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.

 

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14 thoughts on “Forgotten Memories of Tremough Convent School

  1. Chez l'abeille December 7, 2017 / 6:25 pm

    Did you go to Tremough? My cousin went there in the 60s and I went there with my sister in the 70s. When I left in 1980 it was still going strong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • esdale77 December 7, 2017 / 6:33 pm

      No I didn’t actually I went to the Duchy Grammar in Carnon Downs 🙂

      Like

  2. Karen Wells-West December 7, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth December 9, 2017 / 7:17 pm

    I love the mandatory gloves. I remember wearing them to dancing school, going downtown shopping and on airplanes!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lesley December 10, 2017 / 4:40 pm

    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.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eggy February 15, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kelly February 15, 2018 / 10:15 pm

    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!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kristy weller February 16, 2018 / 5:39 pm

    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)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lc February 16, 2018 / 5:42 pm

      Lasagne?? Doughnuts?? Are we talking about the same school :-/

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Barbara Dunford February 21, 2018 / 2:16 pm

    I used to teach there under the formidable Mother Francis, followed by M.Eugene.
    Beetroot was definitely served at the teachers lunches too!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Val Krol April 17, 2018 / 10:57 pm

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. vanessa McCarthy April 25, 2018 / 8:56 am

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

    • esdale77 April 25, 2018 / 9:47 am

      Wonderful memories, thank you for sharing!

      Like

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