The Ashworth Dynamo: an adventurous girl

From Rochdale to Worthing, via Turkey, Canada and St Albans, perhaps only the Turkey reference hints at the unconventionality of Gertrude Ashworth, former pupil RMIG and later much revered, if unorthodox and sometimes anarchic, headmistress of a girls’ school by the sea.

Born 150 years ago in 1870, the first of six children born to Thomas Baker Ashworth and his wife Elizabeth Heys, Gertrude was described by her great-great-nephew as the most dynamic of the Ashworth brood. It was a dynamism that informed her whole life.

Gertrude’s father, an attorney and enthusiastic freemason, died suddenly of a heart attack following a spirited defence of his client. The court had adjourned when Ashworth, complaining of not feeling well, suddenly expired, throwing the whole family into financial turmoil. The result was that Gertrude was elected to RMIG and left Rochdale on the first of her travels.

Mr Ashworth was described as genial whilst Mrs Ashworth appears to have been a force majeure. Given that Gertrude was likely to have inherited traits from both parents, the scene was set for future clashes between Gertrude and her mother. This was temporarily resolved as Gertrude was at a boarding school, the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, then in London. Pupils only had two holidays a year (one at Christmas and one in summer), so the potential Ashworth sparring ring was separated by some distance.

That Gertrude was also forceful can be shown in the remarks made about her by the Head Governess, Sarah Louisa Davis. Never one to mince her words, Miss Davis described Gertrude as

‘a girl of ability but most careless and heedless of an uncertain, undecided character …’

For that, read that Gertrude and Miss D did not always see eye to eye. And oh! the sub text in the comment

‘…had she not been under careful control she would have gone to any length of mischief and insubordination’

There are no records surviving that might identify the ‘mischief and insubordination’ laid at Gertrude’s door. One of the misdemeanours indulged in by a few girls, almost as a rite of passage before they left the School, was to scramble about amongst the rafters and lean out to pat the statue of Ruspini on his head. There is no way of knowing whether Gertrude did this but it seems the sort of thing she might have done and it would certainly not have gained Miss D’s approval. It is, however, probably fair to say that Gertrude was showing spirited leadership even at 16, just not in the direction that Miss D wanted.

Nor did her unconventionality stop when Gertrude was a headmistress. Seemingly on one occasion she arrived in the classroom with several small screws of gunpowder in her pocket which ‘she proceeded to drop … at intervals, with startling effect, behind those deemed to be looking vacant or bored.’[i] Not in your usual repertoire of methods for keeping the class to attention.

Having got Junior and Senior Cambridge under her belt, to Miss D’s possible relief, Gertrude’s time at RMIG expired and she could, as the modern phrase is, be let go. However this was rather like having a fully inflated balloon by the neck and releasing it. It seems likely that Gertrude returned to her family in Lancashire where her mother expected her, as the dutiful daughter, to take a share in family and household life. Gertrude had other ideas and, at the age of sixteen, she ran away to Turkey – Smyrna to be exact. This is modern day Izmir, currently in the news – sadly because of a major earthquake. It is possible that Gertrude ran away to someone in Turkey. There had been a Turkish bookseller resident in the family household who – possibly coincidentally? – hailed from Smyrna. If this were an elopement, nothing seems to have come of it and Gertrude moved on to Constantinople (Istanbul) to become governess to the children of the British ambassador. Miss D, had she known of this, might have been horrified at the influence her erstwhile pupil may have had on the ambassador’s children! In later years, Gertrude ‘spoke with enthusiasm of her travels’ and urged her pupils to grasp all the opportunities life presented. This was heady stuff for the early twentieth century but then not many girls attended a school where the Headmistress treated life as an adventure, spoke Turkish, drank Turkish coffee and likened the school gymslip to a djibbah, a long coat worn by Muslim men.

Warren School gymslip and (right) a djibbah

Sir William White remained as ambassador until his death in 1891 but whether this was what impelled Gertrude to move on is unknown. At some point, she went to Canada and there are travel documents to Montreal for a Miss G Ashworth in 1893 but there is so little detail here that it is impossible to say if this were Our Woman. By 1895 she was a student teacher in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Time to see Gertrude herself, ‘a tall imposing woman who believed in dressing well’

Likened to the actress Ellen Terry – there is a similarity – Gertrude cut a dashing figure and it was said that her pupils were very proud of her appearance on public occasions.

Like many people of the time, all of Gertrude’s clothes were made for her. Ready to wear stuff was for a later generation. In Gertrude’s case, she used the same London dressmaker and milliner for many years and seemingly their bills made Miss Ashworth’s secretary blench a little! But it was all part of the non-curricular teaching a good Headmistress gives – ‘a woman should always look her best’.

On her return from Canada, Gertrude took up a post at Parkfield School, Barnet. She was a stern disciplinarian, perhaps to counter her own pupil mischief and insubordination: as in ‘I know what you are up to because I did it in my time, so nothing is new…’ One of her pupils, Evelyn Popplewell, described her as having ‘a terrible temper’ but she clearly made an impact because, when Miss Ashworth moved to the school in Worthing with which she was to remain, Evelyn (‘Pop’) persuaded her parents to transfer her and ultimately became Gertrude’s deputy. After Miss Ashworth’s death, ‘Pop’ became the headmistress.

The school in question was The Steyne School, later renamed the Warren School, in Worthing. Gertrude is listed there in the 1901 and 1911 census and the 1939 register, whilst neatly slicing five years off her age. In this, one could argue that she was following the example of one of RMIG’s revered Matrons – although Gertrude would not have known her, she may have known of her – who managed to cut 18 years off her age in 1841 (age 50) and 1851 (60). Only when she died in 1854 was it revealed that she was actually 78!

Gertrude became Headmistress in 1913 on the demise of its founder and headmistress Mary Louisa Bennett. She was not the conventional headmistress, born in the Victorian era and remaining firmly rooted therein. She was far more liberal and considered ‘it important to give each girl an opportunity to discover and to exhibit some hidden ability’ something that perhaps she felt she had not been given the opportunity to do at RMIG. (That peculiar whining noise is the sound of Miss Davis spinning in her grave!)

Gertrude’s great-great-nephew, David Cross (to whom this post is indebted for much of the detail), has written about her very interesting life in Churchill in Petticoats: this post seeks to supplement that from additional sources. For example, during WWII, although many of the girls were evacuated to Cornwall, Gertrude kept the school open. A brief attempt by an army officer to requisition the buildings for billets was repulsed firmly.

‘Over my dead body will you take this house. I have a school here.’

It was a school moreover with 349 windows to black out every night – no mean feat. To this can be added the report in the Worthing Herald of 25 September 1942

Interesting that a slip-up in the black out of 349 windows merits less punishment than Cecil Cook’s Pantiles on the Upper Brighton Rd, presumably a building with significantly fewer windows.

This was not the only run-in with the law that Gertrude had. She had become one of the earliest women motorists in Worthing towards the end of WWI. Her first car was a Bean which appears to have been almost as wilful as the younger Gertrude.

Image courtesy of with inset of 1926 bean radiator grille.

In 1943, Gertrude, driving ‘a saloon car’ (unspecified) fell foul of the law again.

Worthing Herald 27 August 1943

Miss Ashworth was fined £5 for using the car to take Alderman Bennett to the golf club. Using fuel granted to her during war rations for the business of running a school brought her into conflict with the rules. Gertrude perhaps yet again doing things her way!

In a curious echo of her father’s death, Gertrude had a sudden heart attack in 1950 and died a few days later in Hopedene Nursing Home. At the age of eighty and still ‘in harness’ as the headmistress, the life of this Rochdale maverick came to an end.

Worthing Gazette 17 May 1950

A year later, memorial gates were installed at the School.


When the School finally closed, the estate was purchased by the Excess Insurance Company who demolished the mansion. Now installed in Beach House Park, the gates remain, a lasting memorial to a former RMIG pupil (sometimes mischievous) and respected headmistress for 37 years.

[i] Churchill in Petticoats, David Cross 9780955320804

A Tale of Two Schools

Unlike the Dickens’ novel which the title references, this is not about two geographically distanced places (or schools). If it were, it would have to be ‘A Tale of Four or Five Schools’ which kind of dilutes the snappy title. No, this is the tale of two schools which, on paper, are seen as one when they aren’t. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the School’s history may have an inkling what is referred to here but for those without any pre-knowledge, this is just pretty riddling.

Allow me to explain. The School began in 1788 and the modern School is very proud of being one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country. It has been in continuous operation since its inception, on consecutively three sites in London and latterly two sites out of London. It has had the same name throughout – sort of. The Royal Cumberland Freemason’s School; The Freemasons’ School for female children; The Royal Masonic Institute for Girls; The Royal Masonic School for Girls; The Rickmansworth Masonic School for Girls and now RMS for Girls. You might detect one word that remained consistent: there was always a reference to Freemasons or Masonic.

It was established in the eighteenth century as a charity and school for the daughters of indigent freemasons and from the first, it provided totally for daughters deemed eligible. Not only did it educate them but it provided a home, food, clothing, medical care and the opportunity to be self-supporting beyond school age. A complete package. And all absolutely free of charge to the pupils and their families.

The first two school sites

The first site was a rented house in Somers Town and the second purpose built in St George’s Fields, Southwark. Girls who met the criteria were put forward to a ballot twice yearly, April and October. The lists were always over-subscribed requiring ever more ingenious means for selecting one candidate over another. Anyone who subscribed to the Charity by 1 guinea became an annual governor. Those paying 10 gns or more became Life Governors. All were entitled to vote in the ballots and there was a complex system of allocated votes: the more one paid, the more votes one was entitled to cast. These votes could be given all to one candidate or spread across several names.

Sample of candidates’ list

The number of places available at the School was ‘advertised’ and the votes cast. If there were [say] ten places, the ten girls with the highest number of votes got in. However, those that were not successful in one round could stay on the list for the next ballot carrying with them their accrued total. At the next ballot, any votes they received were added into their running score and perhaps this time they might be successful but no guarantees. Another candidate might appear on the list and leapfrog her way to the top and win the coveted place. A girl could remain on the ballot until she reached the age of 10½ (when she was deemed to be over age) so, if a girl had been added to the list aged 7½ (minimum age), she could be on four or five ballots and still not be successful.

Example of a ballot sheet cover

The subscribers casting the votes might know of the child and its case personally and want to cast their votes accordingly. They might also then try to persuade their friends with votes to do the same. Newspaper advertising in support of individuals was not uncommon although without detailed psephology it is not possible to say how successful this ploy was. A lodge or province may wish to vote for a candidate whose father was connected with same. Newspaper columns about masonic activities in provincial newspapers often carried the information with a sense of pride when ‘our girl’ was elected. Although some ballot papers carried just a list of names of eligible girls, others had short paragraphs relating to individuals and their perceived need. For example:

The candidate of the above petition was successful although the daughter of a widow earning a paltry living by needlework, and whose petition appeared on the same ballot paper, was not.

This additional information used language guaranteed to wring the hearts of the subscribers who may, after all, have no idea who any of these girls were so how could they decide who was more worthy of a place? These little paragraphs were later left out although probably only because the numbers on the ballot sheets increased as the School grew in size.

At this juncture it should be pointed out that children who were not successful in ballots were often found places in other schools of a similar nature so they were not abandoned to their fate. However, such were the advantages perceived to stem from a successful election that there was great care taken to ensure that this benevolence was not abused. If any strayed over the boundary of acceptable behaviour, there was the threat not just of expulsion but also being sent a bill for everything already received. Charity can be a two-edged sword!

This charitable status remained in place until 1978 and then everything changed. But at the same time, the School apparently continued unaltered. Indeed, a pupil present in the School pre- and post-1978 declared that she didn’t find out until about 2012 that the School was no longer operating in the same way. So it was the same but radically different. In 1978, the School ceased to be one funded entirely by freemasons and became a fee-paying independent school open to all girls. There had been some fee paying pupils creeping in by the back door, so to speak, since the early sixties. The back door in this case would be more aptly called the school gates as they were almost exclusively day girls living locally. Post-1978, there were also some pupils funded by a masonic charity and that continued, in diminishing numbers, until very recently. The School fees were paid by the charity rather than individual families but the pupils were externally indistinguishable from their school fellows. The biggest marker of the change was that the School became the Rickmansworth Masonic School for girls but as most of the pupils didn’t have the foggiest why the name had changed, even if they noticed to begin with, as a marker it was definitely a Failure.

Since 1934, the School has been on its present site so all the current Old Girls would have attended Rickmansworth, pre- or post-Masonic watershed.

When cross-generational Old Girls meet they find that the school they remember is not actually the same one others remember. The difference is most pronounced between pre- and post-1978 pupils. For the former, most arrived at the School having lost their fathers and, in some cases, their mothers too. The locals in fact referred to the pupils en masse as ‘the orphans on the hill’. The School was their alma mater in all senses rather than just, as it is usually used, to indicate an establishment with which one was formerly connected for education. The education they received was free, their clothing provided, their school books part of the package. One mother, asking what her daughter should bring with her, was told ‘a dressing gown, slippers and a teddy bear’. Everything else was provided.

In 1978, that all changed and whilst those girls remaining in the care of a masonic charity still had everything provided, all the other pupils were family-funded. From the 1960s, day girls were admitted tof a boarding school. Now, there are more day girls than boarders and even fewer full time boarders as there is both weekly and flexi-boarding available.

The pre- and post- schools occupy the same site and, at least outwardly, look the same but when present pupils take Old Girls round, there are frequent confusions about the names of things and their places. Statements such as ‘I was in Alex house’ and pointing west are gently corrected by current pupil pointing east and saying Alex is now a performing arts centre. Or it might be ‘I was in Atholl. Where’s it gone?’ (Answer it is now a school house but without a physical entity.) Former prefects may recall their privilege rooms Bei Uns and Chez Nous only to be told they became specialist classrooms. (Behind the stage to left and right of Scarbrough gallery stairs. Scarbrough gallery?? Don’t ask!)

All of the above changes show that what appears to be the same isn’t and none of this includes the internal alterations. The School continues to adapt and yet looks pretty similar for those who haven’t been back for a while – until they start trying to find things.

So physically the School has changed. Spiritually the School has changed. The alma mater has undergone radical plastic surgery. RMS girls themselves have changed fundamentally and trying to find common ground between the two sets is like trying to square the circle, particularly when older Old Girls feel that the School they knew has been changed beyond recognition and grumble about things not being like it was in my day etc etc. And in that, they are right. It is different and calling them all ‘alumnae’ doesn’t tell the half of it.

So through the best of times and the worst of times, through charity or by fee-paying, celebrating its 232nd birthday or its 42nd, this is most decidedly a tale of two schools.

School Fields

In 1795, the School moved from its first home in Somers Place East to St George’s Fields. There was no ceremony attached to this move – unlike the razzmatazz 57 years later – and only the Minutes of the Committee meeting in June 1795 ‘at the new school house’ tells us when this happened. The leasehold land had been acquired in 1793. There had probably been the intention from the first discussions about the Charity to have a purpose built schoolhouse but the clamour with which the news of the planned institution was received catapulted events rather more precipitously. A newspaper article appearing 100 years after the event seems to refer to this as it clearly regards the school in St George’s Fields as the beginning of the venture. It then, somewhat confusingly, immediately tells us that the School has been operating for five years already!

London Evening Standard 30 November 1893

Having obtained a lease on the land, raised the money by subscription, employed an architect and a builder and ignored the Patroness’ comment of ‘Have nothing to do with building or builders’, the creation of a new school house ran as smoothly as these things always do. That is – not at all! There were problems galore, including a builder that went bankrupt before completing, but eventually the building was finished on 11th June 1795. Presumably at some point between then and the Committee meeting on 26th June, the School moved. Nowadays, such a move would await the school holidays but there weren’t any at that time so they’d still be waiting if they had.

The area of St George’s Fields, as the name implies, had once been open green space. It was an area for promenading and for martial training but was ‘mostly at or below high water level and it had always been soggy in wet weather.’ ( Some roads had been created and toll booths placed thereon but as the land was still largely open, carriages just drove ‘off-road’ and went round the turnpikes!

Roque’s map of the mid eighteenth century shows clearly the developed areas near to the Thames and open area that gave rise to the name of St George’s Fields.

The outlined piece is the Dog and Duck tavern known to have been there since at least 1650. Its name probably deriving from duck hunting activities, the tavern was surrounded on 3 sides by ponds.

Painting by Thomas H. Shepherd 1792 – 1864 & engraving by unknown author. Both from the British Museum collection

The Dog & Duck was developed into a spa to cash in on the fashion for taking ‘medicinal waters’. A contemporaneous advert declared that at ‘St. George’s Spaw [sic], Dog and Duck, St. George’s Fields. The Waters of this Spaw are now in their utmost perfection, and to be had at 6d. per gallon …’

The lessees at the end of the C18th were mother and son Elizabeth and James Hedger although by 1799 the tavern was closed down. However, not before James Hedger had ‘amassed a sufficient profit to enable him to speculate extensively in building in the fields.’

And whose name do we find on legal documents relating to the School? Why none other than ‘the king of St George’s Fields’ as one of his more disgruntled tenants derogatively referred to him: James Hedger.

‘agreed with Mr Gilbert, the Under Lessee of James Hedger, Esqr., for a piece of Ground in St. George’s Fields, situate on the North side of High Road [now Westminster Bridge Rd] leading from the Obelisk to Westminster Bridge, extending 77 feet in Front next to the said Road, and running 220 feet in depth’

Cropped from Plan of St. George’s Fields circa 1760–70 W. de Gray Birch, Historical Charters … of the City of London, 1887

The exact placement of a building no longer extant in an area that has been much redeveloped is not easy. On the north side of Westminster Bridge Rd, given the number 28, but also recorded in 1878 as ‘Elizabeth Place, Westminster Bridge Road’ (British History Online citing Edward Walford, ‘St George’s Fields’, in Old and New London 1878), it seems most likely to be within Plot 8 in the above plan or at least in that proximity. Elizabeth Place has completely disappeared, presumably in 1877: ‘The areas comprised Mint Street, King Street, and Elizabeth Place’ were described as ‘part of the disreputable neighbourhood’ which was levelled by the Metropolitan Board of Works. 28 Westminster Bridge Rd is not marked on a modern map so we are left to find buildings on either side and target the area in between. At 14 Westminster Bridge Rd today is a public house called Flowers of the Forest, formerly the Oxford Arms. At No 50 Westminster Bridge Rd is a business called UKinbound. Roughly halfway between the two presumably lies the site of No 28.

Overlaid on a modern map (GoogleEarth) is a suggested position of where the School once stood.

This image of the School shows it apparently dwarfing all the adjacent buildings. It is hard to know if the image is accurate or representative. If this were a commissioned engraving, for example, the artist may have chosen to enlarge the school building to draw attention to it. It is certainly the focal point of the image and it would be interesting to know whether that was Waterloo Rd turning north from the carriageway or Blackfriars Rd (formerly Great Surrey Street) as it would greatly help in pinpointing the position accurately. Likewise, is it shown at an angle to the street frontage to distinguish it or because it stood at that angle in reality? Interestingly the map below from 1892 shows unidentified buildings at such an angle.

Map courtesy of


A modern map appears to show a street frontage with angled buildings perhaps using the footprint of previous erections. Unfortunately trying to get an online image courtesy of GoogleEarth street view is next to impossible. Buses will keep getting in the way!


What the modern map above shows is that what was formerly Charles St is now Gerridge St so as well as buildings disappearing, street names also don’t keep still. Talk about stacking the odds …

It is clear from histories of the area that it was regarded as a suitable place for a number of institutions. Not only was the Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) nearby but so too was the Female Orphan Asylum, founded for the reception of destitute children; the Magdalen Hospital; the Philanthropic Society’s industrial school and the school for the indigent blind.

The School was, in fact, sandwiched between two circuses. The one was the traffic circus in the centre of which stood the Obelisk.

Placed there in 1771 and designed by George Dance, it became the first traffic junction in London built for that purpose. On its pedestal, as well as indicating its date, it also marks the specific distances from Westminster Hall, Fleet St and London Bridge.

Despite this, it was moved in 1905 and placed in a nearby park to make way for a clock tower, of rather dubious design, commemorating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897. Fortunately the obelisk was returned in 1998 and the clock tower taken away. If you want a view of it in real life, the following bus routes will take you past it: 12, 45, 53, 63, 68, 100, 148, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 344, 360, 453, C10, N155, N1, N63, N68, N89, N171. (I told you there were a lot of buses!)

The other circus was at 225 Westminster Bridge Rd and that, to a child, was a proper circus. Astley’s Amphitheatre, to give it its proper name, has left no trace of itself but a blue plaque marks the most likely place. Philip Astley, the owner, is described as ‘the father of the modern circus’ There were several versions as it seemed to burn down rather a lot. It opened in 1773, burned down in 1794, was rebuilt immediately and burned down again in 1803. It went through several owners and was notable enough for it to be mentioned in Jane Austen’s Emma and in several works by Charles Dickens (Sketches by Boz, The Old Curiosity Shop, Hard Times and Bleak House).

Astley’s Amphitheatre in London circa 1808 by August Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson – Houghton Library, Public Domain,

Astley was a skilled horseman and he demonstrated this ‘by performing tricks, such as having a horse canter around the ring, while [he] rode, his head on its back and his heels in the air.’  He attracted custom by riding a white horse through the streets wearing a military-style red coat and he ‘charged an entrance fee of one shilling for a seat and sixpence standing.’(ibid) I wonder if the girls of the School were ever taken to see the spectacle which included ‘music, clowns, slack rope acts, acrobatics, tableaux and fireworks’ (ibid)? If they had, they would have walked in an ordered line so it would be a case of a crocodile being taken to see a horse in a circus. Now that’s a parade that would make Westminster Bridge smile!

Vitreous history

Ever had one of those moments when what you had previously believed to be true suddenly took one pace to the left?

Let us pay a visit to the Great Hall. We have always known that the armorial windows there were originally in the Centenary Hall in Clapham, opened in 1891 by the Prince of Wales.

Above left from The Illustrated London News; above right: the Centenary Hall showing the armorial windows. Where the girls are seated in the drawn image are the alcoves containing the other stained glass work of Edward Frampton (the literature windows, now in the Great Hall corridors).

Except that they weren’t. At least not entirely. (Shortly we may stop talking in riddles. But no guarantees.) The pandemic is creating odd times but it also has some strange positives. One of these is that the Great Hall, which would normally have contained exam desks as pupils silently struggled to remember their revision (or wished they had done more: c’est la vie), was left empty. This gave the opportunity to photograph the windows and chart which armorial bearing was where. Suddenly, what was previously known for a cert wasn’t. shows that, whilst many of the designed windows originated in Clapham, the numbers just don’t add up. Some of the windows with armorial bearings now found in the Great Hall did come from Clapham. The man responsible for their transfer and installation at Rickmansworth (Louis Ginnett) states very clearly that 97 shields came from Clapham. However, there are 134 armorial designs in the Great Hall which means we are 37 adrift. Which 37 is, at present, an unknown and as neither the original placement design for Clapham nor the same for Ricky are available to consult, it becomes a vitreous detective game.

One place to start, however, is with the window which is generally known as ‘the royal window’ and which takes pride of place in the centre of the east wall. Several of the armorial bearings in there appear to be decades younger than the rest.

The first clue comes in the realisation that one of the armorial shields is that of Edward VII.

Those of you quick at royal dates will immediately realise that the Clapham windows, being created around 1890, could not contain any armorial bearing for Edward VII as he was still, at that time, the Prince of Wales and would be until 1901. So that was the first anomaly.

There are four further royal coats of arms in this window.


Three are in sequence at the base of the window. They are the Duke of York, the Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur of Connaught. The remaining one is the Duke of Connaught positioned centrally immediately above.

So far, so good and all of these titles had antiquity and could apply historically so the title alone did not pinpoint them chronologically. It is what else is written underneath the arms that identifies the specific Prince of Wales from, as it were, the generic Prince of Wales. Each has a masonic ranking written beneath the title and this enables us to identify the individual. Furthermore, because the masonic rank of the Prince of Wales is recorded as Deputy Grand Master of Surrey, it enables the window to be dated very accurately as he became Grand Master of Surrey in 1935 and, of course, Edward VIII in 1936. So we can state with certainty that this window was created no earlier than 1924 and no later than 1934 as the windows were in place when the School opened on its present site. The Duke of York became George VI on the abdication of his brother in 1936. Prince Arthur of Connaught succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Connaught in 1942 when the Duke of this window died. Also an Arthur – as was his son and his grandson – he was the third son of Queen Victoria (and younger brother of Edward VII) and he laid the foundation stone of the new site in 1930.


Five other armorial shields in this window can be dated by the annotations accompanying them: the Earls of Derby, Donoughmore and Harewood and the Lords Ampthill and Cornwallis.

The Earl of Derby of this window is Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, KG

The armorial shield from the Great Hall and Stanley’s official portrait

Unfortunately, as this armorial shield is right at the top of the window, and therefore about 30 feet up, it is not possible to make out what is written underneath his title. However, Edward Stanley was East Lancashire Provincial Grand Master from 1899 until his death in 1948 so it seems likely to be him. History has not been particularly kind to the Earl. Even his own biographer described him as ‘ridiculous’. He was appointed Secretary of State for War in 1916 and General Douglas Haig was particularly scathing in his comments, likening him to “the feather pillow, bear(ing) the mark of the last person who sat on him” (Sheffield, Gary & Bourne, Douglas Haig War Diaries and Letters 1914-18). Lord Derby died at the family seat of Knowsley Hall, Lancashire. His other family home was Coworth Park, now a hotel.

Knowsley Hall by SLR Jester – Flickr and Coworth Park by A Taylor Moore – Vacationing in Berkshire (both

The Earl of Harewood, Henry George Charles Lascelles, married Mary, the Princess Royal, daughter of George V and Queen Mary and was therefore the great-great nephew by marriage of the Duke of Connaught. As he was Viscount Lascelles until 1929, the Great Hall window must date after this period.

Portrait of Henry Lascelles

The window records his status as Provincial Grand Master of West Yorkshire. This is another dating clue as in 1942 he became the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The Earl of Donoughmore is a title from the Irish peerage and the holder indicated in the window is Richard Walter John Hely-Hutchinson, 6th Earl who was Grand Master of Ireland from 1913 ( )

The caricature is by Leslie Ward – Vanity Fair, 9 February 1905 Digitised version from and the photograph is courtesy of

Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell was the 2nd Baron Ampthill. He had several civil service appointments of note including Governor of Madras and then Viceroy of India, Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire and was one of the co-founders of the National Party in 1917.

Photo from Wikipedia and caricature from Vanity Fair

Ampthill rowed for Oxford three times against Cambridge in the Boat Race (1889 to 1891), winning twice. He was president of the Oxford Union Boat Club and then moved to London Rowing Club, becoming club president in 1893, a position he remained in for almost 40 years until his death in 1935. He was, perhaps more surprisingly, also president of the Magic Circle.

The last of the armorial shields that is annotated and dateable is that of Lord Cornwallis. However, this one is not quite as clear cut and there are two possible candidates, father and son, and the information could apply to either.

Left: Colonel Fiennes Stanley Wykeham Cornwallis, 1st Baron Cornwallis by John Saint-Helier Lander (in Museum of Freemasonry) and right: Colonel Wykeham Stanley Cornwallis, 2nd Baron Cornwallis from

Both men were eminent freemasons with the 2nd Baron Cornwallis succeeding his father as Provincial Grand Master of Kent in 1935. The window is annotated Deputy Grand Master but it is unclear which of the two men held this office. Colonel Fiennes Cornwallis died in 1935 less than three months after Lord Ampthill.

The remaining five armorial shields in this window all relate to organisations rather than individuals and are therefore less clear cut about dating. They could as easily be from 1891 as 1934.

Mark Master Masons – long associated with the School, they gave both the Old and New Mark Halls to the School: OMH 1957 and NMH 1994

Great Priory – officially Knights Templar: The Great Priory of the United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta of England and Wales and its Provinces Overseas

The Supreme Grand Chapter of England – the governing body of Royal Arch Masons in England, Wales and the Channel Islands, its headquarters is at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London.

The Supreme Council 33° – has ‘the responsibility of managing the affairs and promoting the wellbeing of the Order, including the consecration of new Chapters, and of maintaining fruitful relationships with other Masonic bodies, both nationally and internationally’

The large central window between the two latter ones represents the arms and motto of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the governing Masonic lodge for the majority of freemasons in England, Wales and the Commonwealth of Nations. The translation of the motto Audi Vide Tace is Hear. See. Be Silent. It is also the motto used for the Masonic Boys’ School.

Only when the windows are looked at in detail do we challenge what was previously ‘known’.

So the Great Hall windows all came from Clapham?


Connaught Connections

Ninety years ago exactly, on July 16th, the foundation stone for the School at Ricky was laid by the Duke of Connaught, the Grand Master and President of the Institution. Fifteen School prefects attended the ceremony, accompanied by some members of staff, travelling from Clapham for the occasion. The largest part of the audience were some 3000 Freemasons, clearly from across the world as an American Freemason there said “This is a sight I do not think I will ever forget…” Whether he meant the convocation of so many international Masonic representatives or the formal stone-laying ceremony is not recorded.

Formal it certainly was with a large marquee and banks of seating positioned approximately where the teaching corridor now meets the Dining Hall quad. The original mansion, Park House, and its gardens were still in existence, evidenced by photographs taken by those visiting prefects. As is still the case today, they were more concerned about photographing themselves than the event or the surroundings which were later demolished!

The only picture of the actual ceremony is a very grainy image from Machio 1931.

Of the ‘full Masonic ceremony’, we know that the foundation stone was placed in the centre of the dais. ‘Punctually at three o’clock the procession entered the marquee’ and everything thereafter followed a protocol including the placing of coins and a ‘roll of papers’ in the cavity in the stone. The coins are symbolic of wished for prosperity and part of most stone-laying ceremonies. Without levering the foundation stone from its current place and looking underneath, the roll of papers must remain a mystery.

‘The Assistant Grand Secretary handed the trowel to the architect Bro. Denman, who presented it to the Grand Master, who spread the cement on the lower stone. The upper stone was then lowered and adjusted by the Grand Supt. Works.’

All terribly formal and including ceremonial use of a maul, square, level and plumb rule. The maul ensures the stone is set into place, the square and level ensure its correct position and the plumb rule that it is level.

The stone is then consecrated with corn, wine, oil and salt. A quick dash through the Old Testament shows that Psalms LXXII, v.16 contains the reference to corn – “I scatter Corn on this Stone, the emblem of plenty …’; Numbers, Chap. XV, v.7 contains the wine reference – ‘I pour wine on this Stone, the emblem of joy and gladness … and may we ever dwell together in peace and unity.’ The oil is next (Exodus, Chap. XXX, v.25-26) with the words ‘I pour Oil on this Stone, the emblem of charity’. The salt is from Leviticus, Chap. II, v.13 – ’I sprinkle Salt on this Stone, the emblem of hospitality and friendship’.

The stone is then a foundation and the rest of the building may be constructed upon it.

The Duke of Connaught’s name is also preserved elsewhere in the School. One of the boarding houses is named in his honour (Connaught, not surprisingly) but also the Head Teacher’s residence is called Strathearn House after him. What is known as the ‘royal window’ in the Great Hall contains his coat of arms.

Portrait by Philip de László, 1937

Prince Arthur was the seventh child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His title, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, was bestowed on him in 1874. He was additionally Earl of Sussex and, as Governor General of Canada, was given the title Chief of the Six Nations by the Iroquois as well as the honorary name Kavakoudge, ‘the sun flying from east to west under the guidance of the Great Spirit’.

In the same year his ducal title was granted, Prince Arthur also became a Freemason, beginning an illustrious Masonic career including being elected Grand master no less than 37 times.

Image from

He died on 16 January 1942 at Bagshot Park, at the age of 91 years, the last surviving child of Queen Victoria.

Image from

The mention of Bagshot Park brings the Connaught connection of the title. Researching individual pupils –the girls being a major part of the School’s history – Bagshot Park came up in connection with the death of Hilda Edith Mary Hayward’s father in 1908. Richard Hayward’s probate gave his residence as Bagshot Park although his death had occurred at Frimley Sanatorium. Knowing that Bagshot Park was a royal residence (currently occupied by the Earl and Countess of Wessex), this set the curiosity antenna a-quivering, eventually uncovering more than one royal residence for the Hayward family.

Richard Hayward came from relatively humble stock in West Bromwich. His father was an ironworker and they lived in Richard St, Wednesbury in 1871. As his father was also Richard, there were a lot of Richards in this one household! The family was still there in 1881 but by 1891, Richard Jnr was in Carlton House Terrace, St Martin in the Fields as footman to Henry Byng, Colonel Equerry to the Queen. Quite how he made the leap from son of a tinman at the ironworks in Wednesbury to Carlton Terrace is probably destined to remain a mystery.

Image citation ‘Plate 68: Carlton House Terrace, east block facing the Mall’, in Survey of London: Volume 20, St Martin-in-The-Fields, Pt III: Trafalgar Square and Neighbourhood, ed. G H Gater and F R Hiorns (London, 1940), p. 68. British History Online [accessed 27 June 2020].
Carlton Terrace – or the geographical position thereof – has another connection to the School’s history. The land on which it was built had once been part of the grounds of St James’s Palace, and previously occupied by Carlton House, home to George IV (whilst Regent)  – and next door neighbour of Bartholomew Ruspini!

Henry Byng died in 1899 and by 1901, Richard Hayward is listed as a valet to the Duke of Connaught. Whether he moved to that position after Byng’s death or before is unclear. In 1898 he had married Ada Jane Bailey so perhaps as a young married man he was keen to seek promotion. In 1901 Richard and Ada and their eight month old daughter Hilda are in Dublin at the Royal Hospital, Usher’s Quay. This is how the census records it although the Royal Hospital and Usher’s Quay do appear to be in slightly different places.

Above: the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, now housing the Museum of Modern Art
image of Usher’s Quay by Guiseppe Milo on Flickr

The Royal Hospital was a military establishment and the Duke of Connaught was there so this makes sense but it is unclear whether the one in Kilmainham today is the same place.

Richard Hayward was clearly a man going places as in 1906 he is recorded as a member of Stuart Lodge and listed as Personal Attendant to HRH Duke of Connaught in his residence of Clarence House.

Clarence House. Above left, in 1874; above right, as it is today as the London home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

Sadly, his career was cut short by his death in 1908 in Frimley Sanatorium. This was part of the Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest, Brompton, ‘built according to the best principles of the day, with four wings in an X shape so that all wards were south-facing, with plenty of large windows and balconies in order to support open air treatment …’

Richard was buried in Bagshot St Ann’s but his family continued to live in Bagshot Park after his death as Ada and her son are listed there in 1911 in a seven room house. However, there is some discrepancy in the information as the Hayward son Richard (who was actually 5) is listed as being 38 and a gardener! It looks as if Ada started to fill the return in and signed it but another hand has added information and somewhere along the line complete garbage has resulted. The assumption can be made that the Hayward family had been given a grace and favour residence at Bagshot Park whilst Richard was working for the Duke and they continued to live there for a while after his death.

Hilda was listed as a pupil at the School in 1911. She was due to leave in 1916 but was retained as a pupil teacher in the Senior school to assist with music teaching and subsequently became the Silver medallist in 1917. She moved to the Junior School but, perhaps deciding that a teaching career was not for her, left in 1918 and entered the Accountant General’s Office. In 1923, ill health intervened and she was forced to give up work for a while but the following year she took up employment in an insurance office.

In 1938, she married Percy Rockliff, ‘Secretary to Approved Societies [&] Director of Public Companies’, and is found in the 1939 register at Dalbrook, Gordon Avenue, Harrow. There also appears to be a 2nd residence @ 7 Devonshire Place, Eastbourne. Members of the family are listed by The London Gazette as directors of a bank in 1938.

Hilda died on 28 January 1987 in Worthing, bringing to an end the Hayward connection to School history. Although the School motto did not exist at Hilda’s time as a pupil, it seems to have some resonance for a childhood spent in various royal palaces. Circumornatae ut similtudo templi is rendered by the King James’ Bible as ‘That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style’. If Hilda could be said to be ‘sculptured in palace style’ because of her Connaught connection, it makes her a polished cornerstone in more than one sense.

Bartholomew Ruspini

Anyone familiar with the School’s history will know the name Ruspini as the Institutor. However, this post is less about what he did and more about the person discerned from a multitude of references. These often don’t agree leaving the researcher to try and find a pathway through. For example, the date of his birth is most frequently given as 1728, possibly drawn from his declared age when he married in 1767. Christine Hilliam states unequivocally that he was born on 21 February 1730 at Ca Bonoré, Romacolo, in the parish of Grumello de’ Zanchi ‘the eldest of the eight children of Giovanni Andrea Ruspini (1707–1769) and his wife, Bartolomea (1708–1788).’ He was baptised 4 days later ‘il 25 febbraio 1730, figlio di Andrea Ruspini’ The map shows the area as the last conurbation before the mountains, next stop Switzerland.

Map of Bergamo & image both from Google Earth

Of his life in Bergamo little appears to have been recorded. One aspect of his upbringing, however, may perhaps have had a bearing on his character. The Ruspinis were a patrician family and charitable giving was based on social obligation. In Italian ‘the words assistenza (poor relief) and carita (charity) are used interchangeably’ (Cavallo, Sandra, ‘Charity as Boundary Making’[i]). La famiglia Ruspini would have felt this obligation and it may have inculcated a desire in Bartholomew Ruspini to offer assistance wherever he could. We can’t know this to be the case but it seems a reasonable supposition. There are many examples of Ruspini’s desire to help others. Just one example in 1785 reads:

‘Mr Ruspini presents his compliments to Mr White hearing that Chevalier de Grignard de Fontenelle has to receive five pounds from the committee, the money is in the hands of Mr Niclas’.

At some point Ruspini attended the University in Bergamo and from there went to Paris, then the centre of excellence in dentistry. No dates are given but when Ruspini was the first trader summonsed under The Medicines Stamp Act (of 1783) for evading the tax imposed on druggists with no medical qualifications, he produced an accreditation from Bergamo University dated 1758 and the case was dropped. Interestingly, by 1758 he had been practising dentistry for some years. Make of that what you will.

Bartholomew Ruspini. Stipple engraving by W. S. Leney

Another point of disagreement is when he first arrived in England. The most frequent references give about 1758 but this does not always fit the facts. He was certainly advertising in English provincial newspapers by 1752 and there are references to previous dental success in Manchester.

This is from Caledonian Mercury 13 August 1753, Gavinlock’s Land being in Edinburgh.

None of this advertising necessarily implies residence but in 1757 he married Elizabeth Stiles and declares himself to be of the parish of St James, Westminster. They were married on 19th February at St Bartholomew the Great, the bride’s parish.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P69/BAT3/A/01/Ms 6779/2

This image from shows the church in 1739

The balance of probabilities is that he arrived in England early in the 1750s and set about establishing himself. It also implies societal connections as the English, notoriously xenophobic, appear to have accepted him and he built up a good practice in elevated circles in a short amount of time, ultimately becoming dentist to the King.

His societal rise could have been the result of who you know not what you know but it could also have been that Ruspini was liked. He appears to be what modern parlance terms ‘a people person’: he got on well with other people. In the Bath Chronicle of 1 Nov 1787 there is an article about a gentleman who cut his hand badly one evening.

‘Someone recalled Mr Ruspini was at Mr Phillott’s, sent for some of his styptic. Mr Ruspini with his usual good humour got out of bed & sent a bottle of his styptic which stopped bleeding & pain immediately’ Bath Chronicle 1709/1787 article:3 d

It is the phrase buried in the middle that is telling – ‘with his usual good humour’. The comment is not pertinent to the outcome. The report could merely have said ‘Mr Ruspini sent a bottle of his styptic’. The additional colour draws upon what was perhaps well known with the Chronicle readership.

Own work, after Ozias Humphrey

He certainly was well known. He once instructed his brother to address letters to him as ‘Ruspini, London’, stating that, as he was often away from home, this would enable his correspondence to find him!

In another example of his prominence, the Morning Advertiser 29 August 1807, a report about a fraud by someone using Ruspini’s name, has the jeweller stating:

The Morning Advertiser

Fortunately for the jeweller, the ‘one of that name’ was prepared to testify that it had not come from him.

He was known for ‘his good looks, skills on the dance-floor, flamboyant character’ (Adrian Teal in a talk given in 2014) and Christine Hilliam, his biographer, wrote of him that his ‘delight in dancing and display made him an excellent masonic master of ceremonies’ (ODNB[ii]) He was described as the ‘soul of kindness, generosity, hospitality, conviviality, spontaneity, probity, and above all, charity.’ He entertained well and there are contemporaneous newspaper references of this. For example:

‘Mr Ruspini gave an elegant entertainment to the Neapolitan officers … and afterwards attended them to the play.’ (from The Times)

He was awarded the title of Chevalier in 1789 ‘for his professional skill and charitable works with foreigners and the poor’ (Paul Geissler[iii]) with his coat of arms drawing attention to his presiding values in the motto: Deo et amicis – to God and friends.

Whilst his main residence was in London, at 32 Pall Mall, Ruspini also frequented Bath and he was advertising his services and also his dentifrice (equiv. of toothpaste today), elixir (for easing toothache) and styptic for preventing haemorrhage in the Bath Chronicle for over 20 years. He also visited Ireland, possibly on professional grounds and at one point apologises to his clientele because he had been unavoidably delayed in Dublin.

It is not known when his first wife died and no burial record has yet been found. There is the intriguing possibility that this may have been the cause of his protracted stay in Dublin but this must remain as speculation. Certainly the death had occurred by 1767 as on 6 April of that year, he married Elizabeth Orde. She was 18 years of age and a minor and had to marry with her father’s permission. Her groom declared himself to be 40 (in reality 37) so significantly older than his bride. Although there is a danger here of reading too much between the lines, the fact that Ruspini was still regarded as a foreigner, that he had until recently been a Catholic, was a widower and so much older than Elizabeth does perhaps indicate how his personal charm overcame what could be regarded as insurmountable obstacles for someone else. The Orde family appeared to welcome their new son-in-law despite his societal ‘disadvantages’. Of course, that he moved in royal circles must also have given him quite a cachet!

It is impossible to say whether this was a love match. However, after nine children and 44 years of marriage, Ruspini refers to her as ‘my dear wife’ which may infer great affection between them. Sadly, not all of those nine children reached maturity. In fact, four of the Ruspini children died before their father but then he did live to a good age for the time. He was 83 when he died and two of his daughters also lived into their 80s so must have inherited the longevity gene.

The portrait by Nathaniel Horne (left) shows a family unit and was painted presumably about 1772 as it only shows the first three children.

The second image, held by the British Museum, is identified as Mrs Elizabeth Ruspini. Dated 1782, and presuming the child to be her own, the babe in arms must be Maria Sophia b.1781

We have already seen examples of his bonhomie but he also appears to be a man interested in many things. He read books in Italian, French and English: A Sentimental Journey through France & Italy by Laurence Sterne (1768), L’Ecole du Scandale by R B Sheridan (so an English play but translated), Rosmunda, by Giovanni Rucellai and Arcadia by Giacomo Sannazaro. Were it not for these brief subscription records, we would have no knowledge of his tastes and it is an indication of how we must use tiny snatches of information to try and recreate the man.

We also have his own writing in A Treatise of the Teeth published in 1768, in which were ‘made some useful observations that were not, at the time, particularly obvious, such as the adverse effects of sugar on teeth’ (Teal, 2014)


His first attempt to become a Freemason failed but, once accepted, he very quickly established himself and later founded a number of lodges. As for the School, Ruspini always maintained he was not the founder. The changes in charitable giving in the C18th meant that institutions no longer needed to be endowed but could be subscribed to by many with small amounts. Ruspini was eventually persuaded to accept the title Institutor, but he claimed that he had done nothing exceptional but merely been the prompt that enabled others to act. This is probably unduly modest but is another insight into his personality. He was a motivator without seeking glory for himself.


Ruspini by Jenner

Ruspini died in 1813, the year that Grand Lodge was formed from the Antients and Moderns, something for which Ruspini had been a keen advocate.

Despite his moving in royal circles and amongst the ‘glitterati’, Ruspini’s estate was valued at only £450, largely attributed to his frequent entertaining and ‘his unerring devotion to numerous good causes’ (Teal).


In St James’, to honour the bicentenary of his death, there is now a memorial plaque.

But his greatest legacy, of course, remains the School.

[i] Cavallo, Sandra, ‘Charity as Boundary Making’, in Charity, Philanthropy and Reform from the 1690s to 1850, Hugh Cunningham & Joanna Innes, eds, Macmillan, London, 1998

[ii] ODNB is Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

[iii] Curator of the Menzies Campbell Dental Museum at the RCSEd




A light on windows?

We should begin with three definitions:

  1. Window light – a pane of glass which has been installed in a window frame
  2. stained glass – ‘the colored [sic] glass used for making decorative windows and other objects through which light passes’
  3. 3. numbers – arithmetical values representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations.

Bear with (as the modern phrasing has it) – this may all become clearer. Or may not.

As the School approached its first one hundred years, consideration was given as to how this could be commemorated. It was decided that, as accommodation was tight because of growing school roll, more building was required and this could be combined with the Centenary. Amongst other buildings that came to fruition about this time was a Hall, at first called the Centenary Hall, later the Alexandra Hall. Once the principle was established and following a very successful centenary festival, it was decided that this hall should have stained glass window décor. Edward Frampton was commissioned to design and create the windows and

The Freemason, January 25 1890

This was more formally given as:

The Freemason Feb 1 1890

Then started a flurry of activity that continued for some years as decisions were made by lodges about this, funds were received, artwork commissioned and so on. But how many windows and where in the Hall they were has been something of a conundrum, particularly while Lockdown is preventing access to the Minutes which might provide a definitive answer.

The Freemason, January 25 1890 tells us:

Those of you with enough fingers and toes and an ability to do multiplication may at this point be saying “But …” because six times nine is not 144. It wasn’t in 1890 and it isn’t now.

In October 1890, the number 144 is used again (The Freemason Vol XXV)

On this occasion there is no reference to the six windows with the 9 compartments so the total of 144, whilst unsubstantiated in this article, may be perfectly accurate with the evidence not recorded here as being unnecessary for the purpose.

Let’s deal with six windows issue first.

An image of the completed Hall shows three large windows. For there to have been six windows, it would require another three windows at the eastern end of the Hall to make 6 x 9. But it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to see that only two of the windows have nine compartments, the other having considerably more. Even then, the two lateral windows have nine larger panels but a further six smaller lights which may, or may not, have had designs incorporated, so a possible total of 15 lights in both left and right windows. For the record, the central window has 37-39 lights in it (depending whether you count the very small ones formed by the tracery). If this were replicated at t’other end, we would have 134-138 panes which is close to the mysterious 144 but not exact. An image of the Hall in use in 1931 gives us an indication of the light source from the windows and implies (but does not confirm) that there were windows only at one end of the Hall.

However, when it comes to adding up the numbers of windows, there were also two banks of 7 windows on either side of the Hall which, to judge from a magnified image, all had six panes with the possibility of three smaller ones at the top.

Multiply this by 14 – hang on, where’s the calculator – and we have between 84 and 124 lights down the sides of the hall. And this then needs adding to the previous totals so we are bandying about numbers ranging from 151-262. At this point it is becoming like the folklore of stone circles – that anyone attempting to count the number of stones will be unable to do so.

In The Freemason 1891, we have a detailed description of the Hall which includes

Somebody ran out of fingers and toes when counting these! It does, however, imply that the windows were only at one end of the Hall.

It goes on to describe the contents of the larger panels

As these four designs are non-Masonic as it were, we might imagine that they were the ones forming a cross-shape in the larger window. This is by no means a certainty just some educated guesswork in the absence of any other confirmation.

Before we move on, there is another little mystery here. Faith, Hope and Charity are referred to as the theological virtues used by Paul in his letters to the Corinthians of which “the greatest of these is love.” But the four acts of Charity are trickier to define. There are four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Courage, Temperance and Justice) and there are also the works of mercy, divided into corporal and spiritual, but usually grouped in six or seven. Precisely what was meant here by the four acts of Charity is unclear. The first four of the corporal acts of mercy seem appropriate to the School, relating as they do to the objects of the masonic charity: providing food, water, clothing and shelter. Visiting the sick or the imprisoned and burying the dead was rather to be hoped didn’t happen much in the School’s history although, sadly, the first and last of these did from time to time.

If these windows did indeed contain portraits as we understand the word, they have not survived. Neither have the acts of Charity and the Faith, Hope etc. Unless a window in School today but not in the Great Hall is one of these.

This window is believed to be the work of Arthur Anselm Orr, who worked with Frampton as well as others, but there is no date for it nor any certainty that it represents anything specific nor that it was ever anywhere but in the present School.

In two other panels at Clapham were the arms of Grand Lodge and the Prince of Wales.

The first of these has definitely survived: it is pictured above left as found in the Great Hall today. As coats of arms belong to an individual, the arms of the Prince of Wales are adapted to each prince and alter as he succeeds to the throne.

However, and it probably doesn’t need pointing out, all of these total 11 in a 15-pane arrangement so we are four adrift.

Finally we get to the ‘144’ windows! But just when you thought it safe to go back in the water as far as numbers were concerned, we must fast forward through the School’s history. When, in due course, RMIG outgrew the Clapham site and it was decided to move the whole shebang to Hertfordshire, the windows came too. Or more exactly, the windows went ahead of the School as a pupil in Machio 1932 noted in ‘A Masonic Alphabet’ of which:

All of the sections were re-assembled in the Great Hall with new interconnecting pieces and descriptive calligraphy by Louis Ginnett ROI and Elizabeth Tatchell.

But wait a minute! This glass panel refers to the number of armorial shields transferred. 97?? What happened to the 144? Were some dropped along the way in a vitreous oops butterfingers moment? Let’s count the armorial shields in the Great Hall today.

Oh dear.


So neither 144 nor 97 but an entirely different number. Definitely all armorial bearings of which 48 represent Masonic Provinces, 71 are individual lodges and 15 are found in what is known as the Royal Window reserved for the important bods. But nowhere do we see 97 or 144. And if 97 shields were transported from Clapham but there are 134 in the Great Hall today, which are the 37 that appear to be unique to Rickmansworth? There are possibly 8 in the royal window but that still leaves 29 to find.

The quest is on. Or as Sherlock Holmes might say – the game’s afoot! (But Shakespeare used it first.)


(With grateful thanks to Phillip for providing many additional resources.)

Lock: lock

During this time of Lockdown, it seems rather appropriate to be writing about a Lock. [OK – it’s a contrived connection. I happen to like contrivance!] Two little girls who were pupils at the School in 1851 share a history of waterways which converged, you might say, in a lock on a Hertfordshire river. Well, to be fair, only one of them ended up at the Lock and even then only briefly and the other nowhere near it but what the heck – why waste a contrivance?

Ann Morton and Jane Maria Morton – the same surname is not a coincidence – were both pupils between about 1849 and 1855. Both lived in Bishop’s Walk, Lambeth before arriving at the School.

Above image of Bishop’s Walk from

Their addresses made the Archbishop of Canterbury a neighbour although popping round to borrow a cup of sugar was probably not high on a list of priorities. The girls were in fact cousins, daughters of two brothers, Richard and George, both Thames watermen.

The London waterman’s job was to transport people across the Thames before there were many bridges. London Bridge had been the only crossing for centuries. The next bridge upstream was at Kingston which is an awful long way to go if you were in Westminster and you wanted to get to Lambeth.

The watermen of London carried passengers safely – mostly – across the river and they continued to ply this trade until road transport improved enough to make the risks of a water-crossing less palatable than the chances of meeting a highwayman or other brigand on the roadways. Additionally, steam boats were making an appearance in the early C19th and for George Morton in particular, this spelled disaster. The petition for his daughter to attend RMIG gave that his trade as waterman and his business of hiring out boats had been damaged by the steam boat trade. Although he continued to operate as a waterman, he also became a Customs House officer, probably to make ends meet, and possibly using his own boat. Smuggling, against which the Customs House waged war, was big business and required big solutions. Although Customs House would have had its own boats, it also hired other boats which

‘were generally taken up with their crews complete, [and] only one Customs officer shipping with them when there was work to be done.’

Whether George acted as the Customs House officer on his own boat or was one of the ‘surveyors, land waiters, tide waiters, coast waiters, boatmen, riding surveyors and many other ratings’ that were part of the service is an unknown.

His older brother Richard seemed to fare worse and shortly before his daughter Jane Maria joined the School, he left the watermen’s trade and took up a job as a licensed victualler, appropriately enough at the Waterman’s Arms. Paris Street, Lambeth. In 1847, however, he was to be found in gaol, quite possibly for debt. When Jane left the School in 1855, she was ‘Delivered to her father residing at Lambeth – who said he should find employment for her at home.’ (Minute Book 167) so by that stage he was no longer a gaolbird.

Jane’s cousin, Ann, had left school a year earlier and been returned to her family in King’s Bench Walk, Lambeth. As the name suggests, this was a road near to the King’s Bench prison in Southwark.

King’s Bench Prison and Horsemonger Lane Gaol section of “Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace”

The map above shows the position of the prison, which is possibly where Richard had been held previously, and tucked away in the north-west corner can be seen King’s Bench Walk.

In 1860, Ann married Charles Stolte, a printer’s compositor, and she continued to live in close proximity to the river for the rest of her life: Lambeth, Bermondsey and Southwark. She had six children and outlived all but two of them as the 1911 census informs us. It also tells us that Ann was a state pensioner which, from 1909, paid people over the age of seventy the sum of five shillings a week. Currently it is £175 per week (before tax).

Jane, meanwhile, had left the Thames but staying in the vicinity of water was found with her father at Ware (Where? Yes, it’s an old joke.) Specifically in the lock keeper’s cottage, as Richard had become said lock keeper.

The name Ware, incidentally, is from the Anglo-Saxon for weir so Ware Weir is tautology. Modern day image of Ware Lock from By Stephen Dawson, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Richard and his wife Sophia were at the lock from at least April 1861 and were present there for two census returns, including the one that Jane was living with them (1861). The original seventeenth century lock had been replaced in 1832 and the photograph (above left) dates from c1900, showing it at its original width of 14 feet. It was widened in 1922 to 16 feet. In 1793, the lock keeper was paid £18 3s per year and there was a toll of 1s 6d to use it. A modern lock keeper on the R. Lee (2012) was paid c£13,000 a year and the job entailed not just aiding boaters to navigate the lock and the upkeep of the lock and its workings but also to control water levels by the use of the lock and weir. In times of flood, this becomes very important.

Image of Ware Weir By Jamsta at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The lock keeper was granted use of a cottage so that he was available at all times.

It is unclear whether either of these is the cottage lived in by the Mortons but they suffice to give an idea of the sort of accommodation supplied.

Jane Maria Morton married in 1863 and went back to London where she remained for the rest of her life which was, in fact, shorter than her slightly older cousin as she died in 1896. Jane was technically the lock keeper’s daughter but probably only briefly before she scurried back to the City. A pity because, otherwise, we might claim the following extract from John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga to be appropriate.

Ware has a nice literary connection of its own as one of Chaucer’s pilgrims hailed from the town. The Cook identifies himself as Hodge [ie Roger] of Ware: “I highte Hogge of Ware”

But we cannot leave Ware without drawing attention to another literary connection relating to the School’s history. Around the Great Hall today can be found the Frampton literary windows created in the 1890s and transferred from Clapham when the School moved. 36 windows illustrate various literary works and one of these is Cowper’s comic poem John Gilpin. Or to give it its full title: The Diverting History of John Gilpin Shewing how he went Farther than he intended, and came safe Home again.

From the Cowper window

The story of the poem is that John Gilpin’s wife decides it is time for a holiday but, as there would be no room in the coach for John, what with all the children and the luggage etc, he must follow behind on horseback. Unfortunately not being the most proficient of horsemen, John soon finds himself in bother.

The snorting beast began to trot,            

  Which galled him in his seat.

So, ‘Fair and softly,’ John he cried,                 

  But John he called in vain;         

That trot became a gallop soon,

  In spite of curb and rein

John ends up hanging on for dear life. He loses his hat, he loses his wig and passers-by think he must be in a race for a £1000 prize and cheer him on. He reaches Edmonton, the holiday destination, but the horse gallops on and in vain does his wife hang out of the upstairs window telling him ‘Stop, stop, John Gilpin!—Here’s the house!’ The horse races on possibly because he has scented home – ‘Full ten miles off at Ware.’

Having arrived in Ware, minus hat and wig, his friend invites him to supper but John quite rightly points out that his wife is in Edmonton, it is his wedding anniversary and it would look a bit odd if ‘[My] wife should dine at Edmonton, / And I should dine at Ware’

He sets off again back to Edmonton. Alas and alack (as all good Victorian potboilers are inclined to say) the horse didn’t take kindly to it and galloped once more past the inn where Mrs Gilpin is waiting. She then sends the postboy after him on another horse which frightens the Gilpin steed even more. Then someone sees Gilpin galloping ahead of (apparently) a pursuer and sets up a cry of ‘Highwayman!’

It is comedy capers of the best sort only resolved when the horse runs out of puff back where he started in London. This long comedy narrative is far less well known today than it once was and we are fortunate that Frampton chose it for illustration in stained glass. The story’s connection to Ware, and the Morton connection to same, allows us to draw attention to it. Lockdown does have its positives.


Grateful thanks to SuBa for her sterling research into the Mortons and Ware Lock.

In the Somers time

1788 must have been an extraordinarily busy year for the Charity behind the School. Officially, it began on March 25th: ‘the Royal Cumberland Freemasons School, initiated Lady Day 1788’ (Morning Herald).  Until 1752, Lady Day was the start of the legal year, one of the quarter days (the others being Midsummer, Michaelmas and Christmas) and when year-long contracts were begun. Between this date and 5th January 1789, when the first pupils were taken in coaches to the Schoolhouse in Somers Town, all the preparations had to be made. This would have been an undertaking of no small proportion if it had proceeded like clockwork but in fact the School was not intended to be in Somers Town at all. The intended place was ‘Logie’s Academy’ [otherwise Lochee] in Little Chelsea.

London Chronicle, July 24, 1788

However, the Patroness, the Duchess of Cumberland, ‘took agin’ this – the records do not state why – and so another property suitable as a school had to be found and all the preparations begun again. This time it was successful and it was to the property in Somers Place East in Somers Town that fifteen little girls and a Matron were transported by coach in 1789.

Time to have a look at the first Schoolhouse and Somers Town itself.

Somers Town lay to the north of what we now call Euston Rd but which, at the time, was still referred to as the new road. This land ‘was acquired in the seventeenth century by the Cocks family, a member of whom was ennobled as Baron Somers in 1784 (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952)’  The baronetcy had originally been created for John Somers in order that he might enter the House of Lords as Lord Chancellor to William III. On his death, it fell into abeyance but his sister, and heiress, married Sir John Cocks and their grandson became Baron Somers on his ennoblement.

The area now known as Somers Town was undeveloped until Euston Rd was built. It was mostly fields and some parts of it were used as rubbish dumps in an eighteenth century version of that modern scourge, fly-tipping.

‘When London ended at Euston Road in the 18th century, it was famous for being where the city chucked its rubbish in mountainous landfills.’  writes that ‘Early in the last century Somers Town was a delightful and rural suburb, with fields and flowergardens [sic]. A short distance down the hill … were the then famous Bagnigge Wells, and close by the remains of Totten Hall, with the ‘Adam and Eve’ tea-gardens’

Image from

Bagnigge Wells was a popular and fashionable spa with ‘a banqueting hall, gardens, bowling green and other entertainments on the banks of the Fleet River.’  (The London Encyclopedia) However, they gradually fell into disrepair and attracted a poorer class of clients and eventually closed in 1841.

The ‘Adam and Eve Tea Gardens [were] thought to have been established sometime in the early 1700s. With spacious gardens of fruit trees and arbours in the rear and side of the tavern, it became a destination for tea drinking parties, with room for skittles and Dutch-pins in the forecourt which was shadowed by large trees, tables and benches were placed for the visitors. A monkey, heron, parrots, wild fowl and gold-fish pond were also once boasted attractions.’ (ibid) Unfortunately, these began to be frequented by criminals and prostitutes and in the early 19th century they were shut by the magistrates.

In Somers Town, Jacob Leroux became the principal landowner under Lord Somers. He built a handsome property for himself and it is probable that his hand in design can be seen in the Schoolhouse and some extant buildings in Chalton St. In addition to housing and the laying out of basic streets, ‘a chapel was opened, and a polygon began in a square.’ Edward Walford, ‘Somers Town and Euston Square’, in Old and New London (1878), cited by British History Online.

‘The Polygon was a housing estate, a Georgian building with 15 sides and three storeys that contained 32 houses.’

This image showing the Polygon on the left dates from 1850, long after the School had gone elsewhere, but it existed contemporaneously with the Schoolhouse. Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbirth there in 1797. The child that was born, of course, went on to write Frankenstein as Mary Shelley. Another author who lived in the Polygon, perhaps only briefly, is one whose name seems to crop up rather frequently in the School’s history: Charles Dickens. He ‘lived at No 17 in the 1820s shortly after his father, John Dickens, was released from debtors’ prison.’ (cf) Dickens later made the Polygon a home for his Bleak House character Harold Skimpole. This somewhat unpleasant character, ‘in the habit of sponging [off] his friends’ (Wikipedia citing Nuttall) perhaps implies Dickens’ emotional response to his residence at the Polygon.

Map from (cf)

The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1813 describes the area that became Somers Town as having ‘an excellent private road, belonging to the Duke of Bedford, and the fields along the road are intersected with paths in various directions. The pleasantness of the situation, and the temptation offered by the New Road, induced some people to build on the land, and the Somers places, east and west, arose’

All was going well ‘when some unforeseen cause arose which checked the fervour of building, and many carcases of houses were sold for less than the value of the building materials.’ Edward Walford (cf)

It would appear that his grand scheme did not bring as much profit as he would have liked and ‘war and recession forced down the value of property, and the neighbourhood soon acquired ‘shabby genteel’ status.’

The exact location of the School in Somers Place East is not recorded in the Minute books which supply much of the information about the School itself but it was a terrace on the north side of Euston Road just east of Chalton Street with houses numbered consecutively from 13–23, west to east.

‘According to the Survey of London, Somers Place East was “a commanding block of houses” (Survey of London, vol. 24, 1952) presumably intended for well-to-do tenants’

The only image we have of the first school house is an artist’s impression showing, presumably, the rear of the premises as it appears to have been drawn from the garden.

With any artistic impression, it is unknown how much liberty has been taken with the truth. However, the tree on the left and the steps mounting to an upper floor together could imply the end of a row of houses. Might this suggest that this property was therefore No 23, the last in the row?

When we consider today Georgian architecture and terracing, we envision a row of identical properties something like the image below:

The sketch of the School does not fit this idea. However, taking a modern photograph of part of Chalton St (from

and putting it in juxtaposition to the above drawing reveals an interesting parallel:

It is clear that taller Georgian-style architecture was interspersed with lower pitched-roof buildings which suggests that the drawn image is an accurate rendition. As one building is shown from the front and the other from the rear, it is impossible to be sure but it gives food for thought. Could it be that the first Schoolhouse looked like that shown below and that this was Leroux’s signature architectural style?

The image above is an extant building in Chalton St whereas the original Schoolhouse has gone – as has Somers Place East. It appears on early maps but a combination of the misfortunes of Mr Leroux and further building in the area, eventually it becoming quite overcrowded, meant that ‘this district, rents being cheap, was largely colonised by foreign artisans, mostly from France, who were driven on our shores by the events of the Reign of Terror and the first French Revolution’ and the ‘rather fine’ terraces became attractive to ‘the exiles of the poorer class’ Edward Walford (cf) The area had started on a rapid downward slide.

Map of 1790
1837 map

In this later map, Somers Place East is still shown, as is the passageway to its rear – Weir’s Passage. By the time of the 1837 map, the School had long since left the area, moving south of the river in 1795. Within a few more years, Somers Place East had gone although Weir’s Passage remains which enables us to fairly accurately pinpoint where the Schoolhouse had been.

This modern map from showing Chalton St and Ossulton St allows that Somers Places East and West are now buried beneath a hotel (The Pullman, formerly Novotel) which incorporates the Shaw Theatre.

In fact, seated in the Shaw Theatre might place one almost exactly on the spot from which the drawing of the Schoolhouse may have been made all those years ago.

If land could speak, what stories might it tell of the school house that once occupied this very spot?

The Redoubtable Miss D

A significant chunk of the nineteenth century history of the School came under the leadership of Miss Sarah Louisa Davis. Appointed in 1862 and retiring in 1896, she led the School for 34 years. In her stature as a Head Governess, it is hard to comprehend that when appointed she was barely 21 years of age. At a time when there was little formal training for teachers and most of the teaching staff (at the School and indeed elsewhere) learned their craft at the chalk-face, so to speak, Sarah Louisa Davis was the nearest to a professional appointment for several decades. Indeed, The Morning Post in 1894 reported these comments from the Anniversary Festival:

From the inception of the School, the education of the girls was in the care of the Matron and this was deemed to be sufficient.

Original advertisement for the matron in the classified ads section of World on Oct 10th 1788

As the numbers on roll increased, the matron was assisted by pupil teachers but as they would have been only 15 years old, their experience of the world was somewhat limited. However, girls’ education was beginning to develop. In 1847, Queen’s College ‘became a pioneer in the field of women’s education and emancipation.’ (Wikipedia) At a similar time, moves to extend the education of RMIG girls by introducing French and Music were initially rejected (1848) but it was the beginning of the beginning of educational improvement. Its direct descendant, as it were, was the appointment of Miss Davis who, almost immediately introduced French and drawing classes.

Time to introduce a more personal note into our biography of Miss D. She was born in Hackney, in the rather delightfully named Paradise Fields, the middle of three daughters born to James and Sarah Jane Davis. Her first public appearance was the 1841 census where she is recorded as an unnamed baby aged 2 weeks. This would give her a birthdate of about May 24th as the census took place on June 6th. Her father was a schoolmaster, and if ever it were a case of ‘being in the genes’, it is with this family. Not only was father a schoolmaster but daughters No 1 and No 2 both became Headmistresses. The career of daughter No 3 is unknown as she ‘disappears’ for over 70 years after the 1861 census, apart from a brief reference in 1876 at her son’s baptism – in Russia!  Why she was there we may never know but it must certainly have introduced an air of exoticism into the family.

In 1851, Sarah Louisa and Esther are pupils in Hackney.

‘The New Gravel Pit Hackney Chapel School, founded in the 1790s, was considered highly benevolent and caring by the local community in its dealings with its pupils…’

By 1861, Sarah was an assistant mistress at

1861 census title page

Founded in 1813, it operated on very similar principles to RMIG. Its mission was ‘to afford maintenance, instruction and clothing to destitute orphans of both sexes, and to put them out in situations where they may have the prospect of an honest livelihood’

So her move to the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls the following year would been a geographical shift but a very familiar situation. It is not known how she was selected for her new role. It is possible she was recommended by the Headmaster of the Asylum as Miss Davis, in her turn, recommended many pupils for advancement. But a Head Governess she became and was catapulted into senior leadership above the Matron (Eliza Waterman Jarwood, some 30 years her senior) and the two assistant mistresses, Frances Souter (b 1833) and Mary Ann Kernot (b 1837). Frances is a governess in another London school in 1881, so Sarah Louisa’s appointment may well have arisen from a vacancy when Miss Souter moved on.

Sarah Louisa Davis

This official portrait of Miss Davis is undated but is surely a portrait of a woman in her prime and could perhaps be from about 1880. However, given her elevated status at the age of 21, it is hard to be exact about what her prime might be.

A group photo taken in 1886 shows the teaching staff of that time.

As is to be expected, the Head Governess is at the centre of the group.

Of greater insight into Miss Davis herself are her own words as she wrote a monthly report for the school governorship and we can ‘hear’ her voice in what she wrote.  Her summaries of the girls in her care are sometimes acerbic: she clearly did not suffer fools lightly, as the saying goes.

[The] “youngest pupil teacher, is leaving at Christmas, an uncle & aunt having offered to provide for her entirely; she has been somewhat unsettled and Miss Davis does not regret parting with her” (1887)

Two years later she wrote of another pupil teacher, Ruth, who had failed an exam she was expected to pass: “With proper application and care on her part it would not have happened as she passed last year and this time was expected to take honours”.  Miss Davis expressed “her great disappointment in the girl as she was clearly capable of the work and ought to have at least achieved a pass.” The comments suggest that the recalcitrant girl had probably had a very uncomfortable interview with Miss D as she was to be put on “probation as a pupil teacher and if she does not prove an energetic and intelligent teacher, she must leave.”

Then to ram the point home even more, Miss D proceeds to ask the Governors if they would provide as a reward a little treat for those who pass.

“They are girls who keep close to study [one can almost hear the unspoken words ‘unlike Ruth’] and … Miss Davis feels they deserve some reward.”

Of another pupil, Miss Davis did not mince her words at all.

[She] “is a girl of power & influence but unfortunately not of a nature to be of benefit to those with whom she associates. Miss Davis cannot say that she has at all been a good girl, she has always been difficult to manage, evincing a most spiteful & trying temper and instead of improving as an older girl has been lately most independent about observing the rules of the school.”

But lest we think that Miss D had just got out of bed on the wrong side the day she wrote that, the pupil of whom she was writing remained somewhat fiery all her life it would seem. In 1928, for example, she appeared in court on a libel case the upshot of which was that the judge ordered her retained in custody for two weeks as she had caused a grievance and “You have not expressed to me one word of real regret or apology for your conduct”.

At the age of 60, she had another court appearance for ‘stealing’ a parcel from a car because

Perhaps we might judge Miss D’s assessment of her rather unruly pupil a little more kindly after this!

Miss Davis’ tenure as Head Governess was only occasionally interrupted by absence. In 1883, she had an absence of six months. Such was the respect she had earned from the School governorship that £50 was granted to her in in October 1883 ‘partly to reimburse her for the heavy medical expenses incurred by her late severe illness.’ Although she clearly recovered enough to return to post with as much vigour as ever, there were other briefer absences following this, known only when her deputy signed the monthly reports. In 1895, The Graphic, an illustrated newspaper, was given access to the School and subsequently published some images amongst which was a view of Miss Davis seated in her sitting room.

Here she is shown deep in thought with her feet on a little footstool. What she was thinking about is of course unknown but it should be noted that the following year she advised the governors that she wished to retire, a resignation they were reluctant to accept but one which, perforce, they must. This is not just colourful interpretation. The Cheltenham Chronicle of 11th July 1896 carried the following item:

In 1896, Miss Davis’ salary is recorded as being £225 pa which means that she retired on full pay. If ever there was a marker of the respect she had earned it was this.

In 1901, the census records her living with her older sister Esther, also a retired Headmistress, at 52 St James Rd, Tunbridge Wells.

This image is not actually No 52 as that property on Google Earth Street view is obscured by a large hedge in front of it. However, all the houses in that vicinity appear to be the same style so this view of a property further down the street must suffice.

In 1907 news came that Sarah Louisa Davis had died, her probate being granted to her sister who herself died the following year. Miss Davis’ funeral took place at the local church but this does not have a graveyard so it is unknown where she is buried.

Kent & Sussex Courier 08 February 1907


Miss Davis’ legacy to the School was manifold. By the time of her death, two other Head Governesses had come and gone but by 1911, another was waiting in the wings (Bertha Jane Dean) who would become in her turn as esteemed as the redoubtable Miss Davis.