Frederick Wanstall

Hadleigh's Last Shepherd

These wonderful photographs, loaned to us by Mrs Hazel Wanstall of Daws Heath, shows, firstly,  her Father-in-Law, Frederick Wanstall (b.1895) shepherding with his two border collies at Hadleigh Castle in the first half of the 1930s.

Frederick and his wife, Elizabeth, were Salvationists, originally from East Kent. Fred’s father, James, had also been a shepherd by profession, working all his life in the Sandwich and Deal area. James’ wife, Susannah, died in 1929 and, the following year, aged 66,he followed her to the grave. Shortly afterwards (about 1931) perhaps relishing a fresh start, Fred (who was in his mid-thirties) and Elizabeth (two years his junior) came all the way to Hadleigh to work on the Salvation Army’s Land Industrial Colony, bringing their four children: nine year-old Grace Elizabeth; Sidney Frederick, her junior by nearly eighteen months; Leslie, who was a young scholar of six and baby Elsie Gladys.

They lived in the little Shepherd’s Cottage on the “Saddleback”, the hilltop track that runs between the Castle and Leigh, where medieval knights in armour once jousted. At Hadleigh they had two more children, Edward James (known as Jimmy) and Olive (who was born during the War after the family was moved to a cottage at the very bottom of Chapel Lane, on the right).

The Wanstalls were very strict old-time Salvationists: in those days it was frowned upon to even cook on the Sabbath, as it broke the 4th Commandment! That may seem strange to us, but how many of us wouldn’t vote for a day of rest, given a chance?

The Wanstalls worshipped at the Salvation Army Citadel at Hadleigh Farm where Fred played in the brass band. Years later, they transferred to Leigh Salvation Army in Elm Road and it was here that Elsie eventually became a Corps Officer and Olive sung in the choir.

Their little cottage must have seemed quite crowded at times, and fetching clean water must have been a continual nuisance for the family as, apart from the drainage ditch at the bottom of the hill, there was no close-by supply.

Part of Frederick’s job was to teach the ancient art of shepherding to the Salvation Army trainees, some of whom were sent abroad to start their lives afresh in Canada and Australia.

The Second World War finally brought an end to these activities on the Colony, and the old Shepherd’s Cottage (which had by this time been abandoned) was requisitioned by the Army as an ammunition dump. Later, there was an accidental explosion which further damaged the Cottage and, finally, it came to an ignominious end when it was used for target practice. Nowadays it would take a fine detective to trace where the old Cottage stood, just south of the current pathway. There are still a few people who think they know where it was.

Frederick’s children walked the one-and-a-quarter miles each way to Hadleigh School (Church Road) but, on fine days, might have short-cutted through the extensive orchards below Park House.

Hazel (who loaned these delightful photographs) lived in nearby Leigh when she was a girl. Her family refused to be evacuated during the War and every day Hazel (although only a girl of fifteen) would think nothing of taking the train to London where she worked near the Docks for a nice Jewish man who imported goods. When the V2 rockets came she decided to carry on with her work, instead of diving down to the shelter as she was supposed to do. Hazel confesses that the War was quite exciting for her, as lots of displaced military personnel were billeted in Leigh, and sometimes with her family.

She remembers family walks to the Castle, stopping for light refreshments at the Shepherds Cottage, where sweets and lemonade could be purchased from young entrepreneurs.

Hazel didn’t particularly remember meeting the young Sidney Wanstall but, when she was fourteen and a half, their paths crossed again at Mrs Meynell’s Secretarial College, situated in Nelson Road, Chalkwell. It was a fateful meeting for, some years later at the end of the Hostilities, they were to marry.

Sidney became a school teacher and was, for many years, Head of Mathematics at the King John School in Thundersley before rising to Deputy Head and, in his last year, Headmaster. His was an extraordinary career from fairly humble beginnings.

Chris Worpole, eminent Hadleigh Historian, has kindly researched and appended a Family Tree of Frederick‘s immediate family.

Hadleigh's Last Shepherd, Fred Wanstall, pictured at Hadleigh Castle in about 1935
2nd Generation Copy, property of Mrs Hazel Wanstall
Frederick's parents, James and Susannah, circa 1928
Wanstall Family Collection
Fred Wanstall working on the Farm
Wanstall Family Collection
Fred is sitting in the horn section with a sheepish grin. can you spot him? (Click to enlarge)
Frederick and Elizabeth Wanstall with their six children (clockwise) Leslie, Grace, Sidney, Elsie, Jimmy and Olive, pictured outside their house in Chapel Lane. Note the window taped to protect the glass from the blast of bombs or the nearby gun emplacements on Sayers Farm
Wanstall Family Collection
Fred Wanstall's Family Tree
Researched by Chris Worpole
Six inch OS map published 1923
CC-BY-NC-SA National Library of Scotland
Site of the Shepherd's Cottage

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  • Mr Wanstall was an inspirational maths teacher and taught me in the 1970s at King John school. I remember his ability to control the class and how, when his chalk ran out, he would throw the remaining bit a great distance across the room into the bin, always successfully. He told us about his war time exploits, in particular his role in developing ways of confusing enemy radar by chucking aluminium powder out of the aircraft. Once he forgot to give us a maths test because of his story! He taught us calculus from first principles – something I will always remember. He would trivialise maths problems, saying, “It’s a cinch”!

    By Barry McMahon (24/04/2019)
  • Sid Wanstall was my maths teacher at King John School from 1963-66 and on seeing my rather unusual name asked if I was related to Jimmy Iredale. Of course I told him that he was my Dad. When I told my Dad Mr Wanstall was my maths teacher, he said that he remembered Sid Wanstall from when they were kids and in particular that he asked my Dad to walk him home as he was afraid of the dark, his home being off the beaten track and with no street lights.  

    This may well be an apocryphal story, but if this is incorrect, I blame my memory! 

    I hated maths and was never keen on Mr Wanstall who on one occasion asked me in front of the whole class if I had understood whatever it was he had just said (probably algebraic in nature,) whereupon I lied and said yes. He then said quite loudly that “if Iredale understood it everyone should”! Nice huh? Quite a confidence boost that was! 

    On another occasion he asked a classmate (Martin Allen) if he had had his hair cut (it was in the style of Dennis the Menace, we all used to think). He said yes and that his sister had done it, to which Mr Wanstall asked him if his sister didn’t like him!

    Another time, we were being taught by another maths teacher (Mr Garnet) who was much less strict than Mr Wanstall. As a result, the class soon erupted into a scene from the as-yet unwritten ‘Please Sir’!      Suddenly Mr Wanstall came storming out of the stock room at the back of the classroom slapping the heads of alternate pupils who happened to be sitting nearest his route, at the same time as shouting the words in time with his slapping, “be quiet, I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in front of a teacher. Show some respect!”   Needless to say, we hadn’t known he was in there (Marking exam papers, we learnt afterwards)!

    By Patrick Iredale (07/09/2016)
  • I am Sid Wanstall’s granddaughter & was fascinated by this article which came to my attention via my cousin, since I now reside in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The only thing I find sad about this article is that I have never heard the stories or seen the pictures in my life. Also, unfortunately unlike many of his students I’ve never heard any of his war stories, strangely he never liked to talk about them with the family. I would love a copy of this article if possible & also to hear any other war stories he told.

    By Gail McWalter (24/10/2013)
  • Mr Wanstall was my maths teacher at King John School and it wasn’t unusual for him to play his trombone. My mum knew him and his family when they lived at the bottom of the Saddleback in between the foot path to Leigh and the ditch/fence being the bottom of the big field. In my lifetime the remains could still be seen and could still probably be found again. As far as I can remember Mr Wanstall lived off Western Rd, Daws Heath.

    By Rob Keen (23/06/2013)
  • I’m sure Mr Wanstall was also my maths teacher at King John school in the mid to late 1950s. I remember we always tried to get him talking about his wartime experiences which were far more interesting than maths. I don’t know if he was in the Navy or the Airforce but I do remember him talking about flying Swordfish biplanes off aircraft carriers in WW2, I guess that’s why I’m not too good at maths.

    By Pete Robbins (09/07/2012)
  • Lol, yes he was my maths teacher in the early 70s and well remember someone would get him talking about his exploits in WW2. I am sure he once said that the Fairey Swordfish that is in the Imperial War Museum was the very one he flew in…can anyone else verify that he said that – or is my mind playing tricks?

    By Ellen Hume (09/07/2012)
  • Mr Wanstall was my maths teacher at King John in the mid 1960s. He was an excellent teacher and a very private man. He taught in the Napier wing of the school. It had been an extension, I think. The children all used to call it the ‘rubber corridor’ because the floor was soft and spongy to walk-in. I may be wrong but I don’t recall he was ever Headmaster!

    By Eileen Gamble (07/07/2012)
  • As a young boy in the 1930s, I used to wonder over the Saddleback and became friendly with the Shepherd and at lambing time was allowed to visit the lambing barn which was in the lower field to the north of the Castle. I seem to remember that the Shepherd’s home was a house but known as a Cottage.

    By Ian Hawks (07/07/2012)

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