Beechwood Centenary – June 2015
Former students scattered across the world joined together to mark Beechwood Sacred Heart School’s centenary reunion. As hundreds of old girls gathered in the school chapel in Pembury Road, enthusiastic schoolmates in Australia and elsewhere joined them in a video link-up.
“This has obviously unearthed a lot of memories and re-kindled many friendships. That spirit of celebration has been a rich part of school life over the past 100 years, and we want it to continue into the 21st century.”
Inviting those present to contribute to school memory books, the Head said their words and other mementos of Beechwood life would be buried in a time capsule which would lie hidden until the School’s 150th anniversary in 2065. Guest speaker and 1970s head girl Alex Martens, who went on to become a Foreign Office diplomat, arrived at the school when it was still a convent run by its founders, the nuns of the Sacred Heart order.
“We would be woken each day by a nun carrying holy water, and I remember being fined for everything from climbing out of a window to talking after lights out and whistling.”
Alex MartensGuest Speaker, Head Girl 1970
By the time she left, in 1975, the nuns had handed the school over to lay management. In 2008 it became co-educational, with numbers of boys and girls now evenly balanced throughout the school. For sisters Antoine and Zia Aylward, who came to Beechwood from New Zealand in 1962, re-visiting the school chapel designed by their father, local architect John Aylward, was an emotional experience.
“I remember him getting up at five o’clock in the morning to work on the design… But bumping into him all the time in the school corridors was a bit unnerving!”
Antoine AylwardFormer Pupil, 1962
For US-born Sandra Falzone and Marie-Noelle Mons from Belgium, their arrival at Beechwood in 1972 was the start of a lifetime of friendship.
“We have become part of one big family, both at school and beyond, and we still talk all the time, even though we are on opposite sides of the world.”
Sandra FalzoneFormer Pupil, 1972
The school marked its centenary by publishing an updated version of the school history, Calm Amidst the Waves, written by Jane Bakowski.