Great Gaddesden

St. Margaret's

By Barbara Middlestorb

St. Margarets Camp School

From 1939 to 1984, there was a school at St. Margarets.

In 1939, the site was purchased from a private seller by the National Camp Schools Corporation and it became known as ‘St.Margarets Camp School’

Second world war


Certainly during the Second World War evacuees came up from London to live at the Camp School. In a BBC documentary ‘WW2 People’s War,’ one of the evacuees recorded that he stayed at St. Margarets for some time.  As he put it:

“This was the beginning of my becoming a man before my time…. The school was strictly regimented.  We lived in dormitories named Shaftesbury, Lister, Wren, Gordon and Shelley.  There were two women called ‘sisters’ (like matrons) who inspected our beds for tidiness and cleanliness…all the dormitories competed against each other. During the summer, we had school in the morning and evening and the afternoons were for sport and recreation.

We also worked on the local farms during the school holidays.  While we were there we had to join the Boys Brigade or Scouts.  To give some idea of the type of school, which was full of evacuees, we had 30 (average) in the classrooms

After The war


After the war, apparently, children could still be sent by their parents to St. Margarets for a month, to enjoy the country and outdoor life, as well as receiving formal education.

In 1957 the site became a residential school for E.S.N. children, under the auspices of the Bedfordshire County Council Education Department.

When I first joined the school in 1975, it housed children from the age of 7 through to l6.  The boys ands girls (who would be designated nowadays as Special Needs children) were in those days labelled ‘educationally sub normal’.  However at least half a dozen of the children were not E.S.N. but what was termed ‘maladjusted’.  This was not a happy mix – and tension was greatly relieved when two Units for the Maladjusted were opened in Bedfordshire and the ‘maladjusted’ children were transferred.  Altogether there were some 50 or 60 children there at one time.  They lived at St. Margarets during term time and were taken home for the holidays. Most of them came from  Luton and Bedford.  Prior to coming to live at Great  Gaddesden they had attended Special Schools in Bedfordshire but had been found, for a variety of reasons, to be unsuitably placed – hence their removal to St. Margarets.

The Dormitories

The  school was very basic.  Four long dormitories raised from the ground by concrete pillars, wooden steps up to each dormitory and a passageway at the end of each dormitory giving access to teachers’ quarters at the end of the building.  There was also a wooden building housing a big hall, a workshop for the boys to practice woodwork etc., a kitchen, dining room and a staff room – all buildings raised up from the ground on pillars.

Most of the staff – teaching and domestic – lived in separate premises on the campus.

Buddhist Temple

In 1984 the land and premises were sold to the Amavarati Buddhist people and became a monastery or temple.

Deeds were passed on to them after the sale was completed.



This page was added on 12/10/2011.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.

  • I went to this school had some great time and bad. Enjoy my time. Met so good people most people were ok. Staff we also ok. Doing well now 🙏🏿Everyone

    By Alex prosper (25/07/2022)
  • I went to.this school in 1980 aged 6yrs old left at 16 yrs old mixed feelings about the place left March 29 1991

    By Adrian bandy (25/09/2020)
  • I went to St Margaret’s school at the age of 8 in 1961 and left at 16 in 67. At the time the head teacher was Mr Murphy also the PE teacher was Mr Jones.
    Mr Jones became head after I left. I also knew Mr Jones’s family very well.

    By Richard Heathfield (29/11/2019)
  • My dad Harry Illing, was at this camp from 1940 aged 12 and at 14 he was asked to stay on and look after the pigs and chickens and ‘a general dog’s body’ at the end of the war the manager, Mr Birk. He left the camp 1948 to join the army, and made several visits back to the camp and stayed with Mr Birk . Anyone remember him?

    By Sue Clark (19/10/2019)
  • Hi,
    I’m trying to track down my mothers family tree. I think she was a domestic cook here around 1945? Does anyone remember Kathleen Phelan? Any information would be great

    By Jemma Potter (01/11/2018)
  • I went to this school from 1968 till 1971 when I was 16 I have mixed feelings about the school

    By Kathryn vulovic nee hunt (16/04/2018)
  • My parents (Maureen and Eddie) were house parents 1976-77 and we lived there on site. I was a toddler and my older brother John went to the local primary. I have a quite a lot of early memories from that time and remember it being a happy place.

    By James Skinner (09/08/2016)
  • My parents, Eddie and Maureen Skinner were house parents there in 1976/77. We left when I was three, my brother John was about eight.

    My mum can remember you Gary Bell and the Jones family too. I recall a lot of nice things about the place. Most of my earliest memories were there.


    By James Skinner (25/05/2016)
  • My dad was headmaster of this school, grew up here with my 3 brothers. Have great memories of growing with all that space! The Tweed family lived oposite & I am still in touch with the boys.

    By Denise Jones (22/10/2015)
  • My dad was headmaster of this school…………. Ron Jones, my brothers, Mark, Anthony & Stephen have very happy memories growing up with all that space!

    Denise Jones

    By Denise Jones (08/10/2015)
  • My parents worked there as house parents from roughly 1978/79 until it was closed and it moved to Calton in Bedfordshire.  They looked after the younger boys and it felt like I grew up with 12 brothers. 

    By Cathy Nash ( Vyvyan) (12/07/2015)
  • i also went to this school 1968-77! Best times of my life. Dormantry headmaster Trevor smith! 

    By Wayne hunt (01/01/2015)
  • I went to this school, and had some of the best times of my life, I started there around 1975 until I left school in 1979,

    By gary bell (19/04/2013)