Verites

Housemaster

Mr N Hadfield MA

A Scholar at Eton and Oxford, Nigel Hadfield came to Charterhouse after a fifteen year management career with the Swire Group in Hong Kong, China, Australia and France. The Senior Housemaster at Charterhouse, he teaches French, German and Chinese and includes languages, travel, music and sport among his main interests.

Nigel is an enthusiastic advocate of using IT in education and has developed the Testalingua language-learning website for use in schools. Nigel was a Judo Blue at Oxford and College Captain of boats, and has coached judo, football and hockey at the school. He is married to Lucy who runs an international business communications consultancy. They have three children.

Nigel has been Housemaster of Verites since 2000.

Contact Information

Mr N Hadfield
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 291520
E-mail: nh@charterhouse.org.uk

Housemaster's Statement

In Verites we strive to create a happy, healthy, hard-working, cultured and civilised community in the House, a community which should inspire all pupils to make the most of the opportunities and facilities available to them at Charterhouse. We aim to ensure our pupils leave Charterhouse well-prepared for life beyond school, with excellent skills, knowledge and qualifications, good manners, decent values, self-respect, respect for others, and confidence as individuals.

In the Verites ‘House Rules’ the General Principles of Respect for Others, Respect for House Property, Self-Respect and Common Sense are stressed above all else.  (A further elaboration of these General Principles can be found in Appendix A)

We do not aim to recruit a particular ‘type’ of pupil into the House, other than seeking energetic, enthusiastic and considerate pupils who are likely to make the most of their opportunities and contribute to a happy boarding community.  In Verites we celebrate effort and achievement in all areas of academic and extra-curricular life at Charterhouse, whether as scholars, sportsmen, musicians, artists, actors or whatever may be the particular talents and interests of each pupil.  In a boarding community pupils gain immensely from learning to appreciate and respect the talents and interests of others, which may be very different from their own.    

House Profile

Situated right in the heart of the school, with fantastic views over Green, Verites prides itself on being a friendly centre for achievement; be it academic, sporting, cultural or in any other aspect of school life. Verites would not be half the place it is now without the inclusiveness and open attitude to people of many different interests, all living, working and playing hard together in an immensely varied and vibrant atmosphere.

There is, of course, a very strong house spirit, as is most evident at Inter-House Sports Finals, and everyone in the house can truly expect support and encouragement from staff and fellow pupils alike, in whatever they do. With a compassionate and welcoming atmosphere, Verites is an ideal place for those joining the school, and provides the same level of back-up throughout a Carthusian’s school career.

Reflecting the general ethos of the school, and thanks to an impressive level of participation and effort from members of the house in so many different and varied ways, Verites always puts on a good show in the House Drama, House Music and House Art competitions, balancing these accomplishments with those on the sports field. No-one is ever a ‘spare part’ in Verites, and when house members leave at the end of their time as Second Year Specialists, they can truly say they have made the most of Charterhouse.

- Head of House

The Boarding House

Verites House

Verites is one of the original three Victorian gothic ‘block houses’ at Charterhouse, purpose-built for the School’s move from London to its present site in Godalming in 1872. The glorious period architecture is complemented by the House’s magnificent position overlooking Green (1st XI cricket pitch), at the very heart of the School. Pupils in Verites enjoy the considerable advantage of being closest to Chapel, the Music Schools, Library, Hall, Brooke Hall (Masters’ Common Room), the 1st XI cricket and football pitches and many of the classrooms. Verites has been comprehensively renovated since 2000, with the total refurbishment of all study-bedrooms and common rooms, as well as the transformation of redundant kitchen and corridor space into new accommodation for girls’ day studies and a unique House Gymnasium.  Pupils in Verites eat all their meals in a splendid in-house Dining Room and the House can now accommodate over 70 pupils, including up to 14 girls.

Unlike most of the other Houses at Charterhouse, Verites owes its name to the Housemaster of ‘Verites’ at Charterhouse in London, the Rev. Oliver Walford, rather than to the original Housemaster in the School’s new 1872 location in Godalming (for Verites this was the Rev. Thomas Vyvyan).  Rev. Walford was also the Usher, or Deputy Headmaster, in London and was known affectionately as ‘old Ver’, an abbreviation of his first name ‘Oliver’; this is the origin of the name given to the House and its occupants as ‘Verites’.  For a description of the old Verites in London, written by former Housemaster A.H. Tod (in response to a nostalgic article by famous old Carthusian Max Beerbohm), please see Appendix B.

One of the most significant events in the History of Verites in Godalming was the Verites fire of 8th March 1918. The roof and top storey of the House were gutted, though the two storeys below were saved thanks to their solid construction.  A full account of the fire, written by former Charterhouse Headmaster, Frank Fletcher, can be found in Appendix C.

Many Old Verites have distinguished themselves in a wide variety of careers after Charterhouse.  One of the most noteworthy in relatively recent times was General the Right Honourable Lord Ismay G.C.B, C.H., D.S.O who rose to particular prominence in the Second World War as Deputy Secretary (Military) to the War Cabinet, effectively acting as Churchill’s No. 2.  He was later appointed to be Chief of Staff to the Viceroy of India and subsequently served as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.  The fine senior Common Room in Verites, known as Ismays, was named in his honour.

Previous Housemasters

  • Rev Thomas G Vyvyan 1872-1889
  • Rev GS Davies 1890-1905
  • AH Tod 1906-1920
  • BH Willett 1920-1935
  • J Holmes 1935-1950
  • GA Rowan-Robinson 1950-1965
  • GCL Hadden 1965-1971
  • DH Derbishire 1971-1975
  • RG Woodcock 1975-1990
  • RP Noble 1990-2000
  • N Hadfield 2000       

Appendices

Appendix A

Below is a summary of the four Principles upon which life in Verites is organised.

Respect for Others:

Verites is a community which lives and works together and where you are expected to show courtesy and consideration for others at all times, regardless of their age, sex, nationality, religion or colour, and their different abilities & interests. Boarding schools thrive on diversity and tolerance, and narrow-mindedness, chauvinism, bullying and prejudice have no place in Verites.

Respect for House Property:

While you are at Charterhouse, Verites is your home and the home of your fellow Verites, and should be treated as such. You should make every effort to keep the decoration, furniture, fittings and facilities of the House in good condition – all members of Verites will be held collectively responsible for maintaining the good appearance and good working order of the House. We all appreciate a civilized environment.

Self-Respect:

As a member of Verites you should take pride in working hard and playing hard and building a reputation for excellence for yourself and for the House.

During your time at Charterhouse you should endeavour to make the most of the school’s academic, sporting, musical, theatrical, artistic, cultural, social and recreational resources.  If you do not, you are likely to regret wasting your time, your opportunities, and your parents’ money, and will probably find life beyond Charterhouse infinitely more difficult and less rewarding.  Good universities and good employers are highly sought after and attract a very competitive field of candidates.

Good manners, punctuality, a tidy appearance, intellectual ability and physical fitness are important factors in developing self-respect and earning the respect of others.

Common Sense:

These Verites House Rules cannot cover all possible areas of behaviour and procedure.  Common sense should prevail at all times and if there is no rule forbidding some undesirable activity, breaking the unwritten rules of good manners, consideration for others and common sense will make the offender liable to punishment.

Appendix B

He (Beerbohm) may be mistaken in thinking that had he been at the Old place he would have been found brooding over old memories.  I doubt it; does he realize the conditions?  Suppose he had entered Verites in January 1869. After a drive through grimy Smithfield in a ‘growler’ or hansom he would have been deposited at Verites, the Usher’s house, with little prospect of getting out into London for four months; for Long Quarter then ran on always until the second Wednesday in May.  He would have relinquished his greatcoat, chimney top hat and gayer apparel – would he not have resented that? – at once to the matron’s charge, for greatcoats were not allowed in the school.  He would have found himself one of some two dozen boys under the charge of the Rev. Frederick Poynder, the last Usher, - the Usher was a second master, appointed by the Governors, and independent of the Schoolmaster – and in a somewhat squalid house which had seen better days as a residence of the Duke of Rutland – the oldest books in the Verite House Library still bear the inscription ‘No. 2 Rutland Place’ – but there was nothing ducal about it in 1869. There were two ‘Long Rooms’; Under Long Room was much the same as any Long Room now, but not separated by any partition from Upper Long Room – an excellent arrangement, for order was maintained by monitors who could see all that went on – there was no ‘top table’ or ‘head of Under Long’ – it was not called Hall, hence in Verites, as distinguished from all other houses, now there are two Long Rooms, not Hall and not Writing School.  Upper Long Room, the abode of monitors and ‘ Uppers’, i.e. all in VI and V not monitors, they could fag, but had no monitorial duties, was larger than the other; tradition said it had once been a swimming bath and it looked like it – for the only windows were small ones just under the roof.  There were a few studies of fair size lighted in the same way from the top, a sort of scullery for cocks, and no sick room.  This did not matter much, for then there were no epidemics, no temperatures; there was indeed a ‘medical officer’, but he was seldom seen; the matrons kept two mixtures, one black the other white, and with their aid could dispel or prevent any ailment.  The only furniture in the bedrooms was the beds – at night you placed your clothes on the bed and in the morning carried them down with you for dressing in cocks.  Then there was no hot water except on Saturday afternoons, when a small boiler was lit and fags fetched two ‘tosh cans’ from the matron’s charge.  You sat in one and placed your feed in the other – all this upon the stone floor of cocks – the hot water soon gave out and then there was bathing for no one until the evening, and this it was the privilege of monitors only.

A H Tod in The Carthusian – March 1921

Appendix C

The monotony of school life in war-time was temporarily relieved, and its difficulties greatly increased, in the early spring of 1918, when Verites, the easternmost of the three houses in the main block, was partially destroyed by fire.  Starting in the roof, where it was discovered about 8.30a.m., it spread rapidly along the whole line of the building.  When I first saw it half an hour later (I was convalescing from an illness and not allowed to get up early) the smoke was pouring out from the towers at both ends.  The school had already organized itself to deal with the situation.  The boys’ fire brigade were already at work, some of them plying the hose, others on the roof hacking away the woodwork which connected Verites with the other buildings of the block.  Relays of boys were working the hand engine to pump up water: others were busy clearing out the furniture and contents from the burning house and, as a precaution, from the parts of Gownboys nearest to it. Founder’s Court was full of bedding and furniture, which was subsequently transferred to the school hall.

Meanwhile the Godalming fire brigade had arrived; but it was depleted by the absence of members at the Front, and being without their regular engineer they had a difficulty in getting their engine to work.  Other brigades came on the scene, two of them actually from London.  These, to obtain a further supply of water, had recourse to the River Wey, nearly a mile below.  They succeeded in laying a hose, but the pressure was too great.  The water was drawn up, but the hose burst.

By lunch-time the fire had been got under. The whole roof of Verites had fallen in, but the house was so solidly built that only the top storey was gutted: the two below had suffered from the water more than from the fire. About twenty tons of material were lying on the floor of the upper storey, which amazingly stood the strain. But there was serious danger that the walls would give way, and our first work of the afternoon was to go up in parties and fling as much as we could of the debris over onto the terrace below.

The hero of the afternoon was certainly the housemaster of Verites, that great Carthusian A.H. Tod.  He had already reached the normal retiring age.  A year before he had come to my study to ‘report himself for being sixty’, and he was carrying on beyond his time, at my request, for the duration of the war. Now in the eleventh hour of his occupation he was himself suddenly dispossessed of his house by fire and water, and his belongings and furniture, much of it valuable, scattered in confusion.  But he remained cheerful and humorous and imperturbable, like Horace’s ‘just man’, unflurried when his world was crashing upon him.  He was to be seen going about amid the débris with an unlighted cigarette in his mouth. ‘Me house is on fire, and I can’t get a light for me cigarette’.  It was the only complaint we heard from him: his coolness and good humour did much to keep everyone good-tempered and helpful.

If he was the hero, the heroines were the women who coped with the feeding emergency created. All the kitchen arrangements of the burning house were put out of action.  There were sixty boys to be fed, many of whom had had at best an interrupted breakfast.  The difficult task of providing for them was undertaken by my wife and our housekeeper, who organized and supplied both midday dinner and tea for the dispossessed boys in addition to the eighty regular members of our household. It was a notable achievement.

There remained the problem of housing Verites, whose building was of course rendered quite uninhabitable by fire and water.  In the early afternoon we had a visit from our neighbour, Lord Midleton, a member of the Governing Body, who had heard of the fire in Godalming and came up hastily with Lady Midleton to offer the hospitality of Peperharow, their home four miles away, to the houseless boys.  The kindness of the magnificent offer was greatly appreciated, but it was not necessary to accept it, as the sanatorium was fortunately empty and available for dormitories. For the rest of that quarter Mr. Tod and his house went down to it nightly to sleep, making shift in the day-time with the lower storey of Verites. The arrangement was not comfortable, but they carried on.  It was creditable to the organization and discipline of the house that they stood the strain.  War conditions had taught us to be resourceful and accustomed us to make-shifts.

In the following quarter, which was summer, the lower part of the house had been patched up sufficiently to accommodate some of the boys.  For the rest we put up a large tent as sleeping quarters on the lawn outside the house, and in these conditions not only kept the house going but coped successfully with a big epidemic of the influenza which swept through the country that year.

I have dwelt on this episode as an illustration of what a public school can do in an emergency.  The whole community showed that they could face an unexpected and unprecedented situation.  I do not remember having had myself to issue any special orders: there seems to have been instinctive co-operation on the part of all.  No school work of course was done in the morning: but at 4.00 everyone except Verites went into school as usual, and the ordinary routine was followed.  There was one exception, a boy who had been told in the morning to stand by one of the entrances and prevent unauthorized persons from coming in.  Not having been formally recalled form his post, he remained there all the afternoon, and was reported by his form-master for absence from school.  I suggested that he should, as an adequate and appropriate penalty, be set to learn Casabianca by heart.

The sending of fire brigades from London had called attention to the disaster, and early editions of the evening papers contained exaggerated rumours about it.  For once I thought it wise to let reporters interview me, so that the exact extent of the damage might be known.   In reply to telephoned enquiries about the conduct of the boys, I was able to say that it had been admirable.  I added that they ‘had thoroughly enjoyed themselves’.  Two days later I received an unsigned postcard reproaching me for suggesting that the boys had enjoyed themselves ‘while their beautiful buildings were being burned down!’. There is something singularly unintelligent about anonymous letter-writers.

F. Fletcher: After Many Days