12 January 2016

St Michael's Hall, Lansdowne Road, Hove

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2015)
 
 copyright © J.Middleton
Exterior and internal views of St Michael's Hall Girls School in the 1920s

In 1844 Miss Maryanne Rooper founded a school for ladies (later called St Michael’s Hall) at numbers 1 to 5 Lansdowne Square. The Roopers were a prominent clerical family at Hove with a passion for education. Revd T.R. Rooper established the Farman Street Schools and Ivy Place Infants’ School. The family lived at Wick Hall.

In 1851 St Michael’s had no less than 55 girls but there were only two resident teachers and a governess; perhaps other staff lived elsewhere. A widow from Clayton acted as school matron.

By 1900 Miss Ida Farnell was headmistress and she decided to move the school to historic Wick Lodge, which was at no great distance in Lansdowne Road. Wick Lodge was built in the early 19th century as a square block with an entrance on the north side. In the Ordnance Survey Map of 1877 there were verandas on the south and west side.

Miss Farnell must have been a lady of some means because she decided some alterations were necessary and in September 1900 Hove Council approved the plans drawn up by Mr T. Garrett. The alterations involved additions on the north side and the entrance was re-sited to the west side at a point where the new building met the old one. There were stone steps leading up to the front door under a gabled wooden porch.

Miss Farnell was headmistress until 1906 when the Misses Simpson took over. In 1913 Miss L.A. Maule and Miss C.E. Isaacson became joint heads.

In July 1921 when Colonel Sir Berry and Lady Cusack-Smith threw a large party at their nearby house called Aylesbury, the comic circus was to be seen in the ground’s of St Michael’s Hall.

In around 1930 St Michael’s Hall moved to Burton Park House, Petworth, where it remained in business until 1993.

 copyright © J.Middleton
Today the name of St Michael lives on in the separate house situated in the grounds of Wick Lodge.

Later Occupants of Wick Lodge

In 1931 former Wick Lodge became home to Holland House Prep School for Boys but by 1934 the establishment was called Claremont School.

In around 1947 Wick Lodge became a convent for the Poor Servants of God, the same order that moved to Portslade Manor in 1904. The nuns renamed the building St Anne’s Convent and ran a children’s home here until 1983 when East Sussex County Council changed the emphasis from residential care to fostering children with families. Then the nuns cared for homeless women.

copyright © J.Middleton
The south fa├žade of Wick Lodge was photographed on 26 September 2015.  The window on the right has a stained glass image of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the days when it was a convent and it is still in place.
But by 1995 the nuns had moved to a smaller building because their numbers had dwindled and there were only five nuns left. Squatters soon took up residence causing much damage, which was unfortunate because Wick Lodge became a Grade II listed building in September 1971.

Finally, in 1997 work started on refurbishing the property, which the Buddhists had purchased. It was hoped that they would be able to move in by 1998. It was stated that there were 25 Buddhists, both monks and nuns. The place is now called the Bodhisattva Mahayana Buddhist Centre.

copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph shows ‘Bodhisattva’ in large letters. It also clearly shows the two phases of building at Wick Lodge.

Famous Old Girl of St Michael’s

Diana Caldwell (1913-1987) Lady Delamare – Although her maiden name will not mean much to most people, her activities in Kenya in what was known as the Happy Valley ex-pat community caused a sensation and resulted in books and a film. 

 copyright © J.Middleton
Number 7 Brunswick Place is the house situated on the corner of Western Road, Hove.

Diana was born on 22 December 1913 at 7 Brunswick Place, Hove when her father Josiah Seymour Colwell was aged 45 and her mother Marjorie was 28 years old. Mrs Caldwell was not pleased to be living at Hove, which she considered a social wilderness. But her father thought there had been enough high jinks on the London social scene and consequently he purchased the house in Brunswick Place for the couple, hoping the move would make her settle down to domesticity.

But where the family actually lived at Hove seems a bit of a mystery. According to the Directories the Caldwells were recorded at 7 Brunswick Place until at least 1940 and author Leda Farrant states they lived there. But Farrant’s descriptions of the layout sound nothing like a Brunswick house. Perhaps the couple rented out the house in Brunswick Place and lived in a spacious house in Lansdowne Road instead as recorded in White Mischief and confirmed by a Hove resident.

Also in Lansdowne Road was St Michael’s Hall, which Diana attended for around one year before being sent to board at Horsley Towers when she was almost eleven years of age. 

 copyright © J.Middleton
 This house in Lansdowne Road is called Mercia Court but could it be the red house with four floors in its own grounds as described by Leda Farrant ?

When she grew up, Diana enjoyed the high social life just as much as her mother had done. Diana also married four times:

1) Vernon Martin 27 October 1937
2) Sir Henry (Jock) Delves Broughton 5 November 1940
3) Gilbert Colville 22 January 1943
4) Thomas Pitt Hamilton Cholmondeley, 4th Baron Delamare 26 March 1955

Diana’s notoriety rests on her being one of the central figures in the murder of Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll on 24 January 1941 outside Nairobi. At the time Diana was having an affair with Erroll although she had only recently married her second husband. The authorities assumed it was a classic case of a jealous husband seeking revenge. But Delves Broughton was acquitted of Erroll’s murder.

James Fox claims in White Mischief that Delves Broughton was guilty after all and so does Juanita Carberry in her book. Carberry’s parents had a coffee plantation in the White Highlands, Kenya and knew the people involved.

But Farrant’s book explores the theory that Diana killed Erroll and probably her old friend Hugh Dickinson helped to move the body. It appears that many British ladies in Kenya kept their own guns and Diana was known to be quite free in the use of hers. Indeed, she fired her gun on two occasions at lovers who angered her; one had a narrow escape when the bullet entered his body above his heart and came out through the shoulder and he survived. On the other occasion the bullets missed the proposed victim completely.

Then in 2000 there came a new twist in the tale when Trzebinski claimed British agents had killed Erroll on instructions from London. Erroll had once been a member of the British Union of Fascists led by his friend Oswald Mosley, Erroll knew too much about right-wing activities. Neither of the two agents chosen for the mission survived the war. Support for the theory comes from a gap in official documents covering January 1941, which suggests a cover-up.

Sources

Argus
Carberry, Juanita Child of Happy Valley (1999)
Census returns
Directories
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Farrant, Leda Lady Delamare and the Lord Erroll Murder (1997)
Fox, James White Mischief (1982)
Hove Council Minutes
Trzebinski, Errol Life and Death of Lord Erroll (2000)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
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