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The Development of the School and Site, 1935-1939

Through the period 1935-1939, the numbers of children arriving at the school increased at each wave of persecution in Germany. The first refugee exodus, relatively small in numbers, was also rather tentative in character, as many of the refugees fled to Britain and other neighbouring European countries in the expectation that the Nazi regime would somehow be replaced, or at least become sufficiently moderate so as to permit them to resume residence in Germany again. Hence the ‘temporary’ nature of the school which had been intended to be only ‘emergency relief’, till life normalised in Germany.

At first, young children and adolescents arrived from Germany in dribs and drabs, at various intervals, increasing the number of permanent pupils to eleven in November 1934. This rapidly rose in 1935, coinciding with the second wave of emigration, after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935. By Spring Term 1936, thirty-one pupils were resident at the school.

The rise of pupil numbers in 1935 raised the question as to the future of the school. Mrs. Vernon had lent the property for a period of two years which was due to end Easter 1936. Was the ‘temporary experiment’ to cease or would the school continue? The political situation in Germany had not changed and the increasing repressive policies of the Nazi regime in 1935, reaffirmed the necessity of continuing with the school. The question was not so much whether the school should cease it’s ‘temporary experiment’ but whether the school should remain at Stoatley Rough or move to larger and more suitable premises.

Bertha Bracey and Dr. Hilde Lion considered that the beauty of the garden and the outstanding views onto the surrounding countryside, had brought new hope and refreshment to just those people, older and younger, for whom the school was started, which outweighed the problems with accommodation.

The school did remain at Stoatley Rough and in February 1936, the committee agreed to form a Company with limited guarantee to hold and manage the school. Articles of Association were drawn up and were submitted to the Board of Trade. The school was finally registered with the Board of Trade on 17 March 1937, under the Company Act of 1929.

In February 1936, thirty one pupils were resident at the school but by May 1937 the numbers had risen to forty pupils. The numbers remain constant at about forty pupils, till mid 1938 when forty-seven are recorded as attending the school.

The extraordinary events of the Anschluss (annexation of Austria), March 1938 created a crisis at the school in September 1938, when an influx of Austrian refugee children arrived at the school. The Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom (Kristallnacht) on the night 9th/10th November 1938 in Germany, brought a host of applications and problems. By 1939, the pupil numbers had risen to eighty-one. This double influx of children created a new set of accommodation problems. To accommodate the Austrian children, a house (Thursely Copse), further down Farnham Lane, which had been hired initially for the anticipated evacuation of children from London, was hurriedly furnished within two days, with the help of English friends, especially from the neighbourhood. Miss von Gierke was put in charge of the house, as she had become homeless in consequence of the crisis. The house was full immediately upon acquisition.

Thursely Copse, 1939


At the outbreak of war, September 1939, one hundred people were resident at Stoatley Rough, ninety of them being pupils, farm-students and domestic science students. Fifty of these children had left parents behind in Germany. Some of these children never saw their parents again. Approximately eight pupils left Stoatley Rough in the first four months of the war to join their parents in America and a few older boys left to take up farming posts in Britain.

In May 1940, the school was able to give up rooms hired in Hindhead, and managed to hire only one room at Oakenrough for Dr. Louise Leven. In October 1940, the school was offered a flat at Rowallen which they accepted, as the house at Thursely Copse was closed in September 1940. The number of pupils attending the school during the war years (1939-1945) levelled out at about seventy-five, many of them remaining at Stoatley Rough for the duration of the war.

Under construction...

The finished bungalow

The permanent nature of the school enabled Dr. Lion to reorganise the premises and to add new buildings. A bungalow was built behind the school house, but with its own view onto the surrounding countryside. It was designed by Miss Clare Nauheim and it took approximately one month to erect and was completed in May 1936 at a cost of £535. The bungalow included an extra classroom and an isolation room, as well as providing accommodation for Dr. Hilde Lion and Dr. Emmy Wolff.

The Lodge and Stables

The Hut


The stables by the lodge were converted into a Laundry and Workshop. In 1937, a former Army barrack was purchased and erected next to the bungalow, at a cost of £180. This provided accommodation for younger children (boys) and was known as “The Hut”. Post-war this became known as “The Girls Hut”. An extension was built on the end which included accommodation for seven pupils and one teacher, with an additional workshop below. This became known as “Landsend”. Beyond this another hut was erected after the war and was known as “The New Hut”.

Inauguration of the Farm Hut...

...in March 1938

In 1938 the school established a Farm School, when Mrs. Vernon most generously allowed the school to use the Stoatley Rough fields, consisting of seven acres which had become vacant during that year. The school was able to use the cottage in the valley for accommodation and another hut was erected for the farm.

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