Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Nonsuch is 75!

Nonsuch: a science and language specialist school; an all-girls school; and the only place in the world where multiple lanyard jokes can be made in almost every assembly. Established in 1938 under the name 'Nonsuch County School for Girls', Nonsuch has survived World War Two and evolved to see its 75th Anniversary. The first students arrived on the 3rd May with the school being officially opened by James Stanhope- the 7th Earl of Stanhope- on the 20th June. However, in the lead up to this long-awaited moment, the idea of putting a school in the middle of a park with historic links caused a lot of controversy. Our very own Nonsuch was mentioned in ‘The Times’ and was gradually becoming known in Surrey with its newspaper fame in the borough and local council. Eventually, after questions about the scheme had been raised in Parliament, the first turf was cut on the 30th December 1936. Nonsuch was actually planned a century ago, and without those 25 years of planning, Nonsuch might just have been a vast patch of green land. The school aimed to have around 490 girls, just over a third of the amount which is here today. Nevertheless, in a similar way to the students of today, the former students had to take an 11+ exam to enter. On the other hand, the uniforms are another matter. Every modern-day Nonsuch girl (and teacher) has heard about the numerous uniform complaints among which are: the style of the skirt which flaps open in the wind; the length of the skirts which many students must roll up as high as they can; and let's not forget everyone's favourite school coat. This is a vast contrast to the original Nonsuch girls. They were thrilled to be part of a school which had such a fashionable uniform- including brown shoes and a pinafore. On speaking with Ms Jeanne Paramor (who was a student in 1938) and Ms Ruby Smith (a student in 1941), it soon became evident that these were not the only differences. An example is the fact that the school hall used to be used as a canteen. Every day at lunchtime, the hall would be filled with girls eating stewed cabbage, potatoes and mince meat. At the end of each table would be a teacher craning their necks to ensure that all the girls were behaving themselves. On the stage at the front of the hall sat the headmistress (Miss Marion Dickie, succeeded by Miss Mathews in 1964) accompanied by the remainder of the teachers. Ms Paramor recalls that once she found a slug in her lettuce and was put off eating school dinners. After that, she and a friend decided to sneak out and eat at a restaurant until they were caught by a teacher and forced to have packed lunches at school, thus preventing them from sneaking out again. So in effect, lunchtimes at Nonsuch were slightly like a scene from a school feast in the Harry Potter movies! However, the actual building is still very similar to the one made 75 years ago, only with a few differences. The exams office that we know today was actually the ground floor, and the room 301 was originally an art room! Moreover, the quad hasn’t changed at all- it really still is exactly how everyone remembers it. Overall, listening to the stories of these two women was very enlightening and entertaining and we would just like to take this opportunity to thank them for their time. Furthermore, Sports days were grand occasions, and Nonsuch held its first one on 6th July 1938. Events included: skipping relays, ball team games and hoop team games as well as three-legged races. Additionally, in the late 1940s the war period affected the school. The school had periods where it was closed and in 1948 there were food shortages. In the same year, Nonsuch received food parcels from the USA, and the pupils with the help of the teachers grew potatoes on the premises of the school. Nonsuch continues to be a leading grammar school for girls and is a school that has been long missed by former pupils. It’s not long now before Nonsuch celebrates its 100th anniversary, making a century of existence... Taken as a whole, Nonsuch has seen many students come and go. Although fashions may change and technology may improve, this school is fundamentally a place where teenage girls can come to get an education while making fond memories. It is unique in many ways and generally a place close to each Nonsuch girl's heart. Ultimately, our time at Nonsuch is an important milestone in our lives with the 75th Anniversary being a reminder that we should treasure every moment. By JG and MD

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