How Micklefield started
Micklefield was started in July of 1928 by two ladies, Miss Jill Wilson (later Mrs Ingram) and Miss Tish Beazley. The school was then in the grounds of Miss Wilson’s parents house, Dr and Mrs Wilson. Their house was Grange Cottage in Gables Road, Rondebosch. Thus the school was known as Grange Cottage School. “Just opposite Rondebosch Park, go down Glebe Road. The cottage is still called Grange Cottage, I think.” (Penny Berens)
The first three pupils in July were Geoffrey McLachlan (born 2 May 1923), John Stevenson (born 4 August 1923) and Diana Brooke (31 May 1924). Soon eight other children joined (in the August) and pushed the number up to 11. The school continued to grow until the end of 1933 when they realised they would need bigger accommodation.
The Founding Headmistresses
Miss Wilson (Willy) who later married Captain Ingram to become Mrs Jill Ingram (“I remember being amazed at such a strict, ‘old to me’ lady getting married and Miss Beazley (Buzz) were the first headmistresses. Mrs Jill Ingram lived in the house that now houses the Pre-primary, Aftercare, Music and Remedial rooms. The many descriptions of these two wonderful characters almost always begin with the fact that Miss Wilson was tall and thin and Miss Beazley was shorter, rounder and dumpier!
“Miss Wilson was tall and thin and very strict. She was my Standard 1 teacher (Grade 3) and I was very frightened of her. Miss Beazley was rounder and plumper and more friendly. Perhaps that’s why I remember less about her!” They were like beings from a different planet at the time!” (Mrs Penny Berens – pupil 1949-1951, teacher 1965-1966 and teacher/headmistress1975-1991).
“Miss Wilson and Miss Beazley were physical opposites. Miss Wilson was tall, with grey curly hair and was rather austere. Miss Beazley was shorter, dumpier and more approachable but neither of them were anything but The Headmistresses, not real people, to me.” (Janet Fry nee Gordon– pupil 1937/8-1943 and daughter of the games mistress)
“They were a doughty pair and of course to us seemed fairly ancient and very dignified, though they certainly were not. Miss Wilson was tall and thin, Miss Beazley shorter and rounder, and had come out from England. Miss Beazley eventually retired there. (Marie van Ryneveld, now Philip – pupil from 1937 to 1943, with two years in the senior school)
“Miss Beazely was the principal for most of the 36 years. Mrs Ingram, a highly qualified speech training teacher, has taught most subjects.” (Newspaper 1964)
The era of the founders drew to a close in 1964 when Miss Beazley and Mrs Ingram retired – their 36 years marked by an air of cheerful industry. Miss Beazley left for England in February 1965 to make her home in the south near relative, and Mrs Ingram remained and stayed in the cottage. Miss Beazley died in July 1988 (exactly 60 years after starting the school).
The Headmistresses up until this time
|Miss Jill Wilson (Mrs Ingram) and Miss Beazley||1928 – 1964|
|Mrs Wendy Waddell||1964 – 1971|
|Mrs Helen Spilhaus||1971 – 1978|
|Mrs Eileen Urquhart||1978 – 1981|
|Mrs Penny Berens||1981 – 1991|
|Mrs Margaret Erleigh||1991 – 1994|
|Mrs Jenny Masterson||1994 – 2003|
|Mrs Jeannette Welgemoed||2004 – present|
Back: Mrs Van Breda, Mrs Berens, Mrs Goble, Mrs Bell, Mrs Walker, Miss Philips, Mrs Lewis
Middle: Mrs Jefferies, Mrs Erleigh, Mrs Ahrens, Miss Dell, Mrs Griessel, Mrs Rusconi, Mrs Noding
Front: Mrs Spilhaus, Mrs Waddell, Miss Beazley, Mrs Ingram, Mrs Urquhart
Moving to Sandown Road
Micklefield moved to Micklefield Cottage at 81 Sandown Road, Rondebosch in 1934 because they needed more space for all the children. This was noted in the Cape Times report on 23-11-1933 about their school play. Eve Ahrens, a teacher, noted that “it was a substantial fine roomed house rather than a cottage.” Miss Wilson recalled that initially the grounds were in a rough state as the property had been empty for some time, and she writes: ‘we spent a great deal of time during the summer holidays on the field in front of the school hacking and pulling at the large weeds and bushes. The new premises seemed very large and roomy at first, but it was no time at all before all the rooms were needed for form rooms. At about this time the girls’ uniforms were changed to pink frocks and white hats, and pink viyella frocks with grey hats for winter.
“It has not been clearly established as to why Miss Beazely and Miss Wilson called it Micklefield School. One tentative theory is that the two founders of the school had met at Micklefield School in Sussex, England in the easrly 20’s where they perhaps taught together. The Micklefield in England lies one mile from Seafor in Sussex on the Eastbourne side of the town. It is also a girl’s school, the only difference being that it is a secondary rather than a primary school.”
(Micklefield Jubilee Magazine 1988)
1943 School Photo
Life in the school in the earlier years
“Once a day the children were lined up in the grounds and while parading up and down had to recite loudly, “Ten tin soldiers” with the correct pronunciation. Beware those who got the “ten” and the “tin” mixed up!” (Diana Brooke, first female pupil – 1928).
“We lined up each morning and trooped into the ‘hall’ – which was also the kindergarten classroom (now Grade 1) with a raised dais at one end. Here Miss Beazley played the piano for the hymn, and Miss Wilson conducted the proceedings. The platform in memory was quite high above us as we sat at their feet, but when I went back years later I was surprised to find it was raised only about a foot above the rest of the room. It seemed to us that they invented new rules each morning from that platform. They kept discipline without any difficulty and remained a little severe but not fierce. In retrospect they laughed quite a lot together. I remember them with affection.” (Marie Philip nee van Ryneveld)
“We had inkwells and dipping pens and you were not allowed to make a mess. Every Friday we had a test in class, and the results of the test were read out on Monday morning and then you had to change your seat – the one who had the highest mark sat in front, and then you were seated down each row in order of the test results. Disgrace to have to move back a few desks. I do remember once not having done my homework and being too afraid to go to school. I wept and wailed and wouldn’t get out of the car – my mother had parked between the two big trees. I missed assembly for my fears, but didn’t get into the trouble I thought I would. There was no electricity in the beginning. If it was a very dark day, we had to go home. Some of the older girls remember having to bring candles to school.” (Penny Berens)
“Until the early 1960’s there was no electricity in the school so on very dark winter days staff brought candles to school – we managed! A kettle was boiled for morning tea in an oil stove (a Beatrice stove) by Miss Burton who joined ‘the family’, and lived in the cottage with Miss Beazley in 1955/56.” (Eve Ahrens)
The daily assembly was led by Miss Beazley, and Eve Ahrens recalls how she used to play the hymn and the march “with great gusto at a rollicking speed and this set us all off on a very positive not.” Both Miss Beazley and Miss Wilson took personal care of all their charges – welcoming them at the school gats (Miss Beazley in Wood Road and Miss Wilson at the Sandown Road gate) in the morning and seeing them off at the end of the school day.
The Micklefield Building
Micklefield has changed much over the years, with various classes moving to different parts of the school as rooms were added. In the beginning there was just the main house on rather large grounds surrounded by a myrtle hedge. “It was a substantial fine-roomed house rather than a cottage.” (Eve Ahrens)
A wide driveway came off Wood Road and went around the ‘big tree’. Here parents would later drive up, pick up their daughters, and drive around the tree and back to Wood Road. Later a wooden shed was erected on the Wood Road side, which for some years was used for the nursery classes and later for the senior classes when there was no high school. The classroom with a stage (now Grade 1) was also once used as for the nursery children at one end and the Sub A’s at the other end while also being used as the ‘hall’ for assemblies. The Sub B’s (Grade 2) were once placed in the current staffroom “When I was in sub B we were in the staffroom, the one with the fireplace and the mural on the wall of a woman at the seaside. I think Miss Beazley may have taught me to read, in a wooden garden pergola kind of structure outside (one side was quite open) and it was covered with a creeper with flowers on it. We had reading out there. It was more of less outside and slightly to the back what is now Grade 1.”(Penny Berens)
“The main original house was not very different from today. Obviously bigger, better loos etc but I recognise the cloakroom with the pegs for hats etc. There was a small kitchen. Mondays, Wednesday (Thursday? Friday?) we stayed for games and had school lunch. It was always the same. Mince/mash/cabbage/ stew and rice/ banana and custard or chocolate pudding. You ate it all regardless, but were allowed to ask for a small helping. The pre-school classroom with the stage was the ‘hall’ for assembly. (Janet Fry)
The library was in the small back room behind the toilets, then to bigger room with a fireplace (currently the headmistress’s office) and now it is upstairs above the new hall in the media centre.
The current Grade 4 (which first housed the Grade 7’s) and 2 classroom was built to the back of the school. Then two more classrooms were added near to Wood Road (where the staff originally used to park their cars on the grass!). These were later dedicated to Margaret Erleigh as can be seen on the plaque outside the Grade 6 classroom.
The wooden shed which was a small building, known as “The Hut’, and wasn’t larger than one of those wendy houses people erect in their back gardens for storing garden tools, was pulled down in the 1980’s when the then new hall (not the one we have now) was erected. It was a prefabricated building that was situated between the Std 1 classroom that I both attended as a pupil and taught in and the library! George Julius, the groundsman, wanted the planks to build a fence at his house, but when it was pulled down the planks dissolved into dust they were so beetle-ridden, and nothing could be salvaged.” (Penny Berens)
A lantern originally hung outside the “hut”.
“After the death of Mrs Ingram, Micklefield Cottage, which today houses the nursery school, became available to the school and the grounds were extended. This happened in 1984 and the first nursery school class was started in 1985.” (Micklefield Jubilee Magazine 1988)
Boys at Micklefield
Boys were part of Micklefield, but there were not many of them. They only stayed at the school from nursery through to Grade 3. “After this they left to go to a proper boys school.” (Janet Fry)
“When I was a pupil there were not many boys at Micklefield. In my Std 1 year (1951) we had about 5 boys in our class. They only went up to Std 1 (Grade 3) and no further in the school. (Penny Berens)
“There were only 2 boys remaining in 1957 when I joined the school.” (Eve Ahrens)
Eventually by 1955 there were no boys left in the school, but in the 1980’s boys were allowed back once again only for the nursery and pre-primary classes “It was then that I re-introduced boys, as we were nervous about not filling the class. We re-introduced them when we started the nursery in Mrs Ingram’s old house in 1988. They went onto Bishops. (Penny Berens)
The last boy was here in 1995 and his name was Christopher Otten. “We needed to make space for more girls.” (Jenny Masterson headmistress 1994 – 2003)
Micklefield Senior School
Micklefield had a senior school for a few years from 1941 (certainly not after 1945) in a separate building. This was a house in Rondebosch. It seems to have been that it was on the corner of Lochiel and Muir Road and was called “Lubeck House” and was owned by Mrs Helen Spilhaus (the Headmistress). Before this, some of the senior girls (Std 6) had been learning in the “hut:” in the grounds of Micklefield Cottage. Some of the girls that attended the Senior School were evacuees from the East and England during World War II. Miss Wilson and Miss Beazley ‘adopted’ two of these young English children, a boy Peter Gray and his sister, Jeanne Gray and they both became pupils at Micklefield. The colour photograph of the two old headmistresses sitting on the couch in the foyer, was given to Micklefield by the boy when many years later he returned to South Africa to visit Micklefield as an adult.
“The Senior School was a nice, red tiled, ivy clad, double-storey building in large grounds with a stable block, tennis court and remnants of an orchard. We ‘dug for victory’ and planted radishes which grew quickly and nobody wanted! I was there for one year before going to D.S.G in 1944.” (Janet Fry)
“The Senior School started in 1941 in a spacious old double-storey house, in Lochiel Road. I went there in 1943, into Std 6 (Grade8) and stayed for two years. There was a tennis court, where we played netball, and we walked to a large field in Keurboom Road for hockey under the guidance of the much admired games mistress, who was of course, Mrs Lennox Gordon, Janet Fry’s mother. There was a sort of garage complex that was turned into a science laboratory – not a great deal of equipment, but some. The teaching was excellent and stood me in very good stead as I moved on to St Cyprians.” (Marie Philip nee van Ryneveld).
It is thought that the Senior School ended when the lease expired and the house was no longer available for renting. Many of the girls then went onto Rustenburg, St Cyprians, D.S.G in Grahamstown and Herschel.
Girls’ uniforms at Micklefield
For a short while, before the days of wearing pink, there were no school uniforms at all. Then Miss Wilson and Miss Beazley decided on navy-blue gym tunics with beige coloured blouses and cherry coloured ties.
Soon after this was the move to pink (Mrs Beazley’s favourite colour was pink, and so the uniforms were too!) The uniforms could not be bought from a shop. The pink dresses were homemade, until into the 1960’s when some children wore bought dresses.
“In the early days, summer dresses were made of pink tobralco and winter dresses were made of viyella.” (Eve Ahrens)
“When I was a pupil my mother made my dresses. She bought the official material, and then could use any pattern. As long as it had white trimmings. I had one dress with a square neck, with white lace around the neck and white trimmings on the short sleeves. The winter dresses were made from pink viyella, and had long sleeves, but again the trimmings were in white and any pattern was acceptable. Mothers who could not ser had to go to dressmakers, or get their friends to do it for them. My mother had a machine that made fancy stitches, so I had fancy white stitched trimmings all over the place. When I started teaching there in 1965, some of the girls still had homemade dresses, but it was being phased out. I think we had reached the era of the working mother, and the non-sewing mother. The material was also a problem – viyella had become very expensive. So the bought dress was brought in, with the white collars and cuffs. In photos from the 1960’s, it will show both the bought (correct) uniform and homemade ones showing. I remember navy blazers being worn in the 1960’s. There were pocket badges with the Micklefield M in Pink on the navy background. These became unpopular and I think they were phased out when the grey tracksuit tops with zips came in because they were softer, cheaper and more comfortable, and also washable. Once, as school principal, I had a mother come in to ask for a place for her daughter. Why had she chosen Micklefield? She had seen the uniform hanging up at the stockists, and she and her daughter thought that any school with such a nice uniform must be the right place for the child!” (Penny Berens)
“Our dresses were any pattern, provided it had a white collar although not everyone followed this. The standardised versions may have come in when the Senior School started, and they would wear grey skirts in winter like the girls do today in winter. I think we all wore navy blazers but it may not have been compulsory. A friend of mine when entering her daughter for Micklefield in the early 60’s asked Miss Beazley for a clothes list as she had been confronted with a formidable one from Western Province. Miss Beazley replied “Oh, nothing like that, Joan dear, just a few little pink dresses, like when you were here!” (Janet Fry)
“We always had white collars and buttons, but no set pattern, and the dresses were made by a parent or a dressmaker. At the senior school we had blazers with M’s on the top pocket, and grey skirts with pink shirts in winter.” (Marie Philip)
It was while Mrs Eileen Urquhart (now Mrs Phillips) was principal (1978 – 1981) that the standardised uniform came into being, instead of everyone having an individualised version of the basic pattern!
“The boys wore white shirts, grey flannels and a narrow navy blue and dark pink striped tie.” (Janet Fry)
“As far as I remember they wore white shirts, grey shorts and a tie which ma have been pink stripes” (Penny Berens)
Hats at Micklefield
The children also wore white panama hats in summer with a pink band plus a navy M and in winter they wore grey felt hats with the school band around it.
“Panama hats and felt hats were part of the uniform when I was a pupil (1949) and later when I became a teacher (1965-1966 and 1975-1991) but there were many problems with hats when I was principal. Parents declared that they wanted hats, but didn’t enforce the wearing of hats and in the end only about 50% of girls were coming to school with hats on. Nobody wanted to stand at the gates being a policeperson in the mornings, either. So we did a referendum, and parents voted against hats, so we stopped them. One of the deciding factors was that panama became impossible to get – our last shipment (so our hatmakers told us) had been hijacked somewhere in South America. The hat were very expensive, looked lousy after they had been sat on, got dirty, got lost, got hidden by girls who didn’t want them”. (Penny Berens)
“We still had hats – all the girls’ schools wore hats then and for many years to come, because my daughter also had to have these wretched hats.” (Marie Philip)
A day in the classroom at Micklefield
“We were very well grounded. Spelling tests every day, writing and reading aloud. In Grade 5/6 we started Latin learning from large coloured posters. We thought it was a breeze. We also did subjects like Greek Mythology – what every educated person should know and seldom does. In the Senior School every maths lesson started with mental arithmetic showing us short cuts and how to implement them. We also learned about Tudors, Stuarts, cooking, sewing (‘You use your needle like a crowbar, Janet!’) We also had ‘Elocution’, learnt reams of poetry and had singing with lots of Gilbert and Sullivan. Micklefield manners were emphasised much as they are today. I remember being rather surprised at what went on at other schools.” (Janet Fry)
“There was considerable emphasis on academic work, spelling and always manners. It was a very gentle school, really, but always expecting politeness and good behaviour. And this was probably very much the influence of Buzz and Willy, who were decorous always. If there was any rowdiness in a classroom, one of them would somehow come walking by – not necessarily in – and order would automatically follow.” (Marie Philip)
“The emphasis was on the 3 R’s, neatness and good manners! We did give reward for trying hard and not only achievement.” (Eve Ahrens)
Punishment tended to be a bad mark for your house, detention if you collected a few bad marks or being made to learn poetry by heart.
World War 11 evacuees come to Micklefield
During World War 11, some children from England were evacuated to Cape Town. A few of them came to Micklefield. Peter Gray, 8, and his sister Jeanne, 6 were among 306 children who sailed down the Mersey in Liverpool, England on the Llanstephan Castle, to come to Cape Town to escape the bombs. They carried their gas masks and a few possessions. Their parents put them on a train in Suffolk on the first leg of their journey. “It was a wonderful experience. We were so lucky. I can’t remember being frightened. We were going out to sea, to a country we knew nothing about, to stay with strangers,” said Peter Gray, now 72. They lived with Miss Wilson and Miss Beazley for 5 1/2 years. Mr Peter Gray has since returned to South Africa to come and visit his old school a few times.
Plays at Micklefield
Micklefield put on one of its first plays in 1933 in the St Thomas Parish Church Hall. “Some of our plays took place in the “hall” (the Grade 1 classroom with the stage). I remember being a French Queen (Catherine de Medici?) in a staff written play about the Massacre of St Bartholomew. The whole enterprise was a trifle over ambitious I think and I’m not sure I even understood it!” (Janet Fry)
“Miss Wilson took us all for Elocution and she produced plays for the school to perform. I was highly delighted to play Mustardseed in a very much truncated version of Midsummer Night’s Dream (I think it consisted only of the Oberon/Titania/Wall episodes), which we performed at the St Thomas’s Parish Hall in Rondebosch. I had the important function of skipping in and saying “And I”. Because the school acquired the vital prop of an ass’s head, this version was performed several times in following years.”
Micklefield still has this ass’s head today! (Marie Philip 2003)
“We also had deportment sashes. If you walked and sat up straight, you were awarded a sash. I think it was weekly, but it may have been for a term. You wore the sash with great pride and were heartbroken when you were not awarded it again. (Penny Berens)
Micklefield had three sports houses called Robins, Swallows and Kingfishers. The Senior School had Muir and Fairbridge House.
“During the war when younger women were driving ambulances, my mother taught gym and games. She was a very well qualified and good teacher and small school though we were we did very well against other schools, even in interschools tournaments, particularly at netball. We played hockey but like today, didn’t have our own fields. In summer we played rounders,- as far as I remember all schools played rounders, tennis, and while there were boys at the school, there was cricket. There was no school swimming.” (Janet Fry)
“There was no gym for boys. We did have a gym teacher. At break we played Gummy – played with long lengths of elastic tied together. The only active thing I remember doing was riding on the see-saw boat-like things. One girl sat at each side and rocked. You could go VERY high! When I came to teach at the school they were still around but seemed much smaller.” (Penny Berens) Micklefield still has these in 2003!
“A beam was erected to join the two big trees near to Wood Road. Hanging from these were ropes that we could swing on during break.” (Dionne Howie, pupil and current teacher)
We asked some of the past pupils/teachers/headmistresses for any special memories.
“One of the advantages of my appointment was that Micklefield acquired a school dog, Looey. Looey shared his love among the girls, kept a watch on the property and, best of all, never missed a morning assembly, where he would stand on the platform and graciously accept a pat on the head from each girl as she filed out. He was most definitely a part of the school. In fact, my son-in-law referred to us as the head dog and his mistress!” (Helen Spilhaus – headmistress 1971 – 1977)
“One of the highlights of the school year was the School fete, towards the end of the year. Each class exhibited handwork, and there were the normal stall filled by contributions from the parents. Also races – three-legged, egg and spoon etc. and usually some parents’ and old girls’ events too. I have an ancient and fairly derelict doll which Dew Barry (Warren) in Johannesburg has asked me to take back to Micklefield. It is dressed in the pink uniform and she won it in a competition at he school fete by guessing its proper name – Eleanor!” (Marie Philip)
“During the war all the schools had to do air raid drills. We had to either get under our desks or hide under the myrtle hedge on the Sandown Road boundary. Neither of which would have been, I imagine, very effective against bombs! Janet Smith, wife of Ian Smith, ex Prime Minister of Rhodesia, taught at Micklefield. She was at the time, wife of Dr Piet Duvenage. She was young, bubbly, very attractive and lots of fun. Sadly, Piet died of a broken neck sustained in a rugby scrum leaving her with 2 small children and as a widow, Janet married Ian Smith.” (Janet Fry on funny memories and famous people)
“One thing that stands out in my mind is thinking what the little girl (me) who spent her first three years of school at Micklefield would have thought if she could have known that when she was grown up she would be principal of Micklefield. It would have been beyond her imaginings.” (Penny Berens on being a pupil and Headmistress)
“Miss Beazley was such a fast mover. One day I brought my brother to school and primed him to greet her properly. We were sitting by the fireplace. She walked in the one door, said “Good Morning, Ian” and exited out the other side before my brother could utter one word!” (Eve Ahrens)
Teaching and Teachers at Micklefield
I have the greatest admiration for Helen Spilhaus, whose light leadership touch I tried, but didn’t always succeed to emulate. She put spirit into the school – laughter, love of learning, love of people, love of simple things and no interest in affectation, sheer enjoyment of living and working – that will never leave the school. I’m sure you still feel it. Eileen Urquhart, from who I took over the headship, Margaret Erleigh (who was my vice principal and great source of strength and who took over from me when I left) and Jenny Masterson, whom I first employed as nursery class teacher when I started the nursery class having bought the building which houses it. So I have worked under or with every principal at the school until the present new principal, whom I would be very pleased to meet sometime. I think teaching at Micklefield was the best thing that happened to me in my teaching career, and maybe in my life. I gave me the opportunity to see that teaching could be fun (I was about to pack it up after 18 months of hell) and that working closely with a group of interested and hardworking women was wonderful. We supported each other in our good times and our bad times, and I look upon them all as my friends. We shared jokes and tears, we thrashed out problems together, we praised and criticised each others’ work, we all dived in and helped each other get things tight, get things going, get the school working well. We sometimes tried to analyse the school and find out what it was that gave it that special ‘something’, and never did put our fingers on it. Our girls did exceptionally well in the scholarship exams for Grade 8 at other private schools, yet we never coached them (often we didn’t even know they were going to write them). Our girls worked harder than any I have ever known, yet we didn’t push them). Our girls worked harder than any I have ever known, yet we didn’t push them. The teachers worked long hours and took their work seriously, yet we were paid almost nothing. I believe that’s changed. I wonder if it’s a good thing (that sounds odd, but we were so poor, the school was so poor, that we contrived to do lots with little, and succeeded. Maybe if we’d had it all we wouldn’t have found it such fun to achieve what we did. We did laugh a lot. Perhaps that’s the secret. I hope you are all laughing still.
We staff were in the staffroom one day – a very friendly place and a lovely teaching community. A child knocked on the door and no one heard her. She complained bitterly: “We can never get anyone to answer the staffroom door – you are always laughing so much in there.” And we were. We were all friends together in a friendly school, where laughter was considered a better way of encouraging learning than fear or punishment.
(pupil 1949-1951, teacher and then principal 1965-1966 and 1975-1991)
“When our elder daughter came back from her first day at Micklefield, she said with wonder, “Some of Mummy’s teachers are still alive!” – and that was Buzz (Miss Beazley) and Willy in (Miss Wilson) in 1961. (Marie Philip nee van Ryneveld)