Monday, December 31, 2007

Keswick Hotel during the Second World War

The Keswick Country House Hotel, Cumbria.
(Photograph by J. Ritson, December 2007)

The Keswick Hotel was the wartime home of the Independent Boarding School for Girls, Roedean. The school had temporarily relocated from Brighton, East Sussex in May 1940 when its clifftop location on the south coast was believed to be at risk from German bombers on the southern side of the English Channel. About 50 or so girls were evacuated to Canada, while the rest of the school and the staff were evacuated to Keswick, Cumberland (now Cumbria) in the northern Lake District. The evacuated girls were mainly aged 11 - 16.

The Keswick Hotel, owned by the Wivell family, was used as the main building, housing the Senior Girls and the staff. Other, more Junior Girls, were boarded at Millfield Hotel, Shu-le-Crow Guest House and some prefabricated huts. As well as using rooms in the Keswick Hotel for teaching, some of the other premises that were used as classrooms included the hotel garage, the Methodist Church Rooms and parts of the adjacent Keswick railway station including the waiting room. In fact the waiting room continued to be used by railway passengers even while lessons were being taught. There were some strange things that took place during WW2!

(For additional information about Keswick and Roedean School. click on 'Comments' below)


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Roedean scholars and staff were certainly welcome visitors at Keswick Hotel, and in the wider community of Keswick. The presence of the school at the Keswick Hotel helped the local economy survive the lack of tourists to the area. Many of the Roedean girls joined the choir at Crosthwaite Church in the town (Church of England), while others joined the handbell ringers.

Visitors to the Keswick Country House Hotel outside the war years have included H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on 17 October 1956, and H.I.M. Kaiser William II on 14 August 1895. Interestingly, on the day 'Kaiser Bill' visited Keswick Hotel it was as the main guest of a party taken there by Lord Lonsdale who would later form his own Battalion to fight against the Kaiser in WW1 ("The Lonsdales", the 11th Battalion The Border Regiment). Other guests at Keswick Hotel that day included the Countess of Lonsdale and Lord and Lady Churchill. Clearly, the Keswick Hotel has welcomed many an illustrious guest during its history as well as the girls and staff of Roedean School.

While the staff and girls of Roedean School were spending the war years in the Lake District, the permanent school buildings were used for a completely different purpose. In 1941, the evacuated Roedean School buildings in East Sussex were requisitioned by the Admiralty to become the new home of the Headquarters and Central Administration sections of HMS Vernon, together with the torpedo and mine warfare schools and associated training departments, and the establishment was given the designation of HMS Vernon (R) on 3 May 1941.

At the end of the war the Admiralty moved out of the Roedean buildings while the school itself left the sanctuary of the Keswick Hotel and moved back to its usual home in East Sussex. However, the good memories of 'The Keswick Years' were not forgotten and formed part of the definitive history of Roedean's history in a book published in its centenary year of 1998.

Further reading:

Moore, J. and Voight, A. (1998) 'Memories of Roedean, the first 100 years' Seaford, S.B. Publications (£9.95)

Monday, 31 December, 2007  

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