The Waltons

Hands up if you remember The Waltons, TV series of the 70s and 80s. Set on the fictional Walton’s Mountain, it was loosely based on the life of Earl Hamner Jnr of Schuyler, Nelson County, Virginia.

 

Image of Walton family from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/25/good-night-john-boy-good-night-earl-hamner-jr/?utm_term=.179fa5844ab6

Image from TV series https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25660694

A family saga with the backdrop of the Great Depression, John-Boy Walton was the narrator, introducing the story of his parents, grandparents and six siblings. With such a large family, there was always scope for plotlines.

Another large Walton family – this time a real one – is the Walton sextuplets born to Janet & Graham Walton in 1983. At the time, they were the world’s first female sextuplets that all survived and they are still going strong today with the next generation of baby Waltons starting to appear.

But the Walton family this blog is concerned with is that belonging to Sarah Jane Thornton Walton, admitted as a pupil 21st April 1836. Whilst researching her, a very interesting family history began to emerge although, strictly, this is less The Waltons, a family saga from mid nineteenth century Hull, as much as it is The Standidges, Hullites since Stuart times. Allow me to explain …

Sarah was the daughter of Samuel Standidge Walton (1794-1868) and Sarah Walton nee Shilling (1794-1866). Both of them actually survived their daughter to whom we will return shortly. Samuel Walton was a shipbuilder and in 1829, Pigot’s Directory places him as 1 High St, Sculcoates. This appears to be a business address related to the shipbuilding that was the family’s occupation. Later, Samuel is found in Marine Row, Kingston upon Hull; Worship St, Hull; Reed St, Sculcoates in 1841, 1851 and 1861 respectively. As well as being a shipbuilder (and a landed proprietor), Samuel was a Captain in the East Yorks Militia. He had held that Commission for 45 years and the Queen granted him special permission to retain his rank and wear the uniform even after he resigned the Commission.

The East Yorks Militia had the nickname of the Beverley Buffs to distinguish them from other Yorkshire Militia regiments.

Image of uniforms from http://www.eylhs.org.uk/dl/129/militia-yeomanry-and-volunteer-forces

‘a comparable officer’s suit of the East Yorkshire Militia for this period [i.e. 1790] – coat, waistcoat, breeches – lies uncelebrated in the vaults of York Castle Museum.’

‘The scarlet coat is lined and faced buff, with ten buttons and silver laces on each lapel, four on each pocket and cuff, and one each side of the collar. The silver buttons are blank, with a striped pattern. Waistcoat and breeches are both buff. The waistcoat has twelve silver buttons and laces at the front and three on each pocket; the breeches have a tie and four buttons at each knee’ writes richardawarren in https://thisreilluminatedschoolofmars.wordpress.com/tag/east-yorkshire-militia/

Which of these uniforms Captain Samuel may have been given permission to wear is not clear although a portrait identified as him shows something similar to the image above labelled 1798 although, as an officer, his attire was presumably a little fancier.

Whatever his appearance, we do know that in 1867, Samuel gifted to the Corporation of Hull a portrait of his great grandfather, Sir Samuel Standidge.

Hull Packet 30 August 1867

unknown artist; Sir Samuel Standidge (1725-1801); Hull Guildhall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-samuel-standidge-17251801-80010

Sir Samuel Standidge, Knight (1725–1801),

Mayor of Hull (1795), Five Times Warden of the Trinity House, Hull Maritime Museum.

Captain Samuel is descended from Sir Samuel through the female line and his mother’s surname, Thornton, is preserved in two of Captain Samuel’s daughters: Mary Thornton Walton (1824-1914) and our pupil Sarah Janet Thornton Walton, the latter being baptised on 30 Jul 1827 in Christchurch, Sculcoates. The address in the baptismal record is Worship St, where Captain & Mrs Walton were residing in 1851 as well. This perhaps implies that several properties were in the possession of this branch of the Standidges/Waltons and were all used at various times. No 1 High Street, where Capt. Samuel was in 1829 is the property built or acquired by his great-grandfather. An article in the Hull Daily Mail 20 June 1927 identifies this property with the Standidge name in 1765 and refers to it as a shipyard.

But let us stop jumping about like a sand flea between seven different generations of Standidges and try and tell the story in some kind of cohesive order.

We ought to begin with the earliest known Standidge except we don’t have a name! In the article of 1927, Sir Samuel is described as the great-grandson of the Chamberlain of Hull of 1677 but, unfortunately, the writer did not give a name for this person. Suffice to say that Mr X clearly had a child or children and said offspring also had children and one of them had children, one of whom was Robert Standidge. Yes I know, it’s hard to get your head round the greats and grands but we are on safer ground now we have reached Sir Samuel.

Born in 1725 in Bridlington, by 1744 he was Mate on board a ship bringing ‘fume’ i.e. tobacco from Virginia. [Oh look – Virginia: coincidences abound – see The Waltons.] Whilst engaged with that, Standidge was captured by a band of pirates (or privateers). They held him prisoner for six weeks before finally releasing him on Rhode Island. Ever the entrepreneur/quick thinker/striker of hot iron, Standidge used his time on Rhode Island to study the tides and this was later to save his life. After his release, he became Master (Captain) aboard the American and, caught in a storm off Rhode Island, was able to put his former studies into use to stop the ship being wrecked.

Sixteen years later, Standidge moved into shipbuilding in Hull where he ‘is recognised as the father of the Hull whaling industry in the Georgian period’ (http://www.thorngumbald.karoo.net/standidge.html citing G S Skeggs Thorngumbald that village yon side of Hedon) and it was at this time that he began operating from No.1 High Street, a property that ran down to the river and was ‘given as 186 yards long by 65 yards wide.’ (ibid)

‘In 1767 at his own expense he equipped a ship and sent it out to the whaling grounds off Greenland. It was said at the time by other merchants that this was an act “bordering on insanity” ’ (ibid).

Madness or otherwise, in fact he commissioned more than one ship and one of them, the British Queen, he captained himself. One of his ships came back from the hazardous Greenland seas with one whale and 400 seals. Prior to this, sealskins were thought worthless, earning 3d each (the equivalent of about 1p) and they were dumped but Captain Standidge had them tanned and sold them for 5 shillings each (about 25p), thus increasing the market value of sealskin for everyone else! (Information taken from A new and completed history of the county of York, Volume 3 by Thomas Allen accessed via Googlebooks). The sort of man who can turn his captivity into useful information and worthless booty practically into gold is always going to be a success in life!

Willoughby, Robert; The Whaling Fleet of Sir Samuel Standidge Depicting the Ships ‘Mary’, ‘Samuel’, ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘Grenland’; Hull Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-whaling-fleet-of-sir-samuel-standidge-depicting-the-ships-mary-samuel-lady-jane-and-grenland-79085

The whaling industry being in full swing, the refining processes must have produced some noxious fumes and made living in the vicinity unpleasant. Perhaps because of this, in 1768, Standidge purchased 200 acres of land at Thorngumbald from John Hobman and built a mansion there. Although Thorngumbald Hall, now just Thorn Hall, still exists as a building, it is not the one Standidge built.

Image from http://www.thorngumbaldparishcouncil.co.uk/history.aspx

Several owners after Sir Samuel, Charles H Johnson, who had bought it in 1879, demolished it and had it rebuilt in the neo-Jacobean style that is seen today. It has subsequently had several more owners and is currently a home for the elderly.

Standidge became very wealthy from his efforts and owned substantial tracts of lands and properties.

‘New York Farm, Preston, is said to have been purchased with the proceeds of one successful voyage to that city’

and there were at least seven other farms as well as areas of land known in Yorkshire as Garths. Now there’s a word familiar to present day pupils of the School!

He was made Sherriff of Hull in 1775 and in that year too he commissioned a ship which was to sail to discover the North Pole. Standidge had intended to captain it himself but discovered that the restrictions of his Sherriffdom meant that he was not allowed to leave the country. Given his other successes in life, who knows whether Standidge might now be the man credited with the discovery of the North Pole instead of Robert E Peary in 1909.

In 1795, Standidge was appointed Mayor of Hull and the following year he was knighted by George III. He was also granted honorary Russian nobility status by Catherine the Great as he had aided her in her war against the Turks. Not bad for a lad from Bridlington!

He died in 1801, leaving £75,000 in his will – in today’s money several million pounds. He is buried in in the north aisle of St Mary, Lowgate and there is a tablet inscribed to his memory on the wall there.

Image from http://stmaryslowgate.weebly.com/

After all this fascinating stuff, Sarah Janet Thornton Walton (remember her??) is almost an afterword, not least because, unlike quite a few of the Standidge and Walton family members, she did not make old bones. She arrived as a pupil in 1836 and left in 1842. Her name is not only preserved in school records but also on a sampler that was created in 1838 listing all the pupils in the School at the time.

In addition, she completed her own sampler.

She possibly left slightly ahead of her 15th birthday as her father declared his willingness to continue her education with a view to providing her with a position as a governess. Sadly, this was not to be as she died in 1846 at just nineteen years of age. We are left with the marker of her short life in the form of needlework and the fascinating story of her forebears. It remains only to use the sign off style employed by The Waltons.

“With the night descending on Walton’s Mountain, the camera would show the lights going out room by room … the family would banter for a moment … and finally:

Good night, John-Boy

Good night, Elizabeth

Good night, Daddy” [Etc.]

‘If those words mean nothing to you, you’re probably under age 40, perhaps a millennial. If they do, you’re probably a boomer, to whom they are unforgettable’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/25/good-night-john-boy-good-night-earl-hamner-jr/?utm_term=.179fa5844ab6

Good night Sir Samuel

Good night Sarah.

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The Storry Story

You can tell Christmas is over the moment the holiday adverts start. (It used to be the sales but they have those all year round now. “Hurry and buy. Sale ends Tuesday!!!!!” Yes – because the next one begins on Wednesday …) Anyway back to the dreaming of summer holidays. There is an entire school of art dedicated to portraying white sandy beaches with nary a person on them and wonderful sunshine with no reference to prickly heat or pesky flies and don’t all those hotels look luxurious? Even the ones that aren’t finished. As for the idea of being in the Caribbean on a floating palace of food with nothing to do all the long day waiting for a port – any port! – to hove into sight, well what’s not to like?

That the Caribbean is not all wall-to-wall sunshine hits home when the hurricane season begins. And for one of our past pupils, such an event changed her life completely. The Royal Mail Ship RMS Rhone was wrecked off Salt Island in the British Virgin Islands on 29 October 1867 in a hurricane. 123 people were killed, including Chief Steward Christopher Storry, father of Elizabeth Storry.

Christopher Storry was born in Yorkshire in Lowsthorpe, not far from the sea (near Bridlington) but met and married his wife in Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire. Elizabeth Austin was the daughter of the publican of the Crown Inn and, in 1851, Christopher Storry is listed as innkeeper there, Elizabeth’s father having died in 1849. How and why he ended up in Hampshire from Yorkshire we don’t know.

Image from httpwww.crowninnbishopswaltham.co.ukgallery

The Crown Inn dates back to at least Tudor times and is significant in Bishop’s Watham’s history. It has another naval link beyond the fact that its 1851 innkeeper joined the merchant navy! It is said that “Admiral Pierre Villeneuve, Commander of the combined French and Spanish fleet, was brought here after the battle of Trafalgar.” http://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/11-crown-inn/bishops-waltham. Perhaps rather less glamorously, and long after the Storry association with it, it was involved in beer riots. These were sparked by a local curate objecting to the renewal of a licence for the pub. “The rioters, fired by copious amounts of beer, threw the unfortunate curate into the fish pond” http://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/11-crown-inn/bishops-waltham

However, back to the Storry story. By 1861, Christopher was listed as a messman in Winchester with his wife and new-born daughter, Ann. Elizabeth was with Granny in Bishop’s Waltham and her entry in the 1861 census gives her birthplace as Weedon, Northamptonshire, on 28 November 1855 in fact. Christopher had signed on with the Merchant Navy in 1853 and, as there was a large barracks in Weedon, it seems likely that he had been posted there in about 1854 (he was at sea on the Magdalena in 1853), hence Elizabeth’s birth as far from the sea as anyone can get in UK.

 

http://divebvi.com/rms-rhone/

Storry Père had signed on with the ill-fated RMS Rhone on 30th September 1867. The ship had only been commissioned in 1865 so there was probably still wet paint. Just a month after he joined the ship it was hit by what was subsequently named the San Narciso Hurricane, given a Category 3 rating storm, the ninth and last hurricane of the season. The Rhone was caught by the tail of the storm and the Captain decided that it might be better to get out to sea than be trapped in a harbour but the anchor chain was caught on a coral head. The Master ordered it to be cut free but just as the boat was moving again, the second half of the hurricane hit them and flung the ship back against the rocks the anchor chain had caught on. The Captain went overboard never to be seen again. The ship broke in two and the cold seawater hit the hot boilers causing them to explode. The ship sank quickly and only 25 people survived.

“The bodies of many of the sailors were buried in a nearby cemetery on Salt Island. “[Wikpedia] and later a memorial was installed at Southampton.

By Jezdrake – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51235055

Fast forward a century or so and the wreck of the Rhone is now a well-known dive site. The wreckage even featured in the 1977 film The Deep from the novel by Peter Benchley – who, of course, wrote another novel about the sea which was filmed. (Der-der, Der-der, Der-der-der-der-der-der …Oh come on! You must recognise the theme tune!)

 

Image of wreck By Gareth Richards – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4296424

In the map, Salt Island is shown, the population of which is about 3 and which pays an annual rent to the Queen of a 1lb bag of salt – hence, presumably, its name. The nearby Dead Chest Island (arrowed) is supposedly the place where Blackbeard marooned some of his crew as punishment. He left them with a cutlass and a bottle of rum each and, when he returned, mysteriously few of the crew were surviving! However this story is in all likelihood just that – a story, drawn in part from R L Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883) song Dead Man’s Chest.

Another apocryphal story, linked directly to the Rhone, is that the Captain was stirring his tea when he was flung overboard and his teaspoon can still be seen attached to the coral. Apparently, there is indeed a teaspoon clearly visible entrenched in the wreck’s coral although whether it was the Captain’s or not cannot be said.

Elizabeth was 12 when her father died. The money due to his estate on his death (presumably his salary or accrued earnings) was £5 19s 10d according to the register of deaths at sea. This is the modern equivalent of about £230 so would not have given the family much to live on. However, Christopher had been a Freemason and this made his family eligible for support. On March 21 1868, The Hampshire Chronicle advertised an event of the following week, supported by the Masonic Lodge, at which Thomas Bull would perform a reading – shades of Charles Dickens here.

He was doing so for no fee but tickets were to be sold at 1s each. The entire proceeds would go to a fund set up for Elizabeth with, as it says, the purpose of ensuring her election to the School. Although most pupils were elected by ballot, some pupils gained their places by purchase through the father’s lodge. Whether this was partial or whole purchase of a place, the records do not say. Either way, we do know she became a pupil and was present at the school in the 1871 census.

Elizabeth’s appearance in the 1871 census at the School was followed later that year by her leaving it. By the 1881 census, she was no longer a Storry having married Frederick Elston in 1880. He was a Colour Sergeant with the Artillery. Thus the 1881 census sees her at Royal Marine Barracks, Landport, Portsea, Hants. Shortly after the birth of their first son Frederick John in 1882, the family moved to Swansea. Unfortunately the 1881 census was the last one to record Elizabeth as she died in 1890 aged just 34 and was buried in St Peter’s, Swansea. In 1891 the Elstons, by now including Walter, Annie, Rose and Florence were at Terrace Road, Swansea Town where Elizabeth’s widower was the School Board Man. Elizabeth’s mother was also there presumably looking after the children whilst Frederick Snr was at work.

Elizabeth’s relatively short life left a lasting legacy in the form of her six children who all lived into the twentieth century. Fred became a carpenter in Swansea and in 1902 we see his union membership transferred to Cape Town, after which he disappears from sight. Walter Trim Elston became a commercial traveller for a brewery and was still in Swansea in 1911. By 1939 he referred to himself as a wine merchant and had moved to Nantwich, Cheshire with his wife and daughter. He died in Sussex in 1963. Annie and Florence in 1911 were both still living with their father who had married again (in 1897, another Elizabeth); Annie was a telephone operator and Florence a costumier like her stepmother. Annie Elizabeth married in 1918 in Swansea and continued to live there until her death in 1973. Rosa Catherine, who had been born in 1887, married in 1910. Her married name was Crapper which, or may not, have resulted in sniggering then as it probably does now. As husband Stanley was a schoolmaster, his more unruly pupils might have had a field day. Another daughter, Minnie Gerty, had been born in 1890. She was born in March and her mother was buried in May. The two facts may have been connected. Quite where Minnie was in the 1891 census is unclear as she is definitely not with the family although she is in the next two census returns. In 1917, she married and included amongst the witnesses were her father, her brother in law and her sister, perhaps indicating the closeness of the family. Like her older sister Annie, Minnie stayed in Swansea until at least 1939. However, at some point she left as her death is recorded in Bideford in 1977. The last daughter to note here sort of completes the circle. Florence May Elston, the costumier of 1911, married a navy man as her grandfather had been. In 1917, she married Cyril Thrower, a Chief Officer, and their first son was called Storry William Thrower, neatly commemorating the surname with which we began. Sadly, and also in circular pattern, Florence, like her grandmother Elizabeth, was widowed by the sea. Cyril, whilst serving on the Port Campbell, was lost at sea in 1949 but through their son Storry, the name has been carried into the 21st century.

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore, 1823

 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-legend-of-the-christmas-stocking-160854441/

The Christmas stocking, hanging from the mantelpiece, bed post, or anywhere else (like the washing line above), is a Western tradition. The aim is to leave an empty stocking which, by magic, will be filled by the next morning with small toys, or tangerines, or sweets or chocolate coins in bright foil or anything else that can pass muster as a stocking filler. Apart from a foot that is.

It is tied in with the folklore surrounding the character of Santa Claus or St Nicholas and, although the stories all vary slightly, the concept of St Nick as a gift-giver is common to all of them. Although originally the stockings were likely to be those normally worn, some were created especially for Christmas and it didn’t take long for the commercial arm to work out that the idea could boost Christmas sales no end. Today Christmas in the Western world is a Commerce Fest but the image below shows that this is not an entirely modern phenomena as it dates from a century ago.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-legend-of-the-christmas-stocking-160854441/

Stocking fillers were intended to be cheap and cheerful gifts. There could be all sorts – but you rather hoped it wouldn’t be a piece of coal marking your naughtiness – and that’s what this School Christmassy stocking contains.

The fillers, not the coal.

This is a small collection, definitely not commercial, of unconnected stories related to the School’s history.

The bulging stocking hangs tantalisingly. Let’s see what’s there.

If you have been enjoying Blue Planet II with the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, you might be surprised to know that, but for a quirk of fate, it might have been the voice of Jack Lester. Jack – or more properly John Withers Lester – had been the curator of Reptiles & Insects at London Zoo. At that time, the usual way zoos acquired their animals was from expeditions and Lester had organised one such to Sierra Leone. David Attenborough had previously produced and presented a nature programme and during this he formed a friendship with Jack. He was then invited to go on the expedition, with a film crew, and, as Attenborough was very keen to film animals in the wild, he jumped at the chance. It was this expedition which formed the basis of the series Zoo Quest. The original idea was that Attenborough would produce the programme but that Lester would be the presenter. Unfortunately, Lester contracted a tropical disease from his trip to Africa and presented only one instalment before having to be taken to hospital. Sadly, after several recurrences, this was what caused his premature death at the age of 47 in 1956. Because the series was already scheduled, Attenborough had to take over the presentation. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And the connection to RMSG? Well, Jack’s daughter subsequently became a pupil between 1957 and 1964.

On the subject of zoo expeditions, someone who wrote entertainingly about them is Gerald Durrell. One of his expeditions was to what was then British Guiana, mentioned in the last post Bring Me Sunshine. In 1950, Durrell discovered the name Adventure on a map of Guiana and thought it sounded perfect as a starting point.

“ ‘Three singles to Adventure please,’ I said, trying to look as nonchalant as possible.

‘Yes, sir,’ said the clerk. ‘First or second class?’ “

(from his book Three Singles to Adventure written with the characteristically wonderful Durrell imagery and humour.)

Given the similarity to the Lester expedition, one is not surprised to find a certain person commenting that Durrell was –

‘A renegade who was right… He was truly a man before his time’ 

Sir David Attenborough

Halfway down the stocking leg now

Continuing the animal theme – and equally as contrived – we have Emilie Hilda Nichols who was a pupil at the School in the C19th.

This small item appeared in Horse and Hound: A Journal of Sport and Agriculture, on September 17, 1892. Applicants for the School had their names and details submitted by Petitioners and were then put forward to a ballot. This was circulated, voted upon and the totals added up. Those girls who received the most support were granted a place at the School (always over-subscribed) and those unsuccessful accrued their vote totals for the next ballot six months later. This could happen several times, unless the girl in question became too old to be accepted as a pupil (usually 10 years of age). It seems rather more unusual for something to appear separately, and additionally, in a publication concerning a particular child – a sort of belt and braces approach. It seems likely that ‘Retniop’ knew William Nichols; Retniop was writing for Horse & Hound and Nicholls was the editor of Stock Keeper and Fancier’s Chronicle, described as ‘A Journal for Breeders and Exhibitors of Dogs, Poultry, Pigeons, Cats, &c’ – their subject matters were similar.

Image of cover from http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery

By the late 19th century, there were apparently over 400 periodicals devoted to agriculture alone, of which the Stock Keeper and Fancier’s Chronicle was one.

Whether the newspaper appeal did the trick or not we cannot be certain, but Emilie did become a pupil. Born on 11 Oct 1884, she became a pupil after her father died in 1892. She left in 1900 but we know that she visited the School in 1912. She lived in Surrey all her life and died in 1952 unmarried, her probate being granted to her sisters Flora & Alice. As was customary at the time, neither of these two became pupils. It was usual for only one girl (and one boy) of each family to receive a Masonic education although others were assisted in other ways.

We’re turning the heel of the stocking now.

Perhaps as evidence that there may be nothing unusual about individual girls receiving separate support in newspapers to encourage voters, Ada Carter received a similar treatment.

This appeared in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle on April 07, 1877. Originally published by Robert Bell in 1822 as Life in London, it was a weekly four page broadsheet with an anti-establishment slant, priced 7d. It contained general news but, as its later title might suggest, it became more focused on sport, in particular prize-fighting:

“it was particularly known for its reports on horse-racing, publishing up to date information on schedules and results.” https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/titles/bells-life-in-london-and-sporting-chronicle

Amongst its many contributors was Charles Dickens and so here we have another link with the School!

Ada Carter was born in Nottingham in 1867. In 1864, her father, James Tomlinson Carter, was described as a gentleman who had been promoted to Lieutenant in the Robin Hood Rifle Volunteer Corps. He had a partnership with his father as auctioneers and share brokers, although this was dissolved by mutual consent in 1874. Whether this was because of his health we will never know but he died of consumption just two years later.

As with Emilie, the newspaper support may have encouraged voters in the ballot or it may not. However, Ada also became a pupil and in 1883 she won a prize for General Usefulness. She left later that year “her brother having written for her.” By 1901 her occupation is given as sick nurse and she, like Emilie, visited the School on what was then called Ex-Pupils’ Day, in 1912. In 1915, she married David Alexander Robertson Jeffrey. In fact, the couple took advantage of a new law of consanguinity which had been passed in 1907 as David Jeffrey had previously been married to Ada’s sister Kate. David and Kate had had a son before Kate died and Ada became his surrogate mother until her own death in 1938.

And so we reach the toe of the stocking. Is it a tangerine or a piece of coal? You can decide for yourselves because the last little filler brings us into the 21st century. The Year 7 Reading Group one December were told that they were being taken to see Santa Claus. The aim was to intrigue but they all became very excited at the prospect. Off we set for the Chapel where we found not a jolly figure in red crying “Ho ho ho” but a carved image of Saint Nicholas to one side of the altar connected with the diocese of St Albans in which the School lies.

(Image taken from the architect’s original drawing)

St Nick being the originator of Santa Claus, to say that Santa was in the Chapel was not a lie but some of the girls looked so disappointed that one felt quite guilty. Some of them clearly thought they’d had the piece of coal. Fortunately, another Christmassy occasion made up for it. In Scandinavia on 6th December, children leave their shoes out in the hope that they will be filled with sweets. This same Reading Club had been asked to take their shoes off and leave them to one side. So they didn’t mark the furniture, they were told. Whilst they were otherwise engaged, an assistant surreptitiously filled their shoes with sweets. At the end of the session they were told to retrieve their footwear. There was a pause and then the air was filled with squeals of delight! One little girl came rushing back, eyes shining, to announce the magic that had happened. Well it must have been magic: they hadn’t seen anyone go near the shoes …

The lump of coal my parents teased

I’d find in my Christmas stocking

turned out each year to be an orange,

for I was their sunshine.

William Matthews

(https://www.poetrysoup.com)

Bring me sunshine …

As the temperatures fall and the wind chill factor rises, our thoughts may turn to warmer climes and a longing to be there. A Caribbean cruise feels like a really good idea when it is wet and miserable outside. Spare a thought, then for three former pupils of the School who came from those very climes as children to be pupils at the School when it was in Clapham.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/caribbean/antigua-and-barbuda/

Eliza Beveridge had been born in Antigua on 7th July 1864 where her father was a Revenue Officer and a member of St John’s Lodge, Antigua. After his death, Eliza was accepted at the School in October 1871. That must have been a massive meteorological shock to the system – although, of course October is in the hurricane season so perhaps the deepening cold of darkest Surrey wasn’t quite so bad. (Well we can be optimistic, can’t we?)

Hurricane in Antigua; image from httpstormcarib.comreportscurrentantigua.shtml

In fact, records suggest that Eliza never returned to the Caribbean. In 1939, she was living in Worthing and was sharing her home with someone described as a ‘useful companion’. This probably means that said companion was in the employ of Eliza rather than being the opposite of useless, but we cannot be certain. Eliza was ‘of private means’ and, as she appeared to have no occupation in 1901 and 1911, perhaps she had inherited money from her mother in 1918. If she did, it must have been a substantial inheritance as, when Eliza herself died on 21 December 1956, her estate was valued at £33,000. Not a sum to be sniffed at.

“In the 1950s, the average cost of a house was just under £2000 and the average worker took home around £10 a week.” https://www.sunlife.co.uk/blogs-and-features/the-price-of-a-home-in-britain—then-and-now/

So Eliza was doing very nicely, thank you.

Another pupil who faced the Clapham temperature drop was Bessie Crombie. Born in 1907, she arrived in Britain in 1919 having been living in Demerara, then part of British Guiana.

Lithograph of Georgetown, Demerara, British Guiana, after a drawing by F. A. Goodall. Courtesy of David Druett, Pennymead.com

It is not certain where Bessie was born or how long she had been living in what is now Guyana. Her parents were married in Japan, her father being a member of the Rising Sun Lodge in Kobe and in 1905, Bessie’s mother travelled from Japan to San Francisco so it is possible that Bessie was born in the USA. Her mother’s father was an American Consul. Enoch Joyce Smithers, born in Delaware and first lieutenant of Company D in the First Regiment of Delaware Volunteers during the American Civil War.

“President Lincoln removed him from the ranks to serve as U.S. Consul at the newly created legation on Chios, a Turkish-occupied island in the Aegean Sea” http://archives.dickinson.edu/people/enoch-joyce-smithers-1828-1895

He served as American Consul in Asia, in Chinkiang, Shanghai and Tientsin (now called Tianjin). Then he became consul in Korea and Japan, with his last posting being Osaka. This may well explain how an American woman married someone hailing from Scotland in Japan before living in South America but it doesn’t get us any closer to knowing where Bessie was actually born!

Whatever her geographical background, Bessie was another one who settled for UK as her later domicile. She arrived as a pupil in 1919 and in 1922, she passed Junior Cambridge exam. She left school in December 1923 to become a writing assistant in the Civil Service and was appointed to the Savings Bank Department in November 1925. She was living in Mitcham, Surrey in 1936.

Mitcham Pond by Noel Foster, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9132439

In this year, she married Walter Stevens. In 1939, on the outbreak of war, she is found in Whitchurch without her husband. He was at the Society of Lloyds Register of Shipping in Wokingham along with a number of other Lloyds people so possibly Bessie had been moved because of the war. Later they moved to Newcastle upon Tyne and Walter died in 1974 at their home there. When Bessie died on 10 May 1991, also in Newcastle, her estate was worth considerably more than she had inherited from her husband in 1974. She may have just been a canny investor and, if so, she would have been a financial advisor worth having!

Another pupil hailing from Antigua who was a pupil at Clapham in the late nineteenth century was Edith Proudfoot. Born in 1877, she was present as a pupil in the 1891 census and was due to leave the School in 1892. The Head Governess, Miss Davies, wrote of her:

“[she] has always been a good girl and is a prefect. She is fairly clever, of good general ability and entered for Cambridge.”

The Cambridge reference here is not the university but the Cambridge Local Exams. Junior Cambridge was about the equivalent of GCSE/O level and Senior Cambridge was A level. As Edith was 14, it seems likely that she would have been doing Junior Cambridge at this time. Miss Davies recommended her as a pupil teacher – “she is competent to assist in either class work or music” and added that she had taken prizes for music in her school career. Clearly, the recommendation was successful as Edith was at the School as a pupil teacher until 1894 and had moved from junior teaching to take the 3rd class and assist with music.

This perhaps suggests that she had been reasonably successful as a pupil teacher. However, in October 1895, Miss Davies, in her report to the Committee, “wished to raise the matter of Miss Edith Proudfoot, one of the pupil teachers.” In the slightly veiled way these reports were worded, Miss Davies reminded the Committee that Edith had come from Antigua and said she was “anxious to return her thence fit to earn her living” which rather suggests that Miss Davies thought that Edith might be able to earn her living as a governess, just not in my school thank you. Clearly Edith’s mother was still living in Antigua and, Miss Davies declared, Edith “would like to return to the West Indies to be with her mother but has not the means to do so.” Miss Davies left it to the Committee to decide what should be done.

Whether Edith did return to the West Indies at the Committee’s expense is not known. She may have done and then returned to UK again. In 1901, however, she is in London described as ‘Lady Help’ but as a visitor to the Jay household at 11 Taviton Street, St Pancras (rather than in their employ).

Sadly, this story does not end happily. In 1911, the census records her as an inmate at London County Lunatic Asylum Hanwell, described as a clerk.

http://www.victorianlondon.org/health/hanwell.htm

In 1939, she is recorded as a patient at Epsom West Park Hospital, still given as a clerk. The hospital “was built for patients with mental health problems from the urban metropolis of London and was intended both as a place of tranquillity and confinement.” (Neil Bowdler http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14652885) It was demolished in 2011.

An Edith L Proudfoot died in Hammersmith in 1950 although the birth year is given as 1879 so there isn’t certainty whether this is the same person. If this is her death record, it might suggest that she did not end her days in the asylum. Nor is there evidence to suggest that she required care continuously from 1911. We can only say that in both 1911 and 1939 she was receiving mental health care.

Our final Caribbean connection relates to one born in England but who went to live in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sadie Wallis nee Mansfield, b 1903, arrived at the School from Derbyshire in 1912. She left July 1920 and became a pupil teacher in Nottinghamshire, qualifying in 1923, and obtaining a post in an elementary school in Nottingham. In 1927, she married Kenneth Wallis and in February 1929 travelled to Port of Spain with him.

In 1930, part of a letter from her written from Trinidad and describing her life there was reprinted in Machio.

“Life out here is very different. There are very few English people, mostly those in Government Service … [her husband was a government analyst and the address she wrote from was c/o Government Laboratory.]

‘Port of Spain is a wonderful town. The houses and streets very well planned; the roads, of which there are few owing to the thickly wooded, mountainous interior of the island, are first class roads kept in perfect condition with material from the famous pitch-lake. The drainage system and water supply are modern, thus it is very healthy. Cases of typhoid are rare in town, there are very few mosquitoes and no anopheles, the type which causes malaria … The sunshine is just glorious, and in the middle of the day, when it is really very hot, everyone is resting.

‘The island is very, very beautiful … At sunset we often climb one of the hills, which begin to rise quickly behind the town, and watch the exquisite colouring of the quickly-changing sky. The coastline is wonderful, in some places where the hills almost reach the seas, it is wild and rugged, in other parts … little picturesque bays of silvery sand … are fringed with palms leaning towards the very blue tropical sea. The bathing in these sandy bays is really beautiful. Just off the coast near Port of Spain are a number of tiny wooded islands … One can rent a whole island at very little cost and spend a delightful simple holiday. The swimming, fishing and boating is splendid.”

She was still there in 1933 but in 1934, she travelled to Guiana with her daughter. A son was born in 1937, probably in Guiana where they were then living. Sadly, this story, too, doesn’t have a happy ending. In 1943, the Wallises were travelling en famille across the Atlantic where Kenneth was to take up a new post in Uganda. The ship they were travelling on was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of all of the family. Sadie is commemorated in the School Chapel.

Remembrance Day

Today, along with the rest of the country, the School will mark the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives in war. A poppy wreath will be laid after a service in the Chapel and The Last Post will be sounded.

(The School will then differ from most organisations as this will be followed by a performance of Drill, at the end of which every one of the 180 girls will leave a poppy in her place as she marches from the Hall. For more about Drill, see http://www.rmsforgirls.org.uk/userfiles/rmsmvc/documents/AboutUs/History%20Trails/Drill%20history.pdf)

The idea of Remembrance Sunday was born in 1921. The date of the 11th November for Armistice Day honours the official ending of the First World War on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The Royal British Legion was founded on 15 May 1921 but the Poppy Day idea started with Madame Anna Guérin.

Image from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/359443613995900209/

“After taking her idea to Field Marshal Douglas Haig and the British Legion, Madame Guérin’s poppies (made by the widows and orphans of the devastated areas of France) were distributed on British streets on 11 November 1921 – on the country’s first Poppy Day.” https://poppyladymadameguerin.wordpress.com/remembrance-poppy-timeline-for-great-britain/

The Tamworth Herald in 1921 informed the public “They are made in two qualities – in silk and in mercerised cotton.”

The poppy was chosen as the emblem inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields written by Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend.

The poppies are made “at the Richmond poppy factory … [which] has employed disabled ex-servicemen to construct the huge number of poppies needed every year.” https://britishpathe.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/poppies-an-illustrated-history/. By 1968, the factory had 300 staff and manufactured 13 million poppies per annum and today approximately 36 million are produced, albeit with more automation and therefore fewer employees. “A team of about 50 people—most of them disabled former British military personnel—work all year round to make millions of poppies at the Poppy Factory in Richmond” (Wikipedia). So, like Santa’s elves, the work is endless for a single day event.

The poppies in UK (apart from Scotland, see below) “typically have two red paper petals mounted on a green plastic stem with a single green paper leaf and a prominent black plastic central boss” (Wikipedia). Until 1994, this boss had the words Haig’s Fund stamped on it whereas today it has the words ‘Poppy Appeal’. The introduction of the words had originally been because fraudulent poppy sellers – there’s always some who try to make a fast buck from a good cause – were selling poppies to the public but pocketing the money. The ‘Haig’s Fund’ stamp of authority, plus an official badge worn by the sellers, sought to eliminate the fraud.

These days “It has become common to see large poppies on buses, tube trains and aeroplanes as well as on lampposts, billboards, public buildings and landmarks” (Wikipedia) and internet sites and social media also display them.

 

The top image needs no explanation, the lower image is a composite made from Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast.co.uk, both family history sites.

In 2014, to mark the centenary of the Great War, the Tower of London installation comprised 88,246 ceramic poppies, one poppy for each British or Commonwealth soldier killed.

(Image from https://bwi.forums.rivals.com/threads/june-28th-1914-102-years-ago-today-the-great-war-aka-world-war-i-began.125052/)

The School did their own version of this for the Chapel for Remembrance Day in that year.

Debate arises every year about ‘poppy etiquette’ and some see it as a political symbol. The Football Association caused a furore in 2016 by fining the players wearing one, claiming it was a political symbol the wearing of which was forbidden by their rules. In 2017, they changed those rules. They weren’t going down that route again! There are arguments about when you start wearing your poppy, arguments about whether it should be on the left (near the heart and where medals are worn) or men on the left and ladies on the right, arguments about whether it is significant that the leaf points towards 11 o’clock or not. This last isn’t a problem in Scotland where the poppies don’t have a leaf. This is because they are made by PoppyScotland rather than the Royal British Legion and they have four petals rather than the two favoured by the RBL. There’s also a white poppy “first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and now sold by the Peace Pledge Union.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41942346/remembrance-poppy-controversies-and-how-to-wear-it. It symbolises an opposition to war and a commitment to lasting peace.

However, controversies aside, for poppies to be worn or not, there have to be those that organise the Poppy Appeals, to say nothing of the countless thousands of volunteers who stand out in the cold or in draughty shop doorways enabling the rest of us to buy our poppies. And it is here that we turn to another connection between the School and Remembrance Sunday. William Henry Keppy 1895-1941 is recorded in the 1939 register as Managing Secretary Poppy Day Appeal Fund.

As the Birmingham Daily Post of 6 January 1941 (above) indicates, he was also involved in a number of other charities as secretary or organiser. Given that Poppy Day started in 1921, for Mr Keppy to have been involved in its organisation from 1924, and that he founded the Warriors’ Club (now, sadly, vanished without trace), the notion of remembrance was clearly important to him. His father had been a soldier (Company Sergeant-Major South Wales Borderers and awarded the DCM) and assisted his son with the Warriors’ Club. William himself served throughout WWI, first joining the Warwickshire Yeomanry in 1913. He was discharged in 1919 but re-enlisted in 1921. Although he appears to have escaped unscathed, no doubt his war experience acted as a strong motivation for his efforts in the support of servicemen and women.

The various newspaper reports about William Keppy, arising mostly from his sudden and unexpected death aged just 45, suggest someone who was not only motivated but a ‘doer’. The article in the Daily Post goes on to say:

The Evening Despatch of 4 January 1941, also announcing his death, describes him as ‘the driving force’ in these organisations. As an example of his indefatigable efforts, the Birmingham Daily Gazette of 4 November 1930 carries the information

Interesting that, at a time when cars were owned by fewer people, motor mascots were available. Today, car poppies can be bought on line for £5.49. Using a Bank of England conversion rate gives the equivalent cost of about £3 in today’s money for the 1930 car mascot but of course there would be fewer sales of them than there might be today now that we are knee deep in vehicles.

As if all his sterling work for charities were not enough, Mr Keppy was also “prominent in the dance band world” (Birmingham Daily Gazette 06 January 1941). At one point he organised about five bands, including one called the Esmerelda Band. He was both drummer and conductor and the bands made a point of not playing from musical scores. It is possibly one of his dance bands – although not named as such – that entertained at a function of the Warriors’ Club reported by the Tamworth Herald in 1932.

Apart from his being involved in a number of charities and being very proactive in this work, the main reason for all the newspaper reports about Mr Keppy is his untimely death. As the report of his funeral (Birmingham Daily Gazette 8 January 1941) indicated, he left a widow and two daughters, one of whom became a pupil at the School. The second daughter would have been 17 at the time of her father’s death and therefore too old for school.

Birmingham Daily Gazette 06 January 1941

Although the majority of his life was spent in the Midlands – apart from a visit to Australia where he first had the idea of a dance band that didn’t play from printed music – William Keppy was actually born in Breconshire in 1895. By 1901, however, he, with his family, was in Smethwick. When he joined the army in 1913, his trade was given as machinist for Phillips. This was J. A. Phillips and Co, manufacturer of bicycles and bicycle components, originally based in Birmingham but which had moved to the Credenda Works in Smethwick in 1908. https://www.gracesguide.co.uk

Mr Keppy was a Freemason and his premature death made his daughter eligible for support from the Freemasons’ Charity. Throughout the School’s history, the death of fathers was often the prime reason for daughters to become pupils, so much so that, during most of the twentieth century, it was quite unusual for a pupil to have a father who was still alive. A pupil who left in the late 1950s wrote to her friend, somewhat tongue in cheek, about her ‘discovery’ of life in the outside world beyond the protective walls of the School: “Mary – a revelation. Some girls have fathers!” The tone may have been facetious but it pointed to the reason why the pupils were known by the locals as ‘the orphans on the hill’.

As his daughter would have been 10 when her father died ‘after a brief illness’ in Selly Oak hospital, she may well have been aware of her father’s involvement in the Poppy Day appeal (although children are generally unaware of what their parents do until they become adults themselves!) and, if so, the Remembrance Day services may well have had a specific poignancy for her both at School and beyond it. Personal connections with anything always heighten one’s awareness of it. Ask the girls who participate in Drill on Remembrance Sunday, who lay their poppies on the floor; ask the trumpeter who plays the Last Post; ask the girls who, as part of the Combined Cadet Force, play an active role in the service; ask the members of Chapel choir who sing for the service; ask … but you get the picture.

The service at School doesn’t just include the girls and their parents, and the members of the Old Masonic Girls’ Association (OMGA) but is shared with the Old Masonians’ Association (OMA) whose school closed in 1977. It is their memorial which forms the centrepiece of the wreath laying, so even greater poignancy in the act of remembrance.

During the two minutes’ silence as part of the service, each person will be remembering differently.

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/laurence-binyon-for-the-fallen.htm

Set in Stone

Researching the past pupils of the School endlessly uncovers interesting stories – only to be expected given the large numbers we are considering from 1788 onwards. Recently, I discovered that the father of Celia Bentham (1927-1963, at school 1937-1944) was Percy George Bentham, a sculptor of renown who studied at the Royal Academy.

“In 1907 Bentham was awarded a first prize of £20 and a silver medal, for a set of four models of a figure from the life” http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php

And perhaps on the strength of this success, he married Celia’s mother in 1909 at St Matthew, Willesden. In 1911, the couple are recorded at 13 and 15 Crownhill Road Harlesden, with Ellen Bentham’s brother as Head of Household. Perhaps at this stage, Bentham’s income as an artist was not yet sufficient to run a separate household. Later, however, he worked from a studio at 8A Gunter Grove, off the Fulham Road. (information from ‘Percy George Bentham, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011’)

Amongst other works by Bentham are a stone relief on the Leadenhall building in London on premises once occupied by the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, usually shortened to P & O. This piece shows a godlike figure carrying a ship and the ‘Public Monuments & Sculpture Association website suggests that the sculptor was Percy George Bentham (1883-1936)’

http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog

Another of his pieces is entitled the Bubble Blower, a wonderful evocation of an innocent childhood pastime. (Image courtesy of https://www.the-saleroom.com)

As well as her father being a sculptor, Celia’s brother, Philip, also became a sculptor. Born in 1913, Philip studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and also at Kennington School of Woodworking but he began his work training with his father.

One of his pieces is entitled the ‘Coventry Boy’. The description of the sculpture on the Coventry Society website tells us that ‘this boy has no name but represents all boys of all time’. Situated near the Cathedral, the statue

“is a model of a young man standing holding up a roll of paper in a heroic pose like a king or knight holding aloft a sword. But this is no ordinary piece of paper; this is his ‘Apprenticeship Certificate’. He has passed the City and Guilds Exam and now can become a member of the Coventry Freeman’s Guild; this is his ticket to a new and better way of life.

You will see on the statue he has only one shoe; this shows he came from a poor background but by … learning an engineering trade he can hold his head high. You can tell he is an engineer because in his other hand he has a spanner which is embedded in the factory. You can see on his other foot he has a shoe, again to show he has bettered himself. He has a tie because he has reached the pinnacle of respectability and if he is a ‘Tool Maker’ he is the engineer everyone looks up to because he has learned how to make the tools that make the tools that industrial engineering is based on.” http://www.coventrysociety.org.uk/public-art-in-coventry/coventry-boy-statue.html

In one of those odd twists, when Alfred Harris of the Coventry Boy Foundation, who commissioned the work, visited Philip Bentham ’s studio, he saw there the plaster sculpture entitled ‘Fisherman and Nymph’ which Percy George Bentham had exhibited in 1922 at the Royal Academy. In a sort of Gillette move [‘I liked it so much I bought the company’] Harris got the Foundry to cast it in bronze and then presented it to the City Council to be put on a small island in the lake at Coombe Abbey Country Park in 1968. Pictured below is the statue in its place in the park and (inset) a closer view.

 

So Coventry is a two Bentham city.

Another sculptor indirectly linked to the School is Charles John Collings who married a former pupil, later teacher, of the School. Glorying in the appellation Melora Fogwill Goodridge, this former pupil became Mrs Collings in 1881. Her new husband was described as a stone merchant in 1891 but as a sculptor in 1901. In 1910, when the Collingses left UK for Canada, the travel documents describe him as an artist.

It is in this category he is more widely known, producing the most exquisite watercolour paintings.

Images from http://www.artnet.com/artists/charles-john-collings/past-auction-results & http://www.maltwood.uvic.ca/k_maltwood/history/cjcollings.html

The family settled in Shuswap, British Columbia where they built their own house which still stands today. (Top is the house now; bottom, the house partly finished in the winter of 1910; Image in 1910 courtesy of the Kamloops Museum and Archives. http://shuswappassion.ca/history/shuswaps-most-famous-artist-deserves-more-recognition/%5D

 

But whereas Bentham pere et fils and Charles John Collings are sculptor/artists connected to the School by courtesy of former pupils, it is time now to turn to former pupils who themselves practised the art of sculpture. Christine Cooper nee Duncan, pupil c1912-1918, later founded the school magazine, Machio, in 1924. It is fitting, therefore, that in Machio 1958, we learn that she had exhibited a sculpture in the summer exhibition of the Society of Women Artists, Royal Institution Galleries, Piccadilly. Not a sculptor by profession but an English teacher, her artistic endeavours are perhaps the more creditable for that.

Juanita Homan, nee Page, who is a professional artist, left the school in 1948 and went to Kingston School of Art. From there, she left to study sculpture in Paris with Ossip Zadkine a Russian who lived in France from 1910. Perhaps Zadkine’s style, influenced by cubism (left), is reflected in the piece of Juanita’s work we see here (right).

On her return to UK, Juanita studied at the Camberwell School of Art, the Sir John Cass School of Art and, when her children were older, she attended Goldsmiths to read for an honours degree in Art & Design.

Sculpture as an art form is not readily practised as a school subject for obvious reasons. Manhandling a great lump of stone into the School art department for students to hack about – sorry, craft into an art form – is unlikely to be high on a priority list. However, many long-established schools have statuary of various kinds that might be studied by art students. A recent post looked at the work of Joseph Cribb that can be found at the School but the one we turn to now connects not only with the school’s history but with the time of year: Hallowe’en.

The statue of the Institutor, Ruspini, was crafted by an unknown hand. At least, it is unknown now although presumably not unknown at the time. Unfortunately, nobody at the School thought to make a note of the sculptor’s name (but see footnote).

It was originally placed on the gable of the Centenary Hall at Clapham and it became a thing of derring-do for the older girls to scramble about in the rafters and reach out and pat him on the head before they finally left the School. Naturally the School forbade such dangerous activities although if they had used a kind of reverse psychology, it might have been better to make it compulsory under supervision. That would have killed it off completely. Once something is legit., it loses all desirability as an act of (minor) rebellion.

The stone plinth under the statue’s feet today records that the figure had originally been at Clapham Junction.

Only the lodges at the two gates of the school at Clapham remain as the rest was demolished by the Peabody Trust who had bought the site after the School had moved on. However, the statue and the foundation stones of (probably) the Alexandra Wing built in 1888 were preserved and moved to Rickmansworth to be integrated into the new school. As the school had to be made ready for the girls long before the Clapham site was demolished, the items could not be fully integrated and, instead, were placed at the eastern exterior wall of the Chapel. There is little chance of the girls wanting to scramble up and pat him on the head as there is nothing to scramble up on. They would have to bring ladders and either commit the act in daylight or use torches. This kind of spoils the illicit quality especially given that originally the Headmistress and the Matron both had their living quarters with a clear view of the Chapel! Long before foot could be set upon rung, there would have been the authoritative tone of enquiry (“And just what do you think you are doing?”) that sets all schoolchildren’s hearts quailing. So Ruspini’s coiffure has remained untouched by hand since 1933.

But his face has not fared so well. Exposure to wind and rain resulted in damage to the lower part of his face requiring some genioplastic surgery. Not, in this case, by a plastic surgeon: more courtesy of a bucket of mortar. His chin had to be remodelled with some judicious concrete resulting in a somewhat larger lower jaw than he had originally – in stone as well as in life.

This composite image of the face before and after the remodelling may give an idea of the change.

In his niche, Ruspini leans on one leg with the other projecting forward. He holds a scroll perhaps representing the first rules drawn up or perhaps because the unknown sculptor liked doing them. His eighteenth century costume gives him a resplendent bearing and he looks as if he is about to step down to speak to us. (Probably to say what he thinks of the face remodelling!)

Perhaps this is what gave rise to a little story, told in darkened dorms by some little girls to frighten other little girls into squealing with horror. It was said that, if you watched the statue at midnight on Hallowe’en, he changed legs. Instead of resting on his left leg with his right leg forward, it was his left leg that projected. A daft little story, easily dismissed as every photograph of the statue shows, quite clearly, the same leading leg.

Until one image was found with the other leg leading …

Cue squeals.

Needless to say, the cause of this was the fact that the slide image of the statue being viewed was simply being viewed from the wrong side! Although it does make you wonder about the expression ‘no stone unturned’.

Footnote

Subsequent to this being written, the information was supplied that the sculptor of the Chevalier statue was Edwin Roscoe Mullins who had studied at both the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy. Born in 1848, for the last decade of his life he was in poor health and died in 1907. As http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/sculpture/mullins/index.html informs us, he made his professional debut in Vienna & Munich before coming to London in 1874.

“Mullins possessed considerable powers of portraiture.”  https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Mullins,_Edwin_Roscoe_(DNB12)

“The most curious of all the artist’s work is the Circus Horse which constitutes the memorial in the Brighton Cemetery to Mr. Ginnett, a notorious circus owner …” http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/sculpture/mullins/index.html

This Ginnett is the father of Louis Ginnett whose art works also adorn the School What goes around comes around?

 

 

Watch the birdie!

This familiar phrase originated when early photographers, in an attempt to engage the attention of a child subject and enable a clear photograph to be taken, would have a prop held above the camera to focus attention. “Often, these props were toy birds that would flap their wings or warble. In a time when children’s toys were simple rag dolls or marbles, such a toy would be a marvel.” http://grammarist.com/phrase/watch-the-birdie/ Given today’s advancement in technology, the “phrase watch the birdie is now usually used for comic effect” (ibid).

 

https://www.etsy.com/market/watch_the_birdie

It is not known whether this phrase, or something similar, was used in 1909 by Ethel Cossham Park to capture the attention of her friends at school but she did succeed in capturing their images which she placed in a home-made album.

 

In later years, she passed this onto another pupil, Janet Gaylor (1941-2013) and, after Janet died, it was donated to the School by her estate. Ethel (1892-1979) and Janet were technically two generations apart and their only connection was that they had both been pupils of the School. It is a wonderfully visual way of demonstrating the history of the School through its pupils.

Ethel was not the only pupil who recorded her contemporaries and whose efforts are today held in the Archives. Alice Lilian Kent (1893-1985) was a contemporary of Ethel and she too preserved her photographs in an exercise book. Unfortunately, most of these photographs have faded badly and none are identified but they do capture scenes of the school at Clapham and some girls of the period.

 

Ethel – bless her! – had the foresight to identify all her subjects so that we now have images of girls from this period, some of whom went onto greater things within the School’s history. For example, these two girls:

 

Mildred Harrop became the first headmistress of the Junior School when it became a separate establishment in 1918. In 1910 she became a student at University College, London to study for a degree in Modern Languages on a scholarship awarded by the Drapers’ Co. In 1915 she rejoined the School as assistant mistress and just three years later became Junior School headmistress, a post she remained in until 1946. The Junior School, situated in Weybridge, Surrey, was ‘evacuated’ back to the main school at the outbreak of war in 1939 and it was Mildred who kept the spirit of the Junior School alive throughout that period. A 1941 curriculum indicates that she taught Scripture, some History, Verse speaking and Reading. The Juniors having returned to Weybridge post-war, Mildred handed over the reins to Isobel Vaughan and took retirement.

Mabel Potter (although Ethel spells it Mable) was the Gold medallist of 1906. She left in 1907 but became a pupil teacher at the School until 1909. At this point she became a salaried teacher at the School and she remained with RMSG her whole career. In 1918 she is recorded as a Form Mistress of VB and in 1929 as Form Mistress of VA. (VB and VA are not explained as whoever wrote this knew exactly what was meant. It is probably one of the more senior forms with girls of about 15-16 years of age.) By 1939 she was recorded as a resident teacher of French and Latin and she had been Second Mistress (equivalent of Deputy Headteacher) to Bertha Dean from 1932. After Bertha Dean’s retirement, and Miss Calway came and went in a short space of time, swept off her feet by the School Chaplain whom she married in 1940, Mabel – ‘Little Miss Potter’ – became the Acting Headmistress until the appointment of Miss Fryer in 1941. She finally retired in 1945, just a year before her friend Mildred, and went to live in East Sussex where she continued to live until her death in 1978.

Ethel, our intrepid photographer, not only identified most of her subjects at the time but some she must have identified much later in life as the handwriting is distinctly different. It is an example of the far-reaching memory many of our Old Girls demonstrate, being able (for example) to recall all their school numbers for many decades after they had left and such numbers ceased to have meaning.

 

As the days of the selfie were far off, Ethel must have allowed one of her friends to use the camera because we have a photo she has labelled of herself. Although it is not known exactly where in school this image was taken, we can see the cream banding on the brickwork which was a part of the design of the School at Clapham. And it rather looks as if she is modelling the same fetching hat that Iona is also wearing!

 

We have no idea what kind of camera Ethel or Alice used but it seems very likely that it was the ubiquitous Box Brownie. “The Brownie camera, introduced in February 1900, invented low-cost photography by introducing the concept of the snapshot to the masses.” (Wikipedia) This was a camera developed by Eastman Kodak, invented by Frank A. Brownell, and given its name partly for its inventor and partly for the brownies in popular Palmer Cox cartoons of the time. Palmer Cox was a Canadian illustrator and author and his Brownies were “mischievous but kindhearted [sic] fairy-like sprites” (Wikipedia) which appeared in a series of humorous verse books and comic strips.

 

Images above from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownie_(camera) and https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/a-z-photography-collection-b-is-for-brownie/

Marketed for the mass market at $1 each in USA, in Britain “it cost just 5 shillings (25p), bringing it within the reach of practically everyone. Indeed, it was so cheap that adverts had to reinforce the fact that it wasn’t a toy.”

 

from https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/a-z-photography-collection-b-is-for-brownie/

The handbook of instructions, incidentally, ran to 44 pages – somewhat akin to modern instruction tomes that practically require a PhD in Quantum Physics to grasp exactly what it is you have to do …

Box Brownies, as a marker in the development of photography, are regarded as so important that they make it into the BBC/British Museum’s History of the World in a 100 objects. They were particularly marketed for children possibly in the same way as Hygena QA furniture (for those of us who remember it!), the first self-assembly kitchen units deemed to be so easy to construct that a child of six could do it. “The Company’s TV advertising used a little girl to demonstrate simplicity of assembly” (Wikipedia). And there were many of us who, having started some self-assembly units, longed for a handy child armed with a screwdriver to come to our rescue! But back to the Box Brownie and its ease of operating.

 

This image, dated to 1905, showing a young girl using a Box Brownie, is from https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/a-z-photography-collection-b-is-for-brownie/ and is probably taken, somewhat ironically, by a professional photographer with a far superior camera to a Box Brownie.

The product was marketed with “the slogan, “You press the button—we do the rest.” https://www.fi.edu/history-resources/kodak-brownie-camera. However, this is not what happened in the case of Ethel Park. Astonishingly, she developed her photographs herself. In the letter she wrote to Janet Gaylor when sending her the little album, Ethel said this:

 

“I feel sure you will enjoy seeing, or trying to see the school exercise book, year 1909, most of the photos were taken & developed by me – and without a proper dark room in which to develope [sic] them; my friends & I managed the films with me in a disused flour bin with the others sitting on the lid to prevent light penetrating through the cracks & gaps caused by old age & rats!”

Perhaps Alice Kent used the same flour bin. Indeed, she may even have been one of the friends sitting on its lid whilst Ethel got to work on her photographs. If so, it is remarkable that we have two sets of photographs not only taken by young photographers but the images developed by them too. And all this before WWI. It took nearly ninety years more for photography, in its modern format, to become established as part of the School syllabus as a Sixth Form subject.

 

Alice’s photographs in her album may be fading badly, Ethel’s slightly better preserved, but both are now secured in digital format and both are a tribute to the pioneering spirit of earlier pupils.

 

(And this used to be the word ‘prunes’ – honestly! Look it up!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Say_cheese