Every picture tells a story

The Stothard portrait related to the School, discussed previously, is very much the case of every picture telling a story. (If you don’t know what is being referred to here, you need to go to https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/a-picture-paints-a-thousand-words/ . Or throw a six.)

Alongside the portrait, there is an outline image identifying the people shown in the portrait with a legend giving their names. The first cartouche identifies 12 of those shown and, of these, two need no further elucidation. The Prince of Wales here is what we know as the Prince Regent, later George IV, often referred to as Prinny (behind his back) and shown in this portrait rather flatteringly in a slimline version. The other is Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini, the Institutor of the School.

Standing next to the Prince of Wales and therefore, presumably, regarded as very important, is James Heseltine, Esq. In January 1766, in an item actually written about someone else, Heseltine is described as ‘an active and influential young Freemason’.

The image has Heseltine standing behind William Forsteen, with James Galloway to his left.

Heseltine is positioned prominently in the portrait. By this stage, he was the King’s proctor or solicitor representing the Crown. [The name is a shortened form of procurator].The office was combined with that of the Treasury Solicitor and it was not only a position of influence but an extremely lucrative one. The Monthly Magazine: Volume 17 1804 in reporting his death at his home in Bedford Square said:

He had been appointed a Grand Warden in 1785 and Grand Treasurer in 1795. His will of 1804 certainly left a substantial sum for the time although nothing like the 200,000l described in The Monthly Magazine.

Standing immediately before Heseltine is William Forsteen Esq although his name is spelled variously as Forstein, Forsteen and Forssteen in references. He was one of the nine freemasons who initiated the School in 1788.

‘To the benevolent and indefatigable exertion of William Forsteen, Anthony Ten Broeke, Adam Gordon, Henry Spicer, esqs. and a few other respectable brethren, the Society are principally indebted for the complete establishment if this truly laudable Institution; and such have been the care and pains bestowed on the education of the children, that the sum arising from their work for the last year has exceeded £200.’ http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/ritual/preston.pdf

William Forsteen was born in 1754 in Camberwell and died at his home in Hans Place, Chelsea in 1832. Hans Place, named for Sir Hans Sloane, was built in the 1770s. The octagonal shape of the square is thought to have been modelled on the Place Vendôme in Paris. Jane Austen was once a resident of Hans Place.

Google maps

The map shows that it is very handy for Harrods. Pity that did not exist then.

Hans Place, photo from https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol12/pp47-51

In 1810 a Captain William Forssteen was promoted to major in the 2nd Royal Regiment and in 1816, Forsteen is given as a subscriber to another Charity School in Grays Inn Rd and his residence is given as Lime Street Square. These very fleeting references are amongst the few found and may not be the Forsteen in the portrait. That he was strongly connected to the Girls’ School we do know but he is one in history who ticked the ‘no publicity’ box.

Of James Galloway, there is even less. Shades of Shelley’s Ozymandias here because, although clearly of some significance judging by his proximity to the Prince Regent, and that he, like Heseltine, was an influential young Freemason, little can be found about him.

Fortunately, the next three names are well-covered!

 

Ussuf Aqiah Efendi is actually Yusuf Agah Efendi and he was the Ambassador from the Sublime Porte, a term used for the Ottoman Empire.

‘The name has its origins in the old Oriental practice in which the ruler announced his official decisions and judgements at the gate of his palace’ (Wikipedia) in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The gate was known as the ‘High Gate’ or ‘Sublime Porte’.

Yusuf Agah Efendi was born in Crete and had been a Scribe of the Navy before becoming Ambassador at the first permanent embassy of the Ottoman State in England. The delegation, which included the interpreter and the secretary, left Istanbul in 1793 and arrived via Ostend to a military band welcome in Dover.

‘In a letter he wrote to Foreign Minister Lord Grenville, General Smith, who was among the group that greeted the delegation, described Yusuf Agah Efendi as a “charming and respectable old man,” sırkatibi (literally, the secret scribe) Mahmud Raif Efendi as “young and reasonable,” and chief translator Emanuel Persiani as “intelligent and skillful.”’ https://en.peramuzesi.org.tr/Artwork/Yusuf-Agah-Efendi/91/15

Two more names listed possibly had more prominence at the time but have disappeared without trace into the history books: Mr Cotton and John Hull Esq. Shown in the portrait as engaged in conversation with Sir William Addington, these two gentlemen are very hard to trace.

Mr Cotton may be Sir Charles Cotton – the dates are about right but we have to consider that MR Cotton is probably an unlikely epithet for someone with a title. However, he did succeed to his title in 1795 so it is possible that his name was written before he took his title. He was an officer in the Navy where he would have been referred to as Mr Cotton and he is given as ‘Mr Cotton’ in parliamentary papers. In 1793, two weeks after the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, Cotton was recalled to service in HMS Majestic and joined the Channel Fleet so, if this is him, he probably wasn’t really there anyway as he would have been at sea.

An alternative is Henry Cotton, Esq in the Lodge of Nine Muses along with many of the other names in the portrait, including Ruspini, but he is even harder to trace so we will never be sure.

Alongside Henry Cotton in the Lodge of Nine Muses is John Hull esq, but if there was little about Mr Cotton, there is zilch about John Hull. We must leave them in conversation with each other and hope that one day, they tell us who they are.

Fortunately the 3rd member of the trio, Sir William Addington (1728–1811) is known. He was a magistrate at Bow Street from 1774, later becoming Chief Magistrate. Whilst he was not uncontroversial – having had two complaints made against him as a magistrate and notoriously taking Jane Lessingham, the actress, as a mistress – he did win praise for his part in dealing with the Gordon Riots. Any wanting to know more about the Bow Street runners and the Gordon Riots can turn to John Creasey’s 1972 novel The Masters of Bow Street.

In 1799 Sir William introduced badges intended to distinguish between officers and patrolmen. (Information from https://www.lucienneboyce.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Dan-Foster-and-the-Bow-Street-Runners.pdf)

Image of No 4 Court in Bow Street from https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Bow-Street-Runners/ and image of two Runners from Pinterest

Standing opposite the Prince Regent is his brother, the Duke of York, wearing military uniform. He was appointed colonel of the 2nd Horse Grenadier Guards (now 2nd Life Guards) on 26 March 1782 and, had he not died in 1827, Britain might have had its first King Frederick as he was heir presumptive to his brother following the death of Charlotte, the only legitimate heir.

Rather like the image of his brother, the Duke is portrayed more slim than he actually was: (left) the Stothard portrait; (centre) in 1790 (i.e. before the Stothard image) and (right) in 1822. And yes, he is the Grand Old Duke of York of the nursery rhyme! In 1793, the Duke was put in charge of a military expedition with a mixture of British and Hanoverian forces but they were hugely outnumbered. ‘Over the following months, he marched his army back and forth between ineffective minor actions, inspiring the nursery rhyme. ‘ https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/7-facts-grand-old-duke-york-british-military-reformer.html

So this exposition of the portrait is bracketed with royalty but there are still some very interesting characters to come!

A picture paints a thousand words?

Many people familiar with the School will also be familiar with the picture of Chevalier Ruspini leading the girls before the assembled Freemasons headed by the Prince Regent.

This portrait was painted by Thomas Stothard, RA in – well no-one is entirely sure when. If one attempts to count the number of girls, it might be anything from 20 to 26, or more. Fifteen little girls started at the School when it first began with five more being added to the School roll the following year and five more the year after and … After about five years of the School’s existence, some of the girls would have been ready to leave so the numbers did not rise without end. A rough calculation of the number of pupils shown here might suggest a date of c.1793. However – and this is key – this is not a photograph, it is a painting. As such, a degree of artistic licence is permitted. If Thomas Stothard wanted to show a line of children stretching into the distance to represent the permanence of the Institution, he was at liberty to do so. Indeed, he may have even been instructed to do so by whoever commissioned it, presumably the School authorities or the gentlemen of the committee or even Ruspini himself. Because that’s another thing we don’t know about the picture – who paid for it.

Thomas Stothard was a Royal Academician born in 1755, ‘the son of a well-to-do innkeeper in Long Acre.’ http://blueplaquesguy.byethost24.com/content/Stothard_Thomas_W1T.html?i=1 As a young man, he demonstrated a talent for drawing and was apprenticed to a draughtsman of patterns for brocaded silks in Spitalfields. After his master died, Stothard decided to concentrate on art and became a student at the Academy in 1778. Much of his work held there shows his drawing skill. It includes many nude studies, which are exquisitely executed, and also this study of a child’s limbs:

Stothard, Thomas; Sketches of a child’s arms; https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/O11334
Credit line: (c) Royal Academy of Arts

If we take a closer look at one of the girls, we can see something similar.

The two children holding the hands of Ruspini seem to be very young, perhaps too young. Although British Freemasonry, 1717–1813, Volume 5 by Robert Peter gives that pupils ‘must be between the age of five and nine years’, between 7 or 8 was generally the age at which they were admitted. Perhaps another example of artistic licence?

Stothard was elected RA on 10 February 1794 but his association with the Royal Academy continued after this as he was appointed Deputy Librarian, and then Librarian, from 1810 until his death in 1834. He married Rebecca Watkins in 1783 and they had eleven children, but only six survived infancy. Their home was Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. In 1763 three of the inhabitants of Henrietta St were artists but ‘several others were resident in the street during the eighteenth century … from 1747 to 1758. There were still as many as five artists and engravers with addresses in Henrietta Street as late as 1816’ https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol36/pp230-239

In 1794, the Stothards moved to 28 Newman Street, Fitzrovia. As Stothard owned this property – or the freehold at any rate – he was doing very nicely thank you.

 

28 Newman St, now occupied by a film company, has a ‘blue plaque’ commemorating Stothard’s residency – only it’s not blue but made of lead to blend with the facade of the building.

Image adapted from https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/thomas-stothard/

Two of his sons entered the art world: Charles Alfred Stothard became an illustrator and Alfred Joseph Stothard was a medallist to George IV. Charles died tragically after falling out of a window whilst executing a drawing. His wife Anna Bray (later re-married) wrote a biography of her former father in law. https://www.donaldheald.com/pages/books/6120/anna-eliza-bray/life-of-thomas-stothard-r-a-with-personal-reminiscences

Towards the end of his life, Stothard grew increasingly weak and deaf but still took long walks. Unfortunately, during one of these, he was knocked down by a carriage. He appeared to sustain no physical injury but he never recovered from the shock and died on 27 April 1834. He is buried in Bunhill Fields burial ground as is his former friend William Blake, although the two men fell out later in life over the commissioning of a painting of the pilgrims to Canterbury.

So that’s the artist but the picture itself is worth a much closer look. Along with the portrait, there is also an outline drawing which identifies many of the people in the image. Perhaps this was created by Stothard himself as part of his preparation.

And because we can identify the people depicted, it tells a much greater story. We need to gloss over here the fact that not one female is named, not even the two little girls right in the centre and the focus of our immediate attention when we first look at the picture …

Having the identity of 37 of the men shown enables us to pin down the date more accurately. Or at least as accurately as anything designed by an artist in the days long before photographs. It is possible that this specific event took place on one specific occasion and that Thomas Stothard was commissioned to paint it but it may also be an amalgam of several occasions with a bit of imagination thrown in for good measure. The pupils were brought before assembled Freemasons but this happened every year, possibly from 1789 onwards and continued until the latter end of the nineteenth century so it does not help with the dating. However one of the people shown, the Ambassador from the Sublime Porte, was only in London between 1794 and 1797 so if it were one specific event, it has to be between those dates. Another person who is date-specific is the Stadtholder who was exiled to Britain in 1795 so that fits quite nicely with the Ambassador’s presence in Britain. Unfortunately, this is almost immediately countered by the identification of George Downing esq. who is described as ‘late’ in the attribution. He died in 1800 which then puts the portrait back to after this date.

Another anomaly – which could easily be a bit of wishful thinking on the part of Stothard – is the naming of a Mr Haydon in the picture. This could be Benjamin Robert Haydon (26 January 1786 – 22 June 1846), a British painter who specialised in grand historical pictures. However, if it is he, we have another problem with dates as he does not appear in London until 1804.

Sir John Eamer is identified as the Rt Hon Lord Mayor of London in the portrait and he was Lord Mayor from 1801. Indeed, during his mayoralty, ‘on Easter Monday, April 19, 1802, the Prince of Wales, with his brothers the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland, accompanied by a train of nobility and gentry, honoured the dinner and ball with their presence.’ https://www.grosvenorprints.com/stock_detail.php?ref=21988 [a ticket to Mansion House Ball]. Is it possible that this specific event has been metamorphosed with the parading of the girls before their supporters to create the Stothard portrait?

Four others named – Dr de Valangin, James Heseltine, Mr Cuppage and Mr John Jeffryes – died respectively 1805 (de Valangin) and 1804 (Heseltine, Cuppage & Jeffryes) which gives a cut off date if it is an image of a single event. One curious presence is that of a Cherokee Indian Chief John Bowles – although there is no certain evidence that he was ever in Britain at all. He became the Chief in 1792 so the portrait should come after this period.

But just when you thought it was safe, Adam Gordon esq., who may possibly be Lord Adam Gordon, died in 1801 in Scotland so if that is the correct interpretation of ‘Adam Gordon, esq.’ it places the date of the portrait (or the event thereto) between 1800 and 1801. By which time the Ambassador had long since left the country …

The conclusion appears to be that the event shown in the Stothard portrait – described recently and understandably, if incorrectly, as the opening of the School – is actually NOT a single event but a representative image of occasions in School and Masonic history; a combination of a number of similar events given some artistic licence by the painter and dating to somewhere around 1800 give or take a few years here and there and a few people who might not have been there but then again might have.

What a pity that in all this no-one knows the names of the girls!

All at 60s and 70s?

Former RMS pupils from the 1960s are sometimes described as ‘the lost generation’: on leaving, they put as much distance between themselves and their alma mater as possible – and never looked back. However, this is probably no truer for sixties’ girls than it was for the 50s or the 70s. Or indeed any era. The Sixties has been singled out possibly because it was a time of great change throughout the world and a contrast to the perceived ultra-conservative mind set of the School.

‘If the Fifties were in black and white, then the Sixties were in Technicolor.’

Kimberley Watson on https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-1960s-The-Decade-that-Shook-Britain/

 

http://jaquo.com/songs-for-swinging-london/

But if you believe that Sixties RMS was stuck in a time warp, you might be astonished to discover just what a period of change and development it was. If, when you think RMS, you think Indiana Jones 1930 buildings, you’re forgetting about the library and the science block – both built in the 1960s; you’re forgetting all the internal changes to accommodate developing curricula – 1960s; misremembering all the alterations made to existing buildings to better utilise the space – 1960s and on to the 1970s.

Minutes of meetings are not the best bedtime reading but ploughing through a decade of them is certainly interesting. As a time travel method, they can be recommended.

If you are familiar with the School site, try and imagine the non-existence of said library and science block. And also Bertha Dean, Florence Mason & Strathearn Houses. (If none of these names mean anything to you, your imagination will have to work overtime to invent blank spaces.) In case you’re wondering, there was a library and science labs before the 60s but they were in different places.

The old library (now Scarbrough Gallery)
Chemistry lab c. 1940s

In 1964, consideration was being given for an improved library and extended science facilities. For the record, provision of a Sixth form house and the removal of Junior School from Weybridge to Rickmansworth were also under consideration: the former had to wait until 1981, the latter a mere eight years. As early as 1964, the idea of repositioning the Junior School in the redundant former San was being talked about, but that had to wait a further 47 years!

Other changes that were discussed related to accommodation for staff, the replacement of boilers (£20,000 estimate even then so a major expenditure, the equivalent today of a cool 1.9 million.) and also ‘a covered-in space of sufficient size to accommodate 75 cars in marked bays, provided with sliding doors that could be locked and easily opened.’ The car may not have quite been king in 1964 but it was certainly a prince-in-waiting if that proposed provision is to judge by.

The initial idea was for a new library in one of the quadrangles whilst science labs would either be on a new second floor above the existing labs or in the Garth. In March 1965, there was discussion about whether the foundations could be strengthened to allow for a second floor but – confusingly – the alternative of a building in the Garth with a 2nd storey [sic] connection to the main building was discussed.

Clearly by this stage the writing was on the wall for Weybridge to leave Surrey – well, the Junior School Weybridge anyway – although it was 1973 before it happened. The ‘plateau’ which had once housed the tennis court for Park House, and which was used as the VIP enclosure on Sports Days (then on the Lowers) was considered suitable for building a new Junior School. This would mean the planning for the 75 parking spaces which were to be behind some existing garages (since demolished) and the Junior School would require extensive use of terracing on the eastern flank overlooking the Chess valley.

Aerial view showing where new construction was planned

 

 

 

1 Accommodation for Headmistress

2 & 3 Staff accommodation

4 Parking for 75 cars [didn’t happen]

5 Suggested Junior School, then Science block

6 Library (inside rose garden, not in quad)

7 Old Sanatorium, later Sixth Form house, later Cadogan House (Prep & Pre-Prep)

 

 

By January 1966, the siting of a new science block on the plateau and the library in the Garth had been decided on. The latter, at this stage, was intended as a single storey building with a possible further floor in the future. Prior to settling on the plateau for Science, there had been consideration given to one building housing both Science and library, the latter on the ground floor. Presumably this ties in with the ‘bridge’ linking Science labs on 2nd floor level and the realisation that said bridge would end in mid-air as there wasn’t a 2nd floor in the main building to which to connect it …

The bridge idea resurfaced in July 1968 to connect the new Science building to the School as there was a road between the two. Would there be a bridge over the access road, or a tunnel under it or [the option selected] should the road be diverted around the science block? So if you’ve ever wondered why the access road suddenly swings east, goes round a loop and then emerges at the top of South Drive, now you know.

Once the idea of a new Science block was decided upon, it was realised that its design ‘could be functional rather than traditional since, as the site was beyond the general outline of the existing buildings, there was not the same need to harmonise with them’. The jury is out about whether the style of architecture used was functional, experimental or zeitgeist run mad.

Whatever it was, the roof has given problems from the beginning.

In comparison, the library ‘would need to harmonize with the existing buildings’. Both of these buildings (and indeed the other new buildings at this time) were all designed by the same architectural firm as the rest of the school: J L Denman & Son. It seems most likely that John Bluet Denman was the architect of the science block and library and John Leopold Denman the staff accommodation: son and father in that order.

As part of the design of the library – once described by a pupil as the globular building in the Garth – it was felt some decoration was needed on an exterior wall, along the lines of Epstein’s St Michael at Coventry cathedral. Hmm – perhaps an overly ambitious description of the relief of the School badge that was put there.

The library was constructed by James Langley & Co of East Park, Crawley at a cost of £107,989. The minutes contain some of the extraordinary detail discussed at these meetings: the borrowing system, which despite the installation of a ‘lending bureau’ was designed to take place in the central area ground floor; the style of bookshelves; the list of books to be purchased; and even exactly where the furniture was to be placed. The Librarian didn’t get a look in on these matters! Included in the design was a gold and silver chandelier, costing £988, intended to ‘enhance the beauty of an already imposing building’ and there appears to have been lengthy discussion about whether a winding mechanism for maintenance would be part of it. At an additional cost of £350, this was finally added as was concealed lighting for the dome.

The gold-coloured carpet was estimated at £300 but actually cost £518. Even then, a fault was found and it had to be rewoven. The tables – designed by Denman – cost £76 each with sixty chairs @ a fiver a throw. The finished building was ready by 30 December 1969 although the opening ceremony was not until 1st December 1970, as recorded on the plaque above the door. The wording of this was discussed minutely but the work was done free of charge by L M Samuel who, as well as being a Freemason, was also a stonemason.

The same amount of detailed discussion went into the Science block including many pages itemising all the furniture and lab equipment. Subsequently there was also considerable discussion about how to cut back all the expenditure as it was an horrendous overspend. After very careful consideration, £52,000 was shaved off the overrun cost. (It all went by the board with the roof problem but that’s a story for another day.)

Neither the Science block nor the Library has ever been given a name although part of the Science block is called the Ashley Edwards Laboratories to acknowledge an extremely generous gift by that person. The accommodation buildings, however, were named. In Sept 1968 the suggested name for one was ‘Stradbroke House’, the name recorded without explanation for the choice. It seems likely that it was for George Edward John Mowbray Rous, 3rd Earl of Stradbroke (1862 –1947), who was Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk for forty-five years, and also Provincial Grand Master of Mark Masons of East Anglia. The accommodation block previously called Senior Staff block was going to be called Cornwallis House. Again the minutes simply note this but presumably the discussion had more detail. This is probably for Colonel Fiennes Stanley Wykeham Cornwallis, 1st Baron Cornwallis (1864 –1935), a British Conservative politician who was also an eminent Freemason (Provincial Grand master of Kent and a Past Grand Warden in the United Grand Lodge of England).

Stradbroke and Cornwallis images both Creative Commons Wikipedia

By January 1969, however, the buildings were given the names they are known by today: Florence Mason and Bertha Dean Houses. These two ladies were Headmistress and Matron at the time the School moved from Clapham and were instrumental in ensuring that everything ran smoothly – what was described at the time as ‘we had moved house, that was all: the meals were on time, the bathwater was hot’, a comment that glossed over the huge amount of planning that enabled this state to be reached.

 

Florence Mason and Bertha Dean, portraits by Maurice Codner, RA

 

Florence Mason House and Bertha Dean House

Abbiss & Hale Ltd of Rickmansworth constructed both blocks (£119,998), including road access curved to go round the Engineer’s garden (!)

Strathearn House, the accommodation for the Headteacher, was a detached residence – a forward thinking move for the time, allowing that, in future, said person might be married and have a family. Until this time, all the Headmistresses were single, dedicated professionals. Married women did not have paid professional roles except through necessity. Times they were a-changing.

By the end of a decade of construction, the various committees and sub-committees might have been forgiven for voting themselves out of existence but, no. The beginning of the 70s brought discussions about what to do with the old library, the old science labs, the old San; how to accommodate the Sixth form and the junior pupils and how to make provision for music and drama. Which last brings us very nicely up to date as a Performing Arts Centre is currently under construction and due to open in 2019.

The 1970s are sometimes viewed as

‘… the tired, miserable hangover after the long party of the Swinging Sixties [but] it makes much more sense to see them as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of modern Britain’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17703483

The 1970s for RMS was yet more building, innovation and change to keep abreast of modern life – decidedly a new chapter.

Walk in the Park

The parkland in which the School stands has an interesting history even before the School arrived there. It became a park – i.e. a space with fencing all round and gateways – in about 1680 when a deer park was created, by Sir Thomas Fotherley, from the estate known as The Bury. But of course the land had existed since long before that. It just wasn’t called a park.

People had always walked across, and used, the area. There is local evidence of Neolithic occupation, of Bronze Age activity and the ubiquitous Romans marched across it. The latter left a road behind but whether the road came first and the Romans used it (why re-invent the wheel?) or the Romans created a road and then everyone else used it is unknown. An area in what is known today as The Uppers shows the route of the Roman road.

In 2002, as part of The Big Dig, a group of students investigated the road, guided by an archaeologist. Subsequently, it was investigated further by a local archaeological group. More recently, another part of the same roadway has been uncovered in a different place in the grounds.

When Sir Thomas decided it behoved his status as a gentleman to have a deer park, the land was fenced in, possibly for the first time. You can’t put deer onto a parcel of land and not expect them to run away so seven foot high fencing was installed. However, in an acknowledgment that people had always walked across the land, gates were also installed to allow ingress. These were kissing gates, so-called because the gate ‘kisses’ the fence rather than being fastened to it.

This is a modern example of a kissing gate – although the principle is the same. However, courting couples often interpreted the name differently. As only one person at a time can pass through the gate, the ‘toll’ of a kiss from a sweetheart before the gate can be opened to allow anyone else through is a pleasant enough taxation!

An avenue was created but, like the Roman road, did the formal avenue follow the pathway trodden by countless feet over the centuries or did the feet use the new avenue? There was a pavilion constructed at the highest point on the avenue but no evidence of the actual building remains.

The Fotherleys continued to live at The Bury until 1709 when the last Fotherley died. The estate than went to nephews who added the name Fotherley to their own surname of Whitfield. The great-nephew of the last Fotherley was the first person to build anything substantial on the parkland. Henry Fotherley-Whitfield carved out five acres of the deer park and set about building himself a mansion.

https://houseandheritage.org/2018/02/09/rickmansworth-park-house/

The original house, although altered from time to time (including the addition of the portico), remained substantially the same footprint from 1805 until it was demolished in 1930. Most of the images of it are of its southern facia as if the large portico were the entrance. In fact the entrance was on the west side (not shown above) with a marble-floored hallway and grand oak staircase rising to the first floor, both lit by a large glass lantern in the roof above it. Henry Fotherley-Whitfield did not stint in his creation which included three reception rooms which could, when the need arose, be made into one large room measuring 20’ by 70’. Of course a gentleman also requires a billiard room and a library, so its floor plan was probably some fifty feet across and seventy feet long. There were 12 bedrooms but, as the three principal bedrooms all had dressing rooms or a maid’s room attached, it could be argued there were actually 15 bedrooms. And that’s not counting the ‘five very good servants’ rooms’ on the 2nd floor.

As befitted a house of such substance, there were any number of ‘working rooms’ for the small army of servants that would be needed. These included a kitchen, scullery, housekeeper’s room, butler’s pantry, flower room, servants’ hall, larder, bedrooms for two footmen and a butler, knife room and a dairy. If these are added to the footfall of the building, we might as well say the main building measured 70’ by 70’ and have done.

But that wasn’t all because there were substantial outbuildings too such as tool sheds and a potato room (for storing root vegetables), and there was also a bothy occupied by single male servants with someone to provide cooking and cleaning. In fact, if we look at the outline and take it as read that it is proportionately accurate, the outbuildings were almost as extensive as the house.

This, taken from a map of 1913, suggests that the outbuildings almost dwarf the size of the house but were more spread out and separated from the house by garden. Certainly there was a walled garden adjoining the house which had fruit trees in and there were also glasshouses for growing vines, mushrooms, camellias, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes and peaches.

Given all this extensive building, one is hardly surprised to discover that Mary Fotherley-Whitfield, who inherited the estate from her husband, ended up in prison for debt.

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/kings-bench-prison/4593418850

As a widow, she married the solicitor charged with dealing with the estate, Thomas Deacon, who appears to have been almost as profligate as her first husband. The end result is that the estate had to be sold to pay its debts and so, in 1831, it came into the possession of the Arden family. Initially it was bought as part of a property portfolio but, in due course, it was inherited by Joseph Arden who is listed there in the 1841 census. The Ardens seem to have used it as their country residence, preferring to maintain a London home as their main residence. It was he who added the portico.

The story told about this is that Joseph Arden saw Moor Park mansion across the Chess valley from the Park – which mansion has a large portico as its main entrance – and decided he wanted one too! It was built over the dining room door so, impressive as it seems, it is not a grand entrance which was, and remained, facing west.

It was also he who developed the gardens for leisure use including a tennis court and a croquet lawn, a parterre garden, an orangery, a summerhouse and rose gardens with a fountain in the centre. The latter were still there when the School Prefects visited the site in 1930 for the laying of the foundation stone for the School.

This copy of a copy of a Box Brownie photo taken by one of the prefects clearly shows its existence and that it still had water in – as witness the girls looking at their reflections and the one about to fall in.

Joseph Arden also created the Fishery Gardens in five acres down by the river, the remains of which are still there.

The vast majority of the parkland was given over to sweeping lawns dotted with mature trees many of which continue to grow. In fact the trees were a noted part of the park – to wit the Baedeker of 1905:

So it was not just locals tramping across the grounds but tourists too!

The Ardens and their descendants remained in possession of Rickmansworth Park until 1926 when the School bought it. The line of posession was not straight though as twice it side-stepped into ‘incomers’ by marriage to the Arden family. John William Birch bought the Park from the estate of his father-in-law (Joseph) and then when his widow died in 1917, it went to the widow of the oldest son (who had pre-deceased his father), Charlotte Birch, by then Viscountess Barrington. It was she who put the property up for auction, although it failed to sell in 1920 and it remained on the market until the School found it and, after some hard negotiation from the owner, managed to secure it. The house, although apparently in reasonable condition, was not big enough for the size of school that was planned and the costs of converting it as part of a whole would have been too much. Thus it was decided that the house must be demolished although this did not happen until after 1930. Photographs of the laying of the foundation stone show the porticoed side of the house still intact and this photograph of the Garth under construction is clearly taken from a higher elevation. As the Garth was the first part of the School to be built, there was no higher elevation of school buildings to be used and so it seems highly likely that the old house was used to photograph the buildings that would in due course replace it. The sequoia tree (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is still in pride of place in the Garth, although we usually refer to it as the Wellingtonia – apparently mistakenly:

That we persist in affectionately – or stubbornly – calling it the Wellingtonia is a testament to its value as a living monument. (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk)

Well, whatever its name, it is still there and very much a feature of the Garth, both before that was built and afterwards. And there we will park the story of the Park although we will be – ahem – branching out into different aspects of it in other blog posts

Drill – the extra bits

Each performance of Drill is timed perfectly and lasts 20 minutes. But with such a long standing tradition, writing about it takes two blog posts!

Whilst Drill was not unique to the School when it started out, it seems likely that no other schools have anything like it today. The closest might be Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore which has some movements that are similar. However, their Gym Drill is described on their own website as

The Middle and Upper School perform an all-school dance and school exercises which have been performed since 1904

https://www.brynmawrschool.org

There are elements that are more like cheerleading movements than the marching exercises performed at RMSG but as trainees under Madame Bergman-Osterburg came from, and disseminated to, all corners of the world, it is quite possible that the origins were once closely aligned.

Martina Bergman-Osterburg

This image, dated 1880, is the earliest photograph of Drill apparently being performed. One has to say ‘apparently’, as this may be a posed image, possibly including every girl in the School at the time, and there are no records anywhere of it being performed outdoors. Clearly, if this were a performance, someone would have had to have wheeled out two grand pianos for the accompanying music!

This brings us nicely onto the music. In the C19th and perhaps the earlier part of the C20th, the music was played by senior girls. By the later part of the C20th, that task fell to music teachers. The pianists required skill not just to read and play the music but, if necessary, to speed up or slow down tempo if the Drillers were a little too enthusiastic or tardy in performance. On one occasion, some Senior girls decided, out of mischief, to repeat some of the exercises more times than normal. Valerie Curtis, music teacher from 1958, later commented that she had thought the Drill was taking a little longer than usual but she just fitted the music to the movement being performed!

In 1980, it was decided to try recorded music. With some trepidation Miss Curtis was asked if she would mind being made redundant. The nervousness was uncalled for as Val was delighted to be freed from the task of turning up to every rehearsal on time and thumping out music on a keyboard!

This sample of Drill music is from 1933 although the book is dated 1916.

In 1982, Hooked on Classics – classical music given an up tempo treatment by Louis Clark – was storming the charts. The Drill was re-worked to this music which now includes the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, March of the Toreadors from Bizet’s Carmen, the Blue Danube Waltz, Deep in the Heart of Texas, Sousa’s The Liberty Bell, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 and The Dam Busters. About 30 years later, the opportunity arose to tell Mr Clark how his musical treatment had been utilised.

“He was genuinely intrigued and delighted to know that his musical arrangements had helped to popularise Drill, giving pleasure to so many over such a long period of time.”

Drill is a special part of life at RMSG but that does not mean that it is a fixed entity which no-one dare change. It is said that former pupils watch the performances with eagle eyes, later declaring that it wasn’t as good as in their day but they would say that, wouldn’t they?

However it can, and does, change according to need.

This movement is no longer included although, as this image from the Great Hall shows, still was in the 1930s. In 1937, as a special, the staff performed a version of drill for the girls. The School magazine records the apparent astonishment of the watching pupils as, in slow motion, the staff touched their toes!

This is the wheel performed in the very earliest days at Rickmansworth (no portraits on the wall gives that away). It was not performed for Prize Day 1934 (then in May) as there had not been enough rehearsal time since the School had only arrived on site in April. However, it was performed when Queen Mary opened the School – on a wet, miserable, rainy summer day. Some of the spectators here appear to be dressed appropriately for British summer: raincoats and warm clothing!

With performances stretching back as far as at least 1876, there have been many notable spectators. In 1888, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) watched it. In 1946, his grandson, George VI watched it.

The King was in what has become known as the King’s Chair – one of the Caledonian chairs presented to the School in 1795. On the back of this chair is recorded a list of the illustrious royal bottoms that have sat upon it to watch Drill: Queen Mary in 1912 and again in 1934; the Princess Royal in 1927; George VI in 1946; Princess Marina in 1948.

 

With any well-established tradition, there have been those not normally part of a hard-working team who want to participate. In 1934, in celebration of the School being about to move to Rickmansworth, Drill was performed backwards with Drillers wearing masks on the backs of their heads. The teaching staff, as we have seen, have performed it for pupils. In the 1990s, the staff were again challenged, their numbers added to by parents, to a charity performance. Given the all too few rehearsals and fewer than 180 drillers to make the formations, their performance was given grudging praise in the comment “Hey, they’re not bad.”

Year Two pupils, in learning about the School’s history, had a go at some of the movements …

… and learned first-hand that it takes practice to be synchronised!

Drill has even been on the radio. Fighting Fit, broadcast on Radio 4 on 28th May 2005, heard presenter Fi Glover discovering that

“getting the rights and lefts going in sequence, the tippy toes turning, the arm movements in the right order and making sure it is all done in time with the music and in line with everyone else is jolly difficult.”

Rehearsal is vital to make sure each Driller knows where she should be at any given moment so let us give special praise to those Reserves who attend all the rehearsals, turn up immaculately attired for the performances and may not actually be in one. Their dedication is crucial as they might have to slot into any one of the 180 places making the performance seamless. As one of them said:

“… nothing prepares you for the moment when [you are told] ‘You’re East 71.’ You think, where the heck’s that? Am I an up or a down line in the arm things and am I a 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1?”

And sometimes things can go wrong. One former pupil recalled with horror the time her shoe fell off when the Princess Royal was watching. The lady in question winked in sympathy but the girl herself felt devastated. But full marks for quick thinking for the Driller who had forgotten her short white socks so painted her ankles with plimsoll whitener!

Drill performances are three in number: Prize Day and Remembrance Sunday are two. The other arose from what had been a full rehearsal on the Wednesday before Prize Day but, as it proved equally as popular with spectators as the other two performances, it became one in its own right.

On Remembrance Sunday, the set square and compass position is held whilst a speech is given (the speaker being implored to keep it brief to prevent girls from keeling over in a faint), Point is rewarded with a little gift and the girls prepare to end the performance. After removing the poppies they are wearing and laying them at their feet, marching on the spot begins and, at the sound of a whistle, the Drillers leave the Hall. Their poppies remain, a poignant reminder of the sacrifice made by many in war.

[Additional information to create these posts was supplied by three former Heads of PE at the school to whom grateful thanks are extended.]

Drill

(or Who needs Fitbits?)

Picture the scene. An audience in the Gallery, in banked seating at the end of a hall, in seating on the stage, in a line of chairs down the side of the hall and a crowd of people peering over the heads and between the shoulders of other people crammed into doorways. All in eager anticipation as girls in old fashioned school uniform mill in the corridors on either side of the Great Hall, assembled in exactly measured march formation, waiting. The first stirring notes of martial music played through the speakers and we’re off! There is only one thing it could be.

School Drill.

To anyone not familiar with this spectacle, it might sound horrifying. Indeed, the first boarding inspection team to visit the School, whose visit coincided with Drill rehearsals, gazed in utter bewilderment before one dared to whisper “But do you make them do this?” The simple answer given was “Ask them.” Far from compulsion, there is fierce competition to gain a place in the Drill team. At 180-strong, plus about 30 reserves, it is the biggest team event in the School and girls maintain their places with pride. They even measure their own progress through life, as in ‘I used to come in from the first door. Now I’ve progressed to the middle door!’ (For those of you now completely mystified, the smaller girls use one door, the taller ones another and the tallest the 3rd door.)

Drill is a tradition in the School and, like many traditional things, no-one is entirely sure when and why it started. It is a mixture of calisthenics, military drill and Swedish Gymnastics with Masonic references. Possibly its origin lies in the desire for girls to take exercise but at a time when it was not lady-like to exert oneself and work up a sweat. As the saying has it: horses sweat, men perspire but ladies gently glow. The understanding that recreation time was important was always known although the recreation seemed limited to perambulation in a decorous manner than running about.

This image from 1875 shows the girls ‘at play’.

However, the notion of calisthenics as exercise seems to have been introduced quite early on the nineteenth century. The earliest reference to Drill is from a pupil who left the School in 1838 (i.e. born in 1823) who commented:

“Drill was taught by a corporal, Teddy Redcap as they called him, who visited the school once a week for that purpose.”

In this comment we have both the exercise regime and the martial aspect.

Charles Dickens, who visited the School on more than one occasion, wrote about a hall in 1866 where the girls drill and dance and already by this stage, the regular practice of Drill was probably already in place. But it is also probably still more like movement to music than the Drill we know today. This type of exercise was done in many girls’ schools at the time. North London Collegiate pupils in 1883, for example,

“… have musical drill for a quarter of an hour … [with, twice a week] special calisthenic exercise, lasting half-an-hour”

Swedish Gymnastics, introduced to this country by Per Henrik Ling, was designed to improve health and well-being. It used no gym apparatus and so could be interpreted more freely. Madame Bergman-Osterburg promoted it widely as a regime of exercise and introduced, or utilised, the idea of exercise as display. That it was widely known can be shown by the reference below. Taken from The Girls’ Annual of 1951, it clearly expected its readers to understand what drill was.

The comment ‘as early as 1888’ implies that RMIG was in the vanguard of presenting their drill as a display.

https://afterthoughtsblog.net/2016/04/swedish-drill-history.html

These exercises, taken from a book entitled ‘Swedish Drill a history’, show the sort of exercise regime used by Swedish gymnastics. Calisthenics today has been commandeered by body-builders but both of these things go to underline the fact that Drill today provides a full body workout. It improves fitness, muscle tone, rhythm, posture and deportment. It teaches self-discipline as each girl must concentrate not only on her own routine but on those of everyone around her. It teaches her that individuals are important but that individuals also create strong units when working in harmony with others.

Which brings us to the vexed question of when did it move from being an exercise to improve health to being a spectacle for an audience. And the short answer is – no-one knows. Nor does anyone know at what point the Masonic symbolism was introduced into the regime. Whoever devised it must have had a mathematical brain as well as knowledge of symbols pertinent to freemasonry.

That Drill had become established, not only at RMIG but beyond its gates, can be seen in the Head Governess’ request in March 1894 for a pupil teacher to be allowed to do a course in drill and physical culture as she was deemed excellent in her teaching of this to the younger girls:

‘the lessons are held in the Portman rooms on a Thursday afternoon and cost 3gns for 12 lessons’.

The fact that there was a course and that it was deemed beneficial for teaching staff to be sent on it indicates the value the School perceived in Drill, something that was, presumably, echoed elsewhere.

It is possible, if unconfirmed, that Drill as a performance and Drill with Masonic references came together with the School’s centenary in 1888. For this, a performance of Drill was given in the Royal Albert Hall before thousands of assembled Freemasons who would have appreciated all the symbolism. The entire School roll took part in this performance and the girls filed off the dais

“the youngest, according to masonic principles, occupying the post of vantage”

The Times, June 5th 1888

 

This rather grainy image is taken from the Graphic, June 16th 1888 where it is described as calisthenic and marching exercise.

There appears to have been a performance of something at the Anniversary Festival in 1876 and from this may have emerged the idea of a special performance for the Centenary 12 years later. If so, they had little idea that what emerged would still be going strong 130 years later!

Not all of the masonic symbolism was present however as the set square and compasses design was not introduced until 1922. It is shown here in 1931 in one of the last performances at Clapham.

 

Adjustments were constantly being made – not always received well! – but it is what helps to keep it fresh.

 

Time, then, to look at some of the movements in Drill – this mixture of calisthenics, military drill and Swedish Gymnastics with Masonic references.

The military aspect lies not only in some of the music but also the marching and movements to link the different symbols. As a side note here, when Drill rehearsals in 1980 seemed endless to get the new routines fixed, to revive flagging spirits, it was decided to invite the Senior Drill Sergeant from the Metropolitan Police Cadet School in Hendon to put the girls through their paces.

“He moved up and down their lines, the shiny black peak of his hat flat to his nose, a wide red sash over his impeccable uniform, carrying a pace stick and barking at them ‘left, left, left right left, heads up, shoulders back girls, swing those arms’.

He used his pace stick to demonstrate the length of girls’ strides, explained what dressing was to keep the lines straight, and the importance of standing still without fidgeting.”

Point, the smallest girl, who marches alone to the front of the hall and has to remain still whilst patterns are formed round her, was lifted onto the stage by the Drill Sergeant, who placed his hat on her head so she could take the salute as the girls filed out of the hall. I wonder if she remembered that later when she married a policeman?

Drill formations

  • The 180 drillers represent the number of degrees in 2 right angles or in a semi-circle. Geometry is one of the seven liberal arts. Operative masons (i.e. workers in stone) relied on a knowledge of it and it also informs speculative [free]masonry.
  • The rhythm of the hand clapping on the floor has overtones of the Tyler’s duties during a Masonic meeting. He remains outside the door of the Lodge and information is relayed by a series of knocks.

  • The drillers form two pillars. These are of Masonic significance and appear on the School badge.

 

  • In the formation of the two wheels, which make a clockwise revolution of 360°, the 3 girls on the outside of each spoke peel off to form an outer circle turning counter-clockwise. The clockwise movement represents the bounds of respectability and the anti-clockwise movement marks the line over which no respectable person should cross. A circle also forms part of the School badge.

  • The formation of two blocks can be interpreted as the Rough and Smooth Ashlars, of significance to Freemasonry and also to the School. The Rough Ashlar represents a person without learning, to be gradually shaped into the Smooth Ashlar which can then be gainfully employed. The concept is that girls arrive at the School as Rough Ashlars and by their own efforts and those of their teachers and housemistresses they become Smooth Ashlars before they leave. Since 1961 the Ashlar (in the form of a silver badge) has been a badge of merit to individual girls in the Senior School who have proved themselves to be deserving members of the School community.

  • The 5 lines into which the girls move to form both Ashlar blocks represent the five orders of Architecture: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.

http://freemasoninformation.com/

  • Point, the smallest girl, marches alone to a halt in front of the Stage. In this, she represents the point around which anything of significance can be built. The Point is later escorted by the two tallest drillers, the smallest escorted by the tallest.

 

French plaits, tunics no more than four inches above the knee (and no leaning backwards to make them seem longer than they are), white ankle socks and freshly-whitened plimsolls, turn up on time for twice weekly rehearsals, three performances including one on Remembrance Sunday – it’s a full commitment for modern girls and they love it!

So too does the audience which has stretched right down the corridor before the performance in order to get a seat. You can’t get better approbation than that.

By the left ….

The Hospital in the Park

2018 sees the 70th anniversary of the NHS which started life at Park Hospital on 5 July 1948.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2008/07/03/nhs60_trafford_general_hospital_feature.shtml

Originally built by Barton upon Irwell Union in a corner of Davyhulme Park, Park Hospital is now Trafford General.

In 1926, at the same moment as negotiations for the sale of Rickmansworth Park were underway, the Union started building their hospital. It was opened by the Princess Royal (HRH Princess Mary) on 1 June 1929, the same person who presented the prizes at the School in 1927 when it was still at Clapham.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Park Hospital was taken over by the War Department for use by the Armed Forces. The well-equipped School San came under close scrutiny by Rickmansworth Council at much the same time. They had it in mind to create a casualty clearing station but the School authorities resisted. You could say they repelled all boarders – except those who were female, of school age and were registered as pupils at RMIG!

Park Hospital was de-requisitioned in September 1945 by which time plans for the NHS were well underway. The world’s first universal health care system provided by government was steered to fruition by Aneurin (Nye) Bevan. He died in 1960 just ‘up the road’ from the School in Ashridge House, near Berkhamsted.

So the School Sanatorium, the ‘hospital’ in the park, has some interesting parallels with Park Hospital and the birth of the NHS.

At the time the plans for RMIG were drawn up, the NHS was unheard of and provision was therefore made for the healthcare of all the pupils. This had always been considered as part of the overall package from the moment pupils were accepted by the charity. Medical practitioners offered their services gratis for pupils and there was an awareness from the outset that a group of people living in close proximity were subject to the possibility of contagion. From 1795, all prospective pupils were required to have a certificate, signed by a medical practitioner, to say that they were safe from smallpox and had no defect in sight or limbs. If having a certificate of health pre-admission seems strange, it should be noted that by 1818 some 272 girls had been educated at the School and, of these, only five had died whilst at School. Given the rate of childhood mortality beyond the School, this is quite a remarkable success story.

The first school site being an already existing building adapted for the purpose, it is unlikely to have had a designated area for sick children. When the School moved to Southwark, the floor plans do not specify any area dedicated to treatment and care of sick pupils but there clearly was some. The matron’s duties extended to healthcare although primarily she was responsible for ensuring that the girls remained healthy rather than actually nursing them. It was her job to ensure that any contagion was dealt with swiftly so, for example, in 1821, two girls who contracted scarlet fever were removed to the Fever Hospital in Gray’s Inn Rd.

“The London Fever Hospital (LFH) was founded in 1802 at 2 Constitution Row, Gray’s Inn Lane, just north of Guilford Street … it had 15 beds, and was staffed by three nurses, a medical officer, an apothecary and a porter.” https://aim25.com

An article in The Spectator declared:

The ward fees are seven shillings a day for adults and five shillings for children.

http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/12th-january-1924/14/the-london-fever-hospital

This indication of charges, albeit later than when used by the School, underlines that healthcare could be costly but throughout the School’s pre-NHS history, there was never any question of pupils not receiving the appropriate healthcare on grounds of cost. For example, a pupil in 1921 was treated at the Yarrow Convalescent Home in Broadstairs at a cost of 25/- per week from July for a month, followed by 3 months convalescence. The costs would have been met entirely by the School.

By the time RMIG reached Clapham, there was dedicated provision with resident staff. Often referred to as ‘The San’, it was officially the Infirmary and was referred to formally as such by the Head Governess. However, the two names were clearly interchangeable. For example, a former pupil, Gertrude Craik, in 1920 ‘became the assistant to the nurse in the Sanatorium’ before moving on in 1922 to Great Ormond St Hospital. In another example, Betty Starling ‘Contracted scarlet fever in 1924 and was retained in sanatorium over school holidays, later transferring to the Joyce Green Hospital, Dartford so that the San. could be disinfected.’

The infirmary at Clapham was updated from time to time, as need arose and the school roll increased. It had its own dispensary as the picture from about 1912 below shows.

By the time the School had left the metropolis and moved to the fresh fields of Herts, it was also ready for a larger medical section. At Clapham, it had been recognised that a separate entrance to the infirmary would be a good idea as a method of keeping contagion controlled. At Ricky, it went one step further – well several steps actually – by having the Sanatorium in a separate building. Furthermore, although all the other buildings of the time were connected by underground service tunnels, the San was not (and still isn’t).

Making up the fourth side of a quadrangle, the San had a south façade with larger windows and balconies and a north façade with smaller windows.

The solaria were placed to take advantage of stronger sunlight to aid recovery. The two balconies were designed to enable patients to sit outside (whether they wanted to or not!) on the basis that ‘fresh air is Good For You’.

The architect’s plans show the several entrances, the main one of which was (and still is) flanked by a design probably based on the medical symbol the Rod of Asclepius and crafted by Joseph Cribb.

But probably the thing that most astonishes the modern pupil, for whom the NHS has always existed, is that the Sanatorium had its own operating theatre.

As a former pupil who experienced the facilities both as a patient and, later, as a probationer, said:

There was an operating theatre, consultant room, dental clinic, pharmacy, solarium, wards and single rooms, and, in 1955, even x-ray facilities.

… we were lucky to have such an efficient, highly commendable health care system, especially as [this] was before the birth of the National Health System in 1948.

There were resident nursing sisters who were assisted by school leavers known as probationers. These were girls who wanted to go into nursing but were not old enough to start their formal nursing training. Probationers, under the supervision of the Sisters, were responsible for the care of the girls and day to day cleaning.

“We learnt basic nursing skills which stood us in good stead for our later careers.”

The picture below shows two of these probationers engaged in cleaning the operating theatre.

A doctor visited daily but was not resident and there was also a dentist who treated the girls requiring fillings etc in the dental clinic in the San. (“Having teeth filled in those days was no picnic with no pain killers available,” recalled another pupil, presumably from experience) but anyone requiring orthodontic work was sent to Harley St or the Royal Masonic Hospital.

The two sisters held surgeries morning and evening for basic treatment. Those requiring treatment in the sanatorium were given a bed whilst those needing a little less intensive care were in the sanatorium as day cases. Some eligible for day care were those who needed TLC, especially new girls, which shows an understanding that for some girls being a long way from their families was an ordeal in itself.

All girls were subjected to regular eye, dental and medical examinations.

“For the less fortunate adolescent teenagers with acne, every Wednesday and Saturday, they received ultra violet treatment in the solarium, all sitting in a circle wearing darkened goggles.”

Pupils were regularly weighed and measured at the beginning of each term.

“The skinny ones were fortified by cod liver oil tablets and malt. Those deemed to be overweight were scrutinised at meal times by the House Matron.”

Judging by the numerous recollections of feeling permanently hungry (Children’s Hollow Legs Syndrome), obesity was far less of a problem than it is today.

The San was the equivalent of a 50 bed cottage hospital, quite possibly better equipped than many. For the most part, there would be 6-10 girls staying in overnight or longer but, just occasionally, if an epidemic broke out, extra space would be allocated. For example, in September 1954 a flu epidemic hit the school. The sanatorium was soon full to capacity with the nursing staff run off their feet. Girls at the recuperative stage were transported by ambulance (St John’s) to Ruspini House which served as a convalescent house whilst new cases took their beds in the sanatorium.

“This lasted nearly a month,” recalled a former pupil, “but, true to fashion, it all ran like clockwork under the eye of Sister Taylor.”

The beds in the ward were typical hospital beds.

Each girl admitted had a day basket in which to put personal clothing and in-patients wore pyjamas and pretty smocked embroidered pink and blue bed jackets. As all the uniform, including nightwear, was provided, no doubt these too were standard issue.

One who was a probationer recalled that they were paid £2.00 a month, just as the pupil teachers also received an allowance. They had one day off a week. Their uniform – of course – was provided and, in addition, when they were ready to move onto nurse training beyond the School, they were equipped with any compulsory requirements listed by the teaching hospital, such as black shoes and a watch with a second hand. Like all school leavers, they also received leaving outfits and were taken to Arding & Hobbs in Clapham where additional clothing was bought.

The healthcare the pupils received, both before and after the NHS was born, was exemplary.

“… when we left the Masonic School, we were as medically fit as possible”

Not sure if the following counts as an item to ensure medical fitness but the Head Governess in the 1890s wrote in her report:

“Miss Davis will feel obliged if the Committee will again allow one dozen pint bottles of claret for the children during that week, as she has found that the best thing for their refreshment in the midst of their work.”

Yes, I’ll have that prescribed please!