A reader of Southborough News has highlighted the importance of Brooklands School in the rich history of Pennington Road.
The school was in Doon Brae – a large house (rear of it pictured below) which was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the new Doon Brae close and the current 13 and 15 Pennington Road.
Brooklands School in Pennington Road was run by a lady called May Jones (pictured below), who originally came from Wales.
Thanks to another blog reader, who read the first edition of this post, I’ve now been supplied with a front view of the magnificent house.
The blog reader who got in contact and provided most of this information is Linda Williams (pictured below in her uniform). Children wore red caps or red berets.
Linda Williams attended the private school from when she was 4 years old in 1955. She tells me: “My Aunt May Jones owned a huge house there. The first two floors were the school classrooms. The basement was our dining room. From the first floor, behind a door, a very steep staircase, almost a ladder, led to Aunty May’s flat. The garden had a large, cross shaped goldfish pond.”
The school sounds pretty academic and apparently the children there told people that the “B” on the logo stood for “Best”, when in fact it just stood for “Brooklands.”
Linda describes how Pennington Road witnessed a daily procession of children sporting their uniforms walking to and from the bus stop on the main road every day.
Linda tells me: “It was beyond the stile, on the same side of the road. Children walked from the bus stop at the Fountain down Pennington Rd, to school in the morning. I suppose we walked back, in the same crocodile, in the evening, but I can’t remember that. The house was red brick.”
Linda continues: “My aunt, May Jones, was Welsh. May was my Godmother, not a real Aunt. I was happy there. My first school. Red berets, gaberdine macs, crocodiles, nature walks.” This photo below is apparently from 1969.
Linda writes: “The lawn here is where we ran our egg and spoon races. The terrace garden there was where I once got into trouble! It used to be just a flower garden with large stones in. I told my friends because Miss Jones was my aunt, I was allowed on this bit of garden. I walked on it and of course, I was not allowed there! The long lawn led down in tiers to the fishpond.”
A search of the archive of the Kent and Sussex Courier from 4 March 1949, reveals the following advert.
The 1939 register shows that the house name Doon Brae pre-dates the school. At the start of the war the old house had 7 residents including some called Dowson and some called Bird. (see below)
The move of the school to Doon Brae presumably followed the sale of the home by the Dowsons after the death of Leonard Joseph Dowson (a retired draper and owner of the Bon-Marche store) in 1948 – see below:
An earlier notice recorded the death in December 1944 of Leonard’s wife Lizzie Gladys, who was “beloved wife and mother to [actually aunt of] the Twins Mary and Diana Thomson.” In September 1948, Diana Thomson married Colin S Young. So Doon Brae was now empty…to be sold to Brooklands School owner May Jones.
The picture below from 1948 shows May Jones seated next to a lady called Thelma – a teacher who clearly loved working there. 21 years later in 1969 Thelma apparently is the same teacher pictured in the colour photo with the children shown above.
I found this article below in the Kent and Sussex Courier from 27 July 1973, which records the sad end of the Brooklands School and the demolition of the fine brick building in the days before the Southborough Conservation Area was created.
The Courier article records that: “Miss Jones’s enthusiastic endeavours quickly acquired such a reputation in local scholastic circles that soon there was a waiting list of parents eager to enter their children for the school.”
The article continues with a tribute from J.K. Ward of 2 Oak End Close: “The last red caps and red berets have now disappeared up Pennington Road and the last ark has gone up to the fountain, but memories of Brooklands will go on in the lives of we who had the happy experience of passing through these gates.”
J.K. Ward concludes: “Brooklands may soon be joining those other ghosts of the past, but I for one, will never be able to pass that old dignified red brick Victorian building…without hearing the ghostly ringing of the bell and Miss Jones’s sharp Welsh accent, wisely and firmly correcting my misdemeanours.”
I sent the Courier article to Linda Williams and she responded: “How beautiful that article was, mentioning the Fountain, the ark (crocodile actually!) So much verifying my long ago memories.”
Since my first article on Pennington Road, I have also been sent several historic photos of the road. The first was of this house “Brampton”, which was also apparently another school and stood on the westerly corner of Pennington Road and Argyle Road – taken from Argyle Road. It occupied the space of the current numbers 19, 21, 23 and 25 Pennington Road.
The picture above of “Brampton” was sent to me by Wendy Stacey (nee Massy Collier). She tells me: “I was baptised at St Thomas Church in 1944. My paternal great grandfather lived at ‘Fairlight’, 19 Pennington Road from about 1912 until he died in December 1918. My paternal grandfather (Cecil Massy Collier) inherited the house and renamed it ‘Brampton’…. My grandfather was a school master and the house was where he taught and also were the pupils lived. By 1939 my grandfather had moved to 1 Yew Tree Road, where he remained until he died in early 1952.”
Here is another view from the other side of the house:
Wendy Stacey tells me Cecil Massy Collier: “was always a school teacher. He was a specialist in the cure of stammering, studying under Benjamin Beasley (the grandfather of his wife to be) at Brampton Park in Huntingdon. He later moved to Hunstanton where started his own school for stammerers, all of whom were residents in his household. The move to Southborough meant a larger house with more room for his resident pupils, some of whom came from other countries.”
The final photo I have acquired is of a house fortunately still standing, albeit with a mysteriously reduced height of its tower. One report – not entirely believable – is that the tower was reduced in size to prevent it being spotted by enemy planes in the Second World War and used as a directional tool.
This house is called Ferndale and is still to be found at the very end of Argyle Road. You get a view of it from the footpath that runs to the end of Pennington Road.
Do you have any more historic photographs of properties along Pennington Road? Then do send them to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can record our rich history for posterity.
Meanwhile, if you want a feel for 1960s Southborough, do take a look at this YouTube film: