Fredville House School

After the Plumptre family moved to the nearby newly built “Little Fredville” house in the mid-1920’s  ‘Big Fredville’ House became a girls boarding school.

Actress Googy Withers was a pupil at the Fredville School around 1929 before going to the Italia Conti stage school.
Actress Googie Withers was a pupil at the Fredville School around 1929 before going to the Italia Conti stage school.

Actress Georgette  “Googie” Withers was a pupil there around 1929 to 1930 just prior to beginning her long career. She was educated first at Fredville Park School, and after a year or so moved to the Convent of the Holy Family in Kensington. Her professional training was undertaken with Italia Conti and then with Helena Lehmiski in Birmingham.

“Googie” was a successful stage, film  and T.V.  actress  known in the 1940’s as “the best bad girl in British films” and was still performing in the West End with Vanessa Redgrave in 2002. She died aged 92 in Australia in 2011.

Information is sparse regarding the girls boarding school at the old Fredville mansion during the 1920’s and 30’s, and I am therefore very grateful to have received some photographs and, more importantly, some information kindly supplied by Philip Rowett whose late aunt, Nancy Rowett, attended the Fredville House school from 1931 to 1933.

Philip informed me that the school was run by two sisters known by the girls as “Aunt Maud” and “Aunt Mary”. These ladies were Maud Charlotte Campbell Hardy and  Mary Clifford Hardy, whose educational establishment was said to provide a “home from home” for the children of parents who were abroad.
There was an announcement in “The London Gazette” of  20th February, 1931 regarding the dissolving of the partnership of Maud Campbell Hardy and Juliet Florence Angell as joint proprietresses of Fredville Park School

“NOTICE is hereby given that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us, the undersigned, Juliet Florence Angell and Maud Charlotte Campbell Hardy, both of Fredville Park, Nonington, in the county of Kent, School Mistresses, carrying on business as such at Fredville Park aforesaid, under the style of FREDVILLE PARK SCHOOL, has been dissolved by mutual consent as from the twenty-fifth day of December, 1930. All debts due and owing to or by the said late firm will be respectively received and paid by the said Maud Charlotte Campbell Hardy, by whom the said business will in the future be carried on.—Dated as on the twenty fourth day of December, 1930”.

It would therefore appear that Mary Hardy joined her sister as joint proprietress of Fredville Park School at some time after Christmas Day of 1930. Colin Nikolaisen has kindly informed me in the comment section at the end of this article that in 1939 Maud was the principal of the school and Mary the vice-principal.
The school had a lot of pet dogs, ponies, and other animals, which, Philip said, would have suited his aunt. He also said the description he had received of the school was that there was complete absence of discipline. This is somewhat at odds with what “Googie” Withers was reported to have said of the school in an interview referred to in “Double-Act: The Remarkable Lives and Careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum”, by Brian McFarlane, and published by Monash in 2015, where it’s recorded that the school was run by two Irish sisters who, Googie said, “had no qualms about meting out punishment. We got beatings on our bottoms, and quite frankly I think I deserved it”. Perhaps her self-confessed bad behaviour led the Hardy sisters to take extreme measures and was the reason for Googie’s short time at Fredville.

Many of the photographs below come from an album of photographs that appear to have been given to prospective pupils parents to show the school facilities kindly sent to me by Philip Rowett. Other photographs are ones belonging to the late Nancy Rowett.
The school seems to have had some seventy or so pupils and the  inclusion of photographs of a nursery and kindergarten indicate that pupils attended from a very early age, while other photographs  show girls in their early to mid-teens.

My late father, Ron Webb, and his boyhood friend, the late Ken Theobald, both told me stories of how they and other village boys use to try and ride bareback on the schools ponies, which were kept in a part of Fredville Park, and of how they were chased off by staff from the school for doing so. Apparently none of them were able to stay on any of the ponies for more than a few seconds. My father told me that the pond opposite The Royal Oak pub was divided in half by a fence and that the Fredville ponies drank from the coach road side half of the pond and farm livestock from the other half.
At the out-break of the Second World War in 1939  the school’s time at Fredville House came to an end when the old mansion house was requisitioned by the Government and soon occupied by the Canadian Army who were there until the time of the Normandy invasion in June of 1944. Sadly,  shortly after they moved in  the house was badly damaged by fire.
Mr. John Plumptre, then the owner of the Fredville estate and the father of the present owner, also John Plumptre, decided to demolish the remains of the badly damaged mansion in 1945. However,  the clock tower, coach house, stable yard and out buildings escaped demolition and are now houses and workshops.


  • admin

    Unfortunately I have very little information regarding the school, and virtually none regarding its pupils. It’s very likely that the school would have taken in a very young boy as a boarder, especially in the financially straightened times of the 1930’s. He would have been of an age when there would have been no obvious problems or improprieties for his attending an all girls school.

  • Tina James (nee Williamson)

    I am researching the history of my father who died four years ago. I have a letter in which he describes being sent to Fredville Park School aged 6 from India where my grandfather was in the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. It would have been around 1936. He recalls the kindergarten, run by a Miss Bullock, who would play the piano while the children sang. Does this seem likely? Would the school have taken little boys into the school? I’m not sure what happened when war was declared and where he would have stayed from that point as the next point I have in his life is enrolling at Sandhurst. Any possible help on shedding light on this much appreciated.

  • admin

    Thanks for the comments. I’d be interested to receive any information or anecdotes you have regarding the school. Unfortunately there seems to be very little on record that I can find.

  • Mrs Moore

    I was very interested regarding this school as my mum boarded there in the 30’s, she mentioned going horse riding with Googie Withers.

  • admin

    Thanks for sending me the photos, David. I’m always grateful for anything regarding the Fredville school as there seems to be very little information available about it.

  • David Sinclair

    Strange I was scanning some old photos of my Mother’s and was looking at the ones she took at Fredville 1931-3, and the name Nancy Rowett appears on one of them. My mother was Mary Scott.
    The photo is not very good I’m afraid ;
    There is a better one here
    My mother is second from the right – the term is the upper third.
    There are others but almost no names. Thanks for the site.
    Best regards

  • admin

    Many thanks for the information. It’s difficult to find anything regarding the school. Which 1939 register was this in, please?

  • Colin Nikolaisen

    In the the 1939 Register Maud Campbell Hardy (1871-1950) was the principal of the Fredville House School and her sister Mary Clifford Hardy (1875-1944) was the vice Principal. Its looks as though the sisters became joint proprietress of Fredville Park School after 1931.

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