Sarum School

Sarum Scarf & MottoThe 'birth' of Sarum School was as a result of necessity when Danesfield School in Hersham Road, Walton was closed in 1940, owing to evacuation of children, and the Principals’ decision that it was impossible to continue. The staff and parents were anxious to keep a school open for the children concerned.

The Junior Girls were accommodated in the Danesfield Preparatory School at Rye House, Rydens Road that had been acquired following the commitment shown by two teachers; Miss Quartermaine and Miss Kaye were ready to risk at least a year’s salary, provided that they could be sure of the parents’ co-operation.

St Maur’s Convent at Weybridge agreed to take all the Senior Girls except those who were working for their G.C.E. in December. These girls were sitting for the Cambridge Certificate and St Maur’s took the London examinations.

Miss Conolly, who had been working at Danesfield with the girls “acting with my usual impetuosity” told the parents that she would borrow a room and see the girls through to the examination.

She taught the girls French, English, Botany, Religious Knowledge and History. The Danesfield Mathematics mistress promised to help with Science and Maths, and a parent came forward with the offer of a room. There were 9 girls sitting for their GCEs in 1941 and Sarum School had begun.

The school rapidly outgrew its rented room and although all the really big houses in the area were occupied, Eventually Cleeve, a house in Oatlands Chase, was rented. It wasn't a particularly large house (compared with many in the area at the time) but it did have 4 acres of land. This became a lock-up day school, with the staff and boarders living at 69 Ashley Road, Walton - Miss Conolly's home.

Although Cleeve was well decorated (having formerly been the home of Sir Stanley Machin (former High Sherriff of Surrey), the grounds had become rather a wilderness by the time the school moved in but within a short time, despite money always being tight, that was sorted out and "we had a big playing field on which we played lacrosse. Miss C approved of Lacrosse as we had to reach up for the ball - not like hockey where we would have had to bend down for the ball. We also had netball and tennis courts. A bit of land on the side of the school was left as woods, which we were alowed to play in."

The school quickly developed the reputation for hard work and good examination results that was to stay with it throughout its life. Mrs Elvridge, the games teacher, had the foresight to get the school interested in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme and Sarum then became one of the first 6 schools in England to take part in the scheme.

But it wan't all 'noses in books' - activities included hiking, drama and boating clubs and the school entered for singing competitions.and the Christmas term was always the time for educational outings and the Carol Service and "breaking-up"parties. As far as the pupils were concerned,.the highlight of the year, by far, was the Accession Day picnic each year - "coaches arrived and we were taken off and set free with our teas to roam the countryside - somewhere like Newlands Corner" - life seems, somehow, to have been much simpler then...

miss conollyMiss Conolly organised the school in her own "individualistic" way and by 1951 it was operating as a full-blown democracy with the day to day business in the hands of the Head Girl and the VIth Form. There was a prefects meeting every fortnight and the Head Girl met with Miss Conolly every week to go over the business affairs. Miss Conolly did not abdicate all responsibility and remained a very visible background figure - no punishment could be enforced by the VIth Form without her consent and matters of educational policy always aligned with her years of experience and 'native wisdom'. There was a suggestion box in the hall, in which any girl could put a suggestion, and, particularly in the early days, these suggestions helped to shape Sarum.

1951 was an important year for the school. The 10th anniversary  saw a Parent’s Association being set up and a special Thanksgiving Service was held at Salisbury Cathedral where the choir sang to 'a good crowd' - Miss Conolly later recalled “it became one of the schools’ happiest memories”.

1951 was also the year that the school  became recognised by the Ministry of Education. In the next three years the numbers increased to 250 but the lease on Cleeve was running out, and the landlord offered Miss Conolly the first refusal. Every effort went into raising money for a mortgage, and at last a small building society agreed a mortgage. A company was formed and the school appeared to be settled for a solid future.

The 21st anniversary celebrations in 1962 were the peak for Miss Conolly before she retired in 1965 but the school never really survived the loss of its "guiding light" - eventually the following announcements appeared in the London Gazette...

Sarum School Widing-up notice - Lodon Gazette 27 June 1969Sarum School - Winding-up - London Gazette 21 April 1970

These were in the editions dated 27 June 1969 and 21 April 1970 - and thus Sarum School finally closed its doors.

Miss Conolly said  at the time “the school is finished but I like to feel its spirit lives on in the Old Girls” and, as if to prove the amazing foresight  for which she was noted, there is  an  enthusiastic group of "old girls" on Friends Reunited who have been organising reunions for many years..
divider-genericThe school's name is believed to have been linked to Miss Conolly's early years in Salisbury - the Iron Age hill fort of "Old Sarum" being a prominent local landmark and the site of the first cathedral.
(see here - opens in a new window).

Miss Conolly died in 1971...

Anyone remembering Miss Spofforth may wish to read her obituary (The Independent - 2 April 2009).