ROSSHOLME - A POTTED HISTORY
Rossholme was until 1940, the Vicarage for East Brent. There has obviously been a dwelling here for a very long time and archaeological digs have found signs of the Romans and lron Age living. The "modern” house has a Tudor element but the main part is early Victorian.
Archdeacon George Anthony Denison was Vicar of East Brent from 1845 until his death in 1896. He was a well known and, locally, much loved and respected Character with strong theological views which were at variance with the vicar of the neighbouring parish of Brent Knoll and resulted in him being tried by the Ecclesiastical Court in London. Much to the delight of his parishioners, he was found not guilty and, on his return from London after the trial, he was carried by his parishioners from the parish boundary back to the Vicarage.
The death of a number of parishioners from Cholera in 1878 - 1880, prompted Denison to do something about a fresh water supply to the Village. A series of dams and wells from a spring near the top of the Knoll and creating two ponds on our boundaries as well as the ornamental pond and a village pump and standpipes, was one of his main achievements.
His other historic achievement was the Harvest Horne. Started in East Brent with his curate, John Higgs, Denison felt the end of the harvest should be celebrated with a suitable festival for all his parishioners and so the first ever Harvest Home was held here in these grounds in 1858. Some 600 people sit down to enjoy a traditional lunch of beef, salt beef, salad and local cheese swilled down with plenty of beer or local scrumpy after a Church Service and the tradition continues to this day. It has been celebrated at the end of August every year except for a break during and after the war - and this year because the ground was just too soggy - and many local parishes have copied the idea. Tradition has it that the harvest hymn “Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of Harvest Horne” was Written for our Harvest Horne.
Like many Victorian Vicars, he was also very interested in horticulture and many of the lovely trees in the grounds were planted during his time here. There were two tennis Courts on what is now the Croquet Lawn in front of Rossholme Country House and, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the rolling of the lawns with an old fashioned creaking roller was a daily early morning task for boarders during the summer months.
Another well known Vicar of East Brent was Prebendary Archdale Wickham. He was Wicket Keeper for Somerset and an avid lepidopterist; a stained glass window on the left side of the chancel in St Mary’s Church was placed as a memorial to him and reflects his interests.
In 1940, when soldiers and evacuees were all billeted on the vicarage, Reverend Palmer, the incumbent, was taking tea with Mrs Ham, a local lady with a very musically talented 17 year old granddaughter called Freda. Poor Freda, a pupil at Rossholme School in Weston super Mare, was finding her Matriculation examinations very tiresome during the blitz because air raid warnings sent them all scurrying down to the cellars of the school building, where they had to remain in silence, sometimes for 2 hours, until the all clear was sounded.
The Vicar was finding the running of the huge Vicarage equally tiresome with soldiers, evacuees and very few staff... Between them, the Grandmother and the Vicar hatched the plan for Rossholme to take over the Vicarage on a temporary basis! Freda, who had gained maximum marks in her Grade 8 (Final) Piano examination at the age of 16 and was presented with a certificate by the then Duke of Kent, was unable to take up her offer of a scholarship at the Royal Academy because of the War. She remained teaching and playing piano at Rossholme until her death at the age of 81 in 2003.
The original Rossholme building in Weston super Mare was flattened by German bombs just two weeks after the school moved out and very few vicars would have had sufficient means to run such a huge vicarage post war and so Rossholme, founded in Weston super Mare in 1888, remained here until its closure in 2005, the final one of Weston super 27 independent Schools pre- war to close.
Rossholme was an independent boarding and day school for girls. During the 1970’s, with four houses in the village accommodating boarders, numbers were up to 150. Mrs EM Griggs had taken over the headship and moved here with her husband and young family in 1956. Their daughter, Judith took over the school in 1986 after a Career in the Army and Rossholme has been home to Judith and her husband Gerry since then. They brought up their two children, Alex and Emily, now grown up, at Rossholme.
The Clocktower was built in 2003 and was opened by the Duke of Gloucester. It provided a school hall/ theatre and additional Classrooms for the school and is now used for functions, parties, seminars and weddings as well as a Wellness Centre offering therapies, treatments, coaching and classes.
Surrounded by Glebe land, the Webbs had tried to expand the school to provide additional playing fields, facilities and class rooms but had found themselves unable to do so. Reluctantly, they took the decision to close the school in 2005 because they realised that, with a maximum of 125 pupils, they would not be viable in the long term. The school was full and thriving, but they could not foresee a long term future for a small independent school with limited facilities.
The Gatehouse was converted from the school Science Lab and Art Department to create the 2 bedroom Cottage and the boarding accommodation, Kindergarten and Headmistress’ Study have become the holiday letting property now known as Rossholme Country House.
With its five acres of lawns and landscaped grounds, open air heated swimming pool and tennis court, Rossholme has, since 2009, proved a very popular holiday destination for families and groups. There is accommodation for up to twenty one people in nine bedrooms in Rossholme Country House and for up to seven in The Gatehouse.