Student life at Soar House, Quorn, in the 1960s
Paul Dilks was a student at Loughborough College of Education from 1966 to 1969 and his hall of residence was at Soar House on Soar Road in Quorn, when John and Kate Hutchinson were Resident Tutor and Matron. Paul went on to have a career in teaching in Derby, and now retired he has kindly shared his memories of living at Soar House. Kate has also added a few reflections of own. Paul continues:
"I consider myself blessed and fortunate in being placed at Soar House where the quality of life was so amenable that most of the chaps said “give me a tenner a week for beer and I will stay for life”.
Mr and Mrs Hutchinson and their two young children lived in the house and Mr Hutchinson , who had taught in Nottingham before Soar was resident tutor and also a lecturer on the Creative Design course at Loughborough College of Education. His wife was Hall matron.
Soar House also used the Dower House which was further into the village centre [now part of Dower House Gardens]. It was basically called “ The Annexe” by Soar House dwellers.
Students were either future P.E. Teachers (jocks!) or craft teachers on the new Creative Design course (chippies!). We enjoyed five course waitress served meals every evening and on Wednesdays, personal tutors would be our guests and at the top table, wine was served. There were endless jugs of soup and endless pots of after dinner coffee. Full English breakfast with all trimmings were our daily round and at 10.00 p.m. a generous supper was laid out on a table in the hall if you could beat the jocks to it! Unlike my previous sixth form alumni , I put weight on in term time whilst they longed for home cooked food.
All the Sunday papers were laid out for us in the comfortable common room . The edifice had an air of Bertie Wooster about it if you cared to look at it in that way! We had a canoe house and tennis court in the garden through which the River Soar ran. The house was run on wartime RAF officer’s mess principles I was to learn later.
A college bus took us to college up through Charnwood Forest where we collected other students from Charnwood Hall. The bus returned us in the evening. All gratis! I was recently talking to an ex Loughborough College alumni in his 90’s . He was at Loughborough in the war and post war period and told me that the lanes around Charnwood Hall area were lined with stacks of artillery shells and large ordinance. There was no extra security or guarding apparent to him.
Below are three anecdotes of life with the Hutchinsons!
1. Upon arrival at Soar we were given a brief introductory welcome to explain how the house operated etc. It was explained that if we ever fell into or swam in the Soar we should immediately tell matron who “had some special medicine”. It was implied that this wonder drug would protect one from the teeming bacteria of the dreaded infected river if one swallowed any Soar water. Months later I took a canoe up the river and found some moorhens eggs. I thought that one of the Hutchinson little girls might like one for her nature table/collection, so with my hands full of paddle I simply carried the egg in my mouth.
Arriving back at the Soar House landing stage I decided to try what I think is called a telemark turn, as explained to me by one of the jocks who was an expert canoeist. I dug the paddle in the wrong way and executed half an Eskimo roll which resulted in my being upside down with the egg smashed up in my mouth. I swam clear and climbed onto the landing stage to see the canoe drifting downstream so I had recourse to dive in and rescue it.
I dutifully reported to matron as I had swallowed some Soar water. She administered the special medicine. It was Milk of Magnesia. It might have saved my life! Who knew?
2. I love singing and used to sing in the bath at Soar House without really thinking about it much , until one evening; I heard Kate Hutchinson shout up the stairs telling me to shut up. I considered myself to be soundly admonished by matron. Sorry!!!
3. I attended a study session in John Hutchinson’s workshop in the Bridgeman workshop block. We were heat treating steel samples, honing them, etching them with concentrated nitric acid, and then looking at the different structures under the microscope. My friend and I were at the etching stage when John Hutchinson called us over to the other side of the room to see a demonstration.
I thoughtlessly left my sample in the acid.(You were only supposed to briefly dip the sample and then wash it.) The demonstration proceeded but there was soon a strange smell and yellow creeping vapour. We had to evacuate the workshop. Mea Culpa!
It might sound like I am waxing idyllic, but perception is everything and as an impressionable and unworldly 18 year old council estate lad, a country house in the historically lordly Quorndon with its hunt and waitress service meals was something of a sea change.
I had the time of my life!"
Kate remembered Paul, and even that he arrived wearing a Mary Maxim zipped cardigan, which had a large pattern of a dog on the back that his mum had knitted for him! Kate continues:
“Evening meals and Sunday lunches were always formal, students were expected to wear a jacket and tie. As resident tutor John always dined with them and on Sundays Fiona (aged 6), Clare (aged 3) and me joined them. The girls now tell me how much they hated the Sunday lunch ritual. As the family trouped in the students stood to greet and for grace.
We had inherited this way of life from previous resident tutors and we carried on – present day students who have to self-cater would find this early 60’s ritual unbelievable, crested china and engraved silverware no less. Our students came from very varied backgrounds and we learned from past students how in later life they were grateful for the lessons they learned in living/dining at Soar House.
Yes, I often needed to administer Milk of Magnesia; interesting to remember how polluted the Soar was in those days – we often saw dead fish floating by! Severn Trent have done a good job cleaning it up.
We too have very happy memories of our time at Soar House and grateful for it because it brought us to Quorn where we have been happy to live for the past 55 years. We have an occasional visit and cards from past students. I had 22 local ladies as part time staff helping me run the two houses – Soar and Dower. We fed 66 students, some who came in just for meals but living in local ‘digs’”
For a photograph of Soar House at the time it belonged to the College and for more information about the history of the building see Artefact 1915.
The photograph shows Paul Dilks who now lives in Derbyshire.
Kate and John Hutchinson still live in Quorn today (2020).
||Paul Dilks, Kate Hutchinson and Sue Templeman