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Beaumont Hall

Simon was nine years old when he arrived at Beaumont Hall; it was to be his new place of learning. His father had been made the Ambassador to a new fledgling country in Africa, whilst his mother, the now world renowned scientist Doctor April Garvey, was needed on an endless circuit of lectures. Her book, The Noble Nobel Factor, had proved quite provocative in the field of academia.

Simon’s loving father didn’t think it appropriate to drag his son away from England to his new posting, the country was still quite volatile so that had to be taken into account. Although he knew of several private schools in South Africa that had his approval and would have made him a little closer, he definitely wanted an education for his son that would reflect the family’s sensibilities. Meanwhile, his doting mother was unable to prevent the avalanche of both praise and condemnation her book provoked. She knew she had to defend all she claimed and having her son, her sweet adoring son, around would cause problems that could easily be solved.

His doting parents enrolled him at the one school they were sure he’d feel safe and secure, the one school they knew he’d settle in without any trauma. Beaumont Hall had a select admittance policy and a fantastic reputation. Although an all-boys establishment, it was run on a benevolent, almost Quaker-style, concept of love, freedom, understanding and personal development. Instead of some aged Latin motto etched in crumbling stonework over the impressive facade was the simple missive – Be kind to one another.

Beaumont Hall was similar, yet different, to any other boarding school in the UK. The impressive building had the first stone laid towards the end of Elizabeth the First’s reign, and was the centrepiece of the Beaumont-Saxby Estate. The large imposing structure had over the years been added to, repaired, redeveloped and, against all modern trends adapted to its new life as a place of education. Even the driveway up to the building, through an imposing gated entrance that circled along an avenue of high trees before the Hall was reached, had become a feature of historical, engineering and arboretum note.

The estate itself was quite impressive, containing working farms of arable and animal, a couple of villages, stables and a thousand acre forest. The commanding and far reaching estate had in the past a number of important titleholders but, when it was acquired by the Rushforth Education Foundation (REF) in the mid-1990s, the entire estate was targeted at learning and the development of the country’s children. Although it might have seemed it was only educating the off-spring of the rich, this was by no means the case as bursaries were given out to many who could ill afford such exclusive tutorage. This was not the case for Simon Garvey, both of his parents had influence and been involved in this educational project to some degree for many years so his acceptance was a foregone conclusion.

The only reason he wasn’t already a boarder at this prestigious place was that his parents were based in London and was educated locally. Now their circumstances had changed, and both parents would be out of the country a great deal of the time, proved an opportunity to send Simon to the place they thought he’d thrive best.


At 10am, the Saturday before the start of a new term, Simon, like the rest of the yearly intake, had been left, after many tears, sad farewells and gentle coercion in the capable care of the teachers and staff at the stately home. He was among five new students who were taking up availability in the Year 4 group, although the school also greeted the latest Year 3 intake. This group of eight year-olds boys were just starting their climb up the educational ladder.

Rooms were allocated, four students per room; with bed, desk, chair, dresser and cupboard for each individual. Common rooms, entertainment and study areas were dotted around the building although the large dining area was for all students, of all ages, to eat together. Older boys were encouraged to eat with younger pupils and a healthy mix of ages could be found in lively chat during meals. There was nothing formal or regimented for any of the meals the school offered - noise, conversation, friendship and geniality were encouraged.

The entire concept of the school was based on a secular vision of the world. So people who sent their children to Beaumont Hall shared that ideal.

Behind the ancient edifice was a large modern development of several buildings which contained a swimming pool, indoor sports courts and gym. There were also several playing fields and a race track. Aligned close to the ancient architecture were the newer dormitories that led by covered archways into the greatly refurbished and impressive structure. Here the large ex-servant’s quarters had been revamped and renovated as a dormitory for all first year students who were housed together. Also dotted around the place were staff quarters for those who lived in.

The school operated on a boarding basis and pupils arrived at the age of eight and stayed until they were sixteen and had taken their exams. If further education was desired then Universities, colleges or apprenticeships were found for those who wanted such positions. There was also a satellite school on the coast where pupils from 16 to 18 were housed if specialist further education was desired. One of the school’s main principles was that students are responsible for those in the year below. A ‘big brother’, but not in the Orwell sense, was promoted as the way a school should operate.

With - Be kind to one another - the simple doctrine, no boy needed to feel left out, bullied or at a disadvantage. It was a creed that worked and every student made it his duty to care for and comfort anyone found in any kind of distress. 

Beaumont Hall was ahead of its time as a place of excellence with a Utopian flare.


After the new class of eight year-olds had been given their induction, shown the large dorm they would all share for the first year, beds allocated and timetables announced it was the turn of the new nine year-olds. Being only five newbies the Housemaster was quick to inaugurate the boys to their new routine; two new boys in one room with two returning boys and three in another room sharing with one other. The philosophy of Beaumont Hall was simple - there would always be someone around to show any new boy the ropes or answer any queries. For those in their first year at Beaumont Hall there was always nurse to administer any medication and prepare them for bed.

Come bedtime, Simon and the rest of the new arrivals were in for a shock. The policy of the school was all newcomers wore a nappy to sleep in for the first few weeks. This was not to humiliate them, nothing could be further from the truth; the school simply didn’t want them worrying about those first few intimidating nights away from home.

“But, but, but I don’t need to wear a nappy, I’m, I’m not a baby I can go to the toilet...” Simon wasn’t alone in his stammered protest as nurse asked them to strip for that first night.


Over the years it had been accepted that the strange surroundings, new people, different procedures and the building itself often produced a daunting atmosphere for the newest members of the faculty. Together with not having familiar items or parents around to placate such fears, these new anxieties often transferred to many of the youngster’s becoming bedwetters. So as not to embarrass those who did succumb to such accidents it was thought best to treat all newcomers the same.

With ‘everyone in it together’ there was support and solidarity from each other and the older, more established boys were eager to add their reassurance to the newcomers. No one was subjected to anything but encouragement and assistance. No one needed to feel put upon or at a disadvantage because no boy’s need (or not) of a nappy was made an obstacle to personal development. Despite the numerous protests from among the young voices, many boys found the comfort of a thick nappy the ideal way as coping with the change of being away from home and clung on to its reassuring presence for as long as possible.

So, when that first bedtime came around the novices were initially sent to the school nurse and her staff to have a nappy affixed for the night. A pair of soft white vinyl pants covered the thick fabric and a pale blue school onesie was then fastened under their crotch to hold everything together. Everyone was dressed the same, so looked the same, so no one could complain or be at an advantage. A few of the new boys objected and complained that they were potty-trained and would have no problem. However, that argument was not entertained for the first month as all the boys were treated the same and absolutely no stigma attached to this process.

The system proved correct as many new boys woke up to a soaked nappy but thankfully, a dry bed. There was no criticism for those who used their nappies just positive reinforcement from the nurses that they were good boys and should be proud of themselves.

It was to every boy’s credit that after the first couple of days of perhaps resenting such action, they inevitably settled down and accepted this rule. It could be because the ambience in general was of calm and unifying commitment to each other. As the boys bedtime approached, games and TV watching was slowly reduced so that their brains were not still hectic when the lights went out. Soft, relaxing music was played to lull minds and promote sleep. A minimum of ten hours was the required amount for each pupil. Even the older boys found the routine benefited their concentration levels and few flouted their age-related bedtime rule.

However, and this was what was perhaps unique about the school, nappies could be worn by anyone at any time. There were no hang-ups or detrimental accusations or comments for anyone who preferred to keep the comfort found by such an item.

It was another of those progressive and possibly counterintuitive factors that the school had discovered over the relatively brief time it had been in operation; there was a wonderful security in wearing a nappy that students of all ages appreciated. This was made abundantly clear because each and every toilet always had a pile of fresh, clean nappies, plastic pants, wipes, creams and powder available for any person who wanted them. A nappy pail was also there to ease disposal of any soiled article.

The school had a uniform – navy blue shorts, pale blue shirt, school tie, pale blue socks and black shoes. All boys wore shorts until they became a teenager. At thirteen, on their birthday, they could, had they been supplied by their parents, decide to wear long trousers. It was one of those points when a young lad felt that he was growing up and needed the psychological boost such a piece of clothing might provide.

However, even though long trousers were allowed, it was perhaps more interesting that even the eldest students often choose to continue their education wearing shorts. For some it was an act of bravado, for others it was clinging to their youthful spirit and for others it was simply a preference and quite practical - it was common to outgrow long pants before it was a pair of shorts. Whatever the reason, and whether a boy wore shorts or long trousers, no one thought any better or worse because of what you wore or the reasons behind it.

It was not unusual to see a thick nappy and plastic protection visible above the waistband of even the eldest student. It also had to be admitted that nappies and shorts were worn by a large minority of students well after their need for them. It was also not uncommon to see groups of every age playing and socialising together. The only area where this was perhaps less obvious were in school sports where it wouldn’t have been physically appropriate to have a seven year-old battling with a sixteen year-old.

However, where possible integration was the key word and the school had an excellent reputation for producing athletes and sportsmen up to semi and professional level. One of the reasons for this was the encouragement of all boys to find an outlet for their youthful exuberance.

Sport, theatre and music were the main beneficiaries but so were engineering, carpentry, farming and cooking. It had an active and popular environmental group called The Beaumont Boys, a cross between scouting, orienteering and community involvement, where boys were taught how social interaction was a way forward and of benefit to any profession they ended going in to.

It wasn’t unknown for groups of shorts-clad boys in their identifiable school colours, leading the clean-up campaign on the sea shore, river banks or public woodland. A village or organisation would smile in relief if they were told that a group of Beaumont Boys were on their way, it meant that things would get done quickly and efficiently. They were always a welcome addition to any activity.


Like the rest of the newcomers Simon thought this all very strange but, as his parents had said how wonderful the place was, he went along with it all. Getting ready for that first night and that first nappy had been quite an occasion. He wasn’t alone in his trepidation but roomy Alex, who’d been there a year, and who still preferred to wear protection, promised that if he just went along with it, he’d soon see the benefits.

That first night was weird but as many of the boys had changed into their night time protection before lights out, socialising in their onesies was not uncommon. As all ages were allowed to wear the same... the common rooms were a place where worries, fear and shyness were quickly turned on their heads.

There may have been some concern to begin with, in fact, the newbies huddled together for support, but once they saw that everyone was alike it was amazing how quickly they integrated. It helped that there was a cheery word of welcome for all.

Some of the younger boys still had their security teddy bears or stuffed animals with them and there was no disgrace to be seen walking around carrying it. In fact, later in the first school term there was an evening ‘teddy-bears’ picnic and everyone was encouraged to bring along their bedtime friend to join in a night of fun, food and games.

This wasn’t restricted to the first year... and it was amazing just how many of the boys had kept (and loved) their childhood companions. Many social events; treasure hunts, karaoke contests, sports days, camps out, night sky observations and off course all the usual holiday and festive events were covered.

If these took place after the evening meal then all boys were got ready for bed before the communal fun and frolics began. This was so the nursing staff could also take part, which meant that fresh nappies often billowed out from tight onesies. As it was the same for everyone... it didn’t make the slightest difference. Hardly a week went by without something being organised to amuse and engage every student. Each event was always fun and entertaining.


Although nervous to begin with Simon soon settled into the rhythm of school. As it turned out, the implementation of nappy wearing for all newcomers had proved to be a wise directive because half the first graders woke up wet or soiled and three of the five second graders (of whom Simon was one) also woke up experiencing a very sodden nappy.

Even those who managed to stay dry that first night were glad that they had some protection as they felt more secure in such strange surroundings. None of the boys were made to feel in anyway disadvantaged by their experience. Indeed, there was a great deal of support from older pupils also getting their soggy morning nappies changed by the experienced nursing staff.

Of course, the nappies were aimed mainly for night time security and, once cleaned up, should they want to return to wearing padding no one thought any worse if that was the path taken. It was a regular sight, observing boys walking back to their rooms wearing thick padding and plastic or rubber pants. The school uniform was worn to breakfast after which the boys had fifteen minutes before lessons began.

Simon opted for safety in these new, strange surroundings so wore a thick nappy and sparkling white shiny plastic pants under his shorts. He felt comforted and because everyone was so friendly, couldn’t wait to start the term in this innovative and exciting environment.

Of course, as a nine year old, he didn’t actually see it in those terms. What he did feel was this place was special and although, on that first weekend he was unsure, the friendliness of the place made it easy to forget any of his preliminary worries.

Thoughts of his busy parents fleetingly stayed with him and the regrets of not being with them also short-lived. He soon found his life was full of excitement and surprises, fun and learning, friendship and socialising, he hardly had a minute to himself that didn’t engage him in something of interest or entertainment.

When he arrived at his first lesson he was happily surprised to discover he wasn’t the only boy who had chosen to wear protection. About half of the twenty boys he would be studying with had also gone for that option. As the day progressed, and he saw more and more boys out and about, moving from lesson to lesson, or playing out during the breaks he noticed that probably 90% of all the older boys wore shorts and of them, perhaps 50% wore undisguised padding.

As he looked around at the noisy but happy group of students he was pleased his parents had decided on this place. He’d never been to such a friendly school before where even the teachers were sociable and joined in with the kid’s conversations and games. No matter how shy or reticent no child was left on their own, or left out of any proceedings. Everyone had a voice and encouraged to make it heard.

It was a place where making friends was easy, in fact, it was one of the top commendations to all students. Any competition between various groups was kept to the sports field but then whether winners or losers, all were back together to celebrate.

Education was fun, with time to explore and discuss rather than repeat and remember.

Creative development was also high on the list of priorities, where even the youngest boys were encouraged to show their fledgling talent.

The entire system of Beaumont Hall was to help create, guide and encourage each pupil’s innate personal power; to achieve what was best for them rather than fill the needs of an arbitrary curriculum. Self-motivation was also encouraged but not at the expense of anyone else... the bonding of all the boys to each other and under the care and direction of the school was unique and rarely repeated in any other educational establishment.

Night time nappies and morning changes were social rather than embarrassing affairs where everyone was equal. The staff was encouraging, efficient but above all, friendly. No one got special treatment - no one got a different nappy (except if extra protection was called for) but there was a choice of covers if you had a preference or allergic to a certain material.

Simon woke up each morning, and whether wet or not, was instantly excited about the day ahead... he knew it would be brilliant. That was the thing about Beaumont Hall the motto said everything - Be kind to one another - and he’d found a place where that was a code everyone lived by.

Of course, not everyone wore a nappy. Other than the induction period the boys were allowed to wear what they found comfortable. However, it was true that over the years a preference for thick protection and the wearing of shorts had become a sort of badge of honour. Those who were lucky enough to be educated at Beaumont Hall wore their unique uniform with pride because of what the school and its academic and social awareness generated.

Being a pupil at Beaumont Hall did set you apart from any other educational institution and the uniform was part of that. There was little vanity in a teenager wearing shorts when they had the option to wear long trousers. There was little vanity in wearing padding at any age past being a toddler. Yet the ethos of the school meant that despite these possible barriers, the pupils had decided what they thought was best for them and adopted the uniform you now see. No one was made to wear shorts except as part of the under thirteen’s dress uniform... to everyone else it was a choice.

It was choice that made the school so important. It was choice that made the students that bit more independent. It was choice that equipped everyone with the knowledge that a boy can achieve anything... even if he does so whilst wearing a nappy.

Many ex-pupils who achieved fame and fortune were thankful for what Beaumont Hall offered. It had helped in social interaction with others setting them apart from their peers from some of the more, expensive, privileged and self-aggrandised public schools.

It was not unheard of that the love of protection and the security such padding offered was also not something that was jettisoned by many of the school’s students. As Simon would find out over his stay, the feeling such an item instilled was an elusive yet comforting factor throughout his school years.

Nappies, though not for everyone and often frowned upon by some were, as far as students who had been educated at Beaumont Hall, an actual positive in their lives and one that they chose not to give up easily... if at all.



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