St Vincent’s Catholic Approved School, Dartford

St Vincent’s Catholic Approved School, Dartford

Man reveals his story of abuse at Catholic-approved school

A Norwich man has written a book about his life-long struggle to overcome sexual and physical abuse he says he suffered at a Catholic-approved boarding school.

David Armstrong, 67, wrote the book ‘Out of the Shadows’ as closure for his own ordeal and to help other victims of abuse to speak out and reclaim their lives.

In the book he describes the beatings and sexual abuse he claims he suffered as a 13-year-old boy at the hands of Irish-born Catholic ‘Presentation Brothers’ at St Vincent’s school in Dartford, Kent – one of six such Irish-run institutions then in existence in the UK.

After he left the school, he ended up in borstal and eventually served a term in Broadmoor, where he met disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile.

Following release from Broadmoor, he began the long process of rehabilitation. And apart from a well-publicised blip when, as a gambling addict, he banned himself from every betting shop in East Anglia, he has triumphed over adversity and forgiven his abusers.

He said: “It took me 10 years to begin talking about my experiences at St Vincent’s. Writing this book has taken me over two years and is a final part of the long rehabilitation process.

“Edmund Burke said that, if good men stay silent, evil will prevail, which encapsulates the primary reason I am sharing my story publicly for the first time. In these pages I bare my soul.”

Some of the most talked about passages in ‘Out Of The Shadows’ will surely be those featuring Savile.

Mr Armstrong, who lives in Norwich’s Golden Triangle, said Savile told him he had been abused as a child.

He said: “,,, he said to me very quietly: ‘I will tell you something now – and I will say it once and never mention it again.’ He paused, and with a look of sadness coming over his face, he added: I was abused as a child… by someone I trusted.’.”

The retired car salesman, who has never married, also talks about the part played by Savile in helping bring about his release from Broadmoor.

He says: “Jimmy Savile was a dependable figure whom we respected, a sane and trusted friend.”

He said when he found out about Savile’s crimes, he could hardly believe it, but he added: “He fooled everyone including Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles. But looking back on it, I remember one time he said that “killers and paedophiles have uncontrollable demons”, and he might have been describing himself. His crimes were terrible and I sympathise with his victims. I’m just saying what happened to me.”

Mr Armstrong, who has lived in Norwich all his life, was born into a Catholic family on the Larkman council estate. He was arrested, aged 13, while helping a farmer shoot vermin, and Norwich Juvenile Court sent him to St Vincent’s.

Norwich Evening News 14/06/14

22 responses to “St Vincent’s Catholic Approved School, Dartford

  1. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    Please read “A Soccer Hooligan in America,” which is also about a lad who was sent to St. Vincent’s Approved School in the early sixties, although his memories of the lay brothers are a little different to David’s. The book can be purchased on

  2. marva

    i can not find the book a soccer in hooligan

  3. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    Marva: Go to and type in A SOCCER HOOLIGAN IN AMERICA. They even have free shipping at the moment. I would like to hear back from you. Were you St. Vincent’s Approved School yourself?

    • marva

      NO i was NOTat the school but i live where the school was and i just want to find things out about the school i would to see it in the 1960 or1970 before they built the houses on it i have read 2 book so far

  4. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    I was at St. Vincent’s Approved School (as it was called then) from 1961-1964 and the story of “A Soccer Hooligan in America” is loosely based on my experiences there. The school house and adjacent buildings, along with the Chapel Center, stood atop Temple Hill on 25 acres of land, and it was run by the Presentation Brothers from Ireland. I actually have very fond memories of my time there.

  5. marva

    Did you know daivd armstrong and JOHN fenton they both wrote about
    st vincent

  6. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    No, I don’t believe so. I did read David Armstrong’s book, although I did not share his experiences. He talks about corporal punishment at St. Vincent’s, but corporal punishment existed (at the time) even in the hallowed halls of Eton, and I am not altogether sure that his experiences at the school could be the blame for his later troubles in life. St. Vincent’s Approved School was, after all, a reformatory — there was a reason we were sent there.

  7. marva

    i just order your book thank you for answer all my questions and i will let you know what i think about our book

  8. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    Thank you! I hope you enjoy the book and that you will get back to me.

    • Ella mamo

      What is the name of your book?
      My brother was there in the late 50s early 60s I was a young girl at the time and remember the leather strap marks on his back.
      We used to visit him once a month on a Sunday

  9. marva

    hi carl micheal have you got any phots of st vincents i would love to see them i am still waiting for the book

  10. marva

    I got the book read some of it but it not a book i like so i wont be reading it sorry

  11. I have read both books by John Fenton and David Armstrong, and I find their accounts of the corporal punishment used difficult to believe. Could anyone please give me a truthful account?


    I found both books equally interesting, but I really would like to find out how much truth there is in both these books! Is there anyone who would be able to corroborate their stories?

  13. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    Hi John: I was at St. Vincent’s Approved School (as it was called then) from 1961-1964 and my experience there was very different to that of both writers. Corporal punishment existed at all schools during this time period, including exclusively public schools like Eton, so to blame one’s whole life experiences on the school is unfair.

    Remember, this was a reformatory!

    I live in America now, but I was saddened during a recent visit back to the UK to see that the school and grounds are no more. The school house and adjacent buildings, along with the Chapel Center, stood atop Temple Hill in Dartford, Kent on 25 acres of land, and it was run by the Presentation Brothers from Ireland. I actually have very fond memories of my time there.

  14. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    Hi Ella: I was at St. Vincent’s Approved School from 1961-1964 and there is much about our lives at St. Vincent’s throughout my book, but particularly in Chapter Three. The book is “A Soccer Hooligan in America” and you can check it out on
    Was your brother there during these years? Best wishes, Carl

  15. Hi I was there from 1963-1965 my abuse was real both physical and sexual this has taken me 54 dammed years to live with, this was not a nice place but what really hurts to this day I should not have been in this place, can any of you people remember a Mr Bennett, abuse by this chap and beaten senseless by Mr Ellis.

  16. Carl-Michal Krawczyk

    HI Gene: I was there from 1961-1964. I do not remember Mr. Bennett, but I do remember Mr. Ellis and Mr. Stinson and, of course, Brother DeMontfort (our headmaster), Brother Ambrose, Brother Cuthbert and Brother Francis, who was in semi-retirement and managed the tuck shop. I have a picture of the school, but I am not sure I can upload it in this site. I will continue to try. Carl Krawczyk

    • Hi CarlHope your good. Mr Bennet was at Winchester Remand center he took me. At 13 and a half to Dartford. Carl i was in the big dorm the three lads who i eventually Made friends with were Joe Doyle. Martin Malone. Chris Meadows. We were all in the. Sea cadets. The main question Was Bennet there but never mind. And you weren’t There when Ellis beat me up. Bennett had probably left have filed a complaint aagainst them at Dartford. Take care Carl.Kind regardsGene.

  17. Jan

    Please could somebody help me. My father who died 6 years ago was sent to st Vincent’s dartford . He was age 13/14 . He never spoke about it much as he said a brother Dustan curtain broke his nose and he was birches for taking a piece of butter , he was a angry man my dad and could be spiteful . But I tried to look into this place run by the presentation brothers and I couldn’t get any help other than a brochure of st Vincent’s and a few photos of the brass band. I wanted a apology for what he went through. But didn’t get it. Apparently he played truant and his home life was chaotic and he had Irish parents so was sent there. Any advice would be appreciated thanks he was sent there 1935 .

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