1932-37 VALERIE FERGUSON NÉE HESFORD

My time at Fawcett was enormously important, or maybe it was my time at Godolphin and the influence and interest of some quite remarkable teachers that influenced my life. Miss Holden inspired my love of German and French, Miss Dunford aroused and fostered my interest in History. Miss Robson taught me so much about Geography and the world. Thanks to her I have a complete mental picture, not just the route of the Zambezi or the Rhine, but all the produce and life style of different regions. I’ll never cease to be grateful to these inspired teachers. Miss Jones and Miss Evershed (the Hat) and even Miss Suffield and Miss Evelyn-Smith who had an uphill struggle with me. I also learned about injustice.

I have to say that Eva M. to me was not an endearing character (I don’t think she liked me much) and she was a great one for favourites. I felt much more sympathy with Sallie King and Polly Payne. As an example I can tell you that at the ’83 Commem. in Salisbury to which I went with Joane Vivien. Rozel Taylor and Pamela Edwards (to celebrate 50 years since we were new girls) none of us was prepared to contribute to Eva M.’s present or card. Sallie King asked us and she wasn’t at all surprised at our refusal. Eva M. may have been a splendid Housemistress in many ways, my father was most impressed with her, but we were of Presbyterian extraction, which means that one is not confirmed as an impressionable teenager, so that was not a mark in my favour for a vehement C. of E. believer. Polly was much more tolerant. I remember the weekly trudge to St. Martin’s, lots of genuflecting and crossing yourself and that powerful contralto drowning our wavering trebles and sopranos. Oh the joy when we were allowed to go to the 10 a.m. service at St Edmund’s, much nearer, and we all had a great crush on the curate! Then we got back to the House at 11 a.m. and had a lovely quiet leisurely Sunday. Do you remember the West Highland terrier called `Kewpie’? It was a yappy little thing.

The actually important and truly historical event was the abdication of Edward VIII. I was then in the Lower VI. We were summoned after lights out to come and listen to the broadcast about “not continuing without the woman I love.” It was all conducted in deep secrecy and we were abjured not to mention the broadcast to anyone. What a strange attitude. Can you imagine such restrictive practices today? I think that it was quite wrong but then Eva M. was C. of E. and not politically orientated. We got a much more realistic and less biased view of world affairs from Miss Noakes and then Miss Dunford at “Current Events” on Saturday mornings; that way I got the death of T .E. Lawrence, the Ethiopian War and the beginning of Nazi-ism.

Nevertheless I owe so much to Godolphin. It got me my commission in the W.A.A.F, my progression in the Foreign Office in Germany, then for many years I was on the Observer, as was my husband. It gave me confidence (I was sure that we were the best Girls’ Public School) and some super life long supportive friends. Beat that.

I did actually enjoy my five years in Fawcett and am always baffled when I read that people don’t enjoy boarding school. I do remember the cold and the compulsory cold baths in the summer term. You weren’t the only isolated child. Joane’s father was a Naval attaché at the Tokyo Embassy, she sent her letters via Trans-Siberian Express and spent the holidays with Pamela Maltby’s family at Red Lynch. That’s enough for now; all good wishes.

1932-37 JOANE WALCOT NÉE VIVIEN

I am sorry to have been so long in replying, and to hear that Fawcett is already sinking into oblivion. I hope that your rescue project comes in time. I went to a School Commem.  years ago and was saddened to find our Houses sold off and quite monstrous buildings in the School grounds. I remember the Mills family very well. Particularly Joan’s lovely voice and Barbara, who was in my year. Miss Payne I never knew very well – in my day she was somewhat overshadowed by Eva M, and was replaced for a while by Sally King. From what you say I think that you were very lucky to have had her as Housemistress. You ask “what we were given which enabled us to survive” – for myself, I am grateful to Eva M. who was very understanding to those of us who were temporarily orphaned by parents’ long overseas postings – no holiday flights then. So one had to learn to solve one’s own problems, face and come through adversity, soldier on etc., etc. She was good at that and it was useful later on. I also learned from Eva M. how to syphon off bath water and bucket it onto roses and the best way to manicure nails.

Of the other Fawcett things that come into my head – how did we manage with no showers and three baths a week. Little brass cans (now collectors’ pieces) of water in between. And hair washing only every three weeks.

And Charlotte, the kind and pretty maid who dished out first aid and sympathy, and mended our clothes, in the little room off the bathroom. Much missed when she left to get married. The excellent library at the top of the stairs. And being read to on Sundays after tea while we constructed flowered flannelette Mission garments. And filling dip-pen inkwells down in the cloakroom. But we did have our shoes cleaned.

Valerie Hesford will have written you a proper considered account of Fawcett ‘32-36. She was a high-powered journalist on the Observer – flitted behind the iron Curtain for stories – as was her husband, Jock Ferguson.

If enough comes in, do consider a private publication rather than a one-off just for the School archives. I would love to know what Fawcett was really like.

1935-39 MONICA VAN ZELLER NÉE TROLLOPE

What a lovely surprise! Of course I remember you. I, too, had the greatest respect for Eva, despite her leanings towards the prettiest in her charge. Josephine Tanner was a case in point. She was such a highly principled woman and so dedicated that she kept a tight rein on her inclinations, although at the slightest sign of a cold I remember a lot of chest rubbing was the order of the day! I remember too, Miss Edwards-Rees being so rude to her, ordering her about in front of us – “Fetch my glasses from my study, Miss Manning.” – never a please or thank you. And going into her (Miss E-R’s) study was an ordeal indeed, as it housed that disgusting little border terrier called Tolly, who I’m sure had never had a bath in its life!

Old Polly Payne was a real dear; endlessly good-natured despite the terrible dance we all led her. I always did my prep in Divinity lessons and I can hear her now in a tone of the mildest reproof “and Jacob went up the mountain … Monica.” I once nearly said “Bully for him!” but I don’t think even that would have upset her!

I am now 75 with two sons and eleven grand children, all of whom are a great joy. I still play tennis twice a week, and really love living in Yorkshire although it seems to get more trippery every year. The Worsleys, at Hovingham Hall, are the prime reason for this as Kate Worsley married the Duke of Kent and this was her childhood home. Also it’s a very pretty village with its stone cottages with their pantile roofs, village green and stream, but I go right off it in the summer when it’s full of gawping strangers. Well, I must stop the drivel now. It was very sweet of you to write and I did appreciate it. Take care of yourself and if you’ve a mind, keep in touch. I’ve been a widow for eleven years now. My husband, who I just met when I was 16, contracted Alzheimer’s Disease and for ten years didn’t know anybody or anything. It was terribly distressing for everybody, as you can imagine.

1936-39 MARGARET BROWN NÉE TAYLOR

I was very amused and interested with your letter! I think is a great effort on your part – and you may have some fascinating remembrances!

I recall you going through great misery because Eva M. was commissioned to buy your clothes at one point (because of your mother being abroad) and you hated her choice!!

Yes, I was so glad I looked up Anne Anderson (nee Harvey) only about 6 months before she died (finding myself staying with a step-sister in Farnham). We had a lovely chuckle together and I was so sad to see her death. I never had `Polly’ as a Housemistress, though she struggled to teach me Divinity! And was a dear lady. Old ‘Eva’ I had of course for my Housemistress in Fawcett for all of the 4 years. I never found her very approachable – or warm – but I know she was doing a hard job looking after us all. I think she ran an excellent House, with the standards of the day, and fed us well; but I look back at much of it all in almost uncomprehending wonder!! And although I was reasonably happy at the time with friends etc., I hated the complete lack of privacy (used to read my library books in the loo!), life totally ruled by bells – and the clock – the cold! Cold washing water, cold silk shirts on Sundays! Far too much emphasis on games (especially hateful cricket in summer!); going to bed early on summer evenings with the sun shining outside it seemed! Although I never suffered, I think girls could be cruel, and snobbish about some girls, and there was no idea of training us to be future wives and mothers. In fact, we were all supposed to behave as if the male race didn’t exist! And weren’t we all young for our ages – and kept that way! Do you remember those fantastic `dances’ when we all danced round with each other?’

I have kept in touch all these years with Jane Cullen (nee Greener) – went to her Golden Wedding about 5 years ago, and am Godmother to her eldest child (she had 6). Good luck to your research! I have rambled on; perhaps omitted to say in all fairness that I think we had a very good education and a good grounding in my love of literature, poetry and music – even if I didn’t perhaps realise it at the time.

1936-41 ELIZABETH HALFORD NÉE JAMES

I am amazed at the VI former not knowing what F or Fawcett were. I can quite honestly say that I am always very grateful I was sent to Godolphin. It gave one a wonderful grounding and the friends I met and still do are always great, and one’s earlier friends are much more than one’s present ones. One’s formative years are special. Fawcett to me was wonderful when I look back on my time there. Eva was great; a great sense of humour, and yet firm (super)!! I had left when Polly came to Fawcett but I remember her well taking Divinity and drawing one back, such as explaining something only to find one member of her class looking out of the window far away with other thoughts when suddenly, out of the blue, she would say “Do you agree, Elizabeth?” (“Oh yes, Miss Payne.”) I am very glad I lived when I did, life was much more stable. The early groundwork from school we had helps one tackle the problems that arise now. My love to you, also Ruth and Dido. I do remember our meeting at Commem.

1937-39 JANE CULLEN NÉE GREENER

I have certainly not “long forgotten” you! And I shall always remember your arrival at Fawcett House, younger than all of us. I thought how plucky you were, coming from far-away Antigua to boarding school like that. (Not that you probably had much say in the matter but anyway you were brave and cheerful). I was so pleased to get your letter and most interested in the reason for it. Undoubtedly fine things were instilled into us, and at our most impressionable age. Eva had the greater influence on me, as she was Housemistress for the-three years I was at Godolphin. I can only remember Polly as being second Housemistress my last term; otherwise the only contact was in Divinity classes. That was enough to make one very fond of her. It would be hard to imagine anyone being unaware of her goodness and kindness. Eva’s influence on me was profound and to a certain lesser extent, I think, on my elder sister Rosamund. In trying to quantify it (although that’s probably the wrong word) the main things that impressed me at 13-16 were fairness, firmness, kindness, humour and shrewdness. She had great insight, and treated us all in an individual way. This penetration could be most disconcerting, couldn’t it? But for me, for one, she showed me myself, and what I should do about it, and I shall always be grateful. She was perhaps more a woman of the world than some of her spinster contemporaries, having travelled the world a bit. In fact it was on board a ship coming, I think, from Australia via the West Indies, that my father met her. On hearing she ran a House at Godolphin School my father straightaway entered his daughters, and never looked at any other schools: That says something for Eva’s personality, for my father was a strong character, and not short of energy and ideas. By the time she died (I was fortunate to be able to go to her service) a whole generation was probably considering her ideals old-fashioned, but high standards like hers stand the test of time and remain as goals well worth the striving for – and perhaps all the more so in a world so vastly different from Eva’s when she first arrived at Godolphin. It was this enormous change in our world that prompted your letter, and I seem to have come back to it naturally rather than by design. I don’t know if these thoughts were what you had in mind, or whether you wanted something more personal and individual – but here’s for starters! Anyway, thank you for writing. I really enjoyed hearing from you and I hope you will collect the sort of material you want for your recollections.

1937-43 MARY LUNDIE NÉE HAINES

It is difficult to know where to start, probably at the beginning when I was brought to Fawcett by my parents and introduced to Eva who to me looked like an old lady though she must have been early fifties. Our half term picnic was to Longleat which I so much enjoyed. Eva always found good places to go to. Do you remember black berrying the first Saturday of Autumn 1940 when Miss Jerred became Head? I suppose that Eva was senior Housemistress and thought that Miss Jerred should be entertained and get to know us. I was impressed to find a Head who wore the same kind of clothes as my mother. Teddy E-R went about in such odd garments and yet later I realised that I could talk to her much more easily.

I wonder what happened to our table silver? It was such a pleasure to me and so useful for knowing whose plate was whose for second helpings; especially E. Muriel Box, Lorna K. Box and M. Rothera whose spoon was a different shape. You ask what we were given which enabled us to survive, when I stop to think about it which I don’t very often perhaps it was that we were given examples of work – doing the job in hand – faith – duty, and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. That sounds “hi falutin” and pi but what we saw Eva doing was just that and doing it well and passing that underlying sense onto us to develop on our own. When one stops to think about it Eva M. was a remarkable woman. She ran the House superbly, servants, kitchen, girls; and also handled all the work of the Bookroom at school. She gardened and even had boxes of plants for our gardens. She produced two Nativity Plays. Ruth and I were shepherds in the first and I remember Monica’s copper curls as the angel. In the second you and Ruth were Rings, and I think Daphne Goddard, who went on to act professionally. She gave excellent House parties. I remember that pre-war firework party when the whole lot went off at once. She was lucky; a rocket could have gone sideways with horrible results. I remember a fancy dress summer party in her last term. I wore Eva’s mother’s wedding dress, a lot of it had torn away but I managed. I never hit it off with Polly Payne. I don’t know why; perhaps because my father had told me that the reasons why we need sleep are unknown, but when in Rose Villa I asked Polly she said something about rest and repair and I felt fobbed off. Do you remember the air vibrations of Dunkirk; we didn’t actually hear guns, just felt the vibrations. The responsibility for thirty girls at that time was awesome, but we were lucky and neither bombed nor invaded, although many poor staff did nightly warden duty. This could go on forever. I must stop, but I kept in touch with Eva until the end.

1937-40 PAMELA HENDERSON NÉE HENDERSON

I couldn’t believe my eyes when your letter arrived. What a lovely surprise. Yes, of course I remember you. I often laugh when I think of the pinnies – no doubt the cloaks were very nice: I wonder how the present generation manages without galoshes! Strangely enough, I don’t remember being cold. We only had aertex shirts and thin jerseys – those awful stockings- Monday nights spent darning the wretched things! Our uniform was supposed to be quite modern at the time – I often wished that I had gone to Sherborne who wore nice tweed coats, skirts and brown felt hats!

Very brave of you to go to Commem. I never went, by the time it all got going after the war I had rather lost interest, was busy with babies etc.

Sadly I never embarked on a career in medicine. Our father’s death made money short. I spent a year at Glaxo in the vitamin research department, which I loved. Then I was old enough to go to Exeter University, where I spent a very enjoyable year. The war in the Far East severely reduced the family income, so I left and went into the Wrens, an experience that I shouldn’t have missed for the world. Then I got married and was the conventional housewife. I think Godolphin would have been very disappointed in my lack of achievement! I always remember head mistress `Teddy’ telling me that I was like a blunt pencil, and when I had my hair permed it was like going to the beach in a bathing dress and a pearl necklace! I am certain that we were over-protected from life – our 14 year old grand daughters are far more grown-up and worldly wise than we were at 18! I am glad to have known life as it was then – at least for our place in society.

Do you remember the Mission children who came in a coach in the summer. We fed them with lots of cake etc, and played some games of sorts. For many of them it was the highlight of the

year. Now they probably holiday in Spain. So for them, life is much better.

Anne went to New Zealand in 1953 and has only been home once – she never married and worked in the Magistrates’ Court in Christchurch for many years. Age has curtailed her activities but she was a great “Tramper”. Have you been to N.Z? We thought it a lovely country; so much space, lovely scenery and very little traffic.

We have been lucky and have lived in rural surroundings for the past 33 years. I hunted, our daughter evented and I was very involved in the Pony club and Riding for the Disabled. Now I garden, walk dogs and play golf and Bridge!

You don’t say much about your life. Did you have a career? Godolphin certainly gave us an excellent education and a lot of enjoyment in the musical and drama activities. I should love to be a fly on the wall there now.

I noticed the death of a Mrs. Simpson in the paper recently, but couldn’t remember her. She had been teaching there since 1940. Your letter has made me reminisce about Godolphin days. I can’t think how the school produced Jilly Cooper! I remember Eva being furious with me because she thought I was calling to soldiers walking up the road, when all I was doing was getting a breath of fresh air from behind the blackout!

Obviously one could go on digging out memories – are you thinking of contributing to a history of the school?

I remember Ruth Mills, and her sister, but can’t picture Dido. June Banks, Doreen Dempster, Anne Harvey, Alison Marshall, Monica Trollope, Liz James and of course Margaret Pope, with her `delightful dignity’ as Eva described her. It is impossible to imagine them all elderly. I wonder what became of Marianne Falk, the German girl? Do you remember seeing the Aurora Borealis one November? The sky was all pink. I hope you can read this. I have been scribbling whilst under the dryer at the hairdresser – much to everyone’s amusement.

Still Henderson – I married someone with the same name!

I kept in touch with Alison Green, who tragically died of T .B. – only about 21 – awful.

1937-40 ALISON KRUPA NÉE MARSHALL

The things that come to mind when I remember Godolphin, and Fawcett, are: September 1938 – Munich, no school but then digging trenches and us carrying sand bags for the first two weeks or so. As I recall, we never used those trenches when the war really came, but sat in the basement, at least once during 1939-40, in our dressing gowns. The Battle of Britain had not really got going, and I left in July 1940. Other things: “Mending” and “Mission work”, two evening events which I always actually enjoyed, because Eva read us such great books, thrillers, we couldn’t wait for the next instalment! And we did learn to use a sewing machine and make simple garments, a very useful skill which I still use on occasion to make curtains etc.: (Curtains not haute couture!). I also developed a taste for lentil puree for breakfast, with sausages. Very good. The food was pretty good, wasn’t it? But I really wasn’t crazy about boarding school, and couldn’t wait to leave, and get on with “real life”. That turned out to be the Army, medical school, internship in Canada where my brother was, then marriage and a few years in the North, on Janes Bay, back to Ottawa and private practice since 1960. One daughter doing a Ph.D. in neuropsychology and sleep medicine. Time to retire, but haven’t done it yet.

1937-43 RUTH CAREY NÉE MILLS

I came to Fawcett in the Autumn Term aged twelve in 1937. My youngest brother aged fourteen had died of Rheumatic Fever two months before, so going off to boarding school so soon after his death was quite a shock. There had been four Mills cousins before me, and also my sister Rosemary.

As I look back on my time in Fawcett I realise how lucky I was to have been sent there, as after the first year of settling in I was very happy and loved school. Eva although she was not motherly was a splendid Housemistress, at first I was very much in awe of her, but respected her, and as time went on I grew fond of her and kept in touch with her after I married right up to the end of her life. I remember she once came and had supper with my husband and I, and she told me to call her Eva. I found this a bit difficult at first!

There are so many memories that come back to mind, for example we had to have our temperatures taken for the first three weeks of term before breakfast, and on Saturdays we had our nails inspected, I don’t think Little Sit, the top most senior girls in the House, liked that much! Big Sit which the rest of the house used was quite a cosy room – we had a fire burning in the grate (no central heating) and there were two sofas, which as you grew a bit more senior you were able to sit on. I remember there was a picture on the wall with the names of all the House written on it in order of seniority and when you got into the school Choir, won your red girdle, got into school teams etc., letters were put after your name so by the time we left school you were bound to have some letters.

At weekends, we were never bored. There was Church of course on Sundays and after lunch we read our books and then went for a walk – then back to the House to write our home letters. After tea we all sat down to darn our brown lisle stockings and then make Mission garments whilst Eva read to us, which she did very well.

In Eva’s last term I was head of Big Sit and I thought we should give her and “Little Sit” a party – so I got my parents to send me some goodies to my day girl friends who passed them on to me; no doubt my friends did the same. We also put on a play called “Elegant Edward” which we did in the dining room and Dido was Burglar Bill, and she made her escape by the food lift in the room before the curtain fell. I think it was all quite a success.

When Polly came, she was quite different from Eva. Very gentle and quiet, but she also was a very good Housemistress and she kept in touch with us all long after we had left school. Both Eva and Polly really dedicated their lives to us and I shall always be very grateful to them both.