I was lucky to get the job really. I had been brought up in an orphanage and I was not very self reliant. I left school when I was 14 and was employed as a trainee with the Council Parks Department. I also left the orphanage and was put with foster parents until I was 17. I had graduated from the Parks department when I was 18 and went to Guildford's Job centre who had sent me to work in a large Nursery garden centre. I did this job for four years and then I wanted to do something different I left and looked for something new. The Job Centre sent me out to this School saying that they had a job for a groundsman there, I was well pleased. It was not far out of town where I had been living in a bed-sit.
I soon found the entrance, as there was this large old sign which said First Aid Nursing Yeomanry School and below it Territorial Women's Army Training School. On the other side of the entrance, was the sign saying St.Trinians School for Young Girls. I cycled up to the front door of a large mansion with large grounds. I knocked on the door and waited. I heard lots of noise inside but no one answered the door, so I pushed it and went in. Inside, it was a large hall with a staircase in front of me and lots of doors leading off it. I could see nobody so I called out. "Hello?
There was silence, so I sat down in the hall and waited. After about ten minutes all the doors opened and a crowd of girls came running out going in all directions -- ignoring me. Then at last I was seen and a middle aged woman saw me and asked who I was and want did I want. I explained and showed her my job slip. "I am the Headmistress Miss Frinton. Have you been a Groundsman before?"
"No ma'am, but I worked four years with the Council Parks, and then with a Nursery"
"Good. When can you start?"
"I could start today. Will I be able to live here?"
"Oh Yes. There is a flat for you in the old Chapel, where we also keep all the mowers etc."
We went round the back of the mansion and there was this old chapel with stone walls and a steep roof and stained glass windows in it. She told me the history of the old building. There had been a convent on the site but the nuns had been thrown out in Henry VIII's time. The whole estate had been bought by a rich Tudor merchant and rebuilt. He died before it had been finished but his wife lived in it for many years. Then, in Victorian times, the mansion was bought by a Lady Broughton. She had the chapel adapted to be a coach house with a flat upstairs for the coachmen, and the rest of the mansion was also rebuilt and expanded.
"So this estate has always belonged to, and been used by women alone?"
"Oh yes, during the First World War, it was leased to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry - the Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps, the first all female independent unit of nursing. It reverted back to Lady Broughton who modernised it a bit and built a swimming pool and also laid down a tennis court for use when she entertained guests on weekends. Then in the Second World War, it was sold to the War Department for use by another all female army unit, the Territorial Women's Army for Training purposes. The mansion was doubled in size for accommodation, dining rooms and kitchen etc. for the women. The stable block was demolished and a separate house built for the instructors. The domestic staff came in from the nearby village."
I asked what happened to the old groundsman.
"Oh he died of a heart attack when he tried to run from some of the girls. It's no surprise, he smoked too much, and had a terrible cough."
"Why was he running away?"
"He was dirty old man and they had caught him leering at the young girls in the swimming pool." I was suitably warned and I resolved not to do that. She took me then to meet the School's Bursar. He was a very effeminate man and shook my strong brown hands with his soft white ones. "We will pay you twenty pounds a week before tax and insurance with full board and longing. I hope you do well here. You will live in the old Chapel which is above the garden shed. I live in the school lodge by the entrance. I returned to my bed-sit, collected my things and told the landlord I was going. I strapped my suitcase on the back of my bike and pedalled back to the school. I went in, and went into my new home. It was a loft, a floor had been put into the old Chapel and I could see the roof rafters above me. On the ground floor was a sit-on mowing machine with a gang mower, plus all the necessary equipment for my job.
There was toilet, a hand basin and a small shower in a separate room. I looked around and found a collection of photographs. They were of the girls, some were exercising in their blue knickers, others were sitting down and one could see up their skirts to view their pants, and some were of girls pissing behind a wooden hut. These last few excited me. I had never seen a girl's quim and this one was also pissing!
The room was dirty and the bed linen soiled. I went to the kitchen into the back entrance and mentioned this to the staff. They were horrified that no one had cleaned it up after the dirty old man had died.
"We'll come over right away."
Four of them came over and tore out all the old man's stuff and burnt it all. They could hardly bring themselves to touch the sheets. They burned all of his clothes, and his girly magazines and photos. Then they gave me a tin of white emulsion and I painted the whole area. In the small bathroom, they used bleach on all surfaces.
"I don't know how we tolerated having this man on our premises."
"He came with the house," said one woman. "The old Miss Frinton died after her old school was blown up and burnt when the Fourth Form girl's spirit Still exploded. Her niece, Annie Frinton inherited it and sold it to a developer. She used the money, together with the reward money for finding the Train Robbery loot, to buy this place. It used to be used by the FANYS in First World War and then by the TWATS that is the Training of Women's Auxiliaries in the Second one. She oversaw the modernisation and adaptation of the place to be a school for girls. It is said that some of the bags of old bank notes were never found by the police, but Annie Frinton did before it was sold, and she paid most of the builders in cash."
I slept well and started my first day's work after a breakfast which was served in the kitchen with the other staff. I mowed the playing fields and put up the lacrosse nets and the hockey goal boards. I watched them play from a distance. I thought that they played very roughly and there seemed to be a lot of fouls. Another thing I noticed was that the young girls watching the games had on long skirts to their ankles and the older girls had short skirts well above their knees. I asked the staff at supper why was that.
"It's a matter of pride with them that they wear the same skirt all through their career here, so it starts off long and ends looking short!"
Apparently I was also expected to carry out all the maintenance work as well. One job I had was to look after, was the coal fired boiler, for heating the water and for the central heating. In the winter it would require constant stoking but in the summer it was only used to heat water for baths and washing water. There was also a Still which I know was illegal, but I was told it was a tradition of St. Trinians to make their own gin and vodka for their own use.
The old house used to have all their vegetables supplied from their walled garden. There was a large building at the entrance to the old walled area which was converted into a changing rooms, showers and lavatories for the girls to use. It also housed the pump and chlorination mechanism.
.... There is more of this story ...