From Football to Facilities, Technology to Tradition, a lot has changed at Tonbridge since the 80’s. In this series, we bring together Heads of House, past and present to look at how life at...
From Football to Facilities, Technology to Tradition, a lot has changed at Tonbridge since the 80’s. In this series, we bring together Heads of House, past and present to look at how life at Tonbridge has changed over the decades. First up – Head of House for Hill Side, Oli Ward (H5) meets his predecessor, Andrew Sturcke (88-93), and conversation quickly turns to that all-important question – who had the better room?
A: My room was at the top of the stairs overlooking the gardens, which was great other than in the summer term when I was supposed to be working, and there were people outside in the sunshine, and I thought, ‘I’d rather be out there’. Where’s the Head of House room now?
O: So you walk down the hill at the side, come in the ground floor entrance, and then you’ve got the dining room right there, then if you turned right -
A: That used to be the PCR – the Praes Common Room – down there.
O: There was a school Praes Common Room? We need to bring that back.
A: Yeah you should. It sounds as though they’ve done something with that, and that’s now your room. There was a kitchen down there. When I say kitchen, I mean an area where you can make toast, cups of tea.
O: A brew room.
A: That was where we had an intercom.
O: An intercom?
A: Yeah. You had an intercom, and there were designated people who had to make sure the PCR had milk and bread.
O: That’s awesome.
A: And if you ran out, there was this intercom, and speakers on every floor, and you’d just shout at whoever…
O: [Laughing] That’s so funny
A: …whichever poor sod was on duty, and you’d shout for them, and the idea was that they’d come running. So that’s obviously gone?
O: That’s gone.
A: That’s all part of the vaguely indentured servitude that used to go on in olden times.
O: The hierarchical element has probably gone a bit compared to your day. The Novi still have to go in defence in the Orchard. They’re not allowed out of defence. But we’re not allowed to shout at them through an intercom and make them bring us bread and milk.
A: I was probably one of the last generations where you had initiations and hazings and things like that. I can’t quite remember what they were, I probably erased it from my memory. It was probably nothing too far removed from an I’m a Celebrity Bushtucker Trial, or something like that. Quite rightly I think they were starting to be stamped out in my final year.
O: There’s a big emphasis on that now. As in, making it sort of a great experience for everyone rather than for two thirds of people.
A: What’s the food like now, still stodgy?
A: Good breakfast every day?
O: Of sorts. Not a proper full cooked breakfast. Something hot, but quite often it’s just a croissant.
A: Just a croissant? Unbelievable.
O: So there’s a tradition that’s just in Hill Side that the Head of House every year leaves something for the room. So it’s got better and better every year.
A: They leave something good obviously? Not an old sandwich down the back of a sofa.
O: Yeah. So when I came into the room this year there was already an L-shaped sofa at one end, a fridge, a massive bean bag, a coffee table.
A: When you go into halls you’re going to be like, ‘my god, what’s this?’
O: I know. It’s better than my room at home.
A: Presumably you’re allowed phones and iPads? There’s no restrictions are there?
O: No. So you had the old prep diary right? And you’d write down exactly what your teacher wrote down on the board as the prep. Whereas now it’s all completely online.
A: Oh ok.
O: So there’s like a… well, did you have the intranet?
A: No. Didn’t have anything.
O: Ok. It’s like a Tonbridge intranet, and everyone has their student log in, and all the teachers can then click on a set, type out their prep, give it a due date, attach a sheet or anything they want, and then you can mark them as done. They started a new initiative, I think two years ago, called BYOD – bring your own device – so everyone has to bring either a laptop or an iPad to lessons so that teachers can use new learning methods, using the internet or devices that aid learning.
A: Is there any restriction on when you can use them?
O: First and second years have to hand in their phones and laptops when they go to bed at 9:45-10:00. And then they get them back the next morning. After that you’re allowed it any hour of the day.
A: It was something some of the boys used to really struggle with. There was only one payphone in Hill Side when I was there. So if you wanted to talk to anyone, like your parents or something like that, you waited your turn, and there was a queue. And everyone was just there in the background. There was only one mobile phone, this was in 1993 so it was one of the giant old mobiles, which was illicit, and was obviously hidden away. And I think that from memory, it was only used in the toilet of the George & Dragon, and on Saturday night by its owner who used to talk to his girlfriend who was at Bedgebury.
A: Is there weekly boarding now? As in literally Monday to Friday you’re at the school and then end of Saturday you go home?
O: You can be in school any time. Any boarder is allowed to go out. They have to be in school Friday night. I actually only live 25 minutes away from school.
A: So afterwards you go home?
O: Every weekend. After your match on Saturday. Go home Saturday night.
A: And if you go home do you then have to go to Chapel on Sunday?
O: Yeah. You have to go back for Chapel. These days it’s mostly the people that live in London and the overseas boys that might not go home every weekend.
A: I tell you, the weekends could be really boring. We used to have a special treat Saturday night. Looking back now I’m amazed that this was allowed to happen. Every Saturday night, the Upper 6th were allowed to go to the pub, without question.
O: Which pubs?
A: The George & Dragon.
O: Still there. And they still have the supporters club for the Old Boys, for the 1st team Rugby. It’s called the George Club. So before every home game they all go in the George for quite a while, so they’re nice and rowdy on the touch line.
A: When I was there, rugby was compulsory for everybody in Michaelmas term. It was the only compulsory sport. And then in the Spring term, hockey was the team sport. And then obviously cricket and athletics and tennis and whatever else in the summer. But there was no football when I was at Tonbridge. Is there football now?
O: Football is huge now. There’s been a huge shift from hockey to football. First term its football but, you can do football but it’s more a sort of social… the main sport is rugby. And even if you’re a serious footballer you would play rugby in the rugby term. And then second term there’s now proper football instead of hockey, and it’s got so much more popular in the last 10 years.
A: I played rugby in the Autumn but I think in the Spring I ended up doing cross country. But I wasn’t fast enough to be in the team so I basically had Saturday afternoons off, so we used to go down and watch Tonbridge Angels. I’ve got a feeling we weren’t technically allowed to.
O: Now there’s 4 hockey teams, and 8 or 9 football teams. So it’s completely switched.
O: So what do you miss about Tonbridge? … Chapel?
A: Do you know what when I was there, there was no Chapel. The old Chapel had burnt down, and they later rebuilt it. So for the entire 5 years that I was there they had ‘the Quad Chapel’, which was this massive pre-fab building in the quad. I definitely miss the facilities. From what I understand it’s even better now you’ve got the media centre.
O: It’s unbelievable. They’ve only had that for a few years, and they’ve just put in clay tennis courts, expanded the gym by a whole huge floor. It’s amazing.
A: I miss the sport. I mean, I don’t do any sport, but I always really used to enjoy it. Once I’d extricated myself from hockey anyway…
O: It’s still a big part of life at Tonbridge.
A: And it’s one of those things again that with the benefit of hindsight you actually come to recognise how much talent there is there on the teaching staff and actually how urbane and… I mean it’s a mixed bag of course, but there were some who were just fantastically talented people. I mean, Sir Anthony Seldon, and some of the science staff too were just unbelievably good.
A: So have you got brothers and sisters?
O: Yeah, three brothers.
A: All OTs?
O: So I’ve got three older brothers, all OTs, 3 at Hill Side, my dad, my uncle, also in Hill Side, and my grandad.
A: So it’s like a dynasty. If you have kids you’d better pray they’re not daughters.