Harrogate school students commemorate wartime anniversary

Wartime pupils evacuated from Ashville College 75 years ago are returning to the Lake District hotel which became their home for seven years.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Ashville College was forced to relocate when the school was commandeered by the Air Ministry.

Second World War pupils educated at the relocated Ashville College in Windermere and today's students. (S)

Second World War pupils educated at the relocated Ashville College in Windermere and today's students. (S)

After considering a number of options then headmaster Joe Lancaster plumped for The Hydro Hotel in Bowness-on-Windermere, where the boys and teachers remained until 1946.

To mark this milestone, pupils who spent their school years living and learning in Windermere gathered for a weekend of celebrations in a special commemoration of the 75th anniversary of their evacuation.

Ashville College headmaster Mark Lauder, together with six pupils dressed in wartime uniform, arrived in Windermere as their wartime counterparts did, via a steam train and boat.

Mr Lauder said: “The 75th anniversary of the Ashville College’s evacuation to The Lakes is a very important milestone, and one that the Ashvillian Society and the school is proud to be marking.

“Joe Lancaster was a remarkable man. When the school was requisitioned by the Air Ministry many thought it would spell the end of Ashville, however, he took it upon himself to find a suitable home, and chose the Hydro Hotel, which became ‘Ashville-in-exile’ for seven years.

“Each year, our Year 7 pupils attend a field trip to Windermere, where in addition to their outdoor pursuits they learn about this important chapter in Ashville’s history.

“I was very much looking forward to the journey with our present-day pupils as we try to mirror the exact 1939 mode of arrival. And, once at our destination, they will be able to speak to and interview the old Ashvillians about their individual and collective Windermere experiences as part of a history project they are undertaking.”

On their visit the 70-plus guests were welcomed at a drinks reception where displays from the College archives of 1939–46 will be on show before sitting down to a black tie dinner, followed by speeches.

Following that a service of thanksgiving was led by Catherine Frieze, Ashville College’s assistant chaplain.

President of the Ashvillian Society Nick Breton, the organisation of former pupils, said: “The evacuation to Windermere is a hugely important part of Ashville’s 137 year history, and each year a small reunion of former pupils is held to keep the spirit of Windermere alive.

“This year’s gathering is hugely significant, and for many it is the first time they have made the journey to The Lakes in three-quarters-of-a-century. I’m sure it will be a very emotional few days.

“I’m honoured to be President of the Society at such an auspicious time.”

The initial number of boys in residence in The Hydro at the start of the 1939 autumn term was 171, which soon rose to 208 boarders and six day boys.

One of the downsides of the move was sporting fixtures suffering through a lack of pitches.

This was hampered further by a lack of opposition when petrol rationing was introduced.

When the school finally returned to Harrogate in 1946 they found an Ashville ‘unkempt and uncared-for’ after seven years of neglect.

Floorboards in one boarding house were rotting and the outdoor swimming pool was overgrown with weeds, however this was soon put right by Mr Lancaster and his staff.

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