Stonelands and St. Hill Peace Stories

Discussion in 'Staff "War Stories"' started by vumba, Jan 13, 2012.

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  1. vumba

    vumba Patron with Honors

    I have been reminded by Crash about areas around Stonelands and St. Hill that bring back pleasant memories. Some of these memories are around seeking sanctuary and peace from the madness of the daily routines and ethics. These places gave my sister, brothers and I a real safe haven for a while. I thought I would try to recount these memories and see if they trigger any pleasant memories for others too.

    At Stonelands there were all sorts of wonderful nooks and crannies to explore as a child. You could go up and climb through the attic windows where the Quirinos lived (and later the Edwards' and Morgans), onto the slate roof. This roof reminded me very much of the Brothers Grimm when they described the roofs across Germany in their fairy tales. There was a slight sense of danger, but also fun.

    There were the basements that were dank and damp. One of these was later to become the study room for the RPF so had been given a lick of white emulsion. Leading down into the basement were these stone steps, worn away with age in a spiral. Prior to the RPF taking it over, we used to play in there as kids and one nanny (who will remain nameless) used to play guitar, and sing us songs whilst she smoked dope. She was a bit of a hippy anyway, and this lent itself to the whole positive ambience of the moment.

    Under the stairs was a tiny room (one couldn't really describe it as a cupboard) where a phone was housed. I remember one dark, windy and very stormy night seeking santuary in there as the thunderstorm raged outside, with lightning casting a blaze of light across the red tiles on the floor. During a storm Stonelands could either be an incredibly frightening place to a child, or a place of refuge depending on where you happened to be. There were no real carpets to speak of, and the old floors creaked and groaned in all sorts of ways. The emptiness of the corridors meant that the wind could blow up and down them causing huge draughts. It wasn't for no reason that we huddled under sleeping bags or blankets when all sitting together in the TV room on a Saturday night watching The Old Grey Whistle Test!

    In the grounds of Stonelands, we were intrigued, and slightly nervous about approaching the grave of someone from days of yore who had been buried near the Nursery School building at the back of the house. We never did know whose grave it was, but I would never be seen dead walking past this grave at night (pardon the pun)!

    Do people remember the really longgggg driveway to the house. I used to love walking up this drive on my own whenever I needed to get away, and I used to sometimes walk up it and think "if I kept on walking, what would happen to me"?

    Crash reminded me of the old swimming pool at the back of the house. If anyone has ever seen the footage of Edward the VIII and Wallis Simpson swimming at Windsor, then one could imagine that at some point this pool would have been just like it. We did actually swim in it... I recall swimming in this pool with Mark and Tom Pope and Vincent and Chris Barnes. The water wasn't exactly clear, and neither was there any adult present to supervise us. Our lives were in the lap of the Gods! However, we had a wonderful time. The pool was surrounded by a brick wall on all sides, and some old rooms off to the corners that would once have been changing rooms. It was pretty cool if you stood there amongs the weeds of the paving stones, and used your imagination to harp back to what it might have been once.

    Not far from this pool was an old greenhouse with little or no glass left in it, and what glass there was was covered in green algae. However, there was the most wonderful, very old fig tree in there, and it used to bear the most glorious fruit. This was truly manna from heaven when you compared it to the meagre beans and rice we were subjected to having to eat on a daily basis. Pure nectar.

    If anyone else has any memories of the house, I would love to hear them. I have many more about The Hill too... but this is enough for now. Thank you for reading.... :thankyou:
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2012
  2. Dulloldfart

    Dulloldfart Squirrel Extraordinaire

    There were also lots of nooks and crannies at Stonelands to have sex in. In the early 70s, before the FO came out cutting down on the out-of-wedlock fun and games.

    It was one way of getting warm, Stonelands always being so damn cold.

    I swum in that old swimming pool too. Must have been around 1973. By 1975 or so the pool had become completely neglected.

  3. johnAnchovie

    johnAnchovie Still raging

    Moving to leafy rural Sussex from the steel and concrete dystopia that was PAC and LA in general was, pardon me, a breath of fresh air.

    I loved and hated Stonelands. I seemed to be able to, back then in 1987, (and for a reason that eludes me now, for a period, after getting back from an Africa mission in 1991 or 92, maybe I had malaria or had to be quarantined – not being serious), goof off a lot more that I was later able to.

    I would walk up that drive of a late Spring or Summers evening and rather than follow the curve of the bumpy drive, I would jump over the old style into a field with long row of what I think were old English oak trees, I loved these trees,I would feel the rough old bark and stand under them, I remember always feeling peaceful in that place, connected to nature and grounded. I would almost, but not quite, contact the grief and suppressed fear within, and felt I nearly cared for with these solid old guardians, freinds. I went there often. It was such a contrast from that mad, malign illusion I seemed compelled to live the rest of the time.

    On libs days I would hike across the field to that lovely old pub on the Hawards Heath road. I would pop in for pint and briefly feel normal. That was nice, the pub was cosy, with a fire in the grate and lots of old dark wood, leaded windows and old maritime memorabilia.

    Trouble is, I have stark memories of seeing dirty, unkempt waifs running around, dirty and unkempt for a child is fine, long as they get cleaned up later, but those torn cloths and filthy faces coupled with the sullen silent, hurt looks that I saw in their little faces, well, it was and it remains an abiding and profoundly disturbing image.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  4. La La Lou Lou

    La La Lou Lou Crusader

    I have a wonderful memory of not being able to get back to stonelands on the bus for some reason and walking through the forest home, it began to snow and there was no wind every twig had four inches of snow on top of it, it was quiet and peaceful and magical. I was on the RPF, I could have walked off at any time, I was totally invisible to staff and public and there were no prison guards then, they were very different days, Another time I was walking through the forest when an enormous stag jumped out in front of me, his antlers were like a tree.

    I remember that greenhouse, there was some tobacco plants growing in there. I tried to smoke a leaf. It was just steam.

    Riding in the back of an old rusty truck was good.

    I loved the lake in saint hill, no one around, plenty of wildlife, grass snakes and water rats and later on Canada geese. There used to be a little boat we would go out on the lake sometimes when it was raining and no one could see us. I walked on it when it was frozen too, skimming ice made the most fantastic sound, the whole surface acted like a crystal drum skin.

    It was a beautiful part of the country and if it wasn't for trying to understand red on white, the complete looks of invalidation and hatred from the staff, the shouting and insanity the time I spent there could have been OK. I also wasn't happy to see the kids looking so dejected, uncared for, unloved, and unruly.
  5. Free to shine

    Free to shine Shiny & Free

    I wasn't at Stonelands, only visited once I think. My quiet time was around the Manor, in the OOB grounds. When fresh snow had fallen I would wander off amongst the gardens, down to the lake and just absorb the peace and stillness there. Coming from a country of sunshine, snow was always a marvel to me and the memories of those inches of magical white (as Lala says) was just so lovely.

    I still find nature to be a great source of healing.
  6. freethinker

    freethinker Crusader

    Very nice thread, wish I could have seen the place.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  7. vumba

    vumba Patron with Honors

    I really understand. I remember those lovely old trees with such fondness. The pub is still there, and had my first vodka and black in there when I was about 13 (sooooo very legally)!! Derek Cusworth and I used to play Frisbee in the field behind the house on the left as you came towards the house where Tony Phipps and John Richmond shared a room with him. I always found the side of the house by the door leading outside near the men's dorm to be darker and more mysterious than the other sides of the house for some reason, and could conjure up all sorts of amazing ideas of witches and dragon stories.

    The old boat house (now fully restored and worth a flipping fortune as a home) used to be ramshackle and tumbledown, and yet was still inhabited by the Barnes family. The problem was, of course, that the large pond down there was stagnant so used to smell a lot. However, there was a fresh stream that ran down at the bottom to the right of the path running up to the pub, and I did actually drink the water from it. Fresh water cress grew in it too, and when I once won a fish at a Fair, I kept him in water from that stream.

    Amazing how much peace one can glean from nature. It worked (and still does) for me.
  8. vumba

    vumba Patron with Honors

    I too loved the lake. I remember as kids we all attempted to ice skate on it, despite the fact that we had thrown stones across it and it had richoched along and boomed as it cracked !!! I also remember non-Scn fishermen were granted permission to fish there, and one day I recall them rolling their eyes in alarm at people shouting at ashtrays. Do you remember students used to do drills down there in Summer.

    Do people remember the Summer of 1976 when the Eagles' "Hotel California" was number one. There were bugs flying around everywhere, but especially ladybirds. Britain was besieged by a Ladybird plague? In some ways, those lunch hours were heady days and fun. The walk down to lunch past the beautiful Cedar of Lebanon tree by the Manor, through that wonderful and enchanting overhung walkway with Rhododendrons in flower was a wonderfully uplifting experience. I loved the Hill, and always felt very safe when enveloped it its womb. It was a place of sanctuary, away from the Human madness.
  9. vumba

    vumba Patron with Honors

    Oh I really understand this! There is such a sense of peace, isn't there when walking on fresh snow. The soft crunching underfoot, and the sound of a drip, drip when it gently melts. I used to love the wonderful contrast between winter and summer when you saw the beautiful little red berries of the Holly bush contrasting and peeking out of the pure white snow. I remember Mistletoe in the Forest (now sadly more rare). Do you remember the lovely old Cedar of Lebanon tree outside the Manor as you walked to the Stables for lunch. These walks were cathartic too, and I loved the overhanging Azalea and Rhododendron walk near the Manor. The vivid imaginations of childhood drew lots of inspiration from these hidey holes.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  10. vumba

    vumba Patron with Honors

    Not too put too much of a "downer" on this, but sadly these very nooks and crannies you mention were also used for the sex abuse!!
  11. Axiom142

    Axiom142 Gold Meritorious Patron

  12. Dulloldfart

    Dulloldfart Squirrel Extraordinaire

    Thanks a lot, Ax. Stonelands looks weird without any broken windows.

  13. change

    change Patron

    Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing. Brings back pleasant memories.
  14. solo

    solo Patron with Honors

    Thanks Vumba for this great thread and thanks to John for the photos!

    I remember the drive at Stonelands very well, because John Harvey started giving me driving lessons on the way home and he would only let me get behind the wheel once we were off the main road. I had some very hairy experiences coming down that narrow driveway, hoping the Sea Org bus wasn't coming the other way! (Thank goodness I had proper lessons after I left!)

    Wouldn't it be great to go and have a look round sometime, if one of the flats came up for sale? Ax, you'll have to let us know, the vendors will be very surprised to have dozens of "interested" people wanting to view the property.....

    I remember the pool, the water was really green. Didn't Laina get it cleaned and opened up for us to use? (Among her many good works, like the children's dorms, oh dear). It must have been wonderful in the house's heyday.

    Also, does anyone remember the time when a piano got thrown out onto the front lawn and the kids smashed it into pieces? Very creative.

    Vumba, I had no idea about the nanny smoking dope and will interrogate you until you tell me her name!!!

    Not so funny about the nooks and crannies. (Personally, Paul, I never had to resort to them, although there was that time in a tent.... ) I'm so sad to hear that they were used for abuse, I had no idea at the time.

    Paul once posted some photos of Christmas dinner in the courtyard. God, how mad was that, I bet the food was stone cold. I was there but I can't see myself in the photos, I just remember it being fun.

    I got a little TV and ran a lead out into the courtyard to sit out there to watch Wimbledon one year. What a luxury. The picture was useless though!

    I've just remembered that the main reason I joined the SO was that I thought Stonelands would be a lovely place to bring up my little boy, and that the main reason I left was that it turned out not to be the case. I wish I could say that he has fond memories, but sadly he has none, as far as I know.

    Oh yes, and I will own up here, the reason that Herbie Parkhouse banned all electrical appliances at Stonelands is because I left a heater on all day in my room to dry my washing. There, now you know!

    Happy memories (some!)

  15. Dulloldfart

    Dulloldfart Squirrel Extraordinaire

    I haven't said anything about peace at Stonelands because I found it more peaceful at Saint Hill most of the time. I loved the grounds there, and they were generally better cared for than Stonelands. Had some good times at Stonelands, though. :)

    I carefully avoided heavy posts most of the time, and the twice-daily walk to the Stables was always a chance to look around and enjoy the countryside. Except for the couple of occasions when the drive was flooded literally a couple of feet deep outside the Manor and wading was the order of the day.

    I spent a year feeding the swans in the big lake around 1984, and at the end literally had them eating out of my hand. Got a photo of that somewhere.

    I never got on a boat there, but for a few weeks in the 80s we took polystyrene blocks (each about 3' x 2' x 8") from the castle building site to the lake and paddled about on them. If you kneeled on one it would just about support your weight and still be a few inches above the surface. If you were careful you could stay dry. One day I was paddling around the island in the middle with Chris Burton and he decided to land on the island. He tried to climb off, but didn't manage the action/reaction bit too well, and fell in and went under. Problem: the water was deep and he couldn't swim. He grabbed a nearby tree and got back to the mainland, but of course went back on post soaking wet.

  16. La La Lou Lou

    La La Lou Lou Crusader

    Thanks Paul, yes! the white expanded polystyrene blocks, I found a couple one day by the lake and went floating with a friend. I wonder why they were there?

    We sat cross legged and paddled with flat hands. It was brilliant. We were not alone in the water, there was a water vole and a grass snake swimming around us, apparently we didn't seem to be humans and were seen as safe.

    The place was magical, if it wasn't for Stonelands and Saint Hill Manor many people would have walked out years before. Brookhouse and the other place were so bland in comparison.

    I spent some time pruning roses in the back of the manor that was special too.

    With this thread, I think I've just found the sweet sticky glue that stuck me to the fly paper.
  17. Dulloldfart

    Dulloldfart Squirrel Extraordinaire

    Previously we had been messing around "rafting" on the lake with other materials. I forget what we used, but it wasn't very good. Then one day one of the intrepid thrill-seekers wondered if the polystyrene blocks would support the weight of an adult.

    And oh boy!

    It eventually got put a stop to, not because of the misuse of the building materials, but because lots of little polystyrene chips came off and polluted the lake, both in appearance and possible harm to wildlife.

  18. coooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool...

    when was the property acquired?

    when sold?

    did ron or any of his family or household have any truck with the place?

    does anyone know anything of it's history? when constructed? notable habitants?
  19. Kutta

    Kutta Silver Meritorious Patron

    I also have love/hate memories of Stonelands.

    Here are some love ones: When husband Andy joined us there we were given an attic bedroom. It was very small and didn't get any sun, but it felt like a true sanctuary. It was away from the rest of the place, very quiet and private. This enabled us to secretly run a small heater like the ones you put in wardrobes to keep damp out. When Alistair Guy came to check that nobody was using heaters, he commented on the warmth. We mumbled something about heat rising!:happydance:

    I think there were 2 other families up there off the landing. You reached it up narrow, winding wooden stairs, the treads scooped out by, I imagined, centuries of maids who climbed them.

    For someone from the antipodes where there are no buildings older than about 150 years, it felt special and even romantic to live in that ancient stone building.

    Our bedroom , built into the roof line, had virtually no walls on 2 sides, just the ceiling sloping up, and when I pushed my hands on the ceiling a few inches from my face as I lay on my mattress on the floor, the wattle and daub would bounce!

    There were massive, rough-sawn oak beams that unfortunately were painted a horrible, dirty green colour, as was the massive door. I would dream of stripping them back to the original wood.

    Quite high up on the wall opposite the door, there were small-paned windows, framed in lead. And it had a wide window sill on which I could display the few precious things I had with me.

    I did love that room, even though I got to spend precious little time there.

    I also remember the huge fireplace in the room where the TV was. I imagined that in times past, whole logs would be burned there and that the fire would have been kept burning with a kettle boiling at all times.

    I never got to discover the hidey holes, but I bet my kids did. I must ask them!

    Now, Vumba, please spill the beans about the nanny. Would it, by any chance have been Anna Rutherford. She was a NZer with 2 small girls, one called Chandra. She worked in Estates, and she was a bit of a hippie (as were many of us then in the late 70s). I have often wondered what happened to her. I would very much like to contact her, so if anyone has any information about her, I would love to hear it.
  20. vumba

    vumba Patron with Honors

    Hi I will message you..... :eek:)

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