Stonehouse History Group

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- promoting  interest in the History of Stonehouse & the locality.

Wycliffe at the Grove

Early Days at Wycliffe Pre-Prep

Wycliffe preparatory school for boys underwent a dramatic change in 1983. Head-master Michael Timpson appointed a new schoolmistress, Mrs Doreen Tucker, to open a co-educational pre-preparatory department at “The Grove”. This was a beautiful Cotswold stone house, swathed in wisteria and roses.

The green velvet drawing room curtains were taken down, so that the room could be transformed into a classroom suitable for infants, and the plumbers began work to provide appropriate toilet facilities. New, small-size furniture was ordered, also a good range of educational equipment and books.

The school outfitters (Batemans of Stroud) ordered the smallest sizes of woollen sweater obtainable, from the Scottish suppliers, and the department opened in April 1983 with a dozen three and four year old boys and girls. At that time several masters (including Roger Kirby and Bob Everett) still lived at “The Grove”.

In fact Bob kindly allowed Mrs Tucker and the first Pre-Prep children to watch their school programme “Words and Pictures” on the television in his study.  The Upper and Lower Prep classes were also at “The Grove”, taught by Miss Hart and Mrs Parry. The Matrons were Mrs Smith and Miss Jestice, Mr Grosvenor was the gardener and handyman.

At playtime the children were taken outside, with supervision, to a nearby part of the extensive playing fields. They collected conkers, from “the three chestnuts”, in season and watched the squirrels in the trees. There were also three ropes for swinging on, a see-saw, a roundabout and a huge “swing”. This seated at least six “little ones” at once and great fun was had, pretending to travel to London or the seaside, while Mrs Tucker used all her strength to push the swing as high as it would go! (Sadly these swings were banned and dismantled in all Gloucestershire playgrounds – including Wycliffe – well over a decade ago.)

At lunchtime Mrs Tucker escorted the children to the “Windrush” dining room. The younger boy boarders lived here, under the care of Miss Hart and the matrons. The dining room was oak panelled and the children had to be lifted up on to the high dining chairs. Each day two different children sat on the huge “carvers” as the King and Queen! The lunch was brought in by Miss Goymour and often had a delicious pudding specially made for the youngest Wycliffians. Many of the children attended part-time and so there would be a new mix of children in the afternoons.

Mr Timpson retired at the end of the department’s first term and was followed by Mr Jamieson. He appointed Mrs Janet Morgan as Pre-Prep classroom assistant – to help with the increased number of pupils. The department gradually grew, so that there were four classes, and plans were made for Lower and Middle prep to move out so that the whole of “The Grove” could be taken over by the Pre-Prep. The Headmaster at this time was Mr Michael Thompson and he and the Governors decided that the building really needed a new roof. The summer holiday was planned as the best time for this work and so classroom equipment was packed away ready for work to begin.

Unfortunately the workmen soon discovered dry rot and the work required was far, far more extensive – and expensive – than anticipated! As a result work was stopped, and the whole building covered in protective plastic sheeting, while decisions were made for the future. In the meantime Pre-Prep had to be quickly re-housed – there was just one week before term began! As the kitchen at Windrush had closed, and all meals were now cooked at the Ryeford site, it was decided that the old kitchen and dining rooms could be called back into service. The Pre-Prep staff spent the last week of their holiday moving equipment from “The Grove” into their “new” premises and transforming them into two useful classrooms.

The school also hired two portacabins for the other classes. When the children returned they were amazed to find their school “in a plastic bag”! At first some parents were worried about the change of venue, but their fears were allayed once they saw how well the Pre-Prep staff had transformed their new home. (In fact, one parent greatly boosted staff morale by telling other parents “The buildings are not important, it is the staff who make a school. It wouldn’t matter if Mrs Tucker was teaching them in a barn, they would still be getting an excellent education”!)

A fire, started by vandals, decided the fate of “The Grove” and it had to be demolished. A new terrapin building was erected to replace the two portacabins and the teachers were delighted to move in to the light and spacious rooms.

This building was later extended to  provide three more classrooms. Mr Roger Outwin-Flinders became the new Headmaster and in 1994 Miss Anna King joined Pre-Prep, to open the Wycliffe Nursery, in one of these new large rooms. The department swelled to 142 children, from Nursery to Year Three, and so it was decided that the Key Stage Two year-group should transfer to the Junior school site at Ryeford. In the year 2000 a brand new purpose built Pre-Prep building was erected – on the site of the old kitchen and dining rooms. This has a large PE and Assembly hall, a library, an office and four classrooms. The rooms are all bright and spacious and the frontage has a useful covered verandah. The building was opened, by the chairman of the governors, and nearly five hundred people attended the ceremony.

These included past and present parents, staff and – of course –pupils! A display of the history of the junior school was on display in the Pre-Prep hall  for the adults; the children (many dressed as knights and princesses) enjoyed the presence of the knight on horseback, from Warwick castle, and the mediaeval themed display from children’s entertainer Captain Spanner. This theme was taken from the picture on the cover of one of the old school magazines - a knight on horseback bearing a banner inscribed with the school motto “Bold and Loyal”

Doreen Tucker.

The Grove 1960’s

The Grove 1983

The Grove 1984

The Grove 1930’s