St. Ignatius College, London
St. Ignatius' College is a Catholic secondary school for boys, aged 11–18, currently located in Enfield, Middlesex.
Formerly a grammar school, only accepting boys who had passed their Eleven plus exam, its educational philosophy was originally based upon a saying often attributed to Ignatius of Loyola:
Give me the boy and I'll give you the man.
The young Alfred Hitchcock studied at the college from October 1910 to July 1913, before enrolling at the London County Council School of Marine Engineering and Navigation to study draughtsmanship and advertising design. At that time, St. Ignatius was located at Stamford Hill, South Tottenham, London.
The strict Jesuit education Hitchcock received at St. Ignatius is often cited as an influence on his films:
Pressed by interviewers, Hitchcock said that at St. Ignatius he learned important things: “a strong sense of fear,” how “to be realistic,” and “Jesuit reasoning power.” The fear, the realism mixed with fancy, the reasoning power and discipline of ordered thinking — these were the cornerstones of his art. No director was more disciplined, more ordered in his thinking. His unusually meticulous methods were key to his films and success, and also to his character.
— Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2003) by Patrick McGilligan, chapter 2
Speaking later in life, the director said, "all that I know about suspense and fear I owe to the Jesuits… and sitting outside the Headmaster’s office."
In a lengthy interview with Richard Schickel, the director spoke about the college:
I think somebody once said to me: "What's your idea of happiness?" And I said, "A clear horizon, no clouds, no shadows. Nothing." But being given a ticket [for committing a traffic violation] is a cloud on one's personal horizon, and this was brought home very, very forcibly to me when I was at college, a Jesuit college called St. Ignatius. It may be that I was probably born with a sense of drama because I tend to dramatize things, and at college the method of punishment was rather a dramatic thing. If one had not done one's prep, the form master would say, "Go for three." Well, going for three, that was a sentence, and it was a sentence as though it were spoken by a judge. And the sentence then would be carried out by another element, which would mean a special priest in a special room, with the help of a rather old-fashioned sort of strop for sharpening razor blades, only it was made of gutta-percha, which is a soft black rubber. And the awful part about this to, say, a little boy of ten was that, having been sentenced, it was up to him when he should take it. He could take it at the first morning break, lunchtime, mid-afternoon or the end of the day. And always it was deferred until the end of the day. And then you'd go into this room and the priest would enter your name in a book and then grab the hand that was to be punished and lay this thing in. Never more than three on one hand because the hand became numb and it was no good putting four on the hand because a fourth one you'd never feel it. So then they started on the other hand. And if, by chance, the crime was so great that you were sent for twelve, I mean, that would be for a terrible crime of some kind, you could have only six a day and then the other six the following day. Well, this was like going to the gallows. And the other interesting thing — and one almost compares it with the crowds that used to watch public executions — was that if one went into this particular room, outside the door a number of the boys would gather and listen for these loud thwacks and then wait and look to see what kind of expression the culprit had on his face as he emerged. Yes, they were voyeurs. But I don't think that when one emerged you were aware of them, really. That was the least important factor. The most important factor was this making up your mind when to go, when to have your head removed, shall we say. I think it's a most horrible kind of suspense.
—The Men Who Made the Movies (1975) edited by Richard Schickel
Of his years at the college, John Russell Taylor wrote:
The discipline at Alfred’s next school, St. Ignatius College, Stamford Hill, where he remained until the age of fourteen, was no less strict, but rather more sensibly applied. The Jesuits were noted at that time for their fierceness in corporal punishment, which was carried out with ritual formality, generally with a cane made of hard rubber. The refinement of the punishment, however, was psychological. Once the errant child was sentenced to corporal punishment, he could choose for himself when it should be administered — first morning break, lunchtime, mid-afternoon or the end of the day. Naturally the child put off the fateful moment as long as possible, sweating all day. And when it did arrive there was again a ritual to be gone through: the strokes on the hand were given three at a time, because the hand became too numb to feel a fourth, and the most that could be given in one day were six, three on each hand, so that if the offence was so grave as to merit twelve strokes the whole process had to be repeated the following day. Hitchcock, who still seems to have been a very quiet boy, can hardly have come in very often, if at all, for this ultimate deterrent, but recalls that the horror of it, ‘like going to the gallows’, marked his life, creating an almost morbid revulsion from any sort of behaviour which was or might be construed as evil: if you were a good boy, you not only kept out of danger of hellfire, but also stood a better chance of not being subjected to high-handed and ferocious physical discipline, as unpredictable as the wrath of God itself (’Unpredictability’, says Enid Bagnold; ‘it’s the essence of authority’). Hitchcock also, in this connection, learned one lasting lesson in understatement: one day his favourite priest summoned him in for punishment, looked at him sadly and said, ‘This isn’t nice, is it?’ Alfred said dutifully, ‘No, Father,’ and the priest just allowed the strap to fall gently on his hand. A symbol, but a telling symbol, all the more effective for avoiding the obvious, direct gesture — much as Hitchcock has chosen to do in his own mature movies. St. Ignatius was, this time a day school, and Hitchcock seems to have led an unobtrusive, not in any way very remarkable life there.
— Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock (1978) by John Russell Taylor, chapter 1
In her biography of Hitchcock, Charlotte Chandler included this quote from Hitchcock:
What did I learn in Jesuit school? A consciousness of good and evil, that both are always with me. They taught me control, organization, discipline, and that I did not like to get a tanning, which was something I didn't need to go to school to learn. The threat of corporal punishment was worse than the actual experience. I couldn't escape the threat of it no matter how careful I was.
—It's Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock - A Personal Biography (2005) by Charlotte Chandler
In his biography of Hitchcock, Donald Spoto recounts a story of Hitchcock bullying a fellow pupil, Robert Goold. However, it was subsequently proven that Goold did not begin attending St. Ignatius until after Hitchcock left in 1913.
This map from 1937 shows St. Ignatius College when it was situated at Stamford Hill.
The following historic archive maps of the surrounding area are available to download. These are large image files and may take some time to download fully.
- 1937 (1:1,056 scale) — 13,282×8,726 pixels
Current location on Turkey Street, Enfield:
Notes & References
- Alfred Hitchcock's London: A Reference Guide to Locations (2009) by Gary Giblin, page 265
- Goold eventually admitted the story was false and wrote to BBC director Tim Kirby. See The Guardian (08/Mar/1999) - Letters: Baby Spice meets Psycho.