The history of the Springvale Estate is the story of people and vision and hard work. Many hands and hearts have created the thriving schools that press forward energetically into the twenty-first century. Yet the struggle to create the original Springvale School, to sustain it, protect and develop it through even the most trying circumstances, is one that cannot be forgotten – or should not be.
Fifty years down the line from the birth of the little school, the names and faces of founders and dignitaries may have dimmed in the community’s memory but their efforts live on, commemorated in the character of Springvale House School itself: feisty, warm, independent, resilient, lovable, welcoming, determined. Above all, it is a happy school. For half a century, children have found it a home away from home, a place where they can fearlessly go about their education secure in the knowledge that the school cherishes and respects each individual, actively pursuing the ideal of a family in its philosophy.
The Springvale Estate, which nowadays encompasses Springvale House School, Peterhouse Girls’ School and St. Francis village, deserves also deserves a special footnote in the chronicles of Zimbabwe’s what began as Springvale School and is now a thriving estate is very much a product of the ages and has, through the decades, responded to change, upheaval, good times and bad in the country with fortitude and flexibility.
Far from being an isolated enclave or unassailable ivory tower, the schools are a vibrant and approachable part of the community and indeed of the country. Former pupils, now living either worldwide or still on the doorstep, will attest that it is the campus itself – not just the people in it – that holds a special place in their hearts. The buildings, the landscape, the trees and rocks, the wildlife, the rural calm and the echoes of laughter, shouting, sports, games and dinner bells all work together to make this place a special gem.
Present pupils probably regard the annals of their schools as irrelevant and ancient. Children have too much to do in the present and too much to look forward to in the future to be overly concerned with the past. That is, until they grow up and search for their names in old school magazines, or mull over the faded pictures of the teachers and their old friends – and they realise that they too are now a part of history. That is why the Golden Jubilee of the Springvale Estate is so distinctive. Every single child, teacher, parent and friend of the schools has contributed in some way to making the schools what they are today and every everyone the opportunity to celebrate their part in history.
The story of the Springvale Estate falls naturally into two parts with a hiatus more or less midway through the half-centenary when in 1979 the school faded away for a few years and did not, in fact, exist other than in the background and in the hearts of those who loved it. Upon its re-opening in 1985 the name of the school hanged, from Springvale School as it had been from 1952 to 1979, to Springvale House School as it remains today. Using what had been known as Junior House as its starting point, an entirely new school has been built.
From 1985 to 1987, the Lower School of Peterhouse was in residence at the original Springvale School buildings and in the latter half of 1987 Peterhouse Girls School was born and soon took over the main buildings, since when it has developed substantially.
Anyone trying to write the history of the school will find himself or herself stumbling down alleyways, getting lost in odd cul-de-sacs and distracted in winding lanes. It is a complex, convoluted business, quite a lot of which need not ever be made public. While much of the history is an open book, there were also times of covert consultations, political fracas, unhappiness and thwarted goals, particularly in the hiatus years. But this much is probably true of any corporation anywhere in the world. This brief history is not intended to chronicle every single year, person, event, cricket match or outbreak of mumps in the school, but merely to give an outline which all those connected with the school can shade in for themselves, in whatever colours they prefer.
The spirit of caring fellowship, which so distinguishes the school, emanates directly from the founder of Springvale, Canon Robert Grinham. This remarkable man was not only the founder of Ruzawi School, but also in Mashonaland East, but he also worked ceaselessly towards building Springvale School into a small yet viable institution where, as one peer pointed out, ‘no [child] would feel swamped or lost. Headmaster of Ruzawi School in the 1930s and 40s, Canon Grinham was only holding fast to his principle that a school should function as a family unit when he began pressing for the creation of a new school in the area.
His reasons were sound. Ruzawi’s waiting list had grown to epic proportions by 1945 with the end of World War II in sight and Southern Rhodesia, as it was then known, expanding rapidly. Immigrants, new farmers with young families, siblings of present pupils and second-generation pupils were all trying to book places at Ruzawi, but the headmaster felt very strongly that increasing the pupil numbers beyond a hundred would weaken the character of the school as a family.
At that time, Bishop Paget had been the Bishop of Mashonaland for several years. A giant of a man, both physically and spiritually, one of his visions had been to create a system of Anglican schools in his diocese. Education was thus high on his agenda and received a gratifying amount of attention. To this end, the Anglican Church had pledged both material and spiritual assistance. During his period of office, Bishop Paget oversaw the establishment of Ruzawi, Peterhouse, Springvale and Bernard Mizeki schools. This was the natural extension of the work the missionaries had achieved in the early years. While Anglican schools were established all over Zimbabwe, the demand for education was strongest in Mashonaland where the population was densest.
Maurice Carver, the co-founder of Ruzawi and a prime mover in the establishment of Springvale, wrote an account of how it all began in the first-ever Springvale school magazine in 1957. He remembered how there had been extensive discussion between the Board of Governors of Ruzawi and the Anglican Church authorities. The Church’s initial assertion was that Matebeleland and the Eastern Districts should be served first, as indeed they were later. Then a rough plan was debated to double up the numbers at Ruzawi, build more accommodations and have parallel forms with two streams. But this idea went against the grain for Canon Grinham, who argued strongly for a new school in the area, rather than simply expanding the old one and thereby perhaps ruining its ethos.
‘The important thing in our view”, wrote Mr Carver, “was to do something to provide for the boys on our waiting list whom we could not take.” Finally, the Ruzawi Board of Governors agreed to a new preparatory school in the Marondera area and Canon Grinham and Mr Carver started looking around for suitable sites in late 1948.
‘A bit of land which is not much use for farming but which has wood, water and granite’ is how Maurice Carver explained the requirements of the future school’s site. He and his son John were out one day looking at a property named Revolt Farm which belonged to Miss Edie Miller when they were attracted by the broken wood and kopje country on the other side of the Nyamkombiri Valley. Impressed by the amount of water in the Nyamkambiri River, even though it was August and streams generally were running low, the pair walked up to a house beyond where they found the owner of the land, Jim Blake. Mr Blake asked them in for tea and they explained the purpose of their ramble. ‘You can have the whole lot for £2.00 an acre.’ said Blake. This was an almost incredible offer at a time when the land was at a premium, but Mr Blake meant what he said. Following extensive explorations for water, as crucial a matter 50 years ago as it is today, the Ruzawi Board bought 1000 acres of land from Mr Blake by the end of 1949. The really hard work was only just beginning.
Jim Blake had arrived in the country with his wife Anne in the early 1930s after finishing service with the Royal Navy in China. He bought a farm, on the outskirts of what was then Salisbury, called Stambrick Lime Works, which is today part of the Chikurubi Prison Form complex in Mandora. As well as a lime quarry, the farm also had a large area of gum tree plantations and a substantial herd of cattle.
Mrs Blake died in 1934 and soon afterwards Jim Blake bought Almersfield Form in the Arcturus area. The neighbouring farm was owned by the Rawson family, who at that time had a junior farm assistant named Mr Winston Field working for them. This gentleman was destined to become not only a future Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia but also – more pertinently – the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Springvale! Jim Blake had business interests in Lusaka, Zambia and to commute easily he had an aeroplane whose pilot was Desmond Ellis. Ellis’ brother-in-law, a farmer named Morris, owned property called Springvale Farm in the Marandellas area. The farm in those days comprised the next-door form Rakodzi, Springvale Farm and Wilson’s Farm. Desmond Ellis eventually inherited Springvale Farm and convinced Jim Blake to sell his Arcturus farm in 1937 and look after Rakodzi Farm the following year.
When Desmond Ellis died, Rakodzi was sold to Reggie Gordon-Lennox and Jim Blake had to move. He then purchased Springvale Farm, set in the outstanding msasa and granite kopje land at an altitude of 1 600 metres. The farm had only a limited amount of good arable land in large blocks but was ideal for growing vegetables and fruit trees. Thus, in the roundabout way in which this intricately connected society operates, Maurice Carver came to be having tea with Jim Blake, the owner of Springvale Farm, in 1948 and discussing property prices.
The tale of Jim Blake cannot be fully explained without an introduction to one of the most important people in the history of Springvale School – Patrick Gosho. He has the distinction of being Springvale’s first employee, but his connection with the land on which Springvale is built goes back even further than the start of the school.
Today, pupils from schools all over Mashonaland, as well as countless teachers, tourists and local folk all enjoy the very special amenities of Gosho Park, just a stone’s throw from the school buildings. This game park is named for Patrick Gosho and such a memorial few could hope to attain, and even fewer deserve. Every Springvale House pupil has at some time camped out in Gosho Park, gone for nature rambles and learned about indigenous trees, animal spoor, insects, the environment and the game. They have cooked sausages around a campfire, played ‘Jack, Jack shine your light’ a hundred times, and slept under the stars and occasionally in the rain in the quiet of the game park. They’ve clambered the amazing rocky outcrops known as Bushman’s Lookout and Boxing Glove forded the little streams and fed the friendly kudu.
Gosho Park is a unique and worthy feature and Patrick Gosho is a person of unique quantities. His life has been intricately connected with that of Springvale for many, many years. Born in 1915 at Epiphany Mission near Rusape, Patrick was the son of a skilled builder, who was employed by the Anglican Church to build the nearby St Faith’s Mission. When his father died in 1917, Patrick Gosho’s mother was looked after by the mission authorities. Places were found for her sons, including Patrick, at the school and in his last two years at St Faith’s school, Patrick Gosho became an assistant to one of the teachers, Canon Lloyd, as the cleric went about the district visiting churches and missions.
During these teaching and preaching tours, Patrick Gosho became a staunch Christian, a faith he has adhered to all his life. Bishop Paget confirmed him in 1926. He well remembers the Bishop as a strong man, who would greet Canon Lloyd by lifting the Canon high into the air!
In 1929 Patrick Gosho was sent to the government school at Domboshawa. He was a young man in whom the mission teachers took great pride. Canon Mhlanga, who was from Bonda Mission near Nyanga and was transferred to St Faith’s to help Canon Lloyd, was fond of young Gosho and together with the church helped to fund the schoolboy’s fees at Domboshawa. The Canon’s son, Ernest ‘Dingaan’ Mhlanga – so-called because of his size and resemblance to the Zulu chief – was Patrick Gosho’s great friend, and together they tackled all the manual chores that the pupils were expected to do.
Domboshawa School had been established mainly as a technical training school and Patrick Gosho enrolled in building, carpentry and farming classes. He had a first-class record and was an excellent pupil, but had to leave the school suddenly in 1932 in order to find a job. This he had to do to pay the lobola to the family of a St Faith’s girl who was carrying his child. The mission authorities did not view this indiscretion lightly!
From Rusape then, Patrick Gosho left by train for the city of Salisbury, together with a friend who had been working there as a cook in a private house and was now going to a new job. The seventeen-year-old Gosho’s sole luggage consisted of a spare pair of trousers and a shirt. The cook was heading to the home of a couple newly arrived in the country from China – Mr. and Mrs. Jim Blake. Patrick went too.
At first the Blakes employed him as a waiter at their house on a ten-acre plot in Avondale, close to St Anne’s hospital. This lasted only two months before Jim Blake discovered that Patrick Gosho had been trained in building and farming and was wasted serving at table. Gosho moved to Blake’s Stamhill Lime Works where he supervised labourers felling trees on the gum plantations. The poles were sold to Arcturus Mine and to other smaller gold mines and were delivered by Patrick Gosho driving the company truck. He maintains he was one of the first Africans ever to hold a truck driver’s licence.
There is no doubt that Patrick Gosho was a fiercely loyal person, as his connection to the Springvale Estate was revealed in later years. His relationship with Jim Blake deepened over the years, with Blake leaving Gosho in charge of all the farming operations when he was away. Gosho remained with Jim Blake through all the latter many moves and by the time they got to Springvale Farm, Gosho was running the vegetable growing and beef production side of the farm, supplying Ruzawi School with these products and also with venison which Gosho shot on the farm.
Patrick Gosho can clearly remember the start of building at the school site in 1949, with sand being moved from the river in 1950, Jim Blake died. Prior to his death, he had wanted to leave an area of land to Patrick Gosho, a good and faithful friend. Sadly, the Land Apportionment Act of the day did not cater for this. Instead, the land was set aside for his use as long as he lived. In 1951 Gosho joined the embryonic school staff, lending his building skills to the development of the new school. Little did anyone know that 30 years later, Patrick Gosho would do much more than build the school he would be physically defending it.
The Ruzawi Board had bought the land from Jim Blake but was not prepared to shoulder any further capital expenditure owing to their commitments in other directions. It soon became clear that, if the new school at Springvale was to start at all, it would have to do so by finding its own capital, which meant that, for a start, the fees at the school would be higher than those of Ruzawi.
At the end of 1950 Canon Grinham retired as Headmaster of Ruzawi School and was replaced by Maurice Carver. Canon Grinham was then able to devote his time and energy to the new school project. His first task was to raise funds for the building of the school and to assemble a Board of Governors. The first Board consisted of several well-connected and dedicated people. The Chairman was Sir Robert Hudson and among the other members were the Rt Rev Edward Paget, Winston Field, Howard Smetham, Colonel Ralston, Mr Soffe and Maurice Carver.
At the first meeting, as extracts from the Minutes show, the Board was advised that the Registrar of Companies had formally registered the company, “Springvale Ltd” on 2 March 1951. The registered office of the company was stated as ‘Ruzawi School, Marandellas’. The first meeting also gave the go-ahead for a 10,000-gallon brick and plastic reservoir to be built, to ensure that there would be water at all times. The reservoir was especially urgently needed to provide water for the building works.
It was decided that a company should be set up under the Anglican Foundation to run and manage the affairs of the school and Springvale (Pvt) Ltd was duly registered and 100 shares issued. The shareholders were the Trustees of the Diocese of Mashonaland (51), R. Grinham (12), M. F Carver (l2), 7 shares to the subscribers to the Memorandum of Association and 18 to the Governors, (two each, with the exception of M. F. Carver).
Main School Front
Although enough money had been raised to make a start on the building work, nobody had any idea how the project was going to be funded to finality. Maurice Carver recollected the financial constraints as almost crippling: “It seemed as if nearly everything had turned against the project. It had become extremely difficult to raise money, Salisbury architects were so busy that no one would consider work in the country, and building costs were rocketing as the great expansion of Rhodesia neared its peak. Even if these difficulties could somehow be mastered, there was the gloomy thought that every year it was becoming more difficult to secure teaching staff as salaries in State Schools went up and up.”
Eventually, the money was raised through the issue of 20-year debentures at 5 per cent interest. In those days, when measured against the then-existing market rates, that was viewed as a very poor investment and therefore every penny subscribed, as well as those that had been donated or loaned free of interest, represented a real interest in the school and a desire to help it.
As the main building neared completion, there came an anxious time when the last £20,000 was still not in sight. The school was not out of the financial woods until at the insistence of Sir Roy Welensky the Northern Rhodesian Government took up debentures to the value of £21,000. This was as a result of Sir Robert Hudson pointing out that for many years, Ruzawi had taken Northern Rhodesian boys without any discrimination. John Vigours’ firm were the architects for the school, using the talents of an old Ruzawi boy, John Methuen, who was then completing his architectural training and had drawn up for his thesis the proposed Springvale School. Methuen joined John Vigour and the thesis became the draft on which the actual plan was argued and worked out.
Tenders from builders in Salisbury far outreached the £80,000, which was set as the target for capital subscription. Luckily a local firm, Marondera Builders Merchants, submitted a tender within the amount. This company, owned by two generations of the Postles family, was sold in 2001. Patrick Gosho can vividly remember the last owner John Postles, then about 4 years old, running around the building site. John Postles went on to become a pupil of the school.
The first boys at Springvale School arrived in May 1952, but there were teething troubles – the boiler burst on the first day and some of the buildings weren’t ready and the boys were duly transferred to Ruzawi temporarily. In August the boys went back to Springvale School, still only partially built and standing in an almost totally undisturbed veld. The school truly came into its own at the beginning of 1953, the first full year of its existence.
The first headmaster was Canon Grinham who held the post until his retirement in 1956. Having pressed for the establishment of the school in the late 1940s, he was indeed the guiding spirit and force behind it all. He conceived the idea of the school, convinced the Ruzawi board of its necessity, raised the funds, helped with the planning and layout of the buildings, supervised the building work, engaged the teaching staff and inducted the new pupils.
Probably one of Canon Grinham’s most commendable qualities lay in his ability to bring together very useful people in a common purpose. His daughter Joan succinctly says that “he had a great gift for getting money out of people”! The first Board of Springvale comprised politicians, businessmen, farmers, churchmen and teachers, all persuaded of the school’s potential by the charismatic Grinham. And their support was vital in the creation and maturation of the school: friends in high places, indeed.
As a young man, Robert Grinham had sailed to India to take up an Anglican church teaching post. He met Maurice Carver on the ship, bound for the same school, and the two men struck up a friendship that endured for decades. More than that, it was a formidable team. Returning from India four years later, the two went to teach in Johannesburg, married girls who were friends and all the time never ceased talking about, and sought a site for, the school of their own they would love to start.
Both were deeply committed to their Anglican faith and their connection with Bishop Paget served them well, for it was the great Bishop himself who telegrammed them in the late 1920s, knowing of their quest for the perfect site for a school and having found Ruzawi Inn. “Come and have a look.” he urged and they did, and Ruzawi School was born. Twenty-five years later, things had progressed to such a point that Springvale School came into being – again a result of the energies and impetus of Canon Grinham and Maurice Carver. Mr Carver took over from Canon Grinham as Ruzawi’s head when the latter moved to Springvale and the school was for many years known as Ruzawi’s ‘younger brother’.
One of the overriding prerequisites of any staff member or scholar at Springvale School was the adherence to a strong faith. Indeed, when the foundation stone was laid at the start of building Sir Robert Hudson, the chairman of the Board, spoke of Springvale as ‘a venture of faith’ (several staff worked for virtually no salary during the first few years). Surely no one had more faith than Canon Grinham and his wife Kathleen, who was responsible for the landscaping and planting of the gardens. Mrs. Grinham laid the foundation stone of the school and a bust of Canon Grinham stands to this day in the entrance of the original school building, now Peterhouse Girls School.
Following his retirement in 1956, Canon Grinham continued to live within a short distance of the school, never interfering, but often sought out for his counsel and opinions. The Canon didn’t rest on his laurels, but used his administrative and organisational talents to open up other schools, contributing greatly to the Marondera community where he lived for so long. He died in 1986, aged 93. Maurice Carver, by then living in England, died just a few weeks later. The team was no more, but their undeniable legacy stands today.
Masters and Mambas
The new headmaster was John Paterson who had been recruited by Ronald Currey, the then Headmaster of St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown in South Africa where Paterson was on the staff. Currey was due to become the Ruzawi Head and he had put Paterson’s name forward for Head of the new Springvale School without consulting Paterson first!
While this was rather a shock to John Paterson, he had time to get used to the idea during a car trip all the way from Grahamstown to Marandellas in April 1956 with his wife and children. They were given a great welcome by the Grinhams on their arrival and spent three days touring the school, meeting the staff and Board of Governors. Paterson was offered the job and accepted it happily, and made the move to Springvale in January 1957. The family was met at the door of their house by Gerald Coney, teacher and estate manager, who greeted them warmly and said, “Please don’t let the children into the garden – we’re in the process of killing a black mamba!”
John Paterson took over a young school which had been so firmly established by Canon Grinham that, in his own words, “there were no major changes to be made.” The school now had a full complement of classes including a 6th year class for the first time and the greater number of pupils made it easier to balance the books financially and enabled projects which may not have been possible for the first five years of the school’s life to be carried out. Accompanying the new Head from St Andrew’s was Claude Billington, the first school chaplain appointed as such (Canon Grinham having been his own Chaplain).
Also during the first terms was a young teaching assistant, Duncan Buchanan, on a gap year between school and university – he was to become Bishop of Johannesburg. Other staff members included Michael Hammond and Brian Johnson, the Grievesons and Patrick Gosho who was a vital part of the maintenance and building staff. Barrie Gascoigne Smith, the daughter of a housemaster at St Andrew’s in Grahamstown came to act as school secretary during Truda Neal’s leave of absence and sometime later, the engagement was announced between Mike Hammond and Barrie. Brian Johnson and Truda also became engaged and these happy tidings meant that the school would have to expand in order to provide staff housing.
To recent past pupils of Springvale House, who are now perhaps in their 20s, remembering their school will call to mind an image of the “new” school, with its attractive three-sided square surrounding a grassy area, the adventure playground, the staff room, the art and computer room, dining hall, dorms and San behind the classrooms There is an indoor sports hall near Patrick Gosho’s house, a museum and the double storey dormitory. Getting to the school itself requires driving through the main gates and taking a sharp left turn, then winding down the road past various staff houses and the little swimming pool before coming to the driveway circle.
This is Springvale House Preparatory School for Boys and Girls, as it is known in the twenty-first century. But former pupils from pre-1979 won’t recognise any of this. For them, Springvale School is centred in the long double-storey building on the right of the driveway circle at what is now Peterhouse Girls’ School. This building, with its long verandah opening onto the quad, the hall and the other buildings from which the chapel can be spied, was one of the first to go up when Springvale School was built in the 1950s.
Naturally this split in the school, its name and buildings has made precise chronicling somewhat tricky. Merely saying the name ‘Springvale’ can conjure up two completely diverse mental pictures for former pupils: for example, a forty-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy who are both former pupils of what is colloquially known as Springvale will not be talking about the same physical place at all. Fortunately, the “Springvale feeling” applies to both – it’s the special atmosphere of the entire estate which matters and which nowadays includes Peterhouse Girls’ School.
Springvale School opened in the 50s with two classes, Form I and Form II, which equates to Grades 3 and 4 of present-day schooling. From the year it opened, it seems that building and expansion were almost continuous. Extensions were mode to the original building to provide more classrooms and dormitories; staff housing was increased to cater for the families were settling in; a covered way was built in 1956 from the dining room to the San. Games fields took shape and Patrick Gosho oversaw the planting of pines and gum trees along the school boundaries These became an added, source of income for the young school.
The headmaster John Paterson asked permission from the Board of Governors in 1959 to build a music block, arguing that the siting of pianos in ordinary classrooms was far too noisy. After laying out the necessary financial details, the plan was approved and work began in the December of that year digging the foundations for the Music Block, which was carefully sited so that a connecting passageway with the verandah near the library could be added at some time.
The Head had also told the Board of his dream to have a separate dormitory block for the Form I and II boys but this was shelved, as funds were just not available. The matter was discussed by the Board and by the Finance Committee In November 1959 and then came a strange thing. A couple arrived to see the Headmaster, having heard of his plan for a Junior Dorm. Within half an hour of hearing the details of the plan, they wrote a cheque for two-thirds of the amount needed on the condition that they remain anonymous And so they have remained, but the very next day Canon Grinham was visiting the school and he and John Paterson, excited by the news of the donation, walked the school grounds to find the most suitable spot for the proposed Junior House.
The site agreed upon was the levelled ground near the swimming pool, which was home to two tennis courts. These were easily moved and by the next Board meeting the dream had become a realistic project and John Vigour, the school architect, was instructed to draw up plans. Junior House was to include classrooms, a dining room and kitchen/laundry facilities, dormitories and a housemaster’s residence. It was a significant step forward for the school, freeing up more space in the senior dorms and classrooms and paving the way for an expansion in pupil numbers and staff. After much preparation, planning and modifications, plus the shipping in of several dozen contract labourers who lived in a temporary village on campus, in April 1960 Sir Humphrey Gibbs toured the school and laid the foundation stone of Junior House.
Junior House has had a very special part to play in Springvale school history. Nearly 20 years later, it became the repository for all that could be stored while the school went into hibernation for a few years. And 25 years later Junior House became the mainstay of the new Springvale House School, the old Springvale School buildings having been given over to Peterhouse Girls School. It is thus the link between the old and new Springvale’s and surely its walls could tell a tale or two of the hundreds of children who have slept there over the past 40 years.
The decade that was to see the school going from strength to strength, opened with happy and sad news. On the positive side, the Music Block and Junior House were going ahead, on the negative Mr Howard Smetham died after a short illness on January 1 1960. Mr Smetham, a farmer and businessman, had been a tremendously good friend to the school since its inception and was at the time of his death the Chairman of the Board. The stone archway in the school road is his Memorial Gateway. Sir Winston Field took over as Chairman of the Board, but only for two years, where after he resigned as he had become Prime Minister of the country. The sixties positively hummed along for Springvale School Building work continued apace, with new tennis courts, a games room, playing fields, staff flats and a reference library being added, as well as the conversion of the old Form I classroom into a science laboratory. Rugby football was introduced in 1961 and the chapel choir sang evensong in the Salisbury Cathedral.
The Headmaster’s wife gave birth to twins and the Headmaster himself was elected chairman of the Conference of Heads of Independent Schools. The next few years were to see important developments in the field of multi-racial education in independent schools, which involved representations to the government jointly with the Governing Bodies Association. It also involved fund-raising for a Bursary Fund to allow fees to be met for pupils whose parents were unable to meet the cost. This eventually resulted in the formation of the Bernard Mizeki Trust Fund, which was supported by donations from banks, petrol companies, the sugar industry, businesses and individuals.
In 1965 a team of inspectors from the Ministry of Education descended on the school and were pleased to conclude that. “The tone of the school is good: pupils are polite, courteous and well-spoken, relations between staff and pupils are friendly and the general atmosphere is a happy one.”
The science laboratory
An important addition to the school arrived in 1965 when an organ was given to the school Chapel to replace an old piano. The organ, which was said to be the oldest pipe organ in the country, had been shipped from England in 1900, suffering some misadventure when several parts were washed overboard. They were rescued from the deep, put back together and found to work perfectly. The organ was destined for St John’s Church in Bulawayo; from thence it went to Kadoma Church fourteen years later, but by 1960 was condemned as being ‘utterly worn out’ and so was carried away to an honourable retirement at Peterhouse. There Murray Somerville, then a pupil but now musical director at Harvard University and a team of enthusiastic amateurs restored the bits and pieces to full working order and it was given to Springvale School.
(As an addendum to this story, the aged organ finally passed on into the hands of a couple of Peterhouse boys in the late 1980s who said they knew a thing or two about fixing it. Sadly the organ never recovered from this and some of the pipes made their way to the Peterhouse chapel, while the wood was used for various projects all over the school. Peterhouse Girls’ School bought a new organ for St Francis Chapel in 1995 to the extreme delight of the then music master Keith Nicholas. On its first public outing, Mr Nicholas literally pulled out all the stops and nearly blew the staff out of their seats.) Keith Nicholas setting up the organ (right)
Father Tony Grain was the Chaplain at this time. One of the best-loved Chaplains in Springvale, ‘Popcorn’, as he was known, had an easy rapport with the boys. It is not known exactly how many stints he did at Springvale, but like a saving grace, when the school was going through a bad patch, and particularly when a Chaplain could not be found, Tony would appear out of the blue and throw himself back into the fray for a term or two.
Over the next couple of years, more building work was carried out: a new classroom, a second quad, a science and mathematics room, a cricket pavilion and alterations to staff houses. The Springvale Estate, all 1000 acres of it, continued to mature along with the school. The gum plantations went through varying fortunes according to whether there was a drought or not, but on the whole the Forestry Account was kept in credit with sale of gum poles and firewood. The ground staff, headed up by Patrick Gosho, ensured that playing fields were maintained, vegetables grown, roads kept in order, classrooms painted, bricks made, trees planted and all the other thousand jobs that go with keeping such a large estate in trim were attended to. Patrick Gosho was a familiar sight to the boys as he scooted around the estate on his small motorbike.
Then at the end of 1968, John Paterson retired as Headmaster and went to England, where he became eventually the head of a group of international schools. Mr Brian Johnson, universally known as “Birdy” by his pupils, succeeded him as Head in January 1969. Brian Johnson had taught at Springvale almost continuously since 1953 and he and his wife Truda had also been in charge of Junior House where they nurtured the young boys coming to boarding school for the first time.
There were now 180 boarders at Springvale School and the fees stood at $225 per term. In 1971 Bishop Paget died. The great Bishop had been instrumental in establishing many schools in his Anglican diocese in his time and his support and encouragement to Canon Robert Grinham, founder of Springvale, was immeasurable.
The year following his death was an important one for Springvale, for it marked the final payment on the last of the debentures issued in 1952 to build the school. The Main School original buildings were now fully paid for (Junior House still had another eight years to go). This anniversary was especially poignant to Canon Grinham, whose determination and faith in “Ruzawi’s little brother” had never faltered.
The school proudly celebrated its 20th birthday and the Headmaster commented, “The first volume in the History of Springvale is now full. The bills for our upbringing have all been paid. Our Old Boys Association is established. Our first old boy’s son is on the waiting list. We look forward to a future full of exciting new opportunities for development [and] I am confident that we shall meet an ever-increasing need in the Africa of tomorrow.”
It must be remembered that a great proportion of the Springvale boarders in the late 60s and early 70s were Zambian boys. Coach companies, notably Express Motorways, provided transport to and from the school. In January 1973, owing to the increasingly unstable political and security situation in Rhodesia, the border was closed and Express Motorways was forbidden to operate in Zambia. This caused a major logistical headache for staff at the school that had to get their pupils to and from Zambia. Staff would accompany the boys to Chirundu where they walked across the bridge to other transport waiting there. A few years later, staff were turning grey as they tried to get all their small charges to the airport on time and onto the right aeroplanes to set them to Zambia, with the right luggage, passports and tickets.
Transport to school has always posed a few problems. Various lift clubs and carpools operated throughout the years and in the seventies, there was much swapping and bartering of petrol coupons to get the boys to school. Parental visits and school trips were severely curtailed at this time. More recent fuel shortages have seen parents bonding together again to get the children out to school on a Monday morning and then bleeding Marondera dry of any fuel they might find once out there!
The school operated a bus service from Harare during the seventies and does so today in conjunction with Peterhouse buses. For some boys in the seventies, school term meant a good two to three months away from home, especially if they were from Zambia or remote farming areas in Zimbabwe. There was no weekly boarding, no fixture-free weekends and no half-term to pop back home. Springvale School really was a home away from home for these pupils.
In 1973, stalwart and long-serving member of staff Mike Hammond left the school to become headmaster of Eagle school in the Bvumba. Over the next two years, times become ever more difficult for the country as a whole and for Springvale. Many people left the country and the number of pupils began to fall as the Zambian contingent lessened each term. The fees, in 1975, were nearly $1000 per year. Serious consideration was given to admitting girls to the school and parental reaction was very much in favour of co-education. Events, however, overtook the ideas and the school numbers were increased from another direction altogether.
This school, which had been founded nearly 30 years earlier, was at the time precariously placed in its mountainous home because of the security situation. The school had approached the Springvale School board “in general terms” on a previous occasion about the possibility of a move and in March 1976 met specifically to ask if Springvale would consider taking on the pupils and staff who remained after the school had officially closed in the Bvumba. Eagle Headmaster Michael Hammond, who had taught at Springvale for many years before moving to Eagle, was faced with an agonising decision: to close completely or to move the school somewhere where “we could continue to preserve our identity for the rest of the year”. Thus Eagle joined the ranks of Springvale at the opening of the second term, in 1976. Despite finding this alternative and welcoming accommodation, the sudden closure was a profoundly sad occasion for all those connected with Eagle School.
As Springvale School Headmaster Brian Johnson said in his prize-giving address of that year: ‘Thank heaven, there was no time to sit and wonder how [the merger of the two schools] would work,…The situation came upon us and upon Eagle, with the inevitability of an avalanche and one just had to cope with the situation as it arose from moment to moment. The entire school timetable was remodelled and teaching was integrated to a great extent. The 70 new boys kept their Eagle identity by sleeping and eating separately from the Springvale boys in the Junior House, which had been closed at the beginning of the year owing to falling pupil numbers. On the sports field, it was a different story. Games were fully integrated and, according to one former pupil’s memory, the school became a force to be reckoned with. The cream of both schools was picked for first teams and there were, apparently, some noses out of joint as a result!
Staff worked hard to make all the adjustments that such a move requires, although Mike Hammond and Brian Johnson agreed to ‘play it by ear” and take one day at a time On the whole, however, everyone mucked in with a ‘cheerful acceptance’ and the operation went smoothly and happily. To quote from Headmaster Mike Hammond’s speech at the same prize-giving ceremony mentioned above: ‘I remember on the first evening that our boys arrived, Brian Johnson came down to what had been re-christened Eagle House and said to me that he felt it was most important that the boys should mix together as much as possible, in order to feel part of the same community. Whilst I was agreeing fully with him on this point, we both looked up and saw on a nearby field a crowd of blue and red shirts racing madly up and down after a football, so we knew at once that we had no worries about that score.”
Decline and fall
Despite the influx of Eagle, Springvale School was ever prey to the external influences of the political and economic state of the country. Mike Hammond was absorbed into the Peterhouse teaching staff across the road, and Headmaster Brian Johnson retired in 1977 and went to England with his wife Truda and daughter Fiona to teach at his old school in Shrewsbury. Before he left, he welcomed John Stansbury as the next Headmaster, who had come to the school from the recently closed Whitestone in Bulawayo. (Incidentally, Mr Stansbury continued the tradition of a headmaster with ‘John’ in his name. Excepting Canon Robert Grinham and the present Head Graham Peebles, the others have been John Paterson, Brian Johnson, John Stansbury and Jon Calderwood.)
John Stansbury took over a school whose numbers were declining rapidly. Numbers were down from 150 at the end of 1976 to 102 and dwindled still further in the course of the year. Boys from Zambia and Malawi were being withdrawn as a result of the security situation and by 1979, economic sanctions meant that parents were not permitted to transfer money to pay school fees. Others were finding places in schools closer to Harare. Despite his dedicated efforts to recruit new pupils, including placing adverts in newspapers and asking parents to find just one more pupil each, the Head was in the unenviable position of having to reduce staff numbers as the school sealed down.
In spite of the lower numbers the school still managed to put up a good fight on the sports field and took on big brother Ruzawi several times in hockey, rugby and cricket with victorious results. There were shenanigans getting Zambian pupils home for the holidays and more local pupils in from Harare owing to parents arriving late at the Park’n’ Ride facilities. There were lively hobbies clubs and enjoyable Parents Weekends where the families enjoyed the entertainment at the school and were then put up in the San and the dormitories!
John Stansbury has left a vivid history of the last two years of Springvale School in the monthly ‘Sputterings” newsletters, which he sent to parents. In them are chronicled the heartaches of keeping the ailing school on its feet from day to day, the myriad problems from broken deep freezers to transport schemes, constant tributes to the staff who were doubling up duties and roles, brickbats to the unruly behaviour of the boys and bouquets to those were working hard.
Patrick Gosho was, as ever, a vital part of the school machinery. Though well into his sixties by this time, Patrick Gosho was still working hard at the land he loved and was called upon often to exercise his skills on a limited budget with limited help. One Christmas holiday the swimming pool pump was out of action and the pool went very green. The Headmaster’s dog started barking furiously, late one night, answered by a plaintive mooing and in the early hours of the next day a young bullock was found – still mooing – in the green pool. This was, as Patrick Gosho admitted while trying to haul the beast out, a first in all his 40 years at Springvale Farm and School.
The school was desperately short of money and all the fundraising and appeals were simply not enough to make the place viable. Eagle School had brought a debt with them to the school in 1976, which fortunately had been cleared by 1979, but the chief problem was the non-payment of school fees by parents. By 1978 pupil numbers were down to 50, in 1979 there were just 37 and the school was owed nearly $20,000 in fees. Many business concerns stepped in to support the school in their most difficult times but the Board was forced into the harsh decision of having to close the school at the end of 1979.
Father Tony Grain came back from Masvingo to help the school through its final ten days. He conducted the Holy Communion service on the last day of school and gave the Blessing at the end of the closing assembly. There were but four teaching members of staff by this stage, including the Headmaster In the words of John Stansbury, in his final newsletter to parents after the close of the term, it rained and rained and “even the skies [were] crying for us’. Springvale School was no more.
The Hiatus Years
In the hopes that one day the school would reopen, plans were made for its maintenance in the interim. Some equipment was sold off to Peterhouse and to Ruzawi but a great deal of the furniture and fittings, musical instruments, sporting equipment, blankets and other linen were put into storage in Junior House. Five pianos were transported from the music rooms and hauled up the stairs into safekeeping. Patrick Gosho moved into the housemaster’s flat in Junior House to caretaker what remained of the school, which was not confined simply to the school buildings. There was also the large estate to be managed, with its gum tree plantations, which were still economically viable. St Francis village, the home of the Springvale estate workers and their families, which had grown up along with the school since the 1950s and had a chapel and a school of its own, was still home to many. It wasn’t a deserted campus by any means. And although the doors had closed for Springvale School itself, the closure meant that new doors were opened for another group of young pupils.
In 1979 Mr John Hammond was the chairman of the Springvale board and also the chairman of St Philip’s School in Guruve. This school, run by the Anglican Diocese, was set in the heart of one of the most troubled areas during the war years and the buildings were in fact burned down during a raid. Mr Hammond (no relation to Mr Michael Hammond) arranged for the St Philip’s pupils to move into the now vacant Springvale premises and January 1980 saw a complete change of pupils and teaching staff.
One of the conditions of the lease was that there should only be Form III and IV boys, partly because Springvale was not large enough to take the whole of St Philip’s, but mainly so that, when the Springvale Board wanted the buildings back, eighteen months’ notice could be given, to enable the then Form III boys to write their “O” levels at the end of the following year. This was to cause some problems later.
1980 and 1981 were difficult years, especially for Patrick Gosho. He was alone in his role as an on-campus Springvale employee and his loyalty lay towards the farm and school where he had spent nearly all his life. He was very determined that no harm should come to the actual buildings or remaining equipment and, to this end, viewed the in-comers as somewhat hazardous and to be deterred from damaging Springvale property wherever possible. He zealously guarded Junior House and its contents and tried to keep some income trickling in by felling and selling the estate gum trees. Most of the St Philips staff used to leave on a Friday evening, often leaving the care of the pupils in Patrick Gosho’s hands.
The Beit Trust and the Anglican Diocese stepped into the breach and provided money to pay the maintenance and caretaking staff. Peter Bradshaw, who had been a teacher at Springvale School, became the liaison link between the remaining Board and Patrick Gosho, paying the ground staff and assisting whenever he could with maintenance and problem-solving. In December 1981 the Springvale Board held a meeting to discuss the reopening d the school and the logistics involved. Proper written notice had been given to St Philip’s by the Chairman of the Springvale Board before June 1981 to end the lease on December 31 1982, but unfortunately, in the words of the then Bishop of Mashonaland, the Right Rev Peter Hatendi, who later assumed personal responsibility for St Philip’s, “the St Philip’s board of governors did very little about it and they accepted a new intake in January 1982”.
Other problems had arisen in the meantime. The Chairman, John Hammond, sadly suffered a heart attack and had to resign. The new Board of St Philip’s built a day school in Guruve, thus leaving the boarders with nowhere to go and the Headmaster at the Springvale arm of St Philip’s had admitted Form I and Form II pupils, in contravention of the terms of the lease.
Although the Springvale Board had kept their side of the agreement, permission to reopen was refused by the Ministry of Education and Culture until the St Philip’s pupils could be properly accommodated in a boarding school of their own. There was a perception that the St Philip’s senior school pupils were being ousted in favour of a more privileged junior school and the subsequent furore in the press reflected the acrimonious discussions taking place between the Springvale Board of Governors and the Ministry of Education.
It was around this time, in 1982, that Jon Calderwood paid his first visit to the Springvale estate, at the suggestion of Bryan Curtis at Ruzawi. “It was a mess but I liked what I saw,” he recalls. It had been anticipated that Springvale would re-open in 1983 and Peter Bradshaw had mailed over 150 letters to prospective parents. A headmaster, Humphrey Tate from Chimanimani, had been appointed, but both parents and headmaster had to be told of the problems and the plans put on hold. Mr Tate was naturally unable to commit to a school that wasn’t there and instead went on to become headmaster of Rydings School.
By 1983 matters had been resolved, one way or another. Many forays into petty officialdom were made and much negotiation was undertaken but such details are best left undisturbed in the archives. Eventually, the Anglican diocese decided to help by building new boarding facilities at Daramombe, a mission school that like St Philip’s had been closed down during the war. The St Philip’s boys could thus be moved en masse and the Anglican diocese expressed their thanks to the Springvale board for permitting St Philip’s to stay at Springvale until the Daramombe facilities were ready in the course of 1983.
The grass on the playing fields would have made excellent thatching material. The Nyakambiri dam was dry. The whole place was, to quote Jon Calderwood, “a bit of a shambles”. Springvale had been the subject of protracted negotiations once again, this time between the Board of Peterhouse and the Peterhouse Rector Revd. Alan Megahey and the Springvale Board. Whose idea was it that Peterhouse should take over the prep school? There are a few theories but it was primarily the brainchild of Dr Megahey.
If Springvale were to become the junior arm of Peterhouse, the logic ran, then it would not have to acquire its own operating licence. Peterhouse could gladly use the extra space afforded by the existing buildings for their junior forms. It seemed to be a natural step to take and it was certainly a way of facilitating the rebirth of the school, for the school would be reborn in a far different appearance and identity from its first incarnation.
It is impossible to mention Dr Alan Megahey’s name without appending the words: “driving force”. In whatever context he is cited, those two words will undoubtedly crop up. He has been to the modern Peterhouse trio of schools what Canon Robert Grinham was to the establishment of earlier Marondera schools: the inspiration, the tireless advocate and, yes, the driving force.
Dr Megahey was the Rector of Peterhouse for ten years, during which time the school expanded from a boys’ school with 400 pupils into three schools, including Springvale House and Peterhouse Girls’ School, with over 1000 pupils altogether. He was a true visionary and very dedicated to the Peterhouse group. His commitment to, and determination in getting Springvale on board was the shot in the arm that was needed to get the school up and running once more.
Jon Calderwood was the headmaster of Hartmann House in Harare in 1983 when he was told by Rodney Brooker, then headmaster of Ruzawi: “You like a challenge, Calderwood. What about reopening Springvale?” The Peterhouse Board concluded the negotiations in 1984 and by October of that year following several interviews, Jon Calderwood was appointed the headmaster designate.
Patrick Gosho had done his best but the deserted campus was very run down. Jon Calderwood was, however, smitten by it again, and not least by Patrick Gosho himself, whom Calderwood says was “a huge part of my decision to come here”. The dedication and enthusiasm of Patrick Gosho, combined with the incredible trees, rocks and wide-open spaces of the land, conspired to attract the Calderwoods, Jon and Jenny, to the challenge of restarting the school from scratch. And it was really scratchy.
Dr Alan Megahey’s plans for the school meant that the old Main School buildings would be given over to Peterhouse Forms I and II, while the prep school would be based in the Springvale Junior House. The things, which had been stored away in Junior House in Patrick Gosho’s care, were taken out and dusted down but they were pitifully few to cater for the needs of the ninety-plus pupils now registering for the new school. Equipment and plans also needed to be made to adapt Junior House to the requirements of both boys and girls.
Polly Anderson, the wife of the Rev Ken Anderson, the Chaplain at Peterhouse, was engaged as school secretary and was busy registering pupils and helping with tidying up the school. It was decided that the new school should have a new name and Springvale House Preparatory School for Boys and Girls was chosen, thus aligning the school with the Peterhouse name.
A small party gathered together on the 20th of January 1985 to celebrate the new term. In the 1985 Headmaster’s Report, Jon Calderwood wrote: “Few of those present realized what a joyous occasion this must have been for those who had to see the reopening of Springvale School; Mr Peter Bradshaw who had taken it upon himself to keep all informed as to the progress of the venture; Mr Patrick Gosho who had maintained the buildings and guarded the equipment and whose faith and determination had to win through in the end; and Dr Megahey, Rector of Peterhouse, whose diplomacy and tact ensured that in the end children would be privileged once again to learn and play in these ideal surroundings.”
Water was a huge problem: the dam was dry and the boreholes were empty. Nonetheless, Jon and Jenny Calderwood moved into the old housemaster’s flat in Junior House in December 1984 and within a few weeks welcomed the 93 boys and girls who were to be the pioneers of the new Springvale. On that day the heavens opened and it rained non-stop for the whole term. It was an auspicious start. Click here for The 1985 Springvale magazine.
It wasn’t easy, however. Jon remembers saying to Jenny at the first assembly: “What have we let ourselves in for?” when he saw the little boarders lining up with teddies and dolls tucked under their arms. There was much to-ing and fro-ing from Junior House to the Main School where the Form I boys from Peterhouse were being taught and boarded. Dining facilities were available only at the Main School (Junior House had had its dining room turned into a library) and the children were “crocodiled” up and down to meals three times a day. Eventually, they were doing this in their swimming costumes as the heavy rains persisted!
The Springvale year started with grades 1 to 5. There were three classrooms in the old block for grades 1, 2 and 3 and grades 4 and 5 were in the classrooms at the bock of the old basketball courts at the main school. But Phase I of the programmed refurbishment and expansion plan for the school was already underway. This consisted of a staff common room and toilets, the secretary’s office, the Headmaster’s office and three classrooms on the east side. In 1986, Phase II began with the block of classrooms to house Grades 1, 2 and 3 and the final three classrooms were finished in early 1988. The dormitories had to be reshuffled in the Junior House yet again causing boys’ toilets to be exchanged back for girls’ toilets.
A tremendously active PTA was one of the chief supports of these early years in the new school. The enthusiasm of the parents helped the headmaster to raise funds towards the new pool, the squash court, camping equipment, and videos. The parents established themselves as a willing and resourceful group that could always “make a plan” and get things done for the good of the school. These characteristics of the parent body at Springvale House have been maintained over the years, even though the faces have changed as new parents become involved. For Jon Calderwood, the first year of the new Springvale was ‘the best year of my life, and also the hardest!’ He and Jenny were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and ‘did everything, from fundraising to san duty to carrying the little ones to bed. Together with Polly Anderson, who is so warmly remembered by the pupils of those early years, the small staff ensured that the school began to grow again, ‘out of the bush’ or so it seemed.
Pupils who erred from the straight and narrow while under Mr Calderwood’s supervision will recall that while he dished out a couple of whacks with a paddle bat, Polly Anderson stood at the door when they left and handed out jelly babies!
The Main School
The old Springvale buildings were put to use in 1985 by the establishment of what was then known as the Lower School. This comprised the boys entering senior school in Form I, and by 1986 included a Form II year. The brainchild of Dr Alan Megahey, the Lower School was designed to ease the younger boys into the Peterhouse system with less pressure from senior boys and to function as a kind of “airlock” for those boys coming from a non-boarding environment. Mike Hammond, who had initially taught at Springvale, then left for Eagle, then returned to Springvale briefly before teaching at Peterhouse during the hiatus years, now returned to this side of the road to take charge of the Lower School with the title the Lower Master.
The Lower School concept was deemed to be a good one, but in the wrong place and thus plans were made to build a house, especially for Form I boys at Peterhouse itself. This House, known as Tinokura, opened in January 1988. Meanwhile, growing pressure for senior school places for girls meant that momentum was gathering towards the opening of a girls’ school. Thus in January 1987, the girls’ wing of Peterhouse was opened with 28 Form I pupils.
The accommodation was not yet ready and the girls were housed at a staff house and at a farmhouse down the road. The girls coexisted with the boys from the Lower School and were under Jon Calderwood’s jurisdiction. Lessons were conducted in what had been the Springvale House Library and except for Geography, which was taught by Jon Calderwood, all the other lessons were taught by staff from the Boys’ school. This involved a tremendous amount of shuttling to and fro between the schools, and across the main Mutare road, and the little staff Renault 4 cars were a familiar sight at this time dashing across the main road.
Barrie and Mike Hammond at the opening of Hammond House In November 1987, the Prime Minister the Hon Robert Mugabe, was guest of honour at Speech Day. In his address, he applauded the reopening of Springvale House and the introduction of the Girl’s School. ‘For too long,’ he told the assembly, ‘we have tended to relegate the education of girls to a low order of priorities, and for too long we have tended to think that the education of girls is an expensive luxury. The formal and official start of Peterhouse Girls’ School was in 1988 with pupils at Form I, II and Lower VI levels. Mike Hammond stayed on at the “new” old school as headmaster of the girls’ school. He and his wife Barrie thus became almost synonymous with the original Springvale buildings, having seen it through its various incarnations over the years. One long-serving member of the girl’s school staff says that in the first years of the girl’s school, Mike Hammond was really the only person who knew where everything was and was certainly the only person tall enough to reach the old fuse boxes in the all-too-frequent blackouts!
The Hammond’s contribution to life on the Springvale estate cannot be overstated. Between them, Barrie and Mike – who first met on the Springvale campus some 30 years previously – have provided care, warmth, leadership and encouragement to scores of pupils. Although now officially retired they remain as busy and as involved in the life of the schools as ever and indeed Mike is now the assiduous and organised secretary of the Petrean Society, perfectly positioned to draw on his memories of nearly 50 years of old boys and girls.
Peterhouse Girls’ School
Those past pupils (pre-1979) who yearn for a nostalgic meander around their old school buildings must be prepared for the bevvies of senior girls now occupying what was once the territory of junior boys only! They will recognize some of the buildings – the dormitories, hall, and chapel – but Peterhouse Girls School is a flourishing and developing modern entity these days with some of the best boarding school dormitories in the country and very advanced facilities.
The senior girls have too much dignity to scramble off into the bush and build forts in the rocks and trees as past pupils did – but don’t feel too sad about this, because down at Springvale House School, post-1985, the children are as busy building their forts as their fathers were in the ’50s and ’60s. In fact, it’s a grand tradition that Springvale pupils are proud to uphold, and the forts these days as lust as proudly constructed and fiercely defended as they were 50 years ago. The girl’s school has gone from strength to strength. In 1994 Mike Hammond retired and Jon Calderwood took over the headmastership of the girl’s school. Mike Bowden arrived from England to be the new Rector of Peterhouse and Graham Peebles became the headmaster of Springvale House. Such an influx of new brooms campus-wide meant a flurry of changes at every one of the three schools.
1994 also saw a quiet celebration of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Gosho Park as it is today. During the St Philip’s residence at Springvale in 1980-82, Patrick Gosho had guarded the natural woodlands belonging to the school and had also tried to prevent the cultivated gum trees from being cut down. When Peterhouse took over the Springvale campus, Peter Ginn, a leading environmentalist who had also worked at Peterhouse for many years, asked the then Rector Dr Alan Megahey about the feasibility of enclosing the land to turn it into a game park and environmental studies centre for the schools.
Sponsorship, led by John Carter of Barclays Bank, was secured from various businesses to help with the set-up; and Darrell Mitchell, from the Mitchell and Mitchell farm which neighbours the Springvale estate, kindly agreed to loan some of the farmland which was no good for cultivation to the project. One-third of Gosho Park is Mitchell and Mitchell land.
The first thing which happened was the enclosure of the land with a 13-strand game fence. After this, development carried on with roads being built, the ponds dug and game brought in to stock the park. Just about all the work in Gosho Park was carried out by boys from Peterhouse, with help from Mitchell and Mitchell. Bush Camp, where the children stay on their camping expeditions, was built and has been extended and improved over the years. It is now one of the foremost environmental education centres for schools in Zimbabwe, thanks to Peter Ginn and Moses Nyamande, the warden of the park, and of course, Patrick Gosho’s original conservation efforts.
The Big Girls’ School
The double quad framework of the original Springvale School remains the core of Peterhouse Girls’ School. However, much extension and development have been carried out in the past 15 years, fanning out from the original buildings.
There are now around 290 senior girls in the school which was designed for 120 junior boys. This has not only meant new boarding, eating and recreational facilities, but also a general enlargement of classroom space, as 20 big girls take up more room than 20 little boys! Changing times have also meant that such things as lockers, for example, built to contain the smaller exercise books of ‘the olden days, have to be changed to suit more modern-sized text-books.
Thus over the past years, an entirely new dormitory block has been built for the B block, and appropriately named Hammond House. The dining room was enlarged so that the whole school can sit down together and a canteen shift system operates to feed the pupils. The Arts Room, once the Museum of Springvale School, has been extended and enriched by the addition of a pottery/kin room with an attractive courtyard between the old and the new.
A new swimming pool was one of the first additions to the new girls’ school in 1988 and it is a facility shared with Springvale House pupils (the costs were divided between Springvale House PTA and Peterhouse Girls’ School).
This is one of the salient features of having two schools on one campus, that is, the facilities are frequently shared. Use of the playing fields, pool, tennis courts, chapel and hall is minutely timetabled so that each school may gain the full benefit of all and it is a testament to the close and amicable working relationship of the staff of both schools that tensions in this area are rare. In the past three years especially, just when some might have thought that development would slow down to reflect the national economy, there has in fact been a surge of new buildings at Peterhouse Girls’ School. Among the most striking of these is the new library which came into full commission in 2001, funded in part by the Beit Trust and also by the school itself.
It is the envy of many other schools and the complex boasts a media centre, video library and the Rupert Pennant-Rea Room for computers. Mr Pennant-Rea, an eminent ex-Petrean, one-time Editor-in-Chief of The Economist and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, sourced and denoted 30 computers for the computer centre.
The attractive boarding houses for the senior girls now total 10 in all. These little self-contained residences are a far cry from the regimented rows of beds that the Springvale boys of old (and the Girls’ School juniors) had to endure. They are modern and friendly and provide both privacy and sociability for the girls living there.
The Chapel and Cross
For Canon Grinham, the beautiful St Francis Chapel was the heart of the school and so it has remained for 50 years. Springvale School’s initial mandate in 1952 was to provide Christian education and great emphasis was placed on bible studies, prayer, altar serving, choral work and attending daily services within the chapel. Over time this emphasis has lessened somewhat, and services are now not daily, but there remain midweek services, Holy Communion services and evensong on weekends.
The emblem of Springvale has always been the Jerusalem cross, or the ‘cross potent as it is known in heraldic terms, but with four extra lines drawn in. (A potency is an old Latin word for a crutch and the ‘cross potent” is so called because the ends of the cross appear to be flattened into the shape of the head of a crutch. A glance at the ubiquitous symbol will make this clear.) A plain Jerusalem cross was the emblem of Ruzawi and Springvale adopted it in its adapted form because the school was originally known as Ruzawi’s ‘younger brother’.
Knowing that this cross is the emblem of the school will recall to observers that Springvale was founded on strong Christian principles. The cross also brings to mind the four Gospel writers, from whose works extracts were buried in four places in the foundations of the original Springvale buildings (now the Girls’ School).
A chapel is indeed a place of peace, quiet and sanctity. Even a visitor, just passing through on any afternoon, cannot fail to be impressed by the stillness and the reverence within. The furniture, fittings and floor gleam with hard cleaning and frequent use, the plaques shine and the altar is lovingly tended. The chapel is special because of the associations with former pupils, who died young and often tragically. Each little memorial brass tells a story.
Many boys have served at this altar over the years and many children have been confirmed there – some have been baptised and some old boys and girls have married. As Peterhouse Girls’ School has grown, so the need for more space in the chapel has grown too and plans were made by Jon Calderwood as early as 1997 to enlarge the chapel in a cruciform plan. In 2001 two wings were added, creating the shape of a crucifix, but the original facade was maintained to be recognisable to former Springvale pupils.
The transepts ensure that now all the girls and staff can be seated. Twenty-four pews were added and a new altar was built of teak, and wood from the Peterhouse Science labs! In addition, Mrs Avril Pratt created a set of tiled wall hangings for the Stations of the Cross. They are exquisite. St Francis village, named once again for the saint who so inspired Canon Grinham, is the home of the staff who work at Springvale House and Peterhouse Girls’ School and it has existed contiguously with Springvale School since the 1950s. It is a vital part of the campus, as are the people who live there. The village has a primary school and pupils are bussed into senior schools in Marondera itself. In 2002 a preschool was opened and is administered from the girls’ school.
As the headmaster who was there at the birth of the ‘new’ Springvale House, Jon Calderwood was in the fortunate position of being able to direct and shape the personality of the little school. He then moved to Peterhouse Girls’ School in 1994 and is now the Rector of Peterhouse. He has, in effect, made the Marondera schools his life’s work to date and has had a profound influence on all of them.
Under his care, the Springvale identity began to grow as it has continued to do so under his successor Graham Peebles. ‘it’s about expectations and rewards,’ believes Jon Calderwood, and follows this by saying that education is about expecting the best that each child can offer, that each staff member can offer and that the school can offer as a whole. And then it’s about keeping on at all of them until the expectations are realised, or at least in sight. Jon Calderwood introduced the ethos at Springvale House to reward wherever possible in numerous ways to keep the pupils motivated and interested. This tradition has been maintained which is probably why most people are so enthusiastic about Springvale House – parents, staff, pupils and non-academic employees all seem to have happiness born of confidence and security about them. You’ll notice it as soon as you walk on campus. For future pupils, it’s a good legacy to inherit.
The Garden School
All Springvale is a garden, says a caption in an old photo album of the school from the 1950s. Nowadays as visitors tour the Springvale campus, this charming epithet still applies. The campus is a garden and a wilderness all at once, with grassy stretches and pockets of incomparable msasa trees. Then there is Gosho Park, still beautiful and still used all the time for natural history lessons, camping and exploring. Patrick Gosho still tends his own patch of garden at his house near the school buildings and may be seen quietly wandering around the campus that has been his home and his work for well over half a century.
Yet amongst the trees and the fields, the buildings earn a life of their own too. The “new” Springvale House buildings, now nearly 20 years old, have settled into the landscape behind what was originally Junior House while up at the Girls School, the original Springvale School buildings are alive with the tread of hundreds of girls.
Development has not ceased in the past twenty years. At Springvale House, the nineties saw some important construction, guided by the headmaster, Graham Peebles, who is now in his tenth year at the helm of Springvale House. The lovely dining hall was built in 1996-1997, a vast improvement on the old one in which meals had to be taken in two sittings. The new dining hall seats 250 and has also played host to some great PTA parties! The Springvale House museum, made possible through the donation of Mr Funnekotter, nestles in the trees behind the adventure centre and is the home of the many environmental studies the school undertakes. The adventure centre itself, built by dedicated parents, is a wonderful playground for the children.
In 1994-1995, the Art and Computer Centre was built through the efforts of the school’s ever-active PTA. Computers were donated by various parents and also by a school in Botswana which was upgrading its own equipment. For some years, the students from Peterhouse Girls’ School were taught at the Springvale computer centre until their own computer centre was built. Springvale House now has over 50 computers, some of which are basic and are used simply in computer-aided learning for the younger grades, while the others are very recent and provide every child from Grade 4 up with their own machine during computer lessons.
The important thing to know about Springvale, says one member of staff, “is that we’re good all-rounders.” The school enjoys taking part in arts festivals and the lively artwork from the pupils can always be found on display outside classrooms and in the office foyer. The staff take great pride in exhibiting their pupils’ work at competitions and eisteddfods nationwide and bringing home prizes and certificates galore.
The Springvale House choir is a keen participant in provincial and national competitions and the school is fortunate in having a beautiful music room, built-in 1990 in memory of Mark Megahey, the late son of the former Rector of Peterhouse Dr Alan Megahey. In recent years the school has been proudly represented at a high level in environmental studies competitions. It should come as no surprise that pupils of Springvale are pretty well clued up on their nature studies, considering that Gosho Park is next door.
For Graham Peebles and his wife Liz, who is also on the staff, the school has become their life. Having been there for nearly twenty years, Graham Peebles now heads up a staff that, at its core comprises experienced and dedicated teachers, while also welcoming young and recently qualified staff who bring with them fresh ideas. These arrangements ensure that the school has an enviable teaching balance and it is a tribute to the headmaster that Springvale House continues to attract the very best staff.
Over the past three years, Graham Peebles has been the driving force behind the development of the new Sports Centre where a variety of indoor sports can be held. The Centre also provides for the growing needs of the school, giving valuable office and storage space. Springvale House in its golden jubilee year has a well-earned reputation for sporting excellence, a reputation which Graham Peebles is proud to foster. His personal dedication to sport has meant that at rugby, tennis, cricket, hockey, athletics and swimming the school more than holds its own against other schools, even against single-sex schools where teams are chosen from a wider pool of hopefuls.
What is so special about Springvale House is that every child has a chance to play in a team, be they ever so weak or perhaps lacking in sporting prowess. In this way, each child learns the important lessons of teamwork, the shared joy or despair of winning or losing and the pride that comes with representing one’s school and working hard for its honour. It also means that while the first and second teams do battle, the teams lower down the order are much stronger than would ordinarily be expected because attention is paid to them too.
Enthusiasm is the order of the day! Headmaster Graham Peebles firmly believes that Springvale’s “special something’ stems from this overriding tenet of teamwork in the school. It’s not just in the sports arena that it shows the school is small enough that every member of staff knows every child’s name and the children all know each other. The parents are a vital cog in the organisation too, with their participation encouraged and welcomed in the regular get-togethers and fundraisers. “Every single person who works at the Wedgewood Field school,’ says Graham Peebles, be they tractor driver or teacher, kitchen staff or sports coach, is working towards educating the child.”
Last year Peterhouse Girls School had a record 100% pass rate at A-level. As it approaches its 20th anniversary, it is a mature, attractive, reliable school. Springvale House School continues to turn out polite, happy, well- behaved pupils just as it did in the sixties. While turmoil and insecurity mark the outside world, on the Springvale estate life has continued as normal. Some accuse the schools of leading a cocooned existence. For the pupils – who are, after all, the most important factor of the campus a cocooned, protected existence in this day and age is precisely what they need. Many of the pupils at the schools come from families that have been deeply affected by Zimbabwe’s on going land struggles.
For them, it is vital that the school’s existence provides a measure of regularity, sanity, reliability and order. Only thus can they attempt to fulfil the expectations of the education that is so richly offered to them.
The founding fathers of Springvale School had the child’s best interests at heart. The present-day staff of the school, as it goes forward optimistically into its next half century, are just as deeply committed to each child and the school as a whole. As Graham Peebles points out, “the children are the centre of the web – everything leads to and works for the individual child”. And beyond this, Springvale House Preparatory School for Boys and Girls it maintains some much sought-after qualities: a happy school, vibrant, enthusiastic, loving and beloved, with a strong presence in the community and a sound reputation amongst other schools. Its golden jubilee is indeed a time for celebration!
Written in 2003