Memories of Tapton House

Tapton House School was opened as a (co-ed) selective central school (academic - professional) in 1931 and was closed in 1991 after 60 years of education for the 6,000+ pupils who passed through its doors.

This book is a collection of the memories of more than 50 pupils and staff supported by suitable articles from The Taptonian magazines where appropriate. It results from a request by several Old Taptonians after they had read my autobiography Life Down t'Lane, which contained a chapter on Tapton House which I attended from 1949 to 1953.

I should like to start with a memory of my own. When I first went to Tapton House in 1949, after spending four years at Gilbert Heathcote primary (boys only), I was amazed at the large number of lovely looking girls that I came into contact with. My Mam's favourite photograph of me (which she placed in a silver photo frame) was taken with two girls, either side of me, under a cherry tree covered with blossom, on the lawn at the rear of the school. That same photo now takes pride of place in my memorabilia and records of those far-off days, which I now wish could be regained.

Readers may be interested to have an idea of how this labour of love has come to fruition: Once the seed was planted I wrote to the Derbyshire Times in October 1998 with a letter to the editor regarding plans for the book and received some encouraging responses.

In November I put the proposal to a meeting of OTs at the Winding Wheel in Chesterfield, where promises of contributions were made by a number of those present. I also visited the Chesterfield Library, Museum and Derbyshire County Council Records Office at Matlock several times to research background information of the history of Tapton House in case there was insufficient material to justify a book based purely on reminiscences. Fortunately my pessimism was misplaced and the project has borne fruit.

My aim was to have at least one contribution per year from school start to finish, and after mailshots to over 180 OTs and 30 OT couples who were subsequently married I almost succeeded; apart from the 1970s onwards. Just one year from the 30s and 40s is not represented, two years in the 1950s and three in the 1960s. Unfortunately, no responses from pupils attending after the early 70s have been received.

Additional written contributions and offers of photographs started coming in from December 1998. Either my own enquiries or tips from OTs, family and friends led to contact being made with teachers, pupils and others who had been associated with the school.

Once it became clear that there was going to be sufficient material to form the body of the book, work began transferring it to computer. This involved sending the text to one of my three WP assistants for digital conversion and spell checking. Each article was then sent to friends and family for editing and verification of accuracy wherever possible and final transfer to the production files. I was fortunate to contact some contributors via the Internet and that has made communications so much easier.

It was important to start by devising a filing system that would cope with tracking all of the communications with contributors and assistants to know who they were, when each article was received, when input to computer, spell checked, edited, supporting photographs received and scanned, relevant names and captions for the images etc. I keep a computerised alphabetical list of manuscript material in some form of chronology, and I file things under contributor and subject, cross-referenced where possible.

Photographs and illustrations then had to be scanned using my son Leon's computer equipment based in London and decisions made on which images would support each article. Unfortunately we came up against the fact that photographic film was extremely scarce during wartime and hence a gap of images in the book during that period.

Final activities included consultations with Leon on the size and format of the book together with decisions about typefaces and layout; how many pages, how many photographs and illustrations, what kind of book cover, which printer?

We carried out the publishing activities, did the entire design and layout, chapter and page headings and numbering. We selected the typeface and size of print, the positioning of the illustrations etc. The only thing we asked the printer to do was to print and bind the books from our manuscript, which was sent to them on printed copy.

So the book has taken some ten months to come to print. I hope you will agree it does our contributors justice and creates a realistic picture of what our school was like. You will see that the majority of the articles are in date order of the contributor's attendance at school with the exception of the first and last poems, which were thought appropriate for starting and finishing the book.

The book is dedicated to all the pupils and staff who are unfortunately unable to return to Tapton, to wander through the grounds, to sit in the Peace Gardens and reflect on the marvellous times we had in that wonderful part of Derbyshire. I am sure that even if they can no longer return physically, many of their spirits will be there. If you don't believe me just be there at 2.00 p.m. on 15 June (the anniversary of its opening) or mid-day on the last Saturday in June in any year (the day of the OTA picnic). You will see what I mean.

Len Thompson July 1999.

The book is available at the normal price of £12 including p&p, but to Old Taptonians at the special price of £6 including p&p - cheques payable to

Len Thompson
1 Orchard Gardens
Cranleigh
Surrey GU6 7LG
Tel: 01483 274535
Email:len@lenthompson.net