Henry Leggett

Headmaster 1935 – 1957

Henry Richard Leggett, was born on the Isle of Wight, 10th June 1892. According to the 1901 census, Henry was the youngest of 6 siblings living at home with their parents, Edward – a marine engineer and Elizabeth, the two eldest (still at home) Mabel, 18 and Edward, 17 were both pupil teachers, the next, Mary, 14 was a dressmaker

Henry Leggett began his career at Highfield School on 3rd September 1919 as a Trained Certificated Assistant having qualified at Winchester Diocesan Training College.

March 31st 1920 it is recorded that the staff presented Mr Leggett with a wedding present on the occasion of his approaching marriage to Dorothy Keturah Sheppard. A year or so later they had a son (who appears to be their only child) Edward R F Sheppard (Jun 1921 S Stoneham 2c 220)

As Empire Day approached in May 1920. the Head Master, Mr Flux, spoke to some of the school about “Empire – our duty”. Mr Leggett also spoke from his personal experience about “handing on the flag”.

July 14th 1931 Mr Leggett carries out his civic duty, having been summoned to Winchester to sit on the Petty Jury.

The entry for July 31st 1935 records that Mr Henry Richard Leggett commenced duties today as Headmaster.

The first entry relating to World War 2 is a full year before it started, September 27th 1938 Mr Leggett reports to the Air Raid Precaution Depot owing to ‘the gravity of the international situation’. August 24th 1939 he returns early form holiday ‘by request’ and by August 28th there are plans for the evacuation of the school children. The first mention of the air raid siren sounding is July 5th 1940, and until the end of the war school life is disrupted by the air raids – sometimes, as after a 5 hr raid overnight students are too tired to come to school, on other occasions they are kept in school after hours – or just a short visit during the school day. March 3rd 1941 the school is damaged, and school continues, albeit disrupted, classes are held in the church institute and children come for an hour at a time because they cannot all be accommodated at the same time.

The entry for 18th August reads “The Headmaster received congratulations as he has been made, by His Majesty the King, a “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” for leadership and rescue work during air raids. These duties were carried out in his capacity as ‘Divisional Warden’ . The London Gazette gives more detail: ‘during an air raid H E bombs wrecked some houses and a woman was trapped in one of them. Mr Leggett immediately led his wardens in rescue work. He directed the removal of the debris and then crawled into the demolished building, the walls of which were liable to collapse at any moment.
After working for one and a half hours he succeeded in releasing the victim. His outstanding courage and coolness were an example and inspiration to the men under his control’

June 22nd 1942, Mr Leggett attended the funeral of a fellow Warden.

It is recorded on Mar 27 1944 the Headmaster has been absent for part of each session as the news has been received that his only son, Flying Officer Edward Richard Freeman Leggett 124775, 106 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (an old boy of the school) lost his life on the night of February 20th. (He is remembered at the Berlin War Cemetery)

The school is again damaged by enemy action on May 15 1944, and on May 25th there was a fire in the staff room as a result of a faulty gas ring – Mr Leggett sent for the National Fire Service and a human chain was formed to remove stock from the stock room.

On VE day, May 8th 1945 Mr Leggett reports to school at 9am and grants a holiday to anyone arriving at school.

Under Mr Leggett’s headship there is a major shakeup in local schools September 1945 after several months of planning and schools are reorganised into primary and secondary schools and older pupils are transferred to the secondaries, resulting in less children at Highfield.

So well thought of was Mr Henry R Leggett MBE that when he retired in 1957 he had several leaving ceremonies. The school logs reveal that: 
July 18th, the School assembled in the Institute this afternoon at 3.15.p.m. Also present were the Vicar, the Chief Education Officer; The School Managers & their wives and ex-members of the Staff. Mrs Leggett was presented with a bouquet and Mr Leggett was given a cheque and a “Black & Decker” lathe and saw kit. Mr Leggett, in reply, asked the Vicar to accept, on behalf of the School, a set of electrical “chimes”. Guests were afterwards entertained to tea.
July 24th, at The Annual Prize-giving the Headmaster was asked to mark his retirement by presenting the school-prizes (The L.E.A. ones) after which each “leaver” was presented with a volume of the New Testament (signed by the Vicar & the Headmaster). Cheers were given for the Headmaster & the School. The School Hymn was then sung after which the Vicar gave the blessing.
Later, parents of past and present scholars and Old Scholars who had left school met in the Institute. The Hall was filled to capacity about three hundred being present. Miss Neck – Deputy Head and Head-teacher elect also spoke & presented Mr Leggett with a cheque for £165. Mr Leggett replied & thanked all those who had helped in any way. Refreshments were afterwards served.
And finally on 26th July, Mr Leggett MBE retired today as Headmaster after 38 years of service at Highfield. He records here his sincere thanks to the Vicar, the Managers and the Staff and extends his best wishes to his successor Miss E.M. Neck, the present “Deputy Head”.

However, retirement was not to be the end of his involvement at Highfield. He was involved in the celebrations for a number of other people connected with the school, Mrs Mallett, Rev Couper and Mrs Hayward, often making an address or presentation on behalf of the school.

The entry for April 27th 1963 reads “The Headmistress records, with deep regret, the death of MR. H.R. Leggett, M.B.E., who retired as Headmaster, on July 26th 1957, after thirty-eight years service at Highfield.”

Notes on the History of Highfield School written by Archer T Flux
Diary of a School – compiled by Jo Ladkin & Isobel White
Census Information
London Gazette
Commonwealth War Graves Commission