THALIA'S SCHOOL MEMORIES
The history and ethos as I have been able to discover it so far.
Miss Florence Rainford's father was a captain on the Channel Ferries. She went to School in Folkestone. She was born in 1895?. Where? She was a Theosophist and a vegetarian. She was not a churchwoman and to the left in her beliefs. She was on a local Library Committee. She spent her summers in France with her 'famille'. She lost her Fiancé in the First World War. She had two short/nick names, Jan and Fanny. Miss Rainford had two sisters one who ran the kitchen with the help of a cockney evacuee Mrs Campbell, remembered as dour by some and enthusiastic by others. Mrs Campbell first lived in Newton Abbot and then in school in a room over the front door of the second house. On Mondays for lunch we had potatoes, baked beans and grated cheese followed by steamed treacle pudding. On other days we had semolina and rice pudding. There were cherry trees round the lawn where we did the plays and I think the cherries in the pies we ate in summer were from those trees. Another sister was Mrs Bond a skilled needlewoman who lived in London but spent time during the war in Devon teaching needlework at KHS. Mrs Bond was not a vegetarian and missed her turkey at Christmas whilst staying with her sister. She also made Miss Rainford's clothes, which were predominately in soft blue colours. Miss Rainford taught French at Newton Abbot Grammar School. She was a translator at The League of Nations. This perhaps explained her broad vision. 'All life is one' was part of he philosophy. Her theosophy and vegetarianism led her not to kill so when the grounds at KHS she got the children to collect them in paper bags and release them in the field behind the school. She always said that shouting was useless as no one would listen. In contrast to this quietness she was very realistic with the children sharing with them her intentions to be cremated and her reasons for this. She shared her abhorrence of capital punishment by holding a one minutes silence at the precise time of the hanging of Derek Bentley and another hanging. Miss Rainford was very unassuming and told the staff they were there to open doors for the pupils but that they should remain out of sight behind the doors.
She had her own ideas on teaching and set up her own school. In 1941/2 she bought an existing Dame School, St Catherine's, from a recently retired Miss Peacock in Seymour Road, Knowles Hill. Newton Abbot. She took on some existing pupils and at first ran this school with its black and white school uniform and pupils to the age of 15. Many went on to Mrs Crosby's to learn short hand and typing. There was a school trip with the older pupils to France with Miss Rainford? and Miss Clifton. Before the school was recognised many boys were removed from Miss Rainford's school around the age of eight and sent to local boys public schools. Others were removed because parents wanted them in a single sex schools. One boy described his move from Miss Rainford's school to his single sex public school as like the sun going out.
Staff remember the School as run on a shoe string with her bank manager always encouraging her to put up her fees.
The School became KHS in 1946 after recognition. At a Parent Teachers Meeting, which happened to be all women, one male parent saw this and left. Books and equipment came with the school. At first there were three classes in what was the old billiard room on the bank and the room over the garage. Screens divided the old billiard room. It was also used for assembly as one room. The turret room started off as a classroom and later became Miss Rainford's office.
Jean Schnell now Ashton remembers that Miss Rainford taught her mother French at Newton Abbot Grammar school during the lst world war. She also taught Pamela Hough's Mother. The father of Tony, David and Nicola Hough was drowned in the Atlantic during the War. Mrs Hough their mother taught at the school.
Some of the earliest teachers were Rosa Hibberd who came from St Catherines and soon joined the armed forces. Her older sister called Ayre sent her children to KHS. Mary Tuckett came on from St Catherines was a farmers daughter from Hennock. Another teacher was Miss Seymour who was married to Polish airman. She had dark hair with a widows peak and died during a school holiday from a late pregnancy (an overdose of chloroform?.) Miss Rainford was very upset.
Miss Hudson who lived at Powderham Road was a piano teacher and there was another teacher called Mrs Oldengrove? Some of the 15 older St Catherines pupil's were, Marie Sharp, Della Robbins, Margaret Perryman from Ogwell, ? Buckpitt, Joan Chestnut who had two brothers in the RAF who were killed in the war, Barbara Henderson who lived at Knowles Hill at the junction on the way to Sanford Orleigh. She lived in a big white house on the corner. She used to run home from school when she got upset which was very inconvenient. There was Barbara Heathman who came from a farm near Highweek. There were school visits there to see the milking and harvesting. A cockerel on top of a chicken led to explanations on sexual reproduction. Barbara Worth was another farmers daughter. The many Barbaras changed all their Christian names on their exercise books which Miss Clifton soon sorted out.
Mrs Brunstrom a friend of my grandmothers, also a theosophist, a brilliant water colourist taught Art, water colour painting in not very structured classes, water colours with paint boxes and sketch books not large jam pots of powder colour as was used later on. Mrs Brunstrom also taught at Brixham.
There were evacuees at KHS. Valerie Singer who lived with the Sleemans. Their daughter was at KHS. One of the evacuees was Shirley Hudson. Her father was a cartoonist on a National Paper. She stayed with her family or people she saw as family in Chudleigh. Remembered as a mischievous child sliding down the main banisters at lunch time to arrive on the floor outside the Drawing room just as Miss Rainford was showing a visitor out. She also broke the washbasin in the turret room. One of the few times Miss Rainford was cross.
At one time many pupils and staff had mumps. One girl wanted to see what would happen if a thermometer was held in front of the fire. The mercury came out at the top!! Another occasion when Miss Rainford was cross.
Mrs Knowle who also taught at Ingston Convent taught music. Muriel Webber/Murch from Salcombe taught the six/seven year olds. Another teacher, Monica Honeywell from Bickington had a daughter Maria who came to the school.
Miss Hilda Jaffa who married and became Mrs Zangwell was another teacher. She had a shop in Queen Street, Newton Abbot and sold the Daily Worker. She called staff by their Christian names, which puzzled the Pupils. She moved to London.
The history books we used were illustrated with bright Victorian paintings. We sang from a little pale blue book? a red one and a dark blue one in the morning assemblies, songs about nature. Who published these?
"Look out, look out. Jack frost is about, He's after your fingers and toes and all through the night that gay little sprite is working when nobody knows and All things bright and beautiful a Victorian hymn by Julia?
Miss Rainford taught us bird songs and encouraged us to be observant about the changes in the seasons, weather, plants and animals.
The KHS uniform was grey pleated skirts or grey trousers with sugar bag blue blouses and shirts, ties with horizontal blue and grey stripes and grey socks. We wore blue berets or grey hats with a badge, and the boys had blue and grey caps. We wore blue Blazers. In slimmer I think we wore blue and white gingham dresses with white collars.
Miss Clifton was one of the first teachers to be appointed at KHS. She saw the advertisement in the publication New Education. The pay was not Burnham scale but she remembers the school applying for and receiving government recognition Miss Clifton used to pick up a group of children which she brought to school in her car which she parked by the tall variegated holly tree in the lower part of the playground.. Other teachers were Miss Forrest-music and drama, Miss Joy Habgood now Gulston from Paignton, sister of John Habgood Bishop of Durham, A pupil had vivid memories of Joy and her brother in clerical clothes paddling in the sea at Teignmouth. - Another brother killed in the war? She lived in Newton Abbot during the week and went back home to Paignton at WIEs. Fred Merritt, Miss Pascoe, Mr Smith, Froebel tramed Miss Valerie Emett, now White. Mrs Dyer, Mrs King, Heather Button did a gap year as a pupil teacher in the early days of KHS, as did Thalia and Susan Childs. The staff were encouraged to use their initiative in their teaching and if they could make a good case for their ideas Miss Rainford would back them, for example geography and history field trips and swimming. Within the school day we used public transport, the red double Devon General Buses and the private coaches on the moors where the swallows nested in the rafters of the bus garage. We explored the River Teign and it's tributaries from source below Haytor to mouth on several successive days with a final swim at Teignmouth. We visited Bradley Manor and Exeter Cathedral. The Woolner children from Bradley manor were KHS pupils. As the school expanded Miss Rainford bought the house next door. The children enjoyed a freedom to be adventurous climbing trees and making dens with no accidents here as far as I remember.
There were a few accidents, a chipped tooth in the gym, which had a concrete floor, a cut arm on one of the visits to the cellar, a cut leg in a gardening accident, and a chipped tooth on leaving the school in icy weather. There was not the tendency to use the law and sue for such accidents in those days.
We were all taught to swim at the Penn Inn open-air swimming pool and we went to the indoor seawater baths at Torquay. The school had the use of Madge Mellors, a local catering business's Tennis court for games and the tennis courts in Baker Park. We had access and use of a hilly field behind the school where in summer stories were read to children in the shade of this spreading oak tree were described as magic by many pupils.
Later the school was a primary and nursery school with average class size of 15-20 children. The pupils included children with mental and physical difficulties who benefited from the individual attention in the small classes. The local authority funded these children. Eric Cooke had a stutter but improved with Miss Rainford's help. We had a deaf child, two children who were Autistic? Who could communicate but not with words and another child with calipers on a leg. Geraldine Sleeman's father was blind. He taught music at Court Grange, a school evacuated to the area. KHS children went there for sports days and open days and marvelled at the blind children racing and doing other sports organised by sound not sight. Gillian and Timmy Blake were the Children of the Headmaster of Court Grange.
The children in the Nursery had a rest after lunch on little camp beds. They ate separately in their big room and had plastic cutlery. The older children helped with the washing up. There was a pot kept behind the Piano, a large wooden train and a rocking horse and a painted alphabet frieze. Vegetarian food was provided for some children, at Miss Rainford's table, later raw vegetable salads were served in a separate room. One pupil remembers picking dandelion leaves for Miss Rainford's salad lunch. We were given French names and spoke French with Miss Rainford during lunch. It was part of the curriculum from an early age, our text book was Coquerico. We were taught to read music and were part of a percussion band with recorders, cymbals, drums, triangles and Indian bells. Miss Rainford invited all the pupils who were about to take the 11+ to her room in the turret to make us aware of the seriousness of the tests and to make sure we all had a watch. She sent us out in a serious and confident frame of mind and did not make us too worried. I remember being given brand new freshly sharpened pencils to go to the exam. Miss Rainford was friendly with Miss Evans another primary school head at nearby Decoy School who shared her views.
Later the school expanded and moved to new premises, Churchills and Sanford Orleigh with older pupils and boarders who boarded with Mr and Mrs Hampson who did such a good job that even children from nearby Ashburton wanted to board when they had no need to board. There was a school minibus, which picked up children for school and was used for outings. A swimming pool was built. Mr and Mrs Horner ran Sanford Orleigh. He had been in the RAF. Other teachers were the Hendersons. KHS ethos was mutual respect, creativity with art music and drama, cooperation, love of the environment and internationalism. There was no physical punishment or religious indoctrination. I cannot remember any bullying. We we were taught to be considerate to the children with disabilities.
The pupils of primary age acted Toad of Toad Hall and Shakespeare plays out doors in the grounds or at St Mary's Hall. Jean Snell remembers one of the early summer plays organised by Joyce Clifton was part history, part English as well as drama. The children wrote and made the clothes as well as acting in it. It was about the civil war. Susan Childs remembers doing A Midsummer nights Dream, Susan Burwash later remembers a play Lady Precious Stream.
Leonard and Dorothy Elmhurst of Dartington Hall sent their young nephew or great nephew Christopher to KHS. The school was more structured than the school at Dartington. After the war some children from Holland came to Devon for three months. Miss Rainford encouraged them to come to KHS and helped them with language problems. Joyce Clifton had the Snells and some Dutch children at llsington. They saw her horses and went out to tea
The large cobbled cellars with wooden pillars were used as a shelter when the railway station and Mount Pleasant Road and other places in Newton Abbot were bombed in the war and occasionally as a place for playtime in bad weather.
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