Memories

If you were once a part of the Ursuline Prep we would love to hear your memories of the school, to share with the girls and include here on the website. What was the school like in your day? Are there particular events or teachers you remember? Please email our alumni coordinator (alumni@ursuline-prep.merton.sch.uk) with your stories and any photos you would like to share. Many thanks!

1940s

Maureen Grey, or Maureen Davis as she then was, was at the Ursuline Prep from 1939. Her children and grandchildren have also attended the school. We are very grateful to her for sharing these memories of her own school days at the Prep:

I was a pupil at The Ursuline Convent from probably about the age of 5 (I am now 78), following in the footsteps of my older brother and sister. I remember the great excitement when we learnt that we would be moving across the road to a new school of our own for the juniors. I think I would have been Lower or Upper 2. We were using a makeshift classroom in a part of the old building near Crescent Road, and people had to walk through it to get to the main part of the school, so it was not ideal.

We all had silly ideas that the house on the other side of the road was haunted! It seemed very mysterious and very remote. My first real memory of the Prep School was making trips across the road, carrying our own desks and chairs and other equipment. It was great fun especially as work was disrupted. Of course, The Downs was a quiet road, and no one came to school by car. We moved into the classroom on the right as you go in the front door, with the verandah and overlooking the tennis court, where we had playtime. We were allowed to use the tennis court at weekends if we wished and I and my friends made good use of it. In those days, we did the 11 plus to enter the main school, so I was not at the Prep School for long. I think Mother Cecilia was in charge.

1970s/1980s

Eleanor Woodthorpe-Browne, or Eleanor Browne as she then was, was at the Ursuline Prep from the mid-seventies until 1983 and has kindly provided the following recollections:

My 3 older sisters, Tessa, Judith and Alexia, and I all attended the Ursuline Prep, although my oldest sister Tessa may only have been there a year or two max before going across the road for her O Levels.

My earliest memories are of a wonderful teacher we had in Lower Prep called Mrs Hope. Even the following year in Upper Prep I remember running up to her when she used to come in in the mornings to give her a hug - loved her to bits! Sadly she died a couple of years later which made me so sad at the time. Then we had a teacher called Miss Potter who was totally terrifying!!! She also taught my sisters as did Miss Heuvel, Mrs Inkster and Mrs Eldred-Evans who were really nice. Our gym teacher was also lovely but I just can't think of her name at the moment. When she retired we then had Miss van de Berg who was also really nice. But for French we had a Mrs Bell who could also be terrifying and I really don't think she liked me at all - I remember her shouting at me quite a bit!!! In my last year at the Prep we did Latin which was taught by Mrs Solomonides I think - her daughter Belinda was also in my class. I'm sure we had another teacher who also taught Latin and possibly played the piano? She was lovely but I can't remember her name unfortunately. I remember doing Scottish Dance extra classes (or club) with a Miss Fleming who was really nice. I think she married and also became a Mrs Bell. For science we had Mrs Curtis (I think) & she was also really nice. For music we had a Mrs Pratt for many many years and in my final year for music we had Mrs Cviic who was lovely. History was taught by Sister Theresa who I really liked - she also did a cookery club after school in my final year which was great!

I am sure there are many teachers who taught me (and my sisters) whom I cannot remember. I can't remember the name of the headmistress in my first year but I think she retired - possibly? So then we had Sister Kathleen as headmistress for many years who could also be a bit terrifying at times!! She eventually went on to another school I think so in my last year at the Prep 1982/83 we had Sister Brendan as headmistress. Now she was really lovely! I think my mother still sees her at church from time to time.

Some of the girls’ names who were in my class that I can remember are Clair Neylan (she was my best friend for years), Karen McTigue (she also became my best friend), Clare Louise Hammond, Claire Dongray, Clare Kurian (can't remember if that is correct spelling for her surname), Kate Vaughan-Williams, Helena Chappell, Rita O'Sullivan, Eleanor Scott, Belinda Solominides, Anya Holdsworth, Elizabeth Lay-Fook, Emma Keating, Clare Derx, Noelle Kean and Tess Ann Gray. Some other christian names I remember are Hannah and Claudia who were best friends, Tania, Astrid (who left before our final year) and Anna (who I think was partly Polish and had a younger sister?).

1980s

Katia O’Toole was at the Ursuline Prep between 1981 and 1983 and has the following fond memories of the school:

I was at the School between 1981 and 1983 (I think) for two years between ages 11 to 13. I remember being very pleased to have passed the entrance exam which was quite difficult! Our classroom was in the old Art Block and we were divided into Angela’s and Ursula’s. I was in Upper Three Ursula’s and then Lower Four Ursula’s. I remember having to work incredibly hard and being given about 3 or 4 subjects of homework a night. We had very formal exams at the end of every year which everybody dreaded and I think that these started in about our current equivalent to Year 3.

The uniform was very similar to today’s and we had to wear hats every day. Felt hats in the winter and boaters, which were almost the same as those today, in the summer. If you were caught by a teacher walking along Worple Road not wearing a hat, you had to wear it all day in School as a punishment, which was very embarrassing. Having to wear a hat to School when you’re 12 was really not very cool and children from other Schools would sometimes take them off us and run off with them.

There were no hot lunches although a lady called Mrs Griffiths used to come in every day to make packet soup.

I remember that we were quite naughty. Our whole class was caught once on the roof of the classroom – I can’t remember, what on earth, we were doing there! We were punished by our end of year trip being cancelled! We also used to slide down the slope outside the staff room on our bottoms when it was icy (goodness knows why I remember that – probably because it was great fun – even if I was 12 at the time!).

Overall I remember that the School was a friendly and caring place with a very similar feel to how it is today. I had lots of lovely friends, many of whom I still know today.