My Years at St. Hugh’s College – 1973 to 1986.
When we arrived in Tollerton from Yorkshire in 1971 with our two young sons, Stephen and Paul, aged five and three, as far as I was concerned I had left my teaching days behind and was very happy to be at home! When Paul went to school two years later, the Headmaster of St. Hugh’s, Father Anthony Pateman, appeared on our doorstep one Sunday morning and offered me a job.
Ever since we had come to Tollerton I had been intrigued by the building known as St. Hugh’s College, but despite being R.C. ourselves, we knew nothing about it. (It had in fact been founded as a junior seminary, but by then very few of the boys were church students.)
Our local Catholic church in Keyworth was then based at the Mary Ward Training College – now the Geological Survey. Several of the College lecturers used to do some part time teaching at St. Hugh’s, mostly in the evenings, and one of these, a friend, had passed on my name to Fr. Pateman as being a possible history teacher. Although I was a classicist, it was suggested that ancient history would be a good option.
So, with some trepidation after being out of teaching for several years, I duly presented myself at the beginning of the Autumn term, not knowing what to expect at all. It was certainly a very different experience from my two previous all girls’ schools, but thirteen very happy years followed. In fact, I only had to teach history for a year before taking over most of the Latin.
The boys were either weekly or full time boarders, including some overseas students.
During my years at St. Hugh’s there were two Rectors, Fr. Cantwell and Fr. Needham, and two Headmasters, Fr. Pateman and Fr. John Guest. There were five or six resident Priests plus one resident lay member of staff, David Hateley. The rest of the teaching was done by people like myself – mostly local married women with families. It was an ideal job – we were more or less able to choose our own hours to fit around our other commitments.
Both our boys were at Tollerton Primary School in my first years and came home at lunchtime, as children did in those days. Consequently I opted for mornings and even learned to ride a bike so that I could get home in time.
For us, a great bonus was the fact that we could enjoy the extensive grounds whenever we wished – especially good in the holidays when we had them to ourselves. Our boys felt very much at home with the St. Hugh’s boys, especially as we were able to join them in the College Chapel each Sunday. By then, the Mary Ward College had closed.
An important feature of the school year was the brilliant theatrical performance put on by David Hateley, a most talented producer. All the parts were played by the boys and the standard was excellent. Our whole family looked forward to these events. There was also an annual Garden Fete supported by the whole Diocese, held at the Spring Bank Holiday.
The cooking was all done by two Franciscan Sisters, Sr. Eucharia and Sr. Rita. They were kind and patient and always ready to have a chat with us lay members of staff, taking a great interest in our families. They lived in the small house by the back entrance. Although I didn’t normally stay for lunch, we were all invited for special meals from time to time and the standard of cooking was superb.
Len, the caretaker, and his wife lived further up Tollerton Lane in one of the lodges – now a rather smart house. I think his wife organised the laundry together with a lady called Peggy who lived in a prefab near the Sisters on the back drive to the Hall.
One weekend in 1986 we all received a shock in the post – a letter telling us that the Bishop had decided to close the College, primarily because of a lack of vocations to the Priesthood. We were to continue teaching the exam forms for a further year – the rest of the students went elsewhere. The two Sisters also retired and the talented David Hateley took over the catering. The standard was as high as his theatrical productions!
I suppose in that final year we all got used to the fact that St. Hugh’s would be no more. I even began to look forward to my second retirement from teaching! In fact that never happened – Adult Education beckoned and I’ve been there ever since. Who says Latin is dead!