The Chilterns School

A small school in Stevenage

V Richards

The Chilterns was a small private school in the Old Town of Stevenage, on what was then the south end of the High Street, now called “Ditchmore Lane”. The school was located in a large private house, also named The Chilterns, which stood approximately where the foot bridge now leads to the Town Centre. The school closed in 1970 when the owners received notice that the house was to be demolished to make way for the dual carriageway.

The school catered for pupils from the age of about five until eleven, although in practice many of the boys left early to go to prep school, so the older pupils were mainly girls. The headmistress, and owner, was Miss (Stella) Woolley, who also taught the older pupils. Mrs Starling was the teacher for the younger age group. Other ladies worked part time teaching their particular specialty. Winifred Boyd was one of the these (needlework), also Mrs Estevez taught art, and Mollie Burns taught PE. Many of the pupils came from outside Stevenage, particularly the surrounding villages.

Old-fashioned

It was a very old-fashioned school, even by the standards of the time, and discipline was pretty strict.

I’ll add more details in time – add a comment if you can help me out. But please don’t post the names of the pupils – they’re entitled to their privacy.

This picture was taken in the Summer of 1970, when a farewell end of term party was held in the garden at The Chilterns. It was truly the end of an era. The lady seated in the centre is of course Miss Woolley, and the lady standing at the extreme right is Winifred Boyd. Behind her is Mrs Starling. Mrs Estevez is on the far left with the handbag, and next to her Miss Burns.

After the school closed, Miss Woolley moved to Sussex.

Biographical note:- Stella Margaret Woolley was born on 28th January 1910 at 48 Lissenden Mansions, London NW, the only child of Victor James Woolley and Henrietta (“Etta”) née Winn. Victor James Woolley was born at East Bergholt, Suffolk in 1878, the son of the Archdeacon of Suffolk, the Ven. Joseph Woolley. He became a doctor, specialising in physiology. Etta was born in Germany, which explains why her daughter Stella was a fluent German speaker who always employed German domestic staff at the Chilterns School. Sadly Etta died in 1941, and in 1951 Victor married a much younger woman, Norah Dorothy Kelly. By this time Victor was living in Hove, Sussex, where he died in 1966. His widow Norah died in Hove in 1995. Stella lived in Eastbourne after her retirement from The Chilterns, and died there in 2002.

This page was added on 10/03/2016.

Comments about this page

  • How amazing to find this page about the Chilterns. My mother taught there in the late 1940’s and 50’s and maybe longer, I’m not sure. I would be so delighted to hear from anyone who remembers her ( she was a bit of a strict teacher, I believe!). I’m currently writing up some of our family history so any info would be very much appreciated. She was Gwen Strzelecka (neé Powell) and she was a music teacher. She was a great friend of Molly and Jean Burns (mentioned in the previous comment).

    By Janina Byrne (20/10/2020)
  • I was delighted to find this piece about The Chilterns. I was there from 1949 to 1953.  I have many happy memories of those years. Miss Woolley, of course, stands out. After lunch we sat on the floor in her sitting room while, with her huge fluffy ginger cat on her knee, she read to us from The Hobbit, and other books. I remember Molly Burns and particularly Mrs Estevez, a real artist. There was a nice cook in the kitchen called Miss Purdy, helped by the succession of German girls you mention. The younger children were at that time taught by Miss Jean Melville Brown, who took us on wonderful nature walks in the surrounding area – now of course covered with factories and office blocks.

    By Carolyn Eardley (10/03/2016)

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