Windylow School

Windylow School, which came to occupy nos. 909, 911 and 913 Warwick Road, Solihull was founded with seven pupils in 1938 by schoolteachers Miss [Millicent] Joyce Hoggart-Hill (1911-1999) and Miss Madge F. K. Bagnall (1906-2003). Windylow closed on 18th December 1962 after 24 years as a result of the retirement of the principals.

The school motto was “Little Things Matter,” with “Keynote: Happy enthusiasm. Result: Good progress.”

The school was run on “progressive Froebel lines, with small Forms, individual attention, and a firm discipline.” Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) was a German educator who founded the kindergarten movement. He believed that children should be encouraged to learn through self-expression and play, rather than through being drilled or indoctrinated by a teacher.

The premises were extended in 1943 by the acquisition on 17th June 1943 of “Broad Meadow,” no. 913 Warwick Road, following the death of Alderman Samuel John Grey (1878-1942) who had served as a councillor for Acocks Green ward on Birmingham City Council 1919-1930.

An announcement in the Birmingham Post, 21st June 1943, indicated that the main part of the school would be transferred to Broad Meadow, and that there would be some vacancies from September 1943 for new pupils up to the age of 12. The photograph at the top of this page shows the Middle and Senior School house, from an advertisement c.1956.

A new boarding house opened in January 1959 to cater for full-time and weekly Boarders. It was stated that any child could stay for an odd night or so if needed.

Windylow took girls aged 2-19 and boys aged 2-11. Actress Stephanie Cole attend the school’s nursery, recalling in her autobiography, A Passionate Life, how she loved the red blazer that she wore to school.

By the mid-1950s the school offered a nursery department for children aged 2-5, a kindergarten and preparatory school for children aged 5-11, and a senior department for girls aged 12-19.

Pupils were prepared for examinations such as the General Certificate of Education “including the Commercial or Domestic subjects if desired.” The school had Cub and Brownie packs, and a Guide company.

By October 1962, when news of the retirement of Miss Hoggart-Hill and Miss Bagnall was announced, Windylow had around 100 pupils aged between two and 17, with 22 of the pupils being boarders. Miss Hoggart-Hill told the Birmingham Post that the hope was to sell the school as a going concern but that they were giving parents a term’s notice in case the school had to close.

Having failed to sell as a going concern, Windylow School closed on 18th December 1962 after 24 years. Newspaper reports indicated that the principals were to retire on medical advice. A farewell party, attended by about 50 senior and past pupils, was held in the Civic Hall and another party was held in the school for junior pupils.

Miss Hoggart-Hill

Millicent Joyce Hoggart Hill was born on 1st September 1911 in Leamington Spa to parents Digby Vernon Hoggart-Hill (1880-1958), a colliery official, and his wife, Flora Madeline (née MacDonald).

Joyce, as she was known, was the elder of the couple’s two children. She had a younger sister. Alma Angela Hoggart-Hill (1916-2015).

The family lived at Gunnery Farm, Leamington in the 1930s, although by the time of the death of Digby Hoggart-Hill in 1958, they were living at The Old Lodge, Tanworth-in-Arden.

After her retirement, Joyce Hoggart-Hill seems to have moved to Lymington, Hampshire, where it looks as if she had a grade II-listed cottage, called Windylow. She married schoolmaster Arthur Jackson Belcher (1902-1983) in 1964. They were living in Grantown on Spey, Scotland at the time of their respective deaths.

Miss Bagnall

Madge Bagnall was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 10th April 1906 and her birth name was Madge Florence Kathleen Meilandt. Bagnall was apparently the maiden name of her mother – Kathleen Devereux Bagnall (1882-1972) – who married Henry Stanley Meilandt (1874-1938), an engineer, in South Africa.

The family had moved to England by 1911 but Mr and Mrs Meilandt separated in 1921 and were divorced in 1929, apparently on the grounds of the husband’s adultery. Their son, Gascon Bagnall Meilandt (1911-2004), changed his name by deed poll in 1935 to Gascon Bagnall Bagnall [sic].

Madge continued to use the surname Meilandt until at least September 1937, when she is recorded on a ship’s passenger list, sailing from Port Said to London. Her home address at the time was recorded at Milford on Sea, Hampshire. She became a naturalised British citizen in 1974, at which time she was living in Lymington, Hampshire. Her mother, Kathleen Devereux Bagnall, died at Hordle Grange Nursing Home, Lymington in 1972.

Sometime after 1974, Madge Bagnall moved to Greytown on Spey, Scotland, the same town where her former co-principal, Joyce, was living. Madge Bagnall died there in 2003, aged 98.

Warren Pearl House, 911-915 Warwick Road

The former Windylow School remained unoccupied for more than a year after its closure as a school in 1962. It was announced in the Birmingham Daily Post 25th February 1964 that the site would become a nursing home for Midlands cancer sufferers.

The newspaper article went on to explain that the purchase of the site by the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation came about after a chance meeting in Tangier between the Foundation’s surveyor, Mr R. W. Lobley, and a well-known Solihull resident, Mrs Daye Patterson (1904-1979), both of whom were apparently holidaying there. However, Mrs Patterson’s son has told us that he thinks the holiday was likely to have been in Spain rather than Morocco.

Mr Lobley mentioned that he was an architect and was anxious to find a nursing home in a semi-rural area close to buses. Mrs Patterson, who lived in Hampton Lane, Solihull, was the deputy president of Solihull Residents’ Association and had done 22 years’ voluntary work with Solihull Hospital.

On her return from holiday, Mrs Patterson at once made enquiries. She then toured with Mr Lobley the three houses which comprised the former school buildings. Negotiations for the school premises were completed, with the building and the 2.25-acre site reportedly costing around £40,000. The nursing home was to be the tenth in a series of 12 envisaged by the organisation to provide nursing coverage across Britain.

Structural conversion of the buildings was completed by 1st August 1965, and Miss M. M. Cromar, formerly assistant matron at Paybody Hospital, Allesley, Coventry, was appointed the new matron.

The new home consisted of two buildings, joined by a covered way. On one side, 32 beds occupied two floors, whilst the other side housed nursing staff, administration and all ancilliary departments.

The home was named after Mrs Amy Lea Warren Pearl, née Duncan, (1880-1964), who was one of the three founder members of the foundation. She and her husband, Frederick Warren Pearl, had survived the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, but two of their children, together with one of their nurses, died.

In 2009 Solihull Council approved a planning application from Marie Curie Cancer Care for the building of new premises on green belt land in Marsh Lane. Construction of the 24-bed hospice took some 18 months and required £6 million of fundraising. The doors of new Marie Curie Hospice in Marsh Lane opened to patients on 12th January 2013. It was officially opened by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales in June 2013.

Meanwhile, the charity had sold its previous premises, Warren Pearl House, to McCarthy & Stone for the construction of retirement apartments.

Scarlet Oak, Warwick Road, Solihull, November 2021

Scarlet Oak, an independent-living development of 28 two-bedroomed apartments for the over-55s, officially launched in November 2014.

West Midlands Bridge Club, 909 Warwick Road

The premises at 909 Warwick Road, Solihull were apparently not required by the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation and, in June 1968, a planning application was submitted to Solihull Council on behalf of the Solihull School of Bridge in respect of a change of use of the building at 909 Warwick Road to a Bridge club and Bridge school.

According to A History of the West Midlands Bridge Club 1966-2008 by Edward Legg, the rather dilapidated building was purchased from the Foundation by computing pioneer and self-made businesswoman Miss Marion Murtagh (1916-2001) in 1969 for £25,500. She spent a further £5,000 on furnishings and fittings to convert the building and, in 1970, West Midlands Bridge Club moved into the building, where the club remains today.

West Midlands Bridge Club, Warwick Road, Solihull, November 2021

909 Warwick Road was named Marion Murtagh House in 2007, when the building was officially reopened on 30th June following refurbishment.

If you have any further information on any of the buildings or organisations mentioned, please let us know.

Tracey
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

© Solihull Council, 2021.
You are welcome to link to this article, but if you wish to reproduce more than a short extract, please email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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