Memory of Wartime Piers Court

A letter reposted from the magazine This England recalls WWII schooldays at Piers Court. The magazine appears quarterly, and this letter is in its Autumn 2018 issue. This is from an evacuee who now lives in America. The letter is reposted in PressReader, but the name of the writer is unavailable in that source:

…When I started to attend school I was evacuated with nuns and girls from the Dominican Convent in Chingford, Essex. The author Sir Evelyn Waugh [sic] loaned his country house, Piers Court in Gloucestershire, to the convent for the duration. This was a wonderful place to be during those bad times. We could sometimes hear gunfire in the distance, but we happily played in the grounds and in the woods.

My mother visited from time to time and my father when he was home on leave from the RAF. We went home, when possible, by train from Stroud to Paddington Station. As I walked along the London streets with my mother I saw the devastation caused by the bombing.Terrible times, but we were resilient and survived. Winston Churchill is still my hero.

Another school with a Waugh association is mentioned on the website Muddy Stilettos: The Urban Guide to the Countryside in its Hertfordshire edition. This is Heath Mount School which Waugh attended in his youth. At that time it was in Hampstead but as explained on the school’s website it has moved north since then:

By the early 1930s, Hampstead had expanded rapidly and the New End site no longer met the needs of the school. The search for a new site outside London started in 1933 and Headmaster Rev Arthur Wells secured the lease of a beautiful Georgian country mansion on the Woodhall estate in Hertfordshire, Heath Mount School’s new home. The school, together with its 32 boys from Hampstead, moved to its current home in January 1934.

The school website also provides a fairly detailed list of illustrious alumni and among them are:

Cecil Beaton and Evelyn Waugh who were pupils at the school from 1913 to 1916 and 1910-17 respectively. The main Reception room at Heath Mount is named the Beaton Room after this most talented photographer and designer. Evelyn Waugh refers to Heath Mount School in his diaries.

One would have thought that they might have named the school library for Waugh.

Finally, another bit of nostalgia attributed to Waugh opens a story appearing in the Otago Daily News. This is published in Dunedin, New Zealand, and is written by Joe Bennett who is anticipating the onset of springtime in that country:

EVELYN Waugh, best of all novelists, wrote that the smell of food cooking gave more pleasure than the meal itself. To him, the most wonderful of feasts would be a series of dishes brought from the kitchen, passed under the diner’s nose, held there a few moments, then taken away again.

Course could follow course – soup, meat, fish, cheese, dessert and back again, if you so wished, to soup, and all with whiffs of wine to match – without the diner ever being disappointed by satiety. He would merely be blessed with a constant sense of pleasure about to happen, the delightful tease of expectation. The thought applies not only to food. Sex, sport, parties: all are better in anticipation.

The food passage must refer to Vile Bodies (1965 ed., p. 64) where Adam is eating breakfast  This story is also reposted by PressReader.

UPDATE (9 August 2018): Thanks once again to reader Dave Lull who came up with the source for the reference in the Otago Daily News. This is now incorporated into the text.

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