PART 3: The Bucknalls


1.1. Background.

1.2. Bristol Grammar School.

1.3. Early career.

1.4. The Carlisle schools.

1.5. The Yorkshire school.


2.1. Tavistock Hall (1940).

2.2. Wartime conditions at Tavistock Hall.

2.3. Ward headmaster of Tavistock Hall (1944).

2.4. Skippers Hill Manor (1945).

2.5. School repairs (1947).

2.6. Jack Bucknall headmaster at Tavistock Hall (1954).

  3. FOOTNOTES [Part 3].

1. Harold Bucknall

1.1. Background

Harold Bucknall was born in Redland, Bristol on 11 Nov 1882. He was the sixth child and third son of Cedric Bucknall (b. Bath 1849-1921) and Abbie Cecilia Frye (b. Newmarket, Suffolk, 1845-1930). He was brought up in a musical family. Harold’s father graduated from Keble College, Oxford with a Bachelor of Music degree, was a church organist at All Saints, Clifton, a professor of music at 30, lecturing at Bristol University, an accomplished composer, a botanist, and spoke four languages including Spanish.1

1.2. Bristol Grammar School

In September 1898, Harold Bucknall (16) attended Bristol Grammar School at Tyndalls Park and remained there until June 1900. Apparently, he was not a 6th Form high flyer, or a prefect, or a member of the Debating Society, or even an Oxbridge candidate.2 In July 1899, while in the 4th Form of the Upper School, he came 14th overall out of 22 pupils. His best subjects were languages, coming 6th in Greek, 8th in French and 9th in English. Mathematics was his worst subject (20th).

Bucknall excelled at rugby football and played many times in inter-school and divisional matches. In 1898, he was awarded Second XV colours and in the following year First XV colours. According to the Grammar School Chronicle of 1899, Bucknall had “improved greatly and is now a very good forward. He collars well, but should use his heels more in scrums. He has played well in division matches”.3

1.3. Early career

After leaving school at 18, Bucknall began his working life as an insurance clerk, living in lodgings together with his architect brother Arthur Bucknall (25), in the Butler household in Knights Hill Row, Lambeth, London.4 Ten years later, in 1911, Bucknall (28) was working as a schoolmaster in a county school in an unknown location in England, but it was probably in Cumberland (now Cumbria). At the time of the 1911 England Census, he visited the Percival family home at 48 Loudoun Road, St John’s Wood, London, or, more likely, a friend who was lodging with them.5

1.4. The Carlisle schools

Harold ‘Buckie’ Bucknall, as he was affectionately known, was regarded by some of his former pupils as “eccentric with a talent for running boarding schools”.6

1910 to 1913

Harold Bucknall began his teaching career as Assistant Master of West Heath School, Hampstead, London between 1910 and 19137

1913 to 1915

From May 1913 until 1915, Bucknall moved from London to Cumbria (formerly Cumberland) where he was appointed Assistant Master of Carlisle Grammar School.

1915 to 1917

Between 1915 and April 1917, Bucknall was employed as the Acting Principal of Carlisle Grammar School, Preparatory dept, which was located on Strand Road, Carlisle, Cumberland.8 The principal then was Charles F.C. Padel, MA, an English educationalist and former headmaster of Ashby Grammar School.9

Photo: Harold Bucknall with Wolf Cubs at Carlisle Grammar School, 1917 10

1917 to 1927

In July 1917, Bucknall was promoted to Principal (Head Master) of the Preparatory School for boys located at 12 & 14 Victoria Place, by Charles Padel11 who stepped down. Boys between the ages of six and 14½ were prepared for entrance into public schools or a life in the Royal Navy. Bucknall held this post till 1927.12 The advert above shows that Bucknall had introduced daily Swedish Drill exercises into the school curriculum by 1920.13


On 22 April 1919, Harold Bucknall (36), “schoolmaster”, married 34-year-old spinster Kathleen Mary Burton (b. Upwell, Norfolk, Q4 1883-Q4 Nov 1975) in the St Mary the Great Church, Cambridgeshire. The service was officiated by Kathleen’s father, Alfred Burton, the Vicar of Stetchworth. The Church of England wedding was witnessed by Alfred Bernard Bucknall Eyre, 2nd Lieutenant, Arthur Bucknall, brother, and Margaret S. Burton, Kathleen’s elder sister.14

1.5. The Yorkshire school

Terrington Hall

Bucknall left Cumbria in 1927 to take up a new post as Principal (Head Master) of Terrington Hall Preparatory School, Terrington, Yorkshire. Records do not show on what date Bucknall left Terrington Hall, only the word “resigned” has been recorded.15

As no further schools were added by the Teachers Registration Council to Bucknall’s membership card, this suggests that Bucknall resigned from the Council some time after 1927, which is why there is no record of when he left Terrington Hall.

2. Bucknall’s two schools

2.1. Tavistock Hall (1940)

Little is known of Bucknall’s whereabouts between 1927 and 1939. He may have remained Head Master at Terrington Hall until 1939, but this can only be confirmed from the 1931 England Census, once it is published.

What is known is that, in 1939, Harold Bucknall founded Tavistock Hall, a preparatory school for day boys and boarders between the ages of 3 and 14, and became its first headmaster and remained so until 1944. The rumour that the school had been relocated from Tavistock, Devon, is a myth.’16

The school was accommodated in an old Victorian house and outbuildings in Heathfield, Sussex. In 1939, Bucknall was living-in there with his 16-year-old adopted son Jack Bucknall (b. Jack Pope, Bristol, Avon, 21 Aug 1923, d. Q2 1993). There is no sign of Harold’s wife Kathleen with them there then.17

2.2. Wartime conditions at Tavistock Hall

The conditions for boarders at Tavistock Hall during its first five years were austere, largely due to the outbreak of the Second World War. According to a former pupil who boarded first at Tavistock Hall in 1943 and then transferred to Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School in 1945 when he was five, “the teachers were kind and the headmaster extremely so“. But the wartime diet of “swedes, turnips and cabbage was poor…” [ed. due to food shortages and rationing] “…and the boys suffered from boils and chilblains in the winter, due to the poor diet and the damp. Boarders were always cold and lonely”.18

2.3. Ward headmaster of Tavistock Hall (1944)

In May 1944, John Raymond Ward (Wakefield, Yorkshire, 1921-2002) was a Senior Master at Arnold Lodge Preparatory School in Royal Leamington Spa, Worcestershire,19 where he taught geography. Later that same year, Ward moved to Sussex and took over as headmaster of Tavistock Hall Preparatory School from Harold Bucknall, and in doing so, became one of the country’s youngest headmasters at the age of 23.

2.4. Skippers Hill Manor (1945)

On 30 October 1945, Harold Bucknall, described in the conveyance as a “county schoolmaster of Tavistock Hall, Heathfield”, bought the “Skippers Hill Estate”, which included the dwelling house referred to in the plan as the Manor House and a large plot of land opposite, on which Foyes Cottage was built later, from Noel Lawrence Harris, a timber merchant living at Lawrence House, Crowborough, for £6,000, equivalent to £213,270 in 2017.20 In doing so, Bucknall founded Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School for Boys and became its first headmaster, adding a second boys’ preparatory school to his portfolio.21

See Correspondence in Part 4, The Wards, regarding the Ward family’s claim to founding Skippers.

Drawing in conveyance: The Plan of the ‘Skippers Hill Estate’ in the 1945 conveyance,
showing the land
purchased outlined in red

2.5. School repairs (1947)

In March 1947, Harold Bucknall applied to Lloyds Bank, Heathfield, for a loan of £155 (± £5,500 in 2017) to pay for repairs and improvements to the fabric of Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School. Based on my interpretation of deciphered scribbled notes made at the time, it seems that the money was needed to repair, among other things, the southwest-facing side of the manor’s thatched roof, install central heating, add a shower block with several basins and showers, improve the WCs, purchase 60 square metres of timber for [ed. exterior] walls of classrooms, upgrade the kitchen facilities and buy [ed. stock] for the vegetable garden.22

2.6. Jack Bucknall headmaster at Tavistock Hall (1954)

After a short spell as headmaster of Skippers between 1953 and 1954, Jack Bucknall BSc (Econ.) F.R.G.S, was appointed headmaster of Tavistock Hall in 1954. His wife, Anne Marie Magner, joined him at the school where they ran the school together.

Photo: Tavistock Hall advert in Schools Handbook (Sussex, England) for 1955.

According to the 1955 advertisement that appeared in a Schools Handbook (England), Tavistock Hall stood in “extensive grounds amid pines and firs, 600 feet above sea level”. The school offered boys a “liberal and well-balanced diet” and a “very healthy and bracing environment”, “suitable for the healthy care and education of young gentlemen”.

The school’s ideals included offering a “happy atmosphere, full scope for individual development and high educational achievements”. Mrs Bucknall, it stated, was “personally responsible for the health and care of the boys and for feeding arrangements, assisted by three Lady Matrons.” Like Skippers, Tavistock Hall prepared boys for Common Entrance and scholarship examinations for admission into public schools and nautical training colleges. [ed. Royal Navy].

The school encouraged hobbies that would give boys “pleasure and instruction” and offered “many active clubs”. Boys were taught to swim in the school pool and there was a gymnasium, cricket and football pitches, a Cub Pack and a Scout Troop”.23

In 1955, Pilgrims School had just opened in the ozone-rich sea air in Seaford, Sussex, 30 miles south of Skippers. The sanatorium school catered for boys suffering from asthma and eczema.24 The wording of Tavistock Hall’s advert suggests that it, too, wanted to capitalise on the health and environmental benefits of the Sussex countryside. If the seaside air of southern England was beneficial to asthma sufferers, then by the same token, the bracing, pine-enriched air of the high downland at Heathfield would benefit Tavistock’s boys too.

Image: Tavistock Hall advert in Schools Handbook (Sussex, England) for 1964, copied from eBay in 2018.

3. Bucknall’s philosophy

In 1917, while the Assistant Principal at Carlisle Preparatory School, Harold Bucknall wrote a book called Be A Man! A Word In Season to Junior Boys.25 The book, aimed at prep-school boys aged six to 15, contains guidelines for aspiring gentlemen. The book is dedicated to Wolf Cubs at Carlisle Grammar School, and is a nod to Kipling’s poem “If”, which ends with “you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Two themes of Kipling’s poem — self-control and stoicism — found their way into Bucknall’s philosophy. Bucknall’s aim was to improve boys’ ethical, moral and spiritual education, not just their academic results. To achieve that, he prescribed middle-class Victorian values like duty, personal improvement, a strong work ethic and stoicism (self-control; stiff upper lip).

A boy’s goal was to be gentlemanly and sporting (fair-minded). Boys needed to develop a moral compass to become a man. This meant emulating good habits like being honest, honourable, generous, unselfish, sporting, industrious and kind. Bad habits included idleness and sneaking. “A sporting boy would rather bite his cheek than turn [ed. into] a sneak”.

Bucknall believed that boys had a duty to work hard at school in order to realise their parents’ ambition of seeing their sons become honest, industrious boys. He identified two types of scholars: the ‘confirmed slacker’ and the ‘steady, reliable plodder’. Slackers were lazy boys who muddle through classes, have short concentration spans and make slow progress. The steady plodders, however, would swot, wanted to achieve and were competitive. The school’s goal was to achieve good academic results, turn boys into gentlemen and ensure they found good, useful professions. Slackers would end up working as clerks in third-rate, badly paid jobs.26 The good jobs were to be had in the Royal Navy and the Civil Service.

To be a man, you had to be courageous. “A brave boy”, Bucknall wrote, “is one of the finest things on God’s earth”. You dealt with a bully by hitting him back, not by turning the other cheek, otherwise you would never learn to be courageous and the bullying would never stop.

Boys also needed to harden up. This involved keeping fit, having plenty of exercise, playing lots of contact sports and accepting corporal punishment “unflinchingly”. Bucknall, a fine First XV rugby player, believed sports and physical exercise were character-forming and promoted manliness, and that cold water made boys healthier, brighter and work better. He awarded prizes to boys who took cold baths in the morning during the summer term!

Bucknall recommended boys take up hobbies as they made you a “happier and more enthusiastic person”. Boys needed to develop a taste for the “better things” [ed. in life] like good books [ed. no examples given], as they improved your mind, positively influenced your behaviour and inspired higher ideals.

Bucknall was also concerned with a boy’s spiritual education. “Boys need to turn themselves into decent Christian gentlemen”, he wrote. To be a man, you also need to be companionable, courteous, sympathetic and willing to help someone”, if they ask for help.

4. Heads of Bucknall’s two schools

The table below, compiled by the author, shows who was headmaster or vice-master of each school between 1939 and 1963.

5. Footnotes [Part 3]

The last comment needs to be approved.
2 replies
  1. richard tolbert
    richard tolbert says:

    Hi Peter
    I was at Tavistock from 1958-1964, an African from Liberia. Jack Bucknall, his wife and family were good people. Would love to make contact with his son Nicky (ed. John Nicholas Bucknall b. 1952, Tonbridge, Kent). The school was still poorly heated in the 1950’s, and I remember those darn childblains!

  2. Tony Druttman
    Tony Druttman says:

    Hi Peter
    My twin brother Mike and I were at Tavistock Hall. I was there from 1960-62. Mike till 1963. We both have very fond memories of the place. A few years ago I did a motorcycle trip to Heathfield and turned up a few hills from the main road to look for the school. Eventually, I stopped at a housing estate and asked an older lady if she could help me find the school. She said she remembered it being transformed into a housing estate. Such is the progress of time. I did however find Skippers Hill Manor and saw the same green huts built on concrete blocks that serve as classrooms. Do you remember the Welsh Collie that used to promenade the classrooms on Tuck Shop day?
    I’d love to make contact, as I am sure Mike would, to exchange stories and perhaps one or two photos.
    Best wishes
    Tony Druttman


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  1. James W. White, Journal of Botany, Vol. 60, pp. 64-67, March 1922. Recollections of Cedric Bucknall.
  2. Anne Bradley, MA Oxon, Bristol Grammar School’s archivist, 2018.
  3. The Grammar School Chronicle, Bristol Grammar School, 1898 and 1899 editions, supplied by Anne Bradley.
  4. The 1901 England Census.
  5. The 1911 England Census. School’s location not recorded. HB was just a ‘visitor’.
  6. Tavistock and Summerhill School, A Brief History.
  7. Teachers Registration Council Registers, 1914-1948.
  8. Bucknall’s position as Acting Principal is recorded in his book Be A Man, pub. 1917.
  9. Carlisle Grammar School Memorial Register, Charles Thurman, 1264-1924, p. 215.
  10. Photograph of Harold Bucknall with a Wolf Cub pack — pupils at Carlisle Grammar School — Cumbria Archive Service, Cumbria County Council, Carlisle, 2018.
  11. Carlisle Grammar School Memorial Register, Charles Thurman, 1264-1924, p. 215.
  12. Carlisle Directories for 1920 to 1927. Dates verified from (i) directory adverts supplied by Carla M. Horner, Carlisle Library, Carlisle, Cumbria and by (ii) the Teachers Registration Council Registers, 1914-1948.
  13. Swedish Drill is a system of gymnastics invented by the Swede, Pehr Henrik Ling, in the 19th century. According to Dawn Duran, Martina Bergman-Österberg helped introduce Swedish Drill into British schools [].
  14. Marriage certificate for Harold Bucknall and Kathleen Mary Burton. For some reason, HB’s father is recorded as ‘Lionel’ Bucknall (organist), not Cedric Bucknall.
  15. Teachers Registration Council Registers, 1914-1948.
  16. Tavistock and Summerhill School, A Brief History. Robert Bryant refers to anecdotes of former pupils who thought that Tavistock Hall was originally established in Tavistock, Devon and later relocated to Sussex. However, no evidence has been found to substantiate this. Pupils probably mixed up Tavistock Hall (Heathfield) with Terrington Hall (Yorkshire) as they both have the same initials (TH) and both contain the word ‘Hall’.
  17. The 1939 England and Wales Register for Hailsham RD, EKMQ, Sussex.
  18. School in Sussex at Three in 1943, by Patrick O’Shea. 1 Jul 2004. Source: BBC People’s War: Childhood and Evacuation. Article ID: 2801215.
  19. Ward’s membership registration, Library of the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington, London.
  20. Conveyance and Plan of the Skippers Hill Estate (see References).
  21. Harold Bucknall’s ownership of both Tavistock Hall and Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School during his lifetime is referred to in the 1970 Deed of Grant (see References).
  22. East Sussex Records Office, The Keep, Falmer, Brighton. Ref: WAT 3/760/16. School repairs.
  23. Advertisement in Schools Handbook (Schools Sussex, England),1955.’
  24. Lucy Ward, The Independent, Oct 1997. Pilgrims’ demographic; dates school began and closed.
  25. Summary of the main themes of Bucknall’s book by Peter King Smith, Nov 2018.
  26. Bucknall worked as an insurance clerk when he was 18 [Source: The 1901 England Census], so this advice is most probably based on his own personal experience.