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An article by Sally Mosley about her schooldays at Lilybank.
This article and accompanying photographs were published in the "The Peak Advertiser" on 8 October 2007; Sally is one of the regular contributors to the newspaper.

I was recently asked by Radio Derby to give an interview about my schooldays at The Lilybank Presentation Convent, having been one of the first pupils to attend there. The wonderful former hydro building has just reopened as Lilybank Hamlet, offering high quality residential and sheltered accommodation for the elderly and persons in need of care, and was featured on the radio station during an afternoon show.
  Sally and Suzanne during the radio interview

The interview took place at Lilybank where I chatted to presenter Suzanne Perry. Suddenly I found myself whisked back over 40 years and was given the chance to nostalgically tour my old school which in parts remained amazingly unchanged. During the visit my memories were in turmoil, my tongue twisted on air and at times my eyes brimmed with tears of emotion!

A guided tour of Lilybank followed which was provided by Shabir Ali, Director of Progressive Care who now own the building and are in the throes of sympathetically returning it to its former glory. I saw the impressive results of their first phases with luxurious fixtures and fittings in the residential care section as well as beautifully appointed self-contained apartments which offer independent living but with assistance readily available on call. It was evident that Shabir loves the building as much as I do.

Sally's first day as a pupil at the Nagle Preparatory School  

Way back in 1962 I had been a chubby little 5-year old in a stripy yellow summer dress, white cardigan and straw boater when I first walked through the large front door at Lilybank, my new classroom being in what had been the cocktail bar! Lilybank had been one of only two hydros in the town to reopen after the Second World War and continued as a hotel for several years until it was bought by the Convent to be used as an infant school, the main Convent and upper school remaining further up Chesterfield Road.

Back in the 1960's Lilybank still contained many original features, fixtures and fittings, and I remember school dinners being taken in the luxurious dining room where we sat at antique tables and chairs to be served by the nuns with delicious food on silver salvers. On my recent visit I noticed that an original huge ornate mirror still hung in the hallway but my reflection revealed wrinkles and grey hairs instead of puppy fat and curls!

The circular Ballroom with its sweeping views over Matlock had been our indoor playground where we dashed about on the sprung dance floor playing British Bulldogs as we leapt up and down on the fitted window seats. This was also our Main Hall where we held assemblies as well as musical productions and operettas. The window seats and stage have gone, but the room makes a wonderful lounge for the residents whose winged chairs now sit upon a carpeted floor.

Acres of landscaped gardens were our outdoor playground and we dashed about as pretend horses on the terraced paths or made dens in the bushes and flower borders. The croquet lawn was where we had races and played 'squashed tomatoes' or 'tig' with forward rolls on the handrail alongside. Sometimes we didn't hear the bell ringing for the end of play and nuns would have to search and drag us back to lessons.

We had our own private tennis courts, whilst games of rounders were played on a grassy slope with the ball forever disappearing down into the bushes and trees which flanked an old cobbled path leading from Henry Avenue to Steep Turnpike, and I remember the terraced front lawns being great for doing a roly-poly!

Schoolchildren were given milk for their mid morning break in little 1/3-pint bottles, which in summer tasted sour but in winter transformed into milky ice lollies.

Lilybank was a boarding school with children coming from around the world. Long distance travel was much different in those days and the boarders often stayed for a whole term without a break, so they did not see their parents for months at a time, and I certainly remember lots of tears.

When the boarders first arrived they had huge heavy trunks which contained their clothes and a few toys and a large box full of sweets and chocolates for their tuck. These were kept in a special tuck room down in the basement. I so wanted to be a boarder and to have a big box of sweets, but as I only lived along Smedley Street in Matlock, my parents would not allow it!

There were lots of prayers, processions and confessions as part of the Convent education, with mass twice a week, sometimes in Latin. It was difficult as a small child to think of sins to confess to, but as I wanted to be punished with a few prayers so that I could use my pretty rosary beads, I often made a few up. Generally it was that I had tormented my sister or been rude to my parents. With the Ten Commandments drummed into me at an early age, there was no way I could ever do anything really bad.

It may be hard to imagine but I was often caned when very little - a light whack across the hand with a bendy cane, meted out by the nuns, which was generally for talking in class. It certainly didn't cure me, as I am constantly described as a chatterbox!

The best teacher at Lilybank was Miss Ballington, a local lady who taught the final year before eleven plus. I still use some of her artwork ideas and sewing techniques on my grandchildren and think of Miss Ballington with very fond memories. Mother Benedict and Mother Leila were also very kind and nice to me, but Sister Fidelma on the other hand was the one I seem to remember held the cane - need I say more!

As readers will know, I am passionate about the Peak District and love to walk in the countryside, this probably stems in part from the lovely nature rambles that we had, when nuns would take us on walks to Lumsdale and the Wishing Stone.

Back in the 1960's a nun's habit was like those worn in The Sound of Music. They had long black gowns with a huge white bib and a wimple or headdress, with only the flesh on their scrubbed faces and hands exposed. It was always a bit of a puzzle to know what colour hair the nuns had and we would regularly scrutinize their faces in the hope that a wisp of hair had escaped. Jangling from their waists were beads and keys - the sound of them swishing along the corridors of Lilybank was like some wicked chatelaine from a Bronte novel.

Lilybank was highly polished and squeaky clean - the nuns loved dusters and bees wax! They were also very sympathetic and I often remember tramps being given food at the kitchen door to help them on their way to the nearest workhouse.

The kitchens, bustling with rosy cheeked nuns in full habit and blue aprons, seemed to be permanently full of steam from huge saucepans of boiling cabbage and potatoes. I also remember that we had wonderful Doxey's sausages or spam, followed by rice pudding or semolina.

Our winter uniform was a horrible 'poo' brown and yellow colour, making us look like banana toffee-striped sweets. It consisted of a tunic, cardigan, and a gabardine sleeveless body warmer topped by a heavy raincoat, scarf and beret. But lurking beneath were enormous thick cotton pants with old fashioned knicker elastic which would occasionally snap and leave them dangling around your ankles! This expensive uniform had to be bought from Henry Barry's in Manchester who sent out a representative to the school once a term to take orders. Having an older sister at the school though meant that I often got to wear cast offs and hand-me-downs!

Pupils would belong to a 'house' and also wear a coloured sash which tied around their waist and draped down their legs. I was a Greek so my sash was green.

I escaped The Convent when I was eleven as by then my family had moved to Bakewell and I finished my education at Lady Manners. Now I look back with mixed emotions on my early schooldays - happy play times and the privilege of being at school in such a wonderful building and location; sadness that I did not keep in touch with some of my friends and a sense of poignancy that The Presentation Convent School as I knew it has gone for ever. Lilybank has survived though, and has been transformed into a place of luxury. Maybe in years to come I will find myself once more staring out of those ballroom windows and reliving my memories whilst dozing in a winged armchair!

Sally Mosley


*Article and photographs very generously provided for this website by and © Sally Mosley. Intended for personal use only. Sally's own website is at where larger versions of the photographs and this article are also published.
Sally was interviewed for an outside broadcast by Radio Derby in September 2007 and the article above is the result of that interview.

You may like to view : Water Cures | Schools in Earlier Times - in particular see the section on the Presentation Convent

There is more about Dalefield / Lilybank / The Gables in the Matlock Images section of this site:

Lilybank Hydro (Dalefield)

Barton's Dalefield Hydro 1904

Sun lounge 1930s


1950s multi view, with advertisement

1930s, with advertisement

Letterheads of Local Businesses, 1900-1949 (3) - Lilybank

Dinner menus
from the late 1950's

Mrs. Marian Wildgoose, who owned "The Gables"