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.
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.
Miss Eva Manning, much respected, and seemed to have a great deal to cope with, considering her apparent great age, which was probably only about 60ish, she seemed all of 80! I was asked to help with her few brown hens who were probably doing their `bit’ towards the war effort by laying eggs, there were only about 9 or 10 or them. I remember she had some eggs due to hatch off from a broody but there was much disappointment when they didn’t and turned out to be all bad. It never occurred to her that a cockerel was vital to produce chickens – I couldn’t believe her `forgetfulness’. There was a very fine ginger cat called Marmalade who she was very fond of and so was I. Miss M. retired soon after I arrived.
Darling Polly – she was the best and in my opinion the most outstanding Housemistress one could ever ask for – I owe her a great deal toward the development of my character – I often remember her even now.
I was an only child of an Army family – looked after by my Grandmother whilst my parents were abroad during the war. I was also dyslexic, which in those days was backward. In spite of this I was very happy at Godolphin especially being in Fawcett. I lived in Yorkshire and felt it was Godolphin’s war effort to take in this backward child from Yorkshire!! We each had in our cubicles, up in the dormitories, a china washbowl and jug of cold water, which froze in the winter. We collected warm water in enamel jugs from the bathroom to wash in the mornings. The fire escape was a good site for midnight feasts usually held about 10.30 if we could keep awake that long. We used to have to share bath water, it was bad luck to have second bath; it was pretty grubby. I well remember singing at the top of my rather fruity voice, not at all melodious “As Time Goes By” – “. ..and when two lovers woo, they still say `I love you.” etc: in comes Polly, with “That will do Angela.” End of song!
Polly used to take House Prayers beautifully, we needed prayers, away from home. The war at full pelt, it was a serious time. Polly developed my power of prayer enormously, she was very forgiving. I used to get into some hairy scrapes, and she was always very balanced and good at pointing out the folly of my headstrong opinions and actions. In these days, when women become ordained, I often think of Polly.
On Sunday evenings Polly read to us for one glorious hour – Dorothy Sayers was my favourite. She read most beautifully and we all had a pash on Lord Peter Wimsey, thought him simply divine, purely through her reading, leaving out the risqué bits no doubt. Her reading was magic to listen to.
We went down to the (A338) main road to watch and cheer and wave to the soldiers, British and American, in every sort of vehicle going to a mass on Old Sarum Airfield ready for the Big Push on D-Day. It was very moving and an emotional occasion. We probably were not supposed to do this but we did and I shall never forget that sight. Living in Fawcett down the Snicket was a 10 minute walk to school which made you make sure you had all you needed in your sack for the morning and work. You had a long haul back if you forgot anything. Each House in Godolphin had a definite character. You could tell a School House girl from a Methuen girl, and a Hamilton girl from a St. Margaret’s and so on; needless to say Fawcett was very special.
Polly always kept in touch with us right up until her death. She made a point of knowing our husbands and showed interest in whatever we did, enjoyed seeing our children; they enjoyed seeing her in return. Dear dear Polly, how very fortunate we have been to be brought up by her whilst at school. You asked “what was it that we were given which enabled us to survive” – apart from what I have written I say, probably, Horlick Tablets after lunch, when the sweet ration had gone.