On Friday 25 March, as the Block 3 parents’ evening was underway in the Quad, the catering team were busy on the other side of the wall, stripping out the kitchen and servery ready for the workforce to arrive the following morning and the refurbishment to begin. The existing servery and salad bar had served its purpose for many years, but the time had come to renovate the facilities and ease the flow for hungry students during busy lunchtimes.
It was an interesting but nerve-racking three weeks watching the progress. In its bare state, the team uncovered some wonderful hidden features that are now proudly on display. Emotions ran high, worrying if it would be completed on time – but there was no need. On Good Friday, work was complete, ready for the start of the Summer Term. I’m sure you will all agree that it is a wonderful transformation, and I look forward to seeing you here very soon. A huge thank you to all involved in this project.
Before I arrived in September 1992, I attended a number of early appeal meetings. The governors’ intention was to build a new theatre as a centenary building and to finance it half by appeal and half from school funds. There was a good deal of enthusiasm for the project, though I remember some disagreement between professional actors in the Bedales diaspora, who favoured a less intimidating proscenium arch design, and those more familiar with school drama who largely favoured a more thrust approach, placing less reliance on the power of young voices.
The ambition was for a theatre of ‘wigwam’ design by Ian Templeton, of award-winning Hampshire County Architects. It was to cost £2m, and this required the appeal to raise around £1m. This was set against the construction of New Boys’ Flat, which started in September 1992, and cost £1.8m from the school’s own resources. It was designed by (Sir) Colin Stansfield Smith who led the Hampshire team.
As the appeal progressed, it became clear that it was unlikely to raise the necessary sums, and that the school would be in difficulty if it proceeded with the theatre without that income. Coincidentally, Alison Willcocks (staff, from 1983; head, 1994-2001) and I were working with Matthew Rice (1975-80) on a new prospectus and, in one of our visits to his studio in Fulham, he sketched a much simpler and cheaper approach, involving a courtyard set against the existing drama studio completed on the fourth side with a Hampshire barn, to be moved from an existing site. Unlikely as it was that this would gain planning approval (moving barns being less acceptable than when the original barns were moved), it set us thinking and Matthew suggested we talk to Charley Brentnall at Carpenter Oak who had been responsible for moving the original barns. Charley Brentnall put us in touch with Roderick James (timber frame specialist architect) and Peter Clegg (specialist architect in ventilation), who started developing designs. The theatre was to be timber framed and draw, not on artificial ventilation, but on natural ventilation through the tall ‘chimney’ in the centre. This fitted with the school’s environment ambitions.
The change in plan caused difficulty with some who had already contributed to the appeal. It led to a difficult opening meeting addressed by Sir Hugh Beach (Chair of Governors, 1990-96) which was expertly chaired by Kiffer Weisselberg (1954-61).
In due course, construction started with framing done on site and pegs made in part by Dunannie pupils. It was opened in 1996 and named after Lord Olivier. I gathered later from Sir Hugh that in fact it cost about £2m of which the governors contributed £1m from school funds – so no different from the original! This was apparently due in part to the insistence of building control, unfamiliar with this type of construction, on what they were thought by the architects to be unnecessary additional features.
A key contribution to the success of the project was the appointment of Mike Morrison (staff, 1993-2000), who came from Monmouth School in 1993, to be the first head of drama. While the theatre debate raged, in the term before he took up his post, he brought a small play from Monmouth, performed in the Reading Room, which led at least this observer to question why we needed a new theatre at all if he could create such magic in the simplest of rooms!
I plan to produce an illustrated book of the school’s history by examining what buildings have been bought, modified, extended, erected, demolished or projected over the 125 years of its existence. The book will be illustrated with photographs dating from 1893 and will include building ventures which have outlived their usefulness and have been pulled down, as well as those that have curiously vanished. An example of this latter is Wavy Lodge; it was the brain child of Peter Eckersley (1902-11) who, with friends, built and equipped the Lodge.
From here these pupils received radio signals and communicated with the world beyond Steep from about 1904. Eckersley was a pioneer of British broadcasting, the first Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Company Limited from 1922-1927 and Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Corporation until 1929.
Photographs of the shed are numerous, but even after close study, Ian Douglas (Bedales Librarian) and I cannot agree on Wavy Lodge’s exact position on the estate. Robert Best (1902-10) whom I met in 1974 could have told me but by the time I had learned that no one else alive knew of its location, Robert could not speak. This disintegrated Lodge will be included because it is a significant moment in the history of the school and the characteristic enterprise of its pupils.
To appreciate the value of these buildings it is worth having as a background even some little acquaintance with architectural history. To this end, 30 years ago, Ruth Whiting (staff, 1963-2000) was *given money to spend on books for the Memorial Library and among others she purchased Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Buildings of England: London in six volumes.
You can find them in the last but one bay on the right. We agreed that these would satisfy the historians as well as those interested in furthering their enthusiasm for architecture. The title of this introductory article is intended to echo that extraordinary and unique study of all English architecture, published by Allen Lane of Penguin Books beginning with Cornwall in 1951.**
Another remembered building is the Apple House, built from wattle and daub by pupils in 1935 for the storage of the fruit of the orchards about the estate; it was severely damaged in the Great Storm of 1987, used for a short time, at the request of pupils, as a space for contemplation, then declared unsafe, and scattered.
The book will give an account of why buildings are proposed, how and by whom they are designed and when it becomes possible to complete them. There are the Memorial Library and the Memorial Pitch: both are the result of a desire to remember the sacrifice of pupils and staff who fell in the two World Wars which it has been the fate of Bedales to witness and the memorials are gifts from a wide collection of donors which are one major source of enrichment of the school’s surroundings.
There is an effect of buildings which enclose a vulnerable and impressionable pupil, the appearance and spirit of the architecture.
Sheena Meier, the wife of the Head (1935-46) who succeeded Mr Badley, writes, “I am always reminded of the opening of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities when I think of 1940. For us it was the worst of years and it was the best of years. It was a time of fear and a time of exaltation. We lost at Bedales a third of the pupils and the school recovered the spirit of community of the early years”.
Throughout the long six years of war, the Meiers always supposed that after victory in 1945 numbers would rise again (as indeed they did) and a necessary programme of renovation and modernisation would begin. But although applications for entry to Bedales increased and there was increased money from income, restrictions on construction and requirement of licence made any expansion or development difficult to achieve.
It is not until, like the alignment of the planets which occurs only in special predictable circumstances***, three principles are simultaneously satisfied that these enterprises can easily be achieved:
The need for expansion because of the increase in the number of pupils or change of arrangements, like the introduction of the 6.2 boarding house
The increase in income from fees to finance the construction which may lead to the bank loan which enables the £7.5 million to build the Orchard Block
The determination to modernise domestic, sporting and teaching amenities according to expectations of pupils and (especially) parents.
Large scale architectural enlargement had to wait for 50 years. During the 1930s and 1950s the architect Vyv Trubshawe (1905-12) was given the task of making the school a more comfortable and therefore more efficient institution.
Hector Jacks (Head, 1946-62) writes, “There was the plan for large scale reconstruction that had been drawn up during the war years, which some hoped would be put into operation as soon as conditions were favourable, once the war was over. But all thoughts of that were soon abandoned; quite apart from the fact that building licences, the need for which was to be with us for several years to come, would never have been obtained for most of the work that would have been involved, the money was not available and was not likely to be raised by even the most successful of appeals…
“Vyv Trubshawe was a good architect and a devoted OB whose lot it was to serve a Board of Governors who, for obvious reasons, had no alternative but to tell him to watch every penny that he proposed to spend … so we had some austerity of design, flat roofs and no frills.
“Payment for the eventual Music School was completed on the morning of the day it was opened in the summer of 1960; (the gift of) a cheque was received from Nelson Haden, father of four Bedalians and Chairman of Governors 1947-49.”
Later, in the same restrictive atmosphere, Greville Rhodes (1926-33) designed the “N” (north) block and Jon Barnsley (1941-47) the “S” (south) block.
Jack Walesby (first Bursar, 1948-72) sees the evolution as “the autocratic years of the founder and the inhibited years of his successor which gave way to the post-war years of participation: every problem, every new idea, every proposed alteration was debated … all the staff felt they needed to contribute to the discussions”.
There are two important building phases: Edwardian confidence (1893-1922) and 21st century enthusiasm for devotion to making proper use of neglected Lupton Hall and a further purpose of the 18th century Steephurst Barn as well as launching into new facilities for Art and Design.
Since the appearance of the Memorial Library, redbrick and timber have been the prevailing building materials.
And, for the future, the adventure of a new assembly hall based in the gymnasium in order to redeem the loss of the Quad (Sheena Meier’s “Nerve Centre of the School”).
*By Cecilia Brayfield (parent) for Ruth and me to share.
**Over the decades Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been included. No other country in the world has this amazing expert study of its architecture, making every journey a potentially fascinating pleasure. Pevsner’s aim, in which he, to a large extent, succeeded, was to visit and record every architectural feature throughout the land. His notes will be quoted, and credited, in my book.
***May AD 2492.
Alastair Langlands would be grateful for any good photographs of buildings at Bedales from the years before 1940 (to add to those from the school archive) and an answer to these questions:
Where were the stables and riding school?
Where was Wavy Lodge?
When was the term ‘Block’ first used for our buildings and class years, and why?
Alastair’s book, Buildings of Bedales, will be published in 2022. Cost is £10 with all profits going to the John Badley Foundation. If you would like to reserve a copy, please email email@example.com.
Starting a new school presents challenges and starting a new school mid-year more so, but starting a new school in a global pandemic feels like throwing yourself in at the deep end. And yet, here I am, just over three weeks in to my first term at Bedales and the water’s lovely.
I have been ‘courting’ Bedales for three years and am excited to have arrived. For me, the most immediately powerful thing I’ve appreciated has been the people who have made me feel so welcome: students, staff, parents and the local community in Steep and beyond.
Something I was inspired by three years ago when I first visited and I’m delighted to see very much alive today is the spirit of the students here. For example, in my first (online) assembly, I introduced myself and asked the students to say hello to me as I walked around the campus; I was candid enough to confess to feeling a little nervous, being a new arrival. Some might have thought it unwise to admit such blatant vulnerability to an adolescent audience; however Bedales is no ordinary school and, for the next week, I was treated to delightful greetings from students of all ages. Outwith their warmth and kindness, I’ve had many interesting discussions with students on topics as diverse as prohibition, gender and whether or not we need school rules. I am filled with excitement about working with such lively and engaged young people.
I’ve been equally delighted to meet colleagues with whom I have so much in common, both in terms of our professional values, but also our broader concerns and beliefs. It’s been fun, for example, getting to know Andrew and his team in Outdoor Work who’ve taught me about their late-night vigils watching over the pregnant sheep, introduced me to Favour and Tasty (two of the delightful school cows) and finding myself amused at the sunburnt piglets grunting away in the spring sunshine. I also loved celebrating Beltane around a camp fire, while wearing a crown of ivy.
My new colleagues have patiently talked me through their work and begun teaching me the poetic, if baffling, vocabulary of the place. I can confidently say that I know the quickest way to ‘Peef’ and have enjoyed my first ‘Jaw’. David over in the English department has already shared with me some insights to Edward Thomas’ time living and working at the school which have brought his poems to life anew. I’ve even been able to sing in the church choir (socially distanced and COVID-safe, of course).
In the classroom, I’m particularly excited about the work we’re doing on project-based learning with our Block 3 students – something we’ll be finessing next year now that we’ve run nearly a full cycle of our new venture into cross-curricular learning. I’m also loving the variety and depth of our BACs which are now in the final stages of moderation.
While there is so much to enjoy about living in Hampshire at a school like Bedales, there are, of course, challenges: coming out of lockdown and slowly reducing the measures in place to combat COVID-19 is particularly frustrating for a school which values so highly the interpersonal (handshaking is still not allowed); our Block 5 and 6.2 students are working their way valiantly through the final weeks of assessments to provide evidence for their GCSE and A Level grades; and we do not underestimate the time it will take to bring our whole community fully back together again. Luckily, with the people, the environment and the traditions that make up this school, we are ready to make the most of what we have here.
For me, it is such a privilege to already feel part of this community and I’m so excited about the months and years to come.
Moths are declining in the UK. Studies have found the overall number of moths has decreased by 28 percent since 1968. The situation is particularly bad in southern Britain, where moth numbers are down by 40 percent. Many individual species have declined dramatically in recent decades and over 60 became extinct in the 20th century.
These alarming decreases in moth populations are not just bad news for the moths themselves, but also have worrying implications for the rest of our wildlife. Moths and their caterpillars are important food items for many other species, including amphibians, small mammals, bats and many bird species.
The reasons for the loss of moths are likely to be many and complex, including changes in the way we manage our gardens, pesticides, herbicides and light pollution. Climate change appears to also be affecting moths.
However at Bedales moths appear to be doing very well. Over the last few months, I have been putting out a ‘light trap’ once a week to attract moths and have so far found just over 100 species, including 4 types of hawkmoth – elephant, pine, poplar and the giant privet hawkmoth which has a 12cm wingspan.
Many of the moth species we have at Bedales are masters of camouflage – such as the Buff tip, which disguises itself as a birch twig and the Flame which has evolved to resemble a broken stick.
My favourite to date has to be the wonderfully named Merveille du Jour which translates roughly as ‘the best thing I’ve seen all day’ – pictured above (bottom right) merging into lichen on a fence behind the science department.
Many moth caterpillars feed on grasses and it appears that the policy of keeping areas around the school uncut is reaping rewards for both moths and the many other species that depend on them.
Over the past few weeks, in collaboration with a group of Block 3 Outdoor Work students and the Sustainability Group, we have begun the huge task of cataloguing the school’s biodiversity.
We started with the Lake, where we discovered 28 different species of freshwater animals, including water boatmen, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, whirlgig beetles and flatworms. A walk around the centre of the site revealed 38 species of tree and 19 birds, such as the green woodpecker and nuthatch. The use of a moth trap also showed there were 14 moth species in the wildlife garden behind the Science department, which is remarkable, considering it is late in the year.
The first phase of the refurbishment of the old Art and Design buildings to create new student studies is complete, and 80 study spaces (pictured above) were opened just after the start of this term.
Designed by Richard Griffiths Architects, with the interior completed in consultation with Old Bedalian and current Governor Anna Keay, the second phase started immediately after the first. The old Art buildings were stripped of anything that could be recycled ahead of their demolition at half term, when we also took the opportunity to remove the first two of the Academic Village buildings. A new building – a timber-framed structure clad in oak – will be built on the footprint of the old Art building; once complete it will offer our students excellent facilities in which to learn and spend time.
The first phase of the new student studies are complete and are currently being used by 80 6.1 students.
The high quality study spaces, which can be found in the old Bedales Gallery and Textiles building, were designed by Richard Griffiths Architects and the interior was completed in consultation with Old Bedalian and current Governor Anna Keay.
The second phase has now begun, with demolition work currently taking place that will enable a new roof to go on the old workshop, before the former Art buildings are removed ahead of reconstruction. The final building will be an energy efficient, high quality space for students, and the old academic village will vanish.
Completion of the whole project is anticipated for the start of the Autumn term 2020, and we will update you as the project progresses.
By Alison Mallett (née Melville), Old Bedalian (1939-46)
My first memory of the Lupton Hall goes back to the thirties and my single-figure age, just at Dunhurst. I had heard that a play was to be performed there and decided to see it. I was told that I couldn’t as it was “unsuitable for young children”. A challenge there! I slipped in with the audience and slid under one of the pews near the front. Somebody saw me and hauled me out ignominiously. Some years later, once I had moved up to Bedales, I suffered many bum-numbing Jaws, admirable though the principle. How many activities come to mind: speech competitions, Merry Evenings, Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare when not outdoors. Details like Paul Williamson (1940-46) clasping his hands over his chest, declaring, “I never apologise!” Bob Collet’s (1919-22, staff 1929-46) amazing hands playing Liszt; or the melting tones of Gervase de Peyer (1939-43) and Mozart.
The green rooms below were often used as practice rooms where in anonymous privacy one could loudly wail out one’s sol with Kol Nidrei and the like.
My most striking adventure was musical. Two flautist friends, Geoffrey Spencer (1939-48) and Jan Fabricius (1942-46), got together a small band of volunteers to play a Brandenburg Concerto. Our first rehearsal was nearly terminal. With no conductor, we were all at sixes and sevens. So one after another, a player stood up and waved hands and arms around but, astonishingly, completely out of time. Finally Jan said: “Ali, you’ll have to do it”. Unconfident, I pulled a twig from Miss Hobbs’ (staff 1920-47) beautiful flower arrangement, and waved it around. Amazingly it seemed to work. Rehearsals became fun. Our music master, Harry Platts (staff 1937-46), got to hear of our venture and lent me his baton and lots of advice. We were to perform with the whole school. “Start off with a bold upswing of the baton,” Harry advised.
The two soloists stood close below me. I swung the baton up with a bold upswing. The tip caught Geoff’s music and sent it flying over the orchestra to land on the resting big drum below the stage. Kerplonk! The next few bars were drowned in laughter.
We used to get many lovely musical performances, from staff, pupils and visiting professionals. The Griller Quartet were much loved. All four were drafted into the RAF and turned up one visit in their uniform blue. Late Beethoven, out of this world. Except that the cellist’s buttons rattled hideously against his audience. Between two movements he called out to the audience, “Can anyone lend me a pair of scissors?” Someone produced the scissors. The cellist then cut off all his buttons.
Now I trust future Bedalians will cherish lovely memories of the restored Lupton Hall.