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News > Archives & History > School Diary of an Owenian - 1952

School Diary of an Owenian - 1952

Bill Read, Class of '52, shares an excerpt from his diary record of school life at Owen's in the 50's.
Sports Day, 14th May - A C Elder of Hermitage, the winning house, holding the winning trophy.
Sports Day, 14th May - A C Elder of Hermitage, the winning house, holding the winning trophy.

To those who might not be aware of it, the old school was situated at the Angel, Islington; it had its own street, Owen Street, off which the main entrance into the school was located, and in addition there was Owen’s Row which divided the girls’ school from the boys’.

January saw the start of my last year at school. I was in Form 5B along with my best friends, Joe Day, George Nelson and Roger Foxton, all of whom left school along with myself at the end of the Trinity term. First day back from the Christmas holiday we were shown a film about Julius Caesar and were supplied with new desks.


In those days the school’s sports fields were situated some miles away at Totteridge, on the fringes of north London, and there were two modes of travel to access them: the Northern Line tube and the 609 Trolleybus. On 24th January, Roger Foxton, Don Bewsey, George Nelson and I were returning on the trolleybus after playing football when a group of girls from a school near Archway boarded. Manna from Heaven for boys from a boys’ only school! Soon, cheeky remarks and insinuations started to flow , all good fun as far as the girls and ourselves were concerned. But it transpired that a lady passenger had taken offence and had reported the incident to the school because she had recognized our blazer badges. Next morning the master in charge of school assembly asked for the boys involved to report to the headmaster, which we all did. We received  stinging whacks from the cane on the palms of our hands as our punishment.


Late morning February 6th, during a history lesson conducted by Mr R A Dare, another teacher entered the classroom and announced that the King had died and that Princess Elizabeth had become Queen. We found out later that all cinemas throughout the  country were closed immediately; there were large banner headlines on all three afternoon/evening newspapers (The Star, The Evening News, The Evening Standard).

On February 8th we had our bi-annual health checks at school; I was measured at 5 feet 7.25 inches in height and 10stone 8 pounds in weight – and the doctor said I was fat!

We had the day off school on February 16th, the day of the King’s funeral and some friends and I went to Paddington to watch the funeral procession. On Feb.18 the GCE mock exams commenced.

On March 6th it rained non-stop all day, but we still had to go to the sports field to run five laps around the field boundaries; George Nelson started running in a flesh coloured swimming costume and had to take it off. March 7th was not one of my best days: I received 200 lines for having used the wrong entrance into school, and to that punishment was added 100 lines for misbehaving with others at assembly earlier in the week!

April 1st and a career talk for those of us due to leave at the end of the summer term. Also, and much more to my liking, a meeting in school for prospective 1st and 2nd X1 cricket teams. On April 10th I went to the Youth Employment Agency to discuss possible career choices; very difficult for me as I had no idea what career would appeal.

May 1st  and the annual quest for athletic standard points began at the school sports field. On this first day I ran both the 100 and 220 yards, threw the cricket ball and the javelin.


Straight after school on May 5th, Joe and I walked up Pentonville Road to Kings Cross and went to the Century Cinema opposite St Pancras Station to see Gene Kelly in the now iconic musical,” Singin’ In the Rain” . It was the first day of the film’s general release. We enjoyed it so much that we repeated the process the next day. In 1952 not many people had TVs and those that did were limited to just one channel, BBC, which normally only broadcast  from late PM to midnight. In contrast, going to the movies was the one big entertainment. Quite often four or five of us would go straight from school at 3.30pm to visit one of the local cinemas. Apart from the Century there were seven other cinemas all within reasonable walking distance from the school, the nearest being the Angel in Islington High Street, no more than a good cricket throw away, then came the Empire, also in Islington High Street, followed by the Blue Hall in Upper Street, the Rex opposite Islington Green, the Odeon, also in Upper Street,the Carlton in Essex Road, and the Victoria in New North Road. I went to the cinema 110 times that year.

Saturday May 10th. Opening match of the cricket season and I played for the First X1 for the first time, taking four wickets.

Wednesday May 14th. The  annual sports’ day school athletics’ finals. Performing for Cloudesley I won the 14–16 age group cricket ball throwing, with a distance of 98 yards and 1 foot, equivalent to around 90m. All that throwing stones in the bomb ruins in Islington after the end of World War Two had paid off! Bill Nankeville, the British Mile Champion that year, presented the awards. Later in May several of us competed in the North London Grammar School Athletic Championships, the areas at Parliament Hill Fields, the finals at White City , then the premier athletic stadium in England.


On Wed. 25th June, a new fifth year form was created, called 5G, in which all the pupils due to leave school at the end of Trinity term were placed. In addition to myself this form included Joe Day, George Nelson and Roger Foxton. Apparently the main reason for establishing the form was to prepare us for going out into the wide world beyond school. Our first outing occurred that very first day when we were taken to the Regents Park open air theatre to see a performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”. None of us were fans of the Bard, but things looked up dramatically when we arrived because several girls’ schools were there , and we were the only boys’ school attending! So the afternoon went along merrily with lots of banter and laughs; at one point Joe and I had our photo taken by one of the girls. I wonder where that photo ended up, if it still exists.

The next day at school we leavers were given a lecture and a film strip about sex and on the day after that we were given a lecture on the British Legal System.


The end of my school days was fast approaching and there dawned a hint of sadness in the air as I walked from my home in Packington Street to and from school each day via Camden Passage, a journey I had undertaken for five years. But activities for 5G were in full swing: on July 7 another film at school about sex education; July 8 a trip to the large Harris Lebus furniture factory near Tottenham; July 9 in the morning another film and lecture about sex, then in the afternoon a visit to The Albion Brewery in the East End, which was owned by the school governors, Mann, Crossman and Paulin ( the tour was conducted by Mr Crossman and we were all  offered an alcoholic drink at the end of the visit!). On July 14 came a visit to the British Museum, and on July 15 more films at school  followed by an interesting visit to the British Electrical Exhibition; and finally, on July 16, a visit to Regents Park for a  lecture on decorating houses, followed by a visit to an exhibition at Watson House.


The School 1st X1 Cricket Team v The Old Boys annual cricket match. Victory for the school and six wickets for me. After the game, Sam Kershen, the Old Boys Captain , asked me to play for the Old Boys the coming Sunday, which I did and as a result of playing that game I found myself on the road to a life long career in the world of commercial property dealings and development

Monday July 21. This morning Johnny Weston, David King, Ken Guilder and I were called up onto the stage at assembly to be awarded First Eleven cricket colours. It was, and has remained, one of the proudest moments in my life.

Friday July 25, My last day at school. Diary quote “Most of us said goodbye to our masters and all day I have felt sad about leaving”

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