Bodenham Manor School (1950-1987) – Bodenham Manor School, Herefordshire was established by the Birmingham Society for the Care of Invalid and Nervous Children. Set in woodlands in the heart of Herefordshire the manor house was very welcoming to look upon and the grounds were well kept. This story as follows is of the time span from 1980 to 1984. The school had up to fifty pupils at any one time with approximately twelve members of staff to look after the pupils in various routines during the day. The school was not really geared to academic education but more to do with life skills and working roles. The head master at the time was a generous and loving man who just wished the best for his pupils and always did his best for the school with his wife the head teacher at the time. There where only five teachers with four class rooms who taught basic education and if you wished to you could be allowed day release for Hereford collage to study for exams.
A typical day would start with being waken up at six thirty every morning with breakfast at seven after this productive work for example sweeping the play grounds clean, Then class at nine till lunch time and so on we had three meals a day in a large dining room with ten dining tables this was always a noisy affair with the head boy who had to keep everything under control. The system used to keep the boys in line as to say a league table for junior leaders and senior leaders it was generally thought if you were not on this list you were a nobody so this was a good way to keep everyone in line as competition was looked upon as a must. The bedrooms where named after pilots and others of the second world war. Main house: Deere (sleeps 4), Embry (sleeps 4), Johnson (sleeps 4), Tuck (sleeps 2). New Wing: Barnes (sleeps 5), Mitchell (sleeps 3), Sick bay then Churchill (sleeps 3). Annex: Cunningham (sleeps 4), Cheshire (sleeps 4), Barder (sleeps 4). Staff quarters where in the loft of the main house this was very much out of bounds.
The rooms were very basic all had beds with storage but you had to be a leader to be allowed your clothes in the room otherwise there was a storage room on the first floor where all your belongings were kept and this was overseen by the matron of the school who allocated what you would wear for the day. The matron was also responsible for your medical needs such as Dr’s visits and medicals that you had to undergo almost every year but the first exam was defiantly the worse as the term go’s cough and drop that was particularly embarrassing in front of Matron. Overall the manor was a good place to find yourself there where always chances to brake away and go wondering on your own or with friends the grounds where quite large and joined by woodland with a football pitch on top of the hill.
At night none of this had lights the only outside lights where at the doors from the front and on the rear of the manor house with the annex opposite so the winters where very dark and occasionally go snowed in with one year managing fifteen foot snowdrifts with the fact of climbing out the windows to dig the front door out. Must say always had good summers seems to me the weather was better when young and spent hours fishing and swimming the river Lugg on the church walk the favourite pastime on very hot days was to call classes to an end and go swimming and jumping in the river from the banks. All in all an innocent time with no particular corruption of the mind or anything else it felt like an extended family.
Our main character is called Leslie a little bit complicated age twelve bullied from the secondary school in Birmingham and very shy almost depressed with life a very dark cloud following him around with no friends to say of, A loner with his own thoughts. Having lived on the largest council estate finds himself at the manor with rather a lot of culture shock he was given the choice of going into a foster home or Bodenham and made the right choice as he was to find out over the four years he was there. The other four main characters Jack, Charlie, Daniel, Barry a mixed bunch Jack fairly happy boy who was fighting his feelings for Leslie over the four years as Jack knew he was gay from an early age but kept this hidden from everyone, Charlie is the original charmer who always got the girls a peaceful type of manner. Daniel is ruff and ready always up for a challenge never like loosing at anything and wanted to out best anyone in anything with quite a short temper. Barry the eldest boy at fourteen a bit like the local godfather who liked to think of himself as the kingpin. Frank a sort of slow lad who likes to talk to himself very inward looking type but a bit slow like I said.
The headmaster was Arthur married to Elizabeth the English teacher for the school and there children Evie and Thomas who help Leslie a great deal through the years. Other noted staff Harrison and Julia tasked with physical activities and then to Evelyn and Colin, Evelyn tasked as the art teacher and Colin the deputy head. Arthur was a well mannered strong man with high expectations on his pupils but never domineering always spoke clear and softly and see the best in anyone and wanted the best for you. And with Elizabeth by his side made a exceptional school. Evie and Thomas where made of the same as there parents very easy to get on with and good interaction. Harrison and Julia where geared to sport from canoeing, sailing, cycling, walking, mountain climbing, football. Harrison also indulged his love of technical drawing and taught a class that was most enjoyable. Now to Evelyn the art teacher who was very inspiring to Leslie but then on the other hand Colin was a great dictator and had no qualms about disagreeing with anything you said and who was always right about everything even if you knew he was wrong always had to put down any achievement.
These are the main characters based around a boarding school for the Care of Invalid and Nervous Children and this story is a tale of coming of age and the relationships that go with this, 1979 was not a good year for Leslie after months of bullying started missing school barricading himself in his house while his mother was at work, Teresa Leslie’s mother only found out about the situation at the last minute so to say visits from social services impacted on them until there was no choice after home schooling did not work they deemed the boarding school was the best option.
And in the new year of 1980 Leslie was to attend. It came about on a sunny day where a coach was met in Birmingham and Teresa watched as Leslie cried out of the rear window as they pulled away. Next stop Bodenham this is where we meet Barry as he was also on the coach he came over to Leslie seeing him crying said I will look after you don’t worry, It seemed no time at all the coach parked at the bottom of the drive Leslie picked his case up and walked the gravel stones of the drive to the front door where Arthur stood gazing over the boys who walked past saying hello to everyone and here we have the start of four years journey into some sort of recovery for Leslie.