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.]

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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!

A Ripping Essex* Yarn

*and quite a few other places

Starting from Rayleigh, we are taking the Kernot line (see previous post The only Way is Essex) into the wider family. It’s a tale involving a school, prisons and probates, and touches on some dastardly crimes to boot.

In 1841, George Noyce Kernot was a chemist in the High St, Rayleigh and the 1841 tithe map says exactly where: plot 250, which measured 14 perches. A perch is equal to 16½ feet, or 5½ yards, so his plot was about 73 metres. Currently occupied by an indoor market shop, it had been a chemist shop since at least 1841 and remained so until the 1960s. The information about the tithe map and the plots was supplied by Rayleigh Town Museum which just happens to stand next to what was George Kernot’s plot.

Rayleigh Tithe Map 1841, originating from Essex Record Office but kindly supplied by Rayleigh Town Museum; insert shows plot 250

After George died in 1848, three of his daughters attended the School as pupils but there was also another Kernot offshoot who came to the School as a pupil in the next generation.

As in all good stories, let us begin at the beginning.

George Noyce Kernot and his wife Mary Kernot nee Bowerman had 6 children. There was also a son from his first marriage who is therefore a Kernot but not a half Bowerman. As he is found at various times with the family, or parts of, such as being a witness at the marriage of his younger (half) sister. George Charles Kernot probably counts as the 7th child of the family. Jane, officially Sarah Jane but seemingly using Jane or Sarah or Sarah Jane during her lifetime, was the eldest daughter. Mary Ann Kernot comes next in 1833 and then Abraham Bowerman Kernot in 1835. Following Abraham is Emily Bowerman Kernot, b.1837, and then Louise/Louisa Catherine/Katharine born in 1840. The baby of the family was Kate Charlotte who arrived in 1845 and was only three when her father died.

Mary Ann, Louisa and Kate all become pupils of RMIG but Sarah Jane and Emily did not. Sarah was already 17 when her father died but why Emily did not become a pupil is unknown. She was of about the right age but in 1851, she and her widowed mother are listed at 23 Sherrard St, Westminster where Mary was keeping body and soul together as a tobacconist. In 1861 Emily was a milliner working for a draper in Carshalton. Presumably, her dexterity with a needle gave her the entrée into the higher echelons of domestic service. In 1881 and 1891 she is recorded as a lady’s maid.

 

Painting by Jean Baptiste Beranger

https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/bal56388fre/combing-my-ladys-tresses-bal56388-fre/#.W2ifiihKgdU

A lady’s maid was an esteemed position amongst female domestic servants. For an outline of life as a lady’s maid, https://lifetakeslemons.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/a-day-in-the-life-a-ladys-maid/ is a good starting point. The next time we catch up with Emily, it is on her death in 1915. She left an estate of almost £3000, probate granted to George Charles Kernot, gentleman.

While we are on the subject of the oldest child, he was born in 1825 in Rayleigh. In 1841, he is at the home of a chemist in London described as a male servant. However, given his later occupation, he was probably more like a trainee. He was a GP in 1851, MD & General Practitioner in 1861, surgeon in 1871, and ‘Gen Practicioner Lic Soc Apoth London’ in 1881. He had an address in Hastings when he died in 1888 although his death, described as sudden, occurred at the Caledonian Hotel, Inverness. This hotel was described as the only first class hotel on the banks of the River Ness and attracted wealthy visitors so it is hardly a surprise to find that George’s estate was valued at £9000 in 1888 (over £400,000 in today’s money).

 

http://www.ambaile.org.uk/detail/en/21650/1/EN21650-the-old-caledonian-hotel.htm

For those of you counting, Sarah Jane has not been forgotten but there is a reason for leaving her until the end.

Louisa, as we saw in the last posting, died when she was 35 years old. There is an uncertain entry in 1861 census as a servant and possibly as a hospital patient in Bristol in 1871. In neither case is the birthplace Rayleigh but Southend (1861) and Maldon (1871).

Abraham Bowerman Kernot was in Poplar in 1851 living with older (half) brother George. By 1861, he is at Great Wakering, Essex, and a member of what looks like ‘RCLE Practising’. Given that he was later a surgeon, this may be MRCS written badly. So the second son of George N Kernot also took up medicine as an occupation. (The medical connection comes in again later.) In 1871, Abraham was farming 16 acres in Reeth, Yorkshire but also a surgeon. His mother had moved north to join him. Reeth is in Swaledale and the image below shows it sitting in a gentle valley, almost nestled into the surrounding hills.

http://www.reeth.org/Reeth-village-information.htm

In 1891, still in Reeth, he has a four year old son. He married Sarah Hillary in 1887 – an oops moment as she gave birth three months later – and then she died, leaving Abraham at 52 with a four year old to take care of. This son is the Abraham Bowerman Kernot later granted the probate for Mary Ann Kernot in 1909.

However, as promised, let us return to Sarah Jane Kernot. In Brighton in 1857, she married William Sanders who, in 1861, was the Deputy Governor of Sussex prison. Lewes prison is still in use today.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lewes_Prison_from_castle.JPG by Charlesdrakew [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Of their two sons born in Lewes, one (George) died as a toddler in 1863. In 1871, William Sanders is listed as Governor of Pembrokeshire prison and, as the two younger sons (born 1867 and 1869) were born in Haverfordwest, he had been in this position since at least 1867. Sarah Jane is away visiting a certain school in London – RMIG!

Image from https://artuk.org/visit/venues/haverfordwest-town-museum-6885 Now the town museum, this was originally the Governor’s House.

Haverfordwest Prison closed in 1878, which may explain why the family are in Trowbridge in 1881. By 1891, William is given as a retired prison governor. In 1901, the Sanders were living in Leytonstone where, on 28 Oct 1904, Sarah Jane died, her probate being granted to her widower and son Charles.

The three sons, John William Sanders, Charles Kernot Sanders and Frederic Kernot Sanders all have an impact on the life of the next person who brings us back to the School. John William (her father) is at school in Derbyshire in 1871 and Ripperana 1993 includes an article which states

“Educated at Guy’s Hospital, where he was House Surgeon, First Prizeman in Medicine, Surgery, etc (1879), and Prizeman in Anatomy, etc (1877). He was for a time Medical Officer of the Croydon Fever Hospital, and then became Resident Medical Officer of the Bethnal Green Infirmary. At the time of his early death he was Medical Superintendent of the St George-in-the East Infirmary, Princes Street, E, as well as Surgeon to the St John Ambulance Brigade. He was also a Fellow of the British Gynaecological Society and a Member of the British Medical Association.”

He qualified as MRCS Nov 17th 1879; MD Brussels 1880; FRCS June 12th 1884; LRCP Lond 1880; LSA 1879; DPH 1887. (from https://livesonline.rcseng.ac.uk/biogs/E003082b.htm ). In 1884, he married Emily Baker in Gravesend and their daughter, Bertha Lucia Elizabeth Sanders, was born in 1885. She was only four years old when her father died. The fleeting reference above to Ripperana may have alerted you to a connection to the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper. John William Sanders has been considered as a suspect although there also appears to be a John William Smith Sanders so the notion is even more shrouded in mystery. Passions run very high over this subject so we will gloss over it, stick to those facts we know and leave others to draw conclusions.

Bertha Sanders is a fact, as is her being a pupil at the School. John William Sanders died in 1889 apparently from heart failure whilst under anaesthetic (https://www.casebook.org/ripper_media/book_reviews/non-fiction/cjmorley/158.html) and in 1891, Bertha is living at 18 Beauchamp Rd, Battersea with her widowed mother, practically within spitting distance of the School.

Picture of 18 Beauchamp Rd from Google Earth

Bertha’s mother re-married in 1893, had another daughter in 1894 but died just four months later. In 1901 Bertha is a 15 year old pupil at RMIG. She was due to leave in 1902 but was retained as a pupil teacher in the junior school and by 1907 was the 3rd assistant in Matron’s department, rising to 2nd assistant in 1912. As Mary Ann Kernot retired in 1895, there might have been a short time when Bertha as a pupil (and niece) coincided with Mary Ann, Matron (and aunt).

In 1914, Frederic Kernot Sanders (Bertha’s uncle), serving on RMS Balantia, died in Barbados. He left his estate of £9000 to his brother Charles and his niece Bertha. The following year, Bertha left the School and took a cookery course, but the two things may be coincidental. By 1917, she had finished the course and ‘was cooking for a hospital in Kensington’ according to Massonica 1917 (the earlier version of the Old Girls’ magazine) although also in that year she is given as superintendent at a hostel for Bedford College so there is some discrepancy. In 1928, she married Percy Simpson, the former secretary to RMIG but by 1939 was widowed and living in Ashdown Gardens, Kensington and ‘of private means’. Three years later those private means became substantially larger as her uncle Charles Kernot Sanders died and his estate of £33,000 (well over £600,000 today) came to Bertha. Was her life changed by this? Difficult to say. In 1972, when she herself died, her estate was valued as £32,000+ which might suggest that she didn’t do a Viv Nicholson and spend, spend, spend. The only hint we have to her character was the description of her in Masonica 1972 when her death was announced: “a dignified and kindly, if somewhat awe-inspiring, figure!” Perhaps the money enabled her to live comfortably if quietly. Her husband when he died left his estate to his mother rather than Bertha which possibly hints of an unsuccessful marriage. Or maybe he thought she was well provided for and didn’t need it.

This is a story covering 130 years, several counties, not to mention countries, surgeons and scholars, crimes and prisons – a ripping yarn indeed.

Additional research material supplied by SuBa and also Rayleigh Town Museum.

The only way is Essex

Approximately 6.5% of the historical school roll were Essex girls. The figure is a guesstimate because the birthplaces of some 10% of the historical roll are at present unknown. Additionally, Essex is one of the four counties abutting London so the boundaries are rather flexible. A degree of second guessing has to be done even when Essex is stated as a home county. The opposite boundary of Essex is fortunately pretty clear cut because the map turns blue where the land meets the sea. So we know where Essex stops on that side at least.

And we know that of those 6.5% Essex girls, five came from one small town near-ish to an edge that is wet: Rayleigh. Situated just off the A127, near to Southend, the market town of Rayleigh is 32 miles east of London.

Image from http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps

The name Rayleigh means the clearing of the deer – rǣge (roe deer) and lēah (clearing). The land around Rayleigh was a royal hunting forest so, if the king comes a-riding and there is nary a deer to be found, he’s going to be a tad cross. It made sense to help nature along and ensure there was good hunting to be had.

There is a tenuous connection with a deer area and the school on its present site. An area in the school grounds known as the Dell may have been where deer were over-wintered. Certainly when Park House was purchased to build the School, it was advertised as being situate in a deer park although the deer were moved out when the School moved in.

Rayleigh is mentioned in the great tax document known as the Domesday Book and listed as having a castle, which appears to have been in ruins by the 13th century. Indeed some of the stones may have been used to build the church. All that remains is the medieval mound now in the care of the National Trust and which affords a good view of the surrounding countryside.

View from the Mount taken from http://littlemissedenrose.com/home/rayleigh-windmill-review/

The families of the School’s Rayleigh pupils at one point lived in the High Street. As they were born in the same period, and their fathers were both members of the Lodge of True Friendship, it is possible that they knew each other. However, that remains as speculation and the most we can do is place them, for a brief period, in the same place at the same time.

It is time to meet the families: Noone and Kernot.

Anne Linggood Noone and her older sister Betsy Ann were two of the 13 children of John Loton Noone and his wife Elizabeth Hunt Noone nee Linggood. Anne, b 1830, became a pupil in 1839 and left in 1845. In fact in 1845, she was “at home ‘ill’; a bible and prayer book and some clothing delivered to her father”. Nevertheless, she was of the right age to leave (15) so it does not appear to have been the illness that caused her departure. Betsy, six years older (b. 1824), arrived as a pupil in 1833 and left in 1839. In fact, the two Noone girls were not in the School together as Betsy left in February 1839 and Anne arrived in April. So, keeping strictly to the rule that sisters were not permitted – a rule that was frequently broken in any case – the Noone period of residency was 12 years: 1833-1845.

The Kernot Three did not overlap with the Noone Two as the Kernot girls were slightly younger but it was another large family with 7 children. Mary Ann Kernot was born in 1833 and she is listed at the School in the 1851 census (and in 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 too but we get ahead of ourselves); Louisa Catherine, b 1840, appears in the 1851 census at the school listed as Catherine which suggests that this was the name by which she was known. Sadly she did not make old bones as she died in 1875. It may be her listed in 1871 as being a patient in Bristol General Hospital although her place of birth is given as Maldon, Essex so the jury remains out on that one. The last Kernot girl to be a pupil was Kate Charlotte who was born in the year Anne Noone left the School.

The rule of no sisters was frequently broken but the rule of indigence was much more strictly adhered to. It was, after all, the raison d’etre for the Charity. In practice, most of the indigence was as a result of the death of the father but it was not a perquisite that the father must be deceased and John Loten Noone wasn’t. At least not whilst his daughters attended as pupils. We have to assume that his indigence was connected to his numerous progeny. a saddler and harness maker by trade, he died in 1846, by which time both his daughters had left the School.

The Noones were also connected to printing. Charles Clark Noone, paternal uncle to Anne & Betsy, was a printer and hairdresser [an interesting combination!] and it was he who printed the pamphlet in Rayleigh in 1821 in support of Queen Caroline.

Digression for a brief history lesson. The Prince Regent married Caroline of Brunswick. The marriage was a failure although they managed to produce an heir (Princess Charlotte) before going their separate ways. Both behaved scandalously but George held what he thought was a winning hand. He introduced a Bill of Pains and Penalties designed to rid himself of Caroline before his coronation as George IV. Unfortunately for him, the general populace was pretty much behind Caroline so the failure of the bill was accompanied by enthusiastic celebrations. It was to no avail as Caroline was locked out of Westminster Abbey whilst George was crowned. Shortly afterwards, she left the country and died abroad. Their daughter grew up to marry but died giving birth to a son who also died, thus creating the race for inheritance that resulted in the birth of Queen Victoria.

Rayleigh celebrated the defeat of the Bill with a bonfire and fireworks and ‘at 6.30 p.m. on the 16th November a cannon was fired to announce the start of the festivities and “the windows of all the inhabitants….were instantly lighted; the bells commenced ringing a merry peal; a large bonfire was made; the effect was truly grand” ‘(reprinted in Rayleigh parish magazine, April 2018, p6 http://btckstorage.blob.core.windows.net/site2742/Documents/Magazine/MagazineApril%202018r.pdf ). A band paraded through the streets and perhaps more to the point ‘fifty-four gallons of strong beer were distributed among the poor inhabitants, and the people in the poor-house were regaled with plenty of meat, bread and beer’ – so clearly everyone had a good time.

The Kernot father, George Noyce Kernot, was a chemist (chymist) and druggist and he, like John Noone, carried on his business in the High St, Rayleigh. In 1841, the Noone and Kernot families were both residing in the High St. Mary Ann & Louisa Kernot and Betsy Ann Noone were therefore all in the same place at the same time. Thereafter, their lives were divergent. Anne Linggood Noone is the only one of the pupils still in Rayleigh in 1851. Then she disappears from trace until a fleeting reference in the will of one of her brothers which places her as a spinster in Southend in 1864. We don’t know what happened to her after that. Her sister Betsy married in 1847 and, by 1851, had moved with her draper husband to Romford. They were doing well enough for there to be two servants in the household. After this, she too vanishes. As husband and children also fall off the research radar, it is possible that they went overseas. Brother Alfred went to Australia so it is quite feasible that Betsy and her husband also went and so they have not been traced.

The Kernots, on the other hand, apart from Louisa who died in 1875, are much more visible. Mary Ann, as hinted earlier, stayed on at the School, eventually becoming Matron. She retired in 1895 after 43 years’ service and received a pension of £60 pa. In 1901, she was in Shoreham as a retired Matron. On 25 July 1909, aged 72, she died, her probate giving her address as College Rd, Ripon and granted to Abraham Bowerman Kernot, her nephew. As her brother Abraham had also lived in Yorkshire, it may well be that Mary Ann moved north to be with him, particularly since he had married late in life and his wife died giving birth to their son so he had a young child to look after.

Kate Kernot, on the other hand, did marry (1873) – William Cooper, a draper by trade. In all the remaining available census returns, Kate is at different addresses but always in the South East: Hackney, Woodford, Streatham, Balham. In 1923, she died, her address given as 39 Trouville Rd, Clapham Park. Probate was granted to Kate’s son, Maurice. Her estate was worth a tidy sum – £3014 10s 4d with a further grant in 1925 [amount not given] which is the equivalent today of £66,000. Mary Ann too left a very respectable amount, the equivalent of £108,000. In fact all the Kernot girls who reached maturity were comfortably off if we judge by their probates.

Images of College Rd, Ripon and Trouville Rd, Clapham Park both from Google Earth and showing some of the substantial Victorian/Edwardian housing that would have been there in Kate and Mary Ann’s time.

The Kernots and the Noones feature in a variety of wills as testators and beneficiaries so it is quite possible much of their estates were inherited and then passed on to another of the clan in turn. Like so much about individual pupils we have tantalising glimpses into their lives which leave us wanting more!

Hidden History

Adding the words ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ to anything always serves to attract attention. Often the reality is not hidden or secretive at all but simply not known by very many. Mind you, putting up big road signs does seem a little counterproductive for secrecy:

You can also follow a tourist trail and visit a ‘secret’ nuclear bunker! See https://hackgreen.co.uk/

The School has a number of hidden elements. The first lies in the historical existence of the School itself. That is not to say that any part of the School ever had an invisibility cloak and one might be forgiven for wondering how something currently in 300 acres of parkland could ever be hidden. However, one of the oldest girls’ schools, its existence was one of those ‘secrets’ that those in the know knew but … Educational history is a well-researched field but while much has been written about various girls’ schools, RMSG is never one that is mentioned. As an example, Alice Zimmern, writing in 1898, identified many established girls’ schools in her The Renaissance of Girls’ Education in England: a Record of Fifty Years’ Progress but not one mention, not even a sniff, of RMSG which was considerably older and more well-established than most of the examples she did use. And yet, it was ‘hidden’ in full view as searching online newspapers testifies. The search term the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls has 4,092 hits – and that’s just between 1850 and 1978 (when its name officially changed) and from one online source. There were frequent newspaper reports in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but then, a venture that relied on charitable support did need to advertise its presence. Whilst the School was a Masonic charity, lists of subscribers show only too clearly that there were many other contributors too. So the school’s apparent invisibility was actually in full public view! An article by J R Wade in Pearson’s Weekly in 1934 declares RMIG to be ‘one of the finest schools in Europe’ but adds that ‘it forms one of the never advertised charities of Freemasonry’ which helps to explain how a very large educational establishment can be hidden from view.

Another hidden aspect in full view is the statue by E Roscoe Mullins of Ruspini, currently found in his niche on the Chapel’s eastern wall.

Nothing at first glance hidden about this you might think, and you’d be right. The ‘hidden’ bit relates to the top of the statue’s head. Originally, the statue had been placed high up on the gable end of the School when it was on the Clapham site. Somehow, intrepid girls had discovered that, by scrambling about amongst the rafters, they could reach out and pat the statue on his head. And once one set of girls had done it, another set wanted to try and then it became the ‘done thing’ before leaving the school, for the more trepidatious amongst the pupils, to pat the statue. As soon as the School authorities discovered this, it was immediately banned as a dangerous activity. Perhaps employing a reverse psychology and practically making it mandatory would have taken away the illicit pleasure. A very good example of this was the ladies’ school (not RMSG) which, concerned that their girrrls (as Miss Jean Brodie put it) were reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover illicitly, took the counterintuitive step of making it a class reader. Killed it stone dead!

Not far from where Ruspini’s statue stands today is the clock tower at the top of which can be found four sculpted Anemoi (Greek for the wind). These sculptures by Joseph Cribb are barely visible to those on the ground although the pigeons get a good view as they fly past. In mythology they were minor deities, the four chief ones being Zephyrus, Boreas, Eurus and Noter. One of ours must have gone on holiday as we have Auster, which is the Latin name, rather than Notus. Anemoi in Latin is Venti so we have 3 Anemoi and one Vento.

Images supplied by Joseph Cribb’s grandson, photos taken by Joseph Cribb himself.

It seems a great shame that the sculptures are rarely seen but here’s a closer view (below right) taken when maintenance work on the tower allowed access via scaffolding. Forty years of weathering has hardly made an impact on it.

A definitely hidden bit of the School is the service tunnels. Created to allow for maintenance of the buildings above them, they link all the 1934 buildings with the exception of the San (now Cadogan House). For infection control, the San was a stand alone building. It is possible to walk all round the school under the ground. Possible but definitely not advisable. Walking along tunnels that are all identical but with no ability to define one’s position by reference to external sources is the definition of disorientation. Not only are there no signposts to tell you where you are, there is nothing to pinpoint position or guide direction. Trying to find your way anywhere in the dark is difficult as anyone who has tried it will testify. When there is nothing at all that tells you which way is up, down, right or left, you could wander in a tight little circle whilst believing you were marching forward.

Another set of ‘tunnels’ that exist are the air raid shelters. Constructed at the same time as the School was being built, these tunnels are in a zig-zag shape so that the effect from any direct hit from an explosive device would be dissipated by a blast wall. In 1924 an Air Raid Committee established that it might be prudent to have underground shelters available. Consequently, large organisations such as the School built underground shelters well in advance of the war. For a school built for 400 pupils, plus all the resident staff, plus the Junior girls who, for the Duration, had been moved from Weybridge, this was no mean feat as the space required was rather large. The shelters were built initially as trenches and, after suitable reinforcing, the ‘lid’ of corrugated iron was overlaid and then earth piled on top.

Image on left from https://attain.news/story/network-of-wwii-tunnels-rediscovered-beneath-school-campus; image on right from Archives.

During air raids, the girls would troop down to the shelter and spend the night there on wooden benches that lined the tunnels. The shelving on which the blankets were kept still remain in places.

Images: the storage shelves for blankets; inside the tunnels on a torchlit tour; follow my leader round the corner (from Archives)

The sleeping benches, being wooden, have all now rotted away, Although the underground space was designed for the whole school, it was very quickly found to be too disruptive of exam preparation to sleep there every night. The older girls slept top to toe in the centre of the houses where they might be most protected and where there were few windows for flying glass to be a problem. Only the youngest ones slept in the shelters with any great regularity wearing their little knitted pixie hoods

Image on the left shows the girls sleeping (probably a posed photograph!) and wearing the pixie hoods, whilst the image on the right is a contemporaneous cartoon drawn by one of the girls.

There was an attempt to make the experience less frightening by giving names to different areas such as Moira Mansions or Cumberland Court. Girls who were ill and in the San slept under their beds in the event of an air raid. One girl recalled that, when she woke up one morning, she momentarily forgot where she was and tried to sit up, banging her head on the metal bed frame above her. So her chicken pox was exacerbated with a headache!

The floors of the shelters were covered in duckboards, most of which have since rotted away, like the benches, but the remains are visible in places. There were vents at various intervals to allow fresh air to circulate but the construction of the shelters, plus all the entrances, created a natural air flow. There was power supplied to the shelters and lamps could be suspended along the corridors to provide light. It was otherwise pitch black. During recent tours, conducted by modern torchlight, we were instructed to turn off torches. Immediately it became extremely dark – so much so, that girls at once put torches back on as they clearly did not like it. In fact the tunnels had been used by the local fire brigade up until 1988 as a training location to simulate working in pitch black conditions.

The original entrances and exits were closed off in the 1960s with entrances bricked up. Later, in 2011, the tunnels were sealed with 6 tons of soil and steel plates but in 2018 they were once again opened up for official guided tours for the girls and staff to give them some insight into the School’s history. During the tours, several items have been found: a bone button, a 1916 penny, a protractor (although that looked a shade too modern to be from the war era).

Image on the left, the remains of the duckboards; right, one of the bricked up entrances

There was some wartime graffiti on the walls and, as evidence that post-war the shelters had not been forgotten, some from about 1953 and later. It is a curious thing that people trespassing in places where they are not supposed to be, or doing what they not supposed to do, always seem to want to put a signature to their crime, thus allowing themselves to be readily identified!

The tours gave a fascinating glimpse into the past. Nevertheless, it was with a sense of relief that we reached the steps up to the entrance again and out into fresh air.

The experience provided an insight into a part of the School’s history that wasn’t secret, had not been forgotten but had been made inaccessible (mostly).

Hidden history indeed.

What’s in a name?

Photos from http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/royal-wedding-pictures and https://www.royal.uk/wedding-duke-and-duchess-sussex

On the morning of the wedding, with everyone in the world agog with anticipation about THE dress, the announcement of the couple’s new titles might have slipped in unnoticed: Prince Henry of Wales and his bride Meghan Markle were to be henceforward the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The title Duke of Sussex was first given in 1801 to a son of George III, Augustus Frederick. Although he had married (Lady Augusta Murray), the marriage had been annulled because as a prince of the Blood Royal, he had failed to ask permission of the reigning monarch to marry. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 stated that permission must be granted for a marriage to take place. This act had been drawn up following the marriage of the Duke of Cumberland (George III’s brother) who had married Lady Anne Luttrell without permission. The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland went on to become patrons of the School when it first began in 1788 and it was called the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School in their honour. Much later the names of both Cumberland and Sussex were used as house names by the School. But back to Prince Augustus for the moment. He had two children from his marriage but neither could inherit any titles as, in the eyes of the law, they were illegitimate. In 1843 when Augustus Frederick died, his titles died with him and they lay dormant until 2018 when the Dukedom was conferred on Prince Harry.

Interestingly, the title of the Earl of Sussex was conferred (its sixth creation) on Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was also later given the titles of Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and both of these names appear as the names of School buildings. In 1911, Prince Arthur was appointed as Governor General of Canada. In 1916 he was succeeded in this post by the Duke of Devonshire – and it almost goes without saying that this name too appears on a School building.

In one of those twists that History enjoys perpetrating, exactly 100 years after the title of Duke of Sussex went into mothballs, in 1943 the title of Duke of Connaught & Strathearn also became extinct on the death of Prince Arthur’s only son Alistair – apparently of hypothermia in Canada having fallen out of a window whilst drunk.

Along with a title comes a coat of arms and whilst Prince Harry already had one, Ms Markle did not so one was designed for her, which design “The Duchess of Sussex took a great interest in” according to the Garter King of Arms.

Image from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6391189/meghan-markle-coat-of-arms-duchess-of-sussex/

“The arms of a married woman are shown with those of her husband and the technical term is that they are impaled, meaning placed side by side in the same shield.”

The colours reflect the Pacific Ocean which lies off the cost of California, the Duchess’ birthplace, whilst the yellow bars are sunshine. These are interspersed by quills and they and the open beak of the songbird represent the importance of communication. The bird supports the shield on the opposite side of the royal lion whilst the coronet around its neck represents the elevation to royalty. The whole coat of arms stands on ground containing Californian golden poppies and wintersweet from Kensington palace gardens.

But let us put aside the sunshine-filled wedding day and go back to the names and their connection to the School. The outline of the Garth, in which the boarding houses lie, can be seen clearly on maps of the area. The area called The Garth has eight buildings which were all originally boarding houses.

When the School opened on its present site in 1934, the eight houses were (in clockwise order): Ruspini, Zetland, Moira, Connaught, Sussex, Alexandra, Atholl and Cumberland. In fact, earlier in 1934 the names had been listed slightly differently with York, Dunkerley & Kent in place of Alexandra, Zetland and Atholl. It is not known why the names were changed apparently at the last minute as there is just one fleeting reference in a letter from the Secretary of RMIG to the Matron at the time, Florence Mason, dated January 1934. By April, the name plates were installed as per the first list above.

Ruspini was named after the Chevalier Ruspini who was instrumental in the foundation of the School

Zetland was for the 2nd Earl of Zetland who was Grand Master of United Grand Lodge, 1844-70 and President of the Institution (RMIG) during the same period.

Moira was after Francis Rawdon-Hastings (1754-1826), Lord Rawdon (1762-1783), 2nd Earl of Moira (1793-1816) & 1st Marquess of Hastings (1816-1826). The character of Rawdon Crawley in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair is named after him.

Connaught was the title given to Prince Arthur. The other part of his name was later given to the Headmaster’s house, Strathearn. As he also held the title Earl of Sussex, was both Grand Master and President of the Institution, it is a moot point whether the next house in the sequence was named with him in mind too.

Sussex is traditionally given as being named for H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex. son of King George III, President of the Institution, 1815-1843 but may also have referred to Prince Arthur as he laid the foundation stone of the Shool on its present site.

Alexandra, the only House named after a woman, is for Edward VII’s Queen, the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. When Edward succeeded to the throne in 1901, Queen Alexandra became Chief Patroness of the School.

Atholl is the third Duke of Atholl, Grand Master of Scotland, 1773, and of the Antient Grand Lodge, 1771-4. The union of the Antient and Modern Freemasons in 1813 formed the United Grand Lodge that exists today. The first Grand Master of this in 1813 was the Duke of Sussex.

Cumberland was named for H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland, the first Patron of the Institution in 1788.

The clockwise order given for the houses lasted for approximately 50 years before changes were made. Not to the names mind but to their positions in the Garth. That is not to say that the physical houses picked up their skirts and went walkabout but the order of the names started to become a little more fluid. Ruspini house, as an example, went right across the Garth, settling at first where Atholl had been before later shunting down one place to ultimately become Ruspini House, a pre-school. It would be somewhat bewildering to describe all the changes. It was confusing enough to those were in the School at the time! Suffice to say that, with all the changes of position and the changes in boarding numbers, eventually it was decided to use some of the original names as School Houses (the ones you cheer for on Sports Day and at hockey matches etc.) and have some different names for boarding houses. Of course, just to make it totally perplexing, some of the names stayed the same and for the same purpose; some just changed position and some changed purpose. But now we have that clear …

The Garth today then, in the same clockwise order is: Alexandra, Zetland, Harris, Connaught, Devonshire, Ruspini House, Weybridge & Hind House.

Alexandra is currently undergoing work to convert it to a Performing Arts Centre; Zetland & Connaught (we’ll come back to Harris in a minute) are boarding houses; Devonshire (the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noted the earlier reference) is a Day Girls’ house; Ruspini as previously mentioned is a pre-school with Photography and Textiles studios and galleries on the 1st floor; Weybridge is named for the Junior School that used to be at that place in Surrey and formerly housing the younger boarders; Hind House is a 6th Form Centre, opened in 2012 and named for one of the long serving Trustees to the School, Colonel Keith Hind.

Harris is Moira-as-was in old currency. It is named for a long-serving member of the House Committee, George St Vincent Harris, 5th Baron Harris of Seringapatam and Mysore, chairman of the House Committee 1954-1970, who died in 1984.

Perhaps it is appropriate to end this abbreviated overview of some of the School names, inspired by the newly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with the opening lyrics from the Hot Chocolate song:

It started with a kiss