Kidstones School - The Rookery
Following the death of the last surviving member of the Lodge family, The Rookery was sold in 1921 to John Bryan Fawcett and turned into a farmhouse. The Fawcetts already owned and farmed West New House and Scar Top, which were adjacent to The Rookery. Following the death of John Bryan Fawcett in 1936, The Rookery and its timber plantations were sold and the proceeds divided among his children, but the farmland was retained by the Fawcett family. Their ownership of all three farms was recorded in the 1941 Farm Survey of Bishopdale.
The new owner of The Rookery was a Mr. Green, whose primary interest was in the timber. In 1940, he leased the building for ten years to Mr and Mrs. Kenneth Bell of Beverley, who saw its potential as a boarding school for children from areas threatened by wartime bombing. Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, there was a need to move children away from the bombing. This began with the evacuation of children from vulnerable cities and towns to the countryside and several evacuees were recorded in the 1939 Identity Registers for Thoralby, Bishopdale and Newbiggin. However, in Bishopdale, this went one step further when The Rookery was turned into a boarding school and re-named 'Kidstones School'. At the same time as leasing The Rookery, Kenneth and Dorothea Bell also bought Ribba Hall, but didn't live there, leaving it in the hands of a tenant farmer.
The Bells were already sponsoring Marjorie Gray and June Voake, who were running a small school the Lake District in 1940 that had become overcrowded. The leasing of The Rookery enabled them to move the school early in 1941 into the larger premises it provided. Advertisements in the newspapers for the new Kidstones School included the following information: "Co-educational 7-18"; "2½ guineas per week"; "Safety from the physical and mental effects of war"; "Progressive methods"; "art, music, riding"; "special course for farm children, including Typing, Agricultural Book-keeping etc." and "large productive garden, home farm". Presumably, this 'home farm' was Ribba Hall. The Bells sent their own two daughters, Heather and Rosemary, to the school and kept in touch with former pupils long after the school had closed (see pupil James Butt's account below).
The following reminiscences about Kidstones School all come from documents housed at the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes.
Marjorie Gray, Joint Headmistress,
(She was known as "Chile" after the place of her birth and later became Mrs Eagar)
"With a friend, I had started a small co-educational boarding school in the Lake District in 1940, mainly for children living in vulnerable areas, and we soon found we needed more space. We were sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Bell, who found this splendid house in Bishopdale, and late in 1940 a 10-year lease was signed.
We moved into the Rookery at the beginning of 1941, through ice and snow. The house was wonderfully strongly built, with huge rooms, a magnificent staircase, and a vast cellar, with an equally vast, ancient boiler which provided quantities of hot water, but none of the antiquated radiators functioned. We christened the place "Kidstones".
We grew so rapidly in numbers that we had to have the hayloft over the stables converted into a dormitory for sixteen of the young children. Mr. Bell also bought Ribba Farm, so that the school was catered for.
Mr. Inman, from Manchester House, Kettlewell, drove over Kidstones Pass once a week in a fairly vintage Rolls Royce supplying us with all available groceries - a delightful gentleman, who always wore a top-hat.
At the end of 1945, the war being over, I decided to close the school, and the Youth Hostel Association took over the remainder of our lease."
Entrance to stable yard -1958, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
Betty Short, a teacher (now Mrs. Lunnon)
"I was a townie, but I loved it - the Dale, the Dalesfolk, the set up, the lot - I learned a great deal and look back on those years as unique and unforgettable. Life, perhaps, as it should be lived! I stayed on to the end, but that was a very, very sad occasion for me.
The scenery was superb, the air unbelievably good, freedom unrestricted, space to grow and flourish. And the children did - they climbed the hills, roamed the fields, experimented using their initiative and enterprise in ways that were creative, not destructive.
There were difficulties, of course; the house was isolated, transport difficult, (though the school horses, trap. etc. helped); food a problem at tines. ("homegrown" efforts never wholly succeeding except to feed the rabbits, and even the honey tasted of garlic when the hives were moved). Communication was almost non-existent (our application for a phone was rejected even though the nearest train-stop, asked for on the form, was Leeds) But there was always, an unfailingly, Postie, a real good Yorkshireman ['Post Willy'] who trudged up and down Bishopdale with unflagging good humour, regardless of snow, storm, wind, or water. He kept us in touch with the outside world and the valley world.
Looking back now from a distance of nearly 50 years, I find it surprising that the "valley" accepted us, helped, came to our plays, concerts, etc. held in a converted chicken-house, still smelling of former occupants, despite much scrubbing, scraping, and scouring by all of us. At first, they were often nonplussed, and must have wondered what had hit them - at times they thought we were daft!"
'Post Willy' Cockburn, at his cottage in Aysgarth, courtesy of DCM, Hawes
Looking down Bishopdale -1958, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
Ann McCallum a Pupil 7-10 years old (Mrs Ivimey-Cook)
"My father was a doctor in Middlesbrough, so was not called up. I was taken to school by my parents, a journey by train to Northallerton, then change to the line which went up to school. Meeting some of the other children in the fields, I was fascinated by their shorts. We got out at Aysgarth [see image of Sation below] and took Vic Hammil’s taxi up to school. Meeting some of the other children in the fields, I was fascinated by their shorts. Uniform was a dark green corduroy trousers with elastic anklebands and a matching battle-dress jacket with a small round collar and belted waist and wrists, warm and practical.
I slept on the loft, we had meals in the big house, and lessons all over the place! I remember one fine day, Betty Short reading us the “Wind in the Willows” sitting on the grassy bank in front of the house. Arithmetic was different. I hated it and still do! Tom Merrington, who sometimes taught arithmetic, could, could usually be prevailed upon to go and bring his accordion for us to dance around to. Another time I deliberately split thick flour and water past onto my textbook so that I could not do my arithmetic! We all had a hand in drawing and painting, under Chile’s direction, a frieze of large animals going round our hut.
Breakfast was sometimes in the kitchen with its big warm Aga. We had muesli, made from rolled oats with any fruit to hand added, then cold milk was pored over it and was left to stand overnight. On my ninth birthday I had a cake covered with little wild strawberries picked from the retaining wall outside the back kitchen door.
The wildflowers were wonderful, and we all went fruit-picking to help out the rations. Have you ever tried stringing elderberries or de-seeding rosehips? A cold bath every morning does toughen you up, as a result we swam in the beck in all weathers, including snow! After breakfast there was school singing. We all assembled in the front room and one of the big boys James Butt [1929-2003] (Jim) played the piano and we sang from the students’ song book. I loved singing and Jim was a fine pianist who went to be a professional musician and composer.
When you entered the big house by the front door, you were in a large hall with a ceiling which went up to the roof and a gallery across two sided of its rooms opening off it. We had a marvellous time sliding down the banisters which must have been fifteen feet from the floor at the top end. No-one ever cane off to my knowledge and there was not a bump or post to impede you from top to bottom!
There were gardens to the side and front of the house where Geoffrey (Eagar) grew food for the school if and when the rabbits let him. The vegetable garden was several feet down from the front terrace and fenced off from where the horses grazed. Geoffrey looked after the bees too. We “lofties” had a Shetland pony of our very own called Tuppence – we were responsible for him and his tack, he had a felt saddle with leather straps on it. He came to school standing sideways across the back of a fairly small car! Being out at grass he soon got as round as a barrel, but we could not get him to go over the jumps as Dinah the other horse did. We would run beside him to encourage him, but even though the rail was at the level of his fetlock, as he came to it he would carefully step over it, it was quite heartbreaking! We had two cats, one called Sky belonged to Chile, and the other, a black and white one called Earth.
We all spent many happy hours at the “swimming pool”, where a waterfall fell into a round pool about for feet deep, swimming, playing with water, rushing round the field and sunbathing. Sometimes we played fivestones or jacks, or we skipped with one's own rope or all together with a big rope, or we climbed trees.
If we walked to the farm we were confronted by the geese which Tom Large kept in the field beside the bridge. I also remember Arno Salamons, another of the Lofties being chased across the field with a goose attached to the back of his pants and the whole flock honking and flapping their wings. One day we decided to sleep in the hayloft. At teatime we secreted bread and butter in our knicker legs and then, when we were supposed to be in bed all crept out of the loft window, and I remember all 22 of us running down the field, led by Arno. Then Chile showed up, very cross, we were not only playing truant, but not improving the hay at all. We were sent back in the loft in disgrace, it was around nine thirty by then and it was nearly a 25 minute walk back.
When we were ill Dr. Pickles (or sometimes Dr. Ord) came and looked after us. He had a watch chain and I can still see his round face coming round the door. [Aysgarth's G.P.]
We "helped" with potato-picking, and haymaking too. We went on an all day expedition to Semerwater, with horses and a cart for the little ones, with a picnic by the lake. In the very bad winter of 1943, when the school was snowed up for about 6 weeks, Chile went on her mare, Fuego to Thoralby and came back with a sack of flour and other things.
The rats were bad in the old house, Chile met one when she was going downstairs and promptly fainted down the rest of the flight!
In my last term we produced "Twelfth Night", with costumes made from white muslin and blackout material - it was fantastic!"
The 'Lofts' -1965, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
The wild strawberries, outside the back door, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
The Rookery -1940s, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
The Rookery staircase, courtesy of Graham Bell
The swimming pool field, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
The swimming pool, courtesy of Mrs Ivimey-Cook
The Mad School, by Janet Maw, a pupil, aged 6-8 years (1943-45)
The following is an article in the Dales Countryside Museum publication, Now Then, November 2004.
"IN THE AUTUMN of 1943, my father took my brother Nicholas (aged seven) and myself (aged six) by train from Grantham to Northallerton. I thought it was York, but my brother remembers otherwise. From here we caught a train to Aysgarth, from where we took a taxi to our new school in Bishopdale, Kidstones School. On subsequent journeys we travelled alone, the train guard making sure we got off at the right station. It was not the beginning of the school term: all the other pupils were there when we arrived. I remember two things from that first evening. Firstly, I could not understand why the bathwater was brown, never having been in a peat area before. This did not prevent me getting in the bath with the other children. Secondly, I was furious to find another girl called Janet: I thought she had stolen my name. We subsequently became good friends.
Staff and pupils from an unknown school boarding a train at Aysgarth Station for a school excursion c.1903-06, courtesy of Stephen Musgrave.
Kidstones School was opened fairy early in the second world war, sponsored by a wealthy Manchester manufacturer who sent his two daughters, Rome and Heather, to safety away from the city. He was generous to the school, and I suspect some of his generosity came our way, because I do not believe our father could have paid the fees unaided. The school was located in a large house called The Rookery, but I assume that the title 'The Rookery School' would not have been thought attractive to prospective parents, so it name was borrowed from the farm about a mile away up the dale, Kidstones. The building consisted of the main house, behind which was a courtyard surrounded by outbuildings, and entered through a rather imposing archway (see images above). The main house no longer exists, but the outbuildings have been converted into a dwelling, fronted by the courtyard and archway. However, some of the ornamental trees that flanked the main house are still there, and can be seen from the road (see image below). A lawn still slopes down to the ha-ha wall, from which the stone bridge over to what used to the school paddock can be seen.
The school was a progressive school of the type supported by liberal and left-wing parents in the mid-twentieth century. Christian names for staff were always used, and relationships were fairly informal, though there was no question of us having the choice of whether to attend lessons. The two headteachers, both very young, were Chile (named after where she was born) and June. I do not remember any of the senior school staff except Frank, who taught woodwork in a large attic in the main house, heated by a great central stove. He helped us to make sledges. The school was very small, probably about sixty seniors twelve juniors. The juniors only went into main school for meals, assemblies and woodwork. Our dormitories were in the old hay lofts above the stables and laundry, at the back of the courtyard. We were known as 'the lofties'. We were taught in a large wooden shed on the hillside at the back of our dormitories.
Our teacher was called Bet. She was a Geordie and a conscientious objector. She came to teach in a private school because she lost her job in Newcastle. I expect it was thought a 'conchie' would not be an appropriate role model for pupils in a state school during the war, so she got us instead. Our curriculum was nothing radical. The only major deviation I remember was never having any formal physical education or organised games - plenty of exercise, but not PE. Bet was a splendid teacher. She insisted on hard work, but was very supportive, interesting and very funny she made us laugh a lot. She was a maths teacher in secondary school, and at that time maths was my favourite subject. When Bet thought I had done well she would draw a cartoon, under her marking of me engaging successfully in some activity in which I aspired to success, but was in fact somewhat shaky, if not downright incompetent (such as riding a bicycle 'no-hands' downhill, or doing the ironing). She used to tell us stories about teaching in Newcastle during the depression, of families with only one pair of children's shoes, so that pupils had to take it in turn to come to school. I believe she did not exaggerate; it was the environment she grew up in and to which she returned after the war. She became a lifelong friend of my family. She died in 2000, and I miss her still.
Perhaps the most 'progressive' aspect of the school's relationships between teachers and pupils lay in its huge trust in the pupils to be responsible, to manage themselves, to know where the boundaries of acceptability lay. This was not drummed into us explicitly: it was simply assumed that this was the way things worked, the way people behaved. It is perhaps, best illustrated by an account of some physical activities we engaged in.
There were some horses at the school, stabled below the junior dormitories. I never knew who they belonged to, but there was a paddock in front of the school, reached by a stone bridge across from the ha-ha wall, in where some jumps, and where the horses grazed when not in the stables. Anyone who wanted could learn to ride, and I rapidly became fairly obsessive about this activity. The smallest horse was a Shetland pony called Tuppence. I was the youngest and smallest child in the school, so I got a virtual monopoly on his time when everyone else was taking turns for a ride. Once I had become reasonably competent, U was allowed to go off on my own, wither in the valley or up on the hills, often for hours on end, with a packet of bread and cheese if it was the weekend and no lessons. I loved the long rides, and used to return from them with all sort of questions for Bet. From then on I first began to some sense of history and the immensity of the past.
In the winter we went sledging. All pupils were required to have a ski-suit. This bore no relation to the high-tech, glamorous modern gear worn for skiing today. It was a rather clumsy jacket and trousers made of thick corduroy, with elasticated wrist and ankles. It was most unpleasant to wear when wet, and was rarely worn except for sledging. When the first snow came, virtually the whole school went sledging on the opposite side of the valley, a satisfying steep and challenging slope. By far the best method of descent was to lie on one's stomach, allowing the legs the maximum scope for steering. Controlling one's direction was important as there was a stream at the bottom of the hill, which honour required to be avoided by a swerve at the last possible moment. Needless to say that didn't always work.
In summer we went swimming. In the summer of 1944, this meant walking about half a mile up the valley, then climbing up beside Foss Gill to our favourite pool, by kind permission of the farmer at New Houses. Foss Gill, which has a steep descent from the hill, drops down in a series of waterfalls, the more substantial of which have been carved out pools large enough for a group of children to begin to learn how to swim. It was a marvellous place to bathe, with the water tumbling down around us. Above one pool, we could walk behind the waterfall. Last summer, my brother and I were given permission to walk up the gill again by the current farmer at New House. He told us that it was his grandfather who gave the school permission to swim there during the war. When I saw the gill again I realised just how potentially dangerous our swimming activities had been. Between each pool and the next waterfall there is a flat ledge of rock that one can paddle across easily. I think we were very lucky that in our many visits no excited child (and we were, generally excited) slipped and fell over a waterfall. Certainly no school would dare to hazard such activity today.
West New House, 1988, courtesy of Ann Houlbecki.
Nicholas and I were amongst a number of pupils who, for a variety of reasons, stayed at the school during the summer holidays in 1944. I remember it was a particularly idyllic time, with few rules and little supervision. Most of the time I went around barefoot, and by the end of the summer I could run down the gravel without flinching. We spent much time clambering up, down and across the scarr behind the school, riding and swimming. In the spring of 1945 the farmer at Ribba Hall let the school build a dam across the more substantial Bishopdale Beck running through his land. The dam consisted of two large concrete blocks, with a gap in the middle, filled with a wooden gate which could be adjusted or removed as required. This enabled us to learn to swim properly. It was not without its drama; one day the gate broke and the water rushed through. No-one was injured, but Frank had hung his clothes on part of a dead tree lying in the beck just below the dam, and had to go rushing after them as the water dragged the branches downstream. Whether he retrieved all his garment I do not know.
Ribba Hall, 1988, courtesy of Ann Houlbecki.
The school was, I think, very self contained. Pupils had almost no contact with local people, and I doubt whether the staff had much more. The people I remember are some of those on the two farms I have already mentioned. The juniors had most contact with Ribba Hall which we visited often. The farmer was called Thomas Large, and he was assisted by Chris Little, another conscientious objector, assigned to the farm during the war. The farm had two very large workhorses, Peggy and Dick, who could accommodate the entire school on their capacious backs. The farm people were invariably kind to us, tolerant of our frequent visits.
The school closed in the summer of 1945, as the war ended, and I remember three things in particular from that final term. Firstly there was a lot of tree felling, and the meadow through which the school drive ran had great piles of enormous logs, over which we scrambled. I have always assumed that the trees were felled to assist with war damage repairers. Secondly, we built a great bonfire on the hill behind the school to celebrate VE day, and we could see the other bonfires dotted along the dale. We juniors did not hear a great deal about the war, but we could feel the growing sense of relief, and it was clear that big changes were coming. Finally, shortly before the end of term the whole school, staff, pupils and horse went a a day trek across the hills to picnic above Semerwater. I, rather smugly, rode Tuppence most of the whilst the other pupils had to take it in turns on the horses. It was a most beautiful day, and it is my last distinct memory of the school. I did not realise then how much I would miss it.
Semerwater is the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire and one of only two natural lakes to be found in the Yorkshire Dales, the other being Malham Tarn. Courtesy of My Yorkshire Dales, 2015.
Since I have returned to live in the dales I have, on different occasions, described the school and where it was to two dales residents old enough to recall it. Once they realised where I meant their reactions were identical;
'Oh, you mean the mad school!'
This, I think is understandable. The self-contained nature of the school must have generated many rumours, and what was known accurately about its activities would have generated considerable suspicion, It was not like a normal school of its time, but to me, Kidstones School was a kind of paradise. I was eight when I left."
Bishopdale School - Janet Forsey, a pupil, aged 6½-10 years (1940s)
"At first, Ann and I were only girls under 10, and were among the “lofties”. There were nearly 70 children, with 10 staff to do all the cooking, cleaning and washing (helped by us), as well as coping with emotional problems – there were also evacuees from the Channel Isles, London, Manchester, etc. No wonder the timetable soon became non-existent! The aims were, in theory, progressive-child centred learning through first-hand experience, with the opportunity to develop our potentiality and gifts. We had horses, cats and bees; we found wild strawberries, raspberries, and gooseberries; we learnt self-discipline and how to improvise.
There electricity generators at the school and farm; we all drove the old tractor, and one day, when it rolled over on top of Tom Large (the manager), he said goodbye to us all as we watched with tears running down; but he survived thank goodness!
But we loved it there. Mrs. Chaman, at Longridge, made bread and Yorkshire biscuits for us, and there was that special smell there, of clean soap, wholesome cooking, and cow-grass. And “Cheese and Teas”, where parents could stay, produced teas, even at the height of rationing, as good as today or better – Cream, Jam and Eggs.
When I went back in 1950, the warden at the Hostel had a talking Labrador which had been on the wireless! (see Youth Hostel )."
Painting of 'Kidstones School' by pupil Janet Forsey
James Butt a Pupil 12-16 years old (1929-2003)
"Late in 1941, at the beginning of the summer term, I was taken at the age of 12 by my mother to visit Kidstones School, in Bishopdale, mother having decided that if she felt the school was suitable, would leave me there and return home to Northwood, [Middlesex] on her own.
Arriving at the nearest station, (Leyburn, [more likely to be Aysgarth], five miles away,) we were collected by Stephen Coates, who taught English, and driven to the school. As we drove down and up the various hiss, and along the comparatively smooth, level pasture land of the dale, I remember feeling more and more as though a grand Archduchess and her son, particularly as we caught sight of the school in the distance: an enormous old house at the end of long drive, with roman pillars to each side of an imposing oak front door, sitting in the middle of the dale.
The drive ran down the side of a stretch of green park land in which the planting of pines, oaks, and elders, suggested the landscape of a past age. At the end of the park land was a fairly generous lawn, a little raised up in a terrace it's own, and behind this stood the house.
Before the day of our arrival was over mother had decided that I should stay at the school, and set off home.
I soon learned that the school house had been built in three stages, at the south end were remains of a comparatively modest farmhouse, which was so old that no-one knew it had been built. in the middle was a more "recent" part, with wooden panelling and flooring of a dark cherry colour, typical of the Tudor period, and finally the end which was built on the grand scale, evidently in the middle of the Victorian period. The front door opened straight into a magnificent dining hall, from which was a beautiful hand carved staircase led up to first second and third floors. On these floors were innumerable bathrooms and bedrooms, which had been changed into dormitories and classrooms.
The back of 'The Rookery', clearly showing the three stories and the long tree lined drive way. Courtesy of Rowley and Margaret Fawcett.
During my first twenty-four hours there it came as a very, very pleasant surprise to learn that formal barriers between teachers and pupils had been dispensed with, and that we addressed the teachers by their christian names. Standards of child behaviour were exemplary, without lurking punitive threats, which were unnecessary. The school was co-educational at all levels, and we were given more freedom than was usual at most schools. The value of individual self reliance was stressed, and as young teenagers we were encouraged to develop a reasonable sense of social responsibility. There was an altruistic atmosphere among the staff.
There were some remarkable teachers there: firstly the co-principals, June Voake, and "Chile" Gray, who founded the school with financial support from Kenneth Bell, pioneering new educational policies which were not unlike the principles of some American high schools, and which have since been more generally adopted in our present system. June Voake gave up teaching sometime in 1943, or 1944, for health reasons, and endless credit is to "Chile" fir the herculean task she performed in running the school single handed until the end of the war. It was "Chile" who introduced me to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, when the time came to leave school and seek advice on a future musical career. (At that time Britten and Pears were regarded as "promising up-and coming" musicians.)
I also remember Tom Merrington who had a science degree, and was also an excellent accordion player and jazz pianist: more than once we played for dances in duet. Geoffrey Eagar who was the gardener, growing all of the schools' vegetables, and taught French, was also a fine pianist. Stephen Coates taught english and history, having studied these subjects at Cambridge and wrote quantities of poetry in his spare time, before leaving the school in order to study psychology and take up a new career. There was also Joan Veldtman, our art teacher, whose husband was an instructor in the army.
Music was taught first by June Voake, who was an exponent of the Matthay piano technique. June was followed by Majorie Morrison, a well-known concert pianist whose husband was James Ching, (who had also devised a new piano technique,) but perhaps the best musician of all was Frau Liebler, a large German lady who had been rescued from a Nazi extermination centre in 1943 and brought to England by the underground: she had been a pupil of Felix Blaumenfeld, among others, (who also taught Vladimir Horowitz,) and had given successful concert tours. She was very positive in her attitude, and I can still remember the unusual way she had of staring out of the window while I played, and then suggesting a way of improving fingering, without taking her eyes away from the window.
I also remember a teacher named Terence Moore, who was at Kidstones during my last year there, and who had a degrees in psychology, two languages, and a diploma in musical composition. It was he who recommended me to Matyas Seiber as a composition pupil.
There were also some equally remarkable pupils, who included Kenneth Bells' own two attractive and charming daughters, Rosemary (generally known to everyone as "Rome",) and Heather, who did a great deal to set the general tone of behaviour. I remember that they two were both excellent pianists, and that Rome had a great desire to become a professional dancer. Another great friend of mine was Richard Knight, who developed a deep interest in Pirate History, (eventually taking a history degree,) and there were three daughters of one Mrs Joll, who was in truth a princess, and must have been the remaining offspring of the Bernadotte family who had been Sovereigns of Sweden and Norway until shortly after the turn pf the century, when "Granny and Grandfather" had to escape from Sweden by ski-ing over the Norwegian mountains before escaping by sea to England. It was through Mrs Joll that I came to know the managing director of the Oxford University Press music department, a Mr White, as she had been his secretary. (I was amused to find that he had knew nothing of her royal status.) There was also a pupil named Margaret, whose mother lived in North Harrow, and taught music to the two Royal Princesses, (Margaret and Elizabeth.) One of the loveliest young boys in the upper classes must have been Tom Smirthwaite, a Farmer's son who was always full of energy and had a great sense of fun.
Our natural personal ties were given free reign to develop: and in my case this was given a spur by the arrival of Marie Birt, who taught drama. We preformed the plays "Noah" by Andree Obev. "Arms and the Man by G.B.Shaw, "Twelfth Night", by Shakespeare, and a play called "The Redeemer" by Stephen Coates which was an entirely school product. I wrote the music for the ballet and songs which were part of the play, as well as writing, rehearsing, and preforming, music for all of the other productions. This was invaluable experience.
The tale doesn't end with the closing of Kidstones School. I remember my father discovered that "The Redeemer" had been published shortly after the war. Kenneth and Dorothea Bell invited myself, along many of the pupils, to a prolonged holiday at Appledore in North Devon, in the summer of 1945. While I was a young music student in London, I was often asked to visit Kenneth Bell and the family, and in 1949 they also invited many friends to sumptuous party at a restaurant in London known as Frascati's. It was an incredible delight for so many of the staff and pupils from Kidstones School to meet each other again. Soon after becoming a student with Imogen Holst at the Dartington School of Music in 1949, I was asked by Marie Birt to write music for a new play which she had just written, for performance in West Malling. I remember she told me after leaving Dartington she had helped Sir Laurence Oliver with Old Vic productions in London, and had coached actors when learning their parts for his film of Henry the Vth. Whilst still a student at Dartington, another pupil named Margaret, one of Mrs Joll's three daughters, turned up as a member of a travelling repertoire group, who were preforming plays in French. (Mrs. Jill's family were all bi-lingual.) When a concert of my works was given in the Holst Room of Morley College in London, in 1950, by Dartington students, Marie Birt and her husband Tobit were both present, and I still treasure an extremely kindly and encouraging letter which Tobit sent to me about it a few days later.
In 1951 I boarded a train at Ostend for Vienna, and was delighted to find Terence Moore, together with his wife and young children, climbed into the same compartment as myself: they were on the way to Bayreuth for the Wagner season.
In 1953 I was invited by Kenneth and Dorthea Bell to stay for a few days at a fruit farm in Kent, which they had purchased and started to manage a couple of years earlier, by which time their two daughters Rome and Heather had gone to live in California, and I remember they had recently been visited by Tom Smirthwaite, who still a very livewire and practically reorganised the whole farm.
Finally the most extraordinary and turn of fate occurred last year: I should explain that when my family moved here to Suffolk in 1971 we immediately became friends with two fellow composers, Bernard and Joyce Barrell. Sadly Joyce Barrell died last year, and it wasn't until that time that I discovered that Joyce Barrell's sister was Stephen Coate's wife, having married him soon after he qualified as a psychologist. In twenty years we had never known!
Comparing notes with Mrs Ivimey Cook, (who was Anne McCallum as one of the 'babies' in the converted stables behind the main house,) when she approached me about recording these memories of Kidstones School, we came to a conclusion that those of us who were pupils there would agree that as a result of that type of education, we were given a mental stability and integrity that has been a source of strength throughout our lives."
James Butt, 1992.