Rabbit Pie and Christmas Pudding!

Christmas 2017 is almost here! A time of joy, happiness and celebration for many.

Research for our forthcoming book ‘We Will Teach’, to be published in May 2018  covered the time of the Occupation of the Channel Islands by German forces during World War Two.

What was Christmas like  for the Channel Islanders at this difficult time? As always, they made the best of things.

Peter Girard was a Guernsey Headteacher on the island during the Occupation. Food was strictly rationed and after D-Day many people were near starvation. Peter Girard ensured that his pupils had regular helpings of vegetable soup. At Christmas in 1942  the school celebrated with a festive meal of rabbit pie and Christmas pudding. There was music on piano and drums. Christmas party hats were supplied by a local hotel which  ‘also gave whistles and noise makers which added to the hilarity’. Father Christmas even made an appearance, although as Peter Girard wrote: ‘It was very difficult to fill his sack’.

To find out more you will have to read our book! We wish our readers a Merry Christmas and peaceful,healthy year in 2018.

We Will Teach!

During the past months we have enjoyed delivering several talks on ‘Inspired To Teach’ to history groups,WI groups, Rotary and other organisations across Wiltshire. We are looking forward to our final talk at The Salisbury Museum on October 4th, 2017 at 6.30. It will be a fitting finale to talk about the history of the College in our much loved former  College Chapel.

We are thrilled that through the sale of the books we have been able to donate a significant sum to support the ‘Cress’charity working in South Sudan. Copies of Inspired to Teach are still available from The Salisbury Museum Shop and from our website. It has been such an exciting past few years, meeting former students and their families.

We  now look forward to our next publication. The working title at present is ‘We Will Teach’! We are busy researching and writing about some of the many Channel Island students who trained to teach in Salisbury.

It was an enormous challenge for the young women to leave the island of their birth and cross the sea to England. The majority of  Channel Island students who arrived after 1905 lived in Barnard’s Cross in St Ann Street, Salisbury. This was a lively hostel with its own groups and clubs, and of course several rules!

The years of World War Two were particularly hard for the students,as many of them had arrived before the Occupation of the Channel Islands.The were unable to return for several years and communication with home was difficult: just one letter of 25 words via the Red Cross every six months.

Writing this book has given us the wonderful opportunity to visit the islands, which we did in October. We received a warm welcome and very helpful support. Further visits are planned before the book is published-hopefully in 2018.

We welcome any information or stories about the Channel Island students who trained in Salisbury. 

Fresh Inspiration

It is exciting to be writing again! Our latest project is still in its infancy and our research is on-going, but we hope to have our next book completed in 2017. It will be a ‘follow on’ from Inspired to Teach, in the sense that we have not yet quite finished with the history of the College and those who attended it. Having already touched on the Channel Islands and the significant link that they had with Salisbury, we are now exploring this further. Did you know that a student arrived from Guernsey as early as 1847? How did she find out that teacher training, then in its infancy, was available for women in Salisbury? Why did she want to be trained and where did she go from Salisbury?
For well over one hundred years, a steady stream of students crossed the sea and found their vocation in Salisbury. Many subsequently returned home and made lasting contributions to island schools. Former students from Guernsey were evacuated with their schools to the mainland for five years whilst the islands were occupied during the Second World War. In Jersey, where the schools were not evacuated, former students carried on teaching, amidst challenging conditions.
There are tales to tell and we will follow up a number of people who are just names to us, but our research will help us to tell their stories and to set them in the context of their time and their island homes. The Channel Island students are an important part of the history of the College and deserve recognition. Similarly, the influence of the College in The Close on education in those southerly islands just off the coast of Normandy, needs to be recorded and celebrated.
We are looking forward to the challenge of the new book! Please contact us if you have any interesting stories or useful contacts. You can leave us a message here, or email us:

Jenny Head : jenny.head@live.co.uk
Anne Johns : hallgarth@btinternet.com

Two memorable visits

It was a memorable and moving experience to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate on August 7th 2015 in memory of Jack Reynolds, my great uncle, who was killed near Ypres on August 7th 1915. He was 28 years old.

A few days later, with the First World War still very much in my mind, Anne and I visited the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Boyton, seven miles from Warminster. We knew that Canon Edward Steward, Principal of Salisbury Training College from 1891 until 1909, had subsequently become rector of the parish of Boyton with Sherrington. We also knew that his son Arthur had been killed on active service in the First World War. On entering the church, we noticed Arthur’s name (Revd A Steward) on the Roll of Honour in the porch. I felt drawn to investigate further.

Arthur Steward initially envisaged his career as being that of a soldier and on leaving school he joined the Norfolk Militia, rather than going to university. He served in the Boer War and was discharged in 1902. He then attended Magdalen College Oxford and whilst studying for his degree was a member of the Officer Training Corps.  Following that, he entered Wells Theological College to train for ordination.

Arthur married Miriam Carver, whose family lived at The Moot, Downton in 1912. Their wedding was at St Andrew’s Church, Laverstock, where the Revd Stanley Baker (college chaplain at this time) later became the vicar. After working as a missionary in Johannesburg, taking his wife with him, Arthur returned to this country in 1915 and became one of the few combatant priests in the British Army. He was initially a 2nd Lieutenant in the Special Reserve of Officers of the Royal Field Artillery, but later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and trained to become a Balloon Officer.  Arthur was killed in 1917, the day before his daughter’s first birthday. He was 35 years old. He is, like my great uncle, buried in a cemetery near Ypres. Had I known this, I would have gone there a few weeks ago.

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Boyton is beautiful and in a glorious rural location. The former rectory, where the Stewards lived, is next to the church. Students loved going out to visit them there, receiving a warm welcome and a taste of home. Much of the glass in the east window of the church comes from Salisbury Cathedral and is part of that collected by the Revd. Stanley Baker, who was a friend of Canon Steward.

The tragedy that hit my family one hundred years ago was similar to those that shocked and saddened countless other families across the world. The story of Arthur Steward, son of the much loved and respected Principal of Salisbury Training College, helps to bring that home.


Music makes the world go round

‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything’.  Plato

What would the world be without music? This week I have experienced such a range of different music. My enthusiastic grandchildren practising their clarinet and flute for end of term school concerts; my husband improving his scales on the flugalhorn he received for Christmas and thankfully becoming more tuneful each day; the magical musical mix at The Larmer Tree Festival-a joyful occasion full of fun and energy.

An enormous contrast to this was at the dentist, when I had the option of listening to music to drown out the drilling. Brahms Requiem was sublime and the Monteverdi Vespers calming-it certainly helped.

Last night I accompanied a friend to the local Odeon Cinema to see  the Andre Rieu concert – streamed  live from Maastricht. It was wonderful to see and hear so many people finding happiness and relaxation in music.

Music was always  an important part of College life. In 1841, Martha Gibson,the first student, wrote about how she enjoyed ‘singing instruction’. There were always strong links with the Cathedral, a choir and an orchestra, concerts and performances.  Several students became excellent music teachers in schools, fostering a lasting love of music in the children.

Every year  hundreds of former students return for the reunion in Salisbury Cathedral and raise the roof by joining together to sing our wonderful College hymn-‘Angel Voices ever Singing’. It is inspirational!

We would love to hear what music means to you and about your musical choices and memories.


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The History Festival

The History Festival

It is a hot, sultry evening and I am sitting by the open door listening to pigeons in the trees and to the distant hum of traffic from the road. The air is motionless and the outside thermometer  still registers   25.5 degrees at 8.15pm. How glad I am that it was not quite so hot for last week’s History Festival!

The Chalke Valley History Festival is a remarkable occasion. It is such a privilege to hear some of the historical literature ‘giants’ of our time talking about their work and exploring and explaining the ideas behind and around what they have written. The programme is enticing and it is hard to know what to miss out. Then there is the temptation of the plethora of historical books that can be bought. Don’t miss this unique festival. Clear your calendar for a week in June! Set in the unparalleled beauty of the Wiltshire-Dorset border, it is an event to entrance, to savour and to remember.

The Festival is of course about books and, yes, Anne and I were at the Festival again. ‘Inspired to Teach’ was on the ‘local’ stand in the Waterstones tent and we also had it for sale in our tent,  together with a small selection of old photographs. We certainly attracted some attention and we enjoyed meeting people and made useful contacts. We are so grateful to the Chalke Valley History Trust for sponsoring us. It was very special to be there and to know that the story of our College is now safely rooted in local history.

The aim of the History Trust is to promote the understanding and enjoyment of history and to improve the teaching of history in schools. What are your thoughts about this? If you love history now, did you come to it late or was it the result of having an inspiring (that word again) teacher?

What will I remember most from the 2015 Festival? Maybe it will be Waterloo, as described by the compelling father and son duo of Peter and Dan Snow …or perhaps the talk by Kate Mosse, whose love affair with Carcassonne, where she felt that history was ‘alive’, led to three historical novels …  or maybe it will be the fascinating talk about Downton Abbey by Julian Fellowes, who was returning home to draw the final FINAL episode to a close that very night – no secrets were divulged!

Book Clubs

Do you belong to a Book Club? I am fortunate in belonging to a lively group and we enjoy reading a range of books. All clubs seem to be different, with some having quite a serious grading system of the books, which I wouldn’t like-especially if it was a book which was special to me. We take it in turns to suggest a book and this has resulted in me reading several books,including science fiction, which I would never have read otherwise. It would be interesting to know about how different Book Clubs are organised.

There was no Book Club as such at College, but as English Lit. was my main subject, I can still recall many books which I read  with great pleasure. Two lecturers were very keen Hardy fans and organised brilliant trips to ‘Hardy Country’ which brought the books to life. Far From the Madding Crowd is still a favourite book. I love the characters and the way Hardy describes the Dorset countryside.

The main College library was always  a hive of activity but the upper library was a calm,tranquil place with an armchair by the window overlooking a beautiful copper beech tree. The tree is no more, but this is where we have worked on our book for the last two and a half years- thanks to The Salisbury Museum-so appropriate!

It would be interesting to hear about other Book Clubs – so please get in touch and let us know about yours. What is your favourite book and why?


A Day Away …

Two of our grandchildren have recently been on school trips. Their excitement and anticipation was infectious. The 6 year old talked about her visit to a castle for several weeks before the great event and the 8 year old became immersed in spies, codes and secret messages in preparation for learning about the work of the Special Operations Executive in World War 2.

Lucky children. I can remember going on just one outing from school, when we visited the ‘new’ Coventry Cathedral in the mid-1960s – but it has stuck in my memory as a real highlight.  School trips make a lasting impression.

College trips were important too. Leisure time was limited and precious.  Stonehenge was probably one of the first places chosen for outings and in those days the students would have picnicked amongst the stones.  At the time of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, students and staff travelled on charabancs to the New Forest where they enjoyed delicious feasts prepared by the cook and delivered in large hampers.  A little later, we can imagine them up on Salisbury Plain and being introduced to the wonders of nature by Canon Steward, a keen naturalist.

Staff and students ventured further afield as the years moved on.  Trips to concerts and lectures in London sometimes involved getting back so late that the High Street Gate was locked and the Close Constable had to be summoned.

In the 1960s I remember a musical picnic at Pepperbox Hill on a glorious summer evening.  Then there were the field studies in Aberystwyth and Guernsey, a trip to the RGS with Miss Mayo and a visit to the Chilmark quarries that supplied the stone for the Cathedral.

There is something about a group outing that draws people together and makes for rich and memorable experiences.  What do you remember? Where did you take your classes?


Examinations – Pass or Fail

It’s that time of year when countless students prepar to sit examinations of one kind or another: GCSEs, A Levels, end of year exams. My 12 year old grandson has just completed a week of intensive exams. He is relieved that is was all in one week, but I can’t remember doing anything like that at his age. Is he too young? Is it right that there is less course work and more formal testing?

Examinations were always a regular feature of College life. In 1854 students who failed their first year examinations had to re-sit. Typical examination questions included:

Geography: Explain the geographical allusion in Psalm cxxxvi 5; ‘Turn our captivity, O Lord,as the rivers of the South’.

Scripture: Give dates for the following events – The Deluge;The Passage of the Jordan;The Death of Abraham. Fortunately, arithmetic questions were more straightforward, such as – reduce fractions to their simplest form.

In the 1900s, students dreaded practical teaching exams known as ‘Major Day Crits’. Children were taken to the College from local Salisbury schools and the anxious students had to present a lesson in front of fellow student critics and a lecturer. After the lesson there was 30 minutes of critical discussion and assessment before the student was given a grade, which counted towards their final result. A treat at the end was a slice of a special ‘Major’ cake which must have tasted so good!.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the feeling of relief when exams are over- that is, until the results are published.

Island magic!

Anne and I are currently exploring the links between the College and the Channel Islands. Salisbury was the ‘college of choice’ for many island students from the 1900s onwards and unpicking the reasons is a fascinating business. BBC Radio Jersey interviewed us a couple of weeks ago – no, they didn’t pay for us to fly over – nothing as prestigious as that, but we switched one of our mobs onto ‘speaker phone’,  sat at the kitchen table and talked … (we’re getting quite good at that!). Our next port of call was the JEP (Jersey Evening Post) a daily paper that is almost compulsory reading for islanders. Good news there is that Inspired to Teach will be featured in an issue in a week’s time.  As you can see, we’re doing our very best to reach out to people whose forebears took the big step of leaving their island homes, crossing the sea and training at Salisbury.

Don’t under estimate this step. If you live on a small island, it becomes your world and the sea that divides you from the mainland is a huge barrier. This still remains true today and in the past was even more so.  One develops an island mentality.  My family and I lived in Jersey for 15 years and by the end of our time there we even thought twice before going to St Ouen, all of 5 miles away, for the afternoon. For students whose families were deeply rooted in the island, going to college in England was (and still is for some, even today) a significant challenge. Anne and I want to contact people who had relatives in Jersey (or Guernsey) who trained at Salisbury and to discover more about their experiences. When we arrived in Jersey in 1977 I went to some of the Jersey Club meetings and met other former Salisbury students. How I wish I’d written down their memories!  (Memo – record things before they are lost!)