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The School at Symonds Yat Rock, Gloucestershire.

A photo of Symonds Yat Rock school

Janet wrote: "Our g.g.g. Grandmother, Jane Smith was from the FoD and she may have gone to Symonds Yat Rock school? She was born in 1849 and emigrated in 1870. Perhaps someone knows the history of the school".

Roy Coldrick added the following facinating account of the School House;

I was interested to see the photograph of the School House at Symonds Yat Rock submitted by Janet Evans and I may be able to help her a little with the history of the building. The property was built in approximately 1830 and was known as the Symonds Yat Rock Infants School. It provided schooling for the children of Symonds Yat Rock and Coldwall; the school next to the church in English Bicknor providing schooling for the children from English Bicknor. It was probably established by the Rev Edward Field [sic] who was then Rector of English Bicknor and who later rose to eminence as the Bishop of Newfoundland in Canada. The school ceased to be a school in about 1896.

At some stage after this Oliver Williams, a boatman , and his wife opened the building as a Cafe. In 1905 a formal tenancy agreement with Mr Williams was enacted ; Mr Williams himself also operated the first Motor Boat on the River Wye . The family, including son Alfred and daughter subsequently moved to the Rosary ; next door but effectively underneath the old school. The refreshment rooms continued to be rented by the Williams and son Alfie and his wife Annie continued to run that business. They had a son, Percy, and daughter Olive . Olive became Olive Tate and continued to live at Coleford. The tea rooms remained open from Easter to October each year.

In 1947 the Church Wardens, who still owned the property , raised £63 by mortgage with the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society , for repair and maintenance.

In May 1949 the house was sold to Alfred George Duggan and his wife for £250. The Duggan's subsequently moved to Berry Hill where they had a shop. In 1950 the Duggan's sold the house for £1000 to a Mr William Chambers who continued to run the "Tea and Refreshment Rooms". Mr Chambers sold the house a year later , ...

In 1951 George & Maria Vowles bought the house for £1000 . They also ran a cigarette business in Broadwell. .... Mrs Vowles, who was of Polish decent, died 20th August 1966 ...

The view frpm the Old School House, Symonds Yat Rock in 2005

Above: A painting of the view actually from the Old School House. It was painted by local artist Audrey Hart (Courtesy of Roy Coldrick).

Mr Tom and Mrs Lily Swallow bought the house from Mrs Amberey in 1969 for £2500. The Swallows had previously run the Motel at Hillersland just up the road. Mr Swallow had a strong emotional attachment to the house and to the view in particular. During the war Tom was a prisoner of war at Mulhberg Stalag IV B. The prisoners needed some relief from the boredom of camp life so Tom and a colleague started a camp magazine. Tom had a background in the Motor Industry so a Motoring Magazine was the obvious choice for the now named "Muhlberg Motor Club". The one copy each month was created and edited by the two men and drawn onto paper using whatever material they could find, including mud and blood for colour! This, single copy , was then passed around the camp by the "Distribution Manager". The content was often imaginary since nobody had access to what was going on outside. During this time Tom was shown a photograph of a view from 'somewhere in England'. On investigation he discovered it was the view from Symonds Yat Rock. At that point he vowed that should he survive '˜this hell' he would find that view and live there. On release he did come to Symonds Yat but , at that time, the house was occupied so instead he bought the Motel at Hillersland waiting for the School to become available , at which point he bought it . While living at the house in the mid 1980's Tom , who had retained the original magazines , wrote a book - "Flywheel of the Open Road" which was essentially a reprint of the magazines. It was published in 1987 and all proceeds were donated to the Red Cross. Tom actually incorporated the view into the magazine as the background to a poem called "Reawakening" by P.J. Bemrose, about the English Countryside. Sgt Bemrose was also a prisoner at Mulhberg and was largely responsible for the "Artistic" aspects of the magazine.

My wife Wendy, and I bought the house in 1987. Somewhere during it's history it had been renamed "Rock Cottage" , we think by Tom Swallow but we renamed it back to "The Old School House" and it retains that name today in 2021. I have no knowledge of the house beyond our time there except that we sold to a Mrs Jacqui Snow in 2007".

The School at Symonds Yat Rock as a private house

The Old School House at Symonds Yat Rock in 2005 (courtesy of Roy Coldrick)

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