Former Devonshire Cottage that became St Gildas school


Before The Avenue was built in the late 1890's there was a short track running north alongside the Black Horse public house on Reckleford called Pound Close. The track led to a house called Devonshire Cottage which had been the home of glove manufacturer, later Mayor of Yeovil, John Hill.

Following John Hill's death in 1889 the house was purchased by the Roman Catholic diocese to house a small group of Carmelite brothers, more properly called the Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As a consequence the house became known as Whitefriars.

In 1903 it was acquired, together with the adjoining property, by the Sisters of St Gildas-des-Bois who originated in Brittany, France. They built the St Gildas convent on the site. The presence of the Sisters of St Gildas in England dates from 1903 with this, the founding of the first Community in England, which was linked to political events in France.

The nuns later (between 1912 and 1928) demolished Devonshire Cottage / Whitefriars and built the St Gildas convent on the site.

However the Sisters envisaged their presence here as a missionary one, education being a priority and as a consequence in September 1907 they opened a Boarding and Day School at The Grange in Park Road that had been the residence of James Bazeley Petter until his death in 1906. In 1908 the school was established in the convent. It was run by the nuns, the Sisters of Christian Instruction, as a private school for children aged 5 to 16. The school had a mixed infants and juniors for boys and girls and a girls-only senior school. It is thought that the original building was greatly enlarged at this time.

During the Second World War, from 1942, the school became a  'Rest and Feeding Centre', one of four schools used as such, and had a capacity to sleep 100 and offer a hundred meals per sitting. The Centre was available for the benefit of people whose homes had been destroyed or made uninhabitable by enemy action, or who were required to vacate their homes temporarily on account of danger from unexploded bombs. It was also available for the benefit of people whose normal means of cooking meals at home were cut off owing to damage to the public gas or electricity supply systems, or of wage earners who had migrated from the town to adjacent areas for a few days but who required their mid-day meal in Yeovil. No charges were made for meals supplied at the Centre for the first 48 hours after an air raid, but thereafter payment would be required.

In 1971 St Gildas School became voluntary-aided, with the Church and the Local Education Authority working together. The school then changed to a Primary, 4-11 school.

For Carolyn's memories of the school - click here.

The convent closed and was demolished (see below) in 1984. On the site a sheltered housing scheme, Crofton Court, was built and opened in 1988.




A portion of the 1889 Ordnance Survey map showing Devonshire Cottage at centre. The lane it stood in, Pound Close, would be developed as The Avenue and the cottage itself would later be known as Whitefriars.




This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'

St Gildas' convent, photographed around 1930.


From my collection. This image features in my book 'Yeovil - The Postcard Collection'.

A postcard of St Gildas' convent dating to 1930.


St Gildas' Convent, photographed about 1950.


St Gildas' convent, closed and awaiting demolition in 1984.


An advertisement of 1912 for St Gildas' school.


A 1930's exercise class photographed by Witcomb & Son.


.... and netball from around the same period.


The Day School Playground, photographed probably in the 1930s.


From my collection

A postcard of the boarders' Playground, photographed probably in the 1930s.


From my collection

A 1930s postcard of the verandah at St Gildas' convent.


From my collection

The Refectory, again in a 1930's postcard.


From my collection

A postcard of Form 1, dating to around 1957..


From my collection

A postcard of a classroom, again probably from around 1957. 


From my collection

A postcard (from an early set) of one of the Class Rooms, photographed probably in the 1930s.


From my collection. This photograph features in my book "Lost Yeovil"

A postcard of the Dormitories, photographed probably in the 1930s.


A postcard of the Chapel, photographed probably in the 1930s.


A postcard, dated 1932, of the chapel at St Gildas' Convent.


St Gildas' school photographed in the mid-1960s.


Carolyn's straw boater from her days at St Gildas' school in the late 1960s - kept by her mum all this time (and now, for some unknown reason, in our loft).


The Demolition of St gildas - 1984


Many thanks to Colin Haine for permission to use the following sequence of his photographs.