The Old One Hundredth*

*A hymn often sung at school based on Psalm 100, hence its name.

This series of postings celebrates the long lives of eight of our former pupils who reached their 100th birthdays.

Centenary anniversaries for 1915 are, of course, dominated by WWI. However, something with which we are all familiar as road users are traffic lights and the first electronically-operated set was installed and began operating in August 1915. Although the idea of them pre-dates this, before this date they were based on railway line signals and were operated by hand. It’s contrived as a connection with our centenarians but …

This modern sculpture is by Pierre Vivant and was originally installed as Westferry roundabout, Canary Wharf. It has since been moved and is currently on the Trafalgar Way roundabout near Billingsgate Market (from 2014). The artist drew his inspiration for the design from London Plane trees whilst the constant changing of the lights reflects our modern life style.

London Plane trees were certainly a familiar sight to our pupils although they had not realised they were so covered by city pollution that their colour was dulled. Only when the School moved to its latest site, and the splendour of the trees there were revealed in their fine colours, did the pupils realise how sooty the atmosphere in London had been!

Our last two centenarians include our – to date – oldest Old Girl ever. Lizzie Simcock was 104 when she died.

Centenarians Phyllis Lizzie

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Colourful trees at school
Colourful trees at school


They died too young

From its inception, the School took great care over the health and wellbeing of its pupils. There are numerous examples of extensive medical treatment being undergone with no question of any cost to the patients concerned – and this long before the NHS was even dreamed of. Inevitably, though, there were fatalities and this series attempts to give them a brief glory that their short lives failed to give.

Louisa Margaretta Willis (1838-1850) died aged 11. The family home at the time of her petition was 115 St Martins Lane, Holborn and the application gives her father’s name as James Willis, Public House keeper (business failed); she had one brother and one sister. It seems possible that her mother was Jane and that her siblings were Annette & James. She was accepted at the school on 14 October 1847 and the Chelmsford Chronicle of 22 October 1847 confirms her election along with five other pupils. Louisa probably did not have any connection with Chelmsford and the fact that a provincial newspaper reported the election is an indication of the nationwide interest that was taken in the school in London. As her death record is for the Holborn district, we know she did not die on school premises. She was buried at St Luke’s, Chelsea on March 25 1850 with her address recorded as Bedford Row, Bedford St. Why, then, she was buried in Chelsea we may never know.

St Luke, Chelsea
St Luke, Chelsea

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