First update to this website in a very long time … much has happened since I last posted.
As many of you will know, the campus has undergone a lot of change, with work now well underway in the latest redevelopment of the Coopers Hill site. It’s been a while since I personally last ventured there, but reports from others cite that all of the ‘new’ accommodation blocks, workshops and gymnasiums have all been cleared and demolished.
This is to make way for the next chapter in the campus’ story – it’s transformation into (drumroll please!) Magna Carta Park.
Sad face ;-(
More on that another time… the reason for dusting off the blog and writing this update was to share with the world an amazing set of photos and memories from a very special campus resident – one Phyllis Taylor – later to become Phyllis Enlund after her marriage to Jeffery.
Phyllis, or Phyl as she likes to be known, left a comment on the website a couple of years ago which caught my attention. Rather than coming from someone who studied on campus – either during the Shoreditch College years, or the Brunel years – Phyllis lived and worked on campus from 1946 when it was Cooper’s Hill Emergency Training College – which makes Phyl the oldest (in residency terms) commentator to date!
If you remember, Cooper’s Hill Emergency Training College was setup by London County Council (LCC) to quickly address the lack of teachers following the second world war (you can read more about the history of the campus here). During wartime, the LCC had used Cooper’s Hill as an administrative centre to protect vital civic functions from bombing. It’s is also the period when Piccadilly’s famous Eros statue was stored for safe-keeping in the President Hall cellars!
To address the acute shortage of trained teachers, a heavily compressed syllabus was used to train handcraft teachers in under 18 months, many of whom were soldiers demobbed and returning from the war. It was this influx of students that led cause to setup kitchens to provide meals, and Phyl’s first job. The College closed in name in 1951, when it was agreed the Shoreditch College of Education (also under LCC control) would expand and relocate from their Pitfield Street campus in Hoxton, London to the Cooper’s Hill site.
Now, it’s impolite to ask a lady her age, but i’m guessing she must be in her late 80’s now … alive and well and living now in Australia.
According to the many emails we have exchanged, Phyl was born in Strood, Rochester on the north Kent coast. She grew up and went to school in nearby Rainham where a neighbour, who worked in another Teachers College kitchen, told Phyl about the job openings in the kitchens at the newly opened Cooper’s Hill Emergency Training College in Surrey. She applied and took up a job as an assistant vegetable cook in October 1946.
She lived in College Hall, above the kitchens, with a view of the Chapel. Every morning she rose at 5.30 and and prepared meals for upwards of 370 resident students every day. She remembers the food being very good by post-war standards – bacon, eggs & toast for breakfast from 6.30, and sometimes grilled herrings too. A less fond memory was chopping frozen cabbages in the winter months!
On days her off, she remembers fondly going to dances in Windsor, Staines, Egham and even as far away as Kingston. There were plenty of dances held on the campus – presumably in the Pillar or College Halls – as well as visits to the Barley Mow in Englefield Green, and to ‘the pictures’ in Egham!
Phyl was kind enough to share the photos above from her personal collection, which I can’t thank her enough for. Not surprisingly the campus looks almost identical to the much later years we’ll all recognise, but the real delight is in seeing folk posing for the same kinds of photographs in the same kinds of places – in from of President Hall, on the Pillar Hall Ballroom steps, by the Pillar Hall garden urns etc.
A timeless place.
Thank-you Phyl – it’s been wonderful corresponding these past few years, and i’m sure many people will enjoy your photos and memories of Coopers Hill.