School History

Danesfield Manor School

School History

The Danesfield Manor School began as Danesfield Preparatory School in 1940, in response to demand from local parents for a school with high standards and a caring atmosphere. In the early 1920s the Manager of Barclays Bank, Walton-on-Thames, died and his widow, Constance Brabner, was left to bring up her young daughter.

She started a small junior school in her Edwardian house, ‘Danesfield',  by the Halfway railway bridge where she had two acres of land bordered on one side by the railway line.

The school prospered and she acquired the similar house next door with a further three acres.

The extensive grounds had a large hockey field, a netball pitch three tennis courts, and a well equipped gymnasium. Behind the School House was a lawn with a fine Cedar tree where prize giving was held... 

The lower forms were mixed with boys up to the age of seven, but gradually the girls' age increased to eighteen and the school was registered as a "Girls Public School". Good results were obtained in public examinations such as School Certificate.

In about 1930 a large hall was built onto the second house, which was the school house. The original house was the boarders' house and Mrs Brabner's home. The hall had a large stage and the school became well known for its excellent plays produced by Mrs Mary Fitz-Hugh. Eventually the two houses were joined together with the hall by three more classrooms.

The classrooms were heated by coal fires and it could be very chilly.

Hockey, netball and tennis matches were played with neighbouring schools. There was a school bus which brought pupils from Staines and other places and took seniors on outings to the Old Vic or London Exhibitions. Dancing classes were run by Mrs Margaret Barnes who was still teaching at 90! Mrs Saise led Gymnastics and Games and in 1930 Mrs Hickson started a Guide Company which rapidly increased and was greatly enjoyed. Elocution was popular under Mrs Ellers and gave confidence to pupils for public speaking later in life. At the end of each term those taking music or elocution were expected to perform.

When World War II broke out in 1939 Mrs Brabner, then in her 80s, felt she must retire and the school was sold to Miss McPherson. However this was not a success. She was unable to cope with such a responsibility and had a nervous breakdown. Staff and pupils were told that the school would be closing down as no suitable person could be found to run it. But Danesfield was not defeated! The small number of seniors who had not found other schools was taken by a beloved teacher of Botany and RI, Miss Violet Connolly, to the upper attic storey of Mrs Kirke at "Woodthorpe" in Station Avenue. Her two daughters were part of the new school which Miss Connolly named "Sarum" after her home town of Salisbury. The juniors were taken by two nursery teachers, Miss Audrey Kaye and Miss Quartermain, to the upper floor of another parent's home.

In spite of all the wartime problems the two branches of the old school began to flourish in their own right and moved from one building to another until Sarum finally ended up in Sir Stanley Machin's old home 'Cleves' in Oatlands Chase. Miss Kaye, having kept the old name, settled Danesfield in its present home in Rydens Avenue, which parents had helped Miss Kaye to purchase. Miss Connolly finally retired at the age of 90 leaving a thriving school but, after several Principals, the property was sold for development and Sarum closed.

Meanwhile Danesfield was becoming a much sought after school with an excellent relationship between parents and staff.

Gradually new classrooms were built in the grounds to accommodate the increase in pupils and more staff were taken on. Each day began with assembly and prayers and the importance of good manners and kindness to others was stressed. Mrs Fitz-Hugh, Mrs Saise and Mrs Barnes continued to support Miss Kaye with their high standards and the children continued to gain places in the senior schools of their choice.

Sports day was the highlight of the year with the annual play being performed outdoors on the lawn, then tea and an excellent gymnastics display organised by Mrs Monica Moorcroft, followed by the races and presentation of cups. The weather was nearly always kind and the parents' race was loudly cheered by their offspring.

Following Miss Quartermain's retirement Miss Kaye began to train Miss Tania Marsh (now Mrs Carlsson-Yates) to be her successor. When Miss Kaye failed to recover from an operation, Tania rose splendidly to the challenge and the whole school enjoyed her leadership. Sadly after some years she was forced to retire through ill-health and the school was taken over by Mr and Mrs Eaton who enlarged the hall and built the swimming pool. Danesfield Manor School was then purchased by the Education Development Trust, a not-for-profit organisation of international standing in the world of education and the school was run by Mrs Fidler.

The Victorian house, which has been modernised and refurbished proves to be appropriate for the school’s needs. 

 

And so the story of Danesfield goes on…