|More memories of St Ives:
Slepe Hall School
by (the late) Betty Yeandle (previously Betty Robb)
who was a pupil at Slepe Hall School from 1930-1940, a time she remembered with affection and gratitude. She believed her education there, with its emphasis on self-discipline, was very suitable for its time, and she would have sent her own daughters there too, had it not closed in 1966.
|Oliver Cromwell resided in the original Slepe Hall between 1631-1636. It was situated on the site of Cromwell Place and Cromwell Terrace. This building was demolished in 1848 when it was occupied by the Rev. Mr Rugeley who kept "a young ladies school". At the time of the abolition of slavery, Mr Rugeley brought home "Mr Sambo" when he returned from travelling abroad and he became a general favourite in St Ives. He then built Slepe Hall in Ramsey Road in order to continue his work. This building was purchased during the 1870s by the Rev. Thomas Lloyd, Minister of the Free Church, to prevent it being sold to the Roman Catholics! The Rev. Lloyd believed in women's education and his three daughters taught at Slepe Hall, Martha becoming Headmistress.
The interests of the Rev. Lloyd proved to have a great influence upon Slepe Hall School, as he gave support to Christian missionaries at home and abroad, the anti-slavery movement, education and practical help for the poor, appreciation of music, the Temperance movement, the study of science, Church history and travel. This nonconformist school provided for boarders as well as day girls. The day girls often had to cycle past the boys' council school wearing their distinctive uniforms, panama or velour hats, gloves etc and had to receive jeers and taunts with controlled dignity - as later on I had to do. On the other hand, the day girls had to be lowered by ropes from the dormitories during fire practice!
During the 1930s Miss Hilda Newton became Headmistress (known as "Taddy" Tadpole!) The total number of pupils was approximately 50, day girls (like me) being in the minority. Boarders enjoyed the privilege of bread and dripping with their milk at 11am break! The Kindergarten (attended by my husband-to-be) was housed in an adjacent building known as "The Dovecot", and Miss Winifred Gray taught both boys and girls aged 5-7. Sea shells were used in arithmetic lessons. Form 2 moved to the main building and by the 3rd-5th forms, boys were excluded. Day girls' fees were £4 14s 6d per term, a small extra charge being made for books, piano lessons, uniform, e.g. blazer 21/6d, badge 6d, hatband 2/6d.
Girl guides joined with the town to present a masque of Empire and learnt to signal morse and semaphore messages using flags. They also gave a gym and dance display using Indian clubs and dumbbells.
Betty Yeandle was also the author of "Robb's Walk", the history of her family's rope making business in St Ives. This is available from the Norris Museum and from Walkers Bookshop in Crown Street.
|Slepe Hall School - A Little Later|
by Dr Bridget Wallace (previously Bridget Eaton)
The photo was taken at the Slepe Hall Old Girls' Reunion in 2006. Bridget Wallace is on the right. On the left is Davina Scrivener/Dakers, whose parents ran the Dolphin.
All my school days, from 1941-1953, were spent at Slepe Hall. At first in the kindergarten before "going up" to the main school. When I started school Miss Newton was headmistress. I remember the school performed "Masque of Empire" in the Corn Exchange. I was a page girl in a pink dress, carrying a "silver" wand which was broken and flopped over. Later we repeated "Masque" on the Priory lawn for the Free Church garden party. This time I was a nightmare, which was much more fun. I also remember being a sunbeam dancing on the school lawn for Parents Day, in a yellow and orange cheesecloth dress. Those were the days of Miss Maclean.
In - I think - 1946 Miss Newton retired, Miss Buckfield became Headmistress and Miss Maclean retired soon afterwards. Miss Buckfield changed the colour of the school uniform from navy to green and grey, and dancing in flimsy dresses gave way to gym displays in shorts and shirts.
Slepe Hall was a boarding school, so there was a whole area of school life that I, a day girl, knew little about. We had a matron, housekeeper, domestic staff and gardeners who looked after us and kept the school running smoothly.
At first little appeared to have changed from the description given in Betty Yeandle's excellent and comprehensive account of her years at the school.The Zenana bazaar held in November to support the Zenana missions continued to be a highlight of the year. We made lavender bags and kettleholders. Stalls were set up in the dining room and competitions in the gym. We served tea to parents and friends and hoped they would do some Christmas shopping.
Times were changing. Running the school during and just after the war must have been difficult. Although they were all well qualified, there was a frequent change of teachers. The curriculum became more restricted. Several subjects, such as geography were dropped. In contrast, around this time, a new block of classrooms was built next to the hard tennis court which greatly improved the teaching facilities.
As travel became easier after the war we occasionally went to the theatre, locally or in London to see a Shakespeare play and at my very first experience of foreign travel was a memorable visit to Paris in 1949, accompanied by Miss Buckfield and Miss Watkins who taught gym and games and trained the choir.
After Miss Watkins left to become an opera singer, the choir was trained by Miss Sadler who also taught English and History. In the spring term we took part in the county music festival held in Huntingdon. Mrs Fontaine taught sports and gym and the hockey team competed in the county trials also held in Huntingdon.
The school had a Guide company and Brownie pack. After Miss Maclean retired Mrs Fawkes became Guide Captain. She took us on enjoyable camping trips to Norfolk, Devon and Guernsey. Shortly before I left school Betty Yeandle became our Captain.
In 1951 the school joined in St Ives celebrations for the Festival of Britain. I remember parading round the Broadway, dressed as a peasant, playing the recorder. By this time "O" levels had replaced the "matric" exams and life became more serious. We studied history, English language and literature with Mrs Tait and French with Mrs Ilott. Mrs Kaplanska, a refugee from Poland, taught mathematics, including arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Scripture was taught by Rev Ballard. Mrs Hudson, who became the first woman Mayor of St Ives in 1956, taught biology. Piano lessons were taught by Mrs Tomlin and it was a great treat when she gave a concert for us. Other subjects offered were art, dressmaking and elocution all taught by visiting teachers. Miss Bartlett, the school secretary, taught Latin. My class took "O" levels in the summer of 1953 amidst all the excitement of the Coronation celebrations. We then left the shelter of Slepe Hall for the wide world.
I would like to record my thanks to Mrs Northcote, a temporary teacher, who encouraged me to go on and study biology.
There are more photos of Slepe Hall on the next page.
A brief account of life in the original Slepe Hall School in Cromwell Place in the early 1840s can be found here.