Securing our history for the future

St. Andrews School in Knowle Hall

Alan Calaminus was the speaker at the History group’s March 2016 meeting. He talked informally about his time as a pupil at St. Andrews School in Knowle Hall. The school was founded by his grandfather Paul and moved to the West country from London during the Second World War. It arrived in Bawdrip possibly via another site in Weston. During Alan’s time at the school his father the Reverend Peter Calaminus was the headmaster. The lively discussion covered a variety of topics and a moving picture emerged. In the 1950s Alan remembers the school as having more than a hundred pupils, both boarders and day boys. Geoffrey Jarman of Bawdrip was one of the day boys who came from the local community and the curriculum reflected this connection to farming families.

The school ran agricultural courses and was largely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. Alan remembers the walled garden on the site in full production. As resident on site he had to look after the animals during holidays and the pig was obviously more demanding than the usual school rabbit or hamster.

Discipline was strict and Alan remembers being beaten and making one attempt to run away. However, he remembered more entertaining stories. The school uniform was changed from blue during his time to striped blazers and the pupils acquired a local nickname of the ‘deckchair boys’! He had amusing memories of fire drills which involved the boys being lowered on a sling from the first floor. On one occasion the rope got snagged up on a spike with a pupil left dangling. From various photos he was able to indicate the use of the various rooms, but his favourite place was the staircase in the hall with its amazing unsupported construction and beautifully carved handrail. A pupil tried to slide down this, but it led to a catastrophe and a visit to hospital. Alan’s pleasure was to bump down the stairs on his backside!

As a sensitive boy he had a wild imagination for ghosts and such like horrors. He swears he heard a ghostly horse and trap coming up the drive way one evening. The large hooks in the cellar terrified him as he thought he might end up hanging there when sent to fetch logs for the fires in the evening. He remembers the portrait of the ‘French’ lady gazing over the sea to her lost homeland of France. He did admit that this memory might have been due to his romantic imagination, but he swears the picture which crashed down off the wall to the ground floor below could not have been caused by human hand and presaged a death!

The Folly on Knowle Hill had gone before his time, but Geoffrey could remember climbing its tower. The rocks scattered the slopes and the dangers of sledging down it were vividly recalled in the days when snow was a more regular feature of our winter weather.

As the son of the head Alan felt a little constrained and moved to another school. But his final words showed his deep affection for the Hall; crocodile walks on alternative Sundays to Puriton and Bawdrip churches, a billiard table and swimming pool, care of farm animals – what more does one need for a ‘gentlemanly’ education.’ The school finally closed in the 1960s.

Courtesy of Polden Post May 2016 by Jim Earnshaw

In the picture (L to R)

Lysbeth, Peter, Betty with Alan on her knee and Michael sat in the garden at Knowle Hall.

Alans sister who lives in Australia on the left.

Paul (L) and Peter Calaminus (R) 

Peter Calaminus became headmaster in 1951 until 1969 when he left to train as a minister in the Church of England.

Western Daily Press 19 Feb 1969