Claremont Fan Court School

Radnor, Class of 1993

Lara Watkins

Lara shares treasured memories and photographs taken during her schools days. Fun stories include playing lacrosse for Claremont's 1st team, half time oranges at sports fixtures, swimming (in the cold!), after school chess club with Mr Basman and performing in the musical, Rats:

“I can honestly say that I loved every moment at Claremont. I feel so very lucky and privileged to have been a pupil there.

I have so many happy memories that it is difficult to know where to start!

Sport was my passion and with Claremont’s amazing facilities and stunning grounds I threw myself into every sporting activity there was. I think I represented the school in every sport whether it was tennis, swimming, rounders, netball or athletics. But lacrosse was my passion. We started with wooden sticks and each year I had to treat my stick with linseed oil. We later changed to plastic which was quite revolutionary at the time.

I went on to play for the 1st team and represented Surrey and the South. I distinctly remember the half time oranges and the after match jammy doughnuts. But even to this day people don’t believe me when I tell them I went on a school lacrosse and netball tour to Australia! I was 15 at the time and I remember working part time every weekend washing dishes in a local restaurant to save up. The hard work was absolutely worth it. It was a trip of a lifetime.

Swimming! In the junior school we were taught to swim in a little square open air pool. In my middle school and senior years we swam in the outdoor pool near the upper car park. We swam all year round even when it was so cold we could see are own breath. I think once we had to break the ice! The changing area was two marquee type tents one for boys and one for girls. Despite it always being horrible getting in, I still have fond memories of the experience; after all cold water swimming has been proven to be an incredible health benefit and currently very in vogue.”

“I loved learning. One of the proudest days was finally achieving my certificate in assembly for ‘The Thorough Understanding of Multiplication Tables’. I stood proudly at the front of hall in front of all of the junior school. My middle school days then saw me practicing every weekend for the weekly 50 word spelling test. I enjoyed the challenge. I still remember learning words like ‘melancholy’ and ‘misanthropic’ and of course ‘necessary’ (one c, two ss). These days I’m pretty good at Countdown!

I remember when I chose my GCSE’s I was one of the few girls that chose Craft, Design and Technology. It was the year the brand new CDT department opened with state of the art technology. We designed and made circuit boards and pneumatic systems. In the old woodwork shed I would carve wood and I still have an apple carved on the wood turning lathe.

I remember the old wooden desks in the senior school with ink wells and although we had moved on to fountain pens by then our lessons were still black board and chalk. The classrooms were beautiful with elaborate patterned silk fabric walls. The library was a place of comfort with its tall wooden bookshelves and chairs you could relax in. I spent many hours in there. The staff room was next to the bottom of the grand staircase. The notice boards were on the opposite wall. We would all eagerly await the postings as to whether we had made it into a sports team or not and as to what position we would be playing in regards the team sports.

I was a chess club member and remember the after school club with the amazing Mr Basman. We went to tournaments and I particularly remember one which took place at the Barbican Centre in London attended by hundreds of other schools.”

“We always went on amazing school trips. We once went to a moated castle and re-enacted parts of The War of The Roses. We all dressed up and I for some unknown reason had chosen to be a maid. The first half of the day was spent down in the kitchen polishing the silver whilst my friends who had decided to be ‘ladies’ were upstairs having tea and cake in the castle dining room!

Drama was so much fun. Our year performed the musical ‘Rats’ in the Joyce Grenfell Centre. The preparations and rehearsals took months and the first performance was incredible. As a rat I had to creep out from under the tiered staging with all the other rats when the time came. In secret we waited nervously under the audience for our big moment. The show was sensational in all aspects. I can only but imagine the effort the staff went to to put it all together with the music, lights, scenery and of course organising all of the young performers.

Every day at Claremont was fun. I looked forward to going to school and hated it if I had to have a day off because of illness. I made friends for life at Claremont. Two of my three children have Claremont Godmothers.

The mansion is stunning. I remember learning about the mini haha (no fences in order to not destroy the view of the landscape), the Belvedere, the dumb waiter, and of course the lift with its metal gate. And the grounds; what can you say other than thank you Capability Brown.

Overall, I only have one regret. I once equalled the 75 meter hurdles record. At the time it hadn’t been beaten or equalled in 50 years. Why couldn’t I have been a millisecond faster?”