Friends of West Wickham Library
Our Forgotten Voices
In association with Spring Park Film Makers
These pages are dedicated to all the residents of West Wickham and Hayes in the South East Region of Kent. Oral History is supported and sponsored by clubs and businesses in the local community. The Friends of West Wickham Library ensure personal details of those wishing to become involved are kept private unless otherwise stated.
Following the closure of the Baston School at the end of the summer term in 2009 there are now two new schools operating on the site.
The Early Years Department was taken over by two ex-Baston parents who set up a new business and opened Baston Pre-School in September 2009.
Almost all the girls of the correct age remained with the new school and, with the addition of boys as well, it is growing into a thriving Pre School.
The main school buildings, surrounding grounds, tennis courts, top field and pavilion were sold to Hillcrest Care in February 2010. After some initial refurbishment work in Orchard Block, Baston House School opened in September 2010 as Junior School for pupils with autism.
Since then additional refurbishment work has been undertaken in our old Junior School and a Senior Department opened in there in September 2011.
Baston Farmhouse and about 29 acres of pasture, were used for Guernsey and shorthorn cows and to keep pigs and was rented in the 1860s by Dr.Thomas Morris. The house had huge cellars with slate shelves holding large pans of milk from which cream would be collected and butter made. By 1891 several of Dr. Morris’s surviving eight children were married. He died in 1901 but his widow, Katherine, continued to live at the farm until 1920 which she died at 94. Her great granddaughter Rachel recalled the house in great detail.
“A large door led into a broad hallway. On one side was the drawing room with windows to the front and fireplace at the other end which could be quite cost. On Sundays we always went in there on our way home from church. The dining room opposite was equally large with a huge table in the centre, large dressers on the centre side and another huge firepace at the back end. The stairs were broad going up from opposite the front door the bedrooms and school room. One had a batch tub in the bedroom but servants had to carried hot water to the bedroom and the nursery rooms in copper cans. The kitchen was large with a big iron range a a spit in front of it to roast meat as well as huge ovens.”
A new era for Baston Farm began in 1933 when an Archibald Cameron Norman leased the house, cottage, cowshed, granary etc to Mrs.Jane Smith, widow of Henry, and her daughters Marian and Margaret Stafford Smith on a 21 year term at £200 a year. They started Baston School. The surrounding farmland continued to be owned by Mr. Norman and was leased to a Reginald Fisher.
Marian, born in Brighton in 1877, had trained and worked as a teacher, and had always wanted to start her own school. Baston school was for girls and little boys and had 11 pupils.
One of the earliest pupils, Mary Place, remembered that Miss Margaret had long auburn hair worn in a bun and all were in awe of Miss Marian who had short wavy sandy hair. She said “that they were taught as if they were older and it brought out the best in them.”
The pupils steadily grew, a school hall and gymnasium were built and two news classrooms were added to the original two rooms used at the front of the house. By 1939 there were over 100 pupils.
During the war years the school was moved to Somerset. In September 1945 it reopened in Hayes and both a day and boarding school. The 23 boarders lived in part of the main house. They then purchased more land and local property, and the school grew once again.