The Huyton Hill blog

I am John Mott (Huyton Hill 1948-1953 – Arthur House). I have agreed to look after this new blog, Huyton Hill. It has been created for the benefit of those who knew and experienced Huyton Hill Preparatory School, Near Ambleside, Westmorland – as its address was in its heyday. I will endeavour to serve those who have memories of, and information about the school, the house and grounds and the links to Arthur Ransome. I would like to enlist your support and therefore hope that you will not leave the site without adding a comment.

Edward Gorton’s material in “Beckfoot Found” provides an insight into the discussion about “Swallows and Amazons” from which the present site is a spin-off.

I will be uploading more text, pictures and memories of my time, but it is quite clear from coments I have already read that contributors cover several generations of former pupils, and so I hope that there will be plenty of material.

Gordon Dyer has added three comments recently about the beginnings of the school and there is a plenty of new material waiting to be added to the new blog when I learn more about how to operate it.

An e-mail correspondence recently generated fresh information about the past of the school. I hope to be able to import this into the present blog with the permission of the authors.

There is also activity on Friends Reunited in connection with Huyton Hill, including a list of former pupils and at least 27 different pictures.

About mottjohn

Attended Huyton Hill Preparatory School from 1948 to 1953
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8 Responses to The Huyton Hill blog

  1. Gordon Dyer says:

    Hello John, it is great to see you have started a site for Huyton Hill School.
    I was at the school from 1963 to 1968 and have lots of very happy memories of the school which was a very unique place. I have found a little information about the school’s origins from Huyton near Liverpool and here is a quote from a Liverpool Schoools web site:
    “The school was a big house in Victoria Rd, Huyton, Liverpool that housed 50 odd pupils when started and they acquired more property as the school expanded. Huyton Hill was the first school in the country to have its own airfield, which was on the field at the end of Victoria Rd. The pupils were evacuated to the Lake District during the war. The school at Pull Woods, Ambleside was renamed ‘Huyton Hill’ and was the setting for ‘Swallows and Amazons’.”
    I have a copy of Flight Magazine from July 8th 1932 which contains a map of the airfield and small article, I will email it to you to post here.

    • Gordon Dyer says:

      The School at Huyton
      The school was originally established at Victoria Road in Huyton near to Liverpool, England. (Co-ordinates: 53.412218N, -2.833303E) It is listed in the Liverpool Schools directory [] together with the headmaster, Hubert D. Butler []. (Note that the present school has its entrance on the south side of the site off Seel Road).
      The school motto was “I will with a good will”, which set the tone for the ethos of the school and the way it was run.
      It was the first school in the country to host its own aircraft landing strip as reported in Flight Magazine July 1932 page 635 [].

  2. Gordon Dyer says:

    The School in the Lake District
    At the outbreak of World War II the school was moved to the Lake District where Pull Wood House, at the north west corner of Windermere just south of Pull Wyke, was rented to accommodate the school. After the war the headmaster, Hubert Butler, purchased the house and grounds and continued to run the school until 1969.
    The joint headmasters were Hubert D. Butler and his brother Major Gerald Villers Butler, who joined the school after leaving the army in 1949-50.
    There were 74 pupils in 1965 which was near the capacity of the accommodation.
    The pupils belonged to Alfred or Arthur houses which created a sense of healthy rivalry and competition amongst them.

    Forward Looking Discipline
    For the time the school discipline was very forward looking and used a system of points that triggered rewards or loss of privileges instead of traditional methods, and there was no corporal punishment by the mid 1960’s.
    The points system evolved over time, during the 1950’s daily points were given or taken away depending upon behaviour, The boys could earn extra plus points in the holidays by getting their parents to sign for the fact that they had had a cold bath every morning of the holidays (giving one point per day) or by pulling willow weeds along the school drive, (giving one point per hundred willows). There was a Conduct List published to show the ranking of boys according to their point score (affectionately known as the ‘Spite and Favour’ list).
    By the 1960’s the system had changed so that each day every pupil was awarded 10 points which accumulated daily and a perfect score for the week was 70. Minor infringements could cause the loss of 1 or 2 points with a range of up to 10 points lost for major misbehaviour. Then at the end of the week the point scores were announced, with good conduct badges for those who lost no points and loss of privileges for those who lost too many points. Finishing the week with a minus score meant extra detention for studies.

    The dormitories were all named after local mountains in the Lake District as follows:
    First floor (junior): Dollywaggon, Catbells, Langdale, Helvellyn, Latterbarrow*.
    Second floor (senior): Skiddaw, Loughrigg, Bowfell, Kirkstone, Wetherlam, Scafell.
    * not always used as a dormitory, depending on school numbers.

    School Closure
    Major Gerald Butler died in 1967 and after the school closed in 1969 Hubert Butler converted the house into holiday flats. He died in 1971 and the ownership passed over to his son. The house and grounds were purchased by Pullwood Bay Estate in 2002 and it is now named Pullwood House, it is still rented as holiday flats.

  3. Derrick Gillingham says:

    Several days ago, to my amazement, I happened upon the website (Beckfoot Found?) with communications between Huyton Hill old boys, and then I discovered John Mott’s ‘blog’. That last lexical item is not one of which I am fond. ‘Column’ is a temptingly upright alternative. I am pleased to observe that John, by his own account, has been described as a PC Neanderthal, and that Edward (Gorton) eschews the use of a postcode, equally marks of a good old-fashioned education. But thank you, John, for taking on the technology.

    Huyton Hill Found! Appearing out of the blue as if by magic, though never altogether lost in the mists of time. Huyton Hill conjured up on a distant skyline, but what a skyline! Although it is almost a half century since I departed from the school, it remains rooted in my consciousness to this day. I recall my time there as a youthful idyll, a lull before the storms of life, and, in spite of any difficulties (there were some) and the early absence of family (mine was in the Persian Gulf) I continue to see my time at Huyton Hill as a period of grace. Reading those letters in the found column it is clear that I am far from alone in that respect. For example, Peter Royds has written a memoir, and, no doubt, an affectionate one, of his days at Huyton Hill. I remember Peter very well, as we first met in Kendal Milne (in Manchester) when purchasing our uniforms prior to joining the school in 1957, and he was a classmate of mine.

    It seems that after our time at HH there was some extreme bullying going on, but I cannot imagine that it was knowingly tolerated by the Butler brothers, and I am gratified to hear almost entirely good report of them from other former pupils as I have always thought of them as exemplars. A few years ago I stood in front of Hawkshead Church, on a beautiful summer’s day, gazing out across the village towards the eastern fells. I had no idea that Major Butler was buried nearby, otherwise I would certainly have paid my respects to him. History was, and is (along with literature), my subject, and the Major was my mentor. On the other hand I do recall Brigadier Osmaston awarding me a single mark in mathematics: ‘for charity’ (quote). I remember too, at an early history lesson (in one of the boathouse classrooms), being fascinated by the list of illustrious dates the Major had so decisively chalked up on the blackboard, and by the idea that all of these dates could be stored in a single small noddle and put to good use in the prestigious history date competition, which had captured my imagination. I determined at that very moment to commit the dates of England’s and Britain’s monarchs to memory, and likewise for as many events as I could cram into my head. Thereafter I thrived in the history date competition and I remember all of the dates to this day.

    The topic of history dates introduces one of my most vivid memories of HH. A senior boy had me hoisted against the wall down in the basement, not far from the foot of the stairs. Coming down those same stairs one of the Major’s brown shoes (brogues?) suddenly stepped into view and I knew immediately that salvation was afoot (sorry!) There was in the Major’s descent, as in everything he said and did, something supremely purposeful, but he remained unseen and unheard by my assailant, whose back was to the stairs… Until, that is, in fearful proximity, and in a tone of terrifying authority, the Major thundered: “Get your hands off my history date machine” (the quote is verbatim). It is a wonderful thing (as I’m sure Douglas Hickman would agree) to see the wind taken out of a bully’s sails. The expression of gloating superiority gave way instantly to sheepish acquiescence, and, on command, a precipitous absence, without so much as a parting bleat. I don’t recall the identity of the woolly party. That is one of my sweetest memories of the school because the Major, of whom I was most fond, if also in half fearful awe, referred to me as: ‘his history date machine’. The loss of Gerald Butler was a personal one for me, as it evidently was for many old boys, but his rugged grandeur endures, like a mountain, in the mind.

    Nor should we forget the high spiritual presence of Hubert Butler, a man of exquisite courtesy and outstanding cultural command. There was a severity about him, a personal austerity, which almost belied his delicate social awareness. He was the most thoughtful of men in the finer details of life and not ashamed to communicate such essentials to others. Modern scepticism held no terrors for him.

    Thus Gerald and Hubert were about right: spear-wielding and mind-bright!

    I should at this stage mention the fact that I am a local boy, born in (a pre-postcode) Ambleside, although by the time I attended the school my immediate family members were resident in Bahrain. I went home once a year, for the summer holidays. In one case (because of an airline strike?) I did not see my family for eighteen months. Even so, and in spite of any less pleasant aspects, my nostalgia about Huyton Hill verges on the painful. I suppose there are those who would characterise that as a maudlin kind of emotion, but the place had a very special feel to it, partly engendered by the natural surroundings, partly by the exceptional code of the Butler brothers, and partly by the simple fact of youth and of spending one’s boyhood in such (in many respects) idyllic circumstances. Who would not recall such a place without mingled feelings of joy and regret? ‘In looking on the happy autumn-fields/ And thinking of the days that are no more…’

    I have to say that I am amazed at the detailed recollections of others, although quite a few of them (in ‘Beckfoot Found’) were at the school a little later than me. Of course, different people remember different details, and there is a great deal that I do remember. It would be interesting to further assemble our memories online, those who would wish to do so, and in that way to ‘rebuild’ Huyton Hill in the realm of common recall, an airy monument to its founders. But I suppose that Hubert and Gerald Butler already have their memorials in the individual minds, and the common memories, of those whose shared childhood they presided over with such diligence and care. I cannot but wonder if their values too are still held in common, in this day and age, by many of their former proteges. I would guess, yes, but that might be wishful thinking on my part. Doing with a good will comes at a price.

    I understand that much of the above is general, and personal, and I do have a great deal of detail to add, both in pictures and in words, but let this suffice for the time being. In closing, I would just like to express the hope that the years have been kind to all of my old schoolfellows, that is: all of those who shared the experience of Huyton Hill, though not necessarily at the same time as me or each other. It feels as if in some way I know you all, and indeed we do have something enormously important in common. I would therefore be delighted to hear more recollections of our school, should anyone have the time and the inclination to set them down.

    With kind regards to all,

    Derrick Gillingham
    Alfred House
    1957 to 1962

  4. Charlie McConnell says:

    John, Really delighted to see all the work undertaken recently to set up the Huyton Hill website and congratulations on this blog. I attended the school from 1960-65 (Arthur House) and am keen to make contact with anyone who may have been at the school during any of this period. I have just retired as Director of Schumacher College after a near forty year career in development education. The college was named after EF Schumacher the pioneer of sustainable development and author of the iconic book Small is Beautiful. It is an international residential centre, not unlike Huyton.

  5. sheila says:

    thank you for these amazing pictures of huyton hill prepatory school in huyton i live right next to the sit were it was seel road school now occupies the site of the old school and airfield amazing pictures i believe the school also occupied fern-hill just opposite in Victoria road

  6. Gordon Dyer says:

    Hi Sheila, if you would like to see more of the school and its history have a look at:
    The picture at the top of this page was the school at lake Windermere, and there are some pictures of the original school at Huyton in the web site.
    A very good hitory of the school at Huyton is also posted at the botton of this page:

  7. hi Gordon i have been looking at the amazing pictures of the school and airfield that once occupied Victoria road huyton there are some lovely old house in Victoria road fernhill and the archers became the school of occupational thraphy in the 60s and 70s my nan was the cleaning lady for many years in the schools the houses are amazing i use to help her sometimes it was like stepping back in time every time i walk past seel road school i can just imagine huyton hill and the airfield there are 2 really old gate post at the end of victoria road i always think if they belonged to the school once again thank you for these amazing pictures i was stunned when i discovered that huyton once had the school and airfield

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