Memories by Mrs Heather Vaggers (nee Harris)

As a child growing up in Westward Ho! in the 1930’s, I attended a small private school for girls “Day Dawn”. The school was run by a remarkable lady

Miss Mabel Jane Ward , and was most usually referred to as “Miss Ward’s School” rather than “Daydawn”.

Miss Wards bungalow which she had purpose built for the school was in the centre of the village opposite the bus stop (previously the railway station). The pupils had a separate entrance into a lobby with all our coat pegs. Each child had their “own” peg. The schoolroom was a large light room, heated in winter with an open coal fire.

Miss Ward accepted pupils from the age of 5-14 which was school leaving age at the time. However most of the pupils left at age 11 and went on to either Edgehill, Stella Maris Convent or boarding schools.

We began lessons each day with a bible story, followed by arithmetic, I remember we learnt to count with matchsticks, some of which were done up in bundles of 10!

We had arithmetic every day followed by different subjects according to the day of the week. Miss Ward taught all the subjects with the exception of French which we did once a week from the age of 9 or 10. A retired French mistress, who lived in Northam, came and to take the class. We were also taught by Miss Ward to Knit and Sew. I remember also that our last lesson on a Friday was “singing” when we were accompanied by Miss Ward on the Piano.

Miss Ward also encouraged us not to be absent by allowing us to finish school at 3 o’clock instead of 4 o’clock on a Friday provided we had 100% attendance for that week, thus no one wished to “break the 100”
As a school we were encouraged to support “Dr Barnardo’s” every Christmas by collecting on a paper Christmas tree hung with balloons, each subscriber was asked to write the amount given on a balloon.

We also had a lovely “breaking up” party at Christmas and each child received a small gift from Miss Ward usually sweets. Another occasion that was celebrated was “Empire Day” when we all had Union Jack Flags.

We had pupils who came from Bideford, Northam and the Fulford girls from Westleigh and Toby Anstey from Instow.

Miss Ward continued until the Second World War, when she retired to Douglas on the Isle of Man. Some years later she returned to Westward Ho! and lived in what had been her brother’s bungalow in Park Avenue. In her later years she moved to the Chalet Residential Home where she died aged 90+.

There is a small memorial plaque to her in recognition of a very generous donation she made to the Kingsley Hall.

Names of Pupils I remember. –
Myself- Heather Harris, Catherine Heath, Paddy and June Adams, Barbara and Heather Gibson, Margaret Sanders, Jean Bradford, Pearle Ellis, Christine Violet, Pat and Christine Nichols, Joy Anstey, Gladys, Daisy and Rosemary Fulford, Joyce Tucker, Doris Hutchings, Lena Berry, Dorothy Beal, Geraldine White, Cynthia and Sylvia Whitton, Ruth Kelly, Evelyn Popham.

“Daydawn” later became a restaurant – The Gnome House – which was demolished to make way for the Car Park, sometime in the 1980’s.