Funeral of retired Stevenage school teacher hailed 'a legend'

Stevenage ceramics teacher Peter Warren demonstrating at Ickworth Park

Peter Warren taught ceramics at Collenswood School in Stevenage for 37 years - Credit: Supplied

Family and friends came together for the funeral of a retired secondary school ceramics teacher hailed "a legend" by many of his former pupils.

Peter Warren taught ceramics at Collenswood School in Stevenage from 1969 until he retired in 2006.

He died on July 11, aged 77, leaving behind his wife Daphne, daughters Claire and Anne, and grandchildren Harrison, Miriam and Leonardo.

"Over the years, Peter taught three generations of students - his sharp wit and impish sense of humour entertaining and inspiring them along the way," said the eulogy at Peter's funeral, held at St Mary's Church in Hitchin yesterday (Tuesday).

"He was firm but fair, lessons were hands-on and great fun. Thousands of piggy banks were produced and treasured by the Year 7s."

Stevenage ceramics teacher Peter Warren

Peter, pictured how many former Collenswood School pupils will remember him - Credit: Courtesy of Daphne Warren

Peter had studied at the Manchester High School of Art, where he thrived and eventually became head boy. "He took his prefect duties very seriously," the eulogy said. "On one occasion, he tried to escort a dubious-looking man off the school premises. It turned out to be [the renowned English artist] LS Lowry, who was visiting his good friend the headmaster."

Peter went on to study ceramics at Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts for four years. After completing his teacher training, he accepted a one-year contract at Stevenage's Collenswood School. It was later made permanent and Peter stayed at the school until he retired 37 years later.

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Outside the classroom, "Peter was tenacious on the football field, sang and played the banjo on stage and always had time to stop and talk," his eulogy said. He played an active part in the teachers’ union the NASUWT. In 1979, he became the secretary for Stevenage and became known for his humorous answerphone messages explaining why he was unable to pick up the phone!

Peter and Daphne married in 1984 and had two daughters, Claire and Anne. A stand-out memory from their childhood was enjoying bath times with their dad playing the banjo and singing such classics as 'They Built the Ship Titanic.'

Peter became chair of governors at his daughters' primary school - Ashtree in Stevenage - and won Role Model of the Year in the Comet Community Awards in 2005.

He had been nominated by Collenswood colleagues Jon Berry and Di Bennett. "As a role model, you can't find better than Peter," Jon said at the time.

"He is unfailingly polite to everyone who crosses his path," and "thousands of young people have left Collenswood knowing that the care and personal attention afforded them by Peter Warren have made their lives better".

Stevenage ceramics teacher Peter Warren wins Comet Community Award

Peter (centre) won Role Model of Year in the 2005 Comet Community Awards - Credit: Archant

Peter retired in 2006 and set up a studio, complete with kiln, in his garden. 

In 2011, Daphne and her nephew, James, managed to persuade a very reluctant Peter to leave Stevenage and move to Clifton - on the condition his studio went with him.

"There followed 10 glorious years," Daphne said. Peter joined Anglian Potters and presented his work in many exhibitions, galleries and craft fairs, as well as becoming editor of the Anglian Potters' newsletter.

In March 2020, Peter was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. "Despite the progressive limitations of the condition, he remained positive, determined and productive," his eulogy said.

"Peter loved his family, and always talked to people about his grandchildren. They brought him a lot of joy. Peter never lost his sense of humour and would sing ‘He’ll be Coming Round the Mountain’ to his grandchildren when he descended the stairs on his stair lift.

He would perform tricks for them with his foldable walking stick, and they loved his demonstrations of his remote-controlled recliner chair.

"Peter will be greatly missed and will be remembered the way many of his former pupils have described him - as a 'legend.'"