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2003: Jewish refugee recalls his time at Macaulay House College

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Frank A Gusdorf remembers Macaulay House College

I was born in 1926, and came to England as a young Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in 1939, a few weeks prior to World War Two. My father had succumbed at Buchenwald, a German concentration camp in December 1938-one of the first to die in what was to become the Holocaust. My immigration from Germany was a desperate effort to save sole male family survivors.

I arrived at what was then called Macaulay House College in August 1939. I was shown into the dining room for lunch, through a large gated entrance and inner courtyard. It had large, white washed walls, a beamed ceiling and large round tables.

English boarding school was a culture shock for me. I had learned English at school in Germany, but my ears were not attuned to it. The school was reputed to be named after Thomas Babington Macauley (1800-1859) who wrote the History of England, had later become a Member of Parliament, and who had lived at the house. It had a Lawn Tennis court at the back, the football field, and we played cricket which I initially thought was quite boring and a large oak trees in a cow pasture.

Ockenden Manor became a Jewish school called Macauley House during the second World War (photograph c1910 courtesy of Cuckfield Museum)

There were both boys and girls at the school, all of different backgrounds. My dormitory was in the largest building, accessible via a steep staircase. It had bare polished wood floors and was very cold. The bathrooms and toilets were in a smaller adjacent building, with flagstone floors. Baths once a week were arranged by matron, a middle aged local woman who also dealt meticulously with our laundry, which consisted mainly of our brown and pink scratchy wool uniforms.

I have mostly wonderful recollections of my times at Macauley House College, I benefited greatly from the hospitality of the English people, the education, and most of all the sense of stability and order they gave me. My stay in Cuckfield was a crucial part of my life. It gave me temporary security, a classic English education, and discipline, that I shall always look back to those times and places with great sentiment.

Over the years I wanted to return to Cuckfield, and in the spring of 1998 I finally succeeded. My wife and I came upon Ockenden Manor, which had once long ago been Macauley House College.

Frank A Gusdorf Los Gatos, California

from Cuckfield Society Newsletter (2003)

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