at Smallbridge Hall School:- Sept. 1967 July 1968
I went to school there for one year, which is probably what most
The English girls, I suspect, were
there for the same reason as myself. My parents had decided to move
to another area of the Country, the time coincided with the years
between O-levels and A-levels, and my father fancied I would do
well as a secretary and signed me up for a years shorthand/typing
I, on the other hand, was fed up being moved away from my friends.
Had no intention whatsoever in being a secretary, and therefore
did not gain as much as I might have done, under different circumstances.
HOWEVER : I REALLY ENJOYED THE YEAR!
The range of girls and background
was huge. We were a school of about 25. Some of the foreign students
had brothers at a nearby (and similar) boys school. I remember in
particular one very lonely girl from a Muslim country who did not
join us for any classes and could not eat the same food as us, nor
come on the many school trips. She was often praying under a prayer
rug that covered her completely, and she spoke no English. Her brother
would visit from time to time to interpret her needs. Most of us
shared rooms with 2 or 3 others. She had her own room.
Others girls came from Syria, Persia, Armenia, an Italian countess,
a wonderfully elegant Greek, a Dane, cousins from South America/the
Bahamas (where they went for half term!), together with A girl from
Leicester who kept running away and eventually left for good, a
jockeys daughter and also the daughter of a race horse owner. Being
so few, I remember the girls quite well, although I no longer remember
their names. There were some girls with parents in the Armed Forces
I shared a room with 2 others, I think. It was right up at the top
of the back stairs, and through a secret door you could creep across
the rafters to another bedroom on the other side of the house.
I got on well with Mrs Newton the
owner (I think) and Headmistress. She treated us like adults
sort of. I suppose its all relative!
In addition to the O
levels I retook both English Lit & Lang. although had
OK pass marks already. I enjoyed particularly Current Affairs &
Politics with Sir Basil, who was charming. Some of us
were in Mrs Newtons Cordon Bleu cookery class
(the test for inclusion being able to make a perfect béchamel
sauce from memory). We cooked on the days that Sir Basil arrived
(in the evening) and he would kindly eat our stuffed mushrooms,
plum tipsy cake etc comparing one sample with another. Part of the
course was to lay a table formally etc.
I dont remember anyone playing
golf, but I rode at a nearby stables, or perhaps in Colchester.
Through woods that were sometimes occupied by soldiers of drill
which caused our horses to bolt on one occasion, and for
me a visit to the local A&E!
We had a punt that we could use on
the Stour that runs at the bottom of the garden.
We had sit and beg manual
typewriters and were taught Pitmans shorthand. I was not an
The school was twinned
with various organisations. The local bridge club met there and
I used to join them if they needed a 4th. Some of us attended a
public speaking course and I can remember on one occasion having
to discuss the pros and cons of a brain transplant as
part of an English Speaking Union curriculum. (Funnily enough I
found myself many years later judging students talking for an ESP
competition and the same subject was used!).
I also remember the flower arranging
and art classes, although I did neither, but cant remember why not.
I have a feeling their was local participation in that too.
The local hunt met at the school
and drinks were served outside the front door to the riders, all
looking very splendid in their red coats.
We shared dances with the (foreign)
boys school. They all seemed to be oil tycoons from the Middle East.
We also attended champagne cocktail parties with Officers from Stradishall
RAF (I think) base. We were allowed out with the Officers too!
There was a uniform list which included
a cocktail and evening dress!
We went to the theatre in London
to see Shakespeare and other plays, and read Shakespeare aloud in
the garden, when fine.
We had a wonderful cook, who baked
bread rolls in the morning for us. Sometimes she made us a batter
mix and we were allowed to use the waffle machine! I know I put
on weight during the year such was the feasting.
I had done needlework and sewing
at my previous school and I continued that too.
When there was a gap in the day we
would have to walk up and down the main stairs with a book on our
One of the teacher/helpers
a sort of Matron I suppose used to drive the school minibus to take
us to events. I remember she seemed able to drive as fast backwards,
as forwards. Quite terrifying when we had left the Hall but someone
had forgotten something before reaching the end of the drive.
The cookery class kitchen was in
a converted farm building. Smallbridge Hall had a home farm
almost immediately on its door step. I thought Mrs Thompson was
the cook, and that the Thompsons ran the farm. I seem to remember
they were the last farm in Suffolk still to be using heavy horses
to pull the plough etc
We often went to talk to the cows
as they awaited milking.
I dont ever remember going
to church, but we were on occasions allowed to walk to the village.
I was surprised to find Bures was quite large when I returned there
as an adult.
to Jennifer Chamberlin for kindly donating her memories of the school.