Date Posted... Nov 26th 2021
We recently had a visit from Peter Jeffrey, a Kent College evacuee to Truro in the 1940s, who recalled several of his memories of Truro School during wartime. Like many school children, the majority of boarders from Kent College were evacuated to the country, away from the wartime dangers in Canterbury. Kent College’s headmaster H.J. Prickett recalled that
after the German break-through in Belgium and France, I went down to Truro looking for accommodation, Dr Magson told me that he had foreseen that we might have to come to Truro and indeed had already told army officers in search of billets that the school gymnasium was reserved for Kent College. This foresight was typical of Dr Magson as was also his generosity and warm friendliness offered to a young headmaster who suddenly presented himself on his doorstep asking for hospitality for his school. That we were able to work together in harmony for five years is no small tribute to his imaginative understanding of our difficulties and to his readiness to adapt himself and his school to unprecedented circumstances.
In May 1940 Prickett had about a week to organise the school’s move to Cornwall including all the books, beds and other items to keep the school working. They took up residence in Tremorvah Hall, ‘K.C.’s Little Grey Home in the West’, as well as in Truro School’s gymnasium and several houses in the area, including Three Corners which Peter Jeffrey (KC 1940-46) stayed in. His shared room was at the top of the house and on one memorable occasion there was a pillow fight that was so boisterous some of the gas-light fittings got broken, they then clubbed together and he tried to surreptitiously buy replacements in town.
Due to members of staff being called up to the forces it soon became impractical for the senior schools of both schools to be totally independent, so it was decided by September 1940 that Truro School and Kent College would merge for academic purposes. Kent College became another house within the Truro organisation, like Vinter, Smith, School and Wickett, for sports and the Opie Shield; they retained their own uniform of maroon and blue blazers and caps. Peter recalled having to walk up the hill every day, where they would be met by Dr Magson, who cut an imposing figure at the top of the snake. He felt the best teachers were E.B. Willday (TS 1921-60) and S.A. Spicer (KC); Willday instilled in him a love of history.
While at Truro Peter learnt to play rugby. Before the war Kent College favoured football and hockey, but rugby became so popular with the school that it displaced football when they returned home in 1945. From 1940 to 1945 the first teams in cricket, football and rugby were known as the Truro School and Kent College 1st XI or 1st XV. The schools also joined together in the ATC, commanded by H.J. Prickett, and the combined school force was the strongest in the West Country.
Truro School and Kent College rugby XV 1942-43
Truro School and Kent College ATC Flight
Truro School and Kent College cricket XI 1945
As an older pupil Peter enjoyed more freedom, with permits into town. He recalled regularly visiting a café near the cathedral called Clarke’s, where he would have beans and splits for tea.
Prickett recalled that ‘the only complaint we received from a parent about the food during the war was that we gave the boys an excessive amount of Cornish cream!’
Many of the Kent College boarders stayed in Cornwall during the summer holidays. Peter recalled going to a farm near Penzance to dig potatoes. The faming camps were shared by both schools.
The Truronian in July 1944 reported that
‘as last year, the Upper 4th have spent a fortnight west of Penzance helping with the early potato harvest. They were accommodated in very comfortable quarters at Trengwainton. During the summer nearly all boys over 13 will be doing their part in the harvest field’.
The Truronian in May 1945 recorded that ‘Kent College hope to be able to return to Canterbury at the end of this term…The association with K.C. has been a very amicable one and there must be many K.C. boys who know much more about Truro than Canterbury. It would be pleasing if the connection between the two Schools could be continued by means of an annual match at Truro and Canterbury alternatively.’
Before leaving Truro, Kent College were presented with a cup by the School with the inscription ‘Since by the lapse of time and man’s forgetfulness the memory of bygone days is often lost, this memento is presented to Kent College by Truro to commemorate their sojourn in Truro from 1940-45 and especially their comradeship in the A.T.C. and all school activities’ . The cup was used for a rugby match between the two schools.
Looking into Kent College’s time at Truro sparked thoughts about other links between the two schools. Like Truro School, Kent College was founded by Methodists and opened on 20 January 1885 (exactly five years after Truro).
Frank Facer, headmaster of Kent College from 1898 to 1911, was one of the earliest teachers at Truro and was at the school from 1881 to 1883 before becoming Second Master at Woodhouse Grove (1886-98). While at Truro he became a local preacher and circuit steward. After leaving Kent College he became Rector of Shepherdswell, near Dover .
Facer was succeeded by Alfred Brownscombe, who had also taught at Truro earlier in his career (1899-1903). He was headmaster of Brunswick House School in Maidstone before becoming headmaster of Kent College from 1911 to 1934 .
Alan Charlesworth (TS 1942-47) was a pupil at Truro School during the time of Kent College’s evacuation to Cornwall, who later became a teacher and taught for many years at Kent College.
In July 2000 there was a reunion for Kent College and Truro School. Both Peter Jeffrey and Alan Charlesworth attended with 30 of their contemporaries.