The Leas School,  Hoylake

Glenridding memories: life on the lake and in the hills

contributed by John Smith & Geoff Saunders

See also John Smith's Glenridding photos.

First, an edited transcription of parts of an article prepared 60 years after the article-writer's Glenridding experiences, for a local-history exhibition in 2003 in Glenridding Village Hall:

On 26 & 27 June 1940 three buses took the boys and staff of The Leas to the Glenridding Hotel, then owned by Mr & Mrs Abraham Holdway. Four lorries transported beds and other equipment. I remember the first few nights of having to sleep two or three to a bed.

When things settled down, the main body of boys lived in the hotel, while a few of the older boys were sent out to stay in houses, some close-by (eg the Post Office, West Side), some further out (eg Eagle Cottage, Keldas). [In autumn 1941 it was decided that Keldas was too far out (magazine Dec 1941). The newly-vacant rooms were promptly advertised in the Liverpool Echo on 4 & 6 October 1941.]

The Village Hall was rented to take some of the Forms (four Forms in the Hall, with no screens or divisions); other classes were held in the Hotel. Games were played on King George V playing fields, Patterdale, and Physical Training took place on Jenkins Field, Glenridding. The school also had use of boats on the lake for fishing and bathing, usually at the mouth of the Goldrill Beck, Patterdale. Regardless of the weather, pupils were walked in crocodile every Sunday to St Patrick's church, Patterdale, for morning service.

Nothing in the school curriculum was to suffer due to the evacuation, and it is on record that the school enjoyed some of its best years academically: 1943 remains a record year, with nine scholarships.

I shall always remember the kindness and warmth of the local people who took us into their homes. And some parents also came to stay in the area, to be away from the bombs in Liverpool or Manchester. Various excitements still reminded us that the war was close at hand: bombs, the Gas School in the Ullswater Hotel [now the Inn on the Lake], a Walrus seaplane landing on the lake.

Second, an edited transcription of parts of a letter written 70 years after the letter-writer's Glenridding experiences. Few of the experiences were in fact very different from their tamer equivalents in Hoylake. The letter-writer had been very young in Hoylake, which is why all his walks had been in supervised crocodiles. In Hoylake on Sundays there were similar opportunities for older boys to walk free, though the terrain was hardly as exciting!

I read your synopsis of The Leas in Glenridding with great recollections - the best thing that ever happened, I think. The freedom it gave us, I think it must have had a great effect on all our lives from then on.

Hoylake, great, but any expedition outside the grounds had to be accompanied, in crocodile, by a master in the front and one at the back - which was of course necessary given the roads and traffic. But once established in Glenridding all we had to do on our 'days off' was to put our names in the book in the hall, and state which mountain we were going to climb; and as long as there were two of us together, off we went by ourselves - taught us a lot about responsibility and looking after ourselves - and we did, and learned to understand what we could do, unsupervised, and not take risks. It worked.

And then all that skating each winter - ice hockey on the pond behind the Patterdale Hotel.

I remember marching, in scout uniform, to the war memorial at the head of the lake on Nov 11th. Freezing cold, and very soon our arms and legs were the same colour as our uniforms - navy blue!

I remember us in rowing boats, with one master in charge, rowing right down and across the lake to Silver Point, some half a dozen boys in each small rowing boat, right down the middle of the lake - no life jackets or anything. This took place many times. On some trips we bathed on the other side of the lake, just in our birthday suits.

I remember the 'Set' concerts we gave to the village, in the Village Hall. In one of these, four of us stood in front of the curtain on the platform, and during scene-changes we sang songs from both wars: we four sang the verses, and the audience joined in for the choruses, which were displayed on a song-sheet above our heads.

Then I remember scouts setting up camp sites on the hillside up in Grisedale, the patrols competing with each other.

I remember being in the choir in the local church. My first job on getting to the church was to put on my surplice, then go out and slot the hymn-numbers into the board for the congregation. Then get back to the vestry and lead the choir up the chancel into the choir-stalls. But I cannot remember what any of the sermons were about!

I was captain of hockey in my last year, and I felt that was really my game; yet when I arrived at Repton I was greeted by the housemaster: "Ah, you're the runner!" I had no idea I was a 'runner' - I was a hockey player! I just always ran over the hills and mountains because I loved the feeling of the freedom of running. But I suppose this had been noted by the masters, even at that age. Pure natural ability, and the love of it.

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