A mirror has revealed some exciting secrets about Mrs Elliot-Pyle, the founder and first Head teacher of Dunottar School in Reigate.
As part of on-going renovation work, a mirror was removed from a mantelpiece in the staff resources room. For nearly 80 years, postcards, Christmas cards, photographs and other items had been lost behind the mirror.
One of the postcards was addressed to Mrs Elliot-Pyle, who founded Dunottar in 1926 with her husband. The findings, which date from 1936, reveal an interest in golf, classical music recitals, church attendance, flower gardens, well-travelled friends and family, and possible insecurities about using the telephone.
They also reveal a time when dress codes were stated on invitations and, when addressing a letter, the school was so well-known that it was enough to write: ‘Dunottar, Reigate, Surrey’.
Premises Officer Andrew Morris found the items when he was taking down the mirror. He said: “It had been nailed rather than bolted to the wall. This left a gap and the cards etc. were probably tucked into the sides of the mirror. They will then have dropped into the space behind and been lost.
“I realised straight away that the postcards were old because of the colours,” he added. “Then it dawned on me who they were written to and it started to get exciting!”
Behind the mirror were:
- An unused calendar for 1937, given to the couple at Christmas 1936 by Pat Parsons from Horley Lodge in Surrey.
- A postcard of the Niagara Falls dated June 15th, 1939. Addressed to Mrs Elliott-Pyle’s husband (‘T.D. Elliot-Pyle, M.A., Dunottar, Reigate, Surrey, England’), it reads ‘Having a grand time. I can think of nothing to stop this waste of water. Some leak! Kind regards to you both. F. Tankard’
- A photograph of a man holding glasses, with his hands resting on a book. The name and German address of the photographer Otto Reitmann appear on the back. The hand-written greeting is in English, however: ‘With friendly Christmas greetings from H.J. Heywood-Smith, 1936’. He includes his London address.
- A photograph of an elderly lady standing in a field of daffodils. The inscription reads: ‘With best wishes, February 1938, JM’.
- A postcard of Turnberry Hotel in Ayrshire (date on postmark unclear). Addressed to Mrs Elliott-Pyle, it reads: ‘The next time you have a golfing holiday, you should come here. Two fine courses between hotel and sea and both overlooked by hotel. F.L. Walker ‘
- An invitation for Mr and Mrs Elliot-Pyle and ‘Miss Watt’ to attend a lecture and recital (Chopin) on Thursday January 25th (year not supplied) in the lecture Hall at Shaw’s Corner, Redhill. Interestingly, the dress code ‘Morning Dress’ is stated in the invitation from ‘The Minister, Office-Bearers and the Literary Society Committee’ of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.
- Two identical instruction guides: ‘How to Use the (Main) Telephone’. Presumably, the first one fell behind the mirror and needed replacing. It must have been vexing to lose the second one as well.
- A photograph of a young baby with the birth weight on the back: lb7.5oz
- A Christmas card from ‘Barbara and Guy’.
- A photograph of three young women on a style in the countryside. A farmhouse is in the background.
- A Christmas card from Geoffrey and Electra Elliot-Pyle with a photograph of them drinking tea on a balcony next to a line of potted plants. Presumably they are relations as the surname has been crossed out to indicate that they are on first-name terms. It is addressed: 4 Rue Bubastis, Cleopatra-les-Bains, Ramleh
- A postcard of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. There is no writing on the back, so it might have been a holiday souvenir.
- A Christmas card with a photograph of a woman and her two daughters feeding over 30 white doves. It is signed as the ‘Johnson family’.
- A medium-sized photograph of people playing golf at Cairnsmore and another photograph the same size of a manicured lawn with raised flower beds. The photographs are in colour and have probably been tinted.
Rowena Cole, who joined the school as Head teacher last September, commented: “As soon as I walked through the door at Dunottar, I felt it had an amazing atmosphere, and I think this is in no small part due to its history. As refurbishments across the school continue, we are left wondering what we will uncover next.”