The museum is currently hosting an exhibition of Polish Papercuts from the Horniman Museum (on until 3 March 2018) and we’ve been exploring the town’s Polish connections.
Shephalbury Manor soon after it was built in 1865.
During the Second World War, Shephalbury Manor was a convalescent home for Polish officers. After the war, in 1950, it opened as a boarding school to house and educate Polish orphans. Later the children of Polish refugees also attended the school.
A classroom at the Polish School in Shephalbury in 1954.
The school was run by the committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain and financed by the Ministry of Education. When the school opened on 1 March 1950 thirty children aged 5 to 11 were brought from a National Assistance Board camp for war orphans in Cheshire. By 1954, 93 children attended. All lessons were conducted in English with subjects including writing, arithmetic and history and many of the children later went on to grammar schools. But as the head teacher Mr Jaworski explained, academic progress was not the school’s only duty. “We must give the children good heart and a warm atmosphere” he said. “It must not only be a good school, it must be a good home, also.”
The Polish school closed in the late 1950s and it seems Mr Jaworski succeeded, as many of the children who attended have happy memories of their time at the school. The house became a boarding school for children from London with behavioural problems, then it stood empty for a while before the Coptic Church took it over.
A group of children at the Polish School, Shephalbury Manor, known as the Krakov Dancers, taken in the early 1950s.