Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Eastbourne Local History Society Comes Through!

There's been so much new information found that I'm having trouble keeping up with it all—something that I didn't expect, but that delights me! In the last couple of days, I've spent quite a bit of time in Microsoft Word creating a 21-page time line not only of George Mills himself, but of many people and events in his lifetime, and some from before he was born, that would have influenced him. It's been an undertaking, and I've been neglectful in keeping up with incoming info!

Here's some input from the wonderful members of the Eastbourne Local History Society [who provided the photograph above] regarding my Google-enabled virtual drive around Beachy Head Road outside of Eastbourne near Warren Hill itself. Let me share some...

Society member Maureen [click for her personal website] was the first to respond to my enquiries. Regarding my spotting what seemed to be cricket fields that may have been at Warren Hill School in Eastbourne, she wrote "the sports pitches to which you refer to probably belong to the University of Brighton who have a campus in this area, as does St Andrews School, both of which are still in existence today."

And in reference to some information you simply can't find on Google Maps, "what is now known as Beachy Head Road, has in the past been called Warren Hill Road and New Road."

Also: "The Beachy Head Countryside Centre, based on the A259 coast road, is nothing whatsoever to do with Warren Hill school. this building was formerly a farm and now a conservation centre, at the entrance to the Seven Sisters Country Park."

Thank you so much, Maureen! Okay, so I missed all of that completely...

She closes, "the Compton Estate office may have some info on this site as the Duke of Devonshire owned most of the land in this area."

Thanks so much, everyone! I feel silly now, thinking I could somehow use computer technology and a "spy satellite" to propel myself back into the past…

Also from the Michael in the Society:

"Warren Hill was a well known preparatory school in the town and I'm sure there must be references to it in our various index volumes. I have only a partial index here but see that the school was mentioned in Number 104 (pages 8 and 9). It may well have been referred to in other issues of our quarterly newsletter (Eastbourne Local Historian) and perhaps one of the members can provide details.

The school and its occupants (it was a boarding school) will be on the 1901 and 1911 census returns but unfortunately the 1911 census was conducted during the Easter holidays. The census returns are available on line, as you probably know.

I know of one master at the school ... Eric Streatfeild, who almost certainly taught music. He married the novelist, Kitty Barne, and I am currently researching both of the above. I don't know when the school ceased to exist but can confirm that it is listed in my 1914 directory for Eastbourne. The address is given as Beachy Head Road and the headmaster is A. Max Wilkinson MA. It is described as a 'gentlemen's school'."

I'm actually becoming quite adept at perusing vintage British census reports, and I'll admit some are making for fascinating reading, even if one has no interest in Mills at all. There are two, for example, from Killerton, Devon, that are pertinent to G.M.'s history and that I simply savored.

Now, Windlesham School's belief is that George Mills left Portslade and went immediately moved down the coast to Warren Hill School. If so, we know Warren Hill was open in 1914, and that he could have begun teaching there as early as 1926. Even if that specualtion is incorrect, it appears Mills was definitely in Oxford in 1921 although we can't be sure at this point how long he actually stayed.

Michael has further managed to acquire even more nuggets of information, some of which he reveals in this subsequent message:

Just a little taster ... the location of Warren Hill School is not as you suspect. Beachy Head Road is quite a long road. The school (which no longer stands ... apart from the former hall or gym) was situated on the left-hand side of Beachy Head Road, between Coltstocks Road and Darley Road. [Update: The school was, indeed, located behind the gate in the wall at the right!] The playing field was elsewhere and I will give you more details in due course.

So pse bear with me for now ...

One of our senior members has just e-mailed to say:-

> I remember Warren Hill School as a regular opponent on our fixture lists during the 1930s. Their football field was at the top end of Carlisle Road. But I seem to recall that it was dropped from our fixtures well before 1939, so maybe it had closed by then. It does not appear in my 1939 street directory.

Well done! We now have a location for Warren Hill School—and I've now seen how long a road that Beachy Head is!

I've just now virtually "driven" it both ways: To the east and to the west. I'm not certain, however, which way I'd be traveling for the school's site to be on my left. Would that be the north side of the road or the south? I snapped a couple of photos along the way that I thought [hoped] might have been at least near the school's site. Warning: I do have serious doubts, however, regarding most of my newly-formed geographical notions of Sussex!

We've also narrowed the window around Warren Hill's disppearance. Although the school was no longer in existence by 1939, Mills seems to have referred to the school's "staff and boys" in the same present tense he does Windlesham in his dedication to 1933's Meredith and Co.

With Warren Hill off of the local football fixtures seemingly well before 1939, it's conceivable that, as opposed to Mills leaving Warren Hill for teaching positions in Windermere and Glion, Warren Hill may well have "left" him!

I'll certainly be looking forward to any and all information forthcoming from the Eastbourne Local History Society about Warren Hill School. I'd also be interested in anything else deemed important or distinctive about the era between, say, 1920 and 1933 in Sussex. Somewhere within it all anothrer clue to Mills may be hiding!

Thank you all so much for the help you've given a stranger. I can't even begin to express my appreciation!

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