1937-43 JILL BELL-SCOTT NÉE LANGLEY

My father brought me from Antigua in the West Indies to Fawcett House in the spring term of 1937, one week late, with two cabin trunks, a suitcase, a hatbox and a music case. I entered a world of cold linoleum, shining brass, and a chiming clock on the dining room piano; the north facing dormitories were curtained in pink, the south facing ones in blue. I was in 3 North with Mary Ridgeway who came from Bermuda and Pearl Game my mentor who that first term struggled to keep me virtuous. There were two rules which I cannot remember and a hundred things that were “not done”.

Until I was ten years old I had lived with Nanny and been taught at home by my Mama on the P.N.E.U. system. In a microcosm of English life one had learned to bob to grown ups, honour the governor, revere the Union Jack and to read voraciously. After dinner parties I would lie in the moonlight listening to the crickets and the frogs, while the sounds of the piano and the songs drifted up from the drawing room and verandah; no radio even then. All this was no preparation for Miss Keer and her terrifying ropes, ribstalls, vaulting horse and box to come. But my new companions were very kind and funny; always loyal and ready to help. One sensed that hierarchy and realised that one was at the bottom of the pyramid; no bad thing either.

The bell rang for silence time, five minutes in the morning, fifteen at night. Sometimes we young ones went to E’s sitting room in our dressing gowns with Bibles and Bible Reading Fellowship notes, even in those days a Symbolist at heart I thought that a tree in the wind might stand for the Trinity, but she thought her bowl of hyacinths more suitable, so that was that. Sometimes on Friday night Ruth and I would help her make an altar from a card table down in the Library, put Edward Burne Jones’ “Light of the World” up and light two candles. This service was completely voluntary (I can see now based on Compline), but many came and we knelt or sat on the floor. We had careful preparation for Confirmation. Throughout the Spring Term talks by E. once a week, every fortnight a Catechism with “Teddy E-R in the Wilderness (to which her dog Autolycus came as well) and a final polishing from Canon Ferguson the Precentor. Confirmation at Pentecost was magical in the Cathedral; Ruth and I felt drenched with blessings although our white veils were askew.

Eva M. was one of the four Housemistresses who did not teach, so that Fawcett was home and a refuge when things went wrong at school, a place apart. About twenty of us used Big Sit for leisure and for prep; our initialled writing cases in a row on top of the lockers. Inevitably our belongings got lost then found and “Quis” or “Ego” rang round the room, over the heads of Monopoly players. We were encouraged to go over to school in pairs or three, no one was left out on her own. If a member of staff walked along down the Snicket we would pound along to catch her up and converse. Having only known England in winter weather, this Snicket in summer came like a miracle, the path full of the scent of lilac, laburnum and may.

Eva valued her staff, especially her cook Margaret who fed us so well. Flossie brushed our hair once a week. Later during an air raid when we were all on lilos in the cellar, the descending maids Flossie, Maggie and Elsie were caught by a power cut on the stairs. “Lighten our darkness we beseech Thee” came a voice – Elsie’s – appreciative giggles all round. Before the war began half terms meant char-a-banc expeditions. I remember a wonderful day of freedom in the New Forest in summer, and a spring visit, or was it autumn?, to Longleat where we were shown the beautiful private rooms and looked out onto the enormous parterre, which I thought hideous. Then we went to the boat house and rowed a heavy green boat on the lake.

When 1938 came Eva was the person asked by the Governors to take part of the School to Canada, but in fact a few parents made private arrangements while some girls left to go to day schools near their homes. Some of us spent whole days machining sandbags. Of these times when the outside world broke in, I remember us all sitting in E’s room, listening to Winston Churchill’s great speeches, they sent us to bed ready to defend England’s liberty with our lacrosse sticks to the last ditch. At this time as House Prefect I went with a friend down to the ancient Church of St. Thomas to hear Pastor Karl preach, a friend of Pastor Niemoller; the evening psalm was 137 “By the waters of Babylon”; an ancient lament for a new generation. It was most moving.

Throughout this time junior Housemistresses came and went, they were all much liked and fought their corner with Eva with varying degrees of diplomacy. At first Sallie King (classics), Miss Scott-Smith (classics) who left to become Head of Westonbirt. Miss Lupton (games) who married and Miss Barnett (mathematics) who married a Don at London University.

At the end of the year ’42, E. left. She unlike the Duke of Plaza-Toro, led her regiment from the front; matches were there to be won, rules to be obeyed. God to be feared; I never brought honour or distinction to her beloved House, but I am perpetually and deeply grateful to her for finding me a beautiful holiday home in Gloucestershire where I was wonderfully happy. I last saw her at Commem. in a wheelchair when she was eighty, eyes bright and as full of spiritual vigour as ever; full too of determination.

For two terms I was Polly’s first House Prefect and remember her well from the earliest days in Rose Villa where she taught us the General Thanksgiving so as to equip us for life in the Senior School. I loved the often violent O.T stories and the whole mysterious business of good and evil. right and wrong. When she had died Olive wrote to me “I always felt that the girls whom Marjorie taught at Godolphin were very fortunate and she devoted herself fully to all under her care in the House. I used to tease her and say that when she died Godolphin would be written on her heart, but it will not have been Godolphin but all the individual girls who had her love there and afterwards.” She was a person of great understanding; a friend and a contemporary, she trusted us and I loved her till she died; and beyond of course.

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1939-42 ANNE HENDERSON – EXTRACTS FROM HER DIARY

Thursday 18/1/40 – Went back to school. I have moved above Jill, Mary and Alison in house order.

Friday 19/1/40 – Then instead of games we went for the stale old seven minutes radius walk . . . In the evening we played Monopoly.

Saturday 20/1/40 – In the afternoon the others went down to look over the Cathedral … We listened to Garrison Theatre on the wireless.

Thursday 25/1/40 – I had a temperature so had to stay in bed. About 10.30 I moved up into the spare room where I had the wireless to listen to.

Friday 26/1/40 – My temperature was normal so I got up in the morning at about eleven o’clock and had Ovaltine and three chocolate biscuits.

Sunday 28/1/40 – After lunch we had letter writing and Miss Manning told us about Lent.

Monday 29/1/40 – After supper Miss Manning read out the things people dislike and like.

Thursday 1/2/40 – It was Jill Langley’s birthday, she was 14 years old. She had a lovely coffee birthday cake which was very good indeed.

Sunday 4/2/40 – After letter writing I helped Miss Manning cut out Mission garments.

Friday 9/2/40 – For the first time this term a few people played games. We went for a walk up towards Old Sarum.

Monday 12/2/40 – We are reading a jolly good detective story for Darning.

Tuesday 13/2/40 – We had the first of our house dance practises in the second half of games time today, we have got some quite nice songs.

Wednesday 14/2/40 – It was very cold. As the coke was running out, we all had to get our baths in, in free time. At lunch Miss Manning gave us a lecture on calling staff by their Christian names, she had heard Pamela Tozer calling her Eva.

Friday 16/2/40 – As I had glands I had a late breakfast in Miss Manning’s room (with others). Dr. Armitage came and found we had all got German Measles. So we packed ourselves off to the San.

Monday 19/2/40 – After tea Miss Manning came and fetched us (from the San).

Friday 23/2/40 – Anne Harvey and Jill Langley went to the San. After prayers we listened to a talk on a place called “The Settlement” in London where poor people meet.

Sunday 25/2/40 – We played “Pooh sticks” under the bridge at the bottom of school hill.

Thursday 29/2/40 – We did Acrobats in Big Sit after supper.

Friday 1/3/40 – Jill Langley came back from the San.

Thursday 7/3/40 – Jill Langley has got German Measles.

Friday 8/3/40 – After supper Dr. Thornton gave a lecture on X-rays. He brought an X-ray set with him. It was a marvelous lecture.

Sunday 10/3/40 – Went to St. Martin’s 10.30 a.m. service. Miss Manning took nearly the whole school as she was about the only well mistress in the whole school . . . We gardened in the afternoon.

Monday 11/3/40 – After supper Miss Manning gave us a confirmation class about how to pray. Friday 23/3/40 – We went to part of the three hour service in the Cathedral, it was very boring.

Saturday 24/3/40 – At 6.30 p.m. in the Hulse Room the eggs which we had painted as Easter eggs were judged. Jill Langley got third prize.

Thursday 26/3/40 – All confirmation candidates had a late breakfast. We came out of lessons at eleven. At twelve the Dean came and talked for about ten minutes. We then went to the Cathedral and were confirmed by the Bishop of Salisbury.

Thursday 28/3/40 – Jill Langley and Ruth Garrett got their girdles this term.