Jaw on Freedom

In the context of the centenary of the outbreak of WWI and Remembrance Day last month, the students and I reflected on the nature of freedom at Jaw on 19 November.

Jaw fell the day before the anniversary of the death of General Franco, Spain’s Fascist Dictator from 1939-1975, and so we considered Spain’s experience of apparent peace and stability during his regime. Spain had suffered for 200 years with internal and external unrest and so the stability was welcomed by many but it came at high price of loss of freedom for most. Half a million Spaniards died during the three year Civil War, started by Franco and his supporters in 1936, and millions became exiles or refugees during and after the war. Tens of thousands were killed or imprisoned for their opposition to Franco’s government. Some historians believe that the lack of support for the Spanish government shown by other European states, in contrast with the planes and soldiers sent by Hitler and Mussolini to aid Franco’s efforts, facilitated the start of WW2.

As well as highlighting the fact that so many live with their freedoms restricted, we celebrated the work and success of many in seeking freedom and equality for all. We listened to Nelson Mandela’s speech at the start of his trial in 1964, after which he was imprisoned for 26 years, and to Martin Luther King’s last public speech before his murder in 1968.

The Jaw was an opportunity for Clare Denning, Naveed Khalessi and Sofia Palm to highlight some current campaigns and successes by Amnesty, a non-government organisation whose campaigns are supported by a number of Bedales students. We ended with a reading of Vuelta de Paseo by Chloe Polkinghorne, Fernanda Verdon-Roe and Robyn Whittaker. Return from a walk was written by Federico García Lorca, Spain’s most famous poet and playwright, who was one of the first victims of the Spanish Civil War.

By Louise Wilson, Managing Head


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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World War 1 compass returns to Bedales

As we mark Remembrance Day at the end of this week, it is timely to mention a small artefact of World War 1 that has just made its way back to Bedales, some 96 years after it left us. It is a prismatic compass that the school presented to maths teacher Basil Gimson, when he went off to serve at the Front in 1916. Over half-term it came up for sale on eBay, and we were able to buy it back for the Archive.

Basil Gimson (1887-1953), the nephew of the Arts & Crafts architect and designer Ernest Gimson, spent most of his life at Bedales. He joined the school as a pupil in 1896 and then, after studies at MIT and Cambridge, returned in 1911 to teach. He taught here until his retirement, becoming Second Master (Deputy Head) in 1933, leaving us only for war service from 1916-1919. Basil and his wife Muriel are commemorated in the Memorial Library (designed by his uncle) with special chairs made at the Barnsley Workshop.

We have been in touch with his descendants, who had not seen the compass before, so we are not sure when it left his possession. The June 1916 issue of the Chronicle confirms that the gift was from the school, as the following extract shows …

“We wish to tender our heartiest good wishes, and those of the school, to Mr. Gimson, who went on Wednesday, May 31st, to join the Mechanical Transport.  We are very sorry to lose him, and we wish him the very best of luck. The day before his departure he was presented with a prismatic compass from the school and a torchlight, to hang on the belt, from the quartette, both of which things will, we hope, be found very useful.  On Tuesday evening Mr. Gimson thanked the school for their gift, saying how much he appreciated it and how he had been testing it during the day and had found it to be the best of its kind.” [Bedales Chronicle, June 1916]

By Jane Kirby, Librarian and Archivist

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.