Friday, May 10, 2013

Who can forget Ashburton College!

The College in 1947

School Group -  date ?

Juniors 1952
Sister school Greylands/Churchills 1948 
College Lads 1957
Left to right, Robin Jacobs, Leonard Stook, ?, Ian Blunsom, ?, Tucker, Mehdi Aber, ?, A. Jones, Mr.O'Brien, Les Brealey, Peter Wilson, Geoff Sharpe, Cliff Bristow, Roger Coombe, Alan Austin, Nobby Hodder, Simmy Shaw-Brundell, Richard Dring, Peter Earp and kneeling in the front is Mustafa Seyrafianpour

A studious Stan 'Bob' Lavis

J.H. Dodderidge

L to R  ? Sharley, ? Stook, J.H. Doddridge,
Howard Perry (now Geoffrey Perret) and Paddy Cole

Visit to Paris 1957

David Bryan

John Oakford during school holidays

Cliff Bristow has kindly sent us this pic of the Torquay United match at Plainmoor in 1955 when they beat Leeds 4-0. The lad in the ABC uniform was 11 year old David Bowen.

June 1960

The College had the most up to-date calculators!

Hosted by John Oakford.

All reasonable efforts have been made to identify and contact copyright holders but in some cases these could not be traced. If you hold or administer rights for materials published here, please contact us. Any errors or omissions will be corrected.

Please note: that whilst you are welcome to download any information or images for your own personal use, downloading or copying any information or images for commercial use is expressly forbidden without prior consent. 

 For anyone who also attended Knowles Hill School, Mike Insall's website is at


With John Oakford & other 'Old Ashburtonians'

Let’s start this off with the college motto - “Per artem lumen”. When I enquired at the college as to its meaning, I was told it meant ‘through art to light’ or something like that, depending on who I asked! Not being a Latin scholar (or any type of scholar for that matter), I contacted Maria in Genova, Italy and she kindly provided the following: “Per artem lumen literally means ‘Through art light’, i.e. Through art we reach the light. Anyway I think it would be better to say: Per artes lumen, i.e. ‘Through arts light’. In Latin in fact, it's better to use the accusative plural of ‘ars'('artes') than the accusative singular('artem')”. So there you have it and we can move on!

The link with our Ashburton College and the town of Ashburton was Mr. Henry Naylor the Headmaster of the Ashburton & District Grammar School. When the Grammar School closed circa. 1938 Mr. Naylor started his own Private School in Ireland House, Ashburton. This became known as Ashburton College and the name carried on when it was relocated in Newton Abbot around 1947. There were boys from several countries at the school, including lads from Persia (now Iran), Argentina, Poland and the United States.

The college was divided into four 'houses  -  Gifford, Stapledon, Dunning and Ireland. All named apparently after Ashburton town worthies from times gone by.

The teaching staff were mostly graduates of Trinity College, Dublin, headed by Mr. E.S. Cody, B.A., T.S.D., nickname 'Buff' (from ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody). His staff and co-graduates were Messrs. Calvert, Flynn and 'Joe' Chamberlain. In 1954, according to the signatures on my report forms, Calvert was teaching English, History and Art; Chamberlain, Maths and Geography; Flynn, French and PT. 'Buff' himself taught science. By 1956, 'Bogey' Robinson, an overweight ex-wrestler  -  a miserable old sod  -  had taken on responsibility for English, Mathematics and Geography, Flynn was still taking French and PT, and 'Buff' History and Science. There was also Fred Budd, a former insurance agent of my father's, with no known teaching qualifications, who doubled as the woodwork teacher and sports master, and a Mr. Dean who possibly taught Art. A lady of indeterminate age, 'Fanny' Fraser, endeavoured to teach the rudiments of playing the piano.

Punishments handed out were of a particularly unpleasant and humiliating nature.- a cut across the base of the finger nails with the side of a ruler was one, being hauled to ones feet by pressure exerted on the short hairs behind the ears another. Often a transgressor was made to stand outside a classroom in rain or snow, or had a blackboard eraser bounced off his skull. A particularly sadistic punishment was to make a boy stand at his desk. The desks were of the old fashioned type with desk and bench in one, with little more than a 6 inch clearance between the desk and bench, making it impossible to stand upright, so that the unfortunate victim was forced into a contorted posture with the edge of the desk digging into his thighs and that of the bench into his calves. If one was a tall, well built boy, as I was, the suffering was even worse. But most dreaded of all was what was known as 'the slipper', the instrument of punishment wielded by 'Buff' himself, often for comparatively minor infractions. It was actually a leather strap of the type used to operate the windows on railway carriages, and was thick and heavy. 'Buff' was a big bloke and when he applied the 'slipper' to the rear end, the pain was so intense and sickening it was impossible to even cry.

In my opinion, the standard of teaching at Ashburton College was not good. It did turn out quite a number of pupils who did well in later life, but they were, as often as not, of the academically gifted type who would have done well even at Dotheboys Hall, under the tutelage of Mr. Wackford Squeers! However, I achieved some sporting fame by getting into the 1st rugby XIV - or, to be more precise, onto the team photograph, being called on to the make up the numbers as a player was absent on the day of the photograph.

There were small victories to be achieved in practical jokes and acts of revenge against hated members of staff, such as 'Bogey' Robinson. One of these was to withdraw one of pegs out of socket in the easel supporting the old style blackboard until it was only just holding the blackboard in place. As soon as the blackboard was assaulted by Bogey's heavy handed method of using the chalk, it would clatter loudly to the floor, additional amusement being gained by his ineptly trying to prevent the collapse. Another trick was to remove a back leg from his chair, in the (dangerous) expectation that when he sat on it, his considerable bulk would send the chair backwards, thereby depositing him on the floor. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), it never happened. We boys would watch in horrified fascination as, for the duration of his history lesson, he rocked back and forth, the chair teetering on its remaining three legs, but somehow always managing to stay upright! Apart from the fact that such a fall would undoubtedly have resulted in injury to Mr. Robinson, it would also have resulted in a severe all-round 'slippering'.

Poor old Fred Budd, boys were always taking the Mickey out of him! They nailed his hat to the woodwork bench once! He used to supervise sport as well and I will always remember the time he refereed a soccer match on a freezing-cold afternoon at Baker's Park. There he was standing there in his overcoat collar up and cap on his head, hands in pockets when someone took a mighty free-kick which went off-course, the ball smacking into the side of Fred's face! I'm surprised it didn't drive his hearing aid ear-piece half-way through his skull. He just stood there, his face changing from red to blue and back again - we thought we'd killed him and he couldn't fall over due to his feet being frozen to the ground! Being insensitive buggers, we just played round him until he recovered!

Another incident which caused considerable enjoyment was the matter of 'Buff' Cody's birthday cake.  Intended as a surprise, the cake had been iced and left to set beneath a window. During the night, a thief broke into the kitchen via the said window, and, steadying himself as he climbed in, planted a large, and doubtless dirty hand right in the middle of 'Buff's' cake. It is not known whether he left any fingerprints! And we must never forget the "fire of 1957" - see newspaper clippings below!

My school reports indicated that I was just not trying: "weak", "more effort required", "better application needed", were among the comments. Finally, my teachers, admitting defeat, informed my parents that there was no point in me staying on at school any longer, I left school at the end of the summer term of 1956, my 15th birthday falling one week after school resumed in September.

After all these years, only a few mysteries remain: 
(1) Who put a live mouse in the school's electric potato-peeler?
(2) Which Trinity College, Dublin-trained maths teacher used a "Teach Yourself Arithmetic" book to set homework?
(3) Why did Buff decide to take the school on a trip to London the day after the coronation? All we saw was rubbish and empty stands!
(4) Who chucked my school cap out of the carriage window on the way back from the above trip?
(5) Has anyone heard of the ghost in the basement? A man called Blake supposedly murdered his wife and kids there, before the building became a school. 

And does anybody remember the great Market Street garage fire of 1949? It would have been very visible from the College. The building in question is on the left (below).
© Derek Beavis. "Newton Abbot. Britain in Old Photographs"

Remembering Alan "Brasso" Brealey

Alan joined the British South Africa Police (BSP) after leaving the College aged seventeen. His father was South Western Electricity Board Manager at Totnes. It was rumoured that Alan was killed in Northern Ireland some years later, but I have received this from Alan's niece Clare Bagley, who has corrected the rumour of how and where Alan was killed:

"Hello, I found the website by searching Alan Brealey and saw the attached newspaper clipping that my grandparents had put in the newspaper when Alan left Bovey to join the police in Africa. I can tell you that Alan stayed in Africa for the rest of his life; he married and had two boys Alankie & Marcus. Alan had a long career with the police force and progressed through the ranks. After retiring from the police he took a security job in a gold mine, unfortunately he was attacked on his way to work one day and shortly after died from his injuries in hospital. I am the only child of David Brealey, Alan's older brother who sadly passed away in 2004. Les Brealey (who also went to Ashburton College) was a cousin to Alan and my father David - his father was Nick Brealey. Les was an only child as his mother died young. I have some very happy memories of my Grandparents. I have heard the name Maurice Mann mentioned by my father. Dad was a keen footballer and cricketer, playing for Bovey. He attended Newton Abbot Grammar School and was a member of Bovey Tracey young farmers".

From Clive Robinson

I discovered the Ashburton College site by accident after my wife had by mistake thrown away old papers and in them was my old school photo of Ashburton college.\So the wonders of the internet worked and I found  your site. Lo and behold the very photo that had been thrown away is the one you have of the whole school dated 1955/6. This is wrong for the date, as I am in it and I went to Canada in Nov 1954, and left Ashburton college then in Nov having just had my 11th birthday at school. So I would date the photo sa fall 1953 or spring 1954, no later . I am trying to get in touch with Robin Jacobs as we were in the same year and I see he now lives in Canada. I returned to England in 1960 and went to live in the channel islands until 1977 when I got married and we returned to Canada until 1984 then returned to the channel islands until 1999, we now spend 9 months in Canada and 3 months in jersey. I also remember Dudley Hext, Roger Stansill, and the Ward brothers. I must say the site you have created is wonderful.  

From John Tillotson

I have only just discovered the forum, I am very impressed. I can’t remember exactly which year I started at Ashburton, I think it was 1950,I left in 1956. If you were keen on sport it was possible to get by unoticed in the main. The two stalwarts of the teaching staff were Messrs Flynn and Powell, Mr Calvert came later. I seem to remember teachers from “across the water” made a rapid return to Ireland when they received their call up papers, in those days of National Service.

We had our two in house servicemen of course in the shape of  Guardsman Stan Lavis and aircraftman Colin Ashplant, of DA fame. Mr Dean I remember used to arrive in class with boxes of compasses protractors etc. I sat in the back row with John Dodderidge. we found that if we jiggled the desk in front we could get a vibration going which caused said boxes to slide onto the floor and burst open. I was introduced to the “slipper” on the third occasion.
Mr Budd being deaf could never get my name right, in the end I spelt it out for him, after that he always referred to me as Till OT son. I was not one of his more able pupils,I seem to remember my toast rack would have taken only one slice on one side and several on the other. The Polish contingent was quite strong in the early 50’s, literally in certain cases. In the winter when the classroom stoves were lit they would warm up their garlic which they ate with their sandwiches. Garlic was not at the top of the list in English kitchens so learning time was lost whilst the windows were opened to clear the atmosphere. Resulting in the first period after lunch therefore being extremely cold.

There were many amusing incidents, Buff mending a fuse with thick wire causing the fuse board to blow off the wall. boys putting a sixpence between the light fitting and the bulb in the woodwork room causing the electrics to fail once more when switched on. There were six of us one had the sixpence the rest of us donated a penny each. we were called to Buff’s study, and then had to stand at intervals around the landing so that there was no collusion.None of us knew anything about it of course. So he must have been feeling under par that day and did not slipper us, phew.
Does anybody remember Buff getting caught riding his bicycle without lights and on being found guilty was fined seven and sixpence! The report stated that when spotted he”alighted quickly” Oneo of the favourite pranks was to remove the Pearl Assurance card from the Readers Digest and sending it off in Buff’s name and then waiting for the sales man to call.

It would be interesting to know what happened to the South Devon boys, Alfred and Roger Ward John Doddridge Blaney Dudley Hext Peter Wakeham etc. One of the photos on the site described as 55/56 must I think be slightly earlier as it shows Geoffrey Harris who sadly died whilst still at school. His parents asked if some boys would be bearers. I remember travelling down in Buff’s A30. there were 3 in the back and one in front plus Buff. I don’t know if you remember but the wheel arch projected into the seats in the back and we in the back had numb bums at the end of the journey. Do you remember Dewy Howell from Cardiff, I don’t know why but Buff really had it in for him and he got slippered fairly regularly for quite insignificant offences.

I was chairman of the old boys for one year and was able to have a go at Buff who was present at the annual dinner. I told him a few home truths, I have a photo of me standing making the speech, Buff looking at the ceiling. Mike Wembdon reading my notes and laughing and Anna looking at the table. Buff came up to me afterwards and said your an awful rascal so you are and left. Richard Gilpin became Archdeacon of Totnes, David Baulkwill a director of British fittings, I believe Alfred Ward went into the Church also. I told you I was going to jump around .

I married my wife Anna in 1962, we have four children and nine grandchildren. Our home in England is near Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire, but we spend most of our time at our house in the Gironde. Thank you Mr. Flynn, your French lessons have stood me in good stead over the years, and of course the English.

With best wishes to my former school friends  John Tillotson.

 Remembered names - by Bob Lavis

Picture courtesy Bob Lavis

Lawrence Page - John Austin – John Balsdon – David Bowen – David Buckpitt – Donald Creber – H.J. Dodderidge - Frederick Hambly – Dudley Hext – Richard Hillson – Alan Hunt – Carrick Johnson – Stan “Bob” Lavis – Garland Luckraft – Maurice Mann – Gerald Moss – A.S. Newson – Francis Rogers – D.B. Smith – Peter Wakeham – Alfred & Roger Ward – Michael Wendon – J.E. Harris – M. Hurtford – A. Jervis – David Luscombe – John Pawley – Derek Sutton – Terry Warren – M. Buckpitt - Sam Payne - Joe Mander - Geoff & Alan Sharpe - The Cunningham Brothers from Argentina - 'Pancho' Walters' from the USA.


From Dr Ian Webber Ph.D. D.Sc.

I was happily amazed to come across the website on Ashburton College. Thank you very much John, for putting it together.

I was the Head Boy of the school and Captain of Stapledon in about 1959. Rhys Davey, Jim Bessel, Frank Chessum, Ken Chapman, Jock Lessels, Carrick Johnson, Alan Day, Frank(?) Cunningham were in the same form. I am in the rugby team picture two over from the forward with the ball to the right of the picture beside Frank Chessum, kneeling. Rhys Davey is standing behind me with Carrick Johnson on Rhys' right. Jock Lessels is beside him and Jim Bessel beside him. At one time I was the Captain of both the rugby and cricket teams, as far as I remember probably in '59.

I can remember Carrick Johnson always running to and from the train station in Newton Abbot to the school every day. He was supremely fit, a good runner and cricketer. I also remember someone who was a year older than me, perhaps Stan Lavis, who was a great cross country runner. Roger Coombe was two years ahead of me. He was Head Boy and a great track and field man, especially in the long jump.

I left Ashburton College in 1960 for Teignmouth Grammar School after 7 'O' levels at Ashburton. I managed to pass three 'A' levels at Teignmouth and went to Salford College of Advanced Technology as it was called at that time. It is now Salford University. I finished a degree in Chemistry from Salford and an external degree from the University of London at the same time. Subsequently, I emigrated to Canada with my wife Hildegard and did a Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry at Carleton University in Ottawa. Hilde and I have been married 44 years and have one son.

Since 1995 I have been enjoying myself doing international projects as an Advisor for the development of testing laboratories. At present I am in Ankara, Turkey. This is likely to be my last long term assignment and I will look forward to partial retirement at least.

Thank you again for your opening the door to this nostalgia on Ashburton College.

From Fereydon Taghizadeh


Dear John, I am an Iranian who attended Ashburton college in Newton Abbott, S. Devon from 1958 - 1960. I learned my English there from Mr. Lauler (please excuse the spelling, if wrong) whose wife was working there as Matron. I managed to earn a certificate in English language for foreigners from "The Royal Society of Arts".

Buff Cody  was more of a business man than educator, as he had brought a lot of overseas students, particularly from oil rich countries such as Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. I still remember that, there were also two boys from Pakistan named Eftekhar and Aftab who were brothers. Buff Cody did not have any qualified teachers to take care of his foreign students and as the result, the poor boys who had travelled from different countries, cultures and languages found themselves lost in the middle of nowhere. I also admit that, I learned a lot about the British culture and disciplines such as, getting up in the morning as soon as the bell rang, making my own bed and get ready to go down the hall next to the dining room.

I also have a lot of memories of Ashburton College such as, going to an apple garden about a mile away from school with some English students who knew the direction well in order to pinch some apples at night time. My next memory is, playing table tennis in the basement of the school's building where the showers room were located. (see above re. the Blake murders)

I recall that Buff used to drive a black Morris 1000 with the number plate XTA-314.

I remember the name of some teachers such as Mr. Brown, Mr. Smith and PT teacher Mr. Aldrich who was much of a comedian. Knowing that I was very poor at science subjects, I moved to Yorkshire and managed to pass a couple of GCEs . I began to study textiles and it did not take me much time to realize that, this was not my ideal course. Finally, I went to Manchester and managed to earn a diploma in Business Studies. I worked for a year in an auditing company to prepare myself for taking an external course in chartered accountancy, but, I gave up the idea and returned back to Iran. I started working for the national shipping company of Iran, and after two years I changed my job due to relocation of the shipping company's head office to the south of Iran. My next job was at the Japan's cultural centre as assistant to the counselor.
While working there, I met a Japanese girl who is now my wife. Knowing that as local employee I could not be promoted to higher position, I quitted the job and joined "Iran National Airlines" in late 1971. I attended three courses of basic, intermediate and advanced in airport services and received three certificates that are signed by IATA's qualified examinners and finally, I was assigned in 1979 to serve Iran Air at Narita International airport as airport services manager. I am now 72 years old and have a son who will be 39 years in August and a grandson who will be 12 years old on 24th of this month. I retired at age 60 and am involved in a very small scale of real-estate business.

I am settled here in Japan and live in Yokohama area. Thank you   John for the picture of the old school, it certainly brought some tears into my eyes. My very best regards to you and all who attended Ashburton College in Newton Abbott. S. Devon.  

From Robin Jacobs


Hi John,

Where do I begin? I was born in London, 1941 and evacuated to Totnes, after our Acton flat was bombed out. I began at Ashburton College (ABC) at the age of 7 as a boarder. I remember a lot of those incidents on the ABC web (cake, fire, all the teachers). I think my best pal was Roger Stansell, but had many others. Was in the same dorm as Noddy Holder who I believe lived in Dartmouth.

Academically very poor, physically in poor shape – had two operations while at ABC, left with two “O”  levels in Geography and Art (thank you teacher Dean, who always “lost it”  during class time. Had the ‘strap’ from Buff a couple of times - & yes it did hurt!

Left school in either 56 or I think 57 – memory is fading, had numerous jobs (making garden gnomes, washing up in hotels, working in men’s outfitters – et al. decided I needed a regular job, so embarked on a physical programme to strengthen a weakling’s body. After many months got into good shape and joined the Army and served for 36 years retiring as a Major – still in good shape and today still training three times a week. During military service served in Guyana, Aden, North Africa, Oman, Greece and Germany. Of those 36 years served for 12 years with Airborne Forces.
Married to Leila, adopted daughter of Frank and Thora Stokes, have two sons, Kevin
And Nigel – both Police Officers. Nigel is a Sgt. in the Met Police in Southwark, London and Kevin a police detective in Ottawa Canada where Leila and I both emigrated to some 7 years ago. 

From Francis Ching

By chance I found your website. I attended the school as a boarder there in 1963. I can remember we wore red school blazers, but without the badge as shown in the photos. Maybe the school had dropped the badge requirement then. "Buff" was the Headmaster. My teachers at that time were Messrs Brady and Healey. There was an old lady who taught us French. English lessons were given by a Vicar.

Yes, I remember it well; the cross country run, the porridge beakfast, the steps leading to town through the park.The Odeon cinema I went to see my first film in England; James Bond's "From Russia with Love" and the bus ride to Torquay. 
Thanks for the memories.

From Lawrence Page

Isn’t it a small world with the aid of the internet? The wanton cruelty of most of the teachers. Buff teaching science while his small son would sit on a shovel held at the end of an outstretched arm. If that is not tough then what is? Buff and the slipper; I can still remember being called to the front of the class for taking and hiding the famous slipper at the end of a term and being suitably struck by it. Some poor teacher, was his name Dean? got no respect from the class because he was so soft on us; pupils would flick ink on the back of his jacket as he walked up the aisle between desks. A pair of brothers, Howard & Stuart Perry by name? Their father was an entertainer; a professional pick pocket. What did they become?

Not the happiest of times; thanks (John) for helping me through it.

After Ashburton College it was grammar school in Teignmouth. Apprenticeship at Handley Page. Married in '66. United Aircraft in Canada through Expo 67. Boeing in Seattle through about '71.Palmer Aero Products, Sundstrand Data Control, and Eldec; all in the aerospace business. Ended up in charge of the Boeing and Space Shuttle contracts. A lot of fun and very interesting.

Divorced in mid '70s with two sons. Retired in '89. (i.e. no longer gainfully employed). Bought my sailboat Moonfire (a 69ft ketch) and have been cruising with my partner Ruthie ever since. Flew to the UK to visit family last May. On a trip to the west country we passed through Newton Abbott. I looked for the college as we passed through but could not see it.

From Rhys Davey

I attended Ashburton College from 1956-1960. I knew Malcolm Gibson,  Jim Bessel, Alan Day, Robert Kendall, Frank Chessum, Ian Webber, Victor Leonard, Carrick Johnson, Richard Ralph, Willie & Jackie Cunningham, Cliff Bristow. Teachers Chamberlain, Flynn, Byrne, Powell. Cleary, Cody, Lawler and assistant Ditchburn Deane.

From Peter Best

One of the things I can remember is being a boarder, some or us had to light the fires in the outside class rooms which had those pot-bellied coke-stoves. After lighting them we used to close the dampers so that the classroom became filled with smoke, couldn’t see your hand in front of your face! This used to delay the start of lessons for a little while until the smoke cleared. Another is Wednesday afternoons going down to Bradley Park for football and cricket. The park is still there and hasn’t been built on yet. One of these days I’ll have to take a stroll in the park for old times sake. I remember having mumps and being incarcerated with Mandy for about 10 days and immediately after that, getting a bout of shingles and I was isolated in a little room off Buffs study for another week or so.

From Terry Yeatman – 1946 to 1950

I went straight from a junior school to the college in 1946 at the age of 11. At that time the college was located in Ashburton. At first my mother took me on the bus each morning, a seven-mile journey from Newton Abbot. Most days I stayed until it was school leaving time but on a few occasions when I did not like a particular lesson I would abscond and go home early. My excuses for arriving home early must have been poor as I got punished by my parents and by Mr. Henry Naylor, the Head Master, on my return to the college the following day. Swimming lessons were for the senior boys only and were held at the town’s baths. I was disappointed and it took another thirty-nine years for me to get sufficient courage to take to the water. In 1947 the college moved into a grand building on Wolborough Hill in Newton Abbot. The steep hill from the town centre to the college took only a few minutes, it takes rather longer nowadays.

I still did not like school and became more unsettled when my mother died in 1947. I enjoyed geography, Edmund Cody was the teacher, and I took part in all the sporting activities. The cross-country race was my least favourite and I usually came last. Mr. Robinson who taught RE was the teacher we teased. We had snail races up his blackboard and rang bicycle bells that were stored in a shed below the classroom. We all had turns in standing in the corner as punishment and writing lines in detention at the end of the day. Two other lessons that captured my attention were French and Design Art. John Naylor, Henry’s son and our maths teacher, had recently married a very attractive French lady and she always gained our full attention when she became our language and art teacher. I still cannot draw and I have forgotten my French.

Some lessons were held at Laureston Lodge (See picture below) a short walk across the hill. David Naylor took us each week to Bakers Park for football. He was a good player and played for Newton Abbot Spurs. I played in the college team and we had matches against the Borstal School in Coach Road. The only spectators were the school’s warders. We also played Torquay Grammar School at football and cricket. Another enjoyable sports fixture was to visit Greylands which was the sister college to Ashburton College. We played hockey against the girls and afterwards had tea with them. I have just returned from a visit to Newton Abbot and visited the college building on Wolborough Hill. It is now called Highwood Grange and has been converted into apartments some of which are in a poor state. I also visited Laureston Lodge which has been divided into two houses. The gardens have sadly been neglected.

The old college building in Ashburton is now called Ireland House and has been converted into flats. The old beautiful playground at the back is now a jungle. During my visit I tried to trace some of my classmates and was fortunate enough to meet Henry Rew who now owns a farm in Decoy. We spent a few hours chatting about our school days and what we have done since. It was by accident that I came across this website written by John Oakford and I have found it most interesting in reading the articles by him and other contributors. I hope my contribution will bring forth some more messages from old school mates. I can be contacted by E-mail on

From Warren Douglas, current occupant of Laureston Lodge

 Nothing in the Deeds indicates anything to do with school use but I’m sure you will be interested to know that to this day there is some evidence of the school use, in fact, in my cellar rooms there is a wall with school type coat hooks on it and beneath them a chalk sketch of a map of America annotated in chalk with some original miss-spellings of some places! When I get chance I'll try and get you a photo for your website.

From Richard Paterson

Have recently retired back to Devon. Came across your web site. I had the dubious pleasure of attending Ashburton college from 1952 to 1955. I remember all the teachers you have listed. I will never forget Mr. Flynn. As a non rugby player I kept well clear of him. One of his pleasures was to advise you in the morning that he was going to punish you last lesson that day. And to be sure to think about it. Sure enough in he would come armed with his ruler and call you out. He would then whack you across the palms and thumbs with the side of the instrument. I still have the lumps to prove it. He was quite accurate with the wooden blackboard eraser too. I quite liked 'Buff'. He had a dry sense of humour and was never on time for his lessons. He would rush in and give us pages of text to cop for the next day. He would never check our work. He was also a hopeless speller. One of the pupils, had his own typewriter. Buff would get him to type exam papers. In turn the lad would sell them for what ever he could get! Mr. Calvert was one of the more normal teachers. It was possible to have a conversation with him. I met him some years later on a train. I believe he was then a Sgt. in the Education Corps.

Well I survived the experience. I agree with one comment made by one of you subscribers. Any academic success at Ashburton was achieved only by those with a natural gift to learn and self discipline. I was called up shortly afterwards. I took full advantage of the education facilities on offer and completed my middle education. I then followed a technical route that took me to the top of my chosen tree and has stood me in good stead. Now retired, I wish all old boys of Ashburton College, Newton Abbot, good health and a long and happy retirement.

From Cliff Bristow

Just found your website for the old school-great! I was at Ashburton College from late 1949-1958-mostly as a boarder for all that time. They don't put criminals away for murder for that length of time in this country these days! You cant believe how refreshing it is to find loads of my old memories being remembered as such with other internees of the time. I have lots of old photos, memorabilia, etc. tucked away in my loft, plus I can add to the list of names that Stan Lavis has appended. I have retrieved some old photos, Ashburtonian mags and clippings from my loft and now all I have to do is get the scanner working to send some copies to you. Of particular interest may be the article from the Herald Express of 1957 when the new classrooms and Buff's flat burnt down. As a boarder of at the time I have vivid memories of the night. Mr. O’Brien (one of the newer masters) raised the alarm, and in the melee my room mate Nobby Hodder rushed into Buff's flat and rescued a television. He was the hero of the event because we were allowed to watch the thing for some time afterwards. I don’t remember anyone being hurt during the incident, but we did have time off school the next day. Subsequently the scaffolding that surrounded the end of the building made a brilliant clandestine entry to the kitchen! A little extra butter during dinner made the mashed potato very acceptable.

The Newton Abbot fire engine which attended
© The Roy Yeoman Collection

I'm surprised Stan Lavis took up a career in the police force after he demonstrated such great acting abilities in his cameo performance in a play of which I forget the title but remember some of the substance. The dramatic scene took place above the assembly hall stairs with pleas for mercy from some player who I think was Howard Perry. Stan emerged from the top of the stairs heavily bulked with a pillow to fill out the blazer he was wearing and shooting from a Walther PPK(?) which in reality was a Webley starter pistol!! We youngsters were enthralled.

As you can imagine having spent 8 years as a boarder I have so many memories of good times and bad times, but mostly fun times. Some boys could not take it and absconded, maybe they were the brave ones. In later years, I found out that it didn’t take long to get to the off-licence just up from East Street, for a couple of bottles of Double Diamond. Mr. Noel Cleary caught me one time, but we shared a glass and no more was said. If I did a roll call of everyone I remember we would be here all night, but a few names to get the memories going: Simon "Simmy" Shawbrundell, Peter Best, Alan Sharp, Brendan Soper, Les Brealey, Colin Snell, Peter Earp, Peter Wilson, Wilson Sharley, Leonard Stook, Robin Jacobs, Roger Stansell, Roger Coombe, Roy Raymont, Peter Jensen, Colin Blunsom, Stuart and Howard Perry, Francis "Hoppy" Hopkins, Dave Richards, Dave Hicks, Alan Austin, Ches Bilous, Victor Cannon (and his Mum!). I must not forget Dorothy, Amy and Crystal in the kitchen, and of course Mrs. Buff!

From Chris Bailey, a retained Newton Abbot fireman

Your site is very interesting about the college, and I was chatting to Colin Symons another fireman, from Newton Abbot and he remembers the morning of the fire as he was delivering newspapers as a paper boy at the bottom of Powderham Road, and the glow of the sky from the fire in the morning fog.

From Geoffrey Perret, formerly Howard Perry

I am the former Howard Perry who was a pupil at Ashburton College for a year or so. Since then I have been known by my rightful name, Geoffrey Perret.

Many of the people you recall were at the college at the same time as me and by and large I remember them fondly. I may have had serious doubts about the quality of the education on offer but if there was only one redeeming feature to the school it was that it was easy to make friends there. For that, at least, I will always be grateful.

I never liked Buff, but I got on well with most of the staff. And even though trouble makers such as I probably made their lives more difficult, there were always some teachers who took a genuine interest in the pupils, including those in the awkward squad. In my case, it was Mr. Flynn, who encouraged me to think seriously about going to university.

I eventually succeeded in getting a university education, despite the fact that my show business parents were never in one place for long. I grew up mainly in California, although I now live in Beverley, a lovely old town in East Yorkshire. I'd love to meet up with some of my old schoolmates, whether in Devon or somewhere else. If you could drop me a line int he meantime, I'd love to hear from you and learn more about what happened to the people I knew.

From Chris Nicola

I boarded at Ashburton College during 1947 to 1949 after being a boarder at Greylands. I thoroughly enjoyed my two years at Ashburton, as far as I remember, although I did get on the wrong end of Mr. Naylor's cane a couple of times. It was a case of putting ones head under the door knob, so you couldn't lift up, trousers and underpants around your ankles, so you couldn't go anywhere, then he ran from his bedroom through his study with his cane held high and when he reached his target down came the cane. Six of those and you were the hero of the moment until the next victim. I remember a few of my fellows there, Entwistle was one that didn't like having porridge at breakfast, he would put his elbow on the table with his hand close to his mouth so as his spoon reached his mouth the spoon would make a quick diversion and the contents would disappear down his jacket sleeve.

Another, who must have had rich parents, I cannot remember his name, but he had a cine projector sent to him, I remember a number of times us younger students were allowed to have the privilege of staying up a little later and watch the silent movies. There was also a prefect that looked after us when we went for walks on Sunday afternoons after church, his name was Bond. I vividly remember the basement at the College where we polished our shoes before being marched to church. It was supposedly haunted. During a visit back to the college back in the early 1990's I was allowed to wander around on my own visiting my old dormitory, sitting in the dining room where we listened do Dick Barton in the evenings, and I even ventured down into the basement, but not for long. After forty years or so, the hairs at the back of my neck still stood up and I was up those stairs as if I was seven years old again. On next visit ten years or so later, it was an old peoples home.

From Carrick Johnson

I have a picture in an old magazine of about 1958. I was in back row & could name them if required. I wish I was that age again! Nothing has happened yet in relation to a reunion, I just wish I had time to set it up If anyone can help I will do my bit, but not all because I have to much on my plate at present!

From Garland Luckraft

I left the old school in 1952 (end of summer term) having started there in 1948. I have a photo of the school about 1947, just before me and bit of other info! The school did at one time have a magazine called "Ashburtonian" I do not have any copies but I know a boy who has about three or four. They contain a load of information.


(1) "Bogey" Robinson was a retired master from Kingsbrige Grammar School.

(2) Besides "Buff" Cody there was another Mr. Cody when I was there, an Edward Cody much more of a gentleman albeit he also was Irish and from Trinity College Dublin.

(3) There was also two Miss Fraser's there was "Fanny" a somewhat large lady! and her sister Miss E. R. Fraser who taught the piano.

(4) Do you remember being marched of to Church on Sunday morning to Wolborough Church and sitting in those cages on either side of the church? I well remember carving my name on the pew during a sermon, it must have been very interesting at the time. One of the prefects saw it, but took no action.

(5) In 1948 Henry Naylor (known to the boys as "Henry") was the Headmaster before "Buff". The College started life in Ashburton (hence the name) which you will know is a small town about eight miles from Newton Abbot but Henry Naylor moved it to Newton Abbot in 1946/47 not long after the end of the War. I once met a boy who at the school in Ashburton during World War two. It was apparently not a very happy place to be a boarder! Food was short and boys frequently ran away, but it was war time! During my time Henry's two sons John and David Naylor also taught at the school both lived in the "Tower".

(6) John Naylor had a very short "fuse". Henry was a scholar from either Oxford or Cambridge and was for long time the Headmaster of Ashburton Grammar School but the saying is that he had a disagreement with the Local Authority, Devon County Council, and apparently told them what the could do with their Grammar School, resigned and started his own school close by - hence Ashburton College. I have yet to establish when this took place. Henry I think must have sold out to "Buff" Cody in about 1950, certainly that is when "Buff" became head having been just House Master up to that point. Henry and his two sons left at this time. Henry must be long since dead and John may also be but I did hear that David is still living in Torquay where I live. So I would  like to find more about the history and see any records, but there seems none was ever deposited with the Devon Record Office or for that matter at the National Archives in London. Both have records of a lot of other Schools mostly state schools. One about boys, examination results, sports day and much more.

From Maurice Mann

The Headmaster of Ashburton Grammar School (disbanded just before the war) was a Mr. Naylor (he taught my mother). When the Grammar School finished he set up a Private School here in Ashburton in Ireland House, at the top of East Street, and named it Ashburton College. There were not enough pupils in this immediate area he therefore took the school to Newton and I think you know the rest. When I joined the school in Newton, Buff was the Headmaster, but Mr. Naylor was still around I presume as a sort of Governor or perhaps even still the owner at that time. No doubt it eventually passed into the hands of the Cody family.

Memories of Newton Abbot


Anne & John Oakford

On the road to Newton Abbot in the golden years gone by!

Newton Abbot on Market Day

We pass into the Pannier Market, where gladioli lighten the filtered gloom with splashes of colour; where a cobbler works while you watch; and where the country-wives enjoy themselves, swapping condolences and criticism. It is places such as this that you meet the real people of Devon. To eavesdrop is to hear good dialect, as soft and harmonious as the sounds of the summer sea.

Ow’s your mother, me dear?”
Middlin’, middlin’. Though not like her was at the first commencement. Still, what can ‘e expect at her age? ‘Ow’s yours, me dear?”
Aw, middlin’, middlin’, all things considered. Well, can’t be yappin’. Got to be getting on. ’Less us miss the bus”.

The two friends part to meet other friends, and to indulge similar conversation.

By author and journalist Vian Smith. From the Newton Abbot Official Guide, circa 1959-60
But now, many older residents have witnessed the necrosis of Newton Abbot from a bustling market town to an anonymous shopping centre.  A & J.

Newton Abbot owed its early prosperity to wool, and there was still a working wool mill in the town until the 1970’s. China clay and lignite was also excavated in the locality, and the town supported a Great Western Railway (GWR) carriage works. But the town owed most of its importance to its position as a hub for local agriculture – it was a bustling, vibrant agricultural centre, and, as such, there was plenty to engage a teenage boy's interest and attention during holidays from his hated school. The population of Newton Abbott at that time was about 14,000, swelled in the summer months by the influx of holiday makers and tourists from all over the country, who came enjoy the sea and the countryside, particularly Dartmoor, and the plethora of other attractions so close at hand. With Torquay and Paignton so near, I frequently spent Saturday afternoons watching Torquay United play at home, took trips on 'The Western Lady', a converted motor torpedo boat which did a round trip from Torquay to Berry Head and Brixham, and visited Paignton Zoo. With so much to attract my interest, I was rarely at a loose end.

Courtenay Street circa 1950
© John Oakford 1959

Market day was the high point of the week, when the market place was thronged with cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, and, of course, Dartmoor ponies. The cattle market was mainly populated by farmers, drovers, auctioneers, buyers and sellers, and the curious onlookers. The Butter Market housed the vendors of clotted cream and honey, butter and cheeses, bread and cakes, hams, bacon, sausages, pasties, mostly from local small 'home kitchen' producers - no mass produced factory stuff here! The Pannier Market was home to the vendors of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and other produce, and a few stalls selling second hand goods, clothing etc., or 'antiques' and bric-a-brac. Here the housewives came to stock up the larder, and to meet and exchange news and views.
There were also the ‘cheapjacks', the itinerants who travelled the country, setting up their stalls wherever there was a market being held. They sold almost anything one could think of, from corn plasters (advertised by a large plaster-of-Paris foot with suitably painful looking patches in appropriate places - the purveyor of the merchandise using his own exquisitely clean, white foot to demonstrate his goods) to cheap jewellery and make-up, by way of bed ‘linen’ (the sheets assumed strange shapes after laundering and could not be made to fit any normal bed), and cooking utensils. There was 'Mad Mark' who ran Dutch Auctions of things like canteens of cutlery, kitchen utensils and cheap ornaments, and always sported a straw ‘boater’, the top of which had opened like a lid. The local tramps and layabouts were also in evidence, panhandling for the price of a drink.
The air rang with the rich, warm rounded sounds of the local Devon Dialect, contrasting with the sharper accents of the outsiders, and the mixed smells of animal dung and petrol fumes competed with the enticing aroma of fried fish & chips and that of beer and cider wafting from the pubs, usually packed to the doors on market days.

There was an annual fair, known as the Cheese and Onion Fair, also held in the market place, with swings, roundabouts and dodgems, hot dogs and candyfloss, and the booths where one could fire an airgun at a target and, perhaps, win a goldfish in a jam jar or a fluffy toy, or toss rings over pegs or throw darts into playing cards on a board to win a cheap plaster-of-Paris ornament.
© John Oakford 1959
© Places To Remember For A Newton Exile &
Torquay United Fan Club

Newton Abbot also had its Carnival, complete with decorated floats, a ladder engine from the Fire Station with firemen performing acrobatic feats on it, the girls from the school of dance going through their paces, the town band, and those locals of an exhibitionistic nature got up in a variety of costumes, including an somewhat effeminate bus conductor who was usually costumed as a Greek god, or some other lightly clad character, his limbs heavily oiled.

During the rest of the week, the focus for youngsters was the ice cream kiosk or the snack wagon. This source of culinary delights was run by an ex-army Catering Corps major, and, during the day, supplied snacks and meals to assorted members of the business community. In the evening, the venue would attract a slightly different clientele - taxi drivers, layabouts, and teenagers like me, out for the evening but at a loose end. It wasn't ever going to rival Las Vegas as a night spot, but the steak and kidney pies were wonderful!
Newton Abbott had its quota of local characters. There was T***y the Barber, who, besides cutting hair, had a liking for young men and kept open house for any likely lad who fancied the type of hospitality T***y had on offer. One of the local photographers was known to have interests which went beyond wedding groups and family portraits, interests which involved persuading local lovelies to divest themselves of their clothes in front of his camera (this, of course, was long before nudity became commonplace, and at a time when photographic representations of the unclothed or partially clothed ‘female form divine’ were still the subject of furtive transactions between young – and not so young – men). Charlie the Tramp was a common sight around the town, carrying all his worldly possessions around in carrier bags. He lived in a hollow tree most of the time, although occasionally he would take up residence in a barn or outhouse if he could get away with it or the owner was kind hearted. A new estate now covers the field where he lived.

A coloured gentleman Papa Simpson,  well known in the town, not because he was black at a time when dark skins were still a rarity outside the big cities, but because he ran a newspaper stall at the old bus station in the market place, lit by a kerosene lamp in the dark winter afternoons. He was also known for having several attractive daughters. Mr Simpson was a one-time travelling fairground boxer, who would take on anyone who challenged him. Presumably he came to Newton Abbot for or with the Cheese & Onion Fair.

Sadly, today, Newton Abbot is a shadow of its former self, with the market place taken over by a modern shopping centre and an ugly multi-story car park. The G.W.R. workshops are long gone, the wool mill has closed, and the once thriving agricultural centre is now merely a suburb of Torquay and a jumping-off place for tourists visiting Dartmoor.
© Places To Remember For A Newton Exile &
Torquay United Fan Club

© Places To Remember For A Newton Exile &
Torquay United Fan Club
Progress? Probably not

© Places To Remember For A Newton Exile &

Torquay United Fan Club

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