)  Or possibly easier to just start here:  Finance was tighter, and bursaries formerly given were reduced.  Most of the Guilds were wound up with significant losses. However, a wide range of activities continued within the School, including in the summer of 1927 A Presentation of Paracelsus a production based on Browning’s poem with specially written music. (and a handsome booklet of the text, printed by the Printing Guild, which was profitable, and had survived.)

Autumn 1926
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A school diary is begun.  A pupil is elected each term to write about events at the school.  This carries on almost unbroken until the early 1980s and provides a remarkable record of the activities which took place, the music played and readings given in Morning Talk, even the composition of teams for school matches.

1928
Lyn Harris proposes to sell the Broadway building
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to raise funds for the School. With the aid of a loan from the School’s other principal benefactor, Miss Mabel Dodge, new classroom buildings had been added to Arundale.  The move takes place in autumn 1928 and the School is known only as St Christopher School from this point. (Arundale had actually gone from being referred to as Arundale School to being called Arundale House somewhat earlier than this.)  The Broadway building is (eventually) sold in 1934 to a religious order and becomes St Francis’ College.

1929
Disagreements between Lyn Harris and the Theosophical Educational Trust
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(better “within the T.E.T.) over the financing of the School, lead to a second crisis for the School and it was suggested St Chris close in summer 1930. Lyn Harris resigns but following a reconstitution of the Board, and a fundraising drive by the Chair of the Parents’ Circle and contributed to by parents, old scholars and former associates, a company – St Christopher Estate – was set up to buy the School from the Trust. The company then leased the buildings to Lyn Harris and the future of the School was secured.

Lyn summed up this new era for the School with his publicity slogan: “Education for the revolutionary world of tomorrow.” An aerial photograph of the School taken during the 1930s shows the outline of the Senior and Junior Schools that we recognise today.

 

1930
Lyn Harris and old scholar Tom Diss become business partners
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and buy the St Christopher Press – the sole remaining enterprise from the original Guilds – from the Theosophical Educational Trust for around £150.  In 1933 it moved to a factory off Works Road in Letchworth, expanding with much new equipment. In 1939 it became a limited company, and Tom Diss continued to manage it extremely successfully as a profit-making enterprise until he retired in 1968.

1930s
Lyn Harris introduces Service Time
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fixed time in the week when students helped teachers perform school cleaning and maintenance work for example in 1931 this included digging rotas to provide the foundations for the tennis courts.

1930s
Music flourish under Director of Music, Sidney Twemlow
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with regular musical evenings, performed by students and visiting musicians.

1930
A system is introduced
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where competent and trustworthy pupils are appointed to a Panel; they are entrusted with keys to the craft shop and can work in it whenever they like, and are each entrusted to supervise up to four other pupils while there and ensure tools are used properly.  During the summer holidays of 1931 local members of the Panel assist in fitting overhead shafting, so the three lathes are power driven.  Wood turning becomes popular, and they are seldom idle.

Spring 1932
Some senior pupils start a “Buy British” campaign
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and persuade Council to narrowly support a recommendation that the school only buys British goods.  They put a collecting box in the corridor for funds to make up for the fact that the British goods are often more expensive than imports.  Lyn Harris dryly comments in the school magazine that this box and the Relief Fund box to help poorer people adversely affected by British import tariffs “remind us that it is healthy to have to translate our words into cash.”

June 1932
The pupils are shocked by the theft of some money
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from the Relief Fund box in the corridor.  An emergency Council Meeting votes that if the culprit is not found, the self-government system should be suspended, for it has clearly failed, and that the Head should be asked to organise discipline.  Lyn Harris suspends the constitution and appoints prefects.  A fortnight later a special meeting is held during Morning Talk and the first period to discuss the concept of self-government.  On the last day of term Lyn restores the self-government system and Major Officials are elected for the next term.

1935-36
The first part of Arunside (formerly Laneside) opened to house boarders
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in autumn 1935, the second part (formerly Crabby Corner) in May 1936.   In September 1936 the School opened Arunbank as a house for the very youngest boarders.

1936
St Chris funds an annual travel scholarship
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to mark the School’s twenty-first birthday, with students travelling to France, Belgium, Lapland, Moscow and Yugoslavia. In return, the students wrote an account of their travels for others to read, or reported on them in Morning Talk. The School also fosters the spirit of outdoor life, through sports, expeditions and simple picnics.

September 1937
the Outdoor Gym is built
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with sliding walls which allow exercises to be carried out in the open air during fine weather.

1937
Craft teacher, Stanley Parker, suggests the school build a cricket pavilion
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and invites anyone entering the craft shop to contribute by making joints.  The Old Scholars had been collecting money, and had £100 in hand, but the wheels of democracy moved slowly and it was not until 1938 that they voted to use it to buy materials for the pavilion.  At the Old Scholars’ reunion on 29 June 1941, Jack Austin, one of the original pupils from January 1915, formally handed over the new pavilion to the School.

1937
Flood crisis in the Fens
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In response to wireless reports of a flooding crisis in the Fens, history teacher Christopher Buckley, science teacher Ernest Fernyhough, and several older boys pile into two cars and head out to see what help they can give.  The initial response to Mr Buckley’s offer of assistance is that the best thing he could do would be to keep his boys out of the water, and, by implication, out of the way.  But they pile in, fill and carry sandbags, and are rewarded by the respect of the Fenlanders, who ply them with “lunches cooked in the finest Fenland tradition,” as one report has it.  After three days’ work, sleeping in the local village hall, they return.

October 1937
The School decides to fundraise in support of relief work in Spain.
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They select a Spanish boy – a refugee from Barcelona, living in a children’s colony at Puigcerdá – who they will sponsor. Money, toys and clothing are sent.

1938
School Council discusses abolishing school uniform for boys
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following a protest in the St Christopher Magazine and the motion is, eventually, passed but no action is taken. During the war, it’s realised that with clothing rationing there are so many difficulties for parents that the strict carrying out of uniform is relaxed.

1939
The first row of Cells is built
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these were study bedrooms for senior boys.  Two tradesmen agree to work with, and instruct, rank amateurs, and some 25-30 pupils and staff (including some visiting pupils from Bedales) learn to lay bricks and make cement. One of the tradesmen is Jack Hope, uncle of Hitchin boy, Bob Hope, who made something of a name for himself in the USA. The Cells are now office spaces for the pastoral team.

Summer 1939
Dr Maria Montessori gives the address at Parents’ Day
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which attracts some 500 guests. The other attraction of the day is a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which the future headmaster, Nicholas King-Harris, plays Bottom.

Autumn 1939
The Science Society is the largest in the School, with a membership of 64.
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Professor Trewman lectures on the relatively new science of television and demonstrates a cathode ray tube in action.

Autumn 1939
History teacher Christopher Buckley, on sabbatical working as a reporter, is in Poland when war breaks out.
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He later sends a telegram saying he must resign and continue the work he is doing; the Daily Telegraph accept his services.  Later in the war someone in the Foreign Office is heard to say that if you want to know what is really going on, read Buckley.

1939 – 45
The onset of the Second World War transforms life at the School.
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Lyn Harris considers evacuating the school, perhaps even to another country, but writes to parents that it is rooted in the community it serves and has a duty to that community.

Trenches had been dug at the top of the field in 1938 for use during air raids, but they were found to hold water too well, and tubular steel shelters were obtained. Fire watchers and a stretcher squad are organised, and more land put into cultivation for vegetables.

It was assumed the School might lose pupils because parents evacuated them to more rural places, or even abroad. This happened to a small extent, but some who had gone soon came back, including five who had gone to Canada, and pupil numbers kept up during the war. In fact, Letchworth turned out to be relatively safe; a few incendiaries fell, including one on the School field, but no great damage was done.

School life continued, with pupils making use of the blacked-out gym for country and ballroom dancing, the introduction of ju-jitzu for girls and boys and regular theatre productions continuing.

1939
The School employs Margarete Kantorowicz, who adopts the name Margaret Kent, as dietician-caterer.
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She was a lawyer in Germany before Nazi rule, but has a diploma from the London School of Dietetics. She is also trained in the principles of the Swiss doctor and dietician, Dr Bircher-Benner, many of whose ideas are adopted by the School. The School’s remarkably good diet despite the privations of war is largely due to her skills.

1940
Games teacher, Kurt Boehm, who escaped the Nazis back in 1933, is interned as an enemy alien. 
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In 1942 the school acquires the services of Olympic discuss thrower Eric Schuckardt, who had escaped the attentions of the Nazis after several broken ribs.  In 1944 it employs Dr Kurt Bromberg, former Jewish-German lawyer, as librarian and his wife Katharine as biology teacher. The School also housed a number of refugee children from Germany.

1942
The Old Scholars’ Reunion attracts well over 50 old scholars, despite wartime travel problems.
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Instead of the usual Sunday morning service a symposium is held on wartime reconstruction, with various old scholars giving short talks from their own experience.  These included Mary Soutar, future Deputy Head, then working for the secretariat of the War Cabinet.

1943
A Post-War Reconstruction group is formed and meets regularly on Monday evenings with history master Ronald Church.
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Their subjects of study range from the effects of the Versailles treaty (with a particular German perspective contributed by Mrs Kent) to the Christian fundamentals on which many of them believe a new world should be built.

1943
Sixth former Roger Atkinson, with the aid of fellow student Bernard Lloyd, runs a “travel bureau” from his boarding room, to advise students the best way to deal with the wartime travel problems.
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With the aid of an ancient Remington, he writes to obtain bus and train timetables from all over the country.  His final coup was to persuade Eastern National to put on an extra bus from Letchworth to Luton on the last day of the summer term 1945, so pupils going north could travel on the superior London Midland Service from Luton, rather than from Letchworth.

1944
The informal young farmer’s club started in 1943 becomes official
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by becoming affiliated to the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.  The main activities are looking after goats and bees and making hay the old fashioned way with a scythe.

1945
Arundale is floodlit to celebrate VE Day in May 1945.
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When the war ended a two-day holiday characterised by picnics, bonfires and cheery renditions of Auld Lang Syne took place.

St Chris rallied to altruistic causes following the end of the war, fundraising through a relief committee for those in need in Germany, Hungary, Greece and Lebanon.

December 1945
A correspondence link established with a school in New Rochelle, USA
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brought the Junior School a large parcel of American books and magazines, and another large parcel of Christmas fare, much appreciated in a country still suffering from rationing.

Spring 1946
The water-logged trenches at the top of the field find some good use. 
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Ducks acquired by the Young Farmers’ Club the previous term, which had given much trouble but no eggs, are transferred to the trenches.  Able to splash around, they start laying prodigiously.

1947
Arunfield is bought and used to house the Montessori department.
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The building is now used for exams and is the home of current Head Richard Palmer, his wife Jenny and their family.

1950
The Film Society is now the largest in the School
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aided by the enthusiasm of history teacher and old scholar, Tony Mercer, and a pupil called Michael Winner, who produced a wall newspaper of film criticism and programmes for local cinemas.

30 May 1951
Letchworth’s contribution to the Festival of Britain is a concert performance
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of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the St Francis Theatre, conducted by Boyd Neel.  Some forty members of St Christopher contribute to the choir.

March 1952
Production of Alice through the Looking Glass.
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This is the first of a series of operas composed for St Chris by music teacher Austin O’Neill. The libretto was adapted from Lewis Carroll’s book by sixth former Gillian Muir.

December 1953
Lyn and Eleanor Harris retire.
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The Headship is taken over by their son, Nicholas King Harris (1953 – 1980). Nicholas had been a pupil for 13 years before leaving to pursue an academic and educational career elsewhere including as principal for the Brummana High School in Lebanon.

1953 – 1960
Nicholas takes on a formidable programme of building works
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with seventy-seven new buildings or improvements including a new science block; music school; additional Junior School classrooms; workshops and an arts and crafts block; new boarding accommodation for girls.

1954
Work is started to create an outdoor theatre next to the Junior School.
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It progresses slowly, and is not complete until the autumn of 1959, but is then much used by the Junior School for open air rehearsals, and later by the senior school for some productions.

Autumn 1956
Buffet system introduced at lunch
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in place of the food being served by the head of each table. There is now always a choice between hot food, a salad or a sandwich bar.

1957
Boat building is the latest crazeBoat building is the latest craze
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a good number of canoes are in progress of being built in the craft shop.

Summer 1957
A BBC camera crew arrive at an hour’s notice
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to film for a programme on co-education for the Panorama programme.  Its screening results in a considerable volume of correspondence.

June 1958
Staff Holiday is featured in the Times Educational Supplement.
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The first staff holiday had been in Armstrong Smith’s day, when the senior pupils had offered the staff the afternoon off, and they would run the school.  By Nicholas’ day it had become a firm tradition, and lasted the entire day, with sixth formers each standing in for a member of staff, and the Head Boy and Head Girl acting in place of the Head.

Spring 1960
A tape recording group is started by French teacher Derek Hill.
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They offer a service to local hospitals and to record for the blind. There is also a link with a school in Russia for which they are preparing a tape. Later they develop a similar arrangement with a school in Tanganyika.  Scrap paper, woollens and milk bottle tops are collected to help fund the enterprise. It turns into SCRU (the St Christopher Recording Unit) and starts making programmes reporting on events and views in the locality.  It attracts the attention of the BBC current affairs programme Tonight which comes to film SCRU interviewing passers-by in the streets of Letchworth.

Summer 1960
An enterprising student founds The Ambulatory Tuck Shop, financing it by selling shares at a shilling each. 
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We do not know if the shareholders received any dividend… or indeed their money back.

1960s
Drama festivals are given fresh energy...
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One two-day festival involved 110 actors and 26 stage staff!

1961
The first phase of the new science block comes into use.
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Biology now has its own purpose-built rooms, which include a greenhouse.

1961
The building of the swimming pool.
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The School learns that the arrangement to use the swimming bath at the adjacent Cloisters building, which had lasted for over forty years must come to an end.  The School decides to build its own pool, and, within minutes of hearing about the scheme at a Parents’ Circle meeting, parents contribute (an initial) £600.  Pupils aim to raise £1000 themselves, and a programme of jumble sales, fairs, coffee mornings and many other enterprises begins.  Local people give support – topsoil is removed free by a local farmer; Stutely Bros lend an excavator and driver to dig the hole. Work camps are held during holidays. The engineering is in the hands of the Head’s brother, a Professor of Engineering at Cambridge, and pupils learn to construct reinforcing rods and shuttering, and to vibrate cement correctly.  A test fill of the tank was made in the summer of 1963, and the school enjoyed a week of impromptu swimming.  The surrounds, filtration system, and so on were completed in the next two years, although the changing rooms were still being worked on up to 1968.

Autumn 1963
Pupils decide to form an Amnesty International Group...
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following a talk by the Letchworth group, working for three prisoners of conscience.

Spring 1964
The School gives the World Premiere of Alan Bush’s opera...
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The Ferryman’s Daughter, with libretto by his wife Nancy, an old scholar.

Summer 1964
American Day held, to raise money for the swimming pool...
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Tea renamed the Boston Tea Party, and a Domesday machine in the courtyard, welded from sundry scrap materials.

1967
Pupils and staff host the first children’s holiday for disabled children...
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from London, which continued until the late 1980s. Volunteering and altruism are still a key part of the School’s philosophy.

1969
Trips and travel continue to play a part in St Chris’ internationalist outlook.
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Pictured here, a group of St Chris skiers prepare to tackle the slopes during a winter sports trip to Damüls in December 1969.

Autumn 1969
The second phase of the science block is now complete and physics teaching moves there.
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During the next year the old laboratory is converted into a new school library for study, the old library becoming the Social Library, which is now the Year 7 social space.

1974
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A concrete three and five metre diving stand is built to complete the swimming pool.  This is again done by pupil labour, with a member of staff employed to supervise.

April 1980
Nicholas Harris is tragically killed in a cycling accident in Gozo.
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He was remembered in the St Christopher Magazine as “vigorous, kindly and cheerful…He was a good man, who taught by example rather than precept.  Deputy Head, Mary Muray, takes over as interim head, and Peter Elbra delays his retirement from the Junior School headship for a year to help out.

1981
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Colin Reid appointed as Head (1981 – 2006).

1982
A new theatre and sports hall open.
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A drama festival of eight plays marks the opening.  Over the next decade the enthusiasm of pupils allows an average of five school productions each year, ranging from Twelfth Night and Three Sisters to Blood Wedding and Accrington Pals.

1982 – 2007
Further developments continue apace including a craft, design and technology workshop;
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new IT and English buildings; a cover and improved heating for the swimming pool; and renovations and upgrades to boarding accommodation.

Spring 1984
Members of the V and VI Group found the Young Enterprise Company
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created with the purpose of understanding how small businesses work.  Through its board meetings, conducted at the Letchworth Business Centre, the company decided to produce and sell t-shirts, floor cushions, duvet covers and plant pot holders! Reports show a flurry of industry but unfortunately the company went into liquidation the following summer!

1989
Vegetarian cookbook A Square Meal
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produced with contributions from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Yehudi Menuhin, Tony Benn and HRH The Prince of Wales. Cooking has always been a key part of the St Chris curriculum with a dedicated Vegetarian Centre built in the early 1980s for cooking classes.  The first St Chris cookbook, Cornucopia, had been produced in 1974 – The third, Green Cuisine, produced by the Old Scholars, is still in print

1989
The Guilds are revived in a desire to balance the era’s focus on individualism with community experience and activism.
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They included the Pottery Guild; Land Guild; Construction Guild; Baking Guild; Painting and Decorating Guild.

May 1990
Launch of the Rajasthan Project
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a scheme where Sixth Form pupils travel to India to work on rural and educational development projects. The Project is still forms a key part of the Sixth Form experience at St Chris.

1990s
The addition of a climbing wall brought the world of outdoor adventure pursuits directly into the School.
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The climbing wall, skate board half pipe, archery facilities and on-site kayaking and diving courses are still popular co-curricular options. The Junior School climbing tree is a rite of passage for younger children who have to learn to pull themselves up to the lower branches before they’re allowed to climb it.

1994
First St Chris Recycled Fashion Show.
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The show is now a key part of the School calendar. Each year students in the Senior School, Junior School and from other schools in Hertfordshire design, make and model their costumes, made completely out of recycled materials, to a theme set by the School. The resulting catwalk show is extremely popular with the best costumes displayed in an exhibition in Letchworth in the following weeks.

1997-98
The School acquires Ladybarn, formerly the home of Annie Lawrence who built The Cloisters, and more recently an old people’s home. 
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The maths department move into classrooms there in the autumn of 1977; later English as a Foreign Language occupies further rooms, then gradually the rest is converted into a sixth form centre, with study rooms, common rooms and so on.

1999-2000
A Millennium appeal fund enables the swimming pool to be converted...
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into an indoor facility which can be used all the year round, not only during the warmer part of the summer term.  The diving board was removed, the old pool reduced in size and depth and a new building was built round it.

2000
The School is awarded a grant of £3000 by the Hertfordshire Groundwork Trust to develop a vermiculture composting unit for all its food waste in large wooden boxes.
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The School has already been worm-composting on a small scale for fifteen years, and is credited by the Centre for Alternative Technology for inventing a low cost method using stacked tyres.

June 2004
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The new ICT building with computer suites on the ground floor and English teaching above, is formally opened.

2004
Donald Wilkinson appointed as Head (2004 – 2006)
2004
Establishment of the Kosovo Youth Education Project, running programmes of music, drama, art and sport with Kosovan high-school students.
2006
Richard Palmer appointed as acting and then, in 2007, permanently as Head.
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Richard lives on site with his wife, Jenny, and his daughter Chloe, both of whom work at the School. Both his children attended the School. Richard’s connection with St Chris goes back to 1984 when he first worked at the School in his gap year, and helped to set up the design and technology workshop. Following a university degree in education and a diverse career in teaching including as head of the prep school boarding house at St John’s College School, Cambridge (https://www.sjcs.co.uk/), Richard was appointed Head of the Junior School at St Chris in 2004, before becoming Head of the whole school in 2007.

2008-9
Establishment of an Early Years Centre at Arunwood, Laurence Olivier’s childhood home.
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Opened in 2009 by children’s author Sarah Dyer.

2011
Redevelopment of the School’s cookery centre, known the Vege Centre.
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Cooking still forms a key part of the curriculum at Junior and Senior School.

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