1934 – The Founding of Stoatley Rough School

The establishment of Stoatley Rough School is mainly due to the support and efforts of Bertha Bracey. Bertha Bracey who was a Quaker, was very familiar with the plight of German refugees in 1933 and the problems facing them.

The Society of Friends in England had been involved in an international ‘Quaker relief’ programme in Germany since the end of the First World War. As post-war relief became less necessary the British, American and German Friends set up the Berlin International Centre to interpret Quakerism and as a practical experiment in international reconciliation.

Bertha Bracey had spent eight years (1921-1929) in the international service of Friends, five of which where spent working as a youth worker for Friends in Nuremberg and Berlin. From 1927-29 she was British Friends’ representative in the International Secretariat in Berlin. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 Bertha Bracey was able to apply her special knowledge of the German scene to the management of emergency relief for refugees. Bertha Bracey became the general secretary of the Quaker ‘German Emergency Committee’ in April 1933.

Dr. Hilde Lion approached the Society of Friends in December 1933 with plans for a small school to prepare German refugee children for English schools. The German Emergency Committee were very sympathetic towards the proposed plans, but were unable to assist this group of teachers with financial help or to take responsibility for the school. However, Bertha Bracey introduced Dr. Hilde Lion to Mrs. Vernon of Hampstead who had offered a house at Haslemere to the German Emergency Committee, fully furnished and rent free, to be used for some good purpose. Dr. Hilde Lion accepted and funds were sought and a sufficient sum was raised privately – approximately £531.10s.0d was received in gifts between March and May 1934 – to enable the organisers to go ahead with the founding of the school.

Mrs. Vernon and Bertha Bracey became members of the school’s council and school’s committee. Bertha Bracey acted as chairperson for both and became chairperson on the board of governors in 1938 until Miss A. R. Fearon took on that role in 1945. Bertha Bracey remained on the board of governors till closure in 1960 and throughout the school’s life remained a strong supporter of the goals of the school.

The German-English school at Stoatley Rough, as it was first known, was thus established at the beginning of April 1934, and opened with the following announcement:

“Owing to the present position in Germany many children are unable to complete their education in their own country. As the English educational system is so highly developed many parents are considering the question of sending their children to English schools. The immediate admittance of these children into English schools brings forward various difficulties, such as the lack of knowledge of the English language, and the great difference in the school curriculum. It is therefore proposed to start a temporary school in order to prepare the children for an English education. The need for such a school has been confirmed by the following societies:-

Woburn House, the Academic Assistance Council, Miss Essinger (New Herrlingen, Kent), the German Emergency Committee of the Society of Friends, Dr. Bleistein, Berlin; to whom many enquiries have been made during the last months.

The school aims at making the children acquainted with English life and customs as far as possible, and at educating them without prejudice against their own country”

The First Pupils

The school was opened under English direction and with three refugee teachers, Dr. Hilde Lion, Miss Nore Astfalck and Miss Hanna Nacken. Its first pupils included two small refugee boys and five older girls. By November 1934 the number of permanent pupils had risen to eleven. Nearly all of these children were separated from their parents. Some parents remained in Germany and two couples had re-emigrated to the colonies.

Miss Isabel Fry, Quaker educationalist and former headmistress, agreed to manage the school for the first few months. She only stayed for the first term. Dr. Lion paid this tribute to her: ‘Living with us, she has been realising an idea, and that meant more for us this time and for the future than we can say in this short report’. Miss Isabel Fry continued to support the school for the next two years, in her capacity as a member of the school’s committee.

In 1934 the school had the support of:
Mr. W. Adams (Academic Assistance Council), Mr. G. B. Alexander, Miss E. Day, The Hon. Mrs. Franklin, Miss A. Fry, Miss I. Fry, German Refugees Assistance Fund, Miss M. E. Gow, Hospitality Committee, Woburn House, Miss Hutchinson, The Misses Hilton, Canon M. Jones, Miss King, Mr. M. Mitzmann, Mr. L. Montefiore, Dr. R. O. Moon, Mrs. Mary Ormerod, Miss Alice Penn, Miss H. Roberts, Mrs. A. Schwab, Mr. L. E. Skinner, Mr. Staines (Kitchen Equipment, Victoria St.), Miss P. Stack, Miss Rosa Winter, the trades – people in Haslemere, especially the Coop. Stores

The 1934 Council:
Miss Bertha L. Bracey, Miss E. Day, Sir Wyndham Deeds, Professor G. P. Gooch, Leonard Montefiore, Sir Walter Nicholson, Lady Parmoor, Lady Pentland & Lady Spriggs

The 1934 Committee:
Miss Bertha L. Bracey, Miss B. Alexander, Miss Isabel Fry, Dr. Mary E. Gilbert, Miss Mary Hayward, Mrs. Ormerod, Mrs. Vernon

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