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.

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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

Long Hessen Elli Bedders

When the school began in 1788, girls had to be six before they could apply and no older than 10 when accepted. So the earliest pupils were primary school age – at least when they started.

The newspaper notices giving details of the first pupils in 1788.

They were at school until they were 15 which, at the time, was not the ‘norm’. If girls received any education at all – and many did not – it was generally until they were about 12. School log books are peppered with comments relating to girls leaving school: ‘Wanted at home’ was a common phrase. By the age of 11 or 12, girls were deemed perfectly capable of helping run the household, especially if Mother was still producing babies. By insisting that girls should be educated to the age of fifteen, the School was bucking the trend.

With just fifteen pupils to begin with, all pupils were taught together with the older ones helping the younger ones when required. As the school population grew, it became necessary to separate classes although the system of pupil teachers, used widely throughout the country, continued until well into the 20th century. Gradually, this segregation evolved into a system given the jazzy titles of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th classes. Unlike today when, by and large, pupils move from one year group to the next by chronology, in the 19th century pupils graduated when their educational standard was deemed right. It was possible, if rare, for a pupil to remain in the lowest class throughout her time at the School and for her contemporaries to be much younger than she. For example, a pupil (who perhaps ought to remain anonymous!) was “in consideration of her age & height placed in the 3rd class” although the headmistress rather damningly said she “has scarcely met with such deficiency of mental power”. Hmm … (from RMIG Governess’ Report GBR 1991 RMIG 1/2/2/4/2 A11944)

Almost as bad was the girl who was

particularly wanting in ability, she is only in the 4th class and that more out of consideration for her age. She was only 11 when she entered the school, knowing nothing. (ibid)

En masse, the younger girls were described as ‘The Junior School’ or the juniors. Quite which pupils were classed as Juniors and which not is impossible to establish from a century away. The people of the time knew who they meant so did not explain and, by the time anyone had realised that there might be confusion, it was too late!

 

Above, a group photo, undated but probably at Clapham. Little girls with nice bows in their hair but there’s always one that looks as if butter wouldn’t melt …

By the time the School had reached its site in Clapham, the school roll had risen substantially and adjustments to accommodation were made. The houses next door had been purchased to give more room but this was only a temporary respite given the ever-increasing roll.

By 1918, bursting point had been reached and there was need for something more drastic. That something was the purchase of another site for the younger pupils and so, in 1918, we have the beginning of the Weybridge Years.

From 1918 to 1973, the younger pupils lived and were schooled in deepest, darkest Surrey and, inevitably, became known as the Weybridge girls. During WWII, when they were ‘evacuated’ back to the main school – by then in Hertfordshire – they were still known as Weybridge girls. New pupils who joined the school during these six or so years were often confused by this as they had never known the school anywhere else but in Ricky. For them, when the juniors returned to Weybridge post-war, this was a new place whereas for the old hands it was a coming home.

Above left: Miss Harrop who took the junior school to Weybridge, and kept its spirit alive during the war and (above right) Miss Vaughan, who took over post-war.

 

Abiding memories of girls were things like the panelled dining hall with its bowls of blue delphiniums [sadly no colour pictures exist]

And the gingko tree in the grounds, planted by Dr Roper-Spyers when he had founded the boys’ school originally there. Although the school buildings have long gone, giving way to a housing estate, the tree is still to be found.

A flavour of Weybridge life is shown in the cartoons below, drawn by a former pupil.

The first captures the yawning middle-of-the-night fire drill, and the struggle into dressing gowns and coats and shoes, and resisting the temptation to snuggle back under the eiderdown.

The second relates to the cry that went up in the evenings “Long Hessen Elli Bedders”. Not as you might imagine some kind of esoteric schoolgirl language, the Weybridge version of pig Latin. In fact, it was a straightforward request for those with long hair (who needed to have it washed and dried before bedtime – long hairs) and those younger pupils whose bedtime was earlier than the others (early bedders) to come and be accounted for. Hence, long hessen elli bedders. Simple really.

The junior school was at Weybridge until 1973 when, with great reluctance but in the face of falling numbers, the decision was taken to close the site and transfer all pupils to Rickmansworth, permanently. To begin with, they were dispersed amongst the various boarding houses and attached to ‘house mothers’ who were, in reality, prefects. They had their lessons separately and, for many, any sense of continuity was focused on the figures of the Miss Gambles, known affectionately as Big Miss Gamble and Little Miss Gamble – although neither was of particular great stature.

The two ladies could be seen accompanying younger pupils after school too as they ventured around the grounds but of a ‘junior school’ there was little sign. Then, in 1980 David Curtis arrived as Headmaster and he reconvened the corporate body of the junior school by shuffling the boarding houses to provide a space for them. Not literally of course but certainly by name and purpose. Thus what was Ruspini house became Alexandra and Cumberland shuffled clockwise a couple of places; Atholl and Sussex became combined, reflecting the union between Ancient and Modern Freemasonry, led by the gentlemen of those names. What had been Cumberland became the Junior School and Ruspini, having shot across the Garth, became their boarding house. If you are confused by all of this, you are not alone. It took a good while to get used to the new positions of existing names. The Bursar’s department, working on the basis that more changes might well happen in the future (they did, but not for a good while) referred to the houses as K1-K8 on the basis that the order would remain even if the names changed. No-one knows why they chose K.

The Js (as they were nicknamed) settled in their new homes and the Seniors eventually stopped grumbling about the changes. By the time of the Bicentenary (1988), few, if any, of the pupils could remember it being any different. Of course, former pupils remembered well their houses and even now, when Old Girls visit and ask to be shown their house, they are startled to be taken by a current pupil in a completely different direction than they had expected!

At the back of the House/Junior School, an adventure playground was installed in the 90s, a recognition that younger pupils needed something to get rid of excess energy during breaktimes! The Junior School remained in the Garth for the rest of the century although an expanding school roll again put pressure on the space. This was further exacerbated in 1994 when the starting age for pupils became rising five. The Junior School was renamed the Prep Department so that the very youngest pupils could be classed as the Pre-Prep. In 2009, another new venture introduced even younger pupils as a Pre-School opened with pupils aged 2+ (and some of them of a different gender). In order to avoid confusion with nomenclature (!!), Ruspini House became the home of the teeny-tinies which left the Junior Boarding House without a name. The obvious choice was Weybridge.

In the meantime, other changes had been made (no, don’t go there) which left a large building within the grounds unoccupied. It was refurbed, had an assembly hall added and in 2011 the Prep and Pre-Prep Departments moved lock, stock and barrel and became Cadogan House.

 

The creation of a combined Prep and Pre-Prep meant eliminating the final traces of the old operating theatre which had been a part of the building when it was the Sanatorium.

 

It also meant leaving behind the adventure playground but, fear not! Another one was built.

 

This historical overview of the younger pupils one hundred years after the founding of the school at Weybridge is brief. Much more can be seen on the School website rmsforgirls.org.uk but, as punctuation perhaps, here’s a fashion parade of little misses over the years.

Digging the Past

“… archaeology: The study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains.” https://en.oxforddictionaries.com

The School’s history doesn’t quite stretch back to prehistory – just the eighteenth century – but as a study of a particular element of human history, it makes for an endlessly fascinating metaphorical excavation to discover what is revealed when the surface is scraped back, the layers carefully exposed and considered in situ, the material sieved, the finds washed and labelled. All of which is a somewhat contrived way of connecting several different elements, all with an archaeological spin, related to RMSG history.

Let us begin, however, with pretend archaeology in the form of Indiana Jones. The first film in the sequence – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – had scenes filmed at the School. Given that the main buildings have a decided 1930s appearance and the film is set then, this is not so surprising.

The School represented Marshall College where Professor Jones was teaching. (In IJ3, The Last Crusade, the School represents Barnett College where Professor Jones was teaching. Funny how two different colleges have such a similar look …)

www.movie-locations.com tell us that Indiana “meets with the Army Intelligence guys in the school’s Great Hall, where he’s informed of the German archaeological dig at ‘Tanis’.” There were also other places used. The Professor climbs out of window on the ground floor, which was then the Deputy Head’s office – 4th window from the right in the above image. In a part of the School not shown in the above image, Professor Jones is giving a lecture. This was filmed in what was originally a Science lecture room when the School was first built although it subsequently became, and still is, a Maths room. Its banked seating has since been removed but it was here that Harrison Ford’s character looks in astonishment at one of his female students who, by a slow blink, reveals that she has ‘I love you’ written on her eyelids. (http://www.listal.com/viewimage/2939670)

Very shortly after this scene, Indiana was off on his adventures again – via the window.

None of the IJ films are set in Palestine but this is nevertheless our next port of call. This is where an archaeologist, whose daughters became pupils, was based. Sadly, and unlike the films, this story does not end well. James Leslie Starkey was field director of the Wellcome-Marston Archeological expedition in Palestine and was working there at ‘Tell ed-Duweir, identified as Biblical Lachish, an important city of the Kingdom of Judah.” as https://www.pef.org.uk/profiles/james-leslie-starkey-1895-1938 compiled by Ros Henry 2008 tells us. In 1938 he was murdered en route to the opening of the new Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem. Depending on the sources used, this was either Arab militants or a rebel commander or possibly a lone wolf with a grudge. He had grown a long beard whilst in Palestine and one source suggests ‘it may have been this that caused him to be singled out and killed (on the basis that he was Jewish)’ http://myrightword.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/starkeys-last-dig.html Wikipedia’s information declares that a rebel commander from the ad-Dhahiriya area was held responsible by the British authorities. In addition to a lack of agreement about who perpetrated the act, there is disagreement about the manner of his death, with some quite lurid versions of it (Aberdeen Press and Journal 15 April 1938 describes it as ‘brutally slain’ at Beit Jibrin) but his family affirms that he was shot twice in the chest. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, his funeral attended by hundreds of mourners and there was a memorial service in St Margaret’s Westminster in 1938 but, such was his impact, another memorial service was held in Jerusalem 50 years later.

https://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/james-leslie-starkey-excavator-of-lachish/

Both of Starkey’s daughters subsequently arrived at the School, one leaving in 1948 and the other in 1951. It seems likely that their brother went to the Masonic Boys’ School as all three very much fitted the criterion for Masonic support.

It is possible, though unlikely, that during their time at the School, the Starkey girls encountered a member of staff called Elizabeth Wace. It is not clear when Miss Wace began teaching at the School but we know that she left in 1959. She became a member of the Old Girls’ Association which membership she retained until at least 1998. As she went from the School to become Director of the British School in Athens and then, subsequently to become ‘an authority in Mycenaean archaeology, especially pottery and terracotta figurines’ (Wikipedia), it seems probable she taught history. Whether the School was aware of her ‘pedigree’ is not recorded but Elizabeth was the daughter of Alan John Bayard Wace, a leading authority on Mycenae.

Professor A J B Wace, the archaeologist whose name will always be associated with the Mycenae excavations died on Saturday in Athens – The Times, 11 November 1957

When he first went to the British School at Athens early this century knowledge of Mycenaean civilization was still young (Dr F H Stubbings)

https://web.archive.org/web/20110116090809/http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/features/history/staff_obituaries/textiles/wace/index.html

At the time Elizabeth Wace was listed as a member of staff at the School, the majority of the teaching staff were still former pupils although by this stage they were usually fully-trained. In earlier days, they became pupil teachers and learned their trade at the chalk face, as it were. Earlier in the 20th century, they began to undergo teacher training before returning to the School on the staff. But the days when the School attracted highly qualified professionals was yet to come. Elizabeth as the daughter and granddaughter (twice over) of professors may well have seemed like a flamingo amongst sparrows! Amongst other publications attributed to her is Well built Mycenae: the Helleno-British excavations within the citadel at Mycenae, 1959-1969 which has 70 editions between 1981-2013, as well as being published in translation in many countries. Her father had been appointed Director of the British School at Athens in 1914 and Elizabeth followed in his footsteps after leaving RMSG. Established in 1886, the BSA has been involved in a multitude of archaeological projects.

https://www.bsa.ac.uk

The final archaeological link with RMSG is archaeological fieldwork actually at the School. As part of Time Team’s Big Dig in June 2003, a group of pupils under the guidance of a local archaeologist set out to ascertain if the raised area of land on the Uppers really was part of a Roman road as had always been believed.

Following proper procedures, half a dozen or so girls began to explore the ground. The findings were all carefully recorded and any items washed and recorded. The girls discovered first hand that archaeological work is painstaking and time-consuming. Fortunately, the weather was kind. It might have been a very different story if it had been raining or scorching hot!

At the end of the day, the conclusion was that in all probability it was indeed a Roman road although the ‘classic’ elements of construction were absent. Later, a local archaeology group undertook a resistivity survey on the site and produced a report which concluded that all the evidence was in support of the view that it was Roman. Many years later, in a different part of the School, groundwork in preparation for an adventure playground showed what appeared to be a continuation of the road so that, long before the School was built – indeed long before anything was ever built in the parkland – a roadway crossed the site from north west to south east. As the current main road goes round the parkland, following boundaries established in the sixteenth century (with some adjustments over the years), it could be argued to be typical of Roman roads: don’t go round, go straight to your destination, without deviation. They probably wouldn’t have approved of this meandering, contrived account of RMSG archaeological connections!

A Winter’s Tale

Given the current white-out, courtesy of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’, it seemed appropriate to put together some winter elements connected to the School. The title is, of course, the name of the Shakespeare play. As Mamilius, son of Leontes & Hermione – no, not that one! –says, a ‘sad tale’s best for winter’. During the School’s history, before it achieved independent status, pupils attended under indigent circumstances. Mostly, but not exclusively, these were caused by the death of the father and breadwinner – a sad tale indeed. It was so often the case that the locals referred to the pupils as the orphans on the hill. Connecting this inherent sadness with Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the father of one of those pupils, and whose death caused her to attend the School, was a drama critic, author and Shakespearian scholar.

Raymond Crompton Rhodes, known as RCR, died in October 1935, following bronchitis and pneumonia. His funeral was attended by the managers of all the Birmingham theatres. As the article above says, he had been a drama critic for a long time and was well respected as such. He had authored many books on the theatre and had renown as an expert on Shakespeare and Sheridan. Presumably because of this, the Assistant Manager of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Philip Rodway, indicated in his will that his play texts collection was to go to Mr Rhodes.

Mr Rodway died in 1932. His will, incidentally, also expressed a desire that every effort was made to ensure he was dead before they buried him. This was something that the Victorians were very concerned about. To them, Mr Rodway’s request that

would not be deemed strange. The notion of being buried alive furnished many a ghost story of the period, all very suitable for a dark winter’s night.

But back to the theatre.

Theatre Royal, Birmingham soon after it opened in 1904 – Courtesy William Neale; photo from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Birmingham/TheatreRoyalNewStreetBirmingham.htm

‘The Birmingham Theatre Royal collection comprises play texts and prompt books dating from the mid to the late nineteenth century. Many are printed, about 300 are manuscripts. The majority of the manuscripts are copies made for prompting and for stage management.

The collection was formed by successive managers… [and] was saved by the young assistant manager, Philip Rodway, when the Theatre Royal was demolished for rebuilding 1902 to 1904.’

https://theironroom.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/351/

Quite possibly within them somewhere is A Winter’s Tale!

After RCR’s sudden demise, the collection went to Birmingham library where it is still held today. In school records, the Rhodes family address was Shakespeare Drive. No doubt the spirit of RCR would have approved!

As the wind howls outside, one is reminded that warm clothing is essential in winter. The School from its inception in 1788 had been funded by Freemasons. This extended not only to the provision of buildings, books and teachers etc. but also to food and clothing. And the latter was not just during any pupil’s time at school but to equip them on the journey into the world beyond schooling. What these outfits were varied throughout the years. In 1788 it was specified that, on leaving the School, each pupil was to be provided with ‘Gowns, petticoats, aprons, shoes, shifts, caps and Tuscan hats.’ Tuscan hats were straw hats, the straw originally coming from Tuscany so that the style came to be called Tuscan even when it no longer had any Italian roots. Later in the School’s history, the Tuscan hats gave way to hats (unspecified) but the provision of a coat was always included. During the war, when clothing was on ration, the provision for school leavers of a coat, dress and shoes became a real godsend.

To begin with, the girls would make their own clothes but by the twentieth century the provision of certainly outer garments, and often all of the outfits, came from shops. Arding & Hobbs in Clapham was used for many years, even after the School had moved to Hertfordshire. Then it was replaced by Trewins of Watford which was much closer and made the already arduous task for harassed housemistresses of outfitting leavers perhaps very slightly less fraught! As anyone who has experienced it will affirm, taking one teenager to be outfitted for winter, top to toe, in the off season and all accomplished within one hour, was a Battle Royal. To take a dozen ….

Winter clothing aside, the other noticeable thing about this season is that there are a greater number of darker hours. One girl (pupil 1959-1965) remembers them especially as

‘I was a keen musician and used to rise at about 6.00 in the mornings to go and practise on the Steinway in the hall (special privilege!) In the winter it was dark and scary at that time of day, walking up the cloisters and along the long classroom corridor with no lights on!’

The cloisters, the Garth and the long, long corridor are noticeable parts of the School on its current site. Traversing any of them at a time of day when no-one else is can be intimidating. Today the corridor is punctuated by fire doors which close automatically in the event of a fire. They also close automatically every evening and there is something rather eerie about being in the corridor when, with a sudden loud click, all the doors start to close without anyone near them!

Moving away from winter (the season) to Winter, a surname, there are 2 pupils who have had the name. They were two of the four daughters of Joseph & Caroline Winter. Ellen Lockwood Winter was born in 1853 in Chirk, Denbighshire where her father was the stationmaster. From there, he moved on to be innkeeper at Barr’s Railway Station in Hereford and Annie Gorton Winter was born there in 1856.

Above left: the bridge carrying the rail line into Chirk (from Wikipedia) and right: Hereford station today (from Google Earth) but probably, apart from cars, not looking much different than it was in 1861.

Joseph Winter died ‘after a lingering illness’ on 3rd May 1864. His two younger daughters subsequently became pupils. Ellen won the Vocal music prize in 1868 but had left the School by the 1871 census. In fact, there is no trace of her in 1871 but in 1875 we catch up with her. On May 5 1875, she married at South Kensington St Luke, the groom being Julius Christoph Richter, a merchant born in Königsberg, Prussia. After this very brief appearance in public records – which also includes a reference to her sister who was a witness at the wedding – Ellen disappears off the radar again. Given that her husband was a merchant, perhaps they travelled a great deal and thus the British records do not see her. In 1941, in GRO Consular Death Indices, we find her death on 9th May in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Her sister, Annie, was accepted as a pupil on 13th April 1865. In 1871, she is found with her mother and another of her sisters back in Hereford. Annie would have been due to leave in April 1871 so she had perhaps only just returned home when the enumerator came knocking at the door. Like her sister Ellen, she won prizes: one for general proficiency and one for French recitation, both in 1868.

Her brother in law was from Königsberg and that is where we next find Annie. We do not know why she was there but perhaps she had travelled there with the newly married couple. The two sisters would appear to have been close so this does not seem an unreasonable supposition. On the other hand, she may have been, as so many pupils were, a governess to a family there, such a place found via her in-laws.

‘For centuries, Königsberg was the metropolis of eastern Germany. The city … became a meeting point of diverse historical and cultural traditions, as well as the home for people of various nationalities and religious beliefs.’ https://canitz.org/

‘Königsberg was a beautiful, vibrant and a very prosperous city … and a vital shipping port … Grand merchant houses, banking offices, palaces and opera houses were erected in the city center.’ https://canitz.org/

Today, the city does not exist. Kaliningrad which stands where Königsberg used to be is actually a new city as Königsberg was completely destroyed in WWII.

For whatever reason Annie was there in 1876, we know this because it was where she died. She was just nineteen years old.

But so that we don’t end entirely on a sombre note, let us finish with a reference to one of Königsberg’s famous sons, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, author and composer. It is his stories that form the basis of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman opera. He also wrote the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which Tchaikovsky’s ballet is based. And that is a ballet traditionally put on in winter, around Christmas, with every little girl wishing she could dance the part of Clara.

Images of Nutcracker from http://www.twincitiesballet.org/twin-cities-ballet-mn-performances/nutcracker.htm

If we have to have a ‘beast from the east’, the Mouse King is better than snow and ice. And it makes a good winter’s tale. Or should that be tail?