Leading (Guide) Lights

Image from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com

This posting continues the theme of Guiding starting in Guiding Lights, parts I and II. This, the final part, the third section of the Guide trefoil you might say, looks at some of the principal characters of the early School companies.

The very first School Company had, as its Captain, Dorothy Churcher. Her father was a ship’s steward and died at sea off the coast of Japan in 1902. Dorothy became a pupil in 1908 as eight was then the age of the youngest pupils. She left in 1917 and obtained a post as clerk in the Marine Assurance Office. Ten years later she went to work at the Headquarters of the Girl Guides Association. We are not told in what capacity but as her first post was clerical and a later post (in 1939) was as clerk to an accountant, one assumes it was similar. She was a member of the Old Masonic Girls’ Association in 1933 and possibly had been since she left school. Her continued connection with the school meant she was in situ to lead the first Guide Company. Machio 1929 carried this picture of her in her uniform.

 

There was also a 2nd company in the Lower House with Miss Grandjean as Captain. Dorothy Octavia Grandjean was a member of staff between 1928 and 1929. Trained at Northfield College, Stamford Hill, Dorothy had posts in ten schools between 1916 and 1931, of which RMIG was one. Her resumé indicates that she rarely stayed more than a year in each place. Perhaps she was building up a lot of experience as in 1942 she was appointed headmistress at a school in Dorset followed by a school in Somerset. Born in 1894, rather exotically, in the Seychelles, she was the daughter of John Grandjean, a British clergyman born in Belgium & Sarah Grandjean born, rather less exotically, in Bow, London. One of ten children, Dorothy was born, as were most of her siblings, in Mahé, Seychelles which became a British Colony in 1812 and remained so until 1976.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1963552

http://en.seyvillas.com/html/mahe-beaches/turtle-bay

But back to the more prosaic and sedentary, rainy day, grey skies Clapham 1929 [sigh], Jessie Hunter was Lieutenant of that second guide company. She was an Old Girl and then a member of staff and you can read about her in Hunter Gatherers.

Cecilia Goss and Enid Love were the joint authors of the first article about the Guides in Machio 1929. Cecilia was born in 1911 and officially left school on 13th December 1928 but was appointed as a pupil teacher in the Upper School. In 1930, she went to Bedford College on a scholarship and gained an Honours degree in Classics (Masonica 1934 [1]). She married in 1937 and Masonica records the birth of a son in 1939. She died in 2002.

Enid, also born in 1911, left School on the same day as Cecilia and was also appointed as a pupil teacher. Remarkably, she also went to Bedford College on a scholarship in 1930 but reading History. Gaining a BA Hons in History in 1933, she began teaching the following year. In 1939, she became Senior History Mistress at Honor Oak, London. Enid then taught History (1942) at St Clements Danes Boys’ School while it was in Oxford having been evacuated from London. Just two years later, she was appointed as Headmistress of Wokingham County School for Girls, the youngest headmistress in the country. But in 1949, she changed tack, joined the BBC and worked in educational broadcasting which ultimately earned her the OBE (in 1973). By 1952 she was Assistant Director of Broadcasts to Schools. She returned to teaching in 1963 and was headmistress of Sydenham Comprehensive School but when Yorkshire Television was created in 1968, it enticed Enid back to educational broadcasting. Described as a “distinguished educational programme-maker”[2] she took charge of education at the new company. In 1980 the Enid Love Educational Television Scholarship for secondary school television programmes was set up, sponsored by Yorkshire Television.

 

The Stage 15 October 1981

In 1965, Enid married Geoffrey C Whitaker, RN. She died in November 1979, an obituary appearing in The Stage 15th November 1979.

Two other pupils named in Machio articles about the early days of the School Guide Company were: Cecily Rodway (b 1914), who left School in 1930 but was retained as a pupil teacher at Weybridge (Junior School). In 1932 she became a probationer at Clapham. The Matron’s report of February 1933 requested a salary of £114 pa for her as she had demonstrated her capabilities. In 1934 she was appointed to the Matron’s staff in Rickmansworth, leaving to be married in 1935. By 1939 Mr & Mrs Mugliston were living in Mangotsfield, Gloucestershire although Cecily also lived in Belfast and West Kirby during her married life. She died in 1967 in West Kirby.

Phyllis Newnham, like Enid and Cecilia, was born in 1911. She joined the School as a Weybridge pupil in 1918, one of the first intake to the Junior School on its moving to Surrey.

 

Ten years later, by then in the Senior School which had remained in Clapham, she became the Gold medallist, leaving school in December 1928. Like Enid & Cecilia, she was appointed pupil teacher in the Upper House and then took a degree in Geography – at Bedford College. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

Bedford College was founded by Elisabeth Jesser Reid in 1849 as the first college in Great Britain for the higher education of women. In 1900, it was admitted to the University of London. Noted alumnae include novelists George Eliot, Ivy Compton-Burnett and Richmal Crompton, and Professor Helen Cam, the first female professor at Harvard. In 1912, the College appointed Margaret Benson as Professor of Botany (the first female professor in Great Britain).[3] Today the College has merged with, and is known as, Royal Holloway but the campus of Regent’s University is the site of the Bedford College RMIG pupils would have known. (It had moved there from Bedford Square in 1911.)

Image from http://www.pinsdaddy.com/regents-university-london

With her newly acquired BA Hons Geography Phyllis joined RMIG staff in September 1933 for the School’s final year in Clapham. When the whole kit and caboodle transferred to Rickmansworth in 1934, Phyllis became Head of Geography and assistant housemistress in Sussex boarding house. In 1945, she became Housemistress of Alexandra and retired in 1968 having spent her entire career at the School. After she died in 1995, OMGA made a presentation to the school in her memory of a barograph and a seat for Chapel Quad.

For those of us who haven’t a clue about these things, a barograph is an instrument that measures and records pressure.

 

This is one. Their use nowadays has mostly been superseded by digital technology.

The early Guide companies at RMSG had patrols named after birds. In 1931, the patrol leaders were identified as: Joan Williams (196-1953) – Bullfinches; Joy Sarsons (1917-1992) – Kingfishers; Kathleen Harrison (1916-1981) – Blue Tits; Freda Beckwith (b 1917) – Swallows; Mair Davies (1917-1993) – Nightingales; Joyce Morris (1916-1996) – Robins; Joan Thompson (b 1915) – Chaffinches.

In 1931, Kathleen Bareham became the Lieutenant. Born in 1913, Kathleen officially left School in 1930 as silver medallist (the medal is still in the family), with prizes for drawing and history, and was retained as a pupil teacher until old enough to train as an art teacher. In 1931, she went to Clapham High School Training Department for Teachers of Art in Secondary Schools. From there she obtained her Oxford Diploma for art teaching (design, object drawing, life and perspective) in 1933 and was appointed to the School as Art Mistress in 1935. Her niece was later to write of her:

She “… was a Renaissance woman able to make beautiful clay pots; [she] studied and won awards for her pottery glazes; upholstered in fabric and leather; had green fingers and was keeper of the family Christmas cake recipe!”

In addition to all these, she was also a skilled tailor – “I have a photo of my grandmother wearing a dress made by Aunty Kitty … which I’ve owned since she died and which fits me perfectly.” During the war, she attended Silversmiths and Goldsmiths College to study silverware – “I have a silver teapot, jug and sugar bowl she made”.

She was the youngest daughter of the family and, as was the way then, she remained at home to look after her elderly mother but bought a Cornish mine count house just outside St Agnes which became her retirement home until she died in 1988.

A Count House was the hub of the day-to-day running of the tin mine and also where the miners collected their pay. The remoteness of the tin mines is shown dramatically in the picture below (from https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wheal-coates).

 

Other girls who were Guide leaders in the 1930s were Joan Morgan Thomas, who left school in July 1934 and went to Cardiff School of Domestic Science and gained a diploma in needlework and dressmaking. She was appointed as Domestic Science mistress to Caerphilly Senior Girls’ School; Joan Addyman and Patricia Ralph both became clerks in Civil Service departments and both died in 2004; Pamela Rottersman left school in 1940 to take a commercial course at home in Brighton and, in 1942, was in the Home Guard there. No doubt her skills learned as a Guide stood her in good stead.

Of course, there were a lot more girls who joined the School Guide companies over the years but later Machio articles rarely name them. So these Leading Lights are selected to represent them all. And given that the pupils from the School came from all over the world and went all over the world, it seems appropriate to conclude with the symbol of the World Girl Guide Association.

[1] The magazine of the Old Masonic Girls’ Association (OMGA)

[2] Potter, Jeremy: Independent Television in Britain: Volume 4: Companies and Programmes, 1968–80, Macmillan 1990

[3] https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/ourhistory

Guiding Lights II

In Guiding Lights, we looked at early Guiding both nationally and at RMIG. By the time WWII had come to its weary conclusion, the world had changed. And it continued to change, sometimes with dizzying speed, so things like the Guide Movement offered  stability whilst it also embraced change itself.

“Girlguiding has always changed as the lives of girls have changed since it was founded …”[1]

In 1945 Agnes Baden-Powell died (Robert Baden-Powell had died in 1941 at his home in Kenya) so the post-war period was a time for both remembering the past and moving forward into the ‘brave new world’.

After WWII, a new Guide uniform was created and it changed from the navy blue it had settled as and became what was called ‘headquarters blue’.

 

https://uk.pinterest.com/rangerguide/girl-guide-girl-scout-history/ 1957 uniform & uniform 1940 from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com

“The Queen’s Guide programme was introduced in 1946, offering an extra challenge for Guides, who had to gain certain specified interest badges to qualify.”[2]

This covered a wide range of topics and took a great deal of hard work to achieve it. At RMSG, Machio records at least three Queen’s Guides, including this one from the 1980s.

The Queen at the time the Queen’s Guide Award was introduced was Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother. She and George VI visited the School in 1946.

By 1949, RMSG had three Guide companies: 3rd, 4th and 7th Chorleywood Guides. Patrols within these had always comprised members of the same boarding house, despite the efforts of Guiders to persuade the guides to try ‘mixed patrols’. Clearly house allegiance overcame all other considerations. But in 1949, of their own volition, they decided to try it and it must have worked because there was no other references to them returning to single-house patrols.

An annual camp was clearly a much anticipated, and hugely enjoyed, experience. In 1949, their camp was in Henley with the Thames running alongside the campsite. Imagine the acres of risk assessment forms that would have to be completed today!

“We found with Rat and Mole that there was nothing like ‘simply messing about’ with boats and a river.”

They were there at the time of the Regatta so they had grandstand views from the campsite.

During their time at camp, amongst other visits, they went to a Brewery. And apparently no-one questioned the fact that schoolgirls were touring a place whose purpose was to prepare intoxicating liquor! They also had a number of visitors including the local gamekeeper “with his velveteen jacket with its bulging pockets”. Redolent of a bygone era.

In 1951, 29 guides went camping in Sussex for twelve days. Highlights included bathing at Seaford, lunch on Newhaven Beach and a visit to Glyndbourne where they met the owner, had a behind the scenes tour and were allowed to listen to part of the rehearsal. The article went on to say that [in true British summer weather] it poured with rain on the last day but a local lady came and said she had ”lit the kitchen fire in the empty thatcher’s cottage and had a copperful of boiling water and that we were all to go and sleep there that night.” The Famous Five will be appearing any second now …

In 1952, when George VI died, Guides across the country had to take a new oath of allegiance to the monarch. Now they were serving a Queen, not a King, and one, moreover, who had been a Guide herself. And yet, although there were significant changes, the spirit of guiding continued as it always had. It was clearly popular at RMSG because we are told that the three companies were all large.

Enter the Sixties and 1960 saw the 50th birthday of the Guiding movement and, fortunately, there was no confusion about the date of this in Machio. Unfortunately, it was because there was no mention of it at all! Assessing the activities of guiding at RMSG is dependent on reports in the School magazine and whilst these started to become more sparse there is no reason to believe that this represented a great waning of interest. Indeed, in 1965 we learn that the Guide Captain was leaving the company and hoped that someone would come forward to lead it. When no-one did the Guides continued on their own! They were granted money from the Committee [at the School] to enable them to buy the new uniform.

Drawn image of 1966 from https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/372109987938710346/

However, in 1967 we learn that the three companies had again become two and then we are told that the two companies merged into one with 36 members. Whether this was a lessening interest or the fact that there was still no Guider to ‘rally the troops’ is a moot point. There was help from a number of sources but mostly the Guides organised themselves. To mark the 50th anniversary of Guiding, new initiatives were considered with the aim of developing guiding in the future but self-winding Guide companies might not have been quite what they had in mind!

In 1968, nationally the uniform was revamped and during the 70s the uniform ties changed frequently

“going from a mini necker, to a cross over style tie which was held in place by the Promise badge, to a conventional rolled necker worn with a woggle”[3].

In the 1990s, the fashion designer Jeff Banks was asked to re-design the uniform.

Guide uniforms in the 1980s and then the 1990s

But fashion doesn’t stay still and, with practicality in mind, in 2000 the uniform changed again using more mix and match styles including sweatshirts, rugby shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts, and a hoody, all worn with an individual choice of trousers or skirt. In 2014, it was once again re-modelled introducing a mid-range blue fabric

“deliberately chosen to be comfortable in different temperatures, crumple-proof and quick-drying”[4].

Whilst the modern uniform may look worlds away from the early ones, in some ways they are not dissimilar. They are practical interpretations of what was deemed suitable at the time. The 1910 girl, adapting her brother’s old cricket shirt, is actually not a million light years away from the modern sweatshirts and hoodies and leggings, albeit that the modern Guide buys her uniform and the 1910 Miss made hers. Washability is now a modern requirement. Perhaps just as well. As an RMSG Brownie Guider commented when the sweatshirts for the Brownies were first introduced: “Whoever dreamed up bright yellow? Have they never seen the state of Brownies by the end of a meeting??”

Perhaps Guides are too sedate to get grubby.

(Fat chance!)

 

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/05/17/girl-guides-could-get-badges-vlogging-upcycling-biggest-revamp/

[2] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/timeline

[3] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

[4] ibid

Guiding Lights

armsful of badges
Guiding badges

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news 24 May 2017

In 2017 Girlguiding announced it was planning an overhaul of its programme. It had been consulting its members and thousands of girls had suggested “ideas for new badges, including App Design, Vlogging and Upcycling”[1]. Other suggestions for new badges have been Entrepreneurship, DIY, Festival Goer, Voting, Grow Your Own, Speaking Out and Archaeology. The consultation was now being opened to the general public.

“The new programme, which will be launched in summer 2018, is aimed at making the Girl Guides ‘more relevant’ to the lives of girls and teenagers.”[2]

The organisation was keen to correct the image that the proficiency badges were mostly of a domestic nature – “less adventurous badges like Homemaker and Hostess”[3]. A report in the school magazine in 1965 shows a haul of earned badges at RMSG is indeed somewhat top heavy in domestic skills: Child Nurse 12; Cook 7; Hostess 4; Homemaker 2; Laundress 2; Needlewoman 4; Little House 4; Sick nurse 2; Life savers 3; Thrift 4.

Thankfully, there was also Gymnast 3; Minstrel 1; Map reader 10; Hiker 1; Camper 1; Pioneer 1; Woodcraft 1.

The history of the Guides, however, shows that it has been breaking new ground from the beginning with badges such as Air Mechanic, Telegraphist and Electrician (all 1912); Architect (1920), Electrical Engineer (1920s) and Radio Communicator (1980).

early Guide badge
Air Mechanic Badge 1912

When scouting for boys began in 1907, it was not long before the girls wanted in on it. They adapted scout uniform by cannibalising their brothers’ old cricket shirts and adding sturdy skirts. They followed the pattern of scout troop meetings albeit at a distance and they were a recognised shadow movement, openly acknowledged in 1909. “… at Robert Baden-Powell’s request the separate organisation of the Girl Guides [was] started in 1910 by his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell”[4].

Agnes and a guide

(Left) Agnes Baden Powell image from eadt.co.uk Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13288352 and (right) Picture of 1910 uniform from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

In 1912, the first Guide Handbook was produced, adapted from Scouting for Boys but given “a fine veneer of femininity, to appease parents and other nervous adults who worried that the new scheme might lead their daughters astray”[5].

The Guiding movement now being well-established, it is difficult to imagine that it might have once been looked on with disfavour. However, at the time, it might have been confused with the more militaristic aspects of the suffragette/gist movement “which sought greater rights and freedoms for women by a range of means, some illegal.”[6] Or it might inspire girls to be more aggressive, or be a subversive method of preparing them for war service as nurses at the Front. In fact, it could be argued that WWI was good for the Guides because they had the opportunity – which they seized – to show how their guide training could be very useful other than in knitting socks for the troops (which they probably also did!).

According to http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm, Guides acted as messengers, worked in hospitals, made hospital dressings and

“Many were involved in fundraising for causes such as the Red Cross and refugee funds, and … a special Guide fundraising drive, which raised enough money to set up and run an extensive and regularly-expanded rest hut for soldiers ‘behind the lines’ in France, and also to provide a ‘motor ambulance’”

This positivity meant that, post-war, the Guiding movement really began to flourish “possibly linked to the rapid increase in the number of single young ladies and widows unexpectedly available and with the free time to become Guiders, an indirect and unfortunate consequence of the massive loss of young soldiers and officers in World War 1.”[7] Because the Duke of Devonshire, a leading Freemason, was “a strong opponent of the Girls’ Scout movement”[8] possibly any early attempt by the School to instigate a Guide Company might have been thwarted. As it was, the Girl Guides continued apace but it was not until 1929 that the first school Guide Company was formed.

The School magazine, Machio, records that the first guide meeting was on 13th February with 21 guides. Interestingly, the article refers to these girls having been Brownies so it would appear that a Brownie pack at the School already existed but there are no records for when this began.

Meetings comprised games, inspection, drill and competitions between the patrols with marks awarded. Whichever patrol won the greatest number of points in a term won the shield. The article goes on to say that Guides were preparing a Morse display for Ex Girls’ day in June of that year although we are not given any further information about what this involved.

Their uniforms were made in “the new style” with the exception of the school tie being substituted for the Guide tie.

 

1920s image from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm with school guides image from Machio 1929

Trying to reconstruct the facts after the event using Machio inevitably gives rise to confusion. In 1929 there were apparently two guide companies and yet in 1931 we are told it had been decided to split the Guide Company into two, one for the Upper School and one for the Lower House – um – exactly as described in 1929! The Upper School company had two patrols (Robins and Chaffinches) whilst the Lower School company had Bullfinches, Kingfishers, Blue Tits, Swallows and Nightingales patrols.

We are also told that on February 21st, they celebrated the company’s 3rd birthday whereas Machio 1929 gives the starting date as 13th February. Which is actually correct is impossible to say. Their celebration took place in the Hall [Centenary Hall] and they played games and then did a charade from Cinderella“Miss Potter very kindly allowed us some suitable clothes from the play-box”.

The article, written by two 13 year olds, states that the numbers in the Upper School company had decreased (because of their exam overload) and then in the next sentence says that eight new guides were enrolled. Perhaps they understood what they meant!

One element is clear in the article: that on 4th May Prize Day, the Guide Company formed the Guard of Honour for HRH the Princess Royal’s visit to the School. Princess Mary was made the honorary president of the British Girl Guide Association in 1920, a position she held until her death in 1965.

Image of Princess Mary from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3607650

Unfortunately in the next breath, so to speak, the Machio correspondent is back to the confused/ing statements: the “Guide movement celebrated their 21st birthday this year” (Machio 1932) whereas this presumably happened in 1931. For this, they paraded at church and every guide was asked to do something to help someone else. The School Company made children’s frocks and other garments, which were sent to a London mission.

The writer includes the information that Miss Vickridge “the new French mistress” was a keen guider and was hoping to restart guiding in the Upper House. Clearly in this she was successful as in Machio 1933 we are told that the Guides are now called the Sixth Battersea Rise Company (the Lower School group was the 4th Battersea Rise Company) with 16 members who were enrolled on March 8th by the District Commissioner. By the following term numbers had increased to 48 – six patrols of eight girls: Daffodil, Snowdrop, Fuchsia, Holly, Poppy and Heather [the robins and chaffinches seem to have flown the nest!] Meanwhile, the younger guides were 30-strong and 22 of them, having their 2nd class badges, were working at earning their proficiency badges “such as Needlewoman, Knitter, Child Nurse and Cook [more domesticity!] and working for Athlete and Dancer’s Badges.”

By 1939, the company had increased exponentially, numbering 102 with 9 as cadets or senior guides, and 36 further guides who wished to join so a separate company was formed – back to the confusion about just how many companies there actually were! By this time the School had moved to Rickmansworth and the guide companies were the 4th and 7th Chorleywood companies. In that year there was a Pageant of some kind as the picture shows but the article fails to mention it so we don’t have any further information. However, 24th May was then known as Empire Day and the costumes look to be related to the various countries in it so we can probably assume this was what the Pageant was acknowledging.

Coincidentally, May 24 1939 was a Wednesday as it was in 2017 but that’s neither here nor there.

1939 was also, of course, the beginning of WWII although it is most unlikely that any of the girls in this picture would have been aware of its awful imminence. What price an air mechanic’s badge now? Let us leave them celebrating and in Part Two of this posting we will rejoin the Guiding story post-war.

Sources

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39936006

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/05/17/girl-guides-could-get-badges-vlogging-upcycling-biggest-revamp/

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39936006

[4] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

Bible Stories

Bible pic

“On their departure, they were presented with a Bible, a prayer book and a copy of Dr Wilson’s Treatise on the Sacraments.” Polished Cornerstones, p 241.

This relates specifically to the first pupils to leave the school c 1795. Dr Wilson’s Treatise was seemingly widely read in the eighteenth century. However, it started a pattern which continued throughout the School’s history until last year. Whilst religious tracts were intended to ensure that ‘the lessons they have here been taught’ continued to hold them in good stead in the outside world, there were also practical considerations. As they approached school-leaving age (never less than 15), discreet enquiries were made as to whether the family was able to resume its care for their daughter. All the girls had been received into the School as daughters of indigent Freemasons, the School taking on full responsibility for their clothing, welfare and education. Sometimes the families had not recovered from whatever caused the indigence and, in many cases, there was no longer any family left. But if  the family were able to resume their care, four guineas was spent on ‘Plain Cloathing’ and the girl was delivered back to them. The phrase makes her sound rather like a parcel or a piece of luggage but it was just the phrasing used at the time. The column in the register was headed ‘How disposed of’ which is even worse but it is just the way language use has changed. If she could not be returned to her family, an apprenticeship would be found and all the fees thereto would be met by the School. In either case, a Bible was also presented to her on her departure.

In an age when fewer people owned books, this was clearly cherished by the former pupils who have handed down their bibles through the generations of their own family. A will dated 1845 was the starting point for this posting.

Will whole
The will of Isabella Window 1845

The relevant portion of the will is “I give to my sister Matilda Window of 22 Star Road Edgware Road my silver watch and my School Bible also the School Prayer Book”

Isabella Window became a pupil at RMIG in 1826. Born in Nottingham in 1818, she was baptised in St Mary’s church there on 22 Feb 1818. Also known as St Mary’s in the Lace Market, the church is one of five Grade I listed buildings in Nottingham and the largest mediaeval building in the city.

Notts church
St Mary. Nottingham

The vicar at the time was George Wilkins and during one of his sermons, a loud cracking noise was heard, clearly emanating from the masonry. There was a rapid exodus of the congregation as it was thought that the tower was about to collapse. Perhaps because George’s brother was an architect (William Wilkins), he was in a better position to know what to do and it is attributed to his action that the church survives today rather than it being taken down and rebuilt.

“[He] summoned the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham to survey the fabric, and Cottingham implemented a scheme to prop up the tower with scaffolding while the tower piers were repaired.” (Wikipedia citing Allen, Frank J, 1932, The Great Church Towers of England. Chiefly of the Perpendicular Period Cambridge University Press)

The church of St Mary is mentioned in D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers

“They threaded through the throng of church-people. The organ was still sounding in St. Mary’s. Dark figures came through the lighted doors; people were coming down the steps. The large coloured windows glowed up in the night. The church was like a great lantern suspended.”

Isabella had become eligible to be a pupil through her father’s membership of Newstead Lodge where he is described as a ‘Taylor’. He had married Isabella’s mother, Isabella, in 1805 in Greasley, Nottingham and it seems highly likely that she is the Isabella Window listed in 1828 Pigot’s directory as a widow and listed under Tailors & Habit makers in Goose Gate, Nottingham.

City centre
Nottingham 1830

http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/resources/maps/Nottingham/nottingham1830.pdf

Isabella had four sisters and two brothers but, as was the ruling at the time, only one daughter came to the School. We do not know where the other children were educated but we do know that three of the sisters were living in London in 1845 as their addresses are recorded in Isabella’s will. Perhaps they attended similar schools and then made their lives in London.

Isabella left School on 31 July 1833 ‘delivered to her mother’ from which we might make the assumption that she returned to Nottingham. However, she is listed in 1841 in a Westminster Rate book as living at 22 Star Street – presumably the Star Road referred to in her will.

She died in the year the will is dated and is buried in another St Mary’s but this one is in Paddington Green where the burial record of 21 June 1845 confirms her address as Star Street. Even in an age when life expectancy was less, her death aged 27 would still be regarded as being very young.

St Mary and graves
St Mary, Paddington Green & reburial plaque

Image of church by Libby Norman – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16174857

Image of plaque by Forscher scs – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44181119

The graveyard was converted to a public park in 1966 but some of Isabella’s ‘neighbours’ have included: William Chandless (1829 – 1896), Amazon explorer [the river not the website]; Arthur Roberts (1852 – 1933), comedian; Leonard Charles Wyon (1826 – 1891), engraver and coin-designer; Sir Stephen Spender (1909 – 1995), poet; Joseph Nollekens (1737 – 1823), sculptor and his father, Joseph Francis Nollekens, artist; Emma Paterson (1846 – 1886), feminist and unionist and Sarah Siddons (1755 – 1831), actress.

Perhaps, somewhat appropriately, another grave is for Rev Alexander Geddes (1737 – 1802), Biblical scholar on which note we can return to the school bibles.

Another pupil presented with a bible when she left was Agnes Ruspini, the granddaughter of the Chevalier Ruspini credited with starting the School. She arrived at the School the year before Isabella left. When she, in her turn, left she was apprenticed to a dressmaker, taking her Bible with her.

Agnes Ruspini
Presentation details

It says something for the School that, after Agnes had completed her apprenticeship and having presumably nowhere else to go, she came back to the School. That this was a little unexpected may be shown by the minutes which state in 1847 that “the Matron’s conduct in receiving Agnes Ruspini again as an inmate on the completion of her apprenticeship was approved” but that the House Committee must be the body that “receives into the School any person”. After a while, Agnes was apprenticed again and in 1851 she appears in the census as a tailoress. From then on, traces of her are fleeting and uncertain. It is possible that she married twice but in neither case is all the information correct. For example, on her 2nd marriage (assuming this really is her), she gives her father’s name as William Bladen Ruspini, dentist – which is wrong if she is ‘our’ Agnes whose father was James Bladen Ruspini. If she did marry, hers is probably the death of 1888 in Poplar. Whenever it was she died, the bible with which she was presented came back to the School in her memory.

Agnes’ presentation was handwritten – as we do not have isabella’s we cannot say whether hers was – but by 1873 the School was using printed presentation labels and the Bibles were splendidly bound with a clasp.

bible label
Bible and the label inside

Ada Maria Reeds, to whom this was presented, was recommended by Miss Davis (Head Governess) as a pupil teacher in one of the Government schools. In 1881, the census gives her occupation as Assistant School Mistress at Fir Tree Road Kensington so we assume the recommendation was carried out.

By 1902, the Bibles are now carrying a coat of arms although the eagle-eyed among you may notice that the motto is that used by the Boys’ School: aude, vidi, taci.

Bradley's Bible
Bible presented to Rose Bradley

The Bible was presented back to the School by her daughter after Rose’s death in 1963.

During the First World War, such printed extravagances may have been thought unpatriotic so the presentation bibles came inside a printed slip cover.

1916 cover
Bible slip cover

A Bible presented in 1921 had a little adventure all of its own! It was presented to Eleanor Hill, one half of the duo known as the Titanic Twins as their father died on the ill-fated vessel. This presentation Bible has the coat of arms in colour and no longer has the Boys’ motto but the School did not as yet have its own coat of arms. (That was to come in 1936.)

Titanic Bible
1921 Bible presented to Eleanor A Hill

In 2013, the School was contacted by an antiquarian book seller in Ireland to say he had found this Bible amongst a box of other books and would we like it returned? We did and it was!

The most ‘recent’ presentation Bible held by the School is not one that was presented to a pupil and later returned by families but one that was presented to the School itself. When RMIG moved from Clapham (shown in the presentation label above) in 1934, there were many splendid gifts donated to mark this major change in the School’s history. Amongst the gifts was a Bible for the lectern in the Chapel.

Big bible
Lectern Bible

The picture doesn’t really demonstrate its size. It is probably about 15 centimetre (or 6 inches in old money) in depth and now in a rather fragile state. It was presented to the School on a momentous occasion by someone who was having a somewhat momentous occasion of her own.

Bridges label
Bible presentation label

Isabella Window’s short life has given us an interesting slant on the School’s history. It seems appropriate then to quote Sir Stephen Spender who happens to be buried in the same place as she was:

Spender quote
Sir Stephen Spender’s words

‘The uncertain glory of an April day’

Two anniversaries share one April day: 23rd April, and as one of them belongs to William Shakespeare, the quotation from Two Gentlemen of Verona seems apt.

“Shakespeare’s favourite month would seem to be April … No other month is mentioned half as often in his works as showery, windy, sometimes unforgettably exquisite April.” (Germaine Greer   The New Yorker, April 11, 2013)

23rd April is long ascribed to be the day on which William Shakespeare was born although there is no specific record of it. He was baptised on 26 April 1564 and it is generally assumed that, as was the custom at the time, the infant was born about three days earlier. He definitely died on this date 52 years later so it is convenient to use the date to apply to both events.

Saint and playwright

St George, patron saint of England as well as of Germany, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Palestine, Ethiopa, Serbia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Portugal, Malta and Montenegro, has his saint’s day on 23rd April.

The two come together in Shakespeare’s Henry V when the king, at the Battle of Agincourt, rallies his troops with the stirring “Cry God for Harry, England and St George.”

It was a good bit of propaganda for George who, despite being the English patron saint, never actually set foot in the place.

The original patron saint had been Edmund (“Cry God for Harry, England and – er – St Edmund” – doesn’t really cut it, does it?) and he had been patron saint since the 9th century. His shrine, housed in an abbey built by King Canute, was at Bury St Edmunds.

Eddy;s tomb
Shrine of St Edmund

The shrine depicted above was destroyed in 1539. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, his remains were spirited away to France to keep them safe. It obviously worked because in 1911 they came home again and now they are in Arundel castle.

‘Such was the influence of St Edmund that on St Edmund’s Day in 1214 rebel English barons held a secret meeting here before going to confront King John with the Charter of Liberties, the forerunner to Magna Carta which he signed a year later. This event is reflected in the motto of Bury St Edmunds: ‘Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law’.’ [In Latin Sacrarium Regis Cunabula legis]

http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Edmund-original-patron-saint-of-England/

Suffolk crest
Bury St Edmunds coat of arms

In 1199, Edmund was unceremoniously dumped by Richard I who had visited the site of St George’s tomb in Lod (modern day Israel) and then the following day won a battle.

where geo lies
Tomb of St George

Image of tomb By OneArmedMan – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3078385

Whether he genuinely believed that his triumph had been brought about by the saint or he was quick to see the opportunities of renaming the patron saint we will never know. Richard I, nicknamed the Lionheart, has himself had an historical makeover. He comes down through history as a great King of England but he spent so little time in this country during his reign, largely limited to visits to wring out more money by taxation to fund his crusading, that it is perhaps very appropriate he selected a patron saint who had spent even less time here.

google image
St George’s Day Google doodle

The final coup de grace for St Edmund came in 1348 when Edward III founded the Knights of the Garter and selected St George as its patron. From then on, the flag of St Edmund was superseded by the flag of St George when troops went into battle.

St George lived in the 3rd century. For part of his life, he was in Lydda (now in Israel) but it is uncertain whether he was born here or in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey). Wherever it was, it was to wealthy Greek parents. He was a soldier as his father had been – probably another reason for Richard to adopt him – but despite being in the Roman army, he was a Christian and reputedly refused to give up his faith even when asked by Emperor Diocletian. Probably not a good career move to oppose your boss and George was executed, after being subjected to torture, on 23rd April 303 AD.

Our William, on the other hand, is undisputedly English, born and died in Stratford upon Avon. Conveniently neat, you have to give him that. Made his career in London but scholars argue about where he was during his ‘missing years’. Was he a schoolmaster, a travelling player, a poacher – or all three and more? And where was he – in this country or not?

A pub in Kenilworth is convinced that the premises was patronised ‘by none other than William Shakespeare’  (http://www.virginsandcastle.co.uk/) though it offers no evidence to support this view. The Famous Virgins and Castle (the word famous is part of the title) is in the High Street in the older part of Kenilworth.

The pub
The Famous Virgins & castle, Kenilworth

Image courtesy of Google Earth Street View

Virgins & castle
Pub sign

Inn sign courtesy of http://www.virginsandcastle.co.uk/

The premises is old enough to have been known to Shakespeare. It actually appears to date from the year before his birth and there is a story that Shakespeare may have visited Kenilworth when Elizabeth I visited in 1575.

Castle and grounds
Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden

Image of Kenilworth Castle and the newly restored garden courtesy of http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

David Schajer in his blog http://shakespearesolved.blogspot.co.uk posits the idea that perhaps John Shakespeare, a glove maker, might have seized the opportunity of making a pair of gloves for Elizabeth and presenting them to her on her visit. It would be a good publicity ploy particularly since we know that, very shortly after this, the family fortunes dipped quite dramatically. It is quite feasible it was a last ditch attempt to stave off financial collapse.

But as Schajer neatly puts it:

‘There is no proof that Shakespeare was there. There is no proof that he was not there. It is impossible to know, based on the evidence that we possess today. Perhaps we may eventually discover documents or letters that put Shakespeare at Kenilworth, or not, and until that time we cannot know one way or the other’

If Shakespeare were there in 1575, he would only be 11 so presumably not frequenting the pub known then as The Two Virgins. But it does seem possible that James Burbage, of whose acting company Shakespeare was later a part, was at Kenilworth and perhaps this lends some credence to the pub’s claim.

And the connection to RMSG? (You were wondering where that fitted in weren’t you?) Well the parents of Marjorie Slingsby, former pupil, ran the pub in the late nineteenth century. Thomas Chapman Slinsgby, b 1865, was a grocer’s manager before he transferred to the drinks trade. He died in 1901 and his probate places him at Virgin’s Inn, Kenilworh. His estate was valued at probate as £16 15s which, although in modern terms is worth £722, it is hardly a living wage. Marjorie’s mother became the licensee in 1901 but by the next census is given as a boarding house keeper, not at the pub but in Waverley St, Kenilworth. Both Marjorie and her sister were working in clerical jobs.

Marjorie came to the School after her father’s death and left it in 1909. Given as a shorthand typist in 1911, we can probably assume she learned those skills at school. In 1912, Marjorie visited the School again. It seems feasible that this was for the first Old Girls’ Day since the foundation of the Old Girls’ Association (OMGA). There had been Ex-Pupils’ Days before then but the Association started in 1912. It may have been this reason or it may have been because she was planning the leave the country and wanted to see her alma mater for probably the last time. In 1913, Marjorie, her mother, her sister Kathleen and younger brother George travelled to Wellington, New Zealand on the Tainui. By 1916, she gives her address as Whataupoko, Gisburn, New Zealand.

NZ

Images of Whataupoko from http://www.tairawhitimuseum.org.nz/exhibits-galleries/collections/photography/Times_A_Changin/Whataupoko.asp

On 12 Dec 1923, she married Roy Fellows Baird the date being given in Who’s Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, 1925. Roy was a Solicitor and District Land Registrar who made an extensive study of Polynesia. His research notes are now held by Canterbury Museum. By 1932, the Bairds were living at 2a Selwyn Rd, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand where Marjorie remained a member of OMGA. Sadly just six years later, she died, aged only 45. It is possible that this is the property today listed as 2 Selwyn Rd, Hospital Hill, Napier which was sold in October 2015 although there is no certainty about this.

Baird home?
Napier property

Rather like the uncertainty about whether Shakespeare was, or wasn’t in Kenilworth; was or wasn’t a frequenter of The Two Virgins; whether St George was, or wasn’t born in Israel or Turkey, the was or wasn’t of New Zealand real estate is up to you.

But April 23rd is definitely celebrated as St George’s Day and as Shakespeare’s birthday.

“Oh, the lovely fickleness of an April day!”

April is a month noted for two things particularly: April Fool’s Day (“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year” – Mark Twain) and April showers. Who can forget the song from Bambi ‘Drip drip drop little April showers’?

Bambi
http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Little_April_Shower

[You’ll probably regret reading that. It’ll be an ear worm you’ll have in your head all day!]

Chaucer may not have had doe-eyed fawns in mind when he wrote: ‘Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote/ The droghte of March hath perced to the roote …’ in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales but he summed up neatly the gentle little showers that are supposed to fall in April. It was probably those that Robert Browning had in mind when, in Home Thoughts from Abroad, he wished he was in England ‘now that April’s there’.

April in schools often brings the start of the summer term with the delicious thought of the ‘long summer hols’ to come. Fortunately for the sanity of teachers, April 1st is fleetingly brief and doesn’t always fall on a school day but most people can probably recall an April Fool’s trick perpetrated successfully on schoolchums. Sadly, it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t get recorded in the annals.

One particularly famous hoax, however, albeit not in a school, was the spaghetti tree Panorama report on April 1st 1957. Ignoring the ‘rule’ that tricks played after 12 midday don’t count, the television programme broadcast a spoof report from the Swiss canton of Ticino about harvesting spaghetti. Of course, at the time, this was not a dish many had tried at home. It wouldn’t work today!

“The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There’s always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavour and makes it difficult to obtain top prices.”

The report was given greater authenticity with a discussion about the horrors inflicted on the crop by the spaghetti weevil – a dastardly little blighter which had wreaked havoc on crops in the past. Richard Dimbleby, who fronted the report, lent gravitas to the spoof which probably caused more viewers to be fooled than might otherwise have been, such was his authority. He concluded his report by declaring that ‘there’s nothing like real homegrown spaghetti.’ Following the programme, the BBC received many phone calls asking from where it might be possible to obtain their own spaghetti trees. The BBC gave up trying to explain and settled instead for telling them to take a sprig from an existing tree and plant it in a can of tomato paste.

And the connection to the School’s history? Well, it’s nothing if not contrived! Let us jump back in time a little to a young girl born just before the turn of the century. Marie Victoria Adams was born in 1897 and was always known in her family as Queenie. The family home at this time was 24 Selbourne Rd, then in Handsworth but now classed as Birmingham.

Adams home
Selbourne Rd, Handsworth

24 Selbourne Rd, courtesy of Google Earth Street View

After her father, a brass nail manufacturer in Birmingham, died, Queenie became a pupil at RMIG. We know she left the School in 1913 and, on average, pupils stayed for about 5-6 years so she probably arrived in about 1907. Unlike the school leaving age in National schools (which was 12-14), RMIG has always had a minimum leaving age of 15, which often became 16 and, at Head Governess’ request, might be 17. Queenie would have been 16 in 1913.

We don’t know exactly what she did after leaving school. The only certain occupation recorded for her is in 1939 when she is given as a shorthand typist. Both shorthand and typing lessons were undertaken at the School at this time but we can’t directly link Queenie to them. Obviously she must have learned shorthand somewhere and it might have been at school.

However, there is also the tantalising reference in her family history – and here’s the connection to the April Fool stunt – “she told me that she had been a nanny in the Dimbleby household when they lived in Teddington.” (The words of a family historian who knew her.) The opportunity when Any Questions was recorded at the School to ask Jonathan Dimbleby if he could confirm this was too great to resist. He could not recall Queenie but her family historian was unsure whether it was before or after Queenie’s marriage: i.e. before 1926 or after. The mention of Teddington, where Richard Dimbleby grew up, perhaps makes it a possibility that it was the older Dimbleby generation rather than the younger. Between 1913 and 1926 we have no specific trace of Queenie so perhaps she was indeed working as a nanny. Fast forward to 1932, and we can link Queenie to Teddington as she gave the address c/o Mrs Spencer Phillips, Denbigh House, Hampton Wick, in her OMGA membership. The fact that it is a ‘c/o’ address might suggest that Mrs Phillips was her employer but that is not known for certain. This house was completely rebuilt in 1936 by Mrs Phillips so the image of it may not be the same as the one Queenie knew. Today it is known as Denbigh Lodge.

Teddington
Denbigh House

So often in these pen portraits of past pupils, we know little of the personalities. We are fortunate in having a first-hand account by someone who actually knew her. Queenie, she recalled, had auburn hair, naturally wavy and thick.

“Grandma told me of the time the three girls, May, Queenie and Gran, went to the theatre and someone cut off Queenie’s plait which was hanging over the seat. Presumably they had a good price for it…”

Queenie also had a quick ear for music and played the piano – possibly something else she had learned at school although being able to play ‘by ear’ is a talent rather than a learned quality.

“Marie (Queenie to me) was my grandma’s cousin, younger by about 5 years. All the cousins seemed to have a close relationship. Queenie’s older sister May was Grandma’s best friend and eventually lived in the same road, as did Queenie’s mother and brother Ormsby (who emigrated to Canada) and Dorothy, known as Dolly, to whom Queenie was very close. They lived at 18 Windermere Rd Handsworth and Grandma lived at 25, with May eventually at 33!”

2 views of Windermere
Windermere Rd

Views of Windermere Rd, from Google Earth street view.

18 Windermere was sold last in 2011 for £132,000.

Queenie married on 23 December 1926 at West Bromwich Registry Office. Sadly the marriage did not last and it may well be that her husband, who was a widower, really just wanted a live-in housekeeper and someone to look after his children. We will never know the truth as it was something Queenie never discussed. By 1932 Queenie was [back] in Teddington and her name is recorded in OMGA membership as Adams and not under her married name. It was almost as if she wished to draw a veil over it.

In 1939 she was living at 25 Windermere Rd. During the war, despite the danger from air raids, “she wouldn’t go in the shelter, maintaining that if you looked at all the bombed houses the stairs were still there so that was her little shelter – under the stairs.”

houses bombed
Blitz damage

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-34746691

In the 1950s, she went to live in Antrobus Rd and had a bedsit there.

Bedsit street
Antrobus Rd

Antrobus Rd, courtesy of Google Earth Street View

“The last time I heard from her was in 1974, 5 years before she died. She was in a home [for the elderly] in Somerset Rd Handsworth, her sight was failing, she was doing a lot of baby knitting and had frequent visitors of nieces and nephews.”

Care Home
Somerset Rd

Somerset Rd courtesy of Google Earth Street View

Despite her advancing years, we still capture something of her personality in her comments: she complained about ‘dear England going to ruin with … all the nitwits in Parliament’ and she ‘just liked to think of happy times 50 years ago’.

Marie Victoria White died in Dudley Rd Hospital on 6th April 1979 aged 82. Causes of death included cardiac failure, bronchitis, emphysema and coronary atheroma – in short, a tired body simply shutting down. Our family historian correspondent said of her

“She was a lovely lady and I remember her with great affection and wish I had known more about her but when you are young you just don’t ask those sort of questions which could be so relevant today.”

We don’t know what her view of the spaghetti tree hoax was but “she had a good sense of humour”.

I bet she roared with laughter!

Panorama 1957
Spaghetti harvest

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/april-fools–day–best-april-fools-pranks-ever-160640356.html

(Quotation in title from William Hamilton Gibson was an American illustrator, author and naturalist.)

“Hold the line please, caller.”

Bell image
Alexander Graham Bell

http://blog.dialpad.com/blog/the-life-of-a-call-part-one-the-historical-telephone

When Alexander Graham Bell uttered the words “Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you”, generally accepted to be the first spoken via telephone apparatus, who could have imagined the transforming effect that this would have on the world? Certainly not Elisha Gray to whom is attributed

“As to Bell’s talking telegraph, it only creates interest in scientific circles, and as a toy it is beautiful; but … its commercial value will be limited.”

Of course, there may have been some professional rivalry behind the remark as Gray is one of a number of inventors credited with having invented the telephone for which Bell alone is credited by history.

But Gray was not the only one who thought that Bell’s invention was of limited commercial value. Shortly after the device had been patented, Western Union were offered the rights to the telephone for $100,000. In one of the world’s worst commercial decisions, they turned it down arguing that Bell’s proposal to have an instrument in every home and business was absurd.

“The central exchange alone would represent a huge outlay in real estate and buildings, to say nothing of the electrical equipment … any development of the kind and scale which Bell so fondly imagines is utterly out of the question.”

Bell formed the Bell Telephone Company in 1877 and it was an instant success. In 1878, Western Union, realising they had made a big mistake, offered Bell $25 million for his invention but by then Bell was no longer interested.

And what has this to do with RMS? Well, hold the line please, caller and all will become apparent.

Alexander Graham Bell had been born in Edinburgh in March 1847. 29 years later, also in March, he patented the invention that made him a household name. The Bell family had emigrated to Canada in 1870 and then, in 1872, Bell had moved to Boston. His ‘day job’ was as a teacher of the deaf. It might seem at first ironic that an instrument that relies entirely on sound should have been invented by someone who worked with those who could not hear sounds at all but, in fact, it was because of his work that the device was developed. It “led him to investigate the artificial reproduction of vowel sounds, resulting in a study of electricity and magnetism, and ultimately the development of the telephone.” http://www.britishtelephones.com/histuk.htm

Sir William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin, brought the telephone back across the Atlantic. Unlike Gray, he saw its commercial potential and described it as ‘the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph’. Within a decade of Bell’s patent, 150,000 telephones had been installed in US homes along with the infrastructure that enabled telephone calls to be made (direct dial was a good way off yet). The telephone exchange was the means of connecting one caller with another. Originally, male operators were employed but it quickly became established that the female voice was preferred.

‘Known colloquially as “hello girls”, young unmarried white women were hired almost exclusively as telephone operators across the country during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Women were considered to be naturally more polite than men, and it was thought that their “voice with a smile” would appeal to male telephone users.’ https://oregonhistoryproject.org

Emma Nutt became the world’s first female operator, working at the telephone exchange in Boston. Because ‘customer reviews’ were so good, in time the role of the telephone operator became almost exclusively female.

“Female bluestocking employment in telephone companies soared, particularly during the First World War. This was an important step in the history of female employment as it demonstrated women were equally capable of secretarial duties as men.” https://owlcation.com/humanities/history-of-the-telephone-system-uk

The first public telephone exchange in England was in 1879. It was in London and connected only a small number of telephones. However, such is the rapidity with which the use of the telephone escalated that by the end of that year, many more cities had their own exchanges.

switchboard 1
© The British Library Board, The Graphic, 1 September 1883, pg. 232-3

Operators at an early telephone switchboard, requiring two operators to connect a call: ‘Switch Room of a Central Office Worked by Slipper Board System’, ‘The Telephone Exchange in London’; used in an article By Dr M Kay Troublesome telephony: how users and non-users shaped the development of early British exchange telephony.

1910 exchange
Baker City (Oregon) telephone exchange 1910

The domestic end was connected by apparatus which, to us, seems cumbersome.

various phones
Telephones in earlier days

All of those are in fact modern reproductions as can be seen by the inclusion of a dial but they serve as exemplars. In order that members of the public without telephones at home could make calls, public telephones were created. One of the first was in Bristol in 1886.

‘It was basically a small wooden hut where a three-minute call could be made for just ‘tuppence’ (a little under 1p). Not all early payphones had a coinbox built into them; some of the kiosks had a penny-in-the-slot mechanism on the door, while others had an attendant to collect the fee.’ http://www.britishtelephones.com/histuk.htm

It wasn’t until 1924 that the familiar red telephone box appeared. Designed by Sir Gilbert Giles Scott (who originally wanted them to be silver in colour), the K6 or Jubilee design became a familiar sight on the streets and is instantly recognisable.

phone from here
Red telephone boxes

(Drawn image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36148287)

The concept of a telephone kiosk, or booth, is so familiar that it appears in song lyrics without needing explanation.

Blondie song
Hanging on the Telephone

The concept of requiring an operator to effect a call, however, has become something so antiquated that another set of lyrics is immediately dated.

Dr Hook lyrics
Sylvia’s Mother

But pop songs aside – Thank you for waiting, caller. Putting you through now – the telephone girls is how this topic relates to RMS pupils. A number of them, upon leaving school, began working in telephony. For some, it was until they married but for quite a few, it was their career. Beatrice Newman, for example, began as a telephone operator but retired as a supervisor in the London Telephone Service. Marjorie Dalzell – once described by friends as ‘an indomitable spirit’ and who, in later life, was a frequent flyer on Concorde – began with the GPO as a telephonist and auditioned for a role as the speaking clock. Had she been successful (she was runner-up), her voice may have been very familiar to many millions of people. She then moved onto the Air Ministry and that became her career.

GPO girls
RMSG Telephone Girls

Given that female telephone operators were quickly preferred to men, the ‘voice with a smile’ being preferred by telephone customers, it is interesting to note that Ada Tanare had previously won a prize for Elocution before she left school so presumably her voice was particularly clear and pleasant.

There were other pupils too who took up telephony. As they are (as far as we know) still alive their names and details are not given here. To give the flavour of the times, though, one was as a telephonist for the Post Office in 1945 on a salary of 36/- pw. Her hours were 9-6, presumably five days a week.

To give this some perspective, policemen and tram drivers were on £3.10s whereas a school leaver in Sheffield in 1943 was paid 1 pound (20 shillings) for 48 hours. Wages of course were driven by the cost of living. Treats like the cinema cost 2d front stalls, 3d back stalls and 9d circle. Tizer was 3d (but you earned a penny back on the bottle); a 2oz bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate was 2d, as was a Kit Kat. If you were flashing the cash and had more expensive tastes, a Mars bar cost 6d. On the other hand Wrigley’s spearmint chewing gum was 1d for five pieces. After that lot, a toothbrush (2½ d) and a small tube of toothpaste at 6d might come in handy. Soap bars were 3d or 4d depending on whether you wanted a lady’s soap (Eve toilet soap) or something for all the family (Palmolive). A small box of washing powder cost the same as a Mars Bar so perhaps you had to choose between eating chocolate or being clean. More staple items were a loaf of bread (about 4d); pint of milk 2d; 1lb Jar of Strawberry Jam 11d; a tin of beans 7d; a dozen large eggs 1/6 and 1lb Pork Sausages 1/3d. http://www.worldwar2exraf.co.uk/Online%20Museum/Museum%20Docs/Cost%20of%20living%202.htm

All of this is in ‘old money’ of course where £1 was divided into 20 shillings, and a shilling into 12 pennies. 36 shillings a week wouldn’t stretch far if you had rent to pay and tram/bus fares to find.

All of these girls helped to keep the communication lines open before any direct dialling came and long, long before the advent of mobile phones. What would they make of the modern RMS pupils who would, given half a chance, talk on their phones all day, every day and who utter cries of abject horror when taken on field trips for their exam courses – and find there is no mobile signal! For a whole week! Maybe they need the novelty phone below. On the basis that it can reach places other phone calls can’t reach?? (You may groan in unison.)

Heineken phone
http://blog.dhgate.com/tag/novelty-phones