The Confessions of Rev. Nicolas Stacey
In the archives of the British Library are five tapes which should be a cause of concern to us all. Much of the interview with Rev. Nicolas Stacey relives his action-packed adventures at war, his unlikely turn as an Olympic athlete, and his time in the Church of England. Some of the content of the tapes have caused victims of Kendall House sexual abuse to call for an immediate inquiry.
Nicolas Stacey was the Director of Social Services for Kent from 1974 until 1985. The position was relatively new and had only been created three years prior. Nick had made a sideways move from being Director of Social Services for Ealing from its inception in 1971. On the tapes, Stacey says “They started these social service departments, and I thought that this could be something that I could do. Although I was neither a social worker, nor local government officer.”
He goes on to explain, “I think the Chief Executive thought, ‘Look, I’m going to upstage Keith Joseph’ (the then Secretary of State for Social Services) by persuading the council to put up somebody who would be turned down again, because I was not, simply not, qual… ‘cause in general, almost all the people that were appointed had some social worker training.” Stacey was obviously unsuitable for the role but by 1974 he was in charge of six thousand staff across Kent, and responsible for over one hundred thousand potential service users.
If we rewind the tape at this point and go back to Nicolas Stacey talking about his school days, we can begin to see why he was so inappropriate for the role.
I was amazed to hear Rev. Stacey talk of his old Deputy Headmaster at Wellesley House Pre-Prep School, Broadstairs, Kent. I had already heard of the fiendish Billy Williamson whilst investigating Ashdown House Prep School, the Sussex boarding school where Boris Johnson was a student. After his time as Stacey’s deputy head in Broadstairs, William Glynn Williamson became the headmaster of Ashdown House and his reign of terror was unforgettable to the students whom he ruled. He was known for bare-bottom flogging of teenage boys, harsh corporal punishment, and a short fuse. William Glynn Williamson had married the mother of a Wellesley house pupil, Laura Violet Morton, and used her fortune to acquire Ashdown House boarding school for boys.
In Alex Renton’s book, Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, Crimes, and the Schooling of a Ruling Class, we can see examples of Billy Williamson and his behaviour towards children. Renton writes, “Billy Williamson had taken over Ashdown shortly after the Second World War. One of his pupils in the early 1940s, when he taught at a school called Wellesley House, was publisher Anthony Blond. In a memoir, he described Williamson as a ‘magic man,’ a brilliant teacher. Blond says Williamson was ‘in love, as teachers have to be (without being practising pederasts) if they are to stay sane, with the concept of ‘boy’ – and some specimens more than others’.” Williamson was a keen flogger of their “bare bottoms,” but the pupils liked their master no less.
Rev. Stacey was good friends with Anthony Blond, who also published his autobiography Who Cares? in 1971. Nick Stacey describes on the tapes how Blond was a “very colourful man” and goes on to say, “He married and then I think he got divorced, and he lived with the most ‘beautiful boy’ in London, called Andrew McCall, and that split up. And then he married a very upper class girl. And much younger than him. And I said to Anthony when he got engaged to her, what do her parents think about this and he said, ‘They think I’m an elderly bisexual Jew.’”
Nick Stacey would also describe Billy Williamson in a peculiar manner on the recordings. “Willie Williamson, who went on to be headmaster at Ashdown Forest where Princess Margaret sent her son, was a genius with bright, attractive 13-year-old boys… and absolutely never did anything that was the least bit improper — but I mean he was really an example of [how] people who are attracted to boys of that age are the most brilliant teachers.”
Williamson would also employ Martin Haigh, the teacher who in 2017 was convicted of sexually abusing four boys during his time teaching at Ashdown House. Billy Williamson’s brutal abuse of young boys would continue unabated until he stepped down as headmaster of Ashdown in 1975.
Rev. Nicolas Stacey frequently used terms like “bright attractive 13-year-old boys,” “beautiful boys,” and made statements like “people who are attracted to boys of that age are the most brilliant teachers.” If those statements were to be made in an interview for the Director of Social Services for Kent today, what would happen? I would suggest the result should be a public inquiry.
Stacey’s Blanket Silencing
The third and fourth tapes contain damning evidence of neglect, cover ups, and a systematic culture of ignoring children that went right to the top of Kent Social Services. Stacey became relaxed speaking to the interviewer, Louise Brodie. After hours of stating his early triumphs, Nick begins to speak of his tenure as the Director of Kent Social Services. At times, he makes more statements that cause concern.
“It’s terribly sad when you’re sexually orientated towards children,” he said, while defending a Canadian child sex offender who was a church organist. Stacey describes how he frightened the other Directors of Social Services because he was “a different beast.” But his tone becomes almost sinister when talking of rules he set down with his six thousand member staff about dealing with accusations of abuse. “Nobody was to go to the police about accusations against staff without my approval. And it is incredible the way times have changed. I could never begin to do that now. But children, especially children in care, are incredibly manipulative.” Nicolas Stacey should never have been director of Kent social services.
Children were physically pinned down in Kendall House, drugged with excessive doses of controversial medications, beaten regularly, mentally abused, sexually abused, and in some cases raped. Nicolas Stacey states, “I never once went to the police. This was because I never felt that we had a serious case and never in the eleven years I was there did a scandal occur. I mean no scandal that I know of, or none that got out in the public.” Louise Brodie cuts in on the recording and asks Stacey, “No scandal about your staff?” Stacey replies, “About my staff. Now what I did do, I said ‘Look, I’m afraid I’m going to ask you to resign. I am going to have you put on the register of “at risk”.’” A clear admission by Rev. Nick Stacey that he had covered up abuse whilst head of the Kent Social Services. This was Stacey’s “Frost-Nixon” moment. “I would try and get them to go to counselling, had it emerged, you know, that… rampant abuse of kids had occurred, you know.”
Nick Stacey openly admitted on tape that there were cases of abuse, but that he had not informed the police, and instead offered voluntary counselling to the abuser. No mention of the abused at all. But the shock confessions don’t stop there. Stacey went on to say, “A member of staff once hit a child very hard and we had to go to the police. But I went into the dock. I got one of the best QCs. In fact, he was a son of Canon John Collins, you would know from your South African experience. And I went to court and spoke. I said you’ve got no idea how these children wind care staff up. You know, we sit comfortably at our home, we expect care staff with small pay to look after some of the most admittedly tragically deprived. It’s not their fault that they wind people up, and they’re aggressive. Once somebody loses their cool and they do hit somebody then, you know, you say they should be locked up. And I got them off.” Stacey seemed to be very focused on his staff and never on the service users in his care. How many other cases of abuse did he cover-up?
For Stacey it was always about winning, but for the former residents of Kendall House during his term as Director of Social Services for Kent, life had been about loss. The tapes, which were recorded in 2006, were discovered by one of the survivors. Teresa Cooper had once been locked in a room for over a hundred and sixty days in Kendall House. That was one of the many various illegal punishments that the teenage girls living in the care home endured.
My initial thought whilst listening to the Nicolas Stacey tapes was of the various survivors of Kendall House during his tenure as director. I spoke with Teresa Cooper and I asked how it felt when she first discovered the tapes. “I was shocked,” Mrs. Cooper told me, “and then I cried because I didn’t know who to tell as no one listens to me.” I could only imagine the range of emotions that Teresa Cooper experienced. She went on to tell me “I can’t describe how shocked I was. Mortified is an understatement because when you listen to the recordings you realise what you are up against.”
What’s clear from listening to the seven hours of interviews, is that Nicolas Stacey was very much a part of the establishment. Rev. Stacey admitted to hiding cases of abuse while he was responsible for the safety of the children in care homes around Kent. This admission should be enough to deserve a public inquiry into Kent Social Services during his reign as well as the Kent Police force’s response to the recorded confessions. Nick Stacey is a perfect example of the culture that existed in the United Kingdom during the 70s and 80s, where the cries of victims were ignored. Instead, Stacey routinely protected sexual predators and child abusers in general. It is important for all of us to understand what went wrong during that period of systematic child sexual abuse. Kent Police and Kent Social Services refuse to take any responsibility for their inaction even after the facts have surfaced.
There are still hundreds of people who suffered abuse, whilst in Kent care homes, who remain unrepresented. Their extreme experiences and ongoing related sufferings have been ignored by the current Kent establishment. And yet, before Nicolas Stacey’s death in May 2017, he was honoured as a speaker at the Kent Legend’s Association dinner. His various obituaries in the major British newspapers praised him as a man who helped revolutionise the care industry. His sympathy for and aid to pedophiles has been completely ignored.