80th Birthday Visit to Slindon College

80th birthday - Helen Westbrook

Mrs Helen Westbrook visited Slindon College on her 80th Birthday on Friday 6th May, exactly 76 years since she celebrated her 4th birthday there.

In 1940, Slindon College was used a convalescent home for children, many with TB, but Helen was sent there from the East End as “she was not thriving”.  In her doctor’s opinion she was too small, too thin, and didn’t eat or sleep.  Therefore a billet in the country with the fresh sea air on the south coast  was prescribed.  Helen was just three years old when she was deposited at Slindon and spent over three months building up her strength.  She did, in fact, put on the grand total of one pound during that period!

Helen was brought down to Slindon by her son Ian and her daughter Caroline and was met by Jenny Davies, the Registrar of Slindon College and Mark Wardle, National Trust Warden.  After coffee and birthday cake on the lawns of the school she was presented with a bouquet of birthday flowers and then enjoyed a tour of the school and site where she recollected many memories, not least of being dressed up in heavy woollen layers every morning and being despatched outside in the fresh air to play.  Helen also recalled every Sunday being taken to the entry gates to await the “visitors”.  Sadly, hers never came.  However, Violet, Lady Beaumont, of Slindon House soon took Helen under her wing and became a great support to her.  Helen brought with her a number of letters that had been exchanged between her and Lady Beaumont after she had returned to the East End along with an original unused box of embroidered children’s handkerchiefs depicting tales of Dick Whittington,  that Lady Beaumont had sent as a birthday gift to her “dear little Helen”.

Helen was then taken on a one-hour drive of the Slindon National Park Estate to see the bluebells – evoking another vivid memory of her time in the country.

Helen said “Thank you all for making my visit so very special;  I have wanted to visit Slindon House again for a very long time.  I shall treasure the memories of the day,  together with the photographs and the wonderful bouquet of flowers”.