Kenneth Bassett Tindall was born about 1880, and was educated at Winchester College, which is one of the most highly regarded schools in England, for boys aged from 12 to 18. He then went on to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He decided to go into teaching and taught for a long time as an Assistant Master, at Sherborne School, also for boys aged 12-18, where the Headmaster was Nowell C. Smith. In 1913 he was appointed as a House Master, which he and his wife Theodora ran very successfully.
He was a very good actor, and producer of plays, and even as a very young man he had written a few plays and sketches, for acting at his Christmas house-parties.
But in 1919 a close friend of Nowell Smith’s, Lionel Helbert died. Helbert had founded in 1897 a school, West Downs, just outside Winchester for boys aged 8 to 13. The school was extremely successful, and was generally regarded as among the best such schools in the country. There was a succession of potential headmasters within the school staff, the most senior of whom, Kirby, took on the post for a short time, before dying of a condition for which, as a Christian Scientist, he was not permitted to seek a remedy. The second, Brymer, had just inherited a large estate in Dorset, and felt strongly that he should take his duties as squire very seriously: he was prepared to take post as headmaster until a successor could be found, and then to stay a few terms to guide the newcomer into the ways of the school.
Nowell Smith saw at once that Kenneth and Theodora Tindall, though they would be a great loss to Sherborne, would be ideal for West Downs. Lady Goodrich, Helbert’s sister and the actual owner of the school, was very enthusiastic. In fact Tindall was already well known at West Downs, as he possessed a magnificent magic lantern, and came on occasions to present slide shows, such as Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”.
In September 1920 the Tindalls took over the school, the finance having been arranged enabling them to buy it. They remained for 35 years before retiring, and handing over the school to J.F. Cornes, a winner of the silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. During the Tindall’s tenure the school flourished and produced many distinguished old boys and girls. It was not co-educational, but it was able to educate the daughters of staff, including the Tindall’s own daughter, Ann. Acting flourished, and each year there was a production of a full-length open-air Shakespeare play. Tindall also wrote nine plays for acting by staff, performed one a year in rotation. Some of these were based on his early Christmas house-party sketches and plays.
But in 1939 it was decided that the school should be evacuated to Scotland. This was partly on the advice that if the Germans should invade, the major battles would be around Winchester, and partly because the military wanted to use the school as a barracks. After a short period at Glenapp Castle on the Ayrshire coast there was a move to Blair Castle, the magificent home of the Dukes of Atholl. With no petrol available the Tindalls used to spend their holidays walking locally in place of the European walking tours they had undertaken before the war. During this period of his life Tindall wrote his “Life of Jesus”, which he used to read aloud to the boys at the morning chapel service. The great merit of that work is that it takes every part of the Gospel stories, and fuses them together in a way that makes very good sense. It had a profound influence that has lasted to this day on every boy that listened to the readings.
The original typescript still exists, and was used for creating the version of “The Life of Jesus” that you find presented on this website. Permission for its transcription was granted in 1996 by Ann Bass, the Tindall’s daughter. You can read more about the Tindalls and West Downs on the West Downs website.
e-Texts constructed from nineteenth and early twentieth century books by Athelstane. Copyright 2003,2004