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Pat Jenkins

Class of 1952, Freemen's Archivist

Pat Jenkins started at Freemen’s in 1946, in Year 3 as a Day Girl and left at the end of Upper 6 in 1952. Pat’s connection with the School didn’t stop there; she had two children who attended the school and she went on to be actively involved in the Old Freemen’s Association (OFA) as Secretary, Chairman, Membership. She is the School’s Archivist and has written a book on the history of Freemen’s too.  

How would your friends have described you in your school days? 

I was very conscientious at school. My homework used to disappear out of my desk and get returned before the lesson, particularly my French homework! 

Which teacher stays with you to this day? 

Our staff were all very important to us, not only because they took their own subject but they took sport as well, so all of them. Pauline Taylor was our History teacher and when we had our 150th anniversary dinner, she was absolutely mobbed as everyone was delighted to see her and the number of people have said to me, ‘I have loved history ever since!’ My Archive work is history combined with research. 

What is there in the School today that you wish you had when you were a pupil here? 

The Library, we had ours literally out of laundry boxes. You would get two or three books out on the Monday for a week, you could change your books the next Monday and that would be it. Then the Library went into the Livery Room and we actually had three proper bookshelves; we thought that was absolutely wonderful. The libraries they have here now are absolutely outstanding! I know you can go to Google but it’s not the same; I like to actually handle the books. 

What did you go on to do after leaving Freemen’s? 

I first thought I was going to do Domestic Science but realised it wasn’t the older children that I wanted to teach but the younger ones, so I went to Philippa Fawcett Teacher Training College, Streatham. I taught in Croydon until I married and then went to Ewell Infants. When my children were school age I went to Cheam Common Infants and stayed there for 25 years.  

You’re still very involved with school. How did that come about? 

I became a life member of the Old Freemen’s Association when I left School. I had collected a lot of information about the School such as Prize Day programmes for myself and my children and kept anything like that. I put it to (the Headmaster at the time) Philip MacDonald that I wanted somewhere to store all of these things and he gave me a choice of rooms to set up an Archive. 

For the 150th anniversary of the school, I felt there should be a book about the School. I asked the Head Girl to write something in the book and she said that our syllabus covered such a wide area that everyone had their moment to shine and so I called the book, Their Moment to Shine.  

How far do the Archives go back? 

We haven’t got photos of the first two Heads, but we have of the third Head (Robert Montague 1890-1914) and a little bit of information on him. We’ve got a table from the entrance hall in Brixton and the bookstand behind the door in the Livery Room was also from Brixton. We have pieces of uniform dating back to the 1950s.  

What’s the most fascinating item in the Archive? 

One of our real treasures is the glass vase which went originally into the foundation stone at Brixton and when it was demolished, we had that back; it’s now in the Octagonal Room in Main House.  

Freemen’s in 3 words…. 

Connections, friendship and generosity.