Public Access


There was a time before JK Rowling. A time we spoke of other initialed authors JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, AA Milne and JM Barrie. An age of Young Fogeys, Sloane Rangers and “Brideshead Revisited.” We called that time the 1980s.

Photographer Mark Draisey now shows us what we were not allowed to see. His book “Thirty Years On! A Private View Of Public Schools,” published in 2014, takes us into the everyday life and rituals of 25 British public schools during the Thatcher years. Over a five-year period, Draisy had full access to schools such as Eton, Harrow and Sherbourne.  The result is this belated photographic swan song to the decade. Draisey’s book captures public school life at the apex of its threadbare glory. Soon after the photos were taken these institution would feel the pressure to spruce up, and some would have to, shall we say, allow the ladies into the library for cigars.

It is too early to tell whether Draisey will be celebrated, pilloried for class crimes, or go wholly unnoticed. Whatever the reaction in his homeland, this book will delight American Anglophiles and armchair social historians. Visit this Daily Mail link for a slideshow. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

20 Comments on "Public Access"

  1. Bags' Groove | October 12, 2014 at 9:14 am |

    Americans have always seen the old country as a foggy sort of place, full of poor downtrodden proles with bad teeth, governed in the main by the haughty public schoolboys of Eton and Harrow (not to mention Oxbridge that customarily follows). And in the past they’ve not been far wrong. But the times, they are a changin’, man! We now a have a new force in English politics, a Dulwich man (comme Wodehouse and Chandler), and if nothing else Anglophile Americans, particularly thosee Trads amongst Ivy Style’s serried ranks, must surely approve of his tweeds, corduroys and Barbour.

  2. It’s Duran Duran!!!!

  3. Roy R. Platt | October 13, 2014 at 11:06 am |

    @Bags’ Groove

    Old Alleynians are public school boys, just like the boys at Eton and Harrow and all the other public school boys.

  4. Bags' Groove | October 13, 2014 at 11:53 am |

    @ Roy R Platt

    There’ve been one or two Old Etonians/Harrovians who’ve shaken up the English political scene, but I’m wracking my brain trying to remember the last Old Alleynian prior to our Nigel. But then again I’m only an old grammar school boy….though a jolly snappily dressed one on occasions!

  5. Interesting that English prep schools such as the Dragon and public schools such as etc., etc, remain the best in the world. I believe it’s the cold showers and the extremely poor food and being obliged to learn stuff like Ozymandias, irregular and deponent verbs and Lars Porsena by heart. I’m not convinced that M. Farage knows any poems by heart, so I will probably not vote for him.

  6. Looks like a fun book and a fun time capsule. And a great source of inspiration!

  7. @ Redcoat

    I’ll see your Lars Porsena and raise you a Mucius Scaevola…

    I agree completely that learning to construe grammar and exercising one’s memory are the foundations of a good education.

  8. Bags' Groove | October 14, 2014 at 12:03 am |

    @ Redcoat

    Is that you Boris?

  9. Roy R. Platt | October 14, 2014 at 11:21 am |

    @ Bags’ Groove

    Perhaps mentioning bendy busses is a good way to flush out a Boris that’s gone to ground.

  10. Bags' Groove | October 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm |

    @ Roy R Platt

    No Roy, no more bendy buses. Today it’s “Ullo John(son), gotta new quota?”

  11. @RJG:put his right hand in the fire in front of Lars Porsena (having tried and failed to assassinate him) rather than betray Rome;

    @’Bags’ Groove’: no, I’d love to think that Boris quietly patrols obscure US menswear blogs, but really? Also, although he is bright enough to have been at the Dragon, he wasn’t.

    @Roy R Platt: Are you from the North….. ?

  12. Bags' Groove | October 18, 2014 at 11:19 am |

    @ Redcoat

    Boris quietly patrols obscure US menswear blogs solely to ensure that we snappy chappies haven’t suddenly conspired to adopt his Billy Bunter look.

  13. EVAN EVERHART | August 28, 2018 at 1:50 pm |

    Nothing quite like a bracing game of cricket! One of the only leagues and fields for it is right near my house! They moved there decades ago when the Los Angeles Equestrian Society made an agreement to purchase their prior location at what is now the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

    Errol Flynn and the old Hollywood Raj used to play games just up the street.

    My ex-wife was drafted to join the women’s national league as a Bowler, but decided against it as there was not enough backing or pay for the league.

    I was known as being quite adept at Yorkers. It really is a wonderful game of strategy.

  14. Fascinating article and the pics are really great to see. The shared rooms look nearly identical to the ones we had in prep school!

  15. We haven’t heard much from Chris the past couple of years. I hope he is doing well. His contributions here were invaluable.

  16. It is the quirky traditions of the English public schools that add charm to its history and captivate many Americans. It’s also of interest how much of these traditions J.K. Rowling adapted into her Harry Potter book series.

  17. Some of these fellows look as though they might be on there way to the Drone’s Club for a quick lunch, getting engaged to a pretty girl named Gladys spelled with a W, only to be arrested for pinching a policeman’s helmet on boat race night.



  18. Having survived an American prep school that shamlessly tries to copy the English model, seeing these pictures gives me painful flashbacks to things like oral quizzes in Latin class and struggling to memorize passages from Shakespeare, Virgil, and others. Oh, and getting in trouble for laughing at Bored of the Rings during mass. At the time I hated it. Something about the lack of girls, you know. I now realize that it gave the best possible preparation for success in life. And when I go to alumni events, it’s always interesting to note how remarkably similar we still are, even decades later.

  19. E. There it is.

  20. I was always lukewarm on the Hogwarts movies, probably because I don’t care for child protagonists and I’d rather see the hero brandish a sword. But I’m going to try again and rewatched the first last week. Still lukewarm, but even greater respect for the visual beauty and classic directing. I can barely watch anything made recently anymore and turn it off as soon as the first series of fast cuts comes.

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