Hillbrow School ceased to exist as a name at the end of the Lent term of 1962. Just over a year previous to that, at the beginning of 1961, it had been amalgamated with St Nicholas’ School at Ridley Hall, Bardon Mill, but the marriage was not a successful one, and though the school continued for a few more years after Easter 1962, it dropped the Hillbrow name.
On 7th July 2012, in collaboration with my cousin, John Clark, a ‘Remembering Hillbrow’ reunion was held at Featherstone Castle, Haltwhistle, Northumberland, which he now owns. This is where the school resided from 1941, after its evacuation from Rugby, until 1960, and it is therefore where the majority of living Old Hillbrovians are likely to have spent their prep school years.
Eighty or so guests (click here to see a list: Reunion Actual Attendance) arrived for morning coffee, many of whom had not seen each other for sixty or so years. This was followed by an excellent buffet lunch provided by a catering company called Spice, tours of the castle led by John Clark, and five speeches. The speakers were myself, my uncle, the Rev. Nicholas Dixon (son of William Scarth Dixon – WSD – who was Headmaster from 1922 to 1953), David Braidford (impromptu while I was dealing with an organisational problem), Jock Asbury-Bailey (who like Nicholas moved with the school from Rugby to Featherstone in 1941), and Hugh Ramsbotham, who was both a pupil and a Master at the school. An exhibition of Hillbrow history, documentation other memorabilia, together with some of WSD’s favourite music was available for guests to peruse and enjoy.
There were three optional extra events for those who wanted to stay on a little longer. A dinner the same evening at the Centre of Britain Hotel in Halwhistle was attended by twenty-three guests, the same number came on a walk through the old POW camp and up to Lambley Viaduct on Sunday morning, and twenty seven came to a pub lunch at the Wallace Arms at the end of the walk. Eric Henderson, ex-Head of a school in Bellingham, joined us for the walk and pub lunch and told us something about the ex-POWs he had met through a project he initiated at his school.
We were astonishingly lucky with the weather, enabling many of the activities on 7th to take place outside. The omens had not been good, and we had been resigned to having to stay inside all day, but in the event the sun came out, and apart from a few drips of rain, it was a beautiful day. On Sunday it was rather less sunny, but it didn’t rain which for one of the worst summers on record was little less than a miracle.
All the feedback on the event has been positive, and there will probably be moves for further gatherings in the future.