And then we went to war: Part Two

The remaining ten of the former pupils undertaking war work were all involved in nursing in some capacity.

Margaret Josephine Bailey is recorded in the 1911 census as a nurse and, as she left school in 1901, had probably been nursing for some time before the war began. During it, she was a ward sister at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Boscombe. Built in the 1880s, this hospital in Shelley Rd continued to serve the community. A question raised in parliament in 1965 notes that the accommodation falls short of the standard but that “in the long term, it is intended that the Royal Victoria Hospital should be replaced by a district general hospital.” It was certainly a long term solution – the hospital was not finally replaced until 1993! Margaret did not live to see it. Although she lived to be 85, the hospital, built at about the time she was born, lasted until its 11th decade. Continue reading

And then we went to war: Part One

A number of former pupils undertook war work in WW1. This information comes from various sources, most notably from the Old Masonic Girls’ Association magazine, Massonica (now Masonica with a single s). However, one case in particular, that of Dorothy Watson, comes from an entirely different source which may suggest that there are other examples of war work that have either gone unrecorded or are recorded in non-central places yet to be discovered.

These postings look at the various kinds of war work former pupils undertook. Continue reading

Who’s for pud?

Before looking forward with relish to choosing from the dessert menu, it should be clarified that this particular pud is not some tasty morsel as popular as the Dime Bar Special that is a hit with modern pupils but is actually an acronym: P.U.D.D. Furthermore, it is not even an official acronym but just my shorthand for the Prize for Usefulness in Domestic Duties.

From the inception of the School there had been a concern that girls should be skilled in needlework and domestic tasks. The advertisement in 1788 for the Matron asked for someone who was “capable of instructing the Children in Reading, Writing, Housewifery and every necessary use of the Needle.” Presumably the necessary use of the needle did not include fine embroidery but related more to hemming handkerchiefs or darning stockings: prosaic and practical rather than fancy work.

At various times in the School’s history, girls were awarded prizes for domestic skills. The Minute Book for 1834 records the award of a prize for household work and in 1876, we encounter this prize for proficiency in domestic duties with a not insubstantial monetary value.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 10 May 1876, accessed via FindMyPast
Sheffield Daily Telegraph 10 May 1876, accessed via FindMyPast

The question is – what exactly is usefulness in domestic duties? As there were prizes for cookery and for needlework given at the same time as P.U.D.D., it must have involved something different. Unfortunately, there appears to be no extant curriculum from this time to know what was taught, assuming that it was a part of lessons.

I would be interested in opinions about what this might have included. Is the emphasis on usefulness or domestic or duties? Are there other schools who awarded similar prizes? Any family historians whose ancestor won a prize similar to this? How might it be decided whether someone was worthy of a prize in it?

Answers on the back of a duster, mayhap.

But no prizes.

RMS Pinafore

The pinafore – or pinbefore as it was often known by past pupils; a dialectal variation – is a sleeveless garment open at the back and worn over other clothing to protect it. According to the dictionary, the first recorded use of the word was in 1782 and the name derives from pin and afore, denoting an apron with a bib which was pinned onto the front of a dress.

A pinafore was part of school dress at the Masonic school from its inception, continued throughout the whole of the following century and still featured in the 1930s.

These three images are captured from contemporaneous portrayals of the school
These three images are captured from contemporaneous portrayals of the school

The first is dated to c.1800, the second c.1845 and the last from 1875.

In Massonica 1912 (the Old Masonic Girls’ Association magazine), an article entitled Memories of the Past draws on the recollections of a former pupil who had left the school in 1838. Referring to in the reign of King William IV (i.e. 1830-1837), she recalled:

“Over their dresses they wore little muslin aprons with bibs, which, funnily enough, when they went into meals were folded in half, rolled up to the waist, and secured by a pin. Evidently they were meant to be an ornament rather than a protection to the dress.”

This is certainly an interesting variation of a pin afore!

Throughout the nineteenth century, the pinafore is in evidence as a part of the uniform although by the beginning of the twentieth century it had changed from being white for everyday wear to being made of brown holland. This was an unbleached linen originally made in the Netherlands, hence its name. It was more like sacking than the quintessential image of a Victorian girl as represented by Tenniel in his depiction of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. The white pinafore was reserved for best dress occasions.

Junior pupils c.1920s
Junior pupils c.1920s

This image shows the pinafore worn by younger pupils. Undated but believed to be from the 1920s, it depicts the pinafore as very much a working garment. When the School moved to its latest site in 1934, the pinafore was still visible.

Uniform 1930s
Uniform 1930s

This image cannot be earlier than 1934 and is probably 1937, and it shows the pinafore still in use. However, by this stage, it was a garment worn in the same sort of way as aprons are worn today – a protection for clothes.

The photographic evidence of the pinafore being worn as late as the 1930s and therefore perceived as part of the uniform is also reinforced by what is referred to in School annals as The Battle of the Pinbefore. When Miss Calway was appointed as Headmistress in 1938, practically her first action was to demand its abolition. She, unlike almost all the other teaching staff, had not been a former pupil of the school and so was not hampered by the notion of Tradition for Tradition’s sake. She probably also detected the resentment of the girls of their having to wear it. The fact that its removal as a uniform item is described as a battle probably indicates the reluctance that the governing body felt for change but Miss Calway got it banished at any rate. A contemporary edition of the school magazine reported:

“So delighted were the girls that this hated garment had been consigned to the bin, that they all made the pochettes in house colours to hold their serviettes for meals and the serviette from then on sufficed to protect the serge dress from the spoils of food.”

But, it was not quite the end of the ‘pinbefore’! In 2009, the School celebrated 75 years on its current site with a 1934 day. Obviously it was too much to ask for everyone to invest, for one day, in genuine 1930s outfits so the compromise was that the modern pupils would be asked to create an apron in the style of the old uniform and wear that over their usual uniform. (It was at this point that it was discovered that many mummies no longer sewed as there were countless cris de coeur over the summer holidays for help in constructing this garment!) The modern pupils had a thoroughly enjoyable day sampling 1934 style lessons and wearing their pinafores just as their predecessors had done since 1788.

Modern pupils reflecting past pupils
Modern pupils reflecting past pupils