Brambletye School One Easter

A Memory of Brambletye House

It was wonderful to read ‘Memories of Brambletye Boys Preparatory School 1967 – 1971’ including a mention of the catering staff:
"The food was always prepared and brought to the ends of the tables in large aluminium trays by some curious little Spanish couple called Angela and Manuel. I was never sure where they lived but it appeared to be in a large cupboard at the end of the dining hall!"
They say it is a small world, but when I read the name Manuel I couldn’t believe it, as although my personal connection with the school was very brief (being only a few days) I too remember Manuel.
My mother (Mrs Gwen Hamling) worked at Brambletye School for a time in the sewing room, mainly mending boy’s school uniforms and underwear. This would have been around 1964 when I was about eight or nine years old.
My mother was a very good looking young woman, with a modern outlook on life and it always seemed a strange job for her to take. This was partly because the school was so very old fashioned and stuffy, but being clever and well educated she was rather more academic than domestically inclined. (She eventually went to work in the wages office at Rentokil in Garland Road East Grinstead, when computers were first introduced, which suited her much better).
I remember having to go with her to Brambletye, just for the one week I think, around Easter when my primary school (St Mary’s in Windmill Lane, East Grinstead) would have been closed for the holidays. Anyway, for whatever reason I had to go along into work with her for a few days.
I remember the ground floor sewing room, where my mother worked alone, quite clearly. There was no radio and it was very quiet apart from the odd burst of activity now and again, when crowds of boys scurried to and fro through the door next to this room connecting the hall way and the corridor outside. It was a good sized room, rather like a sitting room, but with piles of clothes and folded linen on every surface – some waiting to be mended, with others stacked ready for collection. It was quite a cosy room, if rather cluttered, with a couple of big dark wicker high backed chairs and an antiquated fierce gas fire set in a large old fire surround. A sewing machine sat one end of a dining table in a square bay window, which was nice and light, and looked out onto a covered walkway or corridor. I have a feeling that this corridor was glazed and ran round a quad, which was why it was so light, and it was off this that double doors opened in to the kitchens.
Matron (a cheerful woman though formidable in her starched white apron) would pop in from time to time with more items for repair, frequently accompanied by some sheepish young boy holding a torn pair of shorts or jacket. On one occasion a tearful little boy with bloodied knees was welcomed in by my mother who sat him down and comforted him, which I’m sure was much appreciated.
Lunch was provided at midday and delivered to us on a tray. Although I can’t remember what the food was like I do remember the aluminium plate covers for keeping the food warm, also allowed the plated meals to be stacked, the like of which I’d never seen before.
Sitting while my mother sewed inevitably got a bit boring for me, and when I could I would explore – or at least as much as I dare. I was quite aware that being a girl I was an oddity, a ‘sore thumb’ which stuck out wildly in this strange and foreign land of all boys. I would visit the kitchens; though never venture in, to see the cook, Manuel, who I thought rather exotic and strange in his long white apron. If memory serves me right, he was quite a young slim man and I’d stand at the kitchen doorway watching him peel vegetables while he tried to teach me some words in Spanish, and I’d attempt to teach him some English. Manuel’s English was quite limited, and although I was only a child at the time I felt really sorry for him as he seemed like a fish out of water.
After this, whenever I fell out with my friends at school and got upset, my mother would remind me that however bad my day had been at least I could come home to my mummy, who at bedtime would tuck me in and kiss me goodnight - unlike the ‘poor little boys at the boarding school’ who often wouldn’t see their mothers for months!

A memory shared by Carol Wallace , on Mar 22nd, 2012.

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