This information has been produced to commemorate 125 years since the founding of the School, and to celebrate the School’s association with three generations of the Patterson family over 90 years. It is not a full history of Ramillies, so there are many aspects of the School which you will not find recorded. Similarly, we have not attempted to list all the staff who have worked at Ramillies over the years – we have simply mentioned a few who are remembered by many of the former pupils who come back to see us from time to time. In terms of present staff, we made the decision not to single out anyone, as we feel this would be unfair. We would, however, like to record our appreciation of all the staff, past and present, whose dedication and teamwork have made Ramillies the unique school it is today.
If you are a present pupil, we hope you will find it interesting to read the story of Ramillies; and if you are an ex-pupil, we hope the words and pictures in this book will bring back happy memories.
Anne Poole and Diana Patterson
The Early Years – Cheadle House
The School was founded in 1884 at Haw Bank in Cheadle where it was based for the next 33 years. This was a remarkable era; during those 33 years the telephone was invented, the motor car first developed, Queen Victoria died after a reign of 64 years, and the world was changed by the horrors of the First World War.
Mr. R. N. Patterson was teaching in Melton Mowbray in 1919 when he was invited to become Headmaster at Haw Bank, a boarding school preparing boys for public schools. At the same time the school was offered Cheadle House, which had been a military hospital during the war. Mr Patterson accepted the offer and so began the long link between his family and what was to become Ramillies Hall School. When the school moved into their new premises at Cheadle House, there were about 20 boys on the roll but during the next few years the numbers built up to over 30.
The school consisted of a large, square house with a 14 room cottage, standing in large gardens which featured a huge ash tree at the front overhanging the High Street. There were no playing fields on site, and the masters would usher groups of boys round the village to the different pitches at Massie Street and Hall Croft for rugger and soccer, and Milton Crescent for hockey.
Mr Patterson’s Granddaughter, Anne, remembers him as a very kind and warm person with a fantastic historical knowledge who was known by his friends and family as “Pat”. In 1907 he had married a formidable Scottish lady of regal bearing and formal demeanour named Lindsay. They had two sons – Edward Loudon born in 1909, and Charles Kenneth, born in 1913. Mr Patterson relied on his wife totally when decisions needed to be made concerning the School, and she played an important role in its day-to-day management. She had a small number of girls directly under her care at Cheadle House.
The motor car had become increasingly popular and traffic was now an obstacle in taking boys safely to local playing fields. This, together with the growth in pupil numbers, led Mr Patterson to search for new premises for his school. When Ramillies Hall was discovered at the end of a cinder track it was uninhabited, neglected, overgrown and in need of serious restoration work. Never one to shy away from a challenge Mr. Patterson put builders to work and after eight months a remarkable transformation had been achieved.
The last term at Cheadle House ended in December 1935 and the boys re-assembled at Ramillies Hall in January 1936. An adjacent field was purchased which, after being drained and levelled, became the large sports field which the School still owns and uses today. The minister of the Congregational Church in Cheadle Hulme had two sons at the school and he was always a great supporter of all the games. In 1939 he brought along Eric Lidell, the gold medal winner in the 1924 Olympics whose achievements inspired the film “Chariots of Fire”, to talk to the pupils about sport and missionary work in China.
War—and a change of Headmaster
Meanwhile Hitler had established himself in Germany and war was declared on the 3rd September 1939. The Scouts from Ramillies were camping on the Isle of Barra as war broke out, to the great concern of their parents. However the Outer Islands mailboat was probably too small to warrant enemy action, and the boys all returned safely to school. During the next few months most of the masters at Ramillies joined the forces and teaching at the school was left to elderly men, those physically unfit to fight, and women teachers.
In 1946, the year after the Second World War ended, R. N Patterson retired from teaching, and he and his wife moved to Ilkley. After 27 years running Ramillies Hall School he handed over the Headship to his son “Captain” Kenneth Patterson (CKMP), who shared the role with Mr Desmond Clements (Clem).
The two new Heads had met at the Royal Marine Office at the Admiralty and they were to work together at Ramillies for the next 33 years. CKMP was in charge of the running of the school and also taught French, while Clem organised the timetables and taught classics and maths. They were joined by John Lee an ex pupil of Cheadle House who came to the school as the Senior Master and took over what we would now call the pastoral side of the school as well as teaching.
The school was run along the same lines as many other prep schools of that time – boys were always called by their surnames, they learned a great deal by rote, and manners were very important. Discipline was firm, and the cane and the strap were used for any misdemeanours – even work not set out correctly or incomplete was dealt with severely. The boys wore grey suits with short trousers and a red cap – even the thirteen year olds! The red blazer was used for outings and matches against other schools.
Clem also took over the popular 5thCheadle Scouts, which was still an important part of the School. Each Thursday the boys in the Troop wore their cub and scout uniforms all day and were involved in scouting activities during the afternoon and evening. Every year during the Summer holiday they went away for a week to camp. Both masters took summer camps – CKPM took the boys to Barra and in later years, Clem took camps to the Lake District and North Yorkshire.
The Patterson family lived on the premises; Kenneth Patterson had married and gradually the family grew to include four daughters. As in the previous generation, his wife Haznih Patterson played a large role in the management of the school, taking on full responsibility for the domestic and boarding side of the business. There were no supermarkets where supplies could be bought in bulk for the children, and all shopping was done locally. The domestic staff reported to Mrs Patterson in the cellars every morning and she would give out supplies for the day. There was no waste – polish, for example, was bought in big containers and Mrs. Patterson would ration it into small tins for the cleaners. In the mid-1960s she also took over the cooking, good staff having been impossible to find. For many years the pupils commented on the delicious meals she provided. Every night on saying goodnight to the boarders, CKMP would ask “Have you all had enough to eat?”.
Mrs. Patterson’s skills really came to the fore at Prize Giving, on the last Saturday of each summer term, when she would prepare a sumptuous tea for the parents. The dining room tables groaned with plates of food and the room was decorated with fresh flowers which she had gathered from the garden. There was a marquee on the front lawn and everyone dressed up in their finery, including hats, for the day. Prizes were presented between the speeches.
All this time, the four daughters were growing up in the school which was their family home. Anne, the eldest, went to a local day school for her primary education and spent time with the Ramillies boarders at evenings and weekends. Catriona and Jane went to school at Ramillies until they were 9, when they followed Anne to board at St Leonards School in St Andrews. Diana, the youngest sister, stayed at Ramillies until she was 13 – the only girl in a school of 120 boys – and played in both the cricket and rugby teams!
It was a matter of great disappointment to CKMP that he “only” had four girls and no son – so he simply treated them as boys, and their childhood presents were train sets, Scalextric and building sets! All the girls have memories of being very much part of the School and sharing their childhood with the boys.
Ramillies continued to expand and CKMP had the dining room and dormitory block added onto the main building in the 1960s – replacing a Nissen hut, which had been used as a dining room and boarders’ common room. Up until then the boarding had been run by Beryl Male who lived in the family accommodation with her dog, Wendy. Part of the boarding accommodation was on the top floor of the main house (the rooms were called Livingstone, Frobisher, Marco Polo and Nansen) as well as in Columbus, the old billiard room (now the Music Room), along with Scott and Amundsen above the shower and changing rooms. Once the new building was finished Scott became the bathroom, with 6 baths, and the accommodation in the main house was transferred to the three new large dormitories. Beryl remained at the school until her retirement in the late 1960s. She had been at the school for almost 25 years.
The swimming pool was also built in the 1960s – until then the boys had walked to Bramhall Baths twice a week for swimming lessons. Heating was not installed in the Ramillies pool until the 1970s, but this didn’t deter the boys at all – one of their favourite treats was an early morning swim before breakfast, in the summer.
Other sport continued to be an important aspect of life at Ramillies – games every afternoon and fixtures every Wednesday and Saturday. Rugby was played in the Autumn term, with hockey in the Spring term and cricket and athletics in the Summer term. On the lawn, now partly taken up by the new building, Oak House, was a tennis court which was well used in summer, especially by the boarders. Cross country running also took place once a week from October to March – through the Ladybrook valley from Seven Arches to Bramhall Park, up the pig track, down Tenement Lane and in those days, back across the river! Both CKMP and Clem were very much involved in the coaching of all sports.
We can’t complete the survey of sport without mention of the rifle range – at this time, the School had its own range where the playground is now. Anne remembers building it with the boys acting as “compulsory volunteers” under the auspices of Mr Fitzgerald, who had been injured during the war and who told fascinating stories of his war exploits that kept all the
“volunteers” riveted whilst they filled and stacked the sandbags to build the mound. Shooting practice took place after lunch every day, and competitions were held annually. Unfortunately due to Health and Safety regulations and the building of Lane End Primary School next door, the shooting club had to be disbanded in the 1980’s.
The old Gym (now the Pre-School building) included a boxing ring where boys were taught the rudiments of the sport. Any boys caught fighting in the school were simply given a pair of boxing gloves each and told to go and sort out their differences properly in the ring.
Another opportunity offered to the pupils was carpentry, taught in the Workshop (at the back of the tennis court) by Rex who worked at the school on Tuesdays and Fridays for almost 40 years. Pupils were taught the basics of working with wood, making different types of joints and making tool boxes, trays, coffee tables, bird tables etc. This was a popular activity, and each pupil was given their own set of tools including hammers, saws, chisels and mallets – no Health and Safety considerations then, and many ex-pupils probably still bear the scars of their carpentry lessons.
In the mid-1970s Mrs. Patterson’s health began to fail, and she could no longer play such an active part in the day to day running of the school. Instead she turned her attention to the gardens and grounds, which was less demanding and pressured, and gardening remained a passion with her for the rest of her life.
The grounds of Ramillies Hall have always been an important part of the school, giving the pupils plenty of space to burn off energy and the opportunity to enjoy scenic surroundings. Bill Harper joined the school as groundsman after the Second World War, and worked for the Pattersons for over 25 years. He maintained the playing fields and cultivated the gardens as well as performing his indoor duties which included cleaning all the boarders’ shoes every morning, making sure the fires in each classroom and the range in the kitchen were lit, and stoking the heating boiler regularly throughout the day. He managed a phenomenal workload, and when he retired in the mid-1970s he had to be replaced by two people.
After leaving School Anne came back to help at Ramillies, initially as a classroom assistant then after completing a teaching course, as teacher to the younger pupils. She also helped Matron to look after the boarders and took sole charge of them on Sunday mornings (at that time, there was Saturday school – lessons until lunch time and matches against other schools in the afternoon). Over the next few years Anne learned from her father many aspects of the running of the School – this was very much a “hands-on” training and she can now say that there is no job at Ramillies which she hasn’t done.
During the 1970’s and 80’s the Scout Troop continued, now run by one of the teachers, Richard Corden. He took the Scouts on many camps, including the International Jamboree in Switzerland. He also introduced new activities – rock-climbing, caving, abseiling and canoeing in canoes they had, of course, built themselves.
When the School started to take girls in the 1980’s, the Troop became one of the first in the country to be allowed to admit girls.
Many of the activities Richard Corden introduced were a great help in building the children’s self-esteem and confidence, and old pupils frequently comment on the wonderful opportunities he gave them. It was a sad day for Ramillies when he left and the Scout troop ceased to exist.
Ramillies is handed on to the next generation …….
At the end of the 1970’s, big changes came to Ramillies. Clem retired to Penzance in July 1979, and CKMP went to Shetland that December and simply never came back! He passed the running of the School to his daughter Anne, at first on a temporary basis. The School had two headmasters between 1979 and 1984. Diana, who by this time had completed her degree and teacher training, and worked in a school in Sussex for two years, came back in 1980 as a teacher.
In 1984, Captain Patterson asked Anne and Diana to take over the School together, and after much thought they agreed to give it a try – Anne would take responsibility for the boarding, domestic and administration aspects, and Diana would be in charge of the teaching. Thus began the partnership which is now 25 years old, so it seems to have passed its trial period!
By 1984 the School had a small number of day girls, so Anne and Diana took the decision to take girl boarders, using the accommodation on the top floor above the family flat. New optional activities were introduced for the girls, such as ballet and tap lessons and horseriding. The School continued to grow and prosper, and the number of pupils steadily increased, until by the late 1980s they numbered 150, of which 80 were boarders. Many of them were the children of families serving in the armed forces, and they especially enjoyed the activities offered at the School. Anne in particular took on the responsibility of looking after children whose parents may be anywhere from Germany, to active service in Northern Ireland, to the Falklands or the Far East, and it may have been this which started the emphasis on pastoral care which is still at the heart of the School.
Sport continued to play an important part in school life; the boys were very successful at Rugby and Rugby Sevens, and eventually the huge concession was made – soccer managed to find its way into Games lessons. The School had great success in tournaments and competitions, and many boys were awarded scholarships to senior schools based on their sporting ability. The tradition continues, with sporting trips abroad now on offer to the older pupils, and an annual Football Tournament for the under 11s (and their dads – just another Ramillies touch!).
Another important aspect of the School was Drama; this was originally introduced by Clem, who was a leading light in the local Amateur Dramatic Society.
Plays were put on every year in the Big Hall (now the Art Room), with boys dressing up enthusiastically to take the girls’ parts. The tradition continued past the millennium, and the plays which were put on annually involved every child in the school as a matter of course.
Further developments took place after the turn of the century – boarding numbers had been dropping steadily during the 1990s due to cutbacks in funding in the armed forces, and eventually Anne and Diana decided, with much regret, that boarding was no longer viable and must cease from July 2006. However, in 2003 the School had taken the exciting decision to extend to age 16 and offer GCSEs. This was in response to pleas from parents, who found it impossible to find another Ramillies for their dyslexic children to attend from age 13, and it has been one of the most successful developments of the School.
Oak House was built, dormitory areas were converted into classrooms, and a new Science Laboratory has just been installed. The next major challenge is to provide better facilities for indoor sport – it’s a high mountain to climb, but Ramillies has always moved forward and overcome obstacles to progress, so watch this space!
The Pre-School started in the 1980’s as an externally-run concern, using one room in the School. It was later taken over by the School and since then has expanded dramatically, taking children from 6 months to 4 years and now accommodated in three buildings.
It was also during the early 1980s that we became involved with the Dyslexia Institute, having discovered that a number of our pupils had dyslexia. Initially they went to the Institute in Wilmslow, but this took too much out of their school day so one of our own staff who had taken a particular interest in their difficulties, Jenny Eckstein, trained with the Dyslexia Institute.
After Jenny left, Brenda Breese undertook similar training and took on the responsibility. The specialist expertise was passed on to the other staff through training and experience, and the whole school approach which began to develop at that time remains to this day.
And the verdict, after all this history? Grandfather would be amazed by the inclusion of girls on equal terms and the new-fangled sport of soccer. Father would be apoplectic at the paperwork, and both would probably be bemused by the health and safety constraints which put an end to so many pursuits they would have seen as harmless fun or an essential part of building a young man’s character.
But we hope both of them would be proud of the school Ramillies has become under the care of their granddaughters and daughters. Long may the family connection continue!