Forgotten Memories of Tremough Convent School

As you drive towards the main campus of Falmouth University sharp modernist buildings fill the skyline. This once grand private estate has now been a place of learning and education for more than 70 years. Since Tremough Convent School closed its doors in 1993 however the old buildings have mostly been swallowed up by new development and forgotten.

The Les Filles de le Croix, a religious order founded in France in 1641, bought Tremough from the Longfield family in June 1943. Alongside their service to God, their mission was to provide girls with the same educational opportunities as boys.

Sister Augustine, one of Tremough’s last surviving Sisters, always felt that teaching was her special calling. “I just loved it, the Sisters were well trained you see and very dedicated.”

When the school opened rationing was at its height and it only succeeded through the sheer determination and resourcefulness of the Sisters and the formidable Mother Patricia.

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Transforming the former mansion of Tremough House into a functioning school was a mammoth task. The grand bedrooms were converting into classrooms, the ballroom into the chapel and the old stable block was made into the first dormitories.

When the first pupils arrived rationing meant feeding them was a challenge. The Sisters established orchards, greenhouses and vegetable gardens and soon the school had a constant supply of fresh produce. This tradition of ‘grow-your-own’ for the school dinner table continued into the 1980s, although it seems it was not always popular with the girls.

“The school lunches were terrible” says Stephanie Paddy who attended Tremough from 1958. “I remember being served beetroot which they grew in the walled garden, Sister Vincent tried to make me eat it by saying it would make my cheeks nice and rosy, I have a dislike of beetroot even now.”

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Another former pupil Lesley Treloar joined the school as a day girl, cycling from the nearby village of Mabe. “Rhubarb deserts used to feature an awful lot because the grounds were pretty much covered by it, I have hated rhubarb ever since.”

The food aside, the school was an instant success. The Falmouth Packet reported in September 1944 that several of the girls had won national awards and that Tremough was welcoming more pupils than ever. That success continued throughout the school’s lifetime.

“There were small classes you see” Sister Augustine tells me with pride, “I could take girls out for a one to one help, I was quite good at that”.

Lesley thinks that being a Tremough girl certainly opened doors for her in job interviews. “I believe I had a great education. They were strict for sure and didn’t stand any nonsense but it wasn’t unkind . . . I can remember [they] just taught you a lot of respect for your elders and authority, which is not a bad thing . . . it has shaped me into a strong character.”

Much of the school day was structured around the Catholic faith, the girls recited the ‘Hail Mary’ throughout the day, regularly visited statues of saints found in the grounds to pray and were expected to wear hats and gloves at all times.

Sister Augustine, originally from Ireland, entered her religious life at just 16 and puts the strictness down to the Sister’s own educations “It comes from our background I suppose as Irish Catholics we were kind of strict but we certainly did the best we possibly could for the girls, everything was for them.”

Sister Augustine smiles as she tells me about the girls swimming on hot days in the ornamental pond in the Italian garden. “It was fun here for the girls, they did have a lot of freedom too.”

The school eventually closed when many of the Sisters became too old to teach and funding dried up. The last 6 remaining Sisters now live together in Bethany House, Falmouth and still work enthusiastically in the community.

 

26 thoughts on “Forgotten Memories of Tremough Convent School

  1. Fascinating article – one of my ancestors (Barwis, I think) started a school there in the 1700’s possibly? They had a school in Penair House, Penzance, and then moved to Tremough. Visited Tremough about 20 yrs ago, and was very kindly shown around by the nuns there.

  2. Beth, more info for you

    …. just heard this from my friend and boarder Deborah Bent…. “article was very interesting. We actually said the Angelus at 12 noon and 6pm, was this mistaken for Hail Marys? Do you remember how Sister Margaret Mary and sister Martina would offer lessons up to God when it was more important to teach English than the RE on the timetable? And if we heard an ambulance siren we offered up a prayer for those inside. I still do that now even though I am not particularly religious.”

  3. I remember our revolting school meals. Spam and soft crisps for Christmas meal, stale cornflakes and no pudds (the best thing about any of the meals) on feast days. “Fly pie” and “jelly babies” in the poor sausages.
    I wasn’t a Catholic nor religious (still not), so attending Mass and benediction was a necessary chore. However I remember a new girl arriving who played the guitar and sang brilliantly – it changed everything as we were able to sing uplifting hymns/songs!

    Not sure where the ‘small classes’ were?! We were 30 in a class and usually stretched across all abilities for majority of lessons which was a challenge for some.
    I think the discipline was good as it enabled us to push the boundaries so was character building. I didn’t like injustices – nor lies, which some nuns displayed traits.

    The best thing about the school was the friendships I forged and still have 35+ years after leaving.
    I left around 1980-81.

  4. Nice article but I’m sure they were still teaching in 1993. And closed the doors later…possibly 1999 after the governor’s took over!

  5. I must be the only one who loved the school dinners! I loved the sausages, lasagne and doughnuts and I really loved the bread and jam the boarders got at the end of the school day. I have to agree though – I didn’t like the beetroot at all and still don’t today! (Pupil in the 80’s)

  6. I was a boarder there, and I remember Cora the Big Sheep Dog..
    Swimming in the pool with the frogs, and making sure you kept your mouth shut incase you swallowed one !!!
    I use to love going to the grotto.
    Walking into town in crocodile with our gloves and hats on.
    Our skirts had to touch the floor when kneeling down, anthing above was considered indecent !
    Rice pudding, fab , Tabioca ugh.

  7. I remember Tremough in the late 1950s and 1960s. The Nuns sold the flowers to pupils. I was a day girl, the camillias were seven shillings and six pence a bunch, snowdrops one shilling. Sister Vincent, sister Eugene, Sister Gertrude, Sister Martina, Sister Carmel, Sister Aquinas were there at that time. After all these years I still remember all the girls names as well. I remember the cloak room as you came in and having to change from our out door shoes into our indoor shoes, lining up in the Hall before lunch to say the Angelus, and going to the Chapel after lunch. Does any one remember the Elocution Exams, and the parents days when they opened the Italian Gardens.
    Also the wonderful wooden rocking horse, and soaking the willows for our basket weaving in the fish Pond.

  8. I was wondering if any one could help me.During my time at Tremough, the pupils were encouraged to take Elecution Exams. There were two poems in my Exam Bambi and the second one was about Blue Bells, does any one remember them? Also can anyone remember which Elecution board was used, I believe it was the same board that Truro girls school used.

  9. Did anyone come from Kerris Vean & remember the annual “Shows” at the Princess Pavilion?I was only there from 1948-52 but remember many of the girls & several of the Sisters! And have some v funny photos of us as sailors, flower fairies, mermaids etc!

    1. I don’t remember the shows at the Princess Pavillion, but I do remember the shows the Nuns and pupils put on in the gym of the upper school. The older girls done a very good piece on the charge of the light brigade, the younger girls were dancing as bee’s, lovely costumes.

  10. Contemporaries at Kerris Vean were… Jenny Adlington, Angela Kelly, Valerie Dabbs, … did any of them go on to Tremough? I was only there for a term but have been searching for Kerris Vean, which seems to have been airbrushed from history!

  11. Also Jacqui Dell, Janet Martin, Susan Swift… but all at Kerris Vean, so you may not know any of them? Esp as this was 1948!!

    1. I have never heard of Kerris Vean, could you tell me more about it please? The Tremough girls in the 1960s were, Anita, Margret and Carmen Smuda,from Penryn. Caroline and Elizabeth Taylor from Mabe.Moira Barnes, Paddy Banks, and Susan Bagnell from Truro. Donnet Fairbank from St Mawes. Linda Bailey from Falmouth. Jenifer and Susan Hurbert from the Norway Inn,. Loveday and Chloe House. Mary White, Judith Polkinghorn from Restronget. We also had 3 boys until they were 10yrs old, Jamie and Martin Biscoe, Dr Biscoes son’s. There was also a young man from Falmouth called Hingston.

  12. Kerris Vean was the Primary department in immediate post war years, I think… with many of the sisters who later ended up at Tremough, from a quick look at their FB page… Sr Eugene & so on..
    It was in a house once belonging to the Fox family & now part of Falmouth Univ, on Woodlane… & I think the nuns not there for very long as Falmouth School of Art moved in there… even “local historians” I’ve contacted are struggling to find trace of it!! However that was about 70 yrs ago now… so hardly surprising!! I left Cornwall 60 yrs ago, so this is all long distance searching… but maybe one day I’ll find someone who remembers it!!

    1. Many thanks for that, I’ve never heard of it. In my time the primary School was upstairs in the Main house, there were 3 class rooms, the reception was Sister Vincent, who passsed you to Sister Carmel, then on to another Sister whose name escapes me, then to Sister Aquinas whose class room was downstairs next to the Italian gardens and swimming pool. My family are from the penryn, Falmouth area, I will see if I can make some inquiries for you. I remember Sister Eugene she was still there in the 1960s, she taught at the upper school for the Senior girl’s.

  13. Thanks… I’ll keep watch for any further posts! Back in the day Sr Eugene was young & hot tempered & used regularly to “make me stand behind the blackboard”… where there were pinned Nature Notes for other classes… sparking my enduring interest in ornithology!! 🙂

  14. Great article, but I don’t think it closed in 1993….I was a pupil there and finished my compulsory education there. In 93′ I would have been 12. I know Tremough went on for a few years after I left too…I think it closed closer to 99′. Many many fond and happy memories of my time there. So sad to see it today, with the old stable block and swimming pool demolished.

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