Visit of old St Hugh’s pupils to Tollerton Hall, 13 May 2016

Last updated on 24 October 2019

Some ex pupils from St Hugh’s arranged to visit the Hall and one of the history group tagged along to record their memories.

There were about 15 old schoolboys from years spanning 1971 – 1986 when St Hugh’s College closed who came to reminisce. All were amazed at how small the rooms were compared to when they were here last and that much shorter!

These memories are not assigned to anyone so some of their deeds can remain anonymous! I think they all enjoyed themselves and found it great to meet up with old school friends. When talking of his time there, one commented, “It was bliss”.


There was a 25 foot wall extending from the walkway to the church that came up to the pinnacles – why was that taken down  and when? [This can be seen in the photo in our book with the title ‘Fire at St Hugh’s College’ – P41 – copy below]

wall between hall and church

Someone jumped out of the first floor window for a laugh and ended up breaking both their ankles.

A rumour that was always repeated on 4th November (mischievous night) was that the yellow/white lady would appear out of the lake. Many stayed up to watch, but no one seemed to have ever seen her.

Fond memories of the outdoor swimming pool (now filled in – it was to the left of the lake looking from the front entrance of the Hall) where everyone got dunked in full school uniform on their birthday. A plunge pool was situated down the stream from this but not known if still there.

They remember the fireworks being let off at Bonfire Night around the swimming pool (and going out and letting more off when they shouldn’t have).

They would get the bus to Nottingham without the Priest’s knowledge – the trick was to go to the bus stop near North End Cottages then you were less likely to get caught.

There was an island in the lake on the left hand side looking from the front of the Hall.island on lake copy

This, the oldest picture of the Hall, shows the lake which would be on the left as you were viewing it from the Hall.

Presumably this island was removed when the lake was excavated for the Trout farm.

There was a tunnel leading to the fountain from the cellar. One said that around 1980 there was an attempt to reopen the tunnel but that must have failed. No-one seems to recall the fountain ever working.

Ice skating on the frozen lake and playing football when it was in this condition – all admitted they wouldn’t let their own children do that now!

The grass tennis court was at the back.


As you go into the Hall the library was the room to the left. One of the original rooms still with it’s original architraves and open fire place. The ‘boys’ remember the fire being used and watching films in here – they had to go to a local video store to get them. One remembers watching the Exorcist (aged about 12) with the priests!

One room at the back of the Hall was the Chapel. They could remember where the altar was and their pews.  Depending on when you were a student, services were held early every morning and there were also evening prayers. Morning mass  was optional but if you had to go, best go when Father Tutcher was doing it as he could get through Mass in 20 minutes. Fondly remembered as ‘Tommy Tutcher’; he wore a full black cassock, Doc Martens, Nottingham Forest socks and smelt of TCP.

chapel copy

The Chapel as it was when St Hugh’s

Upstairs there were dormitories, bathrooms, staff quarters etc. Some remembered a train set being in one of the rooms.  Pupil year groups were separated and often 8 to a room (sometimes hospital beds – which they had fun in wheeling all over the corridors, sometimes bunk beds depending on the year you were there).

One of the dormitories held a painting by Picasso (Guernica) which was not fondly remembered.

Back of clock
Back of clock

Through a locked door up some narrow stairs there is a small room. Here you get access to the clock on the tower. Ducking under what is presumably part of the structure to hold the clock there is a small gap between the clock and the structure and you can see the workings of the back of the clock (and still hear the ticking). Opposite this (still in the small gap ) is the “Graffiti” wall. Here lots of pupils scribed their names to posterity (the oldest seen was 1968) and some of the ‘boys’ were trying to find theirs as well as recognising that of other old pupils.

More graffiti
More graffiti


One of the upstairs rooms was Canon James Cantwell’s office – this was where you got the cane and, depending to what the punishment was for, would depend on where and how many thrashings you received, one example given was talking after lights out. [Amazing how everyone seemed to remember this room…]

Weeding the path to the lake – a form of punishment

Talking at night – taken down to the library and had to sit on desks for two hours waiting for your punishment.


One of the dormitories had a recessed part where the sink used to be. Under this were loose floor boards where ‘the stash’ was kept – fags, food etc.

“…you were sitting on the sink when it gave way and you ended up with a bit of china lodged in you. You had to go to the infirmary for the nuns to extract it..”

“At one time there was scaffolding outside the dormitory window. I would climb out and go and visit my girlfriend. Only got found out when it snowed and the footprints were still there in the morning leading to and from the girlfriend’s house.”

Some of the boys became quite aware of where certain keys were hidden and formed a little group to work together to enable them to partake of the altar wine among other things.

General Information about the School

There were day boys and those that lived in. ’76 – ’80 there were about 120 pupils. The fees were low compared to other schools (possible £600 a year – about ½ price). About 20 in a class (for ‘A’ levels it was often 2 or 3 in a class)

St Hugh’s College was an Arts based school, if you wanted to do ‘A’ level science you had to go to another school but you could still board at the Hall.

The school had some connections to Mexico as they often had Mexicans staying. They all spoke Spanish and kept to themselves. One ‘boy’ had to take home a Mexican for half term as they had no-where else to go. This Mexican boy came from a wealthy family and had 2 chauffeurs and people to look after him. When asked to help with the washing up and drying he promptly got hold of a carving knife and sliced his hand open as he had no idea how to do it safely.

Most of the floors were wooden, the refectory had a parquet floor and the entrance was stone. You could get around quite quietly on wooden floors…

There was a shooting range in the cellar. It was a narrow channel with targets at the end.

Wooden squash court at the back of the Hall where the car park is now. This was sold and dismantled.

The refectory – had a stage at the end where presentations were given and where they presented plays.

When parents came for a function, tea was often provided. Not the high tea that you might expect but a loaf of bread, a pot of jam and a huge pot of tea.

Mrs Lillie was the Latin teacher – possibly lived in Tollerton

Priests were the teachers as well as women (about 50:50), the priests would wear a dog collar.

There were also nuns. They lived in the West Gate Lodge and did the laundry. There were not many of them and they seemed to keep themselves to themselves. Assisted  in the Infirmary too.

The headteacher (Guest) kept wine in the cellar

Grenades were found – several of them, including one under the art class room. Soldiers came from Chilwell to remove them. One was found when the boys were playing football. They duly picked it up, placed it to the side to finish their game then eventually took it into the priests and put it on their desk to show them ‘what they’d found’… More were found when the lake was dredged for the Trout farm.

They played football and cricket against the local lads. They didn’t mix with the locals much as there was a lot of juvenile animosity. However meeting a local girl was different and shaking hands meant that you’d scored.

War games in the woods. Could only be played with the same year group to make it fair. The game was orchestrated by each team having a tyre. The objective was to pinch the other team’s tyre and bring it back ‘home’, then that team was the winner. You could only use your hands (so no sticks etc) but it was basically fighting. You always got the biggest boy to sit on your tyre and have a few ‘protectors’ for him, then went out to attack and get the other team’s tyre…. [One way to get rid of excess energy!]

Many thanks to all the guys for talking. I’m sure I missed some gems…..!!