IT was recently brought to my attention that the grammar school where I spent five long years of my youth is being demolished, and replaced by posh houses.

The school itself is being recreated on an out-of-town site, and it will doubtless be a high tech, carbon neutral marvel of modern design, churning out scholars of rare and shining brilliance.

But I can’t help thinking that some schoolboys of my era will not be sorry to say goodbye to their old alma mater, founded in 1502 by former Lord Mayor of London Sir John Percyvale.

I was the only boy from my old primary school to pass the Common Entrance Exam to qualify to go to grammar school, and was thrust into an alien world straight out of a Frank Richards novel, where masters strode round in sinister black robes, first names were never used, and violent retribution was the punishment for the most trivial misdemeanor.

And while the masters wielded the wickedest canes and gym shoes, prefects - boys of 16 or 17 - were also authorised to thrash younger boys if they felt the urge.

I found this to my cost on my very first day, as I pedalled the bike I had got for passing the 11-plus through the back entrance to the school - boys were not allowed to pass through the main gates.

“Where’s your cap, boy?” a spotty youth demanded to know, and I was obliged to fish it out of the pocket of my blue blazer. It was the biggest cap the school outfitters supplied but would not stay on my unusually large head despite being glued in place like an induna’s head ring by lavish applications of Brylcreem, Vitalis and green Fairy Soap.

“It’s supposed to be on your head, not in your pocket - report to the prefects’ study at lunch time,” barked the honourable member for Acne.

I expected a bit of a ticking off when lunchtime arrived, but instead received three whacks with a plimsoll swished by a member of the school’s first XV.

It was a rude awakening and a sharp contrast to the rosy life of primary school when I had a reputation of being the brainiest pupil as well as being the best footballer and so handy with my fists that I was dubbed Cock of the School.

The fighting bit was something of a false position, based on one scrap after school when I was attacked by a fellow pupil, who somehow succeeded in running onto my clenched fist with his nose, which burst open like a rotten tomato.

We were both drenched in blood, but it was me who was carried shoulder high from the fray as victor, giving me a reputation which I was fortunately never called to live up to during the rest of my school career.

At grammar school, all the lads were bright, many far brighter than me, and I had to work hard at lessons for the first time in my life. I found myself grappling with topics I had never come across before, as primary school “sums” became an impenetrable miasma of algebra, logarithms, quadratic equations and Venn Diagrams.

I can’t even remember what log tables were used to calculate, and I have never found occasion in the half century since I left school to use either a Venn Diagram or a quadratic equation.

While most of the dramatically garbed teachers were a benign bunch, violence simmered just below the surface for others. One carried a large bunch of keys, of the sort used to lock up the Tower of London at night.

He called them the Keys of Knowledge, and used them to vigorously crack the heads of boys who talked in class, spoke with a local accent or made too many mistakes in their homework.

Another slippered a studious youth when he discovered he was in possession of a ruler made in Romania. He punctuated the strokes by chanting: “I will not have a communist ruler in my classroom!”

Boys were also thrashed if they dared to say: “I thought...”

Blows were accompanied by: “You are not here to think boy - you are only here to work, learn, know, obey and remember!”

Beatings could also occur in the music block for failure to knock out a recognisable tune on one of the school recorders, which had to be drawn dripping from a bucketful of disinfectant prior to use.

It wasn’t all bad - I did learn enough to pass all eight O-Levels I was required to sit - even maths- but the day I left was among the happiest of my life!