Memories of the Howard School in the Early Years
Moving from Orchard Street to the 36 acre site in Derwent Way Rainham in September 1967, the boys found the new school much more spacious with newer facilities than their previous one. Many boys puzzled over the name and thought it came from the building company that had constructed the site. In reality the building was named after Dorothy Howard who had served as Education officer for Medway and had been involved in local community and political affairs.
With a school population of about 500 and a four house system consisting of Tufton, Queens, Dering and Chaney, Mr Bacon continued as headmaster with his ageing white haired secretary in the adjacent office. Most of the Orchard Street staff continued although a few retired while well-known caretaker Mr Milgate remained at Orchard Street when the transfer took place.
Mr Newell continued as the art teacher and later became acting-head after the retirement of Mr Bacon, while Mr Gibbs continued as the principal English teacher, the librarian and wrote the annual school play. He left the school soon after its opening to teach at the former Sittingbourne teacher training college.
Mr Patterson remained as the geography teacher and Mr Barnes the maths teacher. Mr Powell continued teaching science and later became deputy-headmaster and Mr Rotherham continued teaching craft and organised the school football and cricket teams before retiring aged 81 during the late 1990s. Mr Groves, a muscular rugby player and athlete taught PE and games.
Well-known new teacher arrivals were Mr Ansell and Mr Bullen who also played for Rainham Cricket Club, Mr Clark who taught PE and originated from the Midlands, Vaughn Jenkins, a fat Welshman with a booming voice who ended up teaching English as a Foreign Language in Qatar and Ukraine before retiring to Blackburn. Mr Johns, another Welshman turned out to be a very introverted individual, prone to bursts of temper. Well-spoken Mr Richards taught English and tried to be best friends with all the boys. He wore thick black rimmed glasses and originated from Sussex.
Alan Suttie from Maidstone Road, who later became a graphic artist in London, served as head-boy with a group of prefects who all sat on the school stage during the morning assembly while Mr Bacon or deputy-head Mr Thomas conducted prayers and gave a daily sermon.
The prefect’s room had a table tennis table and many of the prefects played there and sometimes had to be removed by Mr Rotherham when they should have been in lessons or doing private study.
Because the playing fields were new a large number of stones appeared from below the surface, so initially many school football matches had to be played at the Langton Playing Fields, while during the summer some home cricket matches were played at Berengrove Park, the home of Rainham Cricket Club. A red gravel area existed for football practice but many boys complained of serious leg grazes after falling over and the orange dust stuck to their clothes. Outdoor artificial nets existed for cricket practice but the playground was preferred by pupils for sport. With a big gym, spacious science labs, well-lit classrooms and a dining hall, the new school had better and newer facilities than at Orchard Street but not as much atmosphere as the old school was smaller and more centrally located.
Well-known Howard Schoolboys from the period include George Meegan who became the first person to walk from the bottom of South America to the top of North America without any financial backing or special equipment for which he is in the Guinness Book of Records. Footballer Derek Hales went on to play for Luton, Charlton, West Ham, Derby and Gillingham. He later returned to the Howard School as a part-time football coach. Stuart Hart became landlord of the Angel pub in Station Road and a familiar scrap metal collector around Rainham while Raymond Hales, Alfie Fisher, Andy Findlay, Geoff Stone, Mick Arnold, Peter Heath and Malcolm Young became well-known local footballers.
With the closure of Gillingham Grammar School, the boys there moved to the Howard School in 1975 where they formed the grammar section of a new bi-lateral school, one of only five in the United Kingdom led by headmaster Mr Hicks. This amalgamation of the old Rainham Secondary School with Gillingham Grammar expanded the Howard School population to around 1,500 boys. The school remains one of the largest in Medway today.