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News > Bilton Grange Society News > ‘By Love Serve One Another.’ Life at Homefield by Daphne Horton (Summerson)

‘By Love Serve One Another.’ Life at Homefield by Daphne Horton (Summerson)

Dee is pictured in the background of this tennis scene at Homefield
Dee is pictured in the background of this tennis scene at Homefield

My journey at Homefield Preparatory School is a tapestry woven with family ties, cherished memories, and the charm of an era that left an indelible mark on my formative years. 

It all began with my parents who were both teachers at Bilton Grange from 1942.  After their marriage in 1946 they moved into North Lodge at Bilton Grange. They relocated to a house just outside Rugby in 1947, just before I was born, and my mother then stopped working. I joined Homefield from there in 1952, we moved into a house in Bilton in 1954 and my mother started work at Homefield in 1956, on a “supply” basis and then returned to full time teaching in 1956, when my sister, Jennifer, joined the school. My brother, Michael, was also at Homefield before going to his prep school in Surrey. 

The Homefield of the 1950s had a distinct character, with its new extension taking shape during my time there. Daily routines included walks to North Lodge and back for lessons, passing by the school field and stables housing June, a beautiful chestnut house, and also the outdoor swimming pool. Classrooms featured blackboards, and popular sports were rounders and netball. I also remember a swing on the field and the old brick air raid shelter on the playground. 

Gym classes were taken at Bilton Grange by Tom Cruickshanks. These classes were a source of great excitement, culminating at the end of term in the thrilling game of “Policemen and Pirates”. During this exhilarating game every rope, beam, bench and wall bar would be brought into play as we attempted to move round the gym, staying off the floor and evading the “policemen”. We were all very bold with the equipment and I do remember that many of us were disappointed when we went to our next schools and discovered that their idea of gym entailed “flitting” - essentially wafting around being butterflies or similar! It was a real come down from life at Homefield!  We also went to Bilton Grange for Art and Science lessons. 

Homefield nativity plays and carol services were held in alternate years in Bilton Grange chapel.  We also held carol services in St. Mark’s Church, Bilton. The Bilton Grange old hall witnessed memorable shows – this was before the extension was built containing the smart new hall. I particularly remember playing the role of ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ in ‘The Masque of the Shoe’ when I was 8 or 9 years old. I also remember playing the ‘Gryphon’ in Alice in Wonderland. I have particularly fond memories of Anne Skyrme, Second Mistress and Music Teacher.  She taught me piano, ran the recorder group, taught us all to sing and instilled a love of music in me which I still have. Once a week I remember we used to listen to a radio programme called, I think, Orchestral Music for Children – there was even a booklet to go with the programme – this was a real treat, we thought!  

Nancy Machin was the Headmistress during my time there. I remember her insistence that we rest after lunch. We had to lie on our backs, heads resting on books and eyes closed while listening to records played on the old record player. Miss Nancy taught Scripture. Both she and her elder sister, Miss Audrey, the school’s founder, were deeply committed Christians, resulting in the school reflecting a strongly Christian ethos in its principles and values.  

Miss Sylvia Runicles is another memorable teacher – Maths, Latin and Nature. She organised an annual inter-sectional Nature Log competition, in which every child was encouraged to contribute to a large, folded paper book showcasing, birds, flowers, trees pond life, and plants, each of us painting something we had seen or claimed to have seen! I have wonderful memories of this activity, and I think it is such a testament to the school’s commitment to fostering a wholesome climate for all the children.  

Another school tradition that I remember was on Ascension Day, which we celebrated as the school’s birthday. We would spend a whole day full of games and activities, such as “Barbarians Chase” in the Wild Gardens. 

Family ties ran deep, with my father, Peter Summerson, serving as Senior History Master at Bilton Grange for almost 40 years, and my mother at Homefield, where she became Second Mistress after Anne Skyrme’s retirement, for many years also. Her sister, Pauline Johnson, served as Assistant Matron for a while in the late 1940s, and their mother, Edna Johnson (my grandmother), taught at the school in the 1960s. The bonds that I formed at Homefield still endure, and I have stayed in contact with several dear friends, such as Katherine Kerensky (Walker), Jill Matthews (Shardlow), Cilla Assheton (Hawkes), Sue Bates, Frances Hoare (Armitage) and Sally Coles (Banks). 

Homefield was far more than just a school; it was a warm embrace, a family, and the best foundation for a child. After leaving the Old Homefieldian Committee I joined the Old Boys Committee in the 90s when Bilton Grange took over, and one of my aims was to ensure that our school motto, “By love serve one another" continued to shine as a testament to the special place that was Homefield. 

Memories from a conversation with Dee (Daphne) on 18 January 2024. Dee was at Homefield from 1952-1960.

Join us on 23 March 2024 for the Homefield Reunion. Register here.


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