John Hansen at The Mote.
Some reflections upon life within The Caldecott Community, when it was situated at The Mote, near Maidstone in Kent, during the late nineteen thirties. - John Hansen 2013
I believe I was one of the few people who was part of The Community, from this period in its history until we were finally established at Mersham le Hatch. Although due to the fact that I had obtained a job in 1947, I took lodgings in Canterbury during the week and only returned at the weekend to help Agatha Travers and Julian Rhee with the older boys.
I was allowed to sleep in the ‘frying pan’ at the top of the West Wing, having assured Miss Dave that I’d worked out a way of escaping from it in the event of a fire. Very much earlier, in 1937, I arrived as a seven-year-old who had recently lost his father, and was ‘testing the water’ so to speak, so that my mother could decide whether to allow my five-year-old sister Valerie, and my three-year-old brother Gary, to follow.
Whereas the private grounds at The Mote were less extensive than those at either Hyde house or Mersham le Hatch, they were adjacent to Mote Park with its lake, which provided us with interesting walks. Even so, there was a lawn for each age-group, some excellent trees for climbing and two ‘tuck’ shops within walking distance. The Senior Study occupied a schoolroom within the stable yard, which seems to have been the case wherever The Community was located, and we were taught there by Miss Fretter from the age of nine. The ebullient Frances Potts, who didn’t know the meaning of ‘impossible’, was the Housemother for this group.
The Junior Study was based in the Coach House with Miss Watson in charge, but a small room labelled ‘The Hut’, was reserved for those children who had become too boisterous for the Nursery, but were not quite ready to become involved with an academic curriculum. Our Housemother was Elizabeth Lloyd, who commenced my intellectual development during the first week by teaching me to play chess, and continued to act as my Guru if not my Alma Mater, for the next few years. The senior boys and girls who had passed the Eleven-Plus Examination, attended their respective Grammar Schools in Maidstone, and the girls who had not done so were sent to the local Council School. But Miss Leila was not enamoured with the attitude of the Headmaster, at the corresponding establishment for boys. So our boys were driven to Maidstone train station in the morning and despatched to an excellent boys’ school at the nearby village of Snodland!
Mote House was an impressive, squarely-shaped mansion, which possessed an electric ‘lift’ to the first floor. This was used by the caretaker for moving furniture and for those with special needs, but it was out of bounds to all others and was kept locked. The atrium boasted a magnificent marble staircase which was illuminated by a huge skylight, reflecting the affluence of another era; although, needless to say, the children were instructed to use the wooden stairway. Moreover, because the junior boys’ bathroom was continually being flooded, with water seeping through to the ornamental ceiling below, it had been decided to line the floor with zinc!
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