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Denis Ward Bloodworth (1927-2016)

We are sad to announce that ex-Tiffin teacher, Denis Bloodworth passed away on Saturday 23rd January 2016 at the age of 88. 

Denis graduated in botany from Bristol University and started teaching at Tiffin School in 1950, going on to become Head of Biology. While at Tiffin School he established and directed the school orchestra, concert band, swing band and recorder group. He composed incidental music for school plays and for the school musical groups, and arranged a wealth of music for a variety of groups, including the National Youth Music Theatre. He also started a school photographic society and took many school groups on holiday to Europe. He was a great inspiration to many Tiffin biologists, musicians and photographers. 

The Tiffinian Association has received so many comments about Denis' influence on Tiffinians that we have decided to publish them:

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Sad news..

He will also be remembered fondly by this non-biologist, unmusical non-photographer... even after all of these years he's one of the names that still makes me smile.

Andy Carless (1985)

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I got my first teaching job at Tiffin in the Modern Languages department in 1974. John Rice was then HoD. I was deeply involved in most of the things Denis ran, including Recorders, and we became very good friends, which remained the case when I left Tiffin in 1980.  One of the things Denis was really good at was involving talented pupils in musical experiences which otherwise they never would have enjoyed.

Revd John Fenn (ex-Tiffin Teacher)

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Denis Bloodworth, was a good friend throughout my time at Tiffin. His contribution to the school in so many ways was enormous.

John Rice (ex-Tiffin Deputy Head)

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I will always remember Denis very fondly.

I was at Tiffins from 1980 - 1986 and during that time Denis taught me biology O-Level and then I was probably one if the last people at Tiffins (and indeed possibly in the UK) to take a Botany A-Level, thanks to Denis. Denis was an inspiring teacher who fuelled my passion for biology and gave me the self-confidence to apply for Oxford, initially to study botany (although I later switched to zoology) and then pursue a career in biomedical research. He also put up with the five of us who took A-level botany using his prep room as our common room, which made 6th form very civilised indeed! He was truly a great teacher, mentor and friend and will be sadly missed.

Matt Smalley (1986)

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Attached are two photographs of Denis in action, taken around 1955.

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Unfortunately although I attended and learnt much from his class, biology was never my forte. It did, however serve to help me understand much of my wife's work later, as she was a laboratory technician.

Michael Bentley (1958)

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I have the fondest and liveliest memories of Denis Bloodworth. Tunes from one his musicals ("Man of Enterprise") are still embedded in my memory.

Derek Wood QC (1956)

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I remember him well he taught me botany. A very nice man and inspirational for music.

Dr Ron Marsh (1958)

Sent from Australia

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I remember Denis well although I never had him as a teacher. I had Dr. Regnart. However, I do remember Denis walking around school with a Les Swingle Singers - Jazz Sebastien Bach, LP tucked under his arm. From this I developed a love of jazzed-up Bach leading to Jacques Loussier Trio.

 Martin Brown (1966) Australia

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Sad news indeed!  I have very fond memories of Denis.  I was one of his botany A-level group (1973-75).  He was a very enthusiastic and affable teacher - one of the best of my entire school career.  He went above and beyond, taking us on fungal forays, driving us to deepest Kent for orchid hunts, and even inviting us round for dinner one evening after we had left Tiffins. I feel very lucky to have had him as a teacher.

Steve Bowles  (1976) ("Stan" in a Botany group whose other members were "Toad", "Bunny", "Frisk" and "Laughing Granny")

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He was my first Biology teacher at Tiffin.  He was such an enthusiast about anything he was involved in and his enthusiasm was infectious.

Vale Denis. He was a lovely bloke.

Greg Perry (1972) Australia

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I was at Tiffins from 1951 to 1954 and have memories of a new "young" 24 year old teacher of what was at that time called "Natural History". He was good at "motivating us to learn"

 Peter Watts Form 1C in 1951

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My botany teacher and photography inspiration; both of which I still enjoy.

I remember fondly going on two fieldtrips to the Gower as part of Botany and Zoology A levels. I'm proud to say I'm Head of Science at Ricards Lodge and have taken the baton from Denis and have led 5 field trips to the Gower visiting the same places as Denis took me to all those years ago!

I also remember all five of us piling into his tiny car and heading off to photograph orchids at Box Hill......Risk assessment....not Denis!

Christopher Hykiel (1985)

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I remember him well, both as my biology teacher and as a music composer of plays I acted in.  

RIP Dennis..

Fred Kingdom (1971)

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Denis accompanied us on a school trip to Berlin in 1965. This was a terrific experience for a young 16-yr old with the Berlin Wall etc and I found many echoes in the film 'Bridge of Spies'. Denis had to leave us to accompany home another boy who had fallen very ill, leaving us with a young Physics teacher.

Denis was always an enthusiastic Biology teacher. I remember a field trip to the Hogs Mill to collect specimens for a 'stream' we had set up down one side of the lab and although I was hopeless academically much of what he taught me has remained with me.

Ben Ellis (1967)

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I have good memories of Mr Bloodworth both as a biology teacher and musician when I was briefly a member of the concert band. He had a good sense of humour, and I remember one occasion when I made the class laugh - including him. Thanks to him, though I haven't found a use for it since, I know what Visking tubing is, and can still laugh about it.

Andrew Ircha (1986)

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Denis taught me Biology - a naturally enthusiastic teacher. I benefited from being part of a school tour to Austria in 1960 which included a day attending the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Bavaria.

Rod Bennion (1964)

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I was a violinist in the School Orchestra and for a time Secretary of the Photographic Society.  Denis was also my Biology teacher and led a memorable trip to Paris in 1963 where we spent a night taking photographs in Les Halles, the old market and sampling Soupe a l'Oignon at 4a.m. in "Au Pied de Cochon", then frequented by market porters.

He was not afraid to try anything with the School Orchestra. O Magnum Mysterium by Peter Maxwell Davies was a particular challenge with parts marked "ad lib". We had music written for the orchestra by Malcolm Arnold who conducted the first performance. We also played under the baton of other famous conductors, including Sir Arthur Bliss. Denis composed a lot of music for school productions which was either performed live in the pit, as in Toad of Toad Hall, or recorded beforehand.

I remember queuing overnight outside Kingston Photographic with a mass of old pennies of every possible date. We had the correct 6 dates when the shop opened and won an 8mm cine camera for the Photographic Society.

He must have produced a vast archive of recordings, original sheet music, photos, 8mm film (including a number of 8mm films of trips abroad in the 1960s.)

Denis's enthusiasm for everything rubbed off on all of us.

Rodger Wheeler  (1964)

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I am very saddened to hear of Denis's passing.  He was a great inspiration to me as a teacher of Biology and later Botany from 1956 until I left Tiffin in 1962 with a scholarship to Cambridge - something for which I owe him much - launching me into an academic research career in biomedical science.  He also encouraged my interest in photography, and I joined one of his trips to Europe, to Oberammergau and Innsbruck in 1960.  We exchanged Christmas cards until recently, his usually being based on a photograph that he had taken, and I was aware of his declining health.

Prof Michael Russell (1962) USA

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I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Denis Bloodworth. 

He was a brilliant musician and could play virtually every instrument in the orchestra. His speciality was the clarinet and he tried to teach me to play but I did not have the necessary musical gift or time to practise!!

I have very fond memories of Denis. Along with others he made my time at Tiffins very memorable.  

David Baron (1956)

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He was an inspiration to me and the reason that I went in to study Botany myself.

Jason Hones (1989)

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Denis was my inspiration when I joined the staff fresh from university in 1970 and I can remember many a memorable field trip to The Gower, Swansea. His sparkle and enthusiasm was refreshing. His knowledge seemed to know no bounds. Many times when he was showing to students a particular plant he would say 'What shall we call this - I know...' then give the (obviously correct) genus and species name.

As well as being biology teacher (1970-74), I involved myself in drama productions for some of which he would supply the music. He certainly gave me the grounding I needed to help me go on to a Head of Biology post at Northolt High School from which I retired as Head of Science in 2000.

Graham Goldspring (ex-Tiffin teacher)

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It was with great sadness that I read of the death of Denis Bloodworth. He was a prominent figure in my years at Tiffin as a teacher ( O level Biology and A level Botany ) and as the conductor of the school orchestra  (violinist of modest talent ). His ability to develop and expand an understanding and appreciation of biology as a scientific discipline  has stood me in good stead throughout a successful and continuing career as an Orthodontist.

I am sure that many of Denis's former students will feel the same.

May he rest in peace.

Dr Tom Weinberger (1960)

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This is very sad news. I was at Tiffins from 1974-80, during which time I remember some wonderful school jazz events arranged by Denis, such as Winnie the Pooh and Theseus the Minotaur. But most of all, I enjoyed many years in his beloved Recorder Group. It has never ceased to amaze me that in an all boys secondary school it was possible to maintain such an ensemble, and it is a tribute to Denis that so many pupils were involved, and loved it. He would arrive with a great collection of recorders and other instruments, eager to share their delights with us all.

I still play the recorder, and indeed now run my own recorder group in Hereford Cathedral School, a welcome weekly break from my usual occupation as a GP. It is entirely down to Denis that I am still enthusiastic about recorder ensemble playing. We are playing one of his arrangements in our annual concert next week, and I will dedicate the performance to his memory.

Dr Crispin Fisher (1980)

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Denis was an inspirational botany teacher, who made time for his students, spoke his mind, and made us feel it mattered what we went on to do - he won't be forgotten.

Dr John Fellowes (1983)

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I was one of Denis's avid Biology students and was he who set me off on a career in Marine Biology with field trips to the Gower. I have very fond memories of his brilliant teaching and will always be grateful to him and Tiffin School.

Dr Robin Crump (1962)

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Very sad news. The loss of an inspiring teacher

Dr Peter Elliott (1964)

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So sorry to hear about Denis passing, he was an inspiration to me and many others to have a life long passion for biological and botanic subjects. 

I was lucky enough to meet him at one of the recent summer reunions and was pleased berate him for costing me a lot of money as his discussion on genetics & Darwinism had inspired me to complete one of my bucket list items to spend time in the Galapagos Islands!

Robin Winckless (1962)

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I remember Dennis well.  As a member of the school band, he and George Spriggs became a great influence on my life.  I have continued my interest in music ever since and was a member of one of South Africa's major choirs until just a few years ago. 

Roger Newby (1956) South Africa

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I thought I must write to express my great admiration for Denis Bloodworth over the years. He was inspirational in so many ways and had a huge influence upon my schooling and indeed my career.

I joined Tiffins in 1957 and left in 1964, although I may not officially have left at all, since at the end of the summer term I was on a field course in Swansea, led by Denis and his equally brilliant colleague, Derek Jeynes. Consequently I never shook the hallowed hand of JJ, nor paid the almost inescapable initial subscription to the Old Boys Association.

I was lucky enough to be taught by DWB from the start and this continued throughout my time at the school. Although I was a keen member of the brass band (ending as solo horn ) I was also the tuba player in the orchestra, under DWB's baton and as such took part in the first Farnham Festival in 1961 and in ‘63. The festival was started by Denis in conjunction with his great friend Alan Fluck, who was Head of Music at Farnham Grammar School. Its theme was "New Music for Young People" and was a ground breaking idea. Many respected musicians, friends of Denis and Alan, contributed to the Festivals over the years. Name droppers would throw in Sir Arthur Bliss, Johnny Dankworth, Benjamin Brittan and Malcolm Arnold, along with many others. It was Malcolm Arnold (composer and trumpeter), who composed the music for the film The Bridge on the River Kwai. I was in a Biology class when Denis told us that he had been on the ‘phone to Malcolm and mentioned that his orchestra had a tuba. As a keen brass player himself, he immediately added a tuba part to his Little Suite No.2, which was commissioned for the Farnham Festival, and so I played it in the first performance.  By a happy coincidence, my daughter played the same tuba part 35 years later, also in the Farnham Festival. Denis was also the leader of the photographic society and set up the dark room, next to his lab (room 17?) which I managed for a couple of years. As such I had a key to a private room - I knew of eight other sub-kingdoms in the school - where boys could hide away and avoid assemblies/Founders' Day and other inconveniencies. Denis knew all about it of course, but turned a benevolent blind eye.

Denis and Alan Fluck had been at school together in Cheltenham, along with Douglas Leuchars, who was also at Farnham Grammar. When I was looking for a teaching job, I was delighted to see the post at Farnham Grammar being advertised and even more delighted to be appointed. I corresponded with Denis throughout my career and he was always as helpful and supportive as he had been to me as a boy. I retired from Farnham College (as it became) as Head of Science and Technology and throughout my career I was always asking myself "Could I be as good as Denis ? Somehow I doubt it.

Chris Chapple (1964)

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I was saddened to read of the death of Denis Bloodworth. I was at Tiffin from 1970 to 1977 and was a keen member of the Tiffin Photographic Society, eventually becoming Darkroom Manager (rather like a prefect, but smelling of fixer!).
Photography continues to be a major interest, and for the last five years I have been writing a monthly column in Amateur Photographer magazine about collecting and using old cameras, a passion that was kindled by Denis some 40 years ago.
Although I studied biology and zoology at Tiffin, before going on to read medicine, I don't think Denis ever actually taught me, but as a sixth former we spent much of our free time in the biology staff area, talking to Denis and Ted Morrey about cameras and photography, and passing round the latest copy of Amateur Photographer!
I was never an accomplished musician, but I did play in Denis's clarinet "choir" at one of the school concerts, and I still have vivid memories of the school trip to Moscow and Leningrad in 1977, led by Hugh Nesbit and accompanied by Denis Bloodworth, Norman (can't remember his surname) and Nick Cook.
He was a true inspiration to me, as I'm sure he was to many others.

Tony Kemplen (1977)

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Very sad to hear the news of Denis Bloodworth. My late father - Ben Lyon - was at Tiffins with him for many years and although their academic fields could not have been more different (Sport and Biology) they became great friends and organised many school trips to Europe, particularly Greece and Switzerland.

Both had a real passion for travel and using the latest photographic equipment of the time to record everything. Goodness knows what Denis would have then made of digital technology, uploading pictures and social media!

My Father often told me on his return from the trips, that Denis always had the knack of being able to cleverly balance enjoyment and education for the boys and how much he loved the planning and organisation to ensure that the trip went smoothly and schoolmaster/pupil barriers were lowered for that time.

Here are some pictures from my Father's photo album showing Denis on a trip to Switzerland in 1980. 

             

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Michael Lyon (1977)

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Mr Bloodworth was the most inspirational and influential teacher that taught me during my school days. I owe him a great deal of thanks for many things in my life.

Andrew Davies (1964)

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Denis was very good with the orchestra when I think of some relatively modern pieces that he introduced us to - Khatchaturian, Shostakovitch, Copeland as well as Malcolm Arnold 's Little Suites and Toy Symphony. Malcolm Arnold came and conducted rehearsals twice (I think) during my time.
He was formidable player on clarinet and saxophone - I remember a performance of Facade and the fact that he could tongue or lip (I am not sure what term is appropriate to a clarinet) a very convincing glissando.

David Prince (1961)

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I was one of Denis's pupils during my time at Tiffin, and he was a truly inspirational teacher - as was also the case for many of my contemporaries.  He was very much responsible for my decision to go on and study biology at university.  I am a professor at Oxford University and had kept in touch with Denis over the years

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 I have attached a picture of Denis taken on the last occasion that we met up in person in June 2013.

Prof Andrew Smith (1972)

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I was very saddened to learn that Denis had passed away.  I knew him (from the mid-1970s) partly as my biology teacher, but principally through his conducting the School Orchestra and running various musical ensembles (I was quite a keen musician - and still am!).  We were both clarinettists, and he enthusiastically introduced me to some of the less common members of the family (clarinets in various keys, bass clarinet and basset horn) as well as to the saxophone, very generously lending me instruments from his personal collection to play at school concerts and in local youth orchestras.

Denis was, of course, a very accomplished arranger.  His jazz arrangements made great use of instrumental texture and colour - he was a man who ‘knew' his instruments and how to write sympathetically for players.

His re-orchestration of the classics often involved ‘instrument reassignment'.  This arose, perhaps, as a creative response to a problem common to composers of every era - an outright failure to anticipate the limitations of the late 20th century school orchestra.  His orchestral (re)arrangements seemed to have a dual purpose.  The obvious one was to fill in where we lacked certain instruments (such as the cor anglais); the other (I realised only later), was to deftly circumnavigate our individual shortcomings as musicians, so avoiding musically assured disaster at the annual concert!   Whatever the reason, Denis must have spent hours of his own time re-scoring, transposing and writing out all of those instrumental parts.  His diligence greatly expanded our repertoire, and this gave a great number of us our first taste of what it is to play in an orchestra.

It was a delight to meet Denis again many years later at a Tiffin/ Oxbridge reunion dinner, when I was keenly reminded of how positive an impact he had made on our lives (I went on to read music at Oxford).  I remember Tiffin as a place where music and musicians could flourish - and Denis as a cornerstone of music at Tiffin.

Mark Sandham (1981)

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I was very saddened to hear of the death of Denis Bloodworth. He has had the most extraordinary influence on my life with our mutual interests in botany and the recorder and I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. He was a inspirational teacher of biology/botany which led to me taking a botany degree and MSc. at Southampton University and then a career of nearly 30 years as a plant breeder mainly in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa and then 15 years working in the Central Asia as a short-term consultant on various seed development projects which made a most interesting and satisfying career. At school he really encouraged my recorder playing and opened many opportunities for me to play in the groups for which he so skilfully arranged the music particularly for the school plays.

After school we kept in touch and I looked forward to his Christmas Card usually with a beautiful photograph of a flower which he had taken. We met occasionally at Society of Recorder Players events and he came to conduct the Bristol Branch of the Society on one occasion.  I was particularly pleased when he was made a  vice-president of the Society in 2011 in recognition of his great contribution to the furtherance of recorder playing and the encouragement of young players.

Dick Little (1959)

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I was very sorry to hear Denis had recently passed away. He attempted to teach me elementary Biology without great success, but had a lot more luck sharing his enthusiasm for photography, and introducing me, along with I suspect hundreds of others, to the pleasures of music, which he proved could be fun as well.

I found myself in the School Orchestra very soon after starting to wrestle with the cornet in the Brass Band as a second former. The existing trumpet section rapidly depleted (I think an expulsion was involved), so very early on I found myself attempting to play first trumpet alongside Rod Plastow on second, although my duties far exceeded my meagre talents.
Denis introduced us to fun stuff by Shostakovitch, Copland, Walton, Arnold etc, and of course wrote incidental music for School plays. I still have his manuscript of my part for 'King Lear' in about 1963 - very spikey, with interesting but awkward intervals leaping all over the place. Fortunately, it was recorded, so I didn't have to risk it 'live' in front of all those people! (Strange how the School Hall seemed so much larger then . . ).
As others have mentioned, he seemed to know everyone in the music world, and we were conducted by Malcolm Arnold more than once. I seem to remember doing fanfares by Arthur Bliss in Farnham Church with the great man present - what he thought we'll never know, but he was very polite!

Denis had an individual taste in personal transport - he was usually to be seen in a tiny Bond Minicar; he would lift the bonnet, climb in to kick-start it into smoky life, close the bonnet, fold himself up to squeeze into whatever space remained in the cabin alongside his briefcase, manuscript bags and woodwind instruments of every description, then spin the car round on its axis before spluttering off down the road!

Like so many others, I will always be grateful for all that Denis did for me. He inspired a love of music which I will cherish to my last breath, and he was just a delightful man; a friend as much as a teacher.
Rest in Peace Denis, and thanks.

Bob Hodgson (1964)

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I think my first main contact was on the school trip to Italy 1959, when he was one of the leaders. Others included Mr Knight and Mr Jeffrey. My diary notes "camera Bloodworth, only outdone by tripod Brown".
The other trips were the Ecology trips to the Gower Peninsula. I had the good fortune of going twice, as there were a couple of spare places when I was in Lower VI. I remember the belt transects, throwing meter squares, and Denis bounding over the sand dunes, a white hanky tucked into his beret to protect his neck, shouting "Come on boys, this is not a holiday.....who's for a swim!". He helped to develop my real love of the seashore, rock pool exploring etc, and I have returned to the Gower several times since.


Denis was an inspirational teacher. He used "cat's cradle" and origami to catch our attention. I remember the School fete after our Gower trip, when we turned the biology lab into a seashore, and put the plants and animals onto it. This involved making several origami crabs etc. We had the son of Eric Franklin, a world class origamist, at the school, so had some massive origami creatures too. The construction involved, I seem to remember, several trips to the sea (?Brighton) by car by some of the group, to collect sea water, seaweed etc. The lab was quite smelly by the end of the day! I have kept my interest in origami to this day. It probably helped me get into medical school, and has calmed several fractious children since -but that's another story.


I also had contact with Dennis and photography, by taking my photographer badge whilst in the school scout group. I remember I had to put some of his photographs in order of quality. I couldn't see anything wrong with any of them! Dennis was frustrated that the badge was quite simple, so I didn't need to know all the steps of chemical reactions in making a photo!


I was one of the group taking 4 A-levels for the first time I think. In Botany, we had to do a piece of work about a growing potato, with pictures. I had mis-spelt as "potatoe", and by the end of his piece of marking, his vigorous underlining of the "e" and comment "noe" had made a hole in the paper.


I kept in touch with Dennis after I left Tiffin. I also exchanged cards with him at Christmas, until very recently. This speaks volumes about the man, and the effect he had on my life.  In about 1993 I had travelled with my wife to a quilt show on the south coast. On the way back, we were travelling through Surbiton; I mentioned Dennis and where he lived, and at that point we passed Pandora Court! On spec, we drove in and called on him. He welcomed us into his "bachelor pad", and was quite embarrassed that there was nowhere for his visitors to sit! He gave the impression of remembering me too!

Dr Peter Elliott MBE (1964)

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Very sad to hear of the death of Denis Bloodworth. It was his enthusiasm for botany that influenced my decision to become a biology teacher. I remember he took us on a fantastic field trip to Stow-on-the-Wold where, amongst other things we worked on a survey of wild flowers for a scheme being run by Cambridge University. Oddly enough, seven years after leaving Tiffin School I found my self at St Paul's College in Cheltenham on a course in natural sciences and one of my biology lecturers was Denis's sister.

John Reed (1959)