History at The Hammond

Student of the Week, No. 15 – Susan Carter

This week our student of the week is Susan Carter née Schwantes. Sue was a dance student from 1962 – 1968.

What is your favourite memory of The Hammond?

Mrs Hassall driving us to the farm at the weekends with about 10 of us in the car. Whenever she saw a police car coming she would yell `heads down girls `. We could roam free on the farm or help her pick the apples which she would make into delicious apple jelly. Very often Mr Hassall would come in from fishing with a fresh salmon from the Dee and we would have it for tea. Her generosity to us was quite incredible.

What did you go on to do?

I studied from April 1968 – July 1970 at the Royal Ballet School but also secretly took lessons with Robert Cohen at The Place after he had given a lecture demonstration at the RBS. I danced with the ballet company of the Cologne Opera House 1970 – 1983 . We eventually became the first modern dance company in Germany training every other day in Graham. This is when Anna Price joined us as ballet mistress having been ballet mistress for Ballet Rambert for some years. After dancing with Walter Gore in London she won a scholarship to the Graham school and danced with the company

I started to teach in 1989, Tutor and Examiner ( PTS ) for both the CBTS and PDPTC Programmes of the RAD since their inception.

What do you do now?

I am mostly retired from teaching except for older students, coaching, teacher training / RAD PDPTC and CBTS programmes and courses in healthy dance based mainly on Bartenieff Fundamentals (Irmgard Bartenieff), Spiral Dynamics (Dr Christian Larsen) and Anatomy Trains (Thomas Myers).

In the last five years I have increased studies of Early Childhood Reflexes which, having observed the work of Sally Goddard Blythe MSc. ( International Director of The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester and author of books on child development) it was obvious that this work was using Bartenieff Fundamentals but without the use of the all- important ‘rocking component.’

All children coming to my school are tested (without them realising it) and Bartenieff Fundamentals then built into the classwork (they love it!)

The results are amazing and increasingly primary schools are including it in their curriculum all due to the work of Dr Anita Ginter (Bartenieff Educator) here in Freiburg.

I would certainly recommend testing for ongoing dancers and dance teachers.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The training given at the Hammond was the basis for everything else I learned not only as a dancer but as a human being. Thank you Mrs Hassall!

Pictures, clockwise from left: The first production I danced in Cologne, Divertimento Nr. 15, where I had the privilege to work with George Balanchine; Under the Cherry Tree, 1963.

Student of the Week, No. 14 – Chrissie Eccleston – Tuohy

This week our student of the week is current staff member Chrissie Eccleston-Tuohy.  Chrissie was a senior school dance student from 1981 -1984.

What is your favourite memory from The Hammond?

I will never forget being chosen by Paula Hinton-Gore to be in her ballet “Peep Show”. I cannot explain the honour I felt and true disbelief that she thought I was good enough. There were only three of us in the piece – Paul Jenner, Jason Barker and myself. It was the most magical time rehearsing with this scary but knowledgeable lady. She was a legend!

Chrissie Eccleston 1983 - No. 12
Chrissie Eccleston, 1983 at No. 12 Liverpool Rd.
Gateway Theatre 1983 - Helen, Sarah Wilson, Chrissie Eccleston, Stephanie Brangwin, Lisa
Chrissie Eccleston at The Gateway Theatre, 1984.
Paul Jenner, Chrissie Eccleston, Jason Barker at Gateway Theatre 1984 - 'Peep Show'
Peep Show at The Gateway Theatre 1984.

What did you go on to do?

I went on to teach at Mvsika Centro de Estudos in Goiânia, Brazil. I taught ballet, modern, jazz and tap to students aged 4-24. I also danced with the older students in the schools performing company. On my return I was asked by the then Head of Dance at The Hammond, Gillian Anthony, to work for the school. I taught in the associate department and senior school initially and then began teaching in the lower school. My role at The Hammond evolved into a full time teacher of modern, jazz, tap and Pilates.

Chrissie Eccleston teaching primary & grade 1 No. 18 Liverpool Rd
Teaching primary and grade 1 at No. 18 Liverpool Rd.

What do you do now?

I now teach lower and senior school students and on The Hammond Associate programme. My teaching involves the relatively new Pilates Tutor Training and other responsibilities include Fitness coordinator, Social Events and Health and Safety Officer for the Dance Department.

Anything else you would like to add?

I have worked at The Hammond for 30 years now and have truly loved my career so far. The school has been supportive of me and my goals, allowing me to attend courses throughout my time at The Hammond and helping me to develop as a teacher. I have probably taught hundreds of students and try to remember them all but it is proving more difficult as the year’s progress.

Given the chance, I would do it all over again. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to teach every student who has passed through my classes.

Student of the Week, No. 13 – Emma Hignett.

This week our student of the week is Emma Curran née Hignett. Emma attended The Hammond from 1985 to 1988.

What course were you on?

I was a dance student on the three year senior school course studying dance and training to teach.  In year 2  I converted to the Musical Theatre Course.  In my final year I was Head Girl.

What is your favourite memory from The Hammond?

That’s a hard question to answer, but it’s probably the school production in our first year.  It felt like we rehearsed for weeks and I loved the intensity of that rehearsal period, spending 10 hours a day at college, probably more, with rehearsals all weekend too.  I was involved in the jazz, tap, contemporary and ballet pieces.  It was a steep and intense learning curve; memories include Sara Neil spending an evening teaching us how to do our hair and make up for Les Sylphides (in a studio behind no 12 Liverpool Road); Suzanne Cunningham developing and choreographing the contemporary piece as her pianist composed the music alongside her, rehearsals in the theatre with Gillian Anthony and Sara Neil watching armed with a microphone for instant notes, and the genuine thrill of spending so much time in Chester Gateway Theatre.  I had such close friends at the Hammond, and it was a wonderful experience to share with them.

Hammond image 1
The Hammond – Emma in second row back and third from left.

Another favourite memory was during my second year, when a number of us were selected to attend a week-long course at the Royal Ballet School, in its old location on Talgarth Road in London.  We had a crazy and great fun week racing around London, taking classes, choreographing, performing in Covent Garden Market and more.

Hammond 2
The Hammond – Emma is posed in the middle on the floor.

What did you go on to do?

Having completed the Musical Theatre Course I wanted to get my full Equity card on leaving The Hammond.  Together with several other girls from my year at Hammond, I joined Circo Magico Italiano touring Mexico for 9 months.  That was one hell of an experience – with highs and lows, but it’s a story I still use to surprise people who know me now!  After the circus, I danced for a few more years, performing in Japan and in France.  I was however plagued by bad knees, and in my mid 20s I moved into radio presenting, and later a little bit of television presenting.  The Hammond and my dancing career taught me to perform – and that’s what I did in my radio and tv work – and still do!

Circo Magico Italiano
Circo Magico Italiano

What do you do now?

 I guess to get to my career/ business now I’ve built on both my broadcasting career and the acting and performing training I had while at the Hammond.  I’m now a voiceover artist.  I have a studio at home, and I record voiceovers for many different clients across the world.  I work on corporate films, training programmes, commercials and more.  However, I’m best known as the voice of London’s Buses, Overground Trains and Riverbus and soon will be the voice of the new Elizabeth Line.  I love this job too!

Voiceover studio
Emma  in the studio.

Anything else you would like to add?

Facebook has been a wonderful way to reconnect with my many friends from The Hammond – without it, I simply wouldn’t be in touch with so many of my contemporaries.  It’s been great to see what everyone’s up to, to compare and contrast, to share our experiences and stories.  We organised a reunion a few years ago and several people came back to Chester from across the world – many of us hadn’t been to Chester since we left at the end of our years at Hammond.  We went to see the Hammond Summer Production – the Hammond didn’t have its own theatre in our day, and in fact the studios that were by far the best in our day are not a patch on some of the facilities they have now.  It was lovely to see how the school has developed in that time.

The Indomitable Betty Hassall

Without Betty Hassall, The Hammond would not be what it is today. Mrs Hassall devoted the majority of her life to The Hammond. Her vision and tenacity took the school forward with the purchase of 12, 16 and 18 Liverpool Rd, Chester and later Hoole Bank House; through her endeavours The Hammond became, and continues to be, a centre of excellence.

Elizabeth Dorothea Priaulx Taudevin was born in Cheltenham on the 15th of March 1909 where her mother, May, was a close friend of Irene Hammond. When the family moved to the Wirral, May sent Betty to have dance lessons with her friend, who was by then teaching in Chester. Betty attended classes in the early 1920s.

Jane, betty, Lois and friend c. 1916
Betty and her sisters Lois and Jane and a friend, riding a donkey cart. Circa, 1916.
Betty, Jane and Lois and Dick
Betty and her siblings: Jane, Lois and Dick.

During her teens, Betty was sent to the Maison de la Harpe, a finishing school in Switzerland. Aged 17, she returned to England and Miss Hammond to assist with children’s classes.

Betty early 1920s
Betty in the early 1920s.

After her marriage in 1931 to Joseph Ernest Hassall, Betty left dance and moved to their new home at Hargrave House, Willaston.Two children were born; Elizabeth Ann, whose godmother was Irene Hammond, in 1933 and Patricia in 1936. Both daughters died tragically young.

Betty and Ernest Hassall
Betty and Ernest Hassall, circa 1933.
Betty with Ernest (Ann 1935-55 - Pat 1937 -1939)
Betty, Ernest and their two daughters; Elizabeth Ann and Patricia.

In 1945 Betty re-joined the staff of The Hammond. One year later, upon Miss Hammond’s death, she and Miss Madeleine Chambres took over the school. Before her death Miss Hammond had been searching for a permanent home for the school, and had entered into an arrangement with Moreton Hall School. Under Mrs Hassall’s direction this collaboration lasted until 1950.  In the early 1950s, she arranged to first rent and later buy 12 Liverpool Rd, Hampton Lodge.

The school at Liverpool Rd began with three boarders and quickly grew. Extensions were added as more students arrived. In 1962 Mrs Hassall proposed an educational department and this began at 16 Liverpool Rd, expanding to No. 18 in 1968.

Betty Hassall 12 Liverpool Rd
Betty Hassall outside 12 Liverpool Rd in the late 1960s.

In 1969 Mrs Hassall bought Hoole Bank House, initially to house the education department and eventually the whole school. The Hammond, with its multi-tiered education system and state of the art facilities, has now grown to fulfil Betty Hassall’s vision.

Betty Hassall died in 1980 – only six months after her new house, in the grounds of Hoole bank, was built.

Student of the Week, No. 12 – Kelsie-Rae Marshall

Our student of the week this week is Kelsie-Rae Marshall. She attended The Hammond from 2006-2008, as a dance student, and from 2008-2011 as a senior student on the Musical Theatre Diploma course.

What is your favourite memory from The Hammond?
The Christmas carol concert at the Chester Cathedral and working with Kevin Williams to make a classic, professional performance.

Production 2007, Theatre Clwyd The Hammond Lower School Stacey Mcguire, rye-Llewelyn Carpenter, Sharif Afifi and Kelsie-Rae Marshall
End of year production at Theatre Clwyd, 2007.
We Will Rock You playing Meat The Hammond 2010
End of year production, We Will Rock You, 2010.

What did you go on to do?
I’ve currently finished performing in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, before that I played Demeter in CATS and was a lead singer for spirit productions travelling China with the show Red Hot Broadway.  My first job was working for Carnival Cruise lines as a dancer. After five months I successfully auditioned to be in the inaugural cast for Carnivals Playlist Productions, working with the Broadway director Peter Flynn and commercial choreographer Paul Roberts.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang UK tour Toot sweets
Performing Toot Sweets on The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang UK tour.

What do you do now?
I’m going to be teaching dance around London whilst auditioning for musical theatre.

Kelsie-Rae Marshall.

Thank-you so much for your memories and best of luck from The Hammond!

Student of the Week No. 11 – Rachael Lynette Day

Our student of the week this week is Rachael Lynette Day who attended The Hammond from 1996 -1998 as dance student.


Pictures from the last days of year 11, taken in the dinning room of Hoole Bank House, 1998.

What is your favourite memory from The Hammond?

Where to begin; I absolutely loved all of the preparations for the end of year shows.  With being a dance day student I loved being able to stay at the boarding house for the 2 weeks during rehearsals and performances, we had so much fun during this period due to the buzz of performing on stage. One memory in particular stands out for me; when choreographer Geoffrey Cauley chose Yedra, Sheryl and myself for a one of piece created solely for us. It was an honour to be asked, and to perform.

Getting changed in the ice cold portakabins is a memory I will never forget, along with the yearly Carol Service held in the local Church with our musty school capes. I have such a long list of memories shared that it is impossible to put into words.

End of year show, 1997.
Class reunion in June 2008; left to right – Robin, myself, Jessica, Daniela and Vicki.

What did you go on to do?

I started dancing at the age of two, competing in local dance festivals across the Northwest and Wales; where I won the title of Welsh National Ballet champion. I joined The Royal Ballet Lower School in London at the age of 11 and attended The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet’s summer and Easter courses, it was only in the third school year I began at The Hammond.

After The Hammond I continued my dance training at the The Royal Ballet’s Upper School at the age of 16. During this time I performed with The Royal Ballet at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Holland Park, and The Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Repertoire included The Nutcracker, Giselle, and many galas. I also secured a contract with The English National Ballet for a production of Sleeping Beauty at The a Royal Albert Hall London.

I unfortunately retired from Professional Ballet due to long term leg injuries and took a well deserved rest; however without dancing I didn’t feel complete, and so my new career began when I attended my first Cuban Salsa class.

Pictures from our Timba show, 2014.

I began Salsa 10 years ago! I have taught at several Chester venues over the last 10 years before joining, my LATINMania! partner, Lee Baker four years ago to run our very popular regular Wednesday night at Telfords Warehouse Chester. My passion for dance continues to grow, as I develop my style and technique with leading UK and International artists in mainly Cuban Salsa, Bachata, Son and Afro-Cuban, and each summer I take a group of my students to the Croatian Salsa Festival.  As well as Telfords, I also teach at another regular venue in Chester presently, at Theatre Clwyd and at Salsa Congresses and events across the UK. Since January 2016 I, as LATINMania!, have hosted the popular monthly Saturday Latin Party in Connah’s Quay, North Wales. My passion for dance, discipline and energy shines through in my teaching and its this love of dance that I want to continue to share.

Teaching Bachata at The Bournemouth Salsa Congress with Fadi K, November 2015.

Anything else you would like to add?

My love of dance began at an early age, however The Hammond will always be a huge part of the reason I am still dancing and teaching today. I wish to thank all of my teachers, Brenda Last and my amazing parents from the bottom of my heart for all of the opportunities given to me, it was a privilege.

Rachael now.

What a brilliant career – thankyou so much for your memories Rachael.

WWI Exhibition at The Hammond


From 1914 to 1919 Hoole Bank House was run as a Red Cross Hospital that treated over 1,100 patients.

In November last year Hammond Historian Caroline Hamilton and local historian David Rees mounted a small exhibition about this period in the history of Hoole Bank.



See blog post Hoole Bank House and The Great War for the text from these panels.

The exhibition also featured 26 photographs of the soldiers housed at Hoole Bank during this period. This photos had previously been misidentified.




The Hammond was also lucky enough to be chosen to receive a WWI loan box from the Imperial War Museum. This wonderful resource contained original and replica artefacts. We were able to put some of these on display before Christmas.





100 years of Miss Hammond – come and celebrate on July 7th 2017!


Across 2017 The Hammond is celebrating 100 years since Miss Irene Hammond came to Chester. From humble beginnings the school has grown and Hammond Alumni  now grace stages and studios all over the globe.

This summer we would like to invite The Hammond Alumni to come back and help celebrate 100 years since Miss Hammond’s arrival.

We have two exciting events on the Friday the 7th of July.

Package One.  Alumni Afternoon  Tea

The first event will take place on the afternoon of Friday the 7th of July.

The afternoon will include :

  • Pre-show tour of The Hoole Bank campus.
  • Ticket for the Centenary Gala Matinée.
  • Souvenir programme.
  • Interval glass of prosecco.
  • Copy of the alumni group photograph.
  • Post-show visit to 12 Liverpool Rd to include afternoon tea .

Tickets cost £30. (Spaces for the visit to Liverpool Rd and the afternoon tea are limited – so please book early).


Package Two. Black Tie Gala

The second event will take place on the evening of Friday the 7th of July.

This evening will include:

  • Ticket to the Centenary Gala evening performance.
  • Souvenir programme.
  • Pre-show and interval reception.

Dress code: Black Tie

Tickets cost £25 (£30 for non alumni).

* Details may be subject to change. Timings and additional details to follow.

Tickets  are available  by calling 01244 305 362 from tomorrow (14th of February). Please quote Alumni Package one or two when booking.

Book early to avoid disappointment.


Student of the Week No. 10 – Julian Morgan, Part Two.

Part Two of Julian Morgan née Bamfield’s memories.

Miss Hammond passed away in 1946 and I pined for my ballet classes. In 1948 we moved to Shrewsbury where ordinary dancing classes in the Raven Hotel ballroom were given by a visiting teacher from Chester.  Then in 1951 (I think that is the right year) Mrs Hassall told my parents that she was thinking of starting a boarding establishment at 12 Liverpool Road in Chester. There was another pupil, Margaret Tompkins, who wanted to come – would I join her? So it was arranged that I attend the Queen’s School by day, attend ballet classes in the evenings and go home on Saturday till Sunday evening. Margaret and I lived happily together for our first year looked after by the caretaker, Greta; being cooked for but doing all our own washing and cleaning.

Mary Wood was boarding when I started and was training to do her Solo Seal. We were allowed to watch her classes and did so with awe and envy. Because she was a senior student we didn’t have much contact with her.

Mary Wood and Peter Sheldon in the early 1950s.

I remember Auntie Ham, (Miss Hammond’s Aunt, Alice Hammond, who also lived in Liverpool Rd) who was a delightful old lady. She used to give us licorice all sorts when we visited her room. 

The following year [1952?] several more students joined us [at 12 Liverpool Rd] and there was a definite feeling of having our space invaded, especially in the airing cupboard where we hung our tights, leotards and socks to dry every night and for a hot bath.  The third year all the bedrooms were full, there was a proper matron – Miss Dewar followed by Mrs Gill – but no more room in the airing cupboard or hot water.  We took  exams, competed in competitions in Liverpool, performed in Chester operatic productions, did classes in ballet, tap, modern and music appreciation from 5-6 every evening. Homework was fitted in somehow. We helped with Saturday morning classes and Saturday afternoon ballroom lessons in Upton Village Hall, which gave us a chance to see some boys! I was lucky enough to be taken out by a couple of cadets from Eton Hall some weekends which caused some serious questioning by Mrs Hassall. ‘Does you mother know about this?’ ‘Yes of course’ was the reply with my fingers crossed!

Romance was not on the cards for the students but we watched from the sidelines as Miss Frances (Barbara Frances) collected her daily letter from the post table and took turns to call Miss Dibb to the phone – which was in the dining room so easily answered and offered no privacy.With more pupils around at weekends Mrs Hassall arranged visits to their farm in the Wirral. If we were lucky there was a birth of piglets to be seen, hay stacks to jump from and acres of fields to enjoy. We helped cook lunch and really felt that it was a home from home.

In 1955 I left to attend the Royal Academy of  Dancing Teachers Training Course at Fairfield Lodge in Kensington.  Alison Forrester, a friend from The Hammond, came as well. Alison, and Francoise Syson a fellow student who later taught at the Hammond, have remained friends since then.

What have I done since then? I married a dashing diplomat and travelled overseas to China, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Sierra Leone and the Philippines. As well as attempting to learn Chinese and Serbo Croat I taught children of diplomatic colleagues but my real opportunity came in Manila. Their excellent ballet company for whom I had  managed to raise considerable funds invited me to perform as the Wicked Stepmother in the Christmas production of Cinderella. No mean task at the age of 47. For 3 months I disappeared from diplomatic dinners and went back to class. But I did it and loved having the opportunity to dance again. Now I enjoy watching one of my grandsons performing in school dance productions.

Julian today.

Thank-you so much Julian!

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