CQD and RMIG

The telegraphic call of CQ (pronounced sécu) had been used to alert all stations along a line. Rather as the beloved shipping forecast begins with ‘Attention all shipping’, CQ was the equivalent of ‘Hey listen up guys!’ There was no agreed emergency signal but in 1904 the Marconi Company instructed their operators that D (for distress) should be added, thus making CQD a telegraphic signal that help was required. At the same time the distress signal SOS was also being used interchangeably with CQD.

The two signals represented as Morse code might suggest that SOS was marginally quicker to send but in the hands of a skilled telegraphist the difference was minimal. One such skilled person was Jack Phillips, chief telegraphist on RMS Titanic. On the night of 15 April 1912, he initially sent CQD. Harold Bride, the junior radio operator, suggested using SOS. With a kind of gallows humour, and perhaps realising by this point that the unsinkable Titanic was going to do just that, he commented that it might be their only chance to use the ‘new’ signal. Phillips then began to alternate the two distress calls.

Phillips – and Bride who stayed in the radio room alongside him – was very much the hero of the hour, remaining at his post until Captain Smith issued the order to all crew to ‘save yourselves’ – an indication that all was lost. At the inquest, another radio operator who had picked up the signals commented that Phillips’ transmissions never wavered in their consistency or accuracy.

‘Jack’s last message was picked up by the Virginia of the Allen Line at 2.17am, and the Titanic foundered at 2.20am. ‘

http://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/index.php?page=jack-phillips-and-the-titanic

Because of telegraph messages, news of the ship’s fate reached newspapers in UK by the following day although there was clearly confusion in interpreting them.

But what has all this to so with the School? Well, this is the +RMIG bit of the heading. The Royal Masonic Institute for Girls had been established in 1788 to come to the aid of those in distress and the terrible loss of lives on the Titanic was certainly a time of great distress. Four girls who became pupils of the School did so because their fathers went down with the ship. Florence and Eleanor Hill, twin daughters of Henry Parkinson Hill (and known in School as the Titanic Twins) and Ethel and Brenda Parsons, daughters of Edward Parsons, all become pupils. Florence & Eleanor Hill and Ethel Parsons were at the School contemporaneously. Brenda Parsons, the youngest, two years old in 1912, would not have been old enough to be a pupil until 1918.

These fuzzy images are Florence Hill and Ethel Parsons as captured from a whole school portrait taken in 1913 (below).

Ethel and Brenda Parsons were the daughters of marine storekeeper Edward Parsons.

17 April 1912 – Western Daily Mercury

No doubt his family would have been extremely proud when he was appointed to the White Star line’s most luxurious and prestigious ship, little imagining the fate that awaited him. After all, the Titanic was unsinkable.

The Parsons family had been living in Liverpool and four of the children had been born there. They moved to Southampton sometime before 1910 and Brenda, the youngest child, was born there. As the wife of a member of ship’s crew, Mrs Parsons would always have been aware of the dangers of the sea but – the Titanic was unsinkable. What could possibly go wrong?

One of Edward’s grandchildren later commented that the family had a letter from the White Star line indicating that Eddie (as he was known) was last seen on the deck giving biscuits to children and comforting them. His body was never recovered or identified. His wages of £6 per month as Chief Storekeeper would have ceased with his death, leaving Mrs Parsons with five children to support on no income. She benefited from a Titanic relief fund but Edward’s Masonic connections meant that they too stepped in to offer support.

Ethel Parsons probably came to the School almost immediately after the disaster and left in 1920, accepted by Southampton Education Committee as a pupil teacher. Later she won a place at Hartley College, Southampton to read for an Arts degree but decided instead to train as an elementary teacher. She returned to the School in 1924 as a Lower School mistress, described as a temporary post, and she either left when she married in 1925 or slightly before. Thereafter, the School loses sight of her and it is left to public records to note that she probably died in 1994 in Surrey.

Her youngest sister, Brenda, little more than a baby when her father died, would not have become a pupil much before 1918 as eight was the usual admission age. It seems highly likely, however, that Mrs Parsons would have received financial aid before Brenda became a pupil as this was ‘part of the package’. She left school on 15th December 1927, undertook commercial training and by 1928 had a post in an insurance office. In 1929 she married George Holloway, a Congregationalist minister. In 1958, she married for a second time and became Mrs Tiller and she died on 22nd December 2008 in Eastbourne, not quite making it to her centenary but coming very close.

One of the Titanic Twins did make it to her centenary but let’s not jump ahead. They were the daughters of Henry Parkinson Hill and Florence Hill nee Baxter who married in 1903. Sadly by 1908 the marriage had failed and Henry had left the family home. The girls remembered little of their father as they were only 3 when he departed. Whether he went off to sea at that time or later is unclear but he was a 3rd Class Steward on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. His body too has never been recovered or identified. As he had been a Freemason, his daughters were eligible for support and they were elected to the School.

Eleanor’s time at the School is less well-recorded than her sister. She left school in 1921 and went to help her mother who ran an electric massage establishment. By 1923 she was nursing at the Treloar Cripple [sic] House in Alton but by 1927 was helping her aunt to run a boarding house so it seems her ‘career path’ was less clear cut than Florence’s. The school magazine records Eleanor’s death as being on 27th July 1976 ‘after a long illness’ and also notes that she was for a time assistant to the catering officer at the School.

Her sister Florence was clearly a bright cookie and was entered early for Local Examinations (equiv. of O and A levels then). Having passed them, according to her own recollections, the School didn’t know quite what to do with her as she was too young to leave. So she took them again the following year.

And the year after that!

She declared that in her final years at the School she was bored out of her mind because there was nothing academically for her to work towards. She did not have the qualifications for university having no Latin, a requirement at the time. In 1922 she became a student teacher with Peterborough Education Committee and went to Peterborough Training College the following year. In 1926, she won a place at Bedford College for Women and emerged with a B Sc. upon which she returned to the School to teach mathematics. The following limerick was written by an unknown pupil about Florence.

When the School moved to Rickmansworth in 1934, Florence moved with it and became Housemistress in one of the boarding houses (Connaught) before leaving in 1937 to marry the brother of one of her colleagues. In 1954, she came back to the School to teach until retirement in 1965. In 1994, she married for a second time, at the age of 89! She told friends that falling in love at 89 is just the same as falling in love at 29 – you feel all bubbly inside.

In 1999, she paid another visit to the School during which she entertained a group of Year 7 students with tales from the past of the School. They couldn’t quite comprehend a world where uniform was worn at all time except for pyjamas; where, having been in lessons all day, you spent the evening doing homework because there was little else to do. A world without television [today it would be smart phones]? Impossible!

After retirement, Florence lived in Lincoln and then Leicester. But a sedentary lifestyle it was not. Her nephew by marriage wrote of her:

You won’t be surprised to hear that at the age of 100 she organised her own birthday party, which was a truly joyful occasion, and one attended by numbers of her old pupils.

After the war, she had visited Germany a number of times and learned to speak German. She had been on one of these visits shortly before her death on 3rd November 2007 at the grand age of 102. Her death was sudden but peaceful in hospital where she was being treated for a broken collar bone, an injury that in a child is as nothing but in a 102 year old is a coup de grâce.

The death of Florence did not quite bring an end to the Titanic association. All girls were presented with a Bible on their departure from the school and in 2013, the School was contacted by an antiquarian book seller in Ireland to say he had found Eleanor’s Bible amongst a box of other books and would we like it returned? We would and it was! So a century after she was first in the School, something belonging to her was returned to it. 104 years after the Titanic disaster we can bring their stories to an end.

Glanville St as was

Sophia Kewney, another of the first pupils starting at the School in 1789, hailed from Marylebone although part of the street in which she lived was originally St. Pancras, ‘the boundary passing between the east and west sides of the street in an oblique line.’  http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol21/pt3/ [1] ‘The crossroads at the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road is an historic junction, where four parishes met.’ [2]

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side

In fact the address of 44 Glanville St, Rathbone Place is a kind of anomaly in itself as Rathbone Place was originally known as Glanville Street rather than being a separate street and perhaps it was at the point of changing in 1789 when Sophia’s address was given. Rather like a belt-and-braces approach, both names for the street were used so that there could be no doubting which street it was.

The surname Kewney is often difficult to trace through records, as the w may be written so that it blends into the n and could easily be read Kenney. In the Rough Minute Book, Sophia is described as being ‘approved a proper Object’, her parents being William and Ann. Her application was supported by H Spicer (Henry Spicer a portrait & enamel painter of Great Newport Street), someone who had been involved in the School since the beginning. There are some fleeting references in public records to a William Kewney. He appears in tax records in 1782 and 1792, both times given in Glanville St. However an electoral roll in 1774 gives him as a mason living in Noel St, Westminster. Presumably, this same William is the one who applied for financial assistance in the List of petitioners[3] where it is recorded

‘William Kewney, mason, requests assistance after severe illness has left him unable to support his family. Recommended by Lodge of Operative Masons, No. 185 [SN 613], London’

Whether these two are the same William Kewney is impossible to say but, given the rarity of the surname, it seems likely.

 

The newspaper gives that Sophia was baptised in St Pancras on 6th March 1780 having been born on 29th January of that year. However, the records actually give a baptism on 6th March 1779 at Percy Chapel, St Pancras so, like Mary Ann Ruscoe, Sophia appears to be a year older than the School thought she was! If this were a deliberate fraud (as Mary Ann Ruscoe’s was) it is one which has only been uncovered two centuries later …

Of her time at the School, we know only that she was retained as a servant at the School when she was old enough to leave. This might imply that family circumstances had deteriorated even further than in 1788 or it may simply be a case that there was a vacancy for a house servant and Sophia was available. She clearly worked hard as she earned a guinea’s gratuity after a year. So we can place her until at least 1796 and then, in 1799, there is a marriage.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: p85/mry1/393

This marriage took place at St Mary’s, Lambeth and indicates that both lived there. This is not an area previously associated with the Kewneys but possibly Sophia had moved on from being a house servant with the School to a domestic role in Lambeth. John and Sophia had five children and their only daughter later married Mr Crichton and there are Crichton descendants today who can claim Sophia as an ancestor.

But it is Rathbone Place, Glanville St that is the star of this show (post) as around the time the Kewneys were there, it was a little hotspot for artists and art suppliers.

The houses [in Rathbone Place] were regular three and four-storey brick terraces … Houses with 20–22ft widths generally had three-bay fronts, standard rear-stair layouts, corner fireplaces and closet wings. Some had marble chimneypieces … The street was a good private address, with a number of wealthy residents ‘ https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/sites/bartlett/files/chapter31_hanway_street_and_rathbone_place.pdf

Where there are artists and architects and ‘Nearly every house in Rathbone Place had an artist as tenant at some point’ (ibid), then almost inevitably there will be art suppliers. George Jackson & Co, Samuel and Joseph Fuller, Winsor & Newton and George Rowney & Co were all in this area. The Fullers were at No. 34 from 1809 until 1862 in what came to be called Fuller’s Temple of Fancy.

A leaflet, apparently from the Lady’s Magazine, August 1823, depicted Fuller’s shop interior, and gives a good idea of the product range; the business was advertised as ‘Publishers of the greatest variety of Sporting Prints …Wholesale Manufacturers of Bristol Boards, Ivory Paper & Cards./ Engravers, Publishers, Printsellers, & Fancy Stationers.’ https://www.princeton.edu/~graphicarts/2013/03/interior.html

Left: Fuller’s Temple of Fancy Right: Jackson’s logo today from https://www.georgejackson.com/

George Jackson & Sons Ltd was established in 1780 producing decorative plaster ornament. Their premises were at No. 50 by 1817, expanded into No. 49 c.1832 and then to Nos 47–48. Behind the showrooms was a large workshop. The firm continued to operate from Rathbone Place until 1934.

 

 

 

 

Next door at No 51 was George Rowney & Co., artists’ colour manufacturers, from 1817 to 1862 and at No. 52 from 1854 to 1884. This is a company that has had almost as many names as the colours of paint they produce! It started as T & R Rowney (Thomas and Richard Rowney), then Thomas’s son took on the business with his brother in law, trading as Rowney & Forster. After 1837, another son took over and it became George Rowney & Company, later George Rowney & Co Ltd. It relocated many times, finally leaving London completely. It retained its connection with the Rowney family but eventually it ran out of Rowneys and in 1969 was sold. In its bicentenary year (1983), it became Daler-Rowney, under which name it still trades very successfully today.

http://www.daler-rowney.com/

 

 

The other art suppliers from Rathbone Place, still very much trading today, is Winsor & Newton. William Winsor, chemist and artist, and Henry Charles Newton, artist, set up business at No. 38 in 1833 in what was then ‘part of an artists’ quarter in which a number of eminent painters had studios, and other colourmen were already established’ (Wikipedia). Together they combined the knowledge of science and the creativity of art to provide

‘a regular source of reliable colours and brushes.’ http://www.winsornewton.com/uk/discover  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     38 Rathbone Place may well have been Newton’s home before it became business premises and within a short time, No 39 was also part of the business. https://www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/directory-of-suppliers/w.php

To Dickens they were ‘Rathbone-place magicians … Has anyone ever seen anything like Winsor and Newton’s cups of chromes and carnations … and crimsons, loud and fierce as a war-cry, and pinks, tender and loving as a young girl?All the year round, vol.7. 1862, p.563

http://www.winsornewton.com/uk/

 

Having sourced our paints, let us go and find the artists who used them. Of the Rathbone Place ones, at least two of them had a connection with the School’s history. Humphry, Hardwick & Hone were there at the time that we know the Kewneys were living there; Burrell, Constable, Lewis and Pugin may have coincided with the Kewneys’ residence but after Sophia had started at the School; Linnell, Hawkins, Bielfield & Moore were there slightly later but still in the early part of the C19th.

Joseph Francis Burrell, was a miniaturist who exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1801 and 1807. He lived at No 7. John Constable, of course, is known to all of us. He lodged at No 50 when he was a student at the Royal Academy. Frederick Christian Lewis was an etcher, aquatint and stipple engraver, and also a landscape and portrait painter. He lived at No 5.

Left: miniature by Burrell. Centre: self-portrait Constable. Right: etching and aquatint by Lewis

Augustus Charles Pugin at No 38 was a French-born artist and draughtsman and a skilful watercolourist. He was in Rathbone Place 1804–6. Perhaps he is somewhat eclipsed in fame by his son Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. John Linnell, who lived close by at No. 35 (1817–18) was a painter and engraver. Like Constable – but just a couple of years later – he became a student at the Royal Academy where he won medals for drawing, modelling and sculpture. It is known that Nathaniel Hone, portrait and miniature painter, died at No. 30 in 1784. He was an Irish-born painter and one of the founder members of the Royal Academy.

Left: portrait of Pugin by John Nash. Centre: self=portrait by Linnell. Right: self-portrait by Hone

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, living at No. 11 in the 1830s, was the son of an artist (Thomas Hawkins) and is particularly renowned for his work on the life-size models of dinosaurs in the Crystal Palace Park in south London. However he also produced very fine natural history paintings. Henry Bielfield, painter, lived at No. 13 (1837–54) but he also lived at No 18 and No 21. Presumably not at the same time. George Belton Moore, landscape painter, lived at No. 1 Rathbone Place in 1830. Moore was a pupil of Pugin so he only had to walk down the street for that.

Left: Porcine Deer (Axis porcinus) from Knowsley Park by Hawkins. Centre: Meeting of day and light by Bielfield. Right: Fish Street Hill looking towards London Bridge, 1830 by Moore

That leaves the two who have tangential connections to the School’s history.

Ozias Humphry, who lived at No. 29 in 1777, was a miniaturist of some renown who was later appointed Portrait Painter in Crayons to the King (1792). Lest this sound somewhat childish to modern ears, crayons was the term used for what today we call pastels. Sadly, his deteriorating sight (he eventually became blind) meant that he had to turn from miniatures to larger portraits. Amongst his work was a portrait of one Bartholomew Ruspini, the instigator of the School of which Sophia Kewney became a pupil.

 

Left: Extract from “The Royal Freemason’s School for Girls”. The Builder. 9: 722. 1851..Right: photograph of Philip Hardwick, c 1850 from The Patrick Montgomery Collection

Philip Hardwick, an architect and son of an architect was born at No. 9 in 1792. He trained as an architect under his father, Thomas Hardwick, who was in turn the son of another architect Thomas Hardwick (1725–1798). The Hardwick family name spans over 150 years in the history of British architecture. When the School desired to move to its third site (Somers Place East and St George’s Fields, Southwark were the first two), Philip Hardwick was appointed the architect.

Whilst working on Lincoln’s Inn Great Hall (1843-4), Philip Hardwick fell ill and poor health dogged the rest of his life. His son Philip Charles Hardwick assisted his father and they worked as a team. In 1851, the 3rd school site was opened, its style very much reflecting the zeitgeist for Gothic revivalist style.

The School at Clapham

So the School in Somers Place East connects to the site in Clapham via Rathbone Place, or Glanville St that was, in a very curious and unexpected way.

 

[1] Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood ed. J R Howard Roberts and Walter H Godfrey (London, 1949), p. 12. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol21/pt3/p12 [accessed 7 March 2019].

[2] ‘https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/sites/bartlett/files/chapter31_hanway_street_and_rathbone_place.pdf

[3] Moderns Grand Lodge Committee of Charity, GBR 1991 HC 12/C/110

The Hospital in the Park

2018 sees the 70th anniversary of the NHS which started life at Park Hospital on 5 July 1948.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2008/07/03/nhs60_trafford_general_hospital_feature.shtml

Originally built by Barton upon Irwell Union in a corner of Davyhulme Park, Park Hospital is now Trafford General.

In 1926, at the same moment as negotiations for the sale of Rickmansworth Park were underway, the Union started building their hospital. It was opened by the Princess Royal (HRH Princess Mary) on 1 June 1929, the same person who presented the prizes at the School in 1927 when it was still at Clapham.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Park Hospital was taken over by the War Department for use by the Armed Forces. The well-equipped School San came under close scrutiny by Rickmansworth Council at much the same time. They had it in mind to create a casualty clearing station but the School authorities resisted. You could say they repelled all boarders – except those who were female, of school age and were registered as pupils at RMIG!

Park Hospital was de-requisitioned in September 1945 by which time plans for the NHS were well underway. The world’s first universal health care system provided by government was steered to fruition by Aneurin (Nye) Bevan. He died in 1960 just ‘up the road’ from the School in Ashridge House, near Berkhamsted.

So the School Sanatorium, the ‘hospital’ in the park, has some interesting parallels with Park Hospital and the birth of the NHS.

At the time the plans for RMIG were drawn up, the NHS was unheard of and provision was therefore made for the healthcare of all the pupils. This had always been considered as part of the overall package from the moment pupils were accepted by the charity. Medical practitioners offered their services gratis for pupils and there was an awareness from the outset that a group of people living in close proximity were subject to the possibility of contagion. From 1795, all prospective pupils were required to have a certificate, signed by a medical practitioner, to say that they were safe from smallpox and had no defect in sight or limbs. If having a certificate of health pre-admission seems strange, it should be noted that by 1818 some 272 girls had been educated at the School and, of these, only five had died whilst at School. Given the rate of childhood mortality beyond the School, this is quite a remarkable success story.

The first school site being an already existing building adapted for the purpose, it is unlikely to have had a designated area for sick children. When the School moved to Southwark, the floor plans do not specify any area dedicated to treatment and care of sick pupils but there clearly was some. The matron’s duties extended to healthcare although primarily she was responsible for ensuring that the girls remained healthy rather than actually nursing them. It was her job to ensure that any contagion was dealt with swiftly so, for example, in 1821, two girls who contracted scarlet fever were removed to the Fever Hospital in Gray’s Inn Rd.

“The London Fever Hospital (LFH) was founded in 1802 at 2 Constitution Row, Gray’s Inn Lane, just north of Guilford Street … it had 15 beds, and was staffed by three nurses, a medical officer, an apothecary and a porter.” https://aim25.com

An article in The Spectator declared:

The ward fees are seven shillings a day for adults and five shillings for children.

http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/12th-january-1924/14/the-london-fever-hospital

This indication of charges, albeit later than when used by the School, underlines that healthcare could be costly but throughout the School’s pre-NHS history, there was never any question of pupils not receiving the appropriate healthcare on grounds of cost. For example, a pupil in 1921 was treated at the Yarrow Convalescent Home in Broadstairs at a cost of 25/- per week from July for a month, followed by 3 months convalescence. The costs would have been met entirely by the School.

By the time RMIG reached Clapham, there was dedicated provision with resident staff. Often referred to as ‘The San’, it was officially the Infirmary and was referred to formally as such by the Head Governess. However, the two names were clearly interchangeable. For example, a former pupil, Gertrude Craik, in 1920 ‘became the assistant to the nurse in the Sanatorium’ before moving on in 1922 to Great Ormond St Hospital. In another example, Betty Starling ‘Contracted scarlet fever in 1924 and was retained in sanatorium over school holidays, later transferring to the Joyce Green Hospital, Dartford so that the San. could be disinfected.’

The infirmary at Clapham was updated from time to time, as need arose and the school roll increased. It had its own dispensary as the picture from about 1912 below shows.

By the time the School had left the metropolis and moved to the fresh fields of Herts, it was also ready for a larger medical section. At Clapham, it had been recognised that a separate entrance to the infirmary would be a good idea as a method of keeping contagion controlled. At Ricky, it went one step further – well several steps actually – by having the Sanatorium in a separate building. Furthermore, although all the other buildings of the time were connected by underground service tunnels, the San was not (and still isn’t).

Making up the fourth side of a quadrangle, the San had a south façade with larger windows and balconies and a north façade with smaller windows.

The solaria were placed to take advantage of stronger sunlight to aid recovery. The two balconies were designed to enable patients to sit outside (whether they wanted to or not!) on the basis that ‘fresh air is Good For You’.

The architect’s plans show the several entrances, the main one of which was (and still is) flanked by a design probably based on the medical symbol the Rod of Asclepius and crafted by Joseph Cribb.

But probably the thing that most astonishes the modern pupil, for whom the NHS has always existed, is that the Sanatorium had its own operating theatre.

As a former pupil who experienced the facilities both as a patient and, later, as a probationer, said:

There was an operating theatre, consultant room, dental clinic, pharmacy, solarium, wards and single rooms, and, in 1955, even x-ray facilities.

… we were lucky to have such an efficient, highly commendable health care system, especially as [this] was before the birth of the National Health System in 1948.

There were resident nursing sisters who were assisted by school leavers known as probationers. These were girls who wanted to go into nursing but were not old enough to start their formal nursing training. Probationers, under the supervision of the Sisters, were responsible for the care of the girls and day to day cleaning.

“We learnt basic nursing skills which stood us in good stead for our later careers.”

The picture below shows two of these probationers engaged in cleaning the operating theatre.

A doctor visited daily but was not resident and there was also a dentist who treated the girls requiring fillings etc in the dental clinic in the San. (“Having teeth filled in those days was no picnic with no pain killers available,” recalled another pupil, presumably from experience) but anyone requiring orthodontic work was sent to Harley St or the Royal Masonic Hospital.

The two sisters held surgeries morning and evening for basic treatment. Those requiring treatment in the sanatorium were given a bed whilst those needing a little less intensive care were in the sanatorium as day cases. Some eligible for day care were those who needed TLC, especially new girls, which shows an understanding that for some girls being a long way from their families was an ordeal in itself.

All girls were subjected to regular eye, dental and medical examinations.

“For the less fortunate adolescent teenagers with acne, every Wednesday and Saturday, they received ultra violet treatment in the solarium, all sitting in a circle wearing darkened goggles.”

Pupils were regularly weighed and measured at the beginning of each term.

“The skinny ones were fortified by cod liver oil tablets and malt. Those deemed to be overweight were scrutinised at meal times by the House Matron.”

Judging by the numerous recollections of feeling permanently hungry (Children’s Hollow Legs Syndrome), obesity was far less of a problem than it is today.

The San was the equivalent of a 50 bed cottage hospital, quite possibly better equipped than many. For the most part, there would be 6-10 girls staying in overnight or longer but, just occasionally, if an epidemic broke out, extra space would be allocated. For example, in September 1954 a flu epidemic hit the school. The sanatorium was soon full to capacity with the nursing staff run off their feet. Girls at the recuperative stage were transported by ambulance (St John’s) to Ruspini House which served as a convalescent house whilst new cases took their beds in the sanatorium.

“This lasted nearly a month,” recalled a former pupil, “but, true to fashion, it all ran like clockwork under the eye of Sister Taylor.”

The beds in the ward were typical hospital beds.

Each girl admitted had a day basket in which to put personal clothing and in-patients wore pyjamas and pretty smocked embroidered pink and blue bed jackets. As all the uniform, including nightwear, was provided, no doubt these too were standard issue.

One who was a probationer recalled that they were paid £2.00 a month, just as the pupil teachers also received an allowance. They had one day off a week. Their uniform – of course – was provided and, in addition, when they were ready to move onto nurse training beyond the School, they were equipped with any compulsory requirements listed by the teaching hospital, such as black shoes and a watch with a second hand. Like all school leavers, they also received leaving outfits and were taken to Arding & Hobbs in Clapham where additional clothing was bought.

The healthcare the pupils received, both before and after the NHS was born, was exemplary.

“… when we left the Masonic School, we were as medically fit as possible”

Not sure if the following counts as an item to ensure medical fitness but the Head Governess in the 1890s wrote in her report:

“Miss Davis will feel obliged if the Committee will again allow one dozen pint bottles of claret for the children during that week, as she has found that the best thing for their refreshment in the midst of their work.”

Yes, I’ll have that prescribed please!

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.

Long Hessen Elli Bedders

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

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

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

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

Almost as bad was the girl who was

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Bring me sunshine …

As the temperatures fall and the wind chill factor rises, our thoughts may turn to warmer climes and a longing to be there. A Caribbean cruise feels like a really good idea when it is wet and miserable outside. Spare a thought, then for three former pupils of the School who came from those very climes as children to be pupils at the School when it was in Clapham.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/caribbean/antigua-and-barbuda/

Eliza Beveridge had been born in Antigua on 7th July 1864 where her father was a Revenue Officer and a member of St John’s Lodge, Antigua. After his death, Eliza was accepted at the School in October 1871. That must have been a massive meteorological shock to the system – although, of course October is in the hurricane season so perhaps the deepening cold of darkest Surrey wasn’t quite so bad. (Well we can be optimistic, can’t we?)

Hurricane in Antigua; image from httpstormcarib.comreportscurrentantigua.shtml

In fact, records suggest that Eliza never returned to the Caribbean. In 1939, she was living in Worthing and was sharing her home with someone described as a ‘useful companion’. This probably means that said companion was in the employ of Eliza rather than being the opposite of useless, but we cannot be certain. Eliza was ‘of private means’ and, as she appeared to have no occupation in 1901 and 1911, perhaps she had inherited money from her mother in 1918. If she did, it must have been a substantial inheritance as, when Eliza herself died on 21 December 1956, her estate was valued at £33,000. Not a sum to be sniffed at.

“In the 1950s, the average cost of a house was just under £2000 and the average worker took home around £10 a week.” https://www.sunlife.co.uk/blogs-and-features/the-price-of-a-home-in-britain—then-and-now/

So Eliza was doing very nicely, thank you.

Another pupil who faced the Clapham temperature drop was Bessie Crombie. Born in 1907, she arrived in Britain in 1919 having been living in Demerara, then part of British Guiana.

Lithograph of Georgetown, Demerara, British Guiana, after a drawing by F. A. Goodall. Courtesy of David Druett, Pennymead.com

It is not certain where Bessie was born or how long she had been living in what is now Guyana. Her parents were married in Japan, her father being a member of the Rising Sun Lodge in Kobe and in 1905, Bessie’s mother travelled from Japan to San Francisco so it is possible that Bessie was born in the USA. Her mother’s father was an American Consul. Enoch Joyce Smithers, born in Delaware and first lieutenant of Company D in the First Regiment of Delaware Volunteers during the American Civil War.

“President Lincoln removed him from the ranks to serve as U.S. Consul at the newly created legation on Chios, a Turkish-occupied island in the Aegean Sea” http://archives.dickinson.edu/people/enoch-joyce-smithers-1828-1895

He served as American Consul in Asia, in Chinkiang, Shanghai and Tientsin (now called Tianjin). Then he became consul in Korea and Japan, with his last posting being Osaka. This may well explain how an American woman married someone hailing from Scotland in Japan before living in South America but it doesn’t get us any closer to knowing where Bessie was actually born!

Whatever her geographical background, Bessie was another one who settled for UK as her later domicile. She arrived as a pupil in 1919 and in 1922, she passed Junior Cambridge exam. She left school in December 1923 to become a writing assistant in the Civil Service and was appointed to the Savings Bank Department in November 1925. She was living in Mitcham, Surrey in 1936.

Mitcham Pond by Noel Foster, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9132439

In this year, she married Walter Stevens. In 1939, on the outbreak of war, she is found in Whitchurch without her husband. He was at the Society of Lloyds Register of Shipping in Wokingham along with a number of other Lloyds people so possibly Bessie had been moved because of the war. Later they moved to Newcastle upon Tyne and Walter died in 1974 at their home there. When Bessie died on 10 May 1991, also in Newcastle, her estate was worth considerably more than she had inherited from her husband in 1974. She may have just been a canny investor and, if so, she would have been a financial advisor worth having!

Another pupil hailing from Antigua who was a pupil at Clapham in the late nineteenth century was Edith Proudfoot. Born in 1877, she was present as a pupil in the 1891 census and was due to leave the School in 1892. The Head Governess, Miss Davies, wrote of her:

“[she] has always been a good girl and is a prefect. She is fairly clever, of good general ability and entered for Cambridge.”

The Cambridge reference here is not the university but the Cambridge Local Exams. Junior Cambridge was about the equivalent of GCSE/O level and Senior Cambridge was A level. As Edith was 14, it seems likely that she would have been doing Junior Cambridge at this time. Miss Davies recommended her as a pupil teacher – “she is competent to assist in either class work or music” and added that she had taken prizes for music in her school career. Clearly, the recommendation was successful as Edith was at the School as a pupil teacher until 1894 and had moved from junior teaching to take the 3rd class and assist with music.

This perhaps suggests that she had been reasonably successful as a pupil teacher. However, in October 1895, Miss Davies, in her report to the Committee, “wished to raise the matter of Miss Edith Proudfoot, one of the pupil teachers.” In the slightly veiled way these reports were worded, Miss Davies reminded the Committee that Edith had come from Antigua and said she was “anxious to return her thence fit to earn her living” which rather suggests that Miss Davies thought that Edith might be able to earn her living as a governess, just not in my school thank you. Clearly Edith’s mother was still living in Antigua and, Miss Davies declared, Edith “would like to return to the West Indies to be with her mother but has not the means to do so.” Miss Davies left it to the Committee to decide what should be done.

Whether Edith did return to the West Indies at the Committee’s expense is not known. She may have done and then returned to UK again. In 1901, however, she is in London described as ‘Lady Help’ but as a visitor to the Jay household at 11 Taviton Street, St Pancras (rather than in their employ).

Sadly, this story does not end happily. In 1911, the census records her as an inmate at London County Lunatic Asylum Hanwell, described as a clerk.

http://www.victorianlondon.org/health/hanwell.htm

In 1939, she is recorded as a patient at Epsom West Park Hospital, still given as a clerk. The hospital “was built for patients with mental health problems from the urban metropolis of London and was intended both as a place of tranquillity and confinement.” (Neil Bowdler http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14652885) It was demolished in 2011.

An Edith L Proudfoot died in Hammersmith in 1950 although the birth year is given as 1879 so there isn’t certainty whether this is the same person. If this is her death record, it might suggest that she did not end her days in the asylum. Nor is there evidence to suggest that she required care continuously from 1911. We can only say that in both 1911 and 1939 she was receiving mental health care.

Our final Caribbean connection relates to one born in England but who went to live in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sadie Wallis nee Mansfield, b 1903, arrived at the School from Derbyshire in 1912. She left July 1920 and became a pupil teacher in Nottinghamshire, qualifying in 1923, and obtaining a post in an elementary school in Nottingham. In 1927, she married Kenneth Wallis and in February 1929 travelled to Port of Spain with him.

In 1930, part of a letter from her written from Trinidad and describing her life there was reprinted in Machio.

“Life out here is very different. There are very few English people, mostly those in Government Service … [her husband was a government analyst and the address she wrote from was c/o Government Laboratory.]

‘Port of Spain is a wonderful town. The houses and streets very well planned; the roads, of which there are few owing to the thickly wooded, mountainous interior of the island, are first class roads kept in perfect condition with material from the famous pitch-lake. The drainage system and water supply are modern, thus it is very healthy. Cases of typhoid are rare in town, there are very few mosquitoes and no anopheles, the type which causes malaria … The sunshine is just glorious, and in the middle of the day, when it is really very hot, everyone is resting.

‘The island is very, very beautiful … At sunset we often climb one of the hills, which begin to rise quickly behind the town, and watch the exquisite colouring of the quickly-changing sky. The coastline is wonderful, in some places where the hills almost reach the seas, it is wild and rugged, in other parts … little picturesque bays of silvery sand … are fringed with palms leaning towards the very blue tropical sea. The bathing in these sandy bays is really beautiful. Just off the coast near Port of Spain are a number of tiny wooded islands … One can rent a whole island at very little cost and spend a delightful simple holiday. The swimming, fishing and boating is splendid.”

She was still there in 1933 but in 1934, she travelled to Guiana with her daughter. A son was born in 1937, probably in Guiana where they were then living. Sadly, this story, too, doesn’t have a happy ending. In 1943, the Wallises were travelling en famille across the Atlantic where Kenneth was to take up a new post in Uganda. The ship they were travelling on was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of all of the family. Sadie is commemorated in the School Chapel.

Set in Stone

Researching the past pupils of the School endlessly uncovers interesting stories – only to be expected given the large numbers we are considering from 1788 onwards. Recently, I discovered that the father of Celia Bentham (1927-1963, at school 1937-1944) was Percy George Bentham, a sculptor of renown who studied at the Royal Academy.

“In 1907 Bentham was awarded a first prize of £20 and a silver medal, for a set of four models of a figure from the life” http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php

And perhaps on the strength of this success, he married Celia’s mother in 1909 at St Matthew, Willesden. In 1911, the couple are recorded at 13 and 15 Crownhill Road Harlesden, with Ellen Bentham’s brother as Head of Household. Perhaps at this stage, Bentham’s income as an artist was not yet sufficient to run a separate household. Later, however, he worked from a studio at 8A Gunter Grove, off the Fulham Road. (information from ‘Percy George Bentham, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011’)

Amongst other works by Bentham are a stone relief on the Leadenhall building in London on premises once occupied by the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, usually shortened to P & O. This piece shows a godlike figure carrying a ship and the ‘Public Monuments & Sculpture Association website suggests that the sculptor was Percy George Bentham (1883-1936)’

http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog

Another of his pieces is entitled the Bubble Blower, a wonderful evocation of an innocent childhood pastime. (Image courtesy of https://www.the-saleroom.com)

As well as her father being a sculptor, Celia’s brother, Philip, also became a sculptor. Born in 1913, Philip studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and also at Kennington School of Woodworking but he began his work training with his father.

One of his pieces is entitled the ‘Coventry Boy’. The description of the sculpture on the Coventry Society website tells us that ‘this boy has no name but represents all boys of all time’. Situated near the Cathedral, the statue

“is a model of a young man standing holding up a roll of paper in a heroic pose like a king or knight holding aloft a sword. But this is no ordinary piece of paper; this is his ‘Apprenticeship Certificate’. He has passed the City and Guilds Exam and now can become a member of the Coventry Freeman’s Guild; this is his ticket to a new and better way of life.

You will see on the statue he has only one shoe; this shows he came from a poor background but by … learning an engineering trade he can hold his head high. You can tell he is an engineer because in his other hand he has a spanner which is embedded in the factory. You can see on his other foot he has a shoe, again to show he has bettered himself. He has a tie because he has reached the pinnacle of respectability and if he is a ‘Tool Maker’ he is the engineer everyone looks up to because he has learned how to make the tools that make the tools that industrial engineering is based on.” http://www.coventrysociety.org.uk/public-art-in-coventry/coventry-boy-statue.html

In one of those odd twists, when Alfred Harris of the Coventry Boy Foundation, who commissioned the work, visited Philip Bentham ’s studio, he saw there the plaster sculpture entitled ‘Fisherman and Nymph’ which Percy George Bentham had exhibited in 1922 at the Royal Academy. In a sort of Gillette move [‘I liked it so much I bought the company’] Harris got the Foundry to cast it in bronze and then presented it to the City Council to be put on a small island in the lake at Coombe Abbey Country Park in 1968. Pictured below is the statue in its place in the park and (inset) a closer view.

 

So Coventry is a two Bentham city.

Another sculptor indirectly linked to the School is Charles John Collings who married a former pupil, later teacher, of the School. Glorying in the appellation Melora Fogwill Goodridge, this former pupil became Mrs Collings in 1881. Her new husband was described as a stone merchant in 1891 but as a sculptor in 1901. In 1910, when the Collingses left UK for Canada, the travel documents describe him as an artist.

It is in this category he is more widely known, producing the most exquisite watercolour paintings.

Images from http://www.artnet.com/artists/charles-john-collings/past-auction-results & http://www.maltwood.uvic.ca/k_maltwood/history/cjcollings.html

The family settled in Shuswap, British Columbia where they built their own house which still stands today. (Top is the house now; bottom, the house partly finished in the winter of 1910; Image in 1910 courtesy of the Kamloops Museum and Archives. http://shuswappassion.ca/history/shuswaps-most-famous-artist-deserves-more-recognition/%5D

 

But whereas Bentham pere et fils and Charles John Collings are sculptor/artists connected to the School by courtesy of former pupils, it is time now to turn to former pupils who themselves practised the art of sculpture. Christine Cooper nee Duncan, pupil c1912-1918, later founded the school magazine, Machio, in 1924. It is fitting, therefore, that in Machio 1958, we learn that she had exhibited a sculpture in the summer exhibition of the Society of Women Artists, Royal Institution Galleries, Piccadilly. Not a sculptor by profession but an English teacher, her artistic endeavours are perhaps the more creditable for that.

Juanita Homan, nee Page, who is a professional artist, left the school in 1948 and went to Kingston School of Art. From there, she left to study sculpture in Paris with Ossip Zadkine a Russian who lived in France from 1910. Perhaps Zadkine’s style, influenced by cubism (left), is reflected in the piece of Juanita’s work we see here (right).

On her return to UK, Juanita studied at the Camberwell School of Art, the Sir John Cass School of Art and, when her children were older, she attended Goldsmiths to read for an honours degree in Art & Design.

Sculpture as an art form is not readily practised as a school subject for obvious reasons. Manhandling a great lump of stone into the School art department for students to hack about – sorry, craft into an art form – is unlikely to be high on a priority list. However, many long-established schools have statuary of various kinds that might be studied by art students. A recent post looked at the work of Joseph Cribb that can be found at the School but the one we turn to now connects not only with the school’s history but with the time of year: Hallowe’en.

The statue of the Institutor, Ruspini, was crafted by an unknown hand. At least, it is unknown now although presumably not unknown at the time. Unfortunately, nobody at the School thought to make a note of the sculptor’s name (but see footnote).

It was originally placed on the gable of the Centenary Hall at Clapham and it became a thing of derring-do for the older girls to scramble about in the rafters and reach out and pat him on the head before they finally left the School. Naturally the School forbade such dangerous activities although if they had used a kind of reverse psychology, it might have been better to make it compulsory under supervision. That would have killed it off completely. Once something is legit., it loses all desirability as an act of (minor) rebellion.

The stone plinth under the statue’s feet today records that the figure had originally been at Clapham Junction.

Only the lodges at the two gates of the school at Clapham remain as the rest was demolished by the Peabody Trust who had bought the site after the School had moved on. However, the statue and the foundation stones of (probably) the Alexandra Wing built in 1888 were preserved and moved to Rickmansworth to be integrated into the new school. As the school had to be made ready for the girls long before the Clapham site was demolished, the items could not be fully integrated and, instead, were placed at the eastern exterior wall of the Chapel. There is little chance of the girls wanting to scramble up and pat him on the head as there is nothing to scramble up on. They would have to bring ladders and either commit the act in daylight or use torches. This kind of spoils the illicit quality especially given that originally the Headmistress and the Matron both had their living quarters with a clear view of the Chapel! Long before foot could be set upon rung, there would have been the authoritative tone of enquiry (“And just what do you think you are doing?”) that sets all schoolchildren’s hearts quailing. So Ruspini’s coiffure has remained untouched by hand since 1933.

But his face has not fared so well. Exposure to wind and rain resulted in damage to the lower part of his face requiring some genioplastic surgery. Not, in this case, by a plastic surgeon: more courtesy of a bucket of mortar. His chin had to be remodelled with some judicious concrete resulting in a somewhat larger lower jaw than he had originally – in stone as well as in life.

This composite image of the face before and after the remodelling may give an idea of the change.

In his niche, Ruspini leans on one leg with the other projecting forward. He holds a scroll perhaps representing the first rules drawn up or perhaps because the unknown sculptor liked doing them. His eighteenth century costume gives him a resplendent bearing and he looks as if he is about to step down to speak to us. (Probably to say what he thinks of the face remodelling!)

Perhaps this is what gave rise to a little story, told in darkened dorms by some little girls to frighten other little girls into squealing with horror. It was said that, if you watched the statue at midnight on Hallowe’en, he changed legs. Instead of resting on his left leg with his right leg forward, it was his left leg that projected. A daft little story, easily dismissed as every photograph of the statue shows, quite clearly, the same leading leg.

Until one image was found with the other leg leading …

Cue squeals.

Needless to say, the cause of this was the fact that the slide image of the statue being viewed was simply being viewed from the wrong side! Although it does make you wonder about the expression ‘no stone unturned’.

Footnote

Subsequent to this being written, the information was supplied that the sculptor of the Chevalier statue was Edwin Roscoe Mullins who had studied at both the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy. Born in 1848, for the last decade of his life he was in poor health and died in 1907. As http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/sculpture/mullins/index.html informs us, he made his professional debut in Vienna & Munich before coming to London in 1874.

“Mullins possessed considerable powers of portraiture.”  https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Mullins,_Edwin_Roscoe_(DNB12)

“The most curious of all the artist’s work is the Circus Horse which constitutes the memorial in the Brighton Cemetery to Mr. Ginnett, a notorious circus owner …” http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/sculpture/mullins/index.html

This Ginnett is the father of Louis Ginnett whose art works also adorn the School What goes around comes around?