Nonsuch was named after the Palace that once stood in the park in the sixteenth century. Henry VIII started building it in order to create the finest palace in the world – None Such that could be found anywhere. He built it on the village of Cuddington.
Building a school in the early 20th Century in a Park with royal connections caused controversy. Warren Farm stood on some of the land. In 1935 there was an outcry about Surrey County Council’s proposal to build a school and questions about the scheme were raised in Parliament. It was thought the construction of the school would destroy the view of the trees where the Palace once stood.
Eventually it was given the go-ahead and on 30 December 1936 the first turf was cut at an official ceremony. Nonsuch was to be called ‘Nonsuch County School for Girls’. When full it was going to provide a school for 490 girls. There are now over 1500.
Entry to the School
As today, there was an entrance examination to get into the school. The first exam took place on 21st December 1937 and successful girls paid school fees of 4 pounds and 4 shillings. This was to cover stationery, textbooks and apparatus. The parents had to sign an agreement to keep their children at the school until the end of the school year in which they were 16.
Nonsuch opened its doors to pupils on 3rd May 1938. The official opening ceremony took place on 20th June 1938. It was reported in The Times newspaper.
Miss Marion Dickie was the first Headmistress. Miss Woods, seated next to Miss Dickie in the quad in 1947, was the Deputy Head. Miss Woods is wearing a cardigan.
When Miss Dickie retired, she was succeeded by Miss Matthews in 1964.
1938 Curriculum & the War Years
The curriculum included the majority of the subjects that you would see today, although the content varied. In 1938 the curriculum also included Needlework. Note the handwritten subject content in the photograph on the left-hand side. Students learnt to hem, embroider, mend and knit.
The War Years
Former students remember trying to have lessons and playing `ghosts' in the air raid shelters, built into the mud banks.
Heather Gee (1938-1944) wrote:
- "I am one of the original Nonsuch girls, entering the school in 1938. I was in Form1B and our form mistress was Miss Woods. I remember the wartime years when we had outdoor coats with us at all times ready to go to the shelters during air raids. On D-Day the headmistress, Miss Dickie, came round to every room to tell us that the invasion of France had begun after 5 years of war."
Some girls were evacuated, and Miss Dickie wrote to tell them that the shelters were now water tight. Two staff members had to sleep in school on fire watch and the Home Guard moved their base to the school.
The school had to be prepared in the event of a German invasion and received information about what to do. Instructions were also received in 1941 about closing the school in the event of an invasion.
At the end of the War there were winter fuel shortages, when only the rooms on the sunny side of the school were used. Pupils attended school on alternate days with half the school in session on any one day.
There was also food rationing and food shortages. In one photograph Nonsuch students can be seen unpacking food parcels in the quad received from the USA in 1948.