The Robin Hood

Pictured here is the former Robin Hood public house, a landmark at the corner of Hadham Road and Chantry Road from the 19th century until the end of 2004. It then became an Indian restaurant called Chutney Joe but in 2013 was renamed Zara.

Back in the 1880s the pub formed part of two tenements on the south side of a plot of land first called Taint’s Croft then, later, the Grand Stand. In 1910 carriers departed from here to Little Hadham, Braughing, Puckeridge and Standon. Once owned by Flinns maltsters, it was bought from them in 1937 by Trumans Brewery but not actually granted a full licence until 1955. Why the pub was named the Robin Hood isn’t known but the title is fairly common throughout the country – moreso perhaps in Nottingham!

Chantry Road

This road takes its name from Bishop’s Stortford’s former Chantry, the lands of which, in the early 16th century, stretched eastwards from this point as far as the river Stort. That acreage was greatly diminished in 1557 with the Dissolution of the Chantries, but the house that replaced the Chantry still commanded a substantial plot of land bordered by Northgate End, Elm Road and Chantry Road.

Midway along this road’s western side stands the only surviving building of the three that once formed Chantry Mount High School – a private concern opened in the early 1900s as a boarding and day school for girls aged 5 to 18 and, later, as a preparatory school for boys aged 5 to 11. It originally accommodated about 160 pupils in total, this particular building housing the Preparatory school and junior boarding house. A dramatic increase in the number of boys attending the school in the early 1960s led to the establishment of a separate senior boys’ school. Known as Senior House, this was situated close by in a large, early 1900′s built house called Carrigans. Up until the late 1960s a netball court occupied land opposite the school in Chantry Road.

From the early 1950s senior girl boarders were housed in Tresham Gilbey’s former home, Whitehall, a large property standing in 37 acres of private grounds with the added benefit to pupils of stables and a riding school. But by 1965/6, growing financial difficulties led to consolidation of Chantry Mount school at Whitehall, where girls were then taught in temporary classrooms erected next to the main house, a new assembly hall was built and also a swimming pool. The junior boys moved into the boys Senior House at Carrigans.

In 1969 Mrs Wolsey-Neach, the headmistress, acquired another school – Hawthorns at Frinton, Essex – from which many girls joined the school at Whitehall in 1970/71. But in the summer of 1972 it was announced these two schools would also amalgamate and move to Great Hyde Hall in Sawbridgeworth. Carrigans was demolished soon after to be replaced by ‘executive’ style houses, the new development named, naturally enough, Carrigans. (Also see Guide 7 – Whitehall).
*Additional information about Chantry Mount School is thanks to Jill Vail

Of Bishop’s Stortford’s many schools recorded on this website it is the long defunct Chantry Mount that raises the most interest and prompts the most comment from its former pupils. Their memories are welcome because they breathe life back into the fabric of such buildings and allow us a real insight into the past. Below are the memories of two such pupils: the first by Margaret (Gillard) Sparks, a pupil in the 1940s.

Boarding school must be so very different now compared to then. I can’t imagine freezing cold dormitories where any left over water in a wash bowl was solid ice by morning or classrooms heated by nothing more than a small coal fire. It seemed we were always cold, and hungry. My sister remembers being reprimanded by the gardener Mr Hyatt for picking up a windfall apple to eat. And does anyone have chilblains any more? Oh, those itchy toes!

However, in my case I do not remember being unhappy apart from that first wave of homesickness that washed over one prior to term beginning. This was inevitably subdued upon meeting all one’s friends again. Warmth? After all, few homes in England in the 1940s benefited from central heating. As for food, well it was wartime and rationing so stomachs were usually on the far-from-full size anyway.

When I was eleven I begged my father to send me to boarding school, along with my two sisters. Such a place was glamourized through our weekly reading of “The Girls’ Crystal”. Midnight feasts added to the allure of being away from home and parents, with a constant supply of friends. So off we went.

Chantry Mount in the early 1940s consisted of two buildings, the Junior and the Senior House, both of them Edwardian in style. Between them was a grass tennis court where Miss Harries, our headmistress, often was observed playing a keen game of tennis. This amazed her pupils for she was ‘old’ – well, in her fifties we thought. There must have been about forty boarders and perhaps as many daygirls in the school. By 1948 there were sixty boarders at Whitehall. There were no boys at the time I was there. According to a Report of Chantry Mount Old Girls Association 1948-9 there were about l50 pupils in the school then age five to eighteen, some little boys. About sixty of the girls were boarders and Senior boarders then lived at Whitehall.

The original Senior building, on Chantry Road, had a lawn in front, (where we sometimes did country dancing). It still stands. There were three floors. Upon entering the front door, Miss Harries’ study was on the left. Around the corner was the teachers’ sitting room, then a few paces to the common room where assembly was held each morning, gym lessons during the day, and the boarders communal gathering room in the evening. From it a door led to a classroom, another to the cloakroom then from there a door into the dining room and kitchen. From the cloakroom stairs led to the second floor dormitories and bathroom (shared by all). There was a classroom on this floor too, then Miss Fisher’s bedroom (assistant headmistress) and a sitting room used by both of them with another classroom nearby. Stairs led from here to the third floor, dormitories only, and matron’s sickroom.

From the first floor cloakroom a door led to the playground and front lawn. This entrance was the one used daily, not the front door. Across the road a gate opened to an area of rough grass, and a hard tennis court that was used for netball in the winter. Sometimes one is asked where one was when an important event took place and I clearly recall sitting on a bench in this area with several friends when a girl came running down from the main school yelling that the war was over. Of course, that means it was 8 May 1945.

Actually, the war did not affect us very much. Apart from a doodlebug that flew over the school one night near the end of term, after which we sent home early to our delight, not much happened. I don’t remember sirens or bombs or dogfights in the sky.

Our uniforms were cherry red tunics, white blouses, jumpers, blue raincoats and pork pie hats in the winter, and cotton dresses in checks or stripes of red or pink and white in the summer. For church – going in the summer we wore frocks of a light creamy material, wide-brimmed straw hats with cherry velvet ribbon, white gloves and over all a light coloured coat if it was chilly. Off we went in a crocodile, two by two, a mistress bringing up the rear. We found church boring, it being alleviated somewhat by the presence of boys from Bishops Stortford College, the only males we ever saw. What an unnatural life we led.

After Sunday lunch some of us retired to Miss Harries’ sitting room where she read a chapter or two every week from Priestley’s ‘The Good Companions’. Then the older girls were allowed out in groups of four without a teacher, inducing great excitement especially when we saw College boys on our walk. But contact with them? Never! (Though I have since learned that after I left some of my former peer group were a little more daring).

Outings and entertainment were rare. We were allowed three days per term to either go home or have our parents visit us. When my father and mother came we went to The Chequers in the high street (North Street) of the town where he reserved the back room for the day for us to have lunch and tea and perhaps an outing in between.

Apart from this there were perhaps lacrosse or netball games at weekends versus other nearby schools or hare and hounds over the fields to the north of the school, mostly occupied now with a by-pass. Another ‘treat’ was to walk, in a crocodile, for tea at The Chestnuts on the A120 towards Takeley, now out of the question with all the roundabouts and traffic of the present day.

I enjoyed five years at Chantry Mount, taking my Cambridge School Certificate in the winter of 1947 seven months earlier than my peer group because of lack of funds when my father died. Then I became head girl for the spring term. By that time the school had enlarged to include a pleasing building known as Whitehall, that had been in the Gilbey family. I don’t know if it was given to the school or just leased. It was perhaps 3/4 to a mile away from the north end of Chantry Road, in quite large grounds. We walked that way anyway to our playing field where we played lacrosse in the winter and rounders in the summer.

Food was pretty bad but then we had war and rationing so it was not surprising. While we queued up for our food in the dining room we could see our cook through the hatch into the kitchen. Invariably she had a cigarette in her mouth while she stirred something, the ash finding its way into the pot. One time I found a slug in my lettuce. We had a cooked breakfast on Sunday morning, much anticipated, but porridge the rest of the week. Our evening meal consisted of a large slice of bread with margarine, and cocoa. Tuck was twice a week, the older girls having first selection off the tray leaving very little choice for the younger ones. It was usually just a small chocolate bar or the like but very, very welcome.

Our classrooms were small as was the teaching staff. Miss Harries (Nesta we called her behind her back) taught maths; Miss Kewley English, English Literature and History; Miss Snape, French; Miss Fisher Geography; Miss Sanderson, Latin; Mrs Richards(?); Mrs Stewart(?); and a games teacher of course.

It being wartime there were no outings to interesting places. People came to see us such as ladies draped in black with cellos between their knees, or a choir of US black servicemen, led by a white officer, who sang us negro spirituals the first any of us had seen or heard. As they filed into our crowded common room they must have wondered where they were. We were expected to give our full attention to any performers who came, anything else was construed as extremely bad manners that called for a tap on the should er from a teacher behind, either in the common room or church should our attention stray.

On Saturday mornings we were required to gather in the common room where Matron distributed clean laundry including items that need repairing, a task I loathed. Sewing on missing buttons, darning socks, mending ladders in stockings, and the like. Knitting was another basic skill taught us by way of creating white woollen vests in two plain two purl stitch. For refugees, perhaps, or bomb damage victims? I do not know.

Eventually Miss Harrries and Miss Fisher decided to retire. Mr and Mrs Hungerford Morgan took over while I was there. Mr HM, upon hearing there was an outbreak of polio in the area, lined us up one very cold frosty morning for PT. Evidently he thought of it as a prevention.

At end of term I went home by train to Braintree, or by bus. Bishop’s Stortford was only about twenty miles from home. The trains were steam so that one’s clothes, especially gloves, soon became grimy. Upon returning to school after the holidays the carrier would call for my trunk to go to Braintree station. My mother had to tie a white handkerchief to a stick, then place it in the front hedge to attract the carrier to stop. It all seems so archaic now.

Two of my Chantry Mount School friends and myself still meet every year to swap many memories.

This memory of school life is from Paula Carhart Hilston, a student at Chantry Mount in the early 1960s, now living in Massachusetts, USA.

I hated my years at Chantry Mount School, but as it is so many years in the past it is now remembered fondly.

When I attended Chantry Mount it was owned by Mrs F.I. Wolsey-Neech and her milkquetoast husband Reginald. Students nicknamed them Bella and Reggie. I attended for less than 4 years – lower 4th, upper 4th, and lower 5th and upper 5th. I actually started in January of 1961 and finished in May of 1964.

At that time we borders lived in Whitehall but the school building itself was a walk to not quite downtown. Actually, it appears that you have a photo of the building next door to our main classroom building in section 5 of your website. I think the boys may have had classes there (only very young boys were in attendance) under the direction of Mr Wolsey-Neech. Behind the big brick school building there were a couple of long ‘temporary’ buildings, which looked to me like WWII buildings. In those days we had morning assembly, took our lunch and had dance classes. The second of the building in the back housed a kitchen for domestic science/cooking types of things and a place where we learned to take apart a V8 engine for some absolutely unknown reason.

I had heard that not too long after I left they stopped using the brick school building in Chantry Road and moved all to the Whitehall campus. As dormers we had access to horseback riding, tennis etc. We would take trips into London a couple of times a year and had an end of year play and awards program – all of course for the benefit of our paying parents.

Life was a bit dismal at Whitehall when Bella was ‘in the house’. For the life of me I don’t remember the name of the house mother but she was wonderful. We all had chores to do of course and they rotated. Whitehall was not heated so we would line up before bedtime to pick up our hot water bottles from the window sill by the kitchen. Then a space heater would be moved into our dorm room for the few minutes while we were getting undressed. Baths were assigned twice a week in one of the 3 bathrooms in the building. I spent 2 years in ‘Green’, a dorm room for 8 that faced away from the driveway, and 2 years in ‘Pink’ directly above the headmistress’s office.

We had occasional weekends away called Ex-eats but those of us who lived abroad didn’t necessarily leave when all the rest of the students did. I was lucky enough to have all my mother’s family in Essex so often went away (I think it was 2 weekends per term but am not positive). However, if I couldn’t go there you almost always recieved an invitation to go home with a fellow border.

Our uniforms were cherry red and grey, with tunic/jumpers in grey wool over red and white pin striped blouses for the winter (with ties and knee high socks of course – only the eldest 6th formers were allowed to wear hose). We had cherry red wool coats and hats. Our summer dresses were awful; red and white stripes with a straw bowler in place of the red wool hat. Worst of all were the ‘Cherry Red Wool Sunday Afternoon Dresses’ which, despite the name, we had to wear all day Sunday plus special outings.

On Saturdays, minus any punishments, the borders would line up two abreast (same way we would walk to the school building) and walk into Bishop’s Stortford to spend our pocket money (2s. 6d [12 1/2p] when I was a 5th former) on sweets or other necessities. The sweets of course had to go into ‘tuck’ boxes to be doled out each night after supper. Ms Bateman, a rather unfortunate lady with crossed eyes, was one of our teachers and often had the chore of escorting us to and from the school. I can’t remember who escorted us on Saturdays, though it could have been Ms Underwood.

Brick walls are not perhaps the most fascinating of subjects, but as boundary markers they can tell us something of the past. A small example of this is a plaque embeded into the wall that separates Chantry Mount from No 9 Chantry Road, stating that it was built in 1874 by Charles Dodd. He was a partner of Dodd & Burls grocery store that once traded in North Street (See Guide 6 – No 18 HSBC). A further example involving this same property (formerly Chantry Mount School) is its distinguished red-brick front wall that also forms the boundary wall of adjacent houses built at a later date. This tells us exactly how far along this road the school grounds once extended.

Likewise the slightly less attractive wall that stretches from Pleasant Road to Cricketfield Lane. Although this has been partly replaced by more recently built walls, much of it survives showing us the boundary of former Oak Hall Estate – built and owned in the mid 1800s by distinguished local architect George Edward Pritchett FSA.

The son of the Rector of Little Hallingbury, and once running his business from rented offices at No 40 North Street, Mr Pritchett’s considerable wealth enabled him to acquire this land and build the large, twin gabled Tudor style house that still stands on the north side of Chantry Close.

Pritchett had an abiding fascination for the Tudor period and to make this house as authentic as possible he constructed it with a thatched roof, beautiful gardens and a tennis court. He also had a passion for antiques, accumulating anything he could from period houses that were being restored or demolished, and even exchanged new furniture for old to satisfy his obsession.

When the Great Essex Earthquake struck in 1884, Pritchett wrote the following letter to the Herts & Essex Observer describing the effects he had witnessed as its far-reaching tremors shook trees and buildings in this area.

Doubtless Bishop’s Stortford was highly favoured during the earthquake which extended over Eastern Counties and elsewhere last Tuesday morning, nevertheless the shocks were most perceptibly felt in and about the town. A cottage standing on the crest of Chantry Road was upheaved and moved in a most tremulous way; the trees around most perceptibly shaken, as were those about Oak Hall… In South Street the ground had a jelly like movement as though some unusually heavy traction engine was passing near.‘

He is also said to have designed and installed the town’s first electric generator at Oak Hall, and it was often argued whether it was he or Harry Featherby (See Guide 12) who owned the first De Dion motor car in Bishop’s Stortford in the early 1900s.

Aside from his eccentricity, George Pritchett was an architect of considerable merit. Locally, he designed the first All Saints Church at Hockerill (destroyed by fire in 1935 – See Guide 10), New Cemetery at Apton Road (See Guide 14), and gained particular praise for his design of the church and school at High Wych near Sawbridgeworth.

In old age he became a rather sad and unkempt figure gradually going into decline, as did his beloved Oak Hall estate. He sold part of his land to a family in Thornfield Road to start up a poultry farm, but after his death the house and grounds became the property of the Army and was used as a German prisoner-of-war camp in both the First and Second World War.

At the end of World War I the ex-army/PoW huts were in great demand by locals, the Bursar of Bishop’s Stortford College managing to acquire two of them which were later erected in Maze Green Road next to the College. Raised on stilts and then clad in concrete, the huts have stood there ever since as numbers 15 and 17, and are now privately owned.