A step back in time for St Loye’s students

Former students and employees of St Loye’s College shared memories at an exhibition of photos and artefacts at Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter.

St Loye’s College was founded as a charity by Dame Georgiana Buller who wanted people with disabilities to have the opportunity to work and fulfil their potential.

The college was located on Topsham Road and supported thousands of people from 1937 until 2008.

The charity continues today as Step One, which organised the event to celebrate its 80th year and offer people with a connection to the old college the opportunity to view its historical items.

Artefacts included photographs dating back to the 1940s, large aerial photos of the site, a visitor book with an entry from the charity’s patron Her Majesty The Queen when she was Princess Elizabeth, and an early model typewriter.

One of the attendees was Christine Cavill, 69, from Beacon Heath who came with her husband Stafford.

She said: “I started at St Loye’s in 1965 after I moved to Exeter. It was a lifeline for me to go to the college because I didn’t know a soul when I moved here. I had come over from Gibraltar and had recently recovered from longstanding problems with my spine which needed pioneering surgery. I made lots of friends at the college and met my husband who lived nearby. I learnt to use a comptometer at the college and do mathematics on it. When I left I got married and had three children. I returned in 1987 to train in commercial skills which led to paid employment afterwards. St Loye’s College was very important in my life because it gave me the skills to get a job but also the skills to make friends.”

Also in attendance was Exeter jeweller Ivor Doble, 92, who learnt watchmaking skills at the college in 1946-1947.

Eilis Rainsford, Chief Executive of Step One, said: “Our charity’s work began with Dame Georgiana Buller’s vision and the decades of support that St Loye’s College gave to people. It is also a part of the history of Exeter and the many people who attended or worked at the college. We are delighted that our historical items can be expertly looked after at the Devon Heritage Centre where they can be made available to the public.”

Photographs and items are now being stored at Devon Heritage Centre. If you would like to volunteer with sorting and cataloguing photos from St Loye’s College please contact the centre on 01392 888700 and ask for Brian Carpenter or Stuart Tyler.

14 November 2017