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 https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/a-picture-paints-a-thousand-words/ . 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.’ http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/ritual/preston.pdf

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 https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol12/pp47-51

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.”’ https://en.peramuzesi.org.tr/Artwork/Yusuf-Agah-Efendi/91/15

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 https://www.lucienneboyce.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Dan-Foster-and-the-Bow-Street-Runners.pdf)

Image of No 4 Court in Bow Street from https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Bow-Street-Runners/ 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. ‘ https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/7-facts-grand-old-duke-york-british-military-reformer.html

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.’ http://blueplaquesguy.byethost24.com/content/Stothard_Thomas_W1T.html?i=1 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; https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/O11334
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’ https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol36/pp230-239

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 https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/thomas-stothard/

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. https://www.donaldheald.com/pages/books/6120/anna-eliza-bray/life-of-thomas-stothard-r-a-with-personal-reminiscences

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.’ https://www.grosvenorprints.com/stock_detail.php?ref=21988 [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., according to researcher ‘Emma’,

is in fact the fifth son of the twelfth laird of Abergeldie, Charles Gordon. Adam Gordon was born around 1757/1758 and died on the 28th May 1800 in Bath and is buried in Bath Abbey.

So this would place the date of the portrait (or the event thereto) to before 1800. Before which time, George Downing was not ‘late’!

Adam Gordon of Lime Street is listed as the treasurer of the school in the Freemasons’ Calendar for 1796 and again in a newspaper advert in 1798. He left £100 to the school in his will so would be a good candidate for inclusion in a commissioned portrait.

‘An interesting man, [Gordon] was in New York acting as a banking agent during the American War of Independence (and was accused of trying to fix exchange rates) before returning to London and setting up a successful engineering, shipbuilding and ironworks with his brother David Gordon (14th laird of Abergeldie) and his brother-in-law John Biddulph. Their company was originally based in Lime Street, London and the two brothers later built a house in Dulwich (Dulwich Hill House). ‘ (Emma, researcher)

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!

Hidden History

Adding the words ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ to anything always serves to attract attention. Often the reality is not hidden or secretive at all but simply not known by very many. Mind you, putting up big road signs does seem a little counterproductive for secrecy:

You can also follow a tourist trail and visit a ‘secret’ nuclear bunker! See https://hackgreen.co.uk/

The School has a number of hidden elements. The first lies in the historical existence of the School itself. That is not to say that any part of the School ever had an invisibility cloak and one might be forgiven for wondering how something currently in 300 acres of parkland could ever be hidden. However, one of the oldest girls’ schools, its existence was one of those ‘secrets’ that those in the know knew but … Educational history is a well-researched field but while much has been written about various girls’ schools, RMSG is never one that is mentioned. As an example, Alice Zimmern, writing in 1898, identified many established girls’ schools in her The Renaissance of Girls’ Education in England: a Record of Fifty Years’ Progress but not one mention, not even a sniff, of RMSG which was considerably older and more well-established than most of the examples she did use. And yet, it was ‘hidden’ in full view as searching online newspapers testifies. The search term the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls has 4,092 hits – and that’s just between 1850 and 1978 (when its name officially changed) and from one online source. There were frequent newspaper reports in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but then, a venture that relied on charitable support did need to advertise its presence. Whilst the School was a Masonic charity, lists of subscribers show only too clearly that there were many other contributors too. So the school’s apparent invisibility was actually in full public view! An article by J R Wade in Pearson’s Weekly in 1934 declares RMIG to be ‘one of the finest schools in Europe’ but adds that ‘it forms one of the never advertised charities of Freemasonry’ which helps to explain how a very large educational establishment can be hidden from view.

Another hidden aspect in full view is the statue by E Roscoe Mullins of Ruspini, currently found in his niche on the Chapel’s eastern wall.

Nothing at first glance hidden about this you might think, and you’d be right. The ‘hidden’ bit relates to the top of the statue’s head. Originally, the statue had been placed high up on the gable end of the School when it was on the Clapham site. Somehow, intrepid girls had discovered that, by scrambling about amongst the rafters, they could reach out and pat the statue on his head. And once one set of girls had done it, another set wanted to try and then it became the ‘done thing’ before leaving the school, for the more trepidatious amongst the pupils, to pat the statue. As soon as the School authorities discovered this, it was immediately banned as a dangerous activity. Perhaps employing a reverse psychology and practically making it mandatory would have taken away the illicit pleasure. A very good example of this was the ladies’ school (not RMSG) which, concerned that their girrrls (as Miss Jean Brodie put it) were reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover illicitly, took the counterintuitive step of making it a class reader. Killed it stone dead!

Not far from where Ruspini’s statue stands today is the clock tower at the top of which can be found four sculpted Anemoi (Greek for the wind). These sculptures by Joseph Cribb are barely visible to those on the ground although the pigeons get a good view as they fly past. In mythology they were minor deities, the four chief ones being Zephyrus, Boreas, Eurus and Noter. One of ours must have gone on holiday as we have Auster, which is the Latin name, rather than Notus. Anemoi in Latin is Venti so we have 3 Anemoi and one Vento.

Images supplied by Joseph Cribb’s grandson, photos taken by Joseph Cribb himself.

It seems a great shame that the sculptures are rarely seen but here’s a closer view (below right) taken when maintenance work on the tower allowed access via scaffolding. Forty years of weathering has hardly made an impact on it.

A definitely hidden bit of the School is the service tunnels. Created to allow for maintenance of the buildings above them, they link all the 1934 buildings with the exception of the San (now Cadogan House). For infection control, the San was a stand alone building. It is possible to walk all round the school under the ground. Possible but definitely not advisable. Walking along tunnels that are all identical but with no ability to define one’s position by reference to external sources is the definition of disorientation. Not only are there no signposts to tell you where you are, there is nothing to pinpoint position or guide direction. Trying to find your way anywhere in the dark is difficult as anyone who has tried it will testify. When there is nothing at all that tells you which way is up, down, right or left, you could wander in a tight little circle whilst believing you were marching forward.

Another set of ‘tunnels’ that exist are the air raid shelters. Constructed at the same time as the School was being built, these tunnels are in a zig-zag shape so that the effect from any direct hit from an explosive device would be dissipated by a blast wall. In 1924 an Air Raid Committee established that it might be prudent to have underground shelters available. Consequently, large organisations such as the School built underground shelters well in advance of the war. For a school built for 400 pupils, plus all the resident staff, plus the Junior girls who, for the Duration, had been moved from Weybridge, this was no mean feat as the space required was rather large. The shelters were built initially as trenches and, after suitable reinforcing, the ‘lid’ of corrugated iron was overlaid and then earth piled on top.

Image on left from https://attain.news/story/network-of-wwii-tunnels-rediscovered-beneath-school-campus; image on right from Archives.

During air raids, the girls would troop down to the shelter and spend the night there on wooden benches that lined the tunnels. The shelving on which the blankets were kept still remain in places.

Images: the storage shelves for blankets; inside the tunnels on a torchlit tour; follow my leader round the corner (from Archives)

The sleeping benches, being wooden, have all now rotted away, Although the underground space was designed for the whole school, it was very quickly found to be too disruptive of exam preparation to sleep there every night. The older girls slept top to toe in the centre of the houses where they might be most protected and where there were few windows for flying glass to be a problem. Only the youngest ones slept in the shelters with any great regularity wearing their little knitted pixie hoods

Image on the left shows the girls sleeping (probably a posed photograph!) and wearing the pixie hoods, whilst the image on the right is a contemporaneous cartoon drawn by one of the girls.

There was an attempt to make the experience less frightening by giving names to different areas such as Moira Mansions or Cumberland Court. Girls who were ill and in the San slept under their beds in the event of an air raid. One girl recalled that, when she woke up one morning, she momentarily forgot where she was and tried to sit up, banging her head on the metal bed frame above her. So her chicken pox was exacerbated with a headache!

The floors of the shelters were covered in duckboards, most of which have since rotted away, like the benches, but the remains are visible in places. There were vents at various intervals to allow fresh air to circulate but the construction of the shelters, plus all the entrances, created a natural air flow. There was power supplied to the shelters and lamps could be suspended along the corridors to provide light. It was otherwise pitch black. During recent tours, conducted by modern torchlight, we were instructed to turn off torches. Immediately it became extremely dark – so much so, that girls at once put torches back on as they clearly did not like it. In fact the tunnels had been used by the local fire brigade up until 1988 as a training location to simulate working in pitch black conditions.

The original entrances and exits were closed off in the 1960s with entrances bricked up. Later, in 2011, the tunnels were sealed with 6 tons of soil and steel plates but in 2018 they were once again opened up for official guided tours for the girls and staff to give them some insight into the School’s history. During the tours, several items have been found: a bone button, a 1916 penny, a protractor (although that looked a shade too modern to be from the war era).

Image on the left, the remains of the duckboards; right, one of the bricked up entrances

There was some wartime graffiti on the walls and, as evidence that post-war the shelters had not been forgotten, some from about 1953 and later. It is a curious thing that people trespassing in places where they are not supposed to be, or doing what they not supposed to do, always seem to want to put a signature to their crime, thus allowing themselves to be readily identified!

The tours gave a fascinating glimpse into the past. Nevertheless, it was with a sense of relief that we reached the steps up to the entrance again and out into fresh air.

The experience provided an insight into a part of the School’s history that wasn’t secret, had not been forgotten but had been made inaccessible (mostly).

Hidden history indeed.

What’s in a name?

Photos from http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/royal-wedding-pictures and https://www.royal.uk/wedding-duke-and-duchess-sussex

On the morning of the wedding, with everyone in the world agog with anticipation about THE dress, the announcement of the couple’s new titles might have slipped in unnoticed: Prince Henry of Wales and his bride Meghan Markle were to be henceforward the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The title Duke of Sussex was first given in 1801 to a son of George III, Augustus Frederick. Although he had married (Lady Augusta Murray), the marriage had been annulled because as a prince of the Blood Royal, he had failed to ask permission of the reigning monarch to marry. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 stated that permission must be granted for a marriage to take place. This act had been drawn up following the marriage of the Duke of Cumberland (George III’s brother) who had married Lady Anne Luttrell without permission. The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland went on to become patrons of the School when it first began in 1788 and it was called the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School in their honour. Much later the names of both Cumberland and Sussex were used as house names by the School. But back to Prince Augustus for the moment. He had two children from his marriage but neither could inherit any titles as, in the eyes of the law, they were illegitimate. In 1843 when Augustus Frederick died, his titles died with him and they lay dormant until 2018 when the Dukedom was conferred on Prince Harry.

Interestingly, the title of the Earl of Sussex was conferred (its sixth creation) on Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was also later given the titles of Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and both of these names appear as the names of School buildings. In 1911, Prince Arthur was appointed as Governor General of Canada. In 1916 he was succeeded in this post by the Duke of Devonshire – and it almost goes without saying that this name too appears on a School building.

In one of those twists that History enjoys perpetrating, exactly 100 years after the title of Duke of Sussex went into mothballs, in 1943 the title of Duke of Connaught & Strathearn also became extinct on the death of Prince Arthur’s only son Alistair – apparently of hypothermia in Canada having fallen out of a window whilst drunk.

Along with a title comes a coat of arms and whilst Prince Harry already had one, Ms Markle did not so one was designed for her, which design “The Duchess of Sussex took a great interest in” according to the Garter King of Arms.

Image from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6391189/meghan-markle-coat-of-arms-duchess-of-sussex/

“The arms of a married woman are shown with those of her husband and the technical term is that they are impaled, meaning placed side by side in the same shield.”

The colours reflect the Pacific Ocean which lies off the cost of California, the Duchess’ birthplace, whilst the yellow bars are sunshine. These are interspersed by quills and they and the open beak of the songbird represent the importance of communication. The bird supports the shield on the opposite side of the royal lion whilst the coronet around its neck represents the elevation to royalty. The whole coat of arms stands on ground containing Californian golden poppies and wintersweet from Kensington palace gardens.

But let us put aside the sunshine-filled wedding day and go back to the names and their connection to the School. The outline of the Garth, in which the boarding houses lie, can be seen clearly on maps of the area. The area called The Garth has eight buildings which were all originally boarding houses.

When the School opened on its present site in 1934, the eight houses were (in clockwise order): Ruspini, Zetland, Moira, Connaught, Sussex, Alexandra, Atholl and Cumberland. In fact, earlier in 1934 the names had been listed slightly differently with York, Dunkerley & Kent in place of Alexandra, Zetland and Atholl. It is not known why the names were changed apparently at the last minute as there is just one fleeting reference in a letter from the Secretary of RMIG to the Matron at the time, Florence Mason, dated January 1934. By April, the name plates were installed as per the first list above.

Ruspini was named after the Chevalier Ruspini who was instrumental in the foundation of the School

Zetland was for the 2nd Earl of Zetland who was Grand Master of United Grand Lodge, 1844-70 and President of the Institution (RMIG) during the same period.

Moira was after Francis Rawdon-Hastings (1754-1826), Lord Rawdon (1762-1783), 2nd Earl of Moira (1793-1816) & 1st Marquess of Hastings (1816-1826). The character of Rawdon Crawley in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair is named after him.

Connaught was the title given to Prince Arthur. The other part of his name was later given to the Headmaster’s house, Strathearn. As he also held the title Earl of Sussex, was both Grand Master and President of the Institution, it is a moot point whether the next house in the sequence was named with him in mind too.

Sussex is traditionally given as being named for H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex. son of King George III, President of the Institution, 1815-1843 but may also have referred to Prince Arthur as he laid the foundation stone of the Shool on its present site.

Alexandra, the only House named after a woman, is for Edward VII’s Queen, the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. When Edward succeeded to the throne in 1901, Queen Alexandra became Chief Patroness of the School.

Atholl is the third Duke of Atholl, Grand Master of Scotland, 1773, and of the Antient Grand Lodge, 1771-4. The union of the Antient and Modern Freemasons in 1813 formed the United Grand Lodge that exists today. The first Grand Master of this in 1813 was the Duke of Sussex.

Cumberland was named for H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland, the first Patron of the Institution in 1788.

The clockwise order given for the houses lasted for approximately 50 years before changes were made. Not to the names mind but to their positions in the Garth. That is not to say that the physical houses picked up their skirts and went walkabout but the order of the names started to become a little more fluid. Ruspini house, as an example, went right across the Garth, settling at first where Atholl had been before later shunting down one place to ultimately become Ruspini House, a pre-school. It would be somewhat bewildering to describe all the changes. It was confusing enough to those were in the School at the time! Suffice to say that, with all the changes of position and the changes in boarding numbers, eventually it was decided to use some of the original names as School Houses (the ones you cheer for on Sports Day and at hockey matches etc.) and have some different names for boarding houses. Of course, just to make it totally perplexing, some of the names stayed the same and for the same purpose; some just changed position and some changed purpose. But now we have that clear …

The Garth today then, in the same clockwise order is: Alexandra, Zetland, Harris, Connaught, Devonshire, Ruspini House, Weybridge & Hind House.

Alexandra is currently undergoing work to convert it to a Performing Arts Centre; Zetland & Connaught (we’ll come back to Harris in a minute) are boarding houses; Devonshire (the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noted the earlier reference) is a Day Girls’ house; Ruspini as previously mentioned is a pre-school with Photography and Textiles studios and galleries on the 1st floor; Weybridge is named for the Junior School that used to be at that place in Surrey and formerly housing the younger boarders; Hind House is a 6th Form Centre, opened in 2012 and named for one of the long serving Trustees to the School, Colonel Keith Hind.

Harris is Moira-as-was in old currency. It is named for a long-serving member of the House Committee, George St Vincent Harris, 5th Baron Harris of Seringapatam and Mysore, chairman of the House Committee 1954-1970, who died in 1984.

Perhaps it is appropriate to end this abbreviated overview of some of the School names, inspired by the newly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with the opening lyrics from the Hot Chocolate song:

It started with a kiss