Clang, clang, clang …

In Massonica 1913 (the earlier editions of the magazine spelled the name with a 2nd s in it), in a section entitled ‘School notes’, there is an account of a visit of the Grand masters of the three Grand Lodges of Berlin, and “other distinguished German Brethren” to the School at Clapham. This may have been on Prize Day or the song may have been performed again on Prize Day. Either way, as part of a concert in the Alexandra Hall, The Viking Song was sung by the school for the visitors and the girls wore blue cornflowers “in honour of the visitors” – although the significance of this was not outlined in the article.  The song was composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and had a chorus that began with “Clang, clang, clang on the anvil”. No doubt for this reason, the girls referred to it as ‘Clang’ and the comment was made that the workmen carrying out stone work on the Centenary hall that year seemed to be joining in the chorus with the noise of their hammering.

In researching this song, an interesting double connection with the School was discovered.

Clang, clang, clang on the anvil,

In the smithy by the dark North Sea;

Is it Thor that is smiting with the hammer,

Is it Odin with the leather on his knee?

Written in 1911, the composer was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, of Creole descent, who earned many plaudits for his work and  ‘was once called the “African Mahler”‘ (Wikipedia).

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor c 1905
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor c 1905

“Samuel Coleridge-Taylor” by Unknown – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –

He was born in 1875 to Alice Hare Martin, an English woman, and Dr Daniel Hughes Taylor of Sierra Leone (who may possibly never have known of his son). The couple were not married but in that Alice appeared to be continuing a family tradition as she herself was also illegitimate. Alice called her son Samuel Coleridge Taylor, taking the inspiration from the name of Samuel Taylor Coleridge the poet. At some point later in his life, possibly as a result of a printer’s typographical error, the surname became hyphenated: Coleridge-Taylor.

Taylor studied violin at the Royal College of Music and later taught music at the Crystal Palace School of Music. [It is not unfeasible that he taught some of the girls from RMIG as there are records of those with musical talent attending the Crystal Palace for additional lessons beyond those given at the school.]

He married Jessie Sarah Fleetwood Walmisley in 1899, the marriage very much disapproved of by her parents, and they had two children: Hiawatha Bryan C-T and Gwendoline C-T, later using the name Avril and she became a conductor composer in her own right. Both children were musically talented but, as Samuel met his wife when they were both students at RCM, it hardly seems surprising. Their son’s name was from the Longfellow poem but probably more pertinently from the music composed by Samuel for which he was most noted.

The Coleridge-Taylor family
The Coleridge-Taylor family

“Coleridge-Taylor family card” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

The income derived from being a musical composer was not excessive and Samuel was forced to work relentlessly to provide for his family. It seems likely that this was a significant factor in his early death at 37 years of age. He died from pneumonia at his home a few days after collapsing at a railway station. The circumstances of his death played a significant part in establishing a system of royalties for composers. His widow was granted a pension of £100 pa by George V which indicates how much his work was valued.

“Coleridge-Taylor left a large and varied body of music, both vocal and instrumental. His daughter Avril and son Hiawatha later earned degrees from the Guildhall School of Music. Both had careers in the U.K. as classical composers. Avril was also a conductor and pianist.” From

He is buried at Bandon Hill cemetery in Croydon and the words on his headstone were written by his good friend, the poet Alfred Noyes.

Too young to die

his great simplicity

his happy courage

in an alien world

his gentleness

made all that knew him

love him

The headstone also has four bars of music from Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the work most associated with him.

blue plaque

“Blue Plaque for Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Dagnell Park, Selhurst – – 1466227” by Peter Trimming. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons –,_Dagnell_Park,

The Viking Song which began all this was the start of the connections of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with RMIG. In 1927, the second connection was made. Asia Mary Bickerton had been a pupil at the school. She may even have been one of the pupils who sang the song in 1912 (as we know she was at the School then). She was due to leave in 1916, having been awarded the Silver medal in that year but she was retained as a pupil teacher. Subsequently, she transferred to the Matron’s department becoming 2nd Assistant on a salary of £35pa in 1918. She left in 1925 and in 1927 she married Guy Herbert Walmisley, a solicitor, who was the nephew of Jessie Coleridge-Taylor, nee Walmisley. Asia Walmisley (nee Bickerton) died on 11 February 1984, the notice of her death appearing in The Times of 15 Feb 1984.

So the simple enquiry ‘I wonder what the Viking Song was’ reveals an interesting story.

A policeman’s lot …

In the process of finding information about Phoebus Hardcastle (one of the little girls who died too young) a quite astonishing story emerged related to her father. It is too delicious not to use it. You couldn’t make this stuff up – no-one would believe it!

Stephen Hardcastle’s story

(Click on the above title to open)

Who’s for pud?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answers on the back of a duster, mayhap.

But no prizes.

RMS Pinafore

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is certainly an interesting variation of a pin afore!

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

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

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

Uniform 1930s
Uniform 1930s

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

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

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

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

Modern pupils reflecting past pupils
Modern pupils reflecting past pupils

Hats off to Clapham

Clapham group with hats

This delightful photograph, dated 1913, shows a group of older girls at Clapham wearing their uniform which appears to include the most glorious hats! There is no other photographic evidence of hats like these so perhaps they were only worn by the senior girls or the prefects.

On the reverse of the photograph, the girls are identified, with only one girl not known. Our records show that three of these girls later went to South Africa, one possibly to New Zealand, one to Canada and one to America. Two of those pictured became staff members of the School.

All of them were born between 1896 and 1898 and it is quite remarkable how many of them reached their eighth or ninth decade, with one almost making it to her centenary. Perhaps this is a tribute to the start in life the School gave them, despite their misfortune in losing their fathers at such an early age, mostly before their tenth birthdays.