Interview with Miss Dollemore recorded at her home in Chesham Bois

Present – Penny Ware and Chris Wege. Jan 2013.

Well, I didn’t start teaching there until 1965 but I was connected with the village in many ways long before that. When we first moved here which was 1948, I belonged to the local Guide Company here, and it wasn’t very long before our Guide Captain left to have a baby and the District Commissioner asked Ruth Howard to be the Guider for my Company. She was at the time running a Coleshill Company but there were fewer and fewer girls in the village and the company was down to about 4 or 5 girls so she accepted the challenge of coming down every week and bringing her remaining Guides with her. They became part of our Company and it went on from there because of course we went up to the Mill and did things and we used to camp. Everything stemmed from there and I knew her as my Guide Captain as I grew up then I got to the age when I was able to run a Brownie Pack myself in Chesham Bois, which I did, but I still went to camp with the Guides. Then a little while after that I went off to college to train as a teacher. After college I taught at Naphill for four years and then I heard that there was a vacancy at Coleshill for an Infants teacher. I jumped at that .

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So that was my first connection – in Jan 1965 – and the school then was three classes . The headmaster was Len Barker and then there was the middle class and I was the infants teacher. Strangely enough the girl who preceded me had also been at my college and I knew her slightly from that. I was living in digs then at Hughenden – then I moved home for a little while and it wasn’t long before Miss Howard’s mother died. You know how big Windmill House is and she asked me if I would like to go and stay there to keep her company until she had decided what she was going to do. Then her brother and sister-in-law (Giles Howard and Elizabeth) decided they were going to build a bungalow in the grounds of Windmill House, which resulted in Grove Mill. And so they had a self-contained bungalow. So I moved in there with her and lived with her until she died in 1968.

When I came out of college someone else was running my Brownie Pack of course. So I helped with the Chesham Bois Guides instead. Of course we always went to camp together every year and had lots of activities down at the Mill – I’ve got lots of photos I can show you. When Miss Howard died, I moved back here [Chesham Bois]and went on teaching at the school.

In the late seventies Bucks reorganised the education year change and instead of having children up to eight we had children up to seven. Mr Barker went off to be head teacher at Hyde Heath and Ann Davidson became the head of Coleshill. So we just had two classes then and she retired in 1982 and I had been acting head for some time and eventually I became full-time head and also full-time teacher, as the numbers had shrunk considerably by that time. Bucks was in the prces of closing as many small schools as they could. The parents rallied round and we had parents interested from further afield and we took in from Penn, Tylers Green, Beaconsfield and towards Wycombe – Widmer End. The numbers perked up and then when Miss Davidson retired I was left with quite a small group in one big class. I can’t remember exactly how many children there were, but low twenties. So I had a full age range – rising five to seven – which was quite daunting. All I was allowed was a welfare assistant for most of the time and one trained teacher for one morning a week. That’s when Alison Bailey joined me and over the ensuing years her hours were increased as the number of children increased. She never had more than three half days a week so I had the whole of the class to teach except for one morning when I got to see my secretary. When she was there we did switch classes so that she had the older ones. All the admin had to be done in my own time.

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I was there for a very long time after school and before school in the morning but it was an experience and I enjoyed it. And then I finally retired in 1995 – at the ripe old age of 6o.

About the saving of the school: The parents were adamant that they didn’t want the school to close so I had very good backing. I had battles with the County authorities but we won through and gradually built up again. I can’t remember exactly how many there were there when I left, but it was certainly in the mid-thirties. And of course its now almost 60. There was a cap put on how many the school may hold according to the facilities and the cap then was not nearly as high as 60. It was 40 in those days. With more staff and more classrooms, they have been able to increase the numbers. I think that sums up my career.

When I first taught there, the school they all went on to at eight was the one at Penn Street. They went there regardless unless they came from another village. Latterly children started going to Chalfont St Giles and that was very popular at one time because a lot of parents went that way to work. St Mary’s of course came in for quite a number. Even in my early days some parents preferred St Mary’s. I think quite a lot of them still go there. I think Chalfont St Giles has tailed off a bit now. And some of them go on to private schools. The schools they go on to now are much more varied.

I had two or three different welfare assistants at different times and occasionally we had a child with special needs who needed a welfare assistant to themselves but of course they helped out generally as well. But Alison went on teaching there when Louise Stalwood started. We both go back and teach on a Wednesday afternoon.

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I help with painting and that sort of thing and I do needlework in the winter with small groups and country dancing in the summer. Its a lovely school and still is a lovely school. I fell ver happy going back and still being wanted. We had Pauline Griffiths who came one morning a week to do the singing. She was paid when I first went there but then Bucks drew the line for that sort of thing and she continued to come on a voluntary basis. The parents and Friends gave her and her husband a voucher for a meal out somewhere – once a term. So, that was their thank-you. She was very supportive.

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Were photos of the school taken?

Oh yes. I don’t remember any while Mr Barker was there.

Later when the photographers rang each year, we always said yes. That certainly went on until I left but whether they still do it I’m not sure. I’ve got a copy of all the ones taken in my time. You could borrow those.

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Penny – So at some point Windmill House must have sold the Mill.

When Miss Howard was alive and the Mill belonged to her, when she first moved to Coleshill which was in the late twenties or early thirties, and she was prevailed upon to start a Guide Company (by a lady in the village who I can’t remember) because there were a lot of girls in the village at that time, she started Guides and brownies and her father sold her the Mill for sixpence. So it was her Mill and amongst all these photos I will show you, it became very well known that the Coleshill Guides had their headquarters in a windmill – something quite special!

Shows photos:

And these are three logbooks of the Coleshill Company. A lot of these are of guides at camp. Penny – where did you go to camp?

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We went to lots of different places – mainly the seaside because in those days the guides had to be able to swim 50 yds and you couldn’t do that around Amersham – there was no swimming pool then – the only pool was cold water and full of dead frogs – and the nearest proper pool was at Watford. In summer we used to go to the Aquadrome at Rickmansworth (in those days it was like a crater in a field, not like it is now). It was a long way to go on the bus to Watford and took a long time – it took a long time round all the villages - so we didn’t do that very often. So learning to swim 50 yds was quite difficult. So camp was always at the sea and thats where they learnt.

More photos.

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Here’s a picture of the guides with a model they made of the Mill. Did you know that the sails of the mill were taken down in the war for scrap metal? And the machinery. Penny – the machinery in the cap is still there? Yes. It was the Howards who had the floors in the mill put in and the staircases. She had great plans for turning it into a place where Guides could come and sleep for the weekend, but unfortunately it all fell through when she died. We kept all our camp equipment in the windmill. Mr Bean was her head gardener and he helped us unload all our stuff into the mill the day after we got back from camp. We always travelled [to camp] in a coach – an old fashioned one of course way back in the 50’s – it was a Mr Wingrove coach from - Hazlemere I think – he always took us until he retired.

When I retired from Guides when I was 65 – the age when you had to retire from active Guides in those days – you are allowed now to be an assistant. In those days you had to retire properly and could only go back by invitation. One of the girls who was a guide of mine is now running the company which is lovely and she is an assistant commissioner now.

Penny – you know that they are doing the sails now? They were due to go up before Christmas but the weather has been against them.

After I started running the company myself I used to have weekend camps up there because I was teaching at the school then and I was able to give myself permission. Shows pic of camping in school grounds.

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This building beside the mill was actually the donkey shed.

[At the school] there used to be these concrete platforms half way down the garden which is where the toilets used to stand. They were outdoor toilets in former days.

Discuss names of children in photos.

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More pics discussed.

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Penny - Where was it you were teaching before here? Barnet.

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Remainder of interview was small talk and a nice cup of tea!