Letters of appreciation and reminiscence
Singing their hearts out, Gatehouse School children from the cloister sing carols in nearby Smithfield Meat Market. Note the market porters standing around them and the meat carcasses behind.

Letters of appreciation and reminiscence

Buckminster Fuller, the famous American architect, author, designer and inventor, visited The Gatehouse School on April 2, 1976. In response he wrote as follows on the frontispiece of a book he gave Phyllis:

"To Phyllis Wallbank

Whose Gatehouse Learning Center is so thoughtfully conceived and created that it allows the children to do their own learning while avoiding
  1. their being shorn of their innate sensitivities; and
  2. being deprived of their innate genius; and
  3. having their sense of spontaneous trust betrayed -- In love and joy
Buckminster Fuller"

Father William Codd, head of the Education Department at Seattle University wrote,

"It is quite easy to pass quite close to a child without seeing him" - Montessori.

This is not true of you Phyllis."

William J. Codd SJ July 16, 1975

Sylvia B. Kottler, then Assistant Professor of Special Education at Purdue University, Indiana, USA, wrote,

"Phyllis Wallbank lectured at Purdue University in the summer of 1977. Her course evaluation completed by the teachers who were enrolled in the course 'Integrating the Exceptional Child into the Regular Classroom', contained the most impressive and positive record ever received by a lecturer from abroad.

The combination of Mrs. Wallbank's deep knowledge of education and her marvelous manner of presentation make her a unique lecturer."

Here are excerpts from a few letters from and about past pupils:

John Rickard is still well known within the Maths Olympiad organization for his exceptional mathematical ability. Sadly he died relatively young not long ago and here are excerpts from letters from two of his brothers; all the siblings attended The Gatehouse School:

"After Cambridge John wrote programs for Cambridge software firms and suddenly became ill ....John made a difference to a lot of people's lives. So many people with problems to solve came to him having tried to solve something for weeks and in five minutes he often pointed to the solution. This was the field he loved. I was with him in hospital when he died very peacefully."


"As a family we all owe very much to The Gatehouse. I am a professor of Maths at Bristol University. After Cambridge I did a PhD at University College London and then a four year research fellowship in Cambridge. I spent several spells in the USA at Yale, Berkley and Georgia. My specialist area is 'Home logical algebra and the representation theory of Groups.'....The Gatehouse gave a wonderful start to my intellectual life."

Stephanie Ross writes to Phyllis:

"I have so many memories of the Gatehouse: Kathleen Ferrier singing 'Blow the Wind Southerly' was your favourite song and every time I hear it, I think of you. There was a book I would look at which had a painting of a black tulip and I was fascinated by it. The globe also amazed me. The largest influences include ambitious theatrical productions. I can still recite almost all of the Midsummer Night's Dream from when I was ten. In fact when I did 'O' levels at Thorpe Grammar I opted to do the alternative from the others and did this, and passed.

We had an innovative way of learning - I remember making and planning radio programmes. I remember stroking a boa constrictor when we were on TV. I also remember being on radio.

The religion was never oppressive, if like myself, one didn't have a faith. I remember those really lovely nativity plays in the church. I have a lovely son, Titus, from my first marriage and I found an unusual individual to whom I am devoted and have Klaas (15) and Alaric aged 17, whom I named after Alaric in my class, the brother of Christian - where are they now?

I live in a small Norfolk village and stand for a place in general elections. I run a youth club, sit on the Parish Council and have been a school governor. I have a degree and now am taking counseling courses. The Gatehouse gave me a wonderful thirst for learning and I sometimes speak publicly of our experience at the Gatehouse which has made me the person I am....


Celia (nee Matthews):

"You will remember, my grandfather was Dean of St. Paul's and so we lived in a flat at the top of the Deanery, surrounded by bomb sites. I remember going for walks with my father in the evenings and seeing the lamplighter with his long stick.

The school, when I came at four years old (1952) was in the cloisters of St. Bartholomew's and we went there for prayers. Mrs. Wallbank taught me to say the Lord's Prayer and complimented me on learning quickly. A boy sang the hymn 'God be in my Head'.

We used to play in the courtyard at the side of the church and we walked through the church to get to it. There were some stone seats where I used to sit with my friends.

Mrs. Wallbank taught us French and I embarrassed my father by singing the Marseillaise on the top of a bus. She also taught us the correct way to pass someone a pair of scissors or anything sharp. I remember Mrs. Wallbank as a stylish woman with glossy shoulder length brown hair like a film star. She was rather bossy and frequently used to say: "When you are told to do something you must do it AT ONCE!"

I remember the Nativity play because I was dressed as an angel and sang a solo of the first verse of 'While shepherds watch their flocks'. I recall very clearly the small rubber band that was to keep my wing on to my little finger broke and I had to hold it with my finger and thumb.

We moved to Dallington Street about 1953 and there was a shop on the corner called White's where the acid bath murderer, Haig, bought his acid. My age group were on the ground floor, the babies were on the first floor and we had our meals near the kitchen in the basement. Mrs. Wallbank used to bring her black and white spaniel, called Simon, to the school and I loved him.

We had another school in the country and I and some friends went there and acted as fairies. I have a photo of us. Although we had prayers in the mornings, we sang the hymn 'Now the Day is Over' at the end of the day. I still like that hymn."

Simon Crees, who came from an East London pub background, writes,

"I have a wife and two sons. After Gatehouse I followed other pupils to Wolverstone Hall. I read law at University college, Buckingham and my law lecturer at university was Andrew Durand who was an old Gatehouse pupil. 22 years ago I starting working at the Deutsche Bank and am still there.

I often go to St. Bartholomew the Great as it is my favourite church. I remember our Junior Journey trips to Blankenberge, Bruges, Delft, and Amsterdam where we visited Anne Frank's house. We visited some wonderful galleries (that I have since revisited) and the home of Maria Montessori.

I remember Anton Rogers, the actor, who had two children at the school and who helped with Drama. He is at present in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I wrote to ask him whether I could take my son backstage on his birthday and he is going to arrange for us to see the 'car' after the show. Anton Rogers said ' I have very fond memories of the Gatehouse. I am so pleased that Mrs. Wallbank is alive and well.' He said that his son, Adam, is a film cameraman and Talia is a publisher and has a young son.

I have heard of two millionaire Gatehouse pupils: Haarry Sykes who is a dot com millionaire and Simon Geller now editor of Men's Health Magazine. My brother Jonathan enjoys the freedom of being a taxi driver.

With much fondness

Alastair Fairweather, who had his eyes removed when he was eight years old, came to The Gatehouse shortly after becoming blind. He later gained a first class honours degree in Maths and is a computer project manager, married and with a young child. He told Phyllis recently that he believes that he would never have done so well had it not been for his integration into the sighted world at The Gatehouse.

Phyllis recently also had a letter from a woman who attended the school from 1957 to 1964:

"My brothers and I feel very fortunate to have had such an interesting and rewarding start to our educational lives. I remember singing and dancing diagrams in geometry showing chords and tangents and radii (!) and the golden retriever, Bruno, looking on. I remember a Downs Syndrome friend and a thalidomide disabled friend. I loved the nativity plays at St. Bartholomew's and going to sing carols in the meat market in Smithfield and at the City of London Police Station. Thank you for preparing us to live in a flexible and adaptable way."

The Rt Revd John Dennis, then Bishop of Knaresborough wrote in 1981:

"We are delighted to be able to say that he (Peter) has been awarded an Exhibition by St. John's College, Cambridge to which he will go to read Geography....Peter received his grounding totally from the Gatehouse and we are very grateful to the school and more particularly to you personally for all that you gave him in those years and of course for accepting him into the school in the first place."

Rasanne Moran:

"Christopher, Nicholas and I feel so fortunate in having such an interesting and rewarding beginning to our education. The memories of dancing the shapes and singing our geometry lessons, wacky experiments involving lots of water on top of the wooden cover to the billiard table that had to be part of our classroom and of course your lovely golden retriever, Bruno, all these memories remain with me and will be there forever.

I was a proper little Bossy Boots which has now been sublimated into managerial expertise, and I am now working in the finance industry as a Human Resource/ Personnel practitioner."

Warmest regards

Jane Leaver:

"It was so lovely seeing you at the Gatehouse reunion and it took me back thirty years to Dallington Street where I brought our two and a quarter year old to join the nursery class. She's now a GP and going to Australia. She gained a first in Epidemiology and her little daughter is going to the Gatehouse...."

Andrew Durand:

"The university at which I teach was founded on the concept of integrated education across a wide range of subjects but now conforms more to the norm. I have been loyal to your training and have sent our small son to a nursery run by a Montessori teacher. I am so proud of the education you facilitated and I am so proud of my school at St. Bartholomew's and often mention it.

Angela (his sister) is a solicitor in Hastings and has three sons. I met my wife while working at the European Court at Luxembourg."