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The Darker Side of Beechholme 2

GUARDIAN. March 4 1999 - Heritage

A fortnight ago we featured an article from an ex-student of the Beechholme residential school who described her days at the school as less than idyllic. Her brother has now spoken of his time at the school. Like his sister, he has asked not to be named.

"What was bad at Beechholme was the cold of winter - getting into trouble for bringing snow into the cottage on your feet, having to go outside in all weathers to the loo in the yard and getting out of a cold bed in the night to pretend to go to the toilet because the bucket stood by the fire and you could get bit of warmth into you.

I also remember the trips to Dymchurch. First of all, I can recall the novelty of being in our summer khaki uniforms instead of the grey flannel outfits.

I remember the train ride and the smell of the steam engine. To this day, 60 years on, I have only to strike a match, smell the sulphur and I'm on my way to the seaside.

Apart from life inside the cottage, we had the gym for when it rained and our field for when it was dry. But there was nothing to do in either of them; not a football or any sort of toy like a kite.

We were just turned out into the fieldon a Saturday morning to roam about like cattle, playing until the whistle blew. And then we marched back to the cottage for sausage and cabbage, after which we marched back to the field to graze some more.

My sharpest memories of Banstead are of walking round and round that damned field - too cold to run, ears, fingers and toes in agony - being told by the master to jump and get warm."