This description of student life at the all female Matlock Training
College in the 1950s is based on Mairi Beighton's account of
her personal experience whilst studying at Rockside. Although
these young women were a little older, some of what she says
about the various requirements, rules and restrictions is not
too far removed from the life of girls who attended British
boarding schools in the same era.
1954, new to Rockside.
Janet Tilley | Mairi Sykes | Margaret Hoyte
They were all wearing
the college scarf.
Before they arrived in Matlock
they were allocated "Grandmothers",
a near-to-home past student whom they would visit to find out
about routines. Once they started at the college they were
assigned a "Mother", a second year student, to ease
them into the routine of communal living. "Daughters" were
expected to do odd tasks for the mother if asked. They were
also put in touch with a local family, for advice if needed
and to visit for Sunday tea or perhaps watch TV. Problems would
quickly disappear, though, on Saturdays over coffee and the
best meringues in the world at a small bakery on the main street
(Moore's on Dale Road).
1955 Walking, somewhere not too far from Rockside.
Marjorie Blunn | Anne Mason | Janet Tilley | Margaret Chance
Each student needed to take her own travel rug (definitely
essential in winter), bed linen, towels, a laundry bag, linen serviettes,
a napkin ring and books. It was a different kind of life for many;
they had been brought up during the war which had limited travel
unless you were an evacuee from one of the larger cities.
Interestingly, one of the group had been sent from London to
a village near Mairi's home during the War. When she was a student
it was too far to go for twice termly weekend visits back home
to London so she stayed with Mairi and met up with the family
where she had been billeted, something that did not often happen.
Mealtimes at the hall of residence were formal occasions, with
the students remaining standing until the staff had paraded in
and grace had been said. At the end of the meal nobody could leave
until Miss Allen, the college principal, had departed. If a student
needed to leave early she had to apply for permission, in writing,
a week prior to the date. Written permission was also required
if a student wanted their boyfriend to visit and the young men
had to be introduced to staff before sitting down for the meal. A
ration book was required as some foodstuff was still rationed but
they always ate well - dripping sandwiches were not that horrific
and the expedition for night-time cocoa could be adventurous in
the dark. The cook was a tiny man, who enjoyed a laugh and worked
miracles with the food that was available at the time.
Male guests were restricted to the dining and sitting rooms
and there was a 10p.m. curfew with a book for signing out and back
in (alone), with a member of staff checking. The students found
their own way around this, of course. The fire escape was turned
to good use and it was not unknown for friends to sign someone
1955 Rockside gardens.
Iris Burkinshaw | Marlene Towers | Margaret Hoyte | Janet Tilley
| Marjorie Blunn | Jo Wharmby | Anne Mason
Four of the group of friends wearing the college blazer. They could
not be missed
when they were out and about as it was a very bright emerald green,
with black & white stripes.
The curriculum seemed well balanced, training them in educational
techniques and extending their knowledge in their chosen subject.
They also had to pass both English and PE as two basic requirements.
Some attended woodwork and carving sessions, plus learned other
crafts such as weaving. Mr Manley, who taught English, arranged
elocution sessions and the women were taught how to use their voices
effectively - so much so that several never needed a microphone
when speaking to groups. Quite simple if they followed the "hand-on-head
- feel the vibration" order whilst crossing a room chanting "a
cup of tea and a bun for the monkey", out would boom the
Another lecturer, Miss MacAdams, arranged a Field Expedition to
Betws y Coed, where the students stayed in a Youth Hostel, and
a Field Exchange to Fishponds College in Bristol. She also organised
visits to geological sites, down coalmines and caves, to prehistoric
sites such as Cresswell Crags and to local mills that were then
YHA Betws Y Coed 1955, group in front of the Youth Hostel.
They travelled to Betws y Coed in a bus supplied by Mr. Strange of Tansley
(the bus shows the words "Strange & Son" under the back window).
The following people are in the group photo above:
Short back row:
Unknown | Margaret Chance | Josephine Wharmby | Unknown | Unknown
| Barbara Bobbe - gap - Mairi Sykes | Unknown | Josephine Whatley
Sporadic third row:
Unknown | Doris Hardesty | Unknown | Margaret Hoyte | Janet
Tilley | Unknown
Young man (staying in youth hostel) | Shirley Edwards | Pamela
Mister | Margaret Chapman | Unknown | Unknown | Rosemary Wilson
| Myfanwy Allen | Unknown | Anne Mason | Unknown
Unknown | Man in shorts (staying in youth hostel) | Unknown |
Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | bus driver
1955 field excursion, somewhere near Betws y Coed, Wales.
Mairi Sykes | Margaret Hoyte | Janet Tilley
Jo | Anne Mason
Mairi Beighton found herself suddenly popular en route to the
Bristol Field Exchange as she owned a transistor radio. The group
were on a train crowded with National Servicemen and it was the
day of the Wembley Cup Final. However, the wireless was confiscated
for length of their visit as the Fishpond students were not allowed
radios. Despite the Matlock students having radios,
their use was forbidden after 10.pm. This was not popular as
Radio Luxembourg came on later than the curfew, but muffled groups
still congregated and were kept music-literate by listening to
Pete Murray, Jimmy Young, Richard Attenborough et al. They lost
their privileges if caught.
The students' social life was quite strictly monitored, with
chaperones accompanying them to dances held at other colleges in
the area. They were taken by bus to Derby and Nottingham, etc.
1955 Loughborough College dance.
Janet Tilley - kneeling 2nd Mairi Sykes - 3rd
Seated - 2 chaperones (from domestic staff).
What she learned at the college helped Mairi cope with a class
of sixty pupils for the first term after she had qualified. Not
the ideal way to start a probationary year. As the 1954-56 intake
left Matlock they were told that future courses would last for
three years. However, three years teacher training courses did
not start until 1960. According to Mairi, her year were sent
subsequently questionnaires over the next couple of years after
they had left asking what they thought their training lacked,
so that suggestions could then be added to the curriculum. Her
answer was always "Nothing,
except how to fill in registers - attendance - dinner - bank
money!" Mairi was not alone in thinking these were nightmares
for probationary teachers in the first few months after they
A total of 105 students and 5 ex-students passed the exams in
the summer of 1956 and gained their Teaching Certificate from
the University of Nottingham's Institute of Education.
If any former students would like to see a
copy of the Pass List please email the web mistress (the link is
in the page footer).
There is more about Rockside