Rowledge House Hostel

Whilst researching the history of Rowledge village, resident Mark Westcott visited Surrey History Centre and made a wartime discovery about his childhood home, Rowledge House, amongst the parish records. A handwritten journal contained a reference to Rowledge House being sold in 1942 to a Farnham Syndicate who let it to a Jewish Hostels Association for 32 evacuated children.

Rowledge House plaque

Rowledge House plaque

Intrigued, Mr Westcott contacted the Association of Jewish Refugees and Surrey Heritage to find out more about the hostel. He made contact with Edie Ma’agan (formerly Marcovitch) who ran Rowledge hostel with her husband Shalom, and with Hannah Nyman, who came to England with the Kindertransport and stayed at the hostel.

Deeply moved by the stories he heard, Mr Westcott decided to erect a blue plaque on Rowledge House to commemorate the hostel, its founders, and the refugee and Kindertransport children it sheltered. The plaque was unveiled on 28 October 2012 by Hannah Nyman and Mark Westcott.

The Jewish Chronicle, 19 February 1943, reported the official opening of Rowledge House Hostel:

“A new hostel at Rowledge House, Farnham, Surrey, which has been in existence under the auspices of the Hostels Committee for evacuated Jewish children, for three months, has now been officially opened. The children have proved very adaptable to the system of communal living provided by the hostel, and they have made remarkable progress in their Hebrew and religious training. Cultural and other activities are arranged through various media, including the B’nei Akiva Group which has been formed by the children.”

“At the official consecration, at which Mrs Norman Laski was in the chair, the service was conducted entirely by the children, who afterwards gave songs, poems and recitations in English and Hebrew. The proceedings included speeches by Dr Nathan Morris, the Rev A J Dance (Vicar of Rowledge), Miss F Trill (headmistress of the local school), Mr W Goldberg, and by the Warden of the Hostel, the Rev S Marcovitch, who thanked the residents of the village for their welcome and their helpfulness, and all those who had brought gifts, including the Vicar of Wrecclesham, who had brought toys, and Mr A A Minns, who had brought toys made by members of Farnham N F S.”

Rowledge House children, including Wolf (Zeev) Bard

Rowledge House children, including Wolf (Zeev) Bard

Presenting a plaque to Edie Marcovitch: a fitting footnote to a remarkable story

Wolf Bard was one of the Kindertransport children who stayed at Rowledge House Hostel in the care of Edie and Shalom Marcovitch. Recently, when Mr Bard and his wife came to England, they paid a visit to Rowledge House and met Mark Westcott. During their meeting, Mr Westcott mentioned that he had a spare blue plaque and asked if Mr Bard might arrange to take it back to Israel and present it to Edie Marcovitch. This Mr Bard did and, in his own words, “to say that she was happy to receive it is an understatement”.

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

5 thoughts on “Rowledge House Hostel”

  1. This is a wonderful discovery. Edie and Shalom are my great-aunt and uncle, although Shalom sadly died last year. I will have to make a visit!

    1. Mark Westcott says:

      Visitors always welcome! Let me know when you’re coming. My brother Simon, a film-maker, made a short DVD of the unveiling, which includes interviews with Hanna Nyman, Herman Hirschberger and national representatives of Bnei Akiva. Copies of the DVD are available – Surrey History Centre also has one.

  2. Malcolm Craft says:

    Mark, just listened to your interview on BBC Radio Sussex, very moving experience listening to the history of one child’s experience too. For a man who could have kept your homes’ past quiet, I salute you for sharing the past with with us. Malcolm

  3. Josh Armstrong says:

    Hi Mark,

    This is a great story, and one in which I’m personally very interested. I’m currently working on Kindertransport as part of my PhD, and, as a Rowledge resident, I’m exploring opportunities to put a personal spin on my work. I wonder if we might be able to chat a little via email to see how I might be able to access some of the materials you mention above? The only problem is that I live in California, so I unfortunately cannot pop to the Surrey Museum to access things. I’d love to ask you a few more detailed questions though if I may!

    Very much looking forward to hearing from you.

    Best,

    Josh Armstrong

  4. Mark Westcott says:

    Dear Josh,
    Many thanks for your enquiry.
    I’d be delighted to help with anything I can and am very happy to “chat a little via email” as you nicely put it.
    Please do get in touch (I’ve emailed you separately, so that you have my address)
    Kindest regards, Mark Westcott

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