The Ardens of Rickmansworth Park

We last left Rickmansworth Park in the possession of the Ardens ( as an occasional residence with London the primary residence. Joseph Arden was a barrister of the Court of King’s Bench, the court of law for cases of bankruptcy. King’s Bench Prison took its name from this court and is where Mary Fotherley-Whitfield had ended up with debts arising from Park House.

Julia Arden was Joseph’s elder daughter and had married John William Birch, of Mildred, Goyeneche and Co, Spanish merchants of London. He later became a Director of the Bank of England (Deputy Governor, 1877-79; Governor, 1879-81).

When Julia’s father died, she and her husband purchased Rickmansworth Park from his estate. Perhaps they were the ones who lived there most often. Or it could be that the eldest Arden son, as presumed legatee, was a bit short of the readies and offered the estate to his brother-in-law in return for a lump sum. Whatever was behind the transaction, Rickmansworth Park became the property of John William & Julia Birch. After his death, she inherited it and later bequeathed it to the widow of her eldest son. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here so let us go back to 1879 when Joseph Arden died and the Birches took on Park House and the estate. Rather as his father in law had done, John William Birch used Rickmansworth Park as a country residence as his address is given as 27 Cavendish Square. Interestingly, this is now the site of the RBS bank so it has moved from being the residence of a Governor of the Bank of England to the residence of a bank.

In 1881 the Birches’ eldest son, John Arden Birch, married Charlotte Mary Leycester Stopford and Cavendish Square is given as his residence.

However, it is her residence that is interesting here: Hampton Court Palace.

Grace and favour apartments inside a royal palace were preserved for widows ‘in straitened circumstances’ whose husbands had given service to the Crown. These apartments were

“not always the most comfortable places to live. Residents regularly complained that the palace was ‘perishingly cold’ and damp, and some had no access to hot water.”

Why Charlotte Stopford’s family had an apartment is unknown. Although her mother was widowed young with three small children, her husband, Major George Montagu Stopford, is not noted amongst the King’s loyal servants. However, Charlotte’s grandfather, Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne, was.

‘From his first entrance into the army [1796], John Burgoyne commenced a career of active and laborious service, which continued without intermission for the extraordinary period of seventy-one years.’

His achievements include acting as a Royal Commissioner to superintend the completion of the new Palace of Westminster (1848), closely followed by a report into old Westminster Bridge as a result of which the old bridge was replaced by the one currently there. He was present in the Crimean War in 1865


‘by Lord Raglan’s side through the battle of the Alma, accompanied him in the subsequent long march, and slept on the ground in the open air, like the youngest soldier of the army’ (ibid)

He was given the title of Constable of the Tower of London and Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets in 1865, the first commoner ever to be granted these titles. He was in full vigour until he was 88 years old when his only son died after the vessel of which he was captain capsized in a storm and all but 19 sailors were drowned. Thereafter, he went into a decline and died within a year.

In Waterloo Gardens, there is a statue to him:

Despite the acres of print about his remarkable career, there is no reference to him being given the use of a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace but it remains a possibility that this is why his granddaughter lived in one and, according to her own autobiography, Through Eighty Years, had done so since she was a child.

It is worth noting that, although the ‘residence’ of Hampton Court Palace is given on several documents, none of the census returns ever place either Charlotte Birch nee Stopford or her husband there, even though his burial record again gives his residence as the Palace.














But then, if you are entitled to give a palace as your address, why not trot it out at every opportunity? Especially if doing so enables you to marry in what was once upon a time a very exclusive venue – Hampton Court Chapel Royal.

John and Charlotte had five children, three sons and two daughters; Dorothy, John, Cicely, George & Francis (Frank). There is an outside chance that this last born had a different kind of connection to the School but that’s the way coincidence works. As an adult, he was a cryptographer with Naval intelligence in both world wars. He joined the Naval section at Bletchley Park in September 1939, and was involved in work on the enigma code. And the connection to the School? Well two former pupils also worked at Bletchley Park at this time: Violet Elsie Geddes-Ruffle, also assigned to naval Intelligence as an 18 year old ‘Wren’, and Pamela Mary Lidstone, Block B. Naval Section. NS IV, Japanese codes. Whether these two ever encountered each other, or Frank, will never be known.

Violet Geddes-Ruffle and Pamela Lidstone, former pupils

Frank was only three when his father suffered a catastrophic stroke that rendered him paralysed for the remaining four years of his life. John Arden Birch died in 1896 and his father (John William Birch) was so utterly devastated that he also became very ill. To aid his recovery, he took a break in the South of France. On his return, however, he stayed overnight in a hotel and there died of a gunshot wound to the head. The coroner stated that, whilst it was clear that this was self-administered, it may have been accidental and he therefore allowed the death to be recorded as this. It should be remembered that until 1961, suicide was regarded as a criminal offence. Anyone who attempted and failed could be prosecuted and imprisoned, while the families of those who succeeded could also be prosecuted and the estate taken by the Crown.


‘The suicide of an adult male could reduce his survivors to pauperism’ (

In allowing an element of doubt, the coroner was allowing the Birch estates to be inherited rather than being confiscated. His effects of £65,330 remained in the family and Julia inherited Rickmansworth Park.

She remained in residence until her death although, as before, ‘residence’ did not always mean she was physically there! It is a moot point whether she was there in 1911 when a murder took place in the Park. Rosa Gurney, a widow, was walking there with a man friend. Quite what happened is known only to the two of them – there being no witnesses– but she was stabbed a number of times and subsequently died. The Police next day arrested the man who (natch!) declared himself to be innocent. He claimed that, whilst walking, they had met two other men, Rosa had started talking to them and he got fed up waiting for her and left. Smacks rather like ‘a big boy done it and run away’ and clearly the Police thought so too. The bloodstains found on his clothing were the clinching factor and he was arrested.

Julia Arden died in 1917 and the estate came to the widow of her eldest son who had subsequently married (1905) Walter Bulkeley Barrington (1848-1933), 9th Viscount Barrington. On her first husband’s death, Charlotte had been left with five children to provide for, the oldest of whom was only 14.Her second marriage, to Lord Barrington, was a boon to her sons, no less than to herself.”

Lord and Lady Barrington lived at Becketts in Shrivenham, Berkshire, the house now being part of Cranfield University.

Here, Viscountess Barrington undertook the role of lady of the manor.

‘… a large part of her life at her country home is devoted to the care and comfort of the aged and sick and to the advancement of the children of her poorer neighbours.’ From Onlooker October 15, 1910 and cited by

In one aspect however, her beliefs would not gel with the girls’ school that bought Rickmansworth Park. Charlotte Barrington was a ‘convinced opponent of Woman Suffrage’ [sic] and sought

‘to inculcate among the girls of the village the first principles of domestic economy. Cooking, sewing, and housewifely traits are part of the education she considers necessary for every young woman’ (ibid.)

Rickmansworth Park was put up for sale by auction. It failed to meet its reserve price but it remained on the market until the School opened negotiations. These were protracted and it was a case of who blinked first. The School had the property independently valued (£45,000); it was advised that £50,000 should secure it but Viscountess Barrington was holding out for £70,000. Eventually, after much discussion, a figure of £65,000 was agreed with the curious stipulation that Lady Barrington could remain in residence until building began. Curious because, by all accounts the house was being looked after by a caretaker couple. And yet, in the School archives, letters between the School and Lady B clearly show her address as Park House. But then, when you have a multitude of houses at your disposal (there was also property in Ireland), you can use which of the addresses you like as and when it suits you!

Portrait in the National Portrait Gallery

The conclusion of the sale of Rickmansworth Park ended the Arden family’s connection with the estate after almost a century. Park House would, in due course, be demolished and the School begin its tenure. That in turn is rapidly approaching its centenary – the purchase of the estate in 2026 and the transferring of the School from its former home in London in 2034.

Putting them in the picture



This, the last posting of the Stothard sequence, contains four names of import: Ten Broeke, the Earl of Moira, Lord Rancliffe, and the Stadtholder.

This tight little group, standing immediately behind the Prince Regent (Dr Boyes makes up the quintet) tells its own story about perceived importance in the eyes of Stothard. Or possibly, if the portrait represented a single event, how they perceived their own importance at the time. If this were a sort of historical photograph, their positioning by design or a degree of elbow-jostling infers a status on the individuals. The closer you were to the future king at an event might indicate how close you were to the future king. The positioning is highly likely to have been choreographed in a real event. If it were a composite image of a number of similar events, quite possibly Stothard was instructed where to place people. On the other hand, the darker colours are enhanced by the splendid scarlet of the uniform jacket so for artistic licence it works. We are not party to all the preparation for event or image so we can only speculate whether deeper meaning can be read into this grouping or not.

Anthony Ten Broeke was certainly important in the School’s history. A founder of the Caledonian Lodge, Ten Broeke was also one of the nine freemasons who established the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School in 1788. Born in 1736, he would have been in his prime at the time. His surname is Dutch in origin and until very recently there was a serving Dutch politician of that name: Hans Ten Broeke. The surname appears to derive from ‘on the marsh’ – a broeke is a marshy area or a creek and, of course, is linked to the English word ‘brook’. So Anthony Ten Broeke would be Tony Marsh or Tony Brook perhaps.

This portrait of him is in the Library of Freemasonry having been presented in 1938 and since restored. It portrays him as Master of the Caledonian Lodge which he became in 1766.

The Caledonian Lodge itself has a strong association with the School. It has long supported the School financially – until 1978 when the present day school became independent – particularly when capital expenditure was required to meet the costs of development. For example, when the School moved from its first site in Somers Place East to its second, and first purpose-built establishment, in St George’s Fields, Southwark, the Caledonian lodge was on hand with support. The new site included a Committee Room

so meetings no longer had to be held in coffee houses etc. Said committee room required furnishing so the lodge presented to the School a fine set of 25 chairs which can still be found at the modern day School.

One of these chairs, known as the King’s Chair, is the one used by any visiting royalty and has a label attached to it identifying the occasions when it was thus used.







Anthony Ten Broeke left a masonic dynasty in the lodge, with the Master in its 250th year, Graham Ten Broeke, continuing the family tradition. Indeed, a celebration was held at the School to mark this occasion as an indication of the longevity of the association.

Ten Broeke died in 1812 and is buried in Austin Friars Churchyard (Nederlandse Kerk Londen) in the North Aisle. This church was destroyed by fire in 1862 and its replacement destroyed in the Blitz. The current church on this site was built in the 1950s.

The Earl of Moira also has a connection with the School that goes beyond the individual depicted by Stothard. When the School moved to its current site in 1934, the eight boarding houses were given names that reflected the School’s history. One of those names was Moira. Francis Edward Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, was known as The Earl of Moira between 1793 and 1816 – so whichever of the dates we select for the Stothard portrait, he was the Earl of Moira in it. He had served with British forces during the American Revolutionary War and in 1794 during the French Revolution, hence his depiction in military uniform.

He married late in life (he was fifty at the time) and, as this was on 12 July 1804, he was single at the time of the portrait. He and his wife, Flora Campbell, Countess of Loudoun, had six children. It would appear to have been a love match as, after his death at sea off Naples in 1824 and following his earlier directions, she arranged for his right hand to be cut off and preserved, to be buried with her when she died. He had been serving as Governor of Malta and had been on board the ship to return to his wife when he died. His body was laid to rest in Hastings Gardens, Valletta which is named for the Earl. His hand was eventually interred, clasped with hers, in the family vault at Loudoun Kirk.

He had inherited Donnington Hall from an uncle and then had it rebuilt in a Gothic style at about the date of the Stothard portrait. Requisitioned at the start of World War I by the British government and turned into a prisoner of war camp, it is now the headquarters of the Norton Motorcycle Company.






Lord Rancliffe, placed under the guardianship of the Earl of Moira when his father died, was George Augustus Henry Anne Parkyns (1785-1850). He was given his first two forenames in honour of his godfather, later George IV. So his position in the Stothard portrait is explained by his connections to both the Earl of Moira and the Prince Regent. Strictly, however, he should not have been referred to as Lord Rancliffe in the portrait as he did not succeed to the baronetcy until 1806. However, the Right Hon The Lord Rancliffe is how he appears on the outline image.

On his 21st birthday he came into his inheritance which included an annual income of £21,000. A sum not to be sniffed at now, it was the equivalent of £5.5 million in today’s money. He also inherited the delightfully named Bunny Hall in Nottinghamshire which had been in the family since 1574.

Actually, the name Bunny is nothing to do with cute furry creatures but is derived from Old English Bune, meaning reed. In White’s Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1853 it is spelled Bunney.

In October 1807 – so still a very young man – Rancliffe married Lady Elizabeth Mary Theresa Forbes, daughter of the Earl of Granard, and also niece to the Earl of Moira. The marriage was not successful and they separated, although did not divorce. He returned to Nottinghamshire (from Paris) and there he made the acquaintance of Harriet Burtt. At that time, she was married to a GP, considerably older than she, who was confined to an asylum. Harriet became resident at Wymeswold (Leicestershire), under Rancliffe’s protection, and then later went to live with him at Bunny.

Bunny Hall December 1914 from

Lord Rancliffe died at Bunny Hall on 1st November 1850, after a long illness. His will caused great consternation in the family because it said:

“I give Bunny Hall to Mrs Burtt for her life, and afterwards to whosoever she may appoint to inherit the said estates. I give Mrs Burtt, for her use entirely, all the goods, furniture, and pictures, with one exception; and I give her all my plate, together with the plated silver tureen and dishes with my crest. I also leave my silver tureen presented to me by the electors of Nottingham, to Mrs Burtt; and I also leave my horses and carriages at her entire disposal.”

Eleven years later, the will was contested by his brother-in-law but to no avail. Harriet Burtt was left in full enjoyment of the estate which at the time had an income of £7000 a year (equiv. of about £250,000 today).

Mrs Burtt bequeathed the estate to her niece, Arabella Hawksley, who married Mr Robert Wilkinson Smith in 1898. When Robert died, he left the greater part of his large fortune for the benefit of Nottingham’s poor widows and spinsters.

Our final member of the Stothard group is His Serene Highness, the Stadtholder, or William V, Prince of Orange. The use of the word ‘Serene’ here is to mean supreme or royal rather as ‘Sublime’ (Ambassador to the Sublime Porte) meant principal. Queen Mary, who opened the School on its present site, was born ‘Her Serene Highness Princess Mary of Teck’ but during WWI, George V revoked recognition of this style of title for members of the family living in Britain.

William was the last Stadtholder of the Dutch republic. Born in 1748, he went into exile in London in 1795 under the title of Prince of Nassau-Orange. On his death in 1806, that title was inherited by his son William, who returned to the Netherlands in 1813 and became the first Dutch monarch from the House of Orange (William I). As a European royal, it does not come as a surprise to find that William V was related to the Prince Regent as he was George III’s cousin.

The title Stadtholder is roughly comparable to England’s historic title Lord Lieutenant and was elected rather than inherited. However, In 1747 the office had been made hereditary. William IV was the first of these and William V the last. However, what would have been William VI, the Stadtholder, became instead William I, the first King of the Netherlands. His direct descendants still hold the title (currently Willem-Alexander).


We began this little group with one person of Dutch descent and, rather neatly, we end with another. The portrait, so familiar to the School, has taken on a new life in the identification of many of the people portrayed in it. It is now not just Ruspini leading the children before assembled Freemasons but represents a moment in time recorded for future generations to witness the extraordinary breadth of support the School received.

A snapshot in time

The trouble with a big portrait is that it takes a lot of words to write about all the people in it. Or at least all the people named in it as there are several score of folks not identified at all. Even of those named, there is not always much to say because they are research-shy. Clearly deemed important enough to be named in the portrait, nevertheless Wm Williams, Mr Pride, Rev Archer Thompson, Rev Mr Lucas, Mr Humpreys [sic] and Mr Harper must all remain merely as names until any further information is recovered. Dr Boys – who was certainly at one point the Hon Surgeon to the School – is one John Boys who lived in South Molton St and was a member of Somerset House lodge. But that’s about it for the biographical information. His placement in the portrait in relative proximity to the Prince of Wales perhaps infers importance but the lack of information about him tells another story entirely.

Fortunately the ole internet has been more forthcoming about other names. Let us begin with name which seems surprising amongst the rest: ‘General Bowles, Cherokie Chief’.

Disappointingly not portrayed in a splendid First Nation headdress, John Bowles is an interesting personage to have been included at all. Chief Bowles and the Texas Cherokees (Mary Whatley Clarke, 2003) does not include any reference to his having travelled to England at any point. Born around the middle of the eighteenth century, Chief Di’Wali was also known as John Bowles or ‘The Bowl’. His parentage is believed to have been a trader from Scotland or Ireland and a Cherokee woman. He was described contemporaneously as ‘an auburn haired, blue eyed half blood Scottish Cherokee’ (Whatley citing History of the Cherokee Indians by Emmett Starr). It was claimed that Bowles’ father had been killed by white settlers when Bowles was a boy, and that the son killed his father’s murderers in revenge when he was fourteen.

A biography of him ( states that he could neither read nor write and did not speak English, which makes him an even more curious figure to have been at whatever occasion Stothard was portraying. He became the Chief of the tribe in 1792 when they were in Tennessee but in 1794, Bowles was involved in an altercation which became known as the Muscle Shoals massacre. Various accounts of this exist but none quite agree with any others about who started it. The outcome was that the warriors fled to Missouri and the rest of the Cherokees followed after. Following an earthquake in 1811 – which was interpreted by them as the Great Spirit telling them to leave the area – they moved into modern-day Arkansas. Unfortunately they chose land which had not been included in the treaty with the United States as that belonging to the Cherokees. So they moved again.

Chief John Bowles (Di’wali) in fact died in battle. As he had requested, his body was left on the battlefield but in 1936 a marker was placed with an inscription that reads:

“On this site the Cherokee Chief Bowles was killed on July 16, 1839 while leading 500 Indians of various tribes against 500 Texans – the last engagement between Cherokees and whites in Texas.”

Now the question we have to ask is – if General Bowles had been involved in a murder in 1794, why was he present at an event that appears to have taken place not long afterwards? And if he was ‘on the run’ in the United States, or at the very least, forced to move territory, what on earth would he have been doing in London at all? None of the accounts of his life refer to his having been in England but, equally, none of them say he wasn’t there either! And even if we accept that he might have skipped across the Pond until the heat died down, is he the sort of personage who would be welcomed in the presence of royalty? On the other hand, the Chickamunga Cherokees, of whom John Bowles was Chief, had supported the British in the American Revolution so maybe he was in London to receive thanks? Some interesting conundra here. Could it be that, like the reference to Mr Haydon which may have been wishful thinking on Stothard’s part, the Cherokee Chief was not there at all but Stothard thought him a colourful character to include? There is arguably some cachet in including Benjamin Haydon as it confers a quality on the painting which is subtle but can be read by them what know. But a Cherokee Chief with a tarnished reputation? More questions than answers, I fear.

It is almost a relief, then, to turn to George Downing, Esq. a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn. Born on 25 December 1762 in London, the son of the Rector of Ovington, Essex, he was a pupil at Dr Parr’s School at Stanmore, Middlesex and afterwards articled to a solicitor in Essex. He was called to the Bar in 1794. The previous year he had joined Somerset House Lodge (cf John Boys):

. . . George Downing was invested at The Black Boy. Here at 9:00 am. 100 brethren assembled, where a public breakfast was provided. At 10.00 am. the Lodge was opened in the presence of 160 brethren (the lodges of Essex having petitioned H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to appoint George Downing of Lincoln’s Inn and Ovington) and afterwards 180 brethren proceeded to church and a collection of L12 was made; the day ended with a dinner in the Shire Hall.

In 1799 he was appointed a Grand Steward and served as President of the Board of Grand Stewards. The same year he joined the Grand Stewards’ Lodge. In 1796 he had been appointed Provincial Grand Master of Essex, a position he held until his death in October 1800.

In addition to this, he was Senior Lieutenant in the Light Horse Volunteers and as a pastime he wrote Greek verse, which seems to have stemmed from his time with Dr Parr who was a great admirer of Greek literature.

‘This day [22nd Dec 1797] was publifhed, elegantly printed on a fine wove writing paper, hot preffed, embellifhed with a portrait of George Downing, Esq. Provincial Grand Mafter for the County of Effex, engraved by Ridley, from a miniature by Spicer, price 2s bound in red, or 2s 6d with a tuck, pockets, &c. complete.’























There is a monument to him in St Paul’s, Covent Garden, often known as the actors’ church. Among those buried at St Paul’s are Samuel Butler and the woodcarver Grinling Gibbons who did much of the carving, fortunately saved from a disastrous fire in 1705.

Image from

Next to Downing is John Jeffryes, and for him we are back to the printing trade. He is given as a printseller of 18 Ludgate Hill (Bull & Jeffryes) and afterwards in Clapham Rd (1802-1804). There is also a William Jeffryes identified with him in Ludgate Hill but whether this is a brother or father or, indeed, no relative at all is unknown. Perhaps he was known to George Downing as he is pictured by Stothard seemingly in conversation but somewhat coyly with his back to us.


Although there are sixteen references to him in the National Portrait Gallery, it is always with him being given as publisher and never as a subject so we are none the wiser about whether Stothard has captured his likeness. The British Museum holds one of Jeffryes’ trade cards but this does not contain an image of him either. It would appear that the Stothard portrait may be the only glimpse of him and we can hardly make out any features.

But then, we are using a portrait designed in one way for another purpose. We are reading across the artistic grain. Would Stothard have approved? Who knows.


See the bigger picture

Mr Jones, Mr Birch, and George Boulton Esq in the Stothard portrait are just images in a picture because, without much more information, they are impossible to trace. Fortunately for informaphiles there is plenty about the others!

Mr Asperne is James Asperne 1757-1820, bookseller and proprietor of the European Magazine, a monthly magazine published from 1782 until 1826. He was also Past Master of the Foundation Lodge and St Peter’s Lodge and Grand Steward for 1814. His image in the Stothard is little more than a coloured blob if we zoom in so, fortunately, there is a much better portrait by Samuel Drummond in the Library of Freemasonry.

James Asperne by Samuel Drummond

Another in the print trade was Mr Whittle as it seems very likely that he is the Whittle of Laurie & Whittle. Laurie, a skilled artist, had been apprenticed to Robert Sayer and took over from him in 1794. James Whittle had also been an apprentice but in the Needlemakers’ Company and he joined with Laurie producing maps, charts and prints from the Golden Buck in Fleet Street. They and their families lived on the premises.

‘The foundation of their business was the existing Sayer stock of printing plates, both for maps and atlases and also decorative prints, but they continued to add new material to freshen up the atlases, as well as separately-published maps on topical issues, notably events during the Napoleonic Wars.’

After his partner retired, and until his death in 1818, Whittle continued the business with Laurie’s son. ‘Ultimately the business formed part of the famous nautical chart firm of Imray, Laurie, Norie &Wilson.’


No portrait of James Whittle has been found and, like Mr Asperne, he is just a blob in the Stothard so it makes us no wiser about his appearance.


Standing next to him, is Dr de Valangin and, in a neat connection, the image below was published by James Asperne! The legend states “Engraved from an Original Painting by Abbott. Dr. De Valangin.” and “Published by J. Asperne, at the Bible, Crown & Constitution, Cornhill, Sept.r. 1st 1805.”

image from via Creative Commons

Dr Franciscus Josephus Pahud de Valangin was born in 1719 in Berne, Switzerland and studied medicine at Leiden. In 1768 (the same year that Ruspini also published a treatise) he published a Treatise on Diet. From his practice in Fore St, Cripplegate he dispensed not only his own medicines but also Ruspini’s haemostatic styptic, given to the poor free of charge in tins stamped with his coat of arms. Medical care at that time being costly, de Valangin was unusual for charging people according to what he thought they could pay.

‘To those in the humbler walks of life, it was his constant custom to regulate the acceptance of his fees by their presumed ability to afford them: and the poor were always welcome to his gratuitous assistance.’ (European Magazine 1805)

De Valangin leased land at White Conduit Fields, Pentonville and had a house constructed to his own design. He called it Hermes Hill House derived from Hermes Trismegistus deemed author of Hermetic Corpus. (No, I had no idea either – and I’m not much wiser having looked it up.)

‘His house was remarkable for a singular brick tower or observatory, which was taken down by the next tenant.’

From his first marriage, he had two sons and a daughter. Sadly, the daughter died when she was nine years old and she was buried in the garden of Hermes Hill House. Fortunately for the next occupant, her body was later transferred to Cripplegate church. De Valangin married for a second time in 1782, the widow of the architect who built his house.

De Valangin was certainly involved in the early days of the School. The first attempt to find some premises, in Little Chelsea, failed quite a long way into the negotiations because the Duchess of Cumberland decided they (and the owner) were not suitable. In a very short space of time, they had to find other premises and it was de Valangin who found the Somers Place East site. He also gave his services as a physician free of charge to the School.

Curiously, his death, like that of Thomas Stothard, involved a carriage accident. The European Magazine – see, they’re all connected – reports that on 2nd January 1805, de Valangin slipped and fell whilst alighting from his carriage, the ground being frosty. He sustained an injury which he himself predicted would shorten his life and so it proved. On 1st March 1805 he died and was interred in the family vault in Cripplegate church, the same vault to which his daughter’s body had been removed the day before.

His obituary says of him that he was ‘a friend to mankind and an honour to his profession.’

Now, Sir John Eamer, on the other hand, is described less flatteringly as ‘a remarkable and controversial man’ written by Adrian Barlow, 2015. He was a friend of the Prince Regent although Stothard portrays him standing behind the prince’s brother on the opposite side of the hall. In 1794 he became Sherriff of London and was knighted by George III. He was elected to the position of Lord Mayor of London in 1801 so perhaps Stothard mistakenly attributed his later position to the listing rather than giving him as Sherriff.

Sir John by Stothard and also by Brown

On completing his term of office Sir John became Colonel of the East London militia, ‘with responsibility for safeguarding the London docks from possible French attack after the collapse of the short-lived Treaty of Amiens in 1802.’

His costume, as depicted by Stothard, is vaguely uniform-like but it is difficult to be sure. The other portrait, commissioned by himself when he became Lord Mayor is definitely uniformed. The portrait, by Mather Brown, is ‘a stunning piece of myth making’. As Barlow indicates:

… he stands, flushed and supremely confident in scarlet uniform, his right elbow resting on the muzzle of a tall canon. Immediately behind him, his massive horse is draped in a cheetah-skin saddlecloth. Above and behind the horse loom the arms of the City of London, supported as heraldry demands by a griffin. Below, in a distant view barely glimpsed between the horse’s legs, soldiers can be seen drilling on a parade ground with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. The implicit title of this picture is all too clearly ‘Sir John Eamer, Heroic Defender of the City of London’.

But lest we should think that, Malvolio-like, Sir John from humble beginnings had greatness thrust upon him, it would appear he got to where he was by using his wealth to buy influence and it was wealth, moreover, which came from the West Indian sugar trade and, by implication, the use of slaves.

In 1805, he was court-martialled for ‘Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman’. Junior officers complained that he was bullying and abusive although, in his own defence, at a time when there was a threat of invasion and strict military discipline was necessary, Sir John found this in very short measure among the officers of the East London Militia and said some had stubbornly refused to turn out on parade.

“I was prepared to expect much discontent and strong opposition; but I was not prepared to expect that the ruin of my character, the destruction of my peace, and the blasting of my fair fame were to be the price of my duty so discharged.” (Colonel Sir John Eamer’s Defence on the court martial held on charges preferred against him by Captain William Ayres, &c. &c. as cited by Barlow)

Sir John was cleared of all charges although advised to temper what he said and how he said it. (‘Language, Timothy!’) However, just a year later he was ‘up before the Beak’ again for intemperate behaviour following a road accident in which his carriage, apparently on the wrong side of the road, had side-swiped another vehicle. Sir John, far from admitting any liability, ‘immediately began to exercise his horsewhip most actively upon the head and shoulders of the plaintiff’s servant.’ To make matters worse when the owner of the vehicle appeared, Sir John laid into him as well! This time, the court found against him and he was obliged to pay damages.

Did this sober his behaviour? Well no, because in 1810, after refusing to account for some £8000 granted for equipping the Militia, Sir John was court-martialled again for

behaving in a scandalous infamous manner, such as unbecoming the character of an Officer and a Gentleman towards one of his subordinate officers … Sir John [was] acquitted on all charges but reprimanded, again, for his use of ‘unguarded expressions’.

His reputation, however, was damaged and a few years later he withdrew from the City and retired to Brighton. He died there on 29th March 1823, and his death merited only a brief note in the Gentleman’s Magazine:

‘On a warm treacherous sun-shining day, he imprudently ventured to sit on the beach, which sapped the foundation of a frame already bending under the weight of age and infirmity’. [Definitely overtones of ‘Well if you will go out without your vest on …]

As Sir John was clearly a colourful character. It seems almost a shame that he is wearing sombre colours in the Stothard portrait.

Every picture tells a story

The Stothard portrait related to the School, discussed previously, is very much the case of every picture telling a story. (If you don’t know what is being referred to here, you need to go to . Or throw a six.)

Alongside the portrait, there is an outline image identifying the people shown in the portrait with a legend giving their names. The first cartouche identifies 12 of those shown and, of these, two need no further elucidation. The Prince of Wales here is what we know as the Prince Regent, later George IV, often referred to as Prinny (behind his back) and shown in this portrait rather flatteringly in a slimline version. The other is Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini, the Institutor of the School.

Standing next to the Prince of Wales and therefore, presumably, regarded as very important, is James Heseltine, Esq. In January 1766, in an item actually written about someone else, Heseltine is described as ‘an active and influential young Freemason’.

The image has Heseltine standing behind William Forsteen, with James Galloway to his left.

Heseltine is positioned prominently in the portrait. By this stage, he was the King’s proctor or solicitor representing the Crown. [The name is a shortened form of procurator].The office was combined with that of the Treasury Solicitor and it was not only a position of influence but an extremely lucrative one. The Monthly Magazine: Volume 17 1804 in reporting his death at his home in Bedford Square said:

He had been appointed a Grand Warden in 1785 and Grand Treasurer in 1795. His will of 1804 certainly left a substantial sum for the time although nothing like the 200,000l described in The Monthly Magazine.

Standing immediately before Heseltine is William Forsteen Esq although his name is spelled variously as Forstein, Forsteen and Forssteen in references. He was one of the nine freemasons who initiated the School in 1788.

‘To the benevolent and indefatigable exertion of William Forsteen, Anthony Ten Broeke, Adam Gordon, Henry Spicer, esqs. and a few other respectable brethren, the Society are principally indebted for the complete establishment if this truly laudable Institution; and such have been the care and pains bestowed on the education of the children, that the sum arising from their work for the last year has exceeded £200.’

William Forsteen was born in 1754 in Camberwell and died at his home in Hans Place, Chelsea in 1832. Hans Place, named for Sir Hans Sloane, was built in the 1770s. The octagonal shape of the square is thought to have been modelled on the Place Vendôme in Paris. Jane Austen was once a resident of Hans Place.

Google maps

The map shows that it is very handy for Harrods. Pity that did not exist then.

Hans Place, photo from

In 1810 a Captain William Forssteen was promoted to major in the 2nd Royal Regiment and in 1816, Forsteen is given as a subscriber to another Charity School in Grays Inn Rd and his residence is given as Lime Street Square. These very fleeting references are amongst the few found and may not be the Forsteen in the portrait. That he was strongly connected to the Girls’ School we do know but he is one in history who ticked the ‘no publicity’ box.

Of James Galloway, there is even less. Shades of Shelley’s Ozymandias here because, although clearly of some significance judging by his proximity to the Prince Regent, and that he, like Heseltine, was an influential young Freemason, little can be found about him.

Fortunately, the next three names are well-covered!


Ussuf Aqiah Efendi is actually Yusuf Agah Efendi and he was the Ambassador from the Sublime Porte, a term used for the Ottoman Empire.

‘The name has its origins in the old Oriental practice in which the ruler announced his official decisions and judgements at the gate of his palace’ (Wikipedia) in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The gate was known as the ‘High Gate’ or ‘Sublime Porte’.

Yusuf Agah Efendi was born in Crete and had been a Scribe of the Navy before becoming Ambassador at the first permanent embassy of the Ottoman State in England. The delegation, which included the interpreter and the secretary, left Istanbul in 1793 and arrived via Ostend to a military band welcome in Dover.

‘In a letter he wrote to Foreign Minister Lord Grenville, General Smith, who was among the group that greeted the delegation, described Yusuf Agah Efendi as a “charming and respectable old man,” sırkatibi (literally, the secret scribe) Mahmud Raif Efendi as “young and reasonable,” and chief translator Emanuel Persiani as “intelligent and skillful.”’

Two more names listed possibly had more prominence at the time but have disappeared without trace into the history books: Mr Cotton and John Hull Esq. Shown in the portrait as engaged in conversation with Sir William Addington, these two gentlemen are very hard to trace.

Mr Cotton may be Sir Charles Cotton – the dates are about right but we have to consider that MR Cotton is probably an unlikely epithet for someone with a title. However, he did succeed to his title in 1795 so it is possible that his name was written before he took his title. He was an officer in the Navy where he would have been referred to as Mr Cotton and he is given as ‘Mr Cotton’ in parliamentary papers. In 1793, two weeks after the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, Cotton was recalled to service in HMS Majestic and joined the Channel Fleet so, if this is him, he probably wasn’t really there anyway as he would have been at sea.

An alternative is Henry Cotton, Esq in the Lodge of Nine Muses along with many of the other names in the portrait, including Ruspini, but he is even harder to trace so we will never be sure.

Alongside Henry Cotton in the Lodge of Nine Muses is John Hull esq, but if there was little about Mr Cotton, there is zilch about John Hull. We must leave them in conversation with each other and hope that one day, they tell us who they are.

Fortunately the 3rd member of the trio, Sir William Addington (1728–1811) is known. He was a magistrate at Bow Street from 1774, later becoming Chief Magistrate. Whilst he was not uncontroversial – having had two complaints made against him as a magistrate and notoriously taking Jane Lessingham, the actress, as a mistress – he did win praise for his part in dealing with the Gordon Riots. Any wanting to know more about the Bow Street runners and the Gordon Riots can turn to John Creasey’s 1972 novel The Masters of Bow Street.

In 1799 Sir William introduced badges intended to distinguish between officers and patrolmen. (Information from

Image of No 4 Court in Bow Street from and image of two Runners from Pinterest

Standing opposite the Prince Regent is his brother, the Duke of York, wearing military uniform. He was appointed colonel of the 2nd Horse Grenadier Guards (now 2nd Life Guards) on 26 March 1782 and, had he not died in 1827, Britain might have had its first King Frederick as he was heir presumptive to his brother following the death of Charlotte, the only legitimate heir.

Rather like the image of his brother, the Duke is portrayed more slim than he actually was: (left) the Stothard portrait; (centre) in 1790 (i.e. before the Stothard image) and (right) in 1822. And yes, he is the Grand Old Duke of York of the nursery rhyme! In 1793, the Duke was put in charge of a military expedition with a mixture of British and Hanoverian forces but they were hugely outnumbered. ‘Over the following months, he marched his army back and forth between ineffective minor actions, inspiring the nursery rhyme. ‘

So this exposition of the portrait is bracketed with royalty but there are still some very interesting characters to come!

A picture paints a thousand words?

Many people familiar with the School will also be familiar with the picture of Chevalier Ruspini leading the girls before the assembled Freemasons headed by the Prince Regent.

This portrait was painted by Thomas Stothard, RA in – well no-one is entirely sure when. If one attempts to count the number of girls, it might be anything from 20 to 26, or more. Fifteen little girls started at the School when it first began with five more being added to the School roll the following year and five more the year after and … After about five years of the School’s existence, some of the girls would have been ready to leave so the numbers did not rise without end. A rough calculation of the number of pupils shown here might suggest a date of c.1793. However – and this is key – this is not a photograph, it is a painting. As such, a degree of artistic licence is permitted. If Thomas Stothard wanted to show a line of children stretching into the distance to represent the permanence of the Institution, he was at liberty to do so. Indeed, he may have even been instructed to do so by whoever commissioned it, presumably the School authorities or the gentlemen of the committee or even Ruspini himself. Because that’s another thing we don’t know about the picture – who paid for it.

Thomas Stothard was a Royal Academician born in 1755, ‘the son of a well-to-do innkeeper in Long Acre.’ As a young man, he demonstrated a talent for drawing and was apprenticed to a draughtsman of patterns for brocaded silks in Spitalfields. After his master died, Stothard decided to concentrate on art and became a student at the Academy in 1778. Much of his work held there shows his drawing skill. It includes many nude studies, which are exquisitely executed, and also this study of a child’s limbs:

Stothard, Thomas; Sketches of a child’s arms;
Credit line: (c) Royal Academy of Arts

If we take a closer look at one of the girls, we can see something similar.

The two children holding the hands of Ruspini seem to be very young, perhaps too young. Although British Freemasonry, 1717–1813, Volume 5 by Robert Peter gives that pupils ‘must be between the age of five and nine years’, between 7 or 8 was generally the age at which they were admitted. Perhaps another example of artistic licence?

Stothard was elected RA on 10 February 1794 but his association with the Royal Academy continued after this as he was appointed Deputy Librarian, and then Librarian, from 1810 until his death in 1834. He married Rebecca Watkins in 1783 and they had eleven children, but only six survived infancy. Their home was Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. In 1763 three of the inhabitants of Henrietta St were artists but ‘several others were resident in the street during the eighteenth century … from 1747 to 1758. There were still as many as five artists and engravers with addresses in Henrietta Street as late as 1816’

In 1794, the Stothards moved to 28 Newman Street, Fitzrovia. As Stothard owned this property – or the freehold at any rate – he was doing very nicely thank you.


28 Newman St, now occupied by a film company, has a ‘blue plaque’ commemorating Stothard’s residency – only it’s not blue but made of lead to blend with the facade of the building.

Image adapted from

Two of his sons entered the art world: Charles Alfred Stothard became an illustrator and Alfred Joseph Stothard was a medallist to George IV. Charles died tragically after falling out of a window whilst executing a drawing. His wife Anna Bray (later re-married) wrote a biography of her former father in law.

Towards the end of his life, Stothard grew increasingly weak and deaf but still took long walks. Unfortunately, during one of these, he was knocked down by a carriage. He appeared to sustain no physical injury but he never recovered from the shock and died on 27 April 1834. He is buried in Bunhill Fields burial ground as is his former friend William Blake, although the two men fell out later in life over the commissioning of a painting of the pilgrims to Canterbury.

So that’s the artist but the picture itself is worth a much closer look. Along with the portrait, there is also an outline drawing which identifies many of the people in the image. Perhaps this was created by Stothard himself as part of his preparation.

And because we can identify the people depicted, it tells a much greater story. We need to gloss over here the fact that not one female is named, not even the two little girls right in the centre and the focus of our immediate attention when we first look at the picture …

Having the identity of 37 of the men shown enables us to pin down the date more accurately. Or at least as accurately as anything designed by an artist in the days long before photographs. It is possible that this specific event took place on one specific occasion and that Thomas Stothard was commissioned to paint it but it may also be an amalgam of several occasions with a bit of imagination thrown in for good measure. The pupils were brought before assembled Freemasons but this happened every year, possibly from 1789 onwards and continued until the latter end of the nineteenth century so it does not help with the dating. However one of the people shown, the Ambassador from the Sublime Porte, was only in London between 1794 and 1797 so if it were one specific event, it has to be between those dates. Another person who is date-specific is the Stadtholder who was exiled to Britain in 1795 so that fits quite nicely with the Ambassador’s presence in Britain. Unfortunately, this is almost immediately countered by the identification of George Downing esq. who is described as ‘late’ in the attribution. He died in 1800 which then puts the portrait back to after this date.

Another anomaly – which could easily be a bit of wishful thinking on the part of Stothard – is the naming of a Mr Haydon in the picture. This could be Benjamin Robert Haydon (26 January 1786 – 22 June 1846), a British painter who specialised in grand historical pictures. However, if it is he, we have another problem with dates as he does not appear in London until 1804.

Sir John Eamer is identified as the Rt Hon Lord Mayor of London in the portrait and he was Lord Mayor from 1801. Indeed, during his mayoralty, ‘on Easter Monday, April 19, 1802, the Prince of Wales, with his brothers the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland, accompanied by a train of nobility and gentry, honoured the dinner and ball with their presence.’ [a ticket to Mansion House Ball]. Is it possible that this specific event has been metamorphosed with the parading of the girls before their supporters to create the Stothard portrait?

Four others named – Dr de Valangin, James Heseltine, Mr Cuppage and Mr John Jeffryes – died respectively 1805 (de Valangin) and 1804 (Heseltine, Cuppage & Jeffryes) which gives a cut off date if it is an image of a single event. One curious presence is that of a Cherokee Indian Chief John Bowles – although there is no certain evidence that he was ever in Britain at all. He became the Chief in 1792 so the portrait should come after this period.

But just when you thought it was safe, Adam Gordon esq., who may possibly be Lord Adam Gordon, died in 1801 in Scotland so if that is the correct interpretation of ‘Adam Gordon, esq.’ it places the date of the portrait (or the event thereto) between 1800 and 1801. By which time the Ambassador had long since left the country …

The conclusion appears to be that the event shown in the Stothard portrait – described recently and understandably, if incorrectly, as the opening of the School – is actually NOT a single event but a representative image of occasions in School and Masonic history; a combination of a number of similar events given some artistic licence by the painter and dating to somewhere around 1800 give or take a few years here and there and a few people who might not have been there but then again might have.

What a pity that in all this no-one knows the names of the girls!

All at 60s and 70s?

Former RMS pupils from the 1960s are sometimes described as ‘the lost generation’: on leaving, they put as much distance between themselves and their alma mater as possible – and never looked back. However, this is probably no truer for sixties’ girls than it was for the 50s or the 70s. Or indeed any era. The Sixties has been singled out possibly because it was a time of great change throughout the world and a contrast to the perceived ultra-conservative mind set of the School.

‘If the Fifties were in black and white, then the Sixties were in Technicolor.’

Kimberley Watson on

But if you believe that Sixties RMS was stuck in a time warp, you might be astonished to discover just what a period of change and development it was. If, when you think RMS, you think Indiana Jones 1930 buildings, you’re forgetting about the library and the science block – both built in the 1960s; you’re forgetting all the internal changes to accommodate developing curricula – 1960s; misremembering all the alterations made to existing buildings to better utilise the space – 1960s and on to the 1970s.

Minutes of meetings are not the best bedtime reading but ploughing through a decade of them is certainly interesting. As a time travel method, they can be recommended.

If you are familiar with the School site, try and imagine the non-existence of said library and science block. And also Bertha Dean, Florence Mason & Strathearn Houses. (If none of these names mean anything to you, your imagination will have to work overtime to invent blank spaces.) In case you’re wondering, there was a library and science labs before the 60s but they were in different places.

The old library (now Scarbrough Gallery)
Chemistry lab c. 1940s

In 1964, consideration was being given for an improved library and extended science facilities. For the record, provision of a Sixth form house and the removal of Junior School from Weybridge to Rickmansworth were also under consideration: the former had to wait until 1981, the latter a mere eight years. As early as 1964, the idea of repositioning the Junior School in the redundant former San was being talked about, but that had to wait a further 47 years!

Other changes that were discussed related to accommodation for staff, the replacement of boilers (£20,000 estimate even then so a major expenditure, the equivalent today of a cool 1.9 million.) and also ‘a covered-in space of sufficient size to accommodate 75 cars in marked bays, provided with sliding doors that could be locked and easily opened.’ The car may not have quite been king in 1964 but it was certainly a prince-in-waiting if that proposed provision is to judge by.

The initial idea was for a new library in one of the quadrangles whilst science labs would either be on a new second floor above the existing labs or in the Garth. In March 1965, there was discussion about whether the foundations could be strengthened to allow for a second floor but – confusingly – the alternative of a building in the Garth with a 2nd storey [sic] connection to the main building was discussed.

Clearly by this stage the writing was on the wall for Weybridge to leave Surrey – well, the Junior School Weybridge anyway – although it was 1973 before it happened. The ‘plateau’ which had once housed the tennis court for Park House, and which was used as the VIP enclosure on Sports Days (then on the Lowers) was considered suitable for building a new Junior School. This would mean the planning for the 75 parking spaces which were to be behind some existing garages (since demolished) and the Junior School would require extensive use of terracing on the eastern flank overlooking the Chess valley.

Aerial view showing where new construction was planned




1 Accommodation for Headmistress

2 & 3 Staff accommodation

4 Parking for 75 cars [didn’t happen]

5 Suggested Junior School, then Science block

6 Library (inside rose garden, not in quad)

7 Old Sanatorium, later Sixth Form house, later Cadogan House (Prep & Pre-Prep)



By January 1966, the siting of a new science block on the plateau and the library in the Garth had been decided on. The latter, at this stage, was intended as a single storey building with a possible further floor in the future. Prior to settling on the plateau for Science, there had been consideration given to one building housing both Science and library, the latter on the ground floor. Presumably this ties in with the ‘bridge’ linking Science labs on 2nd floor level and the realisation that said bridge would end in mid-air as there wasn’t a 2nd floor in the main building to which to connect it …

The bridge idea resurfaced in July 1968 to connect the new Science building to the School as there was a road between the two. Would there be a bridge over the access road, or a tunnel under it or [the option selected] should the road be diverted around the science block? So if you’ve ever wondered why the access road suddenly swings east, goes round a loop and then emerges at the top of South Drive, now you know.

Once the idea of a new Science block was decided upon, it was realised that its design ‘could be functional rather than traditional since, as the site was beyond the general outline of the existing buildings, there was not the same need to harmonise with them’. The jury is out about whether the style of architecture used was functional, experimental or zeitgeist run mad.

Whatever it was, the roof has given problems from the beginning.

In comparison, the library ‘would need to harmonize with the existing buildings’. Both of these buildings (and indeed the other new buildings at this time) were all designed by the same architectural firm as the rest of the school: J L Denman & Son. It seems most likely that John Bluet Denman was the architect of the science block and library and John Leopold Denman the staff accommodation: son and father in that order.

As part of the design of the library – once described by a pupil as the globular building in the Garth – it was felt some decoration was needed on an exterior wall, along the lines of Epstein’s St Michael at Coventry cathedral. Hmm – perhaps an overly ambitious description of the relief of the School badge that was put there.

The library was constructed by James Langley & Co of East Park, Crawley at a cost of £107,989. The minutes contain some of the extraordinary detail discussed at these meetings: the borrowing system, which despite the installation of a ‘lending bureau’ was designed to take place in the central area ground floor; the style of bookshelves; the list of books to be purchased; and even exactly where the furniture was to be placed. The Librarian didn’t get a look in on these matters! Included in the design was a gold and silver chandelier, costing £988, intended to ‘enhance the beauty of an already imposing building’ and there appears to have been lengthy discussion about whether a winding mechanism for maintenance would be part of it. At an additional cost of £350, this was finally added as was concealed lighting for the dome.

The gold-coloured carpet was estimated at £300 but actually cost £518. Even then, a fault was found and it had to be rewoven. The tables – designed by Denman – cost £76 each with sixty chairs @ a fiver a throw. The finished building was ready by 30 December 1969 although the opening ceremony was not until 1st December 1970, as recorded on the plaque above the door. The wording of this was discussed minutely but the work was done free of charge by L M Samuel who, as well as being a Freemason, was also a stonemason.

The same amount of detailed discussion went into the Science block including many pages itemising all the furniture and lab equipment. Subsequently there was also considerable discussion about how to cut back all the expenditure as it was an horrendous overspend. After very careful consideration, £52,000 was shaved off the overrun cost. (It all went by the board with the roof problem but that’s a story for another day.)

Neither the Science block nor the Library has ever been given a name although part of the Science block is called the Ashley Edwards Laboratories to acknowledge an extremely generous gift by that person. The accommodation buildings, however, were named. In Sept 1968 the suggested name for one was ‘Stradbroke House’, the name recorded without explanation for the choice. It seems likely that it was for George Edward John Mowbray Rous, 3rd Earl of Stradbroke (1862 –1947), who was Provincial Grand Master of Suffolk for forty-five years, and also Provincial Grand Master of Mark Masons of East Anglia. The accommodation block previously called Senior Staff block was going to be called Cornwallis House. Again the minutes simply note this but presumably the discussion had more detail. This is probably for Colonel Fiennes Stanley Wykeham Cornwallis, 1st Baron Cornwallis (1864 –1935), a British Conservative politician who was also an eminent Freemason (Provincial Grand master of Kent and a Past Grand Warden in the United Grand Lodge of England).

Stradbroke and Cornwallis images both Creative Commons Wikipedia

By January 1969, however, the buildings were given the names they are known by today: Florence Mason and Bertha Dean Houses. These two ladies were Headmistress and Matron at the time the School moved from Clapham and were instrumental in ensuring that everything ran smoothly – what was described at the time as ‘we had moved house, that was all: the meals were on time, the bathwater was hot’, a comment that glossed over the huge amount of planning that enabled this state to be reached.


Florence Mason and Bertha Dean, portraits by Maurice Codner, RA


Florence Mason House and Bertha Dean House

Abbiss & Hale Ltd of Rickmansworth constructed both blocks (£119,998), including road access curved to go round the Engineer’s garden (!)

Strathearn House, the accommodation for the Headteacher, was a detached residence – a forward thinking move for the time, allowing that, in future, said person might be married and have a family. Until this time, all the Headmistresses were single, dedicated professionals. Married women did not have paid professional roles except through necessity. Times they were a-changing.

By the end of a decade of construction, the various committees and sub-committees might have been forgiven for voting themselves out of existence but, no. The beginning of the 70s brought discussions about what to do with the old library, the old science labs, the old San; how to accommodate the Sixth form and the junior pupils and how to make provision for music and drama. Which last brings us very nicely up to date as a Performing Arts Centre is currently under construction and due to open in 2019.

The 1970s are sometimes viewed as

‘… the tired, miserable hangover after the long party of the Swinging Sixties [but] it makes much more sense to see them as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of modern Britain’

The 1970s for RMS was yet more building, innovation and change to keep abreast of modern life – decidedly a new chapter.