Archive for the 'Stowe' Category


The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam


Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!

Jasper Plummer

It is difficult to give an impression of Plummer’s face. It was an unfortunate one – plain rather than ugly. As if the doctors had been forced to use abnormal strength with their forceps to save his mother’s life. I remember a cartoon in Punch where a motorist leans out of an open window and asks a pedestrian ‘Leatherhead?’ to receive the reply ‘Fishface’. Plummer was about my age and came to Stowe in 1923 at the start of Grenville House, as I did tool We had not had time to develop uncivilised behaviour and Stowe had a Headmaster who was resolved to see that strange habits did not develop amongst his charges. I regret to say Plummer’s face did not encourage friendships and I guess his was a lonely life, but with plenty of kindness from all of us. He was not much good at lessons or sports. But Providence had not finished with him yet and we were soon to realise he possessed a super-human gift for mimicry. At times it was uncanny. A new master would arrive and within a few days Plummer had every mannerism summed up. I will never forget the moment when a new History master, Ian Hunter, came to Stowe; he had a glass eye and this would ‘bore into you’ when he talked to you. A few days later and Plummer would look at you in exactly the same way – he did not need to say a word – in that instant he became Ian Hunter. He had a quick wit as well: We had all been splashing about a lot in the bathroom when our housemaster looked in and addressed Plummer with “Where did all this water come from?” “Out of the tap Sir” was the immediate reply” “That’s cheek Jasper” he said followed by a slap on the face. Plummer enjoyed using this God-given gift amongst his fellows, but he was naturally a shy boy. But his reputation spread and at an end-of-term concert he received a deputation from all the masters to give a demonstration of his gifts – but nothing would make him do so. The last I heard of Plummer was that he was a vicar of a village in Cornwall. I wonder if he is still amongst us, but if not, he will have left this world a happier place by his presence.


In 1923 I became a pupil at Stowe at the beginning of its life as a Public School. Unlike established Public Schools all the pupils were 13/14 years old. In many ways it seemed more like a grown up Preparatory School. There were a few older boys, prefects imported from Lancing together with J F Roxburgh, our new Headmaster, who had been the Sixth Form master there. They had graded us as best they could into the various Forms, and I was placed in Remove B. David Niven was one of us and I remember him as an extrovert, very pleasant and with a gift for amusing everyone with his quick sketches of events going on outside the classroom windows, where there was always a lot of building taking place. Our Form Master was the deputy headmaster, the Rev. Ernest Earle, a delightful man who, like J F Roxburgh, was a Latin scholar. He had a great sense of humour, had no difficulty in keeping strict discipline and, as a result was a good teacher. He must have been for I obtained a Credit in Latin in my final Certificate. And Niven, for all his cunning and concealing his sketches was nicely brought down to earth when Mr Earle was asking each of us what subjects we wished to take in the final Certificate: “Niven, may I suggest you take Drawing?” I believe Niven did so and obtained a Credit in it. Our English lessons were taken by Mr Arnold – son of Arnold of Rugby I believe – who was often impressed by Niven’s gift for narrative – which was later to blossom into ‘The Moon’s a Balloon’ and others.

About J F Roxburgh – always known as ‘J F’ a much respected man who did so much for us all at Stowe. My wife and I were at Stowe when he retired, and I remember the shock of the day he died. It was then I realised how much we had all loved that man, and that everything which had gone well and smoothly in my life was due in no small measure to his influence during the four short years I was under it. My younger son, who will be 50 in two months’ time, has just asked me what it was like to be 50. I remembered JF’s final words when I left Stowe in 1927 “ People will tell you to remember your school days as the best in your life; this is utter tosh – the best years are always ahead.”

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