Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Peeking at Warren Hill via Satellite

Hello! I’m back, and still wondering about the schools named in the dedication written by George Mills in Meredith and Co. Yesterday I came up with information regarding Windlesham House, courtesy of their alumni association. Today I thought I’d investigate Warren Hill School outside of beautiful Eastbourne [seen in the distance above], and I ended up doing much of it by... uh... virtual automobile, without ever leaving my desk here in Ocala, Florida!

On the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Page, there is a tidbit of useful information about the school: “[A photo] album contains a collection of photographs from the Warren Hill School in Eastbourne. It appears to have been a public school, meaning a private secondary boarding school. It may have been a prep school. In the photographs we note the boys look more prep school age than public school age. Only public schools would have had cadet programs. The photographs date from about 1885 to the early 1900s. Unfortunately we have been unable to find information about the school itself. It is not an active school, but we are unsure just when it closed.”

Access to this site is limited [Honestly, it costs money to see the actual photos, and I’m thinking carefully about how badly I want to spend it], so I have no photos to share right now. However, I think it’s safe to say that, given G.M.’s involvement at the school and the age level of the children in his books, it was a boys’ preparatory school.

Subsequently, in a “Sussex county-wide forum” from the website british-genealogy.com, I found a thread called “
Warren Hill School-Eastbourne”. One entry, posted from South Australia [!] and dated 02-05-2008 02:32 AM, reads in part:

While searching for yet another Martin Family member( will it never end?) I arrived at the 1901 census for an Eastbourne school, 'Warren Hill 'on "Beachy New Road". It had students from all over Britain. My possible was 11yrs. others on page were 12 + 13…

cheers wendy

Looking for a Mills makes me feel sympathetic to someone looking for a Martin. Good luck, Wendy! Anyway, given the above “address” of Beachy New Road, I put Google Maps to work and found what appeared to be “Warren Hill” itself [marked with a pink push-pin], just north of a “Beachy Head Road”:

Considering that a “South Australia” factor might be at work above in trying to determine the name of a road half the planet away, I decided it wise to start tracking Beachy Head Road. Here’s a view of the road sign seen as one approaches Beachy Head Road by car. Is this “Beachy Head Contryside Center” possibly where the school was located? I'll tell you why I think it might be...

The road turns south, traveling near the sea, and as it does, there are some obvious fields off to the east of a driver—some 200 feet west of the surf—that certainly look strange to my American eye:

Zooming in, they probably looked like cricket fields to my untrained eye, but what do I know?

So I did a search and came up with this, comparing baseball and cricket fields:

Yes, I guess even an American should be able to recognize what at least might once have been a cricket pitch! So, apparently some sort of cricket field is still to be found along Beachy Head Road, a thoroughfare that may be at or near the location of what was Warren Hill School. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

The school must’ve had some spectacular views. Here’s a screen capture from a Google Street View, taken while I was “driving” south along Beachy Head Road, looking east over what would be the cricket fields down below the crest of the hill [you may be able to just see benches that are angled to look down on them] and at the amazing flourish of sky, light, and sea out over the English Channel. In the inset, you can see the fields.

It’s interesting to speculate that these are the same pitches upon which Mills could have watched youths play, eventually leading to a book like his King Willow. As an American, it’s even more surprising to me that they’re still there—here in the States, it would seem uncanny that they hadn’t been overly industrialized or completely rearranged to accommodate high-profit tourism for decades now. It's all overwhelmingly beautiful, and if you're viewing this from the U.K., none of this must seem like any sort of big deal. To me, though, it's all breathtaking and meaningful.

Anyway, as of yesterday, it was still unclear whether or not Mills might’ve played there as a lad or had been present there as a master. But that's all come into remarkable focus based on information I’ve received today from the Windlesham House Association.

And, boy, am I excited about the news!

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