The War years
Above: Greylands
From my own collection

Running two private schools must have been difficult in the straitened times of the 1930s, although the closure of Ashburton Grammar School in 1938 probably gave the headmaster reason to hope that the numbers of boys at the Wilderness would increase as a result. But a year later war was declared, and this would have added to the challenges of attracting pupils to the schools.

But first there were practical difficulties to be overcome - Greylands does not seem to have been at all ready. 'Csvdevon', on the BBC website of people's wartime reminiscences, recalls 'I remember in 1939, when I was 16 and at a girls' boarding school, called Greylands, in Ashburton. It was a very small school with about 70 pupils of which 25 were boarders. It was a large house with about 3 other girls in my dormitory.

One vivid memory of the war at that time is when lights were taken (put out) at 9pm normally the curtains would be opened to enable us to get fresh air. From 3rd September schools were meant to be blacked out but we weren't prepared for that. We only had thin cotton material which let some light through. I remember on several occasions we were told off by the matron, in charge of our health and welfare, not to use torches in the dormitories because the air raid wardens had complained of the 'search light displays' coming from the dormitories.' ( (Childhood and evacuation, Article ID: A4375299, My Experiences in the South Hams )

Devon might be a large and mainly rural county, but it did contain major targets for bombing raids such as the Plymouth dockyards. In March and April of 1941 the centre of Plymouth was devastated by what has been called The Plymouth Blitz (Brian Moseley, Plymouth Data website Henry Naylor was soon advertising that Ashburton was 14 miles inland and a safe distance from the city (Western Morning News 1 Jul 1941 p1 col 5)

As the war started drawing to a close, so did Henry Naylor's enterprises – at least as far as Ashburton was concerned. By 1944 the girls' school was at Coombeinteignhead: the boys' preparatory department either moved at the same time, or shortly afterwards. Miss Mary S Pim moved with the school to its new home. By the end of the following year Ashburton College was at Highwood, Newton Abbot. The reasons for the move were probably financial – Heather Woodley recalls that numbers were dwindling at the time. Newton Abbot provided a larger catchment of local pupils, and better transport links for those pupils who travelled to the school – either daily, or as boarders.

A small diversion to Newton Abbot

By March 1947 Miss M S Pim was the principal of Greylands School, Churchills, Newton Abbot.
Western Morning News 18 March 1947, p1 col7

Above: Admission form for Greylands, Newton Abbot.
Right and below: A booklet about the school.
Many thanks to John Milton for these photographs

Below: Two letters to Mrs Milton in 1949. The first deals with collecting the children for the school holidays; the second is seeking a subsciption for a gift for Miss Pim, who was leaving at the end of the summer term.
With thanks to John Milton.

Mrs Clare Wilson MA Hons, Manchetser, was the headmistress in October 1949.
Western Morning news 11 October 1949, p2 col4

By the mid 1950s a Mr N A and Mrs Callender were running the school.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Hatchell for this information

The most likely candidate for Mr Callender is Norman Alexander Callender, born in Edinburgh and living with his widowed mother Jessie in Brighton at the time of the 1911 census.
As Henry Naylor taught at Steyning from 1906-1909 and from 1912-1918 it is possible, if Norman attended Steyning Grammar School, that Henry Naylor taught him.
By 1939 a Norman A Callender was teaching at Eton; on the 1939 register his date of birth is given as November 14th, 1904.
The death of Norman Alexander Callender, born Nov 14th 1904, was registered in Bideford in the first quarter of 1991.
1911 census, piece no. 5160
1939 register
England and Wales Death Transcriptions, 1837-2007, available via

Above: Greylands School, Newton Abbot
Below: The whole school, summer term 1955
Below: Third form with Mrs Squires and Miss Nichols

Below left and right: Dancing on the staff lawn, 1955
Many thanks to Elizabeth Hatchell for all of the photographs of Greylands Newton Abbot



Henry Naylor sold 83 East Street (ie Ireland House) to a John D Gregory in 1945 (Conveyance 1945, National Archives for £1790.  A number of people remember Buckfast Abbey owning the Wilderness, and it seems likely that Henry sold this property directly to them at about the same time.

 He was still involved with Ashburton College at Newton Abbot, in the role of Bursar, by the end of 1950 (Western Morning News 27 December 1950 p4 col 4) - he was then 70 years old.

                                            The Evacuees' School

In June 1941 a special Devon 'Spitfire Day' at Ashburton raised £27. 10s, of which schools in town raised over £6. The schools involved were: Ashburton College, Ashburton Council Schools, Greylands High School, St. Faith's School, (which was in the Golden Lion - see The pubs and inns of Ashburton, Pete Webb, Obelisk Publications 1995, p 26) and the Wilderness Roman Catholic Evacuees' School. (6 Jun 1941 Western Times p3 col 5).

What was the Evacuees' School ? 121 evacuees arrived in November 1939, from St Patrick's LCC (R.C) school in London. 30 went to Buckfast and were educated at school there: the rest were billeted in Ashburton, and attended The Wilderness School. This was by arrangement between Devon County Education Committee and the Roman Catholic authorities at Buckfast Abbey (24 Nov 1939 Western Times p9 col 3).

Wendy Major remembers the Wilderness evacuees, in their blue and grey uniforms, being taught in Ireland House.

It is not known whether later evacuees also attended The Wilderness. 340 children arrived in Ashburton in June 1940 (Western Morning News 22 June 1940 p6 col 3) who may have been different from those that The Western Times reported, as a second batch, 6 days later: 250 children and 12 adults, all Roman Catholics, and all from London (28 Jun 1940 Western Times p7 col 1) There were some accommodation issues: The Western Morning News said that most billetting difficulties were caused by the children themselves, because brothers and sisters refused to be separated. The paper said that the children could have been billeted “much more simply by sending them to different houses” (ibid)

In January 1942 there was a tea and social at The Wilderness for about 30 London women. Assisting at the tea was Mrs T Tubridy, the official LCC helper, the teachers of the Roman Catholic School, and Mrs J C Rosewarne, who had made and presented "a fine iced Christmas cake, which was greatly appreciated".
At the same event Miss M Fox, a teacher, was at the piano to accompany dancing, there were songs, and a "fine exhibition of an Irish jig". (2 Jan 1942 Exeter and Plymouth Gazette p3 col2), Later that same year Father Fitzgerald, parish priest of St Mary and St Michael, Stepney, visited women parishioners billeted at Ashburton: it seems likely that these were the same women  (15 May 1942 Exeter and Plymouth Gazette p5 col4)


                                            The Mysterious Nuns

When Greylands moved to Coombeinteignhead (by 1944), Heather Woodley stayed with the Ashburton School for about a year. Nuns, possibly from Totnes, ran it for a short while - they brought some pupils with them. Heather remembers that she had to call the headmistress The Good Mother, and she also recalls that there was Mother St. Patrick and Mother Theresa, the latter teaching music. There were prayers every morning, but pupils were excused if they were not Roman Catholic.

Hilary Beard recalls that the school was then called Les Filles de la Croix, and also remembers The Good Mother, who reassured her when she was worried about making a mistake with a drawing. 'You will make mistakes throughout your life' the Headmistress said, 'it is nothing to worry about'.

The school was very keen on poetry recitations, and Shakespeare: 'We did Julius Caesar so often that Rosemary Davies could recite the whole play by heart'. Moyra Babbington taught drama at the school, which won prizes at an arts festival held in Paignton.

Not everyone had happy memories of the nuns.
'My brother and sister, Martin and Patricia Daw went to Greylands in the 1940s. The nuns tied my brother's left hand behind his back because he was left-handed.'
Many thanks to Adrian Daw

A conveyance notes the following transaction on 7th January 1944, in connection with Roskilly's Tenement, that was accessed through Hannaford's Court: Henry Naylor to Mabel Louisa Neill, Winifred Elizabeth Barry and Mary Ellen Jones.
In 1939 these three women were all teachers in a convent in Shornecliffe Road, Folkestone, Kent.
The school had been evacuated to Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1940, and did not reopen until 1945.
See Hannaford's Court, under People and Properties 2, for more information
1939 register, available through - Accessed 1-02-2020

It seems likely that these were the nuns at Greylands.

Conveyance. 31 August 1946 Mabel Louisa Neill, Winifred Elizabeth Barry and Mary Ellen Jones to Martha Mansillon, Virginia Souchon and Kathleen Mary Rafferty
5 April 1955 A deed of appointment was made from Martha Mansillon to Marie Delphine Antoinette Lareau, Winifred Kathleen Rivers, Victoria Adeline Plamondon and Norah Louise Marie Milsom
28 June 1956 Conveyance from Marie Delphine Antoinette Lareau, Winifred Kathleen Rivers, Victoria Adeline Plamondon and Norah Louise Marie Milsom to Winifred Weaver

'June 28th 1956 By convenance of this dte mde btwn Marie Delphine Antoinette Lareau of Presentation Convent Palace Gate in the city of Exeter spinster Winifred Kathleen Rivers of St Mary's Beechfield Hartley in city of Plymouth spinster Victoria Adeline Plamondon of Rosary House in sd ciry of Exeter spinster and Norah Louise Marie Milson of Mount St Mary's Wonford Road in sd city of Exeter spinster (thrinar clld "Vdrs") of one pt and Winifred Weaver the wife of David John Weaver of Greylands Ashburton in coy of Devon (thrinar clled "prchsr") of otr pt.'

The same document shows that the nuns loaned the purchase price of £2970 to Mrs Weaver.
With many thanks to Fiona Garrett

Winifred Kathleen Rivers was at St Mary's, Beechfield, in 1939. Born in 1901, she was a nun and teacher.
1939 register, available through

Presentation Convent, Rosary House and Mount St Mary's were all schools. - Accessed 25-01-20
- Accessed 25-01-20 - Accessed 25-01-20

It seems possible that these nuns also ran the school at Greylands.