Accents at CH Horsham

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Chris T
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Accents at CH Horsham

Post by Chris T »

I do not think this topic has ever been treated in a Forum thread.

I was at Housey in the late 40s and 50s, which as we all know was very different from today’s school, although there were probably far more aspects in common to the two eras than vital differences.

In my days the teachers were almost all Oxbridge graduates and often former public school pupils. The few exceptions were those engaged to teach at CH during WW2 and who had remained. Hence virtually all of the masters spoke with the accents typical of the middle classes and public schools. Of course there were a very few exceptions, such as Norman Fryer, a Welshman, and Bob Rae, from Solihull. Both were mathematics graduates from Cambridge.

In contrast the accents of the boys were far more varied. Perhaps a large minority then were presentees and children from families which had lost fathers in the war, or from less well paid professions such as the Church. On arrival at CH they too tended to speak with the accent of the middle classes (and that of their teachers). The remainder of the boys came from all parts of the UK and even a few from beyond our shores. But predominantly they were from the southern part of England, and their usual lower socio-economic origins were reflected in a wide variety of regional accents. For the many LCC scholars their speech tended to reflect origins from a wide variety of London’s poorer boroughs. All these comments on the variation of Blues’ accents were only true for the boys in the most junior classes.

However although there was never any attempt to provide elocution lessons, it was clear that after 3 or 4 years at Housey most of the boys spoke in a very similar fashion, despite their accents as new boys. So all grecians and other senior boys tended to speak with typical public school accents. As a senior boy I was interested in recording. Only the physics teacher, Mr D Chaundy, possessed recording equipment and I remember once he recorded me while rehearsing for a role in a school play. Snob that I was (and doubtlessly still am) I was astonished to hear myself, with an apparently polished accent, very far from reflecting my Cockney origins.

Apart from my reflections and wishes to encourage others to comment on these questions, I am very curious to know if in the Housey of today there is still a general tendency for pupils’ speech to evolve towards a public school accent as they move upwards through the school. I have had little contact with Housey over the past few decades and I suspect that the range of accents at CH is now far wider among today’s staff than it was 7O years ago. This, if true, would reflect increasing social mobility in Britain and the far greater variety of universities available since the 1970s. Hence their graduates now have much less in common, including accents, than in the past. So the pupils’ subconscious imitation of the Housey closed community’s majority accents has such a large variety of examples that there is no longer any near-uniform end product accent. Is that so today? Were these observations also true for Hertford?
sejintenej
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Re: Accents at CH Horsham

Post by sejintenej »

What an analysis from someone I possibly knew (the name is familiar). I agree with the conclusion that we ended up with a (mock) upper class accent but much still depends on our backgrounds. I agree also that there was no teaching of pronunciation in English or French or Spanish at CH. No German for me. I remember a (different) boy arriving with a strong Irish accent and someone off the plane from Hong Kong. With all the influences in my early life I don't bother with UK accents provided I can get the gist.

I started off life in a house frequently visited by a certain well known young lady and her parents - very very upper crust. I do know that she was privately tutored. Accent influence number one.

When their host died we had to leave the house and ended up in Belfast in an extremely poor area (even by those standards) so I picked up that accent (I can still imitate it as none of the local kids went to school there) A second accent

From there to a tiny remote village in South Devon where people still used some Devonian words and a very different accent to anything I had heard before or since. (During storms the Breton fishermen would take shelter there - the locals could talk to them so there must be some links with that version of Oil) . A third accent.

It was a mixed community - some highly educated outsiders and the locals with whom I mixed. Thus going 250 miles away to CH was a shock - the language was different and the accents just about impossible at first. I lost the Devonian and got a few red patches on the behind instead. Accent mixture number four!

So, a right mix of accents! My mother's latest referred to employer was ex-Eton. His son who came home from Palestine was Guards moderated Eton. I eventually started speaking around there in two accents - local and copying the outsiders. However the boss did take me aside to try to instill "proper" pronunciation; it was he who "adopted" me when I was orphaned.

With all the mixture my wife moaned strongly about my "posh accent" but apparently I have lost some of it. It would never have passed for Eton! Having only very recently discovered relatives - from my mother's side I can use the Irish accent but my father's side (still in Belfast) speaks with a southern English common accent. However that mixture from my youth has proven useful with foreign languages
I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.
~Charles de Gaulle, French general & politician
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keibat
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Re: Accents at CH Horsham

Post by keibat »

I know I arrived at CH with a moderate Yorkshire accent, by deduction from an incident a year later, when I was talking about where we went on our holidays. I mentioned a village in the Yorkshire Dales where members of my family went, Castle Bolton – and pronounced the placename with a proper Yorkshire short /a/ in Càstle and rounded long /o/ in Boalton. Clearly by this time I had already shifted accent, because I can still remember the laughter (/laafter/, not /làffter/) at this re-eruption of my provincial speech.
On returning to this country from Finland in the mid-2010s, my wife and I had hoped to end up somewhere in the North, where folk are folk. Sadly, we are in Hertfordshire, but have recently acquired a bolthole (boalthoal) in Sheffield where we get away to when we can. And you can still hear some splendid (South) Yorkshire accents in Sheffield, among the many other speech styles.
Jabod2
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Re: Accents at CH Horsham

Post by Jabod2 »

My father-in-law (Eric Morgan) said that he lost his Welsh accent PDQ after arrival... Only dare to be different if you can take the attention. Re sejintenej's comment about Breton, a pissed Breton and similar Welshman could converse happily at any rugby international, and I think Cornish shares the same language root.
I should have had a Glos/Berks accent from the areas of birth and nurture, but am accentless (my mother was very RP - Grandfather was a Cheltenham Headmaster, and she was at Pates - and demanded that we spoke proper, or 'talk tidy' as mother-in-law would say). John Russ in BaA had a West Country burr when he arrived - I don't recall how soon he lost it.
I don't recall Rocker Rae's accent - Bogie Fryer's certainly, along with Tom Keeley and Bob Sillett.
Among the boys I also recall a pride in any 'Lunnon' accent - 'Lunnon Craow' was proposed as a band name in Mid B.
CMES was very correctly spoken and probably set the standard in my time, although DHN was a step down.
keibat
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Re: Accents at CH Horsham

Post by keibat »

Jabod, a quibble: There ain't no such thing as 'accentless'. What you presumably mean is that your accent is that of your social surroundings, so it doesn't stand out as 'different'.
sejintenej
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Re: Accents at CH Horsham

Post by sejintenej »

Jabod2 wrote: Wed Jan 11, 2023 12:19 pm My father-in-law (Eric Morgan) said that he lost his Welsh accent PDQ after arrival... Only dare to be different if you can take the attention. Re sejintenej's comment about Breton, a pissed Breton and similar Welshman could converse happily at any rugby international, and I think Cornish shares the same language root.
I
Two asides
re Jalbod2. to link Brittany, Cornwall and Wales each country has a "national anthem"; different words of course but the same tune!
ref my earlier bit, at the time of the post I could not identify the young lady who used to visit; she had a very public funeral a few months ago. She was delightful even then and I really cried.
I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.
~Charles de Gaulle, French general & politician
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MrEd
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Re: Accents at CH Horsham

Post by MrEd »

I came to CH from southeast London in the late 1970s, by my Yorkshire relatives accounts I had a strong (incomprehensible) south London accent at that age (think Jim Davidson). I left CH with what many now regard as a 'posh' RP accent, which I have kept. I recall only a few boys retaining their local accents in the later years at CH, one from Northumberland, another couple of boys from working-class areas of' London, and a couple of Welsh boys.

Quite how the CH accent developed is a bit of a mystery, but it certainly did seem to mould an RP accent. By no means were all teachers in possession of Oxbridge accents though.
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