December 16, 2008

School ties: Life at Bedales "Work of each for weal of all... "

I mentioned recently that Antler and I went to boarding school together.. aeons ago. I was there from 10 until I was 13. Antler a bit longer, but for various reasons we both had to leave before the end of senior school. Perhaps this makes the memories more vivid... but those years stand out in my mind with a rosy glow..

We are a year apart in age, both now 50 plus, but have plenty of memories of school. We have entertained ourselves for some months catching up with each other, thank you Facebook :) A shared history is a great place to revive friendships.

Bedales was not really an ordinary school, and it certainly wasn't a conventional boarding school. In fact, we were referred to as females, not girls, which is only fair when half the school is males and they aimed for equality. My grandfather and his sister went there together in the early 1900's and I was offered the chance to go too.

Check out Wikipaedia on Bedales.....

Here it is in 1906:
When I went to board at the junior school, Dunhurst, at 10 and 3/4 , we were living in rural Cheshire. My parents drove me down the first time, but subsequently, the journey south each term meant taking the train from Nether Alderley to Crewe, then onto the Manchester to London Express, to meet my aunt who took me across London, clutching my wicker basket of guinea pigs, from Euston to Waterloo to pick up the school train and head south to Petersfield. It meant I rarely saw my parents between long holidays. They did come down once or twice, for a long weekend, but mostly it really was too far, so I went to stay with friends or one of my two sets of aunts and uncles who lived nearby.

The wonderful Gimson library.... outside....

Indescribable atmosphere inside

Bedales has a powerful Arts and Crafts tradition, epitomised in the Memorial Library (one of the last works by Edward Gimson, 1921). The double-height library, with open galleries at first-floor level; the use of wood for the structure as well as the floor and the furniture; the barn-like proportions; pitch of the roof; and even the height of the external parapet –

There is an amazing article of how this beautiful library was designed and built here
and this guy sums it up perfectly....

The orchard outside the library
This is Steephurst...aka " female flat ". My last place before we moved to NZ. You can play croquet on the lawn under the trees....

My first night at school was hard. I was sick , and very homesick. I wrote daily post cards home asking to be picked up, but my parents had, sensibly, gone away to Cornwall for a week and by the time they got the tear stained missives, I had made friends and was telling them to ignore the first ones. Just as well as I think my mother would have returned immediately if the tone had not changed! Leaving home was hard, but life at school was amazing...and I am glad I didn't miss it completely!

Life at Bedales is intense and demanding, creative and inspiring. Are you up for it?

So why was it so special? Fun, freedom, learning, music, arts, mischief, set in a beautiful place where you were with your friends all the time. Mixed age dormitories where the older students taught you the rules. A special character, a mix of fear and excitement, risk and daring, creativity and rules, boundaries when we stepped out of line, but not brutality, amazing acting, music, and famous people everywhere. Today, many things have changed. Sadly, it is now one of the most expensve schools in the UK and none of my friends can afford to send our own children there; they are trying to set up a trust to help make this happen in future...

What has this led to? Read here... although read it with a pinch of salt!

There appears to have been a major purge of undesirable students (although we are not sure how they classed people as such) in the early 70's... just before the royal family started there. I was lucky - I left to live in New Zealand late 1970, before they started purging lol

And I am lucky - I love it here. But a part of me will always be at Bedales...

Any OB's - look on Facebook for the Dunhurst and Bedales Groups , or leave me a message here..
and find more of us here


  1. No wonder we missed it.......!
    Your post is a fabulous resource. kind of explains it.

  2. Bedales looks like a beautiful building. As does Gimson Library. You have some great memories to cherish.

    CJ xx

  3. What a beautiful school. How lucky for you to have attended such a place and to have wonderful memories!

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