Stonehouse History Group

Welcome to the web site for Stonehouse History Group in Gloucestershire UK.


- promoting interest in the History of Stonehouse & the locality….

History of Wycliffe College in Stonehouse

Wycliffe College was first set up in Stonehouse nearly 130 years ago, and has been here all that time except for the 6 years when it was forcibly moved to Lampeter Wales by the Air Ministry, for World War II. During this time it was used by the Met Office.

Gloucestershire has been associated with the met office for many years, from the diligence of a Stroud apothecary, Gloucestershire contributed daily temperatures between 1771 and 1813.The English pioneer in lightning and thunderstorm electricity studies, John Canton FRS was born in Gloucestershire, and Dr Edward "Ted" Wilson, from Cheltenham, was principal scientist on Captain Scott's ill fated expedition, making south pole weather observations.

However, the county's position in national meteorological history was settled during the Second World War with the Met Office's secret evacuation to Wycliffe College, Stonehouse. In circumstances perhaps evocative of the film Enigma, the supply and calibration of meteorological instruments, climatological record-keeping and the navy's mapping of sea currents and ice extent occurred in Wycliffe's hall, house and science block from November 1939 until August 1945. However it does not seem to have been a happy time for Wycliffe!

MEMORIES OF WYCLIFFE COLLEGE

by Arthur French.

Off to Lampeter


In 1939 I had spent three years in the sixth form, taken Higher School Certificate, and won enough scholarships to finance a course at the Queen’s College, Oxford.  For vacation employment I was looking after the school swimming pool (see no.2) in the absence on holiday of a Mr. Jenner.  I had to operate the chlorination plant, and then I could sit in a summer-house which stood, surrounded by rockeries, near the shallow end of the pool.  I had to make sure that only authorised people used the pool in the holidays, but when all was quiet I could study a maths textbook which my new College had prescribed.


War was looming near.  Suddenly, a man appeared and said: “Drop everything!  The Air Ministry has requisitioned Wycliffe’s buildings, and we are moving to St. David’s College at Lampeter, in Wales!  We must pack up.”


I spent several days putting the school library into boxes, and then the exercise books, pencils, etc., etc., from the school stock-room, ready for transport to Lampeter.  But my father, as the school’s art teacher, had to move our home as well, and I wasn’t due in Oxford until early October.  So I packed up my own things, and I think that must have been the occasion when I went to Lampeter on my bicycle, leaving my family to travel with my luggage.


I visited my parents in vacations, and when I got married in 1942 I took my new wife with me to Lampeter by train, going via Gloucester because there was gunfire over Bristol.  In those days there was a railway from Carmarthen to Lampeter!  Among my contacts there was a delightful bookseller called Lemuel Rees.  I took my wife to his bookshop and told him I had married her.  “What else could you do?” he said, in his strong Welsh accent.


My next visit to Lampeter was in 2008.  And I went back to Stonehouse from there: two giant steps back in time.


From  British Military Intelligence records:-

On 22nd August 1942 an object had crashed in a turnip field on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, roughly half-way between Germany and Sweden. It was a small pilot less aircraft bearing the number V83, and it was promptly photographed by the Danish Naval Officer in Charge on Bornholm, Lieutenant Commander Hasager Christiansen. He also made a sketch, and noted that the warhead was a dummy made of concrete.

At first it was not certain what he had found. From his sketch it was about 4 metres long, and it might have been a rather larger version of a glider bomb HS 293 that was being used against allied war ships in the Mediterranean. Indeed it turned out that this particular bomb had been released from a Heinkel 111, but it was in fact a research model of the flying bomb about which England, London particularly was going to experience in the following few months.

Was this the very bomb which was shipped off to Wycliffe to be dismantled on the roof of the science building for examination?