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Retford High School for girls
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Retford High School for Girls
Chris Bird kindly sent this document about the History of Retford High School for Girls. Most boys at Retford Grammar School will remember it well as both train and bus carried girls to and from Worksop, some of whom may well have been "First girlfriends". In my case, I dedicate it to Christine Ashley and June Roper
The Elizabethan High School has a long history. Back in 1963 a school magazine - 'Chronicle of Retford High School' was produced entitled 'Three Score Years and Ten'. It recorded the history of the Girls High School, as it was then, from 1893 to 1963. This is reproduced here in its entirety - with some additional pictures gleaned from older magazines. The last remaining copy being rescued by the site manager Mr J Emblem.
Three Score Years and Ten.
(THE CHRONICLE OF A SCHOOL)
When Miss Townsend asked me to write the history of the School, I thought it within my capacity. I should have known better. What comes before 1939 may well be termed history, though of a parochial kind. That which appears thereafter is certainly not, and the account takes on, more and more, the character of a chronicle. The last decade has, in the nature of things, suffered most. Current events are not history. Today's headlines may well be tomorrow's footnotes in parentheses. They are amoeboid, formless like a jelly without a mould, if such a phenomenon is conceivable. These events need time to settle before they can be fitted with any reasonable degree of accuracy into the fascinating, albeit frustrating, ever-expanding jig-saw which is history. The narrative, too, loses in objectivity during the last five years since the writer himself has played some part - though an infinitesimal one -in the shaping of events.
My indebtedness is manifold. My great debt to Miss Jex is recorded from time to time in the chronicle. My greatest debt, however, is to the girls of the U.VI general history group. They have been "the hewers of wood and the carriers of water" of this brief account. They have helped by compiling summaries of the minute books and of Speech Day reports, trudging through sleet and snow during this severe winter to "The Retford Times" office and the Denman Library to read newspapers and periodicals, corresponding with old members of staff and old girls, and making themselves generally useful in a dozen other ways.
D. G. WILLIAMS
The Formative Years
Although the school is this year celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, its antecedents stretch back into the Victorian era. On March 28th, 1893, a meeting was convened at the White Hart Hotel, Retford, "to consider the advisability of taking steps to establish a public High School for Girls in the district". The prime instigator in the new project appears to have been the manager of the Westminster Bank, Mr. William Oakden, who in 1891 had moved from Nottingham to Retford. He and other like-minded people desired a means of providing their daughters with some form of higher education. Retford, which at that time had a population of some 11,000 inhabitants, already possessed a well-established boys' grammar school, the King Edward VI endowment, but no similar facility for girls existed. Other interested individuals, whose names appear with unabated regularity in the company's minute book were Mr. Samuel Jones, Town Clerk; Mr. William Atkinson, the Rev. Canon Ebsworth, Vicar of East Retford; Mr. James Ellis Good-body, the Rev. Thomas Gough, Headmaster of the local boys' grammar school; Mr. W. J. Lazenby and the Rev. S. W. Stott, LL.D.
All these gentlemen were present at the first meeting and were unanimous in their approval of the project. It was hoped that the new school might be a G.P.D.S.T. establishment, but the proximity of two such institutions at Nottingham and Sheffield precluded such a design. They, therefore, decided to form a limited liability company with a capital of £5,000 to float the scheme. Five thousand £1 shares were to be issued to the public and anyone who purchased twenty-five or more was eligible to become a director. Throughout the spring and summer of 1893 the committee was hard at work, and met frequently. Two problems called for immediate attention. The first was the acquisition of suitable premises. After negotiations with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, it was resolved to rent, at an annual sum of £45, Ordsall House on London Road. The house, although one of its wings has been taken down, is still extant and is now used as railway offices. The Retford and Gainsborough Times of September 22nd, 1893, described it as a "commodious building" which contained "five reception rooms and twelve bed and dressing rooms, and the grounds, which could be used for the purposes of a garden and recreations grounds, covered an area of two and a half acres.
The second problem was that of obtaining the necessary staff. Consequently, in June and July of 1893 advertisements for a head-mistress appeared in the issues of the "Spectator" and "Guardian". Her salary was to be £100 per annum together with a capitation fee of £2 per pupil and free accommodation. From a short list of three candidates Miss Arblaster of the High School for Girls, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, was appointed. Miss Arblaster remained at Retford until 1924. Under her able guidance, the school established a tradition of good work, wide interests and friendly relationships, which has ever since been one of its main characteristics. The presence at the silver jubilee celebrations in 1938 of a large number of old girls who came, from far and wide, to pay tribute to Miss Arblaster, was striking testimony of the respect and affection which she inspired. Shortly after Miss Arblaster's selection, Miss Derbyshire was appointed as assistant mistress at a salary of £40 per annum. She too was provided with free board and accommodation.
Meanwhile the house was cleaned, decorated and suitably furnished "with single desks of the most approved pattern and all other appliances necessary for carrying on the school". Thus on September 22nd, 1893, amid the dual distraction of road and rail traffic, the school, with twenty-seven pupils, began its career. The curriculum included divinity, the ordinary English subjects (which included history and geography), Latin, modern languages, mathematics, drawing, class singing, music and needlework. The girls also had dancing and drilling classes. Miss U. B. What, one of its earliest pupils, has given us an account of the physical attributes of the school in those days.
"The garden front faced south and had on the first storey a veranda with iron railings and a flight of steps at each end. Below were deep cellars, one of them used as a cloakroom. Here, there was a large copper on which the kindergarten children were seated to change their shoes and to wait for their elder sisters. From the cellar leading to the first floor was a narrow flight of stone steps shrouded in semi-darkness. These led on the left to the kitchens, but a sharp right turn brought the scholars to the scene of their academic labours . . . Finally, on the left of the main entrance, was Miss Arblaster's room. The kindergarten was taught in a room leading on to the veranda, where these pupils took most of their exercise. Music lessons were given in the dining room, which was also the banqueting hall for the annual Christmas party. There was a stone-floored classroom opposite the milk-hatch and behind this hatch was the staff room where the Sixth Form was usually taught. Up the back stairs was yet another classroom, reached through a bedroom occupied by the only boy boarder. The front stairs (steps) were more sacred than it is possible nowadays to imagine. I trod them once."
Miss Whate's account provides us with further snippets of information. The Headmistress, in addition to her undoubted academic talents, was "a very clever housewife and always supervised the kitchens and carved the joints". There was no school uniform "except that a stiff straw hat must be worn in summer. There was a badge - R.G.H.S. in red on a white ground - and for drill and gymnastics a kilt and sailor blouse in navy blue trimmed with broad red ribbon was worn".
The playground was a garden of spacious lawns sloping down to the "feeder", beyond which stream was a tangled jungle of weeds. "Organised games were played on the town cricket field, whither the girls marched in a crocodile, their weapons in their hands and their skirts not less than eight inches from the ground".
In the spring of 1894 it was proposed to start a kindergarten in the summer term. Miss Arblaster was accordingly ordered to engage a specially-trained mistress to take charge of the department. Miss Cossey was appointed to this temporary post which a term later was made permanent. To those interested in the study of comparative prices, the coal bill for the first academic year was a mere £9. 8s. 0d.
By the September of 1894 there was need for another mistress, this time to take charge of the juniors. During the Michaelmas Term (of the same year) preparations were afoot for the school's first Prize Day. In this connection it is interesting to observe that there were three news-papers in Retford at this time, "The Retford Times", "The Retford News", and "The Retford Herald". The last-named appears to have had a smaller circulation than the other two, for the cost of inserting the same advertisement in it was less than in either of the other two periodicals. The first Prize Day was held on December 19th, 1894, in the Town Hall at 4.30 p.m. The forty-eight scholars sat on the stage in three tiers behind the governors and mistresses. The scholars were uniformly attired in "white dresses with favours of bright scarlet geraniums and maidenhair fern". In her report the headmistress expressed a wish for a large Assembly Hall. Lady Laura Ridding then presented the prizes. Later the girls entertained the audience with a musical concert.
During the year some of the girls had in collaboration with other people of Retford helped to produce "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which was presented in the Town Hall. Miss V. Hodson, who took the part of Puck in this production, and was a pupil at the school between 1894 and 1901, further informs us of a performance in 1896 of "Alice in Wonderland", given by the mistresses and pupils in the Retford Town Hall. This presentation was particularly well received and the local press acclaimed the performance in the most fulsome terms.
The company's balance sheet for the first financial year showed a deficit of £11. 7s. 6d. The Directors seemed, however, unperturbed by this slight financial setback and expressed their belief that the school "has fully equalled the most sanguine anticipations of its founders". As a joint-stock company, the school paid income tax and a poor rate levy (shades of the Younger Pitt and the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834).
By the summer of 1895 there were sixty pupils in attendance at the school, fifty in the High School and ten in the kindergarten. Even in its early years the school seems to have employed a certain Madame Condurier on a part-time basis for the purpose of instructing the scholars in French pronunciation. In October of the same year the need for additional accommodation, which the headmistress had alluded to in 1894, had become manifest and it was decided to erect a room 45 feet by 27 feet for the sum of £154, together with a covered way between it and the school proper. The contractors must have worked at a feverish pace for the Assembly Hall was first used when the second Prize Day in the school's history was celebrated on December 18th, 1895. This building was of wood with a corrugated iron roof, and heated by two stoves "that sometimes went out or smoked". The room was in 1913 sold by public auction and moved into Exchange Street and became known as Mr. Denman's room. Now it houses the Christian Science Church. Singing lessons for the school took place here and it was used for drill, gymnastics and art.
By March of 1896 the Company appears to have hit a bad patch financially for Miss Arblaster's request that she be given some allowance for the board of a junior mistress was refused. In the same year the school purchased its first piano at a cost of £31. l0s. 0d. It had also acquired two additional teachers in the persons of Miss Wallis (later Mrs. H. A. Spencer) and Miss Clark.
A study of the Company's minute book reveals that in these early years the children were given four weeks' holiday at Christmas. The summer holidays were never less than six weeks in duration, but the book affords us no information of the length of the Easter vacation, at least, not until 1898 when the children were granted eighteen days. What then of the Whitsun recess and the occasional days accorded at half-terra? Could Miss Arblaster (inadvertently or otherwise) have been giving the pupils too much vacation time? This is the inference one draws from an extract of the minutes of April 13th, 1896, which reads -"Resolved that the Hon. Sec. call Miss Arblaster's attention to the school prospectus in which the Governors' covenant to the Public to give an aggregate of thirteen weeks in the year." Yet in spite of this reminder the length of the holidays, it would appear, was in no way curtailed for at least the next three years.
The school population at the end of 1896 was seventy-seven. The Company too seems to have been in a better financial position for in March of 1897 it was resolved "that a dividend of 5% be declared upon its paid-up capital" and that a second piano be purchased for the school. At the Speech Day held in December, 1897, the prizes were distributed by Sir Frederick Milner, Bart., M.P. This gentleman who did so much for the locality in the educational sphere has now a school named in his honour. In her report Miss Arblaster said that the two pupils who were presented in December 1896 for the Cambridge Senior Examination had both satisfied the requirements of the examiners. In addition to these successes there was one junior and also five preliminary passes. When the Cambridge Local Examinations were held, a Cambridge graduate always presided, wearing academic dress, and lady friends of Miss Arblaster took turns at sitting in the room, reading or doing needle-work. The opening of the corporation swimming baths in 1897 provided the girls with an opportunity to learn to swim. With the help of a subscription of sixpence per term the school library continued to grow and afforded the pupils much pleasure.
The school continued to prosper as a financial enterprise and in 1898 the directors were able to pay the shareholders another dividend of five per cent. It was in this year that the Company contemplated the purchase of Holly Mount on London Road, and on July 28th a bid of £1,510 was made to secure the premises. For some unknown reason the project miscarried and the school continued in Ordsall House. Holly Mount, incidentally, became a maternity hospital and is now the Conservative Club Headquarters.
In December 1898 a sub-committee was appointed to inspect any fields offered to the Directors as suitable to rent or purchase as a playground for the scholars. A playing field was rented in 1899 at £8 per annum. There were at this time seventy-four pupils in the school and all the girls, save one, who were entered for the Cambridge Local Examinations had been successful. The drawing class was taught by Mr. Foster, the Art Master at the Grammar School. Decorum during these lessons was preserved by the presence of one of the mistresses Miss Arblaster visited this class every week and enquired after the progress of various pupils.
At a meeting held in February, 1899, the Headmistress recommended an annual school examination by an independent authority. at a cost of £10. It was further determined to give Mr. John Dawson notice to quit his tenancy of the garden. Mr. Dawson was in arrears with his rent even though the directors at an earlier date had compromised and reduced his rent.
In April, 1899, the school was temporarily closed because of an outbreak of measles. In May, 1899, a complaint was made to the governors by a Mrs. Lawrence of unsatisfactory progress by her daughter. The committee decided, however, that no case of neglect or unsatisfactory teaching had been made. July, 1899, saw the resignation of the first Secretary, Mr. W. J. Lazenby, who, however, undertook to give the Board time to find a successor. In the meantime the school had been examined by the Rev. F. Besant of the College of Preceptors who had been satisfied with the standard of the work.
If the year 1900 was relatively uneventful, 1901 was potent with significance. It was in this latter year that a Miss Humphreys of Brunts Technical School, Mansfield, was engaged at the school to teach cookery one afternoon each week at a fee often shillings per lesson of two hours' duration. In the same year the committee gave the post of Secretary to Mr. Henry Turvey at a salary of £5 per annum. Mr. Turvey's stay was, however, of short duration, and two years later he was succeeded by Mr. Matthew Whate who remained as Clerk to the Governors for thirty-six years. More important than these local developments were the proceedings at Westminster, for it was at this time that Lord Balfour's Education Bill went through its preliminary readings. It became law in 1902. This Act coincided with the termination of hostilities in South Africa, and it is interesting to note that the three great educational enactments of 1902, 1918 and 1944 were put on the Statute Book at the end of the three major wars which this country has fought during the last half-century. A point doubtless for the sociologist to ponder upon. The Education Act of 1902 was the basis of all public education in England until 1944. It placed the responsibility for providing education in the hands of County or Borough Councils who formed Local Education Committees for this purpose. Secondary education, hitherto neglected, came under the aegis of the Local Authorities and the Act is directly responsible for the immense development of secondary education in the twentieth century. We shall shortly see how it influenced the development of the Retford Girls' High School in the next decade.
In April of 1902 Mr. Samuel Jones, Town Clerk of the Borough of Retford, and one of the founder members of the school, died. It was in the same year that the secretary was instructed to lodge a protest with Hodson & Hardman, Printers and Publishers of an almanac of the same name "as to a slighting reference" to the school which appeared in their annual publication for 1902. This immediately aroused our curiosity but, alas, it has had to remain unsatisfied. The efforts of the two girls who visited the Denman Library to follow up this clue were foiled. They discovered the Almanac for the year 1902 but the page pertaining to the school had been removed! Whatever the outcome of the Secretary's letter, the school still continued to trade with Hodson and Hardman and it was they who printed the school's first magazine, of which we have a record. The school held its first Open Day during this year. Could this have been the outcome of the criticism in Hodson and Hard-man's publication and was this the governors' and headmistress's Way of giving the lie to such an unwarranted indictment? It seems a likely deduction to make.
The prizes on Speech Day, March 13th, 1903, were distributed by Viscountess Galway. This was the first time since 1894 that it was held in the Town Hall. The number of pupils had, by this time, increased to seventy-eight and it appears safe to conclude that while the school remained in private hands, with fee-paying pupils only, it had reached saturation point, for in later years its population rarely exceeded eighty. An innovation which had occurred during the past year was the introduction of gymnastics into the curriculum. The Games Club had encountered a lean time and Miss Arblaster thought that she would have to relinquish the playing field shortly.
The year 1904 was "one of good steady work" and most of the older girls spent three afternoons a week on cookery, drawing and gymnastics. The following year brought renewed interest in the Games Club. The girls had produced a play, and the money obtained (£13) was put into the Games Club Fund. In March, 1905, the directors considered the question of admitting County Council Scholarship pupils. It was decided "that an offer be made to the County Council to accept such scholars and that a scholarship in respect of each such pupil to the amount of six guineas per annum be granted". At the same meeting it was determined that from 1906 onwards there should be an annual examination of the religious instruction given in the school and that the Diocesan inspector be asked to conduct such examinations. It was at this time, too, that a five-year lease on Ordsall House was taken by the Company at an annual cost of £60.
For some time now the school had received grants from the Education Committee at Nottingham for the art and science classes. These donations were only of a temporary nature for it was not recognised as a secondary school by the Board of Education. In 1905 the Board sent one of His Majesty's Inspectors to examine the school. While he was convinced that the equipment and teaching were satisfactory, he found the premises and site inadequate in several respects. Another requisite of the Board, if the school was to be recognised as a secondary school, was that its constitution should be altered in one of two ways. The first was that they required the directors to pass a resolution debarring the shareholders from ever receiving any dividend whatever on their shares. The second way was to wind up the Company, pay off the shareholders, and hand over their interest to a newly-formed body of trustees and governors who might carry on the school as a public secondary school. Since the governors held no hope of providing new buildings in the near future, their chances of recognition by the Board were lost. Though this was the case the County Council still continued to make the school an annual grant of £22 until the time of the Company's dissolution.
In 1906 a Pupil Teacher Centre was set up, in corrugated iron buildings, in the grounds of the boys' grammar school. In effect it was a girls' secondary school, but limited to girls intending to become teachers. The Board of Education sanctioned this scheme for only five years, and as the existing Girls' High School, maintained by a company, could not, owing to its constitution and inadequate premises, obtain recognition, some new provision for secondary education for girls was needed. The establishment of these institutions, which was originally sanctioned in 1881, was designed to ameliorate some of the worst anomalies of the old pupil teacher system whereby the apprentice teacher from the age of thirteen onwards had spent all his time at a school where his or her academic and professional training continued pari-passu. It was felt in the first place that the apprentice spent too much time in the classroom and too little time in the pursuit of academic knowledge. Secondly, it was admitted that the plan of making a head-teacher responsible for the general education of the trainee was unwise, in that it presupposed qualifications that only the exceptional teacher could be expected to possess. The P.T.Cs. themselves were, however, only of an ad-hoc nature, designed to fill the void created by shortage of secondary schools and Training Colleges, which it was recognised were the ideal media for training potential teachers. Therefore with the opening of a new girls' secondary school in 1913 the need for such an expedient disappeared and with it the establishment itself fell into desuetude.
The Speech Day of 1906 was held on April 4th. Proceedings opened with a gymnastic display which included Indian clubs exercises, figure marching, parallel bar exercises and a sword dance. The headmistress opened her report by referring to the inadequate transport facilities for conveying the girls to school. Several of the girls came on bicycles, whereas only a few came by "a not very convenient train service". During the year the girls had given a performance of "The Taming of the Shrew". As a result a further £33. 15s. 0d. was added to the depleted coffers of the Games Fund. The numbers in the kindergarten had been maintained and before the summer was over Miss Arblaster said the small children would give a display of their work. It was later in the same month that Miss Grace Bradshaw, who was to become Chairman of the Governors for twenty-one years and after whom one of the Houses in school has been named, first attended a governors' meeting. The Chairman of the Directors, the Rev. Walter Stott, wrote to the Board, at this time, pointing out a personal difficulty in the way of taking part in the proceedings for Speech Day whilst it was held in Lent. Here was a gentleman of the cloth who obviously took his clerical calling most seriously. The Directors instructed the secretary to inform him that they had no desire to have Prize Day in Lent and that they would hold it on a more suitable date in future.
In July the Directors resolved that the Diocesan Inspector be invited to conduct a religious examination at the school. The Headmistress was requested to arrange the date and furnish him with the syllabuses of scripture and catechism. Later in the year the examination was conducted by the Rev. T. W. Peck who found the work satisfactory. Two of the original directors of the Company resigned as governors at this point. They were Mr. Lazenby and Mr. Merry weather. Their resignations were regretfully accepted and they were cordially thanked for the zealous work they had done on behalf of the school.
February 1907 brought an unexpected break in the pupils' studies. An outbreak of measles determined the directors to close the school temporarily. The closure lasted a month but it was decided, much to the undoubted regret of the scholars, when they returned in March, to continue the Summer Term without the usual Eastertide respite. On Prize Day, 1907, the Bishop of Southwell distributed the awards. The number of pupils had, by this time, increased slightly but if the school was to pay financially, Miss Arblaster maintained that a still greater number of pupils was required. By this time an Old Girls' Club had been founded which already had over one hundred members. It had, even then, started Choral, Dramatic and Reading Societies. A considerable number of junior scholars had been absent during the year because of a whooping-cough epidemic. The committee decided to remit half a term's fees in each case.
In 1908 another original founder, the Rev. Canon Ebsworth, because of ill-health, resigned from the chairmanship of the board of directors. Sir Frederick Milner, Bart., distributed the prizes on Speech Day, 1908. Miss Arblaster reported that there were seventy-four regular pupils in attendance and that the examination results in the Cambridge Local Examinations were of a good standard. Of the seniors, Dorothy Brook and Ursula Whate, who incidentally was under fifteen years of age at the time of the examination, gained third class honours. These girls were the first two bright stars in the school's academic firmament. Miss Whate later went on to study at London University while Miss Brook went to Dresden in Germany, to teach English. Miss Arblaster reported that she had had to discontinue the cookery classes but hoped to be able to recommence them in the Autumn Term. From early autumn until March, 1908, the girls had been busily rehearsing for their performance of "As You Like It". It was presented on Tuesday, March 3rd, and the proceeds, which came to £21, were divided between the Games Club and the Library Fund. The death of the Rev. Dr. Stott, the Headmistress remarked, was a grievous loss to the school. Late in 1908 the Rev J.T. Mumford and the Rev R.D. Foster were elected Directors of the Company and Governors of the school to fill the vacancies caused by the retirement of the Rev. A. F. Ebsworth and the death of Dr. Stott.
Mrs. Ellis of Rampton Manor presented the prizes at Speech Day, 1909. The Rev. T. Gough in his opening address remarked that there was no family in the neighbourhood who had shown so much interest in matters educational, musical and social since their residence in the district as Mr. and Mrs. Ellis. Miss Arblaster then made her report.
"The year 1908 was one of almost uninterrupted study, work and development. We have an average of seventy-two regular pupils - a higher number than we have had for many years . . . Our Games Club has done well; in the five hockey matches which they have played they have lost only one . . . the members of the Old Girls' Club held their annual meeting at the school last January . . . the performance of 'Alice in Wonderland' (by the girls) produced £14 for charity."
This last item is the first reference to works of a charitable nature by girls, although undoubtedly it was not without precedent, and the example set in these early days has since been emulated a hundred-fold.
By this time the finances of the organisation were on a particularly firm footing. The Seventeenth Ordinary General Meeting of the Company held in Ordsall House on Tuesday, 30th March, 1909, made this abundantly clear. A profit of £60. 11s. l0d. was made on the revenue account. The improvement was due to a considerable increase in the number of children attending the school and although the number (72) was perhaps somewhat abnormal the Directors could not help feeling gratified that the excellent work carried on by Miss Arblaster and her capable staff was being increasingly recognised by the parents of Retford and district.
Another founder member, Mr. F. T. Lazenby, resigned his seat on the Board of Directors in February 1910. By March of the same year the number of pupils had increased to eighty. Miss Ursula Whate, now head girl, passed the Cambridge Higher Locals in two groups - literature and history - with Second Class Honours and had therefore gamed her full Honours Certificate. She was only sixteen when she achieved such a distinction and at the age of seventeen was working for the London Intermediate B.A. examination which she intended to take the following June. The prizes that year were distributed by Mrs. Hume-Williams, wife of the member for Bassetlaw. Dr. Beale succeeded to the vacancy on the board of governors created by the resignation of Mr. F. T. Lazenby. It was at this juncture that the Headmistress and Governors decided to approach the Oxford and Cambridge Syndicate with a view to obtaining an independent examination of the school.
At a directors' meeting held later in the year (October 1910) "it was resolved that in view of the possibility of the erection by the County Council of a new Secondary School for girls in Retford, in the near future subject to the shareholders' approval an arrangement should be made with the County Education Authority for the transfer of the 'goodwill' of the High School on receiving pledges that the following points should be embodied in the scheme of government of the new school.
"(1) The insertion of a clause providing that "religious instruction in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England should be given to all pupils in the school whose parents or guardians desire it.
"(2) That the Headmistress of the High School be offered the head-ship of the new school, and that the head of the kindergarten department be employed (if she desired it) in the junior department.
"(3) That a proportion of the first constituted body of governors of the new school be nominated by the shareholders of the High School Company."
All these proposals were adhered to by the County Authority and the transition was carried through smoothly and amicably in 1913. Mean-while the secretary had been corresponding with the Great Central Railway Company which had absorbed the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (take-over bids are not a new phenomenon) for a renewal of the lease on Ordsall House. The railway authorities proposed an increase in the annual rental from £60 to £70. In view, however, of the uncertainty of the school's future, the railway company allowed it to continue in residence at the old rental during the next three years.
"The Retford Herald" contained an account of the proceedings of the Speech Day held on the 21st March, 1911. Miss Arblaster observed that the number of pupils had risen again, eighty attending the school in January, 1910, and eighty-nine in December of that year. Two of the girls, Miss K. Evans and Miss E. Wheeler, gained their Higher Local Honours Certificate. Miss Evans had also passed the London Matriculation examination in the first division. Considerable interest was shown in the gymnastic exercises which were performed with great credit to the scholars and their new and able instructor, Miss Suche. The Directors' annual report which appeared at the end of the fiscal year showed that the profit on the revenue account amounted to £174.2s.6d. and that the balance on the profit and loss account had increased from £213. 19s. l0d. to £407. 7s. 4(1. The Directors recommended the payment to the shareholders of a dividend of five per cent free from income tax. What better or more praiseworthy source of investment could one wish for?
The last Speech Day of the school as an independent establishment was held on Friday, March 15th, 1912, almost exactly nineteen years after that small group of far-sighted gentlemen had foregathered at the White Hart Hotel and had given it its initial impetus. Miss Arblaster reported that the Governors had decided that all the girls in the upper forms should take the Cambridge Examinations as an outside test of the school. Of the twenty-six girls who had sat for the examinations, twenty-one had gained certificates. Seven old girls of the school were pursuing further studies at universities throughout the country. Miss Arblaster went on to report that a Junior Hockey Team had been formed and in matches with other clubs it had lost only one match. In drama, too, the school continued to maintain its record. The girls of the upper forms were preparing for a performance of "The Merchant of Venice", while the Dramatic Section of the Old Girls' Club had given a performance of a "Japanese Romance", which had been very well received.
Meanwhile plans were well afoot for the new school. The Directors of the Girls' High School having agreed to close their school and transfer the pupils to a new school, the Nottinghamshire Education Committee, after discussion with the Board of Education, recommended the erection of a Secondary School for about one hundred and fifty girls on a site of two acres near the railway station. In April 1911 the site was approved and plans were prepared by the County Architect. Nine months later the plans met with the approval of the Board of Education and the Retford Corporation. The contract for building was let to Bosworth and Lowe of Nottingham for £6,650, but the "restriction of the train service consequent on the coal strike (of 1912) had delayed the commencement of the work". In 1912 the Head of the Pupil Teachers' Centre had resigned because of ill-health and in view of the pending amalgamation of the Pupil Teachers' Centre and the new Secondary School for Girls, the Nottinghamshire Training Teachers' Sub-Committee, with the consent of the Governors of the High School appointed Miss Arblaster to undertake joint control of the High School and the Pupil Teachers' Centre.
In January 1913 as a result of a ballot held by the Company shareholders three of their number, the Rev. R. D. Foster, Mr. W. Percival Jones (son of the late Samuel Jones, who incidentally succeeded his father as Town Clerk) and Mr. W. Oakden were elected as governors of the new school. The Directors held their last meeting on April 11th, 1913, when it was "resolved that at the close of the present term such of the portable assets of the Company as are not taken by the County
Education Committee be placed in the Assembly Room and that these and the Assembly Room itself be sold by public auction by Messrs. H. Spencer & Sons". Thus it was that the Company brought its deliberations to a conclusion. It had finished its work and had done it nobly. Had it not been for that small band of '93, Retford might never have had a High School at all. As it was, the Company handed over to its successor a living organism with sound academic standards, a strong tradition of scholarship, hard work, musical and dramatic achievements, and above all a spirit of philanthropy which has remained probably its greatest asset. That this tradition would he maintained was assured by the continuity of a small nucleus of governors, the headmistress, the staff and pupils, who would bring to the new school the spirit of the old.
The New School
By January, 1913, the contractors engaged on the building of the new school had made good progress. The constitution of the school's governing body had been determined and provided for a governing body of sixteen, eight of whom (including at least two women) were to be appointed by the County Council. The Education Committee recommended Lady Robinson, Mrs. Garland, Mr. T. Hercy Denman, the Rev T. Gough, Mr. W. H. Mason, Mr. H. Mellish, the Rev. J.T. Mumford and Col. E. H. Nicholson. The other members of the committee were Councillor H. A. Spencer, Mayor of Retford; Miss Bradshaw, Mr. A. J. Holleley, the Rev. R. D. Foster, Mr. W. Oakden, Mr. G. A. Walker and Mr. W. P. Jones. The Rev. T. Gough was unanimously elected chairman, and Mr. M. Whate was appointed Clerk to the Governors at a salary of £30 per annum
The Governors held their first meeting on February 20th, 1913. A caretaker and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, were appointed at a wage of thirty shillings a week. The following scale of fees was fixed:
three guineas per annum for children up to seven years of age, five guineas from seven to nine years, seven guineas from nine to eleven years, eight guineas for children of eleven years, and nine guineas for those over twelve years of age.
Religious instruction "in accordance with the principles of the Christian faith" was to form part of the school curriculum but the right to dissent was acknowledged. (This after all was the twentieth century!) Further, Nonconformists and those of other religious persuasions might have their own classes provided their numbers exceeded fifteen.
A House Committee was appointed to deal with all matters relating to premises, management of school and staff, and to act as an emergency sub-committee. In addition a Finance Committee was appointed to present estimates to the Education Committee and to deal with other fiscal matters. The Headmistress was asked to prepare a prospectus and the governors considered the desirability of arranging for authorised reports of governors' meetings to be communicated to the local press. It was, also, decided to ask the Great Central and Great Northern Rail ways to provide a better train service for children attending the school. This last request has a familiar ring!
The House Committee soon reported several inadequacies. In the first place, the dining room and kitchen both proved much too small to provide meals for fifty or more children. The same criticism applied to the kitchen range. They considered a small combustion boiler necessary to provide hot water for the cookery room, while the music room was inadequately heated. The position and structure of the cycle shed was criticised, while the sinks in the art room were much too small. They thought that handrails should be affixed to the staircases leading to the upper storey. Lastly, the committee considered that the boiler room was badly planned. On some points the County accepted the committee's suggestions, and alterations were forthwith carried out but the dining room was in no way enlarged, and only minor alterations were made to the kitchen. No handrails were provided for the girls' staircases and the boiler room remained unaltered.
Certain alterations were in the meantime made to the playing field. A cart-track on the western side of the field was dug up and the field harrowed, rolled and seeded. A cricket pitch, twenty-five yards square, was prepared and the bank was to be planted with shrubs in the autumn. Plans for the construction of a new tennis court were also made. As the playing field would not, however, be ready for use in the first year, the governors had arranged to rent the town cricket ground for the time being.
The new school opened on Wednesday the fourteenth of May, when the girls from the Pupil Teachers' Centre and a large proportion of the High School were transferred. There were one hundred and thirty-nine girls in attendance. The iron buildings, which had hitherto housed the Pupil Teachers' Centre, were sold to the boys' grammar school for £50. At a Governors' Meeting on May 29th, 1913, the Headmistress reported that the parents of forty-three pupils had requested 'religious instruction' for their children but that fourteen of these were in the preparatory department and in her opinion too young to receive such tuition. The remaining twenty-nine were to be instructed in the Anglican Faith. The Rev. R. D. Foster consented to undertake the instruction of the younger girls while the Rev. J. T. Mumford made a similar promise to teach the senior girls. There was to be one such lesson of half an hour's duration per week. The stone staircase still gave the governors some anxiety. The stairs were treacherous, and the provision of handrails would, it was felt, prevent accidents. The County Architect was, later in the year asked to submit an estimate of the cost of such handrails. Were the Committee proposing to foot the bill themselves? The reluctance of the County authorities to provide them seems to bear this out. It was further resolved to approach the Education Committee for a further radiator in the Music Room. To prevent trespassers, who had already caused some slight damage to the school, it was decided to attach spikes to the top of the boundary fence at the north end of the playing field and that an "unclimbable fence" be erected near the canal bridge.
Shortly after the new school had got under way one of the pupils, Frances Mary Edwards, was awarded a certificate of the Royal Humane Society and a watch from the Carnegie Hero Fund for rescuing "a poor mother and child" from drowning in the canal. The presentation was made by Sir Frederick Milner who took the opportunity of exhorting the girls to become proficient in the art of swimming not only for their own sake but for the sake of others. He also acknowledged the services rendered by the Mayor, Councillor H. A. Spencer, in bringing the matter to the notice of the Royal Humane Society.
The formal opening of the County High School for Girls, Retford, took place on the 23rd July, 1913. The ceremony was performed by Lady Galway and an address was given by the eminent historian, Mr. H.A.L. Fisher, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University. The opening ceremony was also attended by Mrs. H. A. Spencer, the Lady Mayoress, herself an old member of Miss Arblaster's staff. "The Retford Times" of July 25th, 1913, gave full coverage to the event. As the school has since been altered in so many ways, it might be well to include here a description of it as it was then.
"The buildings were planned with a central block giving accommodation for 220 pupils in eight classrooms and wings on either side ... the central block on the ground floor contains the main entrance, teachers' rooms, hall and classrooms. In the southern wing are situated the students' entrance, cloak and changing room and lavatories. The northern wing contains the dining rooms and kitchen and cooking and laundry centre. On the first floor, which is approached from either wing by stone staircases, are situated the laboratories, two classrooms, the art room and music room. Both the wings on the first floor are connected by a gallery running the length of the central hall, the hall itself being carried up to the first floor ceiling level. Ample store-room accommodation has been provided, and in the playground a cycle-shed, greenhouse and tool shed have been erected."
The school made an excellent start and there were one hundred and sixty pupils on the books at the commencement. At a meeting of the governors held shortly afterwards a letter from the Board of Education assessed the number of free places in the school at eight. These pupils were exempt from the payment of all fees. An application was considered from the caretakers for extra help and an increase of ten shillings per week in their wages. In the light of the past services of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson and in view of their increased duties during the winter months, it was decided to increase their wages by four shillings a week, to pay their weekly rent of six shillings, to engage a full-time woman helper at a wage of seven shillings and sixpence per week, and to provide all three with a free tea each day. A matter of some interest at this meeting was the decision to provide the girls who had to travel a considerable distance with a hot beverage (milk or cocoa) and some little food, free of charge, before the commencement of school. The cost of this free breakfast, like that of the free teas to the caretakers and their helpers, was to be borne by the profits from the school dinner fund.
Since the opening of the school the number of scholars taking school dinner had risen from sixty to eighty. Insuperable difficulties existed which made it extremely arduous for the kitchen staff to provide a reasonable dinner service. It was decided that the County Architect be invited to meet the governors at the school to decide what was to be done.
"The Retford Times" of January 3Oth, 1914, contained full details of the Cambridge Local Examinations. Fourteen candidates had been entered; all had passed. Another academic success was recorded in "The Retford Times" of July l0th, 1914. Miss K. M. Gladish had been awarded an entrance scholarship of £30 per annum tenable for three years at University College, Nottingham. The school was maintaining its academic record.
During the Christmas vacation of 1913-14, the County Architect, who had paid a visit to the school, had found no one in charge of the premises and thought them to be in a neglected condition. Shortly afterwards (at the instigation, perhaps of the architect, one is tempted to ask) the Director of Education visited the school. His findings seem to have substantiated the architect's. The House Committee investigated these charges and found them to be exaggerated and decided that the expression "disgusting state" was inapplicable to any part of the school.
At the same meeting held on February 18th, 1914, the question of a stove for the school kitchen was discussed. The one which the county architect proposed the committee thought too large. They thought a smaller model, supplied by the local gas undertaking, more economical. A month later Misses Arblaster and Bradshaw reported that gas could be supplied for £50. The committee seemed determined to have their own way.
On February 24th, 1914, an emergency. meeting of the House Committee was held, for what else could it be since they had met only six days previously. Their business adds greater weight to the inference. They met to appoint Mr. Thomas Moorhouse and his wife, of East Retford, as caretakers on the same conditions and wages as their predecessors. Could it have been the adverse criticism of the County Architect and the Director which led to the resignation of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson? There appears to be at least some circumstantial evidence to support this hypothesis. We know, in the first place, that the governors were highly satisfied with the work of Mr. and Mrs Robinson. Secondly, the Robinsons had only recently been given a substantial rise of twenty-five per cent in salary. Furthermore, the resignation could not have been the result of overwork for they had been, at the same time, given additional assistance.
The County Architect seems to have needled the governors somewhat at this juncture for at the same meeting his attention was directed to "badly fitting windows and doors in the school". The Headmistress said that when a high wind was blowing it was almost impossible for mistresses to make themselves heard.
Teachers in those days were paid termly. The staff of today can sympathise with them when in 1914 they requested the County Authority to sanction a half-termly payment of salaries. Their plea, however, seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
It was in the same year that Miss Ursula Whate, whose early academic successes have already been noted, was appointed to the staff. Miss Whate is probably the first old girl who returned to become a member of the staff. Her example has since been followed on more than one occasion. Miss Ilett, Mrs. Lane, Miss Oakes and Miss Hurst who are members of the present staff, are all former pupils.
Meanwhile the school was visited by some of His Majesty's Inspectors. As a result the governors received a letter from the Board of Education informing them that in no circumstances could they compel 'free pupils', who could not go home for dinner, to purchase school meals. The contents of the letter seem plain enough to one reader, at least, but the governors thought them ambiguous. They decided to remonstrate with the Board against such prohibition because they believed that the cooked meal benefited the girls' health and so justified compulsion. There appear to have been cogent reasons on both sides of the controversy. Should the Board adhere to its prohibition, the governors recommended that the parents of the girls concerned be asked how many were likely to continue with school meals so that arrangements could be made to enlarge the kitchen and dining hall. All the parents concerned, when circularised, expressed the wish that their children should continue to take school meals. After four terms there was a surplus of £59. 17s. 6d. in the school dinner fund. The committee decided to give Miss Cossey an honorarium of £15 for her work of organising the school dinners and this sum was to be paid each year to the mistress in charge of dinners. The remainder of the money was put into a House Committee Emergency Fund to be used for the replacement of games apparatus and cookery utensils, also to pay for any additional services by the assistant maid.
There is an item of news in "The Retford Times" of July 31st, 1914, which peculiarly finds no place in the minute book. The article reported that "in January the Council sanctioned a loan of £843 for extending dining accommodation by using the present domestic centre for dining purposes and building a new centre for domestic subjects". It is strange that there is no mention of this in the governors' minutes.
On June 28th, 1914, the Archduke Francis, heir to the Austro Hungarian throne, was assassinated at Sarajevo. This was the event which precipitated the First World War. Five weeks later the inevitable conflict began. The antennae of modern warfare are far-reaching and their effect on the school was soon felt.
There were in September 1914 some one hundred and sixty-five pupils at the school and the need for an additional mistress was acknowledged. The report of His Majesty's Inspectors was considered highly satisfactory and met with the governors' approval. Four new appointments were made to the staff. At the same time Miss Cossey, who had been at the school since 1895 and was then in charge of the kindergarten department, resigned, pending her marriage to Mr. V.S. Wood. A presentation was made to Miss Cossey by both pupils and staff. Lilian Franks the Head Girl, thanked Miss Cossey for the excellent way in which she had catered for the dinners. Ruth Swannack then presented her with a silver purse-bag and a brown hat-box. On behalf of the staff, Miss Watson gave Miss Cossey a double silver photograph frame and a silver-mounted spirit flask. The school was given a half-holiday on October 22nd to celebrate Miss Cossey's wedding.
The first prize-giving of the new school took place in the Assembly Hall. The Headmistress reported that the school population was now one hundred and seventy-nine. The school had had a generally successful year. Already the war had produced some effect on the school. During the summer recess the Red Cross had been given the use of the premises. Each girl brought a penny a week to school to give to the Retford Women Workers' Fund who provided the girls with flannel for making shirts and wool for knitting comforts for the armed forces. The girls in their little way were already helping to win the war.
There were at this time at the school some children from the Lincoln-shire administrative area of Lindsey. The governors thought it would have benefited these children more if they came to Retford at thirteen years of age, rather than at fourteen which was then the custom. The Lindsey Committee could not, however, see eye-to~eye with this view, and refused to accede to the governors' proposal. Their failure to comply may have been one of the reasons why these girls fared so badly in the external examinations which they took.
Early in 1915 four Belgian refugees were admitted to the school. In the meantime the scholars had raised over £33 for War Funds and one hundred and eighty garments had been made for the Forces. A little later in the year the Rev. J. T. Mumford, a school governor who was also responsible for conducting one of the religious instruction classes, joined the forces as a chaplain. In October 1915 the school had to vacate its premises in order that the Durham Light Infantry might use the building as winter quarters. The kindergarten remained in Lorne House on Queen Street where Miss Andreae, the mistress in charge, and a friend lived at that time. The lower school was taught in rooms over the shop at the Carolgate corner of the Market Place, while the rest of the school was accommodated in the former Pupil Teachers' Centre at the Grammar School or in huts on that school's playing fields. Miss Arblaster had her room at the Grammar School and Miss Bond was in charge at the Square. Such a radical dislocation inevitably made the work of the staff doubly difficult and to alleviate their burden an additional member was appointed on a temporary basis. By April of the following year the soldiers had left the school. The floors and the lower parts of the walls were scrubbed, the whole premises disinfected, and the pupils returned to their former abode after the Easter vacation. For their extra labours a gift of £5 was made to the caretakers.
In spite of the exigencies of the war, the school maintained its good academic record. This becomes manifest from a cursory examination of the results of the Cambridge Local Examinations of January, 1916.
Perhaps this is the place to say something about teachers' salaries, a subject much in vogue nowadays. The salaries of the staff more than doubled during the war years. Two factors serve to explain this phenomenon. There was no national salary scale at this time. Consequently there was a good deal of movement from the poorly paid schools to areas where teachers' remuneration was better. To keep a good staff, good salaries had to be paid. Teachers at the school were constantly demanding increases in salary and almost without exception they were forthcoming. With so many male teachers in the armed forces, the bargaining power of those who remained at home was at a premium. The war, too, affected teachers' salaries in another way. There was at this time no rationing (not until 1917, at least) of essential foods. Commodities were scarce, and became even scarcer as the activities of the German U-boats reached their apogee in the North Atlantic. Prices, consequently, soared and since wages lag behind prices in an inflationary period there was an incessant clamour for increased salaries.
There are few incidents to record during the years 1917-20. In 1917 five new appointments were made. The staff in October 1917 included Miss Arblaster, Miss Verity-Young, who had recently succeeded Miss Simmons as senior mistress on the latter's retirement, Miss Watson, Miss Whate, newly promoted to a senior post on the staff' Miss Bond, Miss Butterworth, Miss Jones and Miss Dickinson.
No Speech Days were possible during the war years. The governors in 1917, therefore requested Miss Arblaster to present them with a record of the school's progress. This report, an excerpt of which appears below, was then made known to parents and the general public.
"The number in the school has been well maintained; the highest number in any one term has been two hundred and six. It is increasingly difficult for girls who come in by train to reach school by nine o'clock, owing to the restricted train service; some have to leave their homes before seven a.m. and do so regularly, others cannot reach the school until ten o'clock.
The examination results last year surpassed anything that has been attained before. The number of senior candidates presented was twenty-three; of these only one failed. One girl was placed in Class 1 (only sixteen girls gained Class 1 Honours in the kingdom), five were in Class II, five in Class III, and the rest satisfied the examiners; there were fifteen distinctions gained and seven of the candidates were excused London Matriculation. Such Honours cannot be expected again, as Cambridge has altered the age limit for Honours from under nineteen years to under eighteen years. This very much narrows the chances of Honours, unless the girls who aim at taking the examination come to the school at twelve or thirteen years of age. In addition to these successes two Senior County Scholarships have been gained. Irene Holoran has been awarded a Senior Notts County Scholarship of £35 per annum, which she is to hold at Sheffield University to read for the B.Sc. Degree, and Emily Waddy has gained a Lindsey Senior Scholarship of £60 per annum, which she will hold at Reading University College to take the B.A. Degree."
In February, 1918, Lady Robinson resigned from the board of governors. The vacancy was filled later in the year by Mrs. Foljambe. Miss Earle was appointed Science Mistress and Louise Lowry was awarded a Notts County Senior Scholarship. A new scale of salaries was drawn up which gave the staff further increases in pay. The Headmistress maintained that "without the scale, the spirit of contentment and enthusiasm so essential to the school could not be upheld".
It was in the latter half of the year that the Rev. Thomas Gough, who had been associated with the school since 1893, resigned as chairman of the governors. His departure to London made this necessary, but he continued as a governor for some time afterwards. He was succeeded as Chairman by the Rev. R. D. Foster. In 1920 the last tie with the band of '93 was severed when Mr. W. Oakden resigned his position as governor.
Because of the increased cost of tuition, which worked out to £18 per capite a year, the governors, at the Director of Education's request, agreed to alter their fees. The fees in future would be two guineas per term for children under seven years of age and three guineas for all the others. There were by this time some two hundred and forty-three children at the school. The Director therefore suggested that all children under the age often be excluded from the school, "both in the interests of the school and of the educational facilities of the town and the district". The governors maintained that the County Education Authority in 1913 took over a High School which provided secondary education for girls of all ages and they considered it a grave injustice if these facilities were curtailed. If the school was over-crowded then fresh accommodation, they maintained, should be provided. The Governors were inclined to think that with the opening of a new secondary school at Gainsborough the risk of overcrowding was not great. This, together with a decrease in the school's population during the early twenties, served to resolve the dilemma, for the time being.
It was in 1920 that the Burnham Committee's scale of salaries for teachers came into being and we find them in use at the school in 1921. They seem to have been more flexible than nowadays for we find Miss Watson being placed on the graduates' scale of pay on the grounds of her past experience and because she held a post of responsibility. Miss Hall, the gym mistress, likewise a non-graduate, was placed on the graduate scale after five years' experience. In December of the same year the fee of three guineas a term was to be charged in future on all pupils in the school, irrespective of age. This arrangement was put into force immediately so as to coincide with other schools throughout the county.
In 1922 the preparatory department was reorganised. Two excerpts from "The Retford Times" serve to illustrate the governors' proposals. The first of these reports informs us "that boys will not be admitted at all, and with regard to girls, only those who are capable of taking their places in Form I (normally about eight years of age) can be accepted". The other extract corroborates this and provides some additional information. "A large number of children aged six to nine will no longer be received, since thirty of the younger children had to be turned out through lack of accommodation." The governors, however, wished to continue to accept kindergarten pupils and for this purpose were endeavouring to obtain a house in the neighbourhood. The school must have been overstaffed at this juncture and in the interests of economy and "in order to conform to the regulations of the County Education Committee" two of the mistresses resigned. At the same time school fees were increased to eleven guineas per annum for children of all ages with a reduction to nine pounds, nineteen and six in the case of second or additional children.
The Rev. R. D. Foster resigned from the governors during the year and Mr. Arthur Peel Williamson was appointed in his stead. Major Denman became chairman in place of the Rev. R. D. Foster. To mark his appointment Major Denman soon afterwards gave thirty-two volumes of "English Men of Letters" to the school library. It must have been early in 1923 that a general inspection of the school was held by His Majesty's Inspectors but we are told nothing of this report except that the governors approved of it.
For many years until the acquisition of the present games field in 1936, the girls had used the Retford Town Cricket Club field. Prior to
1923 they had paid £10 per year for its use. The cricketers now demanded £15. After consultation between the headmistress and the officials of the club, the inevitable compromise was reached. The rent was fixed at thirteen guineas but the rolling of the field was the responsibility of the school for which purpose they were allowed to use the cricketers' roller. The school, however, had to provide a horse to draw the roller and a man to drive the horse. The marking of the ground was done by the school caretaker at a shilling per line and no hockey was to be played on the field after March of each year. This was obviously to safeguard the wicket and to allow for its preparation for the ensuing cricket season.
After almost thirty-one years of valued and valuable service as headmistress, Miss Arblaster tendered her resignation in February 1924 with a view to retiring at the end of the summer term. A special committee of which Matthew Whate was the honorary secretary was appointed to deal with a testimonial and formal farewell to Miss Arblaster.
The presentation took place at the school on July 24th and the large gathering testified to the popularity and esteem in which Miss Arblaster was held. The chairman of the governors said that they were gathered to say farewell to one who had been a resident in their midst for a considerable number of years and who, during that time had shown an influence in the community which had made her endeared to those who had the privilege of knowing her. The illuminated address they had hoped to present to Miss Arblaster was not quite ready but Colonel Mellish presented Miss Arblaster with a purse containing £120. The testimonial which contained 120 names on the roll read as follows:
"Presented to Miss Edith Arblaster on her resignation of the post of headmistress of the Retford County High School for Girls. This roll contains the names of those who ask you to accept the accompanying token of their appreciation of the valued services you have rendered during your unbroken tenure of the headmistress-ship of the Retford High School for Girls, now merged in the Retford County High School for Girls, during the past thirty-two years during which you have so successfully inculcated the highest ideals of religious, religious and social education in the many girls who have had the good fortune to come under your influence. The regret is widespread that you are leaving the school and neighbourhood and we all wish you many years of great happiness and contentment in your well-earned retirement."
In reply, Miss Arblaster, who felt her position very keenly, said that when she came she very much wanted to run away but she was so much wedged in by her friends, Miss Woods and Miss Bradshaw, that there was no escape. In conclusion Miss Arblaster said she would always take the keenest interest in the welfare of the school.
At a meeting of the Old Girls of the school, two days later, Miss Margaret Phillipson presented on behalf of the old girls, a silver kettle to Miss Arblaster. Miss Nellie Barraclough (Head Girl) on behalf of the girls at the school handed Miss Arblaster a gold watch and auto-graph album as a token of the esteem in which she was held. A photograph album containing views of the school, inside and outside, photo-graphs of the girls of every form, teaching staff and the kitchen staff, was given by the staff. A silver biscuit-barrel was presented by Mrs. Moorhouse on behalf of the kitchen staff.
Miss Arblaster had rendered the school and the community of Retford invaluable service. Under her aegis the school's population had grown from twenty-seven to over 250 in a generation. Statistics alone, however, are in no way a full measure of her endeavours. Of more real and enduring value are those abstract qualities of industry, honesty, tolerance, self-criticism and a desire to provide for the well-being of one's fellow men which by personal precept and unremitting labour she had striven to instil in the countless hundreds of girls who came under her influence. Generally speaking, one can safely conclude that her labours were not in vain. She had well and truly laid the foundations of the school. Whatever vicissitudes the future held, one could safely prophesy that the school would take them in its stride.
The committee's next task was to appoint a successor to Miss Arblaster. In April 1924 four applicants were interviewed but all, for some reason or another, appeared unsuitable. Better fortune accompanied their next attempt. A month later ten applicants were interviewed. From these Miss I. M. Brooks of London was unanimously chosen.
At the end of the summer term Miss Verity-Young retired. A certain Mr. Pettigrew was at this time asked to pay a penalty of five pounds for withdrawing his daughter from school before the age of sixteen. The reasons for her withdrawal appeared insufficient to satisfy the governors. It was also recommended at this meeting that the playing field be levelled and laid out as a hockey field together with the construction on the canal side of an asphalt netball court. It was decided to set up a Games Fund administered by the Headmistress at a fixed charge of two shillings per term per scholar. Another decision made at this time was to renew the study of Domestic Science.
In 1925 the staff room was renovated and a hostel for boarders started by the Headmistress at Lorne House in Queen Street. It was at this time that Miss Watson asked leave of absence to visit Egypt with her brother, Mr. Victor Watson, M.A. The governors heartily approved of Miss Watson's being allowed a term off on full pay, but the County authorities did not prove so charitable. While giving Miss Watson leave of absence, they were not prepared to pay her salary. The clerk was directed to stress to the authorities that such a visit would be an advantage in the teaching of geography, and asked them to consider Miss Watson's long and successful career. That Miss Watson went to Egypt is evident but whether her salary was paid during her absence is another matter. Miss Whate left the school at this stage to become Senior English Mistress at Thornes House (Secondary) School, Wakefield. Later she became second mistress there, and finally Deputy Head when the schools were amalgamated as Thornes House Grammar School (coeducational). During the Christmas Term, 1925, the staff produced two plays, "The Viper of Milan", a novel dramatised by Miss Brooks, and "The Pit Door", which were performed in the school hall.
There had been no Speech Day ceremony during the last decade of Miss Arblaster's time but with the advent of Miss Brooks the event again came into vogue. It was on July 15th, 1926, that the Headmistress made her first report. She informed her audience of the academic success of Miss Ida Coupland who had won scholarships to both Manchester University and University College, Nottingham. Miss Brooks, at this meeting, suggested the setting up of a loan fund to help necessitous and deserving cases. The maximum loan should be £12 which the recipient was to use for purchasing books, dinners and uniforms and to pay lodgings, fares and entrance fees for external examinations. On the advice of Mr. Chapman, one of his Majesty's Inspectors, who held that Latin should be taught, it was decided to appoint a classics mistress.
Nineteen twenty-six was the year of the General Strike. From the 4th to the 12th May the nation was faced with a serious challenge. Early in May the General Council of the Trades Union Congress decided to call on all workers, save those on whom the physical safety of the people depended, to join in a general strike. For nine days public transport was at a standstill and special arrangements had to be made for taking children to and from school.
The same year saw several changes on the staff and the governing body. Miss Hayward resigned from her post as Science Mistress at the end of the summer term, while Miss Parker (Music) left to be married. They were replaced by Miss Burnett and Miss Pick respectively. Mr. Pilkington-Rogers, who succeeded the Rev. T. Gough as Headmaster of the Grammar School, was appointed to the governing body. Towards the end of 1926, Mr. Denman resigned as Chairman of the Governors. He was succeeded by Miss Grace Bradshaw, who had been associated with the school since 1906, and she remained chairman until 1947.
At the beginning of the autumn term the price of school dinners was increased to three shillings and four pence a week or nine pence for each casual meal. Miss Brooks inaugurated at this time a system of 'family service' at dinner, whereby a mistress sat at each table. This, it was hoped, would teach the girls table-manners and polite behaviour. The four mistresses who did dinner duty had this meal gratis.
The provision of adequate playing facilities was a perennial problem and continued to plague the governors until the opening of the present games field at Ordsall Road in 1936. A subcommittee was, at this time, appointed to confer and advise on the possibilities afforded by the existing school grounds. In December Mr. Brackett, the senior partner in the firm of Brackett, Moon & Lee, estate agents, on behalf of the Games Committee produced a plan to level off a portion of the field near the canal to provide a hard court tennis and netball pitch. The cost was estimated at between £250 and £300. Initially loans from the governors, parents and friends of the school could be used to pay the contractors. Such loans could then be wiped out by grants from the School Games Fund.
The Headmistress was authorised at that time to buy a camp-bed for the school. Many a sick child has been grateful for this innovation. The original bed was in use, for this purpose, until very recently. During the late twenties and thirties there was a whole crop of casualties among the staff. Miss D. B. Williams was the first of many to suffer. In 1926, a year later, Miss Pick was compelled to relinquish the post for the same reason. The others will be recorded in due course. It's an arduous calling!
Another of the ideas emanating from the fertile mind of Miss Brooks materialised in 1926 when the first magazine was published. To leaven this dry and latterly doleful narrative, I deemed it wise to include a parody of the same name of Longfellow's "Hiawatha".
In 1927 the Committee decided to proceed with the alterations to the school field. An appeal was launched to meet the cost of the work and by May of that year, £155, which was sufficient to defray the whole cost, except the wire fencing, had been promised by the governors, parents and other friends. The school at this time was in need of a new gas-cooker; the old one had been in use since 1913. Miss Brooks also stressed the need for a small movable platform, at a cost of approximately £7, which would be of value for plays, lectures and displays.
Colonel Mellish whose association with the school had been both long and valuable, died during the year. Miss Jones resigned to get married, while Miss Clarke who also left at this time was replaced by Miss Kerr. Mr and Mrs Moorhouse, who still performed the duties of caretakers admirably, were granted an increase in wages, while those of the assistant maids were raised by three pence per day. This latter increase may appear trivial to the reader but when we realise that her weekly wage was only three shillings and sixpence, an additional three-pence a day was indeed a substantial award.
The school from its very beginning had been too small and by this time the situation was critical. There were now 253 pupils, seventy having been admitted in September 1927. The school could accommodate only 225, the dining room, designed to seat 100 comfortably, had to make do for 130. Some solution was obviously necessary. The provision of a new Domestic Science Room, by allowing some of the girls to eat their dinners there, would alleviate the congestion in the dining room. The second feature of the plan was the acquisition of The Haven which was purchased at a cost of £2,275, a somewhat exorbitant price in that day and age. The Education Committee also undertook to provide additional dining room accommodation, rooms for teaching domestic science and a new staff room for the mistresses. Staff and pupils who have been in school some five years or so will know of these places. Not all the Haven was used specifically for teaching purposes. The library and two junior form rooms occupied the lower floor while the upper storey was let to the Head mistress as a boarding establishment. Electric lighting was installed but the remainder of the school continued to be illuminated by gas. A covered way was built to connect school and the Haven. The school acquired a new Honours Board, at this point, and the names of the three Houses were changed. Violet House became Garrett-Anderson, Green House became Clough, and Brown House became Bronte.
Miss Arblaster distributed the prizes on Speech Day, July 25th, 1927. The Higher and School Certificate examination results for the year 1926-27 were excellent. Miss Bedford, the guest speaker, gave an amusing and detailed account of the life of the young ladies, their dress, their work and relaxations in 'A French Boarding School of the Seventeenth Century'. In October Miss Dorothy Moulton sang to the school many songs, both English and German, while in December Miss Richards and Miss Jones gave the girls an address on the 'Time and Talents Guild'. Miss Richards explained that the Guild was the means of bringing cheerfulness into the lives of hundreds of slam children, and said that very little outside help was needed for the upkeep of the centres, and asked the school to send any old clothes, books or games which were no longer needed. It was proposed that a branch of the 'Time and Talents Guild' should be organised in the school. It was in the Christmas term 1927 that a fourth school house, Lind, was created. Two visits of some interest made by the girls in the course of the year are referred to in the Magazine for 1928. The first was a short visit to Paris, the other to nearby Sheffield to see a performance by the great ballerina, Pavlova.
A general inspection of the school took place at the end of March 1928 from which much valuable information can be gleaned. In the year 1922-23 the school population was 249 girls but this was followed by a slump which reached its nadir during the year 1925-26 when the pupils numbered 206. By 1928, however, a full recovery had been made and there were 244 scholars. The slump could well have been due to two factors. It coincided with Miss Arblaster's last years as Headmistress and also with the periods immediately before and after the General Strike of 1926. The increase in the school's population which was almost as dramatic as the slump can be attributed to the temporary economic recovery which followed in the wake of the General Strike and to the enthusiasm which Miss Brooks brought to her work. There can he no doubt that the prestige of the school was immeasurably enhanced under her aegis.
It was Miss Brooks, who, we have noted, began, so far as the new school was concerned, to accommodate boarders. In 1928 there were thirty-five of these, fifteen of whom slept in the Haven and were accommodated in Lorne House during the day time. Lorne House also served as a dormitory for the other twenty boarders and "had been adapted and furnished with every regard to the welfare of its inmates". The majority of the boarders went home at weekends. For most of the week supervision of the boarders was undertaken by the Physical Training Mistress who slept at 'The Haven'. A Matron Housekeeper presided over Lorne House.
The report contained nothing but praise for the Headmistress, but the governors were doubtful whether Miss Brooks could he kept for long. No doubt they had their sources of information and in the event their 'grapevine' functioned with commendable reliability. The average annual entry was between fifty-five and sixty. This meant that the school should have two parallel forms from eleven to School Certificate in addition to a junior department and a sixth form course of two years. The school should, "therefore aim", the inspectors maintained, "at a five-year course for all with a Higher Certificate to follow". The teaching appeared good at the top of the school while the teaching of geography was good throughout. There was no equipment for teaching physics or sixth form science. While the science mistress was a good one, further laboratory accommodation was imperative. They also thought a second science mistress was necessary. The Inspectors thought that the staffing was over-generous but that this could not be helped with a school of its size. They felt that the school could take larger numbers with the same staff. There was evidence that some girls capable of sixth form work had to leave through want of means. The sixth form was a good one which could cater for them if some form of Intermediate Scholarship or Maintenance Grant could he provided. The Inspectors thought that the lengthening of the dining room might spoil the size of the new playground between the school and the Haven. They further stressed the need for a permanent playing field and showed some concern for the boarders. The boarders, they maintained, were the responsibility of the governors, who should, therefore, insure themselves against the hazards of fire, feeding and the like. "Supposing," they asked, "Miss Brooks leaves. What is the position of the governors if the incoming headmistress does not want (or cannot afford) to take boarders?" "The position," they suggested, "should he explored." There was certainly food for thought here but their doubts proved unwarranted, for the new Headmistress, Miss Mellor, who succeeded Miss Brooks, continued with the boarding establishment. "Even at the period of numerical decline," the report concluded, "the school was really prosperous; the subsequent numerical recovery was bound to follow." Every side of the school life has benefited under able and inspiring direction during the last four years."
In April 1928 Miss Brooks resigned. She had been appointed Headmistress of Malvern Girls' School. To secure a successor advertisements were inserted in "The Times Educational Supplement", "Education" and "The Spectator". The candidates were to be under forty years of age and Honours graduates of a British University. From the particulars issued to candidates we garner further information about the school at this period. There were fourteen mistresses on the staff, including a full-time Music Mistress and a Physical Training and Games Mistress. The minimum age of entry to the school was nine. The final selection and interview was held on June 19th, 1928. Six candidates were interviewed and from these Miss Edith Mary Mellor of St. Felix School, Southwold, was chosen as Miss Brooks' successor. Miss Brooks' departure coincided with the resignation of Miss Millie, Miss Phillips, Miss Dolby and Miss Dickinson. This was a bad blow to the school and left the staff sadly depleted.
Speech Day was held on July 25th, 1928. Referring to Miss Brooks' impending departure Miss Bradshaw in her opening address said they would be deeply sorry to lose her. Miss Brooks would not easily be forgotten. She would leave behind her a vivid memory of splendid powers of organisation united with an equally splendid capacity for hard work. Such capabilities did not always go together, neither did they always find, as they had found in Miss Brooks, a long and wide vision of the work that needed to he undertaken, united with a keen eye to practical details. Miss Brooks had given that and much more, with a lavish hand, and the school owed to her a great debt of gratitude. The Director of Education who spoke later in the proceedings was equally grateful to Miss Brooks. "She was", he said, "an exceptional person with a tremendous power of making things go. They could do nothing more than wish her God-speed and every success in her new sphere, at the same time offering their deep thanks for the excellent work she had done at the school".
In 1928, five girls, an unprecedented number, were awarded scholarships.
Gwen Edgeley: Sheffield University Corporation Scholarship (English, History, French) £30 for three years. State Scholarship awarded on the Higher Certificate Examination.
Kathleen Lamin: Middlesex Senior County Scholarship (French and Geography) £25 for three years. Highly commended in Westfield Scholarship Examination in French, being second on the list. Gained 75% in Geography in the London School of Economics Examination.
Kathleen Metcalfe: Horticultural Scholarship to the Midland Agricultural College.
Sybil Pearfield: Oxford Home Students Scholarship in History (first on the list) £50 for three years. Notts Senior County Scholarship (History, English -first on the list in both subjects, French)£80 for three years. Awarded Home Students Training Grant Oxford Responsions in Latin.
Mary Tate: London 1st M.B. (distinction in Biology), Robert Owen Medical Scholarship, £75 for three years. Notts Senior County Scholarship (Chemistry, Botany, Mathematics) £60 for three years. Anonymous Scholarship, £25 for four years.
These achievements, and many others unrecorded, are evident testimony of the school's success under Miss Brooks and of the ability of both staff and pupils. Soon after her departure Miss Brooks presented £2,000 to the school to be used over a period of eleven years. This was the origin of the Brooks Scholarship. The award which was to be of £60 for three years was to be made each year. Preference was to be given to history scholars but if there was no likely history candidate it was to be donated to some other subject. Miss Brooks was evidently a historian as indeed was her successor, Miss Mellor. The scholarship could be held at any university but preferably by a resident. The award was to be made available to any girl then in school, personally known to Miss Brooks. Sybil Peatfield and Kathleen Lamin were the first (joint) recipients of the award.
To fill the vacancies created by the departure of those who left with Miss Brooks, four new appointments were made in October 1928. They were Miss Parker (Gymnastics), Miss Foster (Latin), Miss Parry (Physics) and Miss Dobbs (French). Miss Watson left at the end of the year and Miss Foster was appointed in her place. Miss Watson had been on the staff for many years and was given a special presentation. Miss Mellor presented Miss Watson with a walnut bureau, from the girls, a walnut clock from the staff, and a crocodile handbag and a weekend case from parents and old girls. Malvern seems to have had a great attraction for the staff at this particular time for it was there that Miss Watson went too, to become Headmistress of Malvern Girls' College, a boarding school for nearly a hundred girls, ranging from six to thirteen years in age, which in fact fed the High School to which Miss Brooks had been appointed.
In 1928 Miss Mellor asked the governors' consent to open a nursery school for children from three to six years of age, "such as is in vogue in London and other large centres". Permission was granted for one year provided the governors could withdraw their consent if they so wished. It was at this time that the school, in conjunction with the Grammar School, first acquired a part-time secretary to relieve the Headmistress of the large amount of clerical work.
The Magazine for 1929 is full of interest. On July 2Oth, 1929, a fete was held at the school, the proceeds of which were to pay off the debt for the tennis court and to argument the Emergency Fund. There was a bazaar which was opened by Mrs. Kayser of Eaton Hall, and a palmist was in attendance. The girls entertained the visitors with some ballet dancing and two plays in which both staff and girls participated. Both these were costume plays, one "A Privy Council", dealing with an escapade of Samuel Pepys, and the other, "The Fantasticks", with a wily plot of two old gentlemen of the eighteenth century. The fete went most successfully and raised £170.
By this time the new extensions to the school had been completed. "Gone is the old dining room, where latterly, girls were crushed almost to extinction. In its stead, rising phoenix-like, is a larger one, and over it a domestic science room, and a new and badly-needed staff room.
"The Haven garden - truly a haven, too - we thought - has become an asphalt court undivided from the courtyard. A new covered way connects the Haven with the school... A new and popular innovation is the biscuit 'shop' in the dining room at recreation time. Lunch (break) is now a delightful thing, an oasis, say many, in the desert of the morning."
It might be well, here, to list the school governors at this time, as many of the ones listed earlier had retired and been replaced by newcomers. There were four lady members,
The male members were
A. Peatfield, Esq, c.c.,
The debt of £60 still outstanding for the new games court was to be taken from the dinner fund surplus. The staff were given permission to use the hall for badminton at a cost of ten pence per hour to defray the cost of lighting. In 1929 it was decided that the lower half of the windows in the Haven be rendered opaque to prevent passers-by looking in and to deter the girls from gazing out. The influence of Jeremy Bentham's "Chrestomathia" was still abroad, it would seem.
The prizes on July 23rd, 1929, were distributed by Mrs. H.A.L. Fisher, wife of the distinguished historian and President of the Board of Education from 1916 to 1922. Mrs. Fisher appealed to the girls "to fight against the tendency to make things easy for the average person and too easy for the lazy". They should strive against "the growing uniformity and colourlessness of modem life and try to keep their interests as varied as possible".
The Magazine for 1930, which incidentally was prepared by Miss Jex, who had joined the staff in 1929, provides much interesting information. Miss Crowther and Miss Duthie had joined the staff at the same time. The school had acquired a new screen and epidiascope. Miss Mellor had given a picture to he awarded to the form with the tidiest room. This trophy is still much sought after by the forms in school. The school had won the Barnby Banner for singing in the North Notts Music Competitions. Cricket, which had been played for years with a good deal of success judging by the results of games with other schools, was losing its popularity and the girls were turning more and more to rounders as a summer pastime. There were, in the course of the year, two recitals and several visiting lecturers. The first recital was given by Miss Sybil Cropper who gave a splendid interpretation of Irish, Hebridean, English, French and Russian songs. There was, of course, one serious omission in her repertoire! Mr. Harold Scott gave the second recital and played excerpts from Chopin, Schubert, MacDowell and Brahms, to illustrate the musical history of the nineteenth century. Of the lecturers, Mr. Guy Fothergill told of the fascination of Holland, and Mr. Rumels-Moss of the delights of the West Indies. Captain Mans-field thrilled his listeners with an account of his adventures with the North West Mounted Police in Canada. Miss Bedford gave a lecture on Jenny Lind, while Miss Reed of Lincoln High School gave an interesting account and showed some beautiful slides of her visit to Corfu, Crete and Greece.
"An event unique in the history of the school, so our anonymous reporter tells us, was a Pet Show arranged in connection with the R.S.P.C.A. The playing field was invaded by cats, rabbits and dogs of all breeds and dispositions; the shed was occupied by tortoises and a solitary guinea-pig; and outside, a placid white pony submitted to the friendly pats of everybody who passed it."
The school had at this time a 'League of Nations Union', a Debating Society and a 'Young Helpers' League', which was the name given to the school branch of Dr. Barnardo's Homes.
Miss Johns became second mistress at this time but stayed only a short time, while one of the ten free scholarship places went to Miss A. E. Ilett. The dinner surplus fund, which stood at £92 and was the result of much painstaking and conscientious work over a long period of years, was put at the disposal of the Headmistress. It was to be used, among other things, to purchase a clock for the Assembly Hall, to buy a few pictures and to cover the cost of occasional lectures.
The year 1930 saw the retirement of Miss Dobbs through illness. She was temporarily replaced by Mlle. Marie Antoinette de Noirefontaine. In April 1931 Miss Dobbs died, and the vacancy was filled by the appointment of Miss Bailey. Mile. de Noirefontaine's temporary appointment became a permanent one when she was chosen to replace Miss Crowe. Miss Green was appointed to teach physics and mathematics, Miss Gleave to teach Latin. The kindergarten mistress, whose duties in this capacity occupied the mornings only, was appointed part-time secretary at £15 a term. At the request of the Headmistress trees, and shrubs were planted along the canal side "to protect the girls from the somewhat embarrassing attention of passers-by on the canal towing-path".
Meanwhile negotiations were proceeding tediously for the acquisition of a playing field and the clerk to the governors was directed to obtain from the Town Clerk the terms on which Retford Corporation Water Works land could be obtained in the event of the Higher Education Committee approving the use of it as such. Miss Hadow of the Society of Oxford Home Students officiated at the prize distribution of July 1930. In her report Miss Mellor referred to the successes in the School Certificate and mentioned that two girls had been awarded grants in connection with the training departments at Oxford and Nottingham. The school had done well in Music; prizes for French had been won in the Concours Mensuels; and in Art and Gymnastics very favourable reports had been received from Nottinghamshire and the Board of Education.
The year 1931 was a relatively uneventful one. Mr. and Mrs. Moorhouse retired, after seventeen years' service, and were succeeded as caretakers by Charles and Elizabeth Richards of Whitehouses, Retford, whose services, in the event, proved of short duration. They became the tenants of 10, Pelham Road, the house which since then has been occupied by successive curators. There were three cases of scarlet fever in the Lower Third near the end of the Easter Term, and it was decided to dismiss the rest of the form for the remainder of the term.
The years between the two world wars were fraught with economic and social difficulties. The grave economic plight of the nation had its repercussions on the school, and in October of 1931 the Finance Committee met with a view to effecting such economies as were possible. One of the measures recommended by the finance committee and approved by the governors was that seven shillings and sixpence a week should be taken from the Dinner Fund "so as to effect a saving under the item 'Caretakers' Wages'." In other words part of the profits of the dinner fund was to be used to pay a portion of the caretakers' salaries.
In order to comply with the wishes of the County Authority who, possibly in the light of the economic crisis, thought the school overstaffed, the science department was reorganised. Furthermore, the school fees were increased to twelve guineas per annum, another means of alleviating, in a small way, the strain on the national economy.
The spring of 1932 saw Retford and District in the grip of a flood, and there were several eye-witness accounts in the school magazine for that year of the disruption and chaos wrought in Retford, Worksop and Arksey. To get to school from the town the girls had to go round via West Retford Church.
"The villagers of Arksey had many uncommon experiences during the recent floods in the Don Valley... At eleven o'clock each morning the 'milk boat' could be seen on its morning round. The man rowed up to the house, fastened the can of milk to the end of a long pole, and so delivered the milk to the anxious housewife who was at the bedroom window. The next 'boat' to appear was the 'provisions boat'. The provisions were delivered to the housewife in a hamper."
A paradoxical sight was the "water carrier" (although one would hardly have thought one necessary in this 'little Venice'. This man came round the village on a raft, on which he had several cans of fresh water. These cans were delivered to the people who had no hot and cold water system in their houses.
Our next eye witness tells of the flood at Worksop:
"In a very short time and almost without warning of any kind the central part of the town was flooded. Hundreds of chickens and poultry were drowned, also a number of pigs, cattle and sheep were lost. Sleepy-eyed people put on their clothes and hastened downstairs to move what furniture they could, but in some cases they were unable to rescue their belongings. In some houses bread and cakes were floating about in the water. Children were paddling in the main streets. Many kind men waded through the water to help the poor people to rescue their belongings out of the shops.
An eel was found in Ryton Street; it was thirty-three inches long and weighed thirty one pounds two ounces. This had been carried a long way by the flood water."
Not a very auspicious beginning to the year in which Worksop received its first charter.
In the spring of 1933 Miss Bond resigned her appointment through ill-health. Two other members left in the course of the year. Only one mistress was appointed in their stead. There had been, because of the general depression, another reshuffling of the staff and a reduction of staff on the mathematics side. Mademoiselle de Noirefontaine was too ill to return after the Christmas of 1933 and she was succeeded by Miss Squier. Miss Jex and Miss Duthie were at this time appointed to act as second mistresses in turn. Mr. Brunyee resigned from the governing body and Major Steele, j.p., c.c., was appointed in his place. Teachers at this juncture were forbidden, without the Headmistress's consent, to take on outside work. This regulation was designed, like so many others at this time, to keep unemployment at a minimum. The falling birth-rate, a natural corollary of the economic depression, had led to that rare phenomenon of modem times, a glut of teachers.
Meanwhile the Governors proceeded doggedly with their efforts to acquire a new playing field. They applied to the Retford Town Council, at this point, to become tenants of the land they proposed to purchase for a new games field in order to start alterations. Further they resolved to complete the purchase of the field in the next financial year.
In November of the same year there occurred two unusual events. The first was the case of a scholar who had been dismissed with the governors sanction at the end of the summer term. Her case was reconsidered at this stage but after having a detailed account of the circumstances leading to her dismissal the governors confirmed their action. The second incident was the dismissal of the newly-appointed caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Richards. A Mr. Golland, who was interviewed by one of the governors, Mr. A.P. Williamson, was in some way or an-other involved. The whole business is highly mysterious and is likely to remain one of the countless unsolved but fascinating riddles of parochial history. In December Mr. and Mrs. Percy Allen were appointed the new caretakers.
At the prize distribution on July 26th, Miss Bradshaw, who presided, mentioned two unsolicited testimonials which she had received from ladies who had been struck by the excellent work and good manners of the girls in the school. There was good news, too, of old girls. Edna Bovill had just gained her B.Sc. (London), and Mary Tate her L.R.C.P. and M.R.C.S. Sylvia Broadbery, a former headgirl, had gained an honours degree at Oxford and had started teaching at Abingdon. Sybil Peatfield had acquired a post as history mistress at Brentwood, South-port. Charlotte Nunn, who had gone to France to improve her French, had secured a most interesting temporary secretarial post which had enabled her to tour the Southern Mediterranean. The most encouraging item of news, however, was that Miss Dorothy Meade, a former pupil of Miss Arblaster's days, had been appointed Vice-Principal of Crewe Training College. The Lord Bishop of Southwell, who presented the prizes, addressed the audience on the aims and purpose of education.
There was only one visiting lecturer in the course of 1933, another result of the country's grim economic plight. In the spring term Miss Russell gave an account of the work accomplished by Mission Schools in India. She illustrated her address with slides of such buildings as the Taj Mahal and the Pearl Mosque. At the end of the summer term a mock assembly of the League of Nations Union was held in the hall, at which Miss Jex was acting president. A prominent object in the hall at the same period was a large shield, which the tennis club, for the first time in the school's history, succeeded in bringing back from the league tournament.
At a governors' meeting held in January, 1934, when the Director of Education and his understudy were present, the Director suggested that a different allocation of staff would lead to a better and more economical working. The governors concurred with the Director and agreed to give his suggestion practical form when the opportunities occurred. Mrs. King, who had been a member of the kitchen staff for some five years and who laboured from 7.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, had her wages increased from three shillings and sixpence to four shillings a day. A sub-committee was appointed, at this time, to draw up a schedule of outfit required by each child.
At the end of June the governors held their third meeting of the year to confer with Her Majesty's Inspectors and to consider what steps were to be taken in the absence of Miss Mellor who had applied for leave of absence through illness. Miss Jex was asked to act as temporary headmistress, while Miss Kerr was to be second mistress. Certain articles of school uniform were to be simplified "so as to save the pockets of poor parents, without undue sacrifice of uniformity and distinction". The governors continued to press the Higher Education sub-committee to adopt a more vigorous approach to the school playing fields, and a decision was taken to erect a pavilion thereon. In October, 1934, Miss Mellor resigned and applied for a breakdown pension. Miss Jex reported that the changes recommended by the Inspectors had (where possible) been made. Miss Carter and Miss Kahn were appointed to the staff in September, 1934.
The magazine for 1935 contained a tribute to Miss Mellor which was written by Miss Bradshaw:
"Many people will have pleasant memories of the late Headmistress. Her charm of manner, and her wide range of interests, which included animals and ancient Greek coins, were noted at once and further acquaintance revealed her high ideals and strength of character. She was delightful on a public platform, and had something suitable and original for each occasion. Everybody will rejoice to know that Miss Mellor's health is slowly improving, and will join in hoping that 'ere long she will again be doing the great work for which she is so well fitted."
Speech Day, 1934, was held on July 20th. Since Miss Mellor was unable to be present, there was no headmistress's address, but a report showing the achievements of the school in examinations, in music, in gymnastics and games was read by Miss Bradshaw. This was followed by the distribution of prizes by Major T.P. Barber, D.S.O., T.D., J.P., D.L., Chairman of the Notts County Council and Chairman of the Education Committee. A new venture was the school's own music competitions held for form and house singing. Garrett-Anderson won the House competition. In the North Notts Music competitions the school choir was first in two classes. The League of Nations Union had an extremely active year while the school hockey team had another successful season. At this time the governors were desirous that the girls should receive swimming instruction at the local baths in school hours, but the present charge of sixpence appeared prohibitive. At a later date the Baths Committee reduced their fee to three pence, and the cost was borne by the County Authorities.
The magazine contained a delightful little poem which I have taken the liberty to include:
KING ALFRED AND THE CAKES
Long, long ago there lived a King,
BEATRICE WRIGHT, Upper lila.
During the time which extended from June, 1934, when Miss Mellor was taken ill, until Miss Southam's arrival at the beginning of May, 1935, the running of the school was in the capable hands of Miss Jex. In February, 1935, seven candidates were interviewed for the vacant headship. After careful consideration Miss Eleanor Joyce Southam, second and senior English mistress at the High School, Wolverhampton, was appointed..
The War and its Aftermath
Miss Southam's first Speech Day, which she referred to as "a dragon in my path", was held on November 20th, 1935. There were, then, 281 pupils at the school, the highest total that the school had ever known. In September the school had officially severed its connection with the kindergarten which had removed to Lorne House, although it was still looked upon as the chief source of supply of the younger members. The sixth form curriculum had been widened to include art, domestic science, scripture, civics, German, biology and zoology. The school was inadequately equipped for science but two new laboratories had been promised in the Haven. Swimming had replaced one gym lesson, in the summer term, for the third forms. Miss Parker's dancing classes continued but these were not an integral part of the curriculum. They were held after school and an additional fee of ten shillings per term had to be paid. The singing in school was of a very high order and the girls brought back every honour they could claim from the North Notts Musical Festival held at Worksop. The school held the challenge cup of the North Notts Music Competition and the Worksop Guardian shield. A fete had been held in the summer on the school grounds which enabled the school to send over £55 to the funds of King George's Jubilee. The magazine published in July 1935 tells of a change in style in the school's summer frocks. "It was decided that a choice of four colours - blue, green, pink and fawn - should be allowed, that Tobralco should be the material used, and that light stockings should be worn."
The year 1936 crowned with success years of persistent endeavour by the governors to acquire adequate playing facilities for the scholars. They were rightly proud of the lovely eight-acre field with its handsome pavilion and its inspiring sense of beauty and space. Although it was not officially opened until June 16th, 1937, it was used during the winter of 1936-37 where hockey, in the words of the girls, was "already a new thing".
The school shared in the general mourning for the death of King George V by holding a short memorial service at East Retford Church on the day of the funeral. It also joined the other schools and bodies of40 the town in hearing the High Sheriff of the County read the proclamation of the accession of His Majesty King Edward the Eighth. In her annual Speech Day report Miss Southam referred to the new laboratories which it was hoped would be ready by the spring of 1937. The domestic science room could not house more than fifteen girls at once because of inadequate space, with the result that some girls who wished to offer the subject at school certificate level had to be refused. A new hall floor had been laid but what the school needed was a separate hall and gymnasium. These requirements took more than two decades to be fulfilled. Another innovation was the introduction of a secretarial course for girls who had gained their school certificate. The Old Girls' Association which had fallen into desuetude recently was revived in 1935. By 1936 it had a membership of 143 and had inaugurated two weekly classes, one for gymnastics, the other for Greek dancing.
The death of Mr. W.H. Mason was a great loss to the school. Mr. Mason had been a governor of the school since its earliest days. He attended his last meeting as an old man of eighty-nine, after recovery from a serious accident. Mrs. Otter, another of the school's governors, died in the same year. Miss Grace Barber took the place of Mrs. Long-bottom on the governing body. The growth of the school's population made possible the appointment of a geography specialist. Miss Newson joined the staff in January 1936 in this capacity.
While the abdication of Edward VII I, the coronation of George VI and the growing threat of Hitlerite Germany to the European equilibrium established at Versailles, increasingly held the nation's attention, two events of equal significance on a local level occurred at the school in 1937. These were the official openings of the science laboratories in the Haven and the new games field. On June 4th, 1937, Mr. Bulkeley, Director of Education, declared open the new biology and chemistry laboratories. This event coincided with the first Open Day in the school's history since 1906. "The sun was exceptionally brilliant for the opening, but it gradually declined when the guard of honour entered."
Of equal import was the official opening, twelve days later, of the new Sports Field. This event heralded the first Sports Day in the school's career. After a short opening ceremony on which the Mayor, Councillor Eric C. Spencer, surprised his audience by remarking that he was an "old girl" of the school, the sports began. The field was arranged in a thoroughly professional manner with its marked stands for long jumping, ball throwing and high jumping, and the course for the longer races and the background of poppies added to the attraction of the scene. At the end of the afternoon there was great excitement at the presentation of the Spencer Cup to the captain of the winning house, Garrett-Anderson.
The alterations to the Haven caused some disruption in the life of the school, and for a time Forms I and II found themselves housed at Inglehurst in the Crescent. There is an enchanting sidelight on some of the activities of the girls who found themselves temporarily moved there. To attempt to paraphrase the article in the magazine would be anathema. It is, therefore, reproduced in full:
"While the Haven was being altered, Forms I and II had lessons in part of a house called Inglehurst. We had a lovely time. Sometimes, when it was wet, Miss Fleming, who took us for games, let us play at hide and seek. We played in the bathroom, we climbed out of the form-room and cloak-room windows, and we went down into the cellar for coal. We also played at leapfrog in the cloak-room, and ran about in the form-room. Miss Cormack, our nature-study mistress, let us hang out monkey nuts and fat for the blue-tits. We also gathered horse-chestnuts and put them in a sink full of water to grow.
"Miss Fleming used to let us act for history, and once we acted the Wooden Horse of Troy. We placed chairs in a circle for Troy. Then some of the girls went inside for soldiers. We wanted a horse, so some of us climbed inside some of the low cupboards, and came out at the other end. Then we had a battle.
"Some people did not like Inglehurst, but we did!"
It's an ill wind...
During the year the school had come into touch with the life outside in various ways. It heard the proclamation of the accession of King George VI, and it added to the gaiety of the town by its Coronation decorations of roof boxes, hanging baskets, tubs of flowers and the heraldic plaque, designed and painted in the art room, which surmounted the front door. The school was honoured by being given three seats at the Empire Youth Rally, held at the Albert Hall, and at the service in Westminster Hall during the week following the Coronation. The girls who represented the school were able to communicate something of their enthusiasm in the accounts they gave on their return.
The year which saw the fateful mission of Prime Minister Chamberlain to Munich was the one in which the school celebrated its Silver Jubilee. Some of the junior members of the school thought that the celebrations would be accompanied by a coronation but their most cherished wishes were not fulfilled. It was at the beginning of the summer term that the first vague rumours of the impending celebrations began to circulate. Girls were chosen to take part in plays, mimes, mass drill, singing and the percussion band. Soon the whole school was caught up in a hectic round of preparation. Some of the scholars felt it would have been better if lessons had been abandoned.
Three days of celebrations were planned. There is a wealth of material to draw from for this episode. The Silver Jubilee number of the School Magazine devoted, as one would expect, several pages to the event. There is also a long article in "The Retford Times" of July 1st, written by Miss Jex from which I borrowed heavily. Below is a paraphrase of Miss Jex's article (which incidentally kept her up most of the night to meet the deadline).
"The jubilee celebrations began on Thursday, June 16th, with an 'Open Day' at which parents and friends were invited to see the school at work and play. Visitors were present at morning prayers and were made welcome at lessons throughout the day. In the afternoon a good number found their way to the new field where they watched the coaching and playing of tennis.
"On Friday the school gave a garden party to some six hundred visitors, among whom it welcomed Mr. Bulkeley, Director of Education, Miss Wainwright, Mr. Fenwick and Mr. Neale, all members of the County Authority, Miss Bradshaw and other members of the governing body, the Mayoress of Retford, Miss Bristol, Headmistress of Loughborough High School, and Miss Engledow, Headmistress of Newark High School. The interior of the building was beautifully decorated with flowers. Additional attractions in the hall were a wall covered with photographs kindly lent by past and present members of the school, illustrating every phase of its life, and tables on which were displayed such things as hat-bands and badges which have been superseded by those now in use. Needlework was displayed in the Domestic Science room and geographical exhibits were on view in the new Geography Room. Visitors were entertained by performances of a mime, 'The Real Princess', and a play, 'The Canterbury Pilgrims', arranged by Miss Sisling, and by a French play, 'La Grammaire' (which, incidentally, had necessitated a few detentions to lick the players into shape), produced by Miss Rowbotham.
"In the courtyard the percussion band, trained by Miss Froggatt, gave two performances, and on the field a striking display of mass drill, arranged by Miss Parker, was given by the upper forms. Visitors were entertained to tea, provided and served, as was the Old Girls' Dinner, by Messrs. G. Howard & Son.
"The guests were delighted with the appearance of the grounds, especially that of the newly-made rockery (the result of Miss Carter's and the girls' manual endeavours) with bright masses of orange and blue. The air was full of kindly inquiries, of reminiscences, and the exhilaration that comes from old acquaintances renewed.
"So far as the main school was concerned the jubilee celebrations culminated in the service of praise and thanksgiving held at the East Retford Church on Saturday morning and conducted by the Vicar of East Retford, the Rev. F.C. Harrison (assistant curate) and the Rev. C.W. Limb (Methodist Minister).
"The church had been decorated, under the direction of Miss Molly Bradshaw, an old girl, with vases of golden, blue and white flowers among green leaves, in order to bring into the service the colours chosen to represent the periods under the four headmistresses. Among the visitors were the Mayor and Mayoress, Miss Arblaster, Miss Bradshaw and other governors, and a large number of past staff and girls. The school was addressed by the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Southwell, who took as his theme the text, 'Knowledge puffeth up but love edifieth'. The address was followed by an organ voluntary played by Miss Froggatt, and during this a collection, which amounted to £14, was taken by the school prefects. The service ended with the singing of the hymn which the school looks upon as particularly its own
'Our Father by whose servant Our house was built of old.'
"The jubilee celebrations ended on Saturday night with a dinner held in the school hall for the present prefects and staff and past members of the school. One hundred and fifty-two enthusiastic guests, each wearing ribbons to indicate her period at school, sat down to the meal at tables which were decorated with flowers of the same colours. The high table was reserved for Miss Southam, Miss Arblaster, Miss Bradshaw, members of Miss Arblaster's staff and early pupils of the school, and at the other tables were representatives of every generation."
The words of Miss Jex admirably epitomise the impact of the celebrations on all those who participated in them -
"To those outside the school the three days' celebrations brought a revelation of widely different activities carried on with enthusiasm and skill. To those connected with it in the past they gave evidence of harmonious developments along lines laid down by the founders and to the present generation they were an encouragement to go still further."
That the school has many friends was manifested during the year by the gifts it received to mark the occasion. Miss Bradshaw presented the school with four beautifully-made comfortable teak seats which ever since have been especially appreciated by the less energetic scholars and by weary school certificate examinees in intervals between papers. The generosity of old girls and past members of the staff provided the school with dignified oak platform furniture, three chairs, a table, reading desk and honours board. Miss Southam's staff, past and present, thought that an 'infallible' clock would meet a need, and gave an electric one in the form of an oak panel with bronze figures and hands. In spite of its being struck by lighting it did not follow the bad example of every other clock in the building and stop. The Mayor and Mayoress of Retford (Councillor B. and Mrs. Brammer) gave the school a sundial to be fixed near the rockery, and Councillor G.H. Haslam of Worksop, whose three daughters had passed through the school, presented a silver challenge cup for junior tennis.
The Inspectors' report gave a comprehensive picture of the school on the eve of World War II, with regard to the buildings, the staff and pupils. Attention was drawn to deficiencies in the school premises, in particular to the need for a gymnasium and for improvement in the kitchen and heating systems. The governors were congratulated upon the successful appointment of Miss Southam and upon "the spirit of service with which she had undertaken her task". Under her direction the staff had worked harmoniously and their response to her cairn firmness was a proof of their loyalty and enthusiasm. The pupils were "self-reliant and unselfconscious". As many of them, by bicycle, 'bus and train, travelled long distances daily in all weathers they needed to possess confidence and produced the impression that they were responsible and capable. The school had an established position and was an educational centre for girls coming from a wide area. The report concluded by remarking on the revision of organisation by the new Headmistress who was experimenting to meet the needs of her pupils, and upon the "quiet happiness about the school" - no mean tribute.
The school continued its charitable works and when the slender edifice of peace, established at Munich, was shattered by the annexation of Czecho-Slovakia, the school contributed £10 in pennies to the Mayor's fund for the Czech people. The head girl had been chosen to propose a vote of thanks on behalf of the children of the town to Mrs. Brammer when she opened their part of the park.
The school had recently added to the pleasantness of Retford by replanning its garden. A herbaceous border now ran at the foot of the terrace wall. The old cinder dump had been transformed into rose-beds, while a rockery and girls' gardens were beginning to make a patch of colour at the far end of the field. This effort was largely the result of Miss Carter's endeavours, whose planning, supervising and hard manual labour had made the garden into a thing of beauty. The stone for the rockery had been quarried by boys of Haggonfields Council School, near Worksop. Another constructional alteration had been the clearing of the site of what was traditionally known as "Ostick's Cottage". The committee had purchased Clyde Villa and approved plans for rebuilding the kitchens and for the expansion of staff accommodation but the growing expenditure on rearmament made it extremely unlikely that many of these schemes would be executed in the near future.
The school had, thanks to the generosity of parents and girls, recently purchased a radiogram, and experiments had been made with broadcast lessons. The games field seemed to have worked wonders, for the hockey team had reached the finals of the league tournament. New ground was broken during the year when the school met the King Edward VI school in debate. The girls were not at all downhearted at being defeated and hoped they would have other opportunities to cross swords. The lost property problem had become so acute that for persons with unmarked belongings a fine of a halfpenny had been imposed.
The death of Mrs. H. Spencer on July 8th, deprived the school of one of its oldest and best friends. As a member of Miss Arblaster's staff in the old buildings on London Road, Mrs. Spencer's connection with the school went back to its very beginnings, and her interest in it had remained undiminished ever since. Later, when she married and settled down in the town, she took a pride in watching the progress of her two sons, Eric and Rupert, as they made their way through the kindergarten that was then attached to the school. It was peculiarly fortunate that it was in the year of her husband's mayoralty that the new school building was opened, and Mrs. Spencer, as Mayoress, was surely the right person to preside at the function. In recent years her ties with the school had become stronger than ever for she had become a governor and had a grand-daughter at school.
In the Spring Term of 1939 a second debate was held with the Grammar School and, using the talent which had revealed itself at two practices, the school was able to defeat the boys. At the same time two Dramatic Clubs were started, the junior one being open to girls in the thirds and fourths, its senior partner to girls in the upper school. During the summer term a party of girls spent the weekend at Ravenstor in Derbyshire, on a field course. On their first night there the girls were sent to bed at 10.15 p.m. but few managed to sleep, and those that did were awakened by Miss Newson, who was prowling round because one member talked in her sleep!
In 1940 another old and valuable link with the school was broken. This was severed by the death of Matthew Whate, loyal Clerk to the Governors of the school for thirty-six years. He had retired just before Christmas, 1939, when the Governors and Staff had held a little reception in his honour, and at which they bade him farewell. It was sad to hear of his death following so swiftly in the new year. Two new members (who were destined to remain a long time) joined the staff in 1940. They were Miss Pulley who came from St. Swithun's School, Winchester, and Mrs. B.E.A. Jones, who only this year left for America to join her two daughters there.
The impact of the 1939-45 war was much greater on the school than that of 1914-18. There was, because of the paper shortage no magazine between 1940 and 1946, nor was there at this time an annual speech day. Recourse has therefore had to be made to Miss Jex, whose admirable memory has provided us with the following reminiscences of the war years ...
It is odd to think that more than a whole school generation never knew the school in its normal state and odd too that it should need a real effort of memory to recall exactly what life was like between 1939 and 1945. This account will probably be very patchy and incomplete. Before war was actually declared preparations had been made for defence against its air raids and gas-masks had been issued. Towards the end of the summer holidays teachers belonging to schools scheduled for evacuation were summoned to their posts to be ready for departure and members of our staff who had enough accommodation were sent for to be on the spot to receive staff from the school which had been allotted to us and to help with the billeting of the girls. The Allerton High School, Leeds, became our 'vackies', and staff and town housewives rejoiced in the name of 'billet mothers'. The Leeds girls were billeted as near to school as possible so that they might work in the first and last shifts of the four which were organised. Because some of our own girls had to be at Retford long before our shift, a room at the Denman Library was placed at our disposal and staff met them there. We had no break during the morning and had only an hour for dinner. Gas masks had to be carried all the time and we had to be prepared to go to the shelters on the field, for which a row of lovely laburnum trees had been sacrificed. I remember only once going to the shelters on a genuine alarm, but this may have happened more often.
The first summer term was prolonged until August 16th, and the holiday lasted a fortnight, which was much welcomed since the Whitsun holiday had been cancelled owing to the rapid advance of the Germans through Holland. We did, however, indulge in a little variety for we spent three weeks before breaking-up organising many non-academic activities, such as classes in craftwork, Esperanto and puppet-making, exhibitions of local geography and ancestral history, concerts and dramatics. Staff relaxed by running a class in Greek dancing, having a play-reading society and joining the Leeds mistresses during their stay in a craft class. They needed some fun since in addition to school work they acted as air-raid wardens, first-aid helpers, ambulance drivers and fire-watchers, as well as officers of the Girls' Training Corps. School housed an A.R.P. post, first in the stokehole and then in the cellars of Clyde Villa.
The invasion from Leeds lasted only until Christmas 1939. The Leeds girls thought they were safer in their school and homes on the outskirts of their city than in our school and billets which were near the only part of Retford of military importance, the railway, and we had just over a term on our own. In June, 1940, however, came Great Yarmouth High School, accompanied to our surprise by a convent, also from Yarmouth, which had been allowed to use the evacuation train but had mistakenly thought it might use our building. It moved into West Retford Hall after a struggle for life in our dining room. Once again we worked in shifts and shared school happily until 1944. We enjoyed Yarmouth's productions of plays, especially their "Pride and Prejudice", the bright dresses of which remain in the memory, for soon after this it was impossible to buy lengths of beautifully-coloured materials for next to nothing from Clark's Dyeworks. Dramatic performances at the Gram-mar School and in the town received a great fillip from the influx of talent from Yarmouth.
Agriculture, as well as culture, benefited, too. The scholars went to local farms and gathered strawberries, weeded carrots and picked potatoes. The staffs went to Hallcroft and helped to make - was it two tons - of jam.
We were very fortunate in sharing life during the war with two kindly and co-operative schools. Many friendships and some romances sprang up, and there are still close links between Yarmouth and Retford. We have our Yarmouth Memorial picture to remind us of our guests.
We were much more fortunate than many other schools which actually suffered from bombing and spent hours in air-raid shelters for examinations as well as for teaching and so we were all the more active in trying to help those in greater need than we ourselves. We knitted for the Forces, earned money to buy l'ucuries for the Army, Navy and Air Force, 'adopted' a ship or a sailor, collected money for relief funds and parcels of clothes and toys. We formed an anti-waste league; we grew vegetables on the lawn, now asphalted, of Clyde Villa. We were perhaps made more conscious of what other people suffered by the presence, just before the war, of two German girls whose families, of Jewish origin, had escaped from the persecution of Hitler. One had been saved from concentration camp or death because their street had been renamed and the proscription list on which they appeared bore, incredibly, the old address. We had during the war an evacuee from Guernsey who occasionally received letters through an 'underground' movement so that she was kept in touch with life on her occupied island. Immediately after the war we were visited by the leader of a party of Dutch children who were invited by the town, and we shared with the Grammar School a lecture from a French woman doctor who told of the sufferings France had undergone and of the heroism of those who worked in the Resistance.
The Speech Day of 1940 took on a new and deeper significance when once it was realised that the next Speech Day, far from being a certainty, would have to be postponed for an indefinite period. The outbreak of war ended any dreams the school might have had of any immediate and important building extension. Nearly all of these had to be stopped and priority had been given to the building of air-raid shelters under the playground. Otherwise all that was done was the temporary adaptation of Clyde Villa, which the committee had bought in 1939, for the use of the preparatory department. This now housed two classrooms, a small handwork room and a separate cloakroom away from the main block. For the first time it was possible to teach the preparatory department in two forms according to age and there was no waiting list. At the end of the summer term Lorne House ceased to function as a boarding establishment for the girls of the school.
The year 1940 brought further academic distinction to the school. Myfanwy Morgan won a Florence Bird Memorial Scholarship and a Revis Scholarship to Nottingham University (to read for a degree), while Eunice Baines, who was also there, had been awarded an Adult Education Scholarship for £80 a year after leaving school.
There was a record number of pupils in the sixth form and also in the school. This was partly due to the evacuees and the school population at this point had reached 346. The winter of 1940 was exceptionally severe, and the frost, snow and ice had at times reduced attendance to sixty or seventy per cent. This was a good record when we consider that the school had a travelling population of seventy per cent. That the winter was an exceptional one soon becomes apparent when one reads the magazine for that year. One girl recalls that buses did not run for a week and three days between Upton and Worksop, and so she had ten days holiday. Another scholar, who shall be nameless, was proud of the fact that, despite the inclement weather, she did not stay away from school for a single day!
Three of the girls had spent part of the summer holidays serving as members of the Auxiliary Land Army.:
"We are called at 6 a.m. Then follows a hectic scramble for the bathroom and there are three for sixty of us, and we must be down for breakfast by 6.30. After breakfast each gang of workers is taken by lorry to the farm on which they are to work. The gang with which we work has to travel twenty-one miles to the farm; thus we leave first, usually about 7 a.m. This twenty-one mile ride in a very bumpy lorry was torture at first, but we are now used to it, and in fact enjoy it. Even when we reach the farm buildings our journey is not quite over. We have then to go about two miles down a farm track, and it is very dusty, as soon as we turn down the track sixteen heads can be seen diving under macs and coats so as to keep the dust out of ears, eyes, noses and mouths.
"The work we are engaged in is potato picking. From eight o'clock until a quarter past three we work with bent backs and scorching arms under a blazing sun. At half-past ten we have a break which lasts until eleven o'clock, and at one o'clock we have another break of a quarter of an hour. During this time we eat sandwiches with dusty fingers and drink water from a bottle..
"At a quarter past three we stop work and tumble into the waiting lorry. After an hour of bumping we arrive at the hostel, with burning arms and aching backs but with a feeling of great satisfaction at having done a real day's work."
The rape of Poland by the combined German and Russian forces inspired this poem by Eunice Baines, who later married an Oxford don.
There was no Speech Day in 1941; the Headmistress therefore felt that she could not let 1942 go by without one. It is full of interest and throws considerable light on school life during the war years. Ceremonial occasions were rare, although two days were set aside for gymnastic and singing competitions. The girls had to be constantly bustled in and out of the building to procure the maximum amount of time in which to pursue their studies and so keep up the academic standard. There was little time for training the niceties of conduct. Under these trying conditions the Headmistress counselled patience and tolerance. Six girls entered university in 1941. One of these, Barbara Moore, had won an open entrance scholarship to London University and had since won two prizes at university. Bessie Williams, the Head Girl, had obtained a county senior scholarship and a state scholarship (the first since 1928) and had gone to London University with scholarships to the value of £160 and had since won a university prize, showing what could be achieved in open competition despite having to spend the last two years of their school life on short time. Emily Clay, after getting her B.Sc. at Liverpool, was doing secret research in a government laboratory. In another field, Jean Taylor was the first pupil to be awarded her L.R.A.M. teacher's diploma. Many girls joined the services and some were commissioned. Seven girls had gained full Higher Certificates and twenty-seven their School Certificates.
The school had a population of 350 and there was keen competition for admittance. Every child had a minimum of five lessons a day, on games day they had six, the games being a double compulsory period but partly outside normal shift time. All the girls preparing for public examinations got six and sometimes seven lessons daily. Early arrivals and those who had to stay late did supervised preparation. The governors had been considering a memorandum on religious education from the Education Committee and agreed to institute an inter-denominational service to be held in the Parish Church twice yearly. The first was held in December 1941. This was the origin of the church service which has become an integral part of the school calendar.
The Education Committee were able to rent Glenesk, in the Crescent, in November 1942. This was used entirely by the Great Yarmouth High School and had served somewhat to relieve the congestion at school. The girls were working as near full time as transport difficulties would allow. The half-hour later start in the morning was made up by having no mid-morning break and a shorter dinner hour. In the main school every girl had thirty-three periods of tuition per week as compared with the pre-war thirty-five. Regular class lessons ended at three o'clock. Art and craft classes, make-do-and-mend, choral, gardening and country-dancing, dramatics, French and science clubs were again formed. It was at the time of Miss Phillips' arrival in 1943 to teach physics and chemistry that the "two-sitting" dinner arrangements first came into practice. At a time when labour was almost unattainable the parents came to the rescue. A three-weekly rota had been made, one mother coming in each day, from ten till two, to help with the preparation and serving of the dinners.
There was no Speech Day in 1944, but with the termination of hostilities in the following year it became once again a regular event. In her report for 1945 Miss Southarn referred to the particular anxiety among parents of children in the preparatory department and again among girls at the top of the school who needed financial help for further training. Both these anxieties were the outcome of the Education Act of 1944 conceived by the war-time coalition government. The Act laid down a new organisation for a system of education in three progressive stages - primary, secondary and further education. Upon the local education authorities was laid the duty of providing a common curriculum up to the age of eleven and then a secondary education for all along differing lines according to the varying capacities of the pupils. Three types of secondary schools - grammar, technical and modern - were instituted. Further, fees were abolished in all schools save those which, retaining their autonomy, lay outside the Act.
Thus Retford High School became one of a group of secondary schools in the area, but it was still the only secondary grammar school for girls. Its work, curriculum and standards therefore were to remain untouched, but it would receive all its pupils at the age of eleven through the county's admission examination (the much-maligned eleven-plus) instead of partially through promotion from the school's preparatory department; and all education would be free. Though she realised that in the interests of the general scheme it must go, Miss Southam could not but regret the closing of the preparatory department which had always played such a vital role in the life of the school. It had been for the good of the pupils and the staff that some girls had entered the school at the age of nine to grow into its atmosphere and share its traditions through the whole formative period of childhood.
These changes in education coincided with the termination of war in Europe. A dual problem thus faced the school; a readjustment consequent on the Education Act of 1944 and the recovery of whatever had been partially lost through the war. The upper sixth of 1945 was the only form in school at that time who knew the value of full-time education. Still, the school maintained its academic standards and the results of 1944 compared favourably with those of earlier year. Rosemary Harris was reading for an honours degree in history at Westfield College, London, for which she had won an open exhibition. The head girl, Dorothy Kingston, won an open scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge, one of the most coveted prizes in the country. There were some notable successes among the Old Girls. Bessie Williams had gained a first-class honours degree in English and had won the George Smith Research Studentship. Old Girls of the school had served with the Forces in Mrica and Europe, on the high seas and in ack-ack coastal batteries at home. The nurses abroad had followed closely the armies and shared the thrills and discomforts of the early days of invasion. The school was represented at the Yalta conference and had played a part in secret research work on materials for war supply.
At this time the school was doing a good deal to foster interest and acquire skill in the various optional classes to which one period a week was devoted for as many as possible, within the limitations of time and space. These classes covered a variety of interests from puppetry to pure drama, from recorder playing to toy-making, from gardening to singing. One of the most thriving clubs in school at this time was a new one founded by Miss Leonard in 1944. This was the Current Events Society started in affiliation with the Council for Education in World Citizenship.
In March 1945 the school 'adopted' a merchant ship, the S.S. "Lansdowne Park". On May l2tth, 1945, it entered Tromso Harbour; the first British ship to do so since the outbreak of war. While in Tromso the captain of the ship introduced the school to its Norwegian counterpart there and many interesting letters and photographs were exchanged. The school also received letters from the High School in Hamina, Finland, where the ship also called.
The school was at this point the recipient of several generous gifts. Foremost among them was the gift of thirty guineas from the parents, girls and staff of the Yarmouth High School, to endow an annual prize. This was the origin of the Yarmouth Commemoration Prize.
The school in 1945 had a pupil population of 385 of whom thirty were in the sixth form. These large numbers and the aftermath of war involved it in some difficulties. The school teams could still play only a few matches and many classroom necessities were in short supply. The blackout, however, had gone, and parts of the building were already redecorated. Winter uniforms were still the order of the day the rationing of clothes throughout the war years and after had made it quite impossible to insist on a summer and winter rig-out.
It was in the summer of 1946 that the first magazine since 1940 appeared. Even then its length was curtailed to forty-four pages. Its first task, a sad one, was to record the death of Miss Arblaster in June 1946. Miss Bradshaw paid tribute to her memory.
"It is not easy to be a Headmistress, and still less easy when it means creating traditions and providing atmosphere. In both these tasks Miss Arblaster achieved great things, and there are women doing good work in the world today who remember with gratitude and affection her wise guidance and understanding sympathy."
The magazine contains a calendar of events for the academic year, 1945-46. In September a meeting was held of representatives of the Education Committee, H.M. Inspectors, Governors and architect to discuss building alterations. A month later the school's dramatic society under the supervision of Miss Newson and the stimulus of Miss Leonard, produced most successfully J.M. Barrie's play, "The Admirable Crichton". The part of Mr. Treherne, a clergyman, was taken by Sheila Burgess, who later taught at the school as Mrs. Price. Diana Harris maintained the tradition of the last three years by winning an Open History Exhibition to Royal Holloway College, London.
Old Girls continued to bring distinction to the school. Jean Simpson, a student at the Royal Academy of Music, won the S. Wray Scholarship for singing and was awarded a Notts County Special Scholarship. Betty Preston was appointed to a post under the Colonial Office for food research in Rhodesia, and Patience Lang, at the age of twenty-one, was appointed principal of a dairying college in the Transvaal. The repeated successes of old girls were an indication that the school continued to lay a good foundation for a variety of enterprises as in the days of its founder Miss Arblaster.
A visit of some interest in 1946 was that of Miss Southam, Miss Carter and two girls of the upper sixth to Boston to study the salt marshes. Two girls of the school, Ruth Meadows and Mary Warringron, were members of the Notts team that reached the semi-final in the B.B.C.'s Spelling Championship. For the first time the school sent senior and junior teams to compete in the Notts County Rounders Association's Tournament on July 12th. The Retford teams won both tournaments, returning without having lost a single match. In the Lincolnshire Music Festival competitors from the school took first, second and third places and brought home a silver trophy, while in the Retford Youth Book Week competitions, all but three of the prizes went to the school.
The Current Events Club continued to thrive. The Society's activities were not, however, merely confined to its members. Others of the school had been able to benefit from lectures and the whole school united in collecting for the C.E.W.C's restoration fund. A Garden Fete and Social were held and the juniors showed their initiative by holding jumble sales and doing odd jobs. Over two hundred pounds were raised and handed to the Polish Government to assist in the rebuilding of a Polish school.
There were, as usual, changes on the staff, and the governing body. Miss Carnelley left at the end of the summer term, while the Governors of the school lost much-valued assistance during the course of the year by the departure to Devonshire of the Rev. Denis James, by the death of Alderman Hunt and the resignation of Mrs. Garrett. The Governing body remained incomplete, at this time, pending the receipt of its new constitution under the 1944 Act. Mr. Knott resigned his post as Clerk to the Governors and was replaced by Mr. Gomer, who had administered the education of the borough for some years past.
The Speech Day of 1947 was the first to be held in the Town Hall since 1943. Plans were afoot to enlarge and transform the school into a three instead of a two-form entry catering for both grammar and technical education, where girls would be fitted not only for entry into the professions but for the highest administrative posts in commerce, industry or domesticity. To date these plans have not matured. The general course for sixth formers which the Headmistress spoke of in 1946 was now under way and provided opportunities for girls to study local industry and public utilities at first hand. There were other changes in the air for the schools' public examination system was still under review
The school's ties with the Royal Holloway College, London, were particularly strong at this period and continuity was maintained in 1947 when Enid Flinders and Mary Harrison were accepted to read for degrees in Chemistry and French respectively. Mary had obtained an Open Exhibition to which she subsequently added a County Senior Scholarship. Sheila Burgess, also, won a County Senior Scholarship. Two such awards in one year was a record for the school. Two old girls, Peggy McIntosh and Bessie Williams, who had obtained their degrees recently, were appointed to the staffs of Reading and London University respectively.
The winter of 1946-47 was, like the present one, particularly severe and things were not improved by a coal crisis in January and February. Despite these adverse climatic and economic conditions the school managed to present a production of "The Merchant of Venice". The Current Events Club continued its philanthropic work. The end of the Christmas term saw its members active in preparing parcels for the children of Europe. The club itself managed to get together a food parcel of rationed goods and thanks to the co-operation of the school it was able to send three or four large cartons of goods to be distributed in various parts of the Continent.
The Old Girls' Association which had fallen into decline as a result of the war years was active again and two meetings were held in 1948. In January there was a social evening which was very well attended by Old Girls, Staff and Sixth Form. This was most gratifying as it was the first meeting held for a considerable time. The second activity was in June when the Old Girls' tennis and rounders teams played against the school.
Early in 1948 the Governing Body of the school was reconstituted, in accordance with the requirements of the enactment of 1944. Miss Bradshaw was asked to continue as chairman, a post she had held for the past twenty-one years. She decided, however, that the time had come for her to relinquish the office and the school had reluctantly to accept her decision. Miss Bradshaw's interest in the school dated from 1912 when she was one of the original shareholders who founded the private High School for Girls, which subsequently became the County High School. From that day she had been a member of the Governing Body and its Chairman since 1926, and the school had had the benefit of the sterling qualities, the wisdom, the selfless courage and the shrewdness of judgement that made up her personality. To commemorate her long years of devoted service it was decided to ask Miss Bradshaw if she would allow the school to name the new house that was about to be formed "Bradshaw House", and also that she would permit a portrait photograph of herself to hang in the school hall.
Fortunately, Miss Bradshaw's place was taken by another person of similar qualities, Mrs. M.E. Williamson, j.p., who over the last fifteen years has rendered the school sterling service. Mrs. Williamson had been a governor since 1941 and had already proved her ability in the service of the town. An honours graduate of London University, she came to her office with a lively interest in the educational needs of the town, and also with the practical experience of teaching, and the trained mind of the historian.
The school in 1948 had gone on to a six-day time-table instead of the normal five. In recent times recourse had often been made to dinner-hour and after-school lessons, especially for the few seniors who specialised, and the strain of this expedient combined with longer terms was already beginning to have a marked effect. Again, for a good many girls the six-day week meant the opportunity to take part in some of the school clubs the majority of which were now held, at least partially, within school hours. Hitherto, when clubs had been held after school, many of the girls with buses and trains to catch could not possibly participate. Finally, the six-day week made it possible, for the first time since the games field had been at Ordsall Road, to arrange regular team practices.
The senior choir had now been augmented by a junior one which naturally fed its older partner as the years went by. Both choirs practised regularly out of school hours. In the summer, the school, through its clubs and practical subjects, assisted in the Rural Science Exhibition held in the north of the county. The school's contribution included physical training, a marionette show, choral speech, piano playing, art and needlework, and demonstrations of scientific experiments.
Jean Simpson won the Annie E. Lloyd Exhibition for the best third year student at the Royal Academy of Music.
It was in 1948 that Miss Kerr completed her twenty-first year at the school. She was shortly followed by Miss Parker in 1949, who unfortunately when she should have received the congratulations of the school, was absent through illness.
Three athletic records were broken during the summer; two by scholars, the other by an old girl. With a high jump of 4 ft. 6in. Gloria Flinders broke by l.5 in. the senior record set up in 1939 by Barbara Castle. Audrey Shaw did the same for Division 3, her jump of 4 ft. 3 in. breaking Mary Paxton's previous record of4 ft. 2 in. in 1941. The third distinction was won by Dorothy Hawkesworth, who had entered the W.A.A.F. to become a physical training instructors. As a member of the W.A.A.F. athletic team she had broken the existing long jump record with a distance of l4ft. 1012 in.
The academic record of the old girls continued to prosper. Emily Clay was awarded her M.Sc. degree in Zoology at Liverpool University. A high honour fell to Bessie Williams who was awarded her London M.A. in English with a mark of distinction for her thesis. Jane Walker, after taking her B.Sc., secured a post in a coffee research station in Kenya, and was made a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. Jean Simpson added two prizes to her list of musical honours.
The school profited during the year from several new experiences. One of the most profitable was that of the five girls who attended Flat-ford Mill Field Centre for a week's study under the auspices of the Council for the promotion of field study. Another visit was made by seven girls escorted by Miss Salter, to the home in Normandy of Mrs. Ortzen, a former member of staff, where they had a wonderful welcome and splendid opportunities of improving their French. Those who attended the C.E.W.C. Christmas Conference at the Central Hall, Westminster, were privileged to hear among other speakers Sir Stafford Cripps and Professor Gilbert Murray. Miss Carter was selected as one of a small party of British science teachers to take part in a Norwegian holiday during the summer vacation.
The school's population at this time was more heterogeneous than ever. There were, besides the usual mixture of one third Retford, one third Worksop and one third rural, nine girls who were boarded out in the town and whose homes were in Nottingham or even further afield. These were girls who had passed their eleven-plus examination but because of the post-war congestion could not be placed in grammar schools in their own localities. They were boarded in the town and went home at the weekends. Eight more girls had joined the school at the third-year stage as the result of the special transfer examination, and six others at the top of the school as a result of the closure of the Rural Pupil Teachers' centre at Sutton-in-Aslafield.
Certain alterations had been carried out during the year. The new staff room was "a real joy" and the kitchen extensions were most welcome. It was awkward to have to dose the canteen during these alterations but meals were provided by the central kitchens during this time. The provision of new staff cloakrooms enabled the school to have a small sick-bay. There was, however, still a good deal that was needed in the way of additions.
The year 1949 was the last of the School and Higher School Certificates. After 1950 the new General Certificate of Education was to come into operation. To take full advantage of the new scheme the school needed additional staff and accommodation. Fortunately, during the course of the year, Clyde Villa had been decorated and put into commission. It provided extra cloakroom space, a good north-west room and small division rooms. The most pressing need, however, was for adequate library facilities.
There were changes on the governing body during the year. The school lost an old friend in the death of Alderman Brammer, and another in the retirement of Miss Barber. Their places were filled by Mrs. J.C. Teasdale and Mrs. Foljambe. For the staff it had been a difficult year. There had been a good deal of illness and a bigger than usual quota of changes. It was at this juncture that Miss Parker, after a year's illness, decided that she must give up her post and retire from teaching. Her influence on every part of the school, throughout her twenty-one years of service, had been incalculable and her friends in the school felt that their gift of a cheque to her on her retirement was only a very small token of their gratitude for her splendid work. Another member of staff, who had been ill since the middle of the summer term and like Miss Parker had missed her twenty-first birthday in school, was Miss Crowther. Miss Jex, who also completed her twenty-one years service, was of tougher fibre and had survived the ordeal! (New members of staff joined the school in September. They were Mrs. Powell, Miss Wild, Miss 0. Jones and Miss Layland.)
The guest speaker at Speech Day in 1951 was Dr. K. Anderson, Headmistress of the North London Collegiate School and a college friend of Mrs. Williamson, who gave a most stimulating and interesting account of the history of girls' education, drawing on racy tales of her own school in the days of its famous founder, Miss Buss. The old girls continued to add to their academic record. Joan Stanyard won one of Lord Kemsley's travelling scholarships to Switzerland during the summer. Kathieen Bullock was in her way a pioneer, for she was the first girl from the school to train in orthoptics. Avril Knott whilst reading for her French degree also won two unusual distinctions, a rowing blue and a fencing half-blue of London University. Marion Brough, another old girl, had obtained her B.A. with first-class honours in Latin at Sheffield.
The school had for the first time since 1938 a sixth form secretarial course which gave to the girls, who were not academically inclined but capable of benefiting from a longer stay at school, a chance of technical training and general education combined with the advantage of grammar school sixth form life. It was a real stroke of good fortune that sent Mrs. Hocken, who undertook the work of training the girls on these lines, along at the right moment.
There was news at this time of an old girl who had found a most interesting career for herself. This was Beryl Smith who was assistant librarian to the World Health Organisation at Geneva where she found that "meeting people of many nationalities is one of the most absorbing things about life".
The death of Miss Bradshaw on March 21st, 1951, was a grievous blow. Her association with the school had lasted a lifetime. She was one of the founder-governors, chairman for twenty-one years, and finally, vice-chairman until her death. "Her personality", wrote Miss Southam in the Magazine for that year, "was unique; a blend of valiant fighting spirit with a quiet serenity; a shrewd sense of humour and a tolerant gentleness and sympathy; the scholarly mind, with the realist's approach to practical problems of human life and behaviour". At the funeral service the school was represented by a group of staff and prefects, among them the head girl and captain of Bradshaw House. Another distressing item of information was the news that Miss Crowther would be unable to resume her work at the school. Although her health had improved, she was still not strong enough to teach. Her resignation was a serious loss to the school.
The school was honoured during the year 1951-52 when Mrs. Williamson, Chairman of the Governors, was elected the first woman mayor of Retford. Two new appointments were made in 1951 to the governing body. They were Mr. Rowland and Mrs. Gover. Jean How-gate, who had received her entire musical training in school, became a gold medallist of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music during her last year at school. Both Jean and Ruth Aaronberg were awarded their L.R.A.M. diplomas while still at school. Not without reason, then, did Miss Southam in her report refer to the strong music tradition in the school which Miss Pulley and Mrs. Jones had built up over the years.
In September, 1952, for the first time, a student from the French Ministry of Education joined the school. This excellent arrangement has continued ever since. A great loss was caused by the retirement in August of Mr. and Mrs. Allen, caretaker and cook-supervisor. They had been faithful friends of the school for nineteen years and had served it with loyalty and affection. Mr. Allen had been much more than a mere caretaker, while Mrs. Allen had seen the kitchen and its services grow from a small private concern in which she did all the cooking to a large unit of the County Meals Service with herself at the head of a big and frequently changing staff. They were replaced by Mr. and Mrs. Otter who found no difficulty in fitting into the pattern of school life.
The year 1953 which saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, was the one in which Miss Southam retired. After eighteen years of unstinted service to the school, she left at the end of the spring term to begin her retirement. During her time as Headmistress Miss Southam had widened the scope of the school's activities in many new directions, transformed it into a place of beauty, provided, by her efforts, greater facilities for geography and science, shown a serenity of manner in the face of stress and strain, particularly during the war years, and stimulated both staff and pupils to give of their best by the personal interest she manifested in all around her. In the words of Mrs. Williamson, She kept her attention focussed upon the unchanging end of education what the Greeks called simply 'the good life' and herself remained the quiet centre of what was, in consequence, a very happy and vigorous community."
The Last Decade (1952-63)
Miss Southam's successor was Miss M.M. Townsend, B.A., L. es L., who became Headmistress of the school at the commencement of the Easter Term 1953. Under her tolerant guidance the school has continued in the traditions of its founders. Earlier in this account I have described the school as a living organism. Here the analogy can be extended a little further. At forty years of age the new school had reached maturity, capable of adapting itself to the vicissitudes of change, both material and spiritual. Under the able guidance of the present Headmistress it has certainly proved its capacity in this respect, adding in the process to its sum total of experience and achievement.
In 1953 for the first time choirs from schools throughout the county rehearsed a common programme of songs, and in May met together for a morning of rehearsal under the guidance of Dr. Armstrong of Christ Church, Oxford, before the first Southwell Music Festival, held in the cathedral. Later in the year the first joint concert with the grammar school was held: a project which proved highly successful. The school also joined in the ambitious Festival of the Queen's Music organised by the County Education Committee in honour of the Queen's Coronation, and the fourth form choir spent days and nights touring the county.
The Hockey 1st XI, backed by the energy and enthusiasm of Miss Boyd, was unbeaten by any school and fell victim only to more experienced teams from Eaton Hall and the Retford Ladies' Club. The first tennis VI, too, beat all comers at its own age.
Following fast on Miss Southam's departure came the appointment of Miss Leonard as Headmistress of Wisbech High School. Mr. Tomlinson, who for seventeen years was groundsman at the school playing field, retired at the end of the summer term.
At the Christmas carol service a group of violinists accompanied some of the carols. Girls from the school joined in for the first time in a musical venture with the boys of the grammar school, and presented a joint production of "The Mikado". This was a welcome addition to the activities shared by the two schools. One of the most exciting events at Sports Day that year was the senior high jump competition won by Judith Clay whose winning leap of five feet nine inches broke the existing school record.
The most consistently interesting section of the magazines is that which relates to the activities of Old Girls. The year 1954 is no exception. Old Girls of the school were to be found in the four corners of the world. Jane Walker was in Kenya, where the Mau-Mau terrorists were in full-cry, doing research into the behaviour of sheep ticks. Patience Lang had been appointed assistant lecturer in rural science at Lincoln College, Christchurch, New Zealand. Mary Hale was teaching history and Latin in Toronto, Canada, and Joan Bing was a missionary in India. Nearer home, Sybil Peatfield, a pupil of Miss Arblaster's, had been appointed Headmistress of Stoke Damerel High School, Devenport, while Barbara Keal, another Old Girl, had become an Independent member of the Retford Borough Council, in the recent local government elections.
In may 1955 the school was the host of Her Majesty's Inspectors, who "not only invaded the classrooms but, as unseen presence from the vantage point of the library, watched with eagle eye the comings and goings across the courtyard". In their report on the work of the school they emphasised the crying need for an adequate library.
In spite of a very wet season the hockey first eleven played thirteen matches, losing only to Newark High School and the school's own Old Girls, while the second eleven ended the season with a succession of wins. In the inter-school swimming competition held at Lincoln the school was proud that their team competing against five others was placed first. As a result of her previous year's achievements, Cherry Suttle had in October, 1954, represented the Midlands in the National Swimming Trials. For the first time for some years girls had entered for the Royal Life Saving Society Association's Bronze Medal and the eight who entered were all successful.
In 1955 the senior girls decided that they would prefer the Sports run entirely as a House activity. This meant the disappearance of the senior and junior Victrix Ludorum awards. On Sports Day, in spite of the unaccustomed heat, or perhaps because of it, three of the school's athletic records were broken. Jean Thompson set up a new record for the intermediate high jump with a height of 4ft. 5 in. and also broke the long jump record with a jump of 15 ft. 4~ in. Sarah Page broke the junior broad jump record with a jump of 7ft. 3~ in. Margaret Sheppard, as in 1954, was again chosen to ran for the county in the National Championships.
In 1955 Mr. Underwood who had been a member of the governing body for eighteen years retired at the age of ninety. Three new governors Mr. W.A. Robinson, Mrs. V.J.S. Vickers and Mrs. E. Wilson were appointed during the year. Thanks to a generous bequest by the late Alderman Clay, who was for many years a member of the governing body, the school in 1956 had in addition to the Yarmouth Commemoration Prize a second scholarship which would be awarded annually to a girl going on to further training. A reading competition, the prizes for which were kindly presented by Mrs. Williamson, was introduced as a part of the school life at this point, to emphasise the value of clarity of expression.
Another innovation in 1956 was the Parents' Association, which provided, and continues to provide, a close tie between home and school. The Association has grown over the years and gives an opportunity for parents and staff to discuss the merits or demerits, the strength or weakness, of the girls. The size of the membership and of the meetings shows the eagerness of parents to help their daughters in every possible way. Closely allied with the foundation of the Parents' Association was the Leavers' Fund, and the school benefited by a cheque for library books from the Parents' Association.
The school held an Open Day in 1956 when, in addition to seeing some of the work of the children, watching a puppet play, a mannequin parade and a gymnastic display, parents were entertained to a concert in which the school orchestra made its first public appearance. Among the general activities of the year, pride of place must certainly be given to the production of "Lady Precious Stream", the school's first production for five years.
The autumn term of 1955 witnessed the birth of a new society, the Inter-Sixth Form Society, consisting of members of both the High School and Grammar School. Its purpose was to provide for the healthy enjoyment of leisure, to further the interest of education and culture, and to promote social friendship. At Christmas two enjoyable and profitable evenings were spent carol singing and the sum of eleven guineas was sent to a West Mrican leper colony.
Rain marred the proceedings at Sports Day but not before Josephine Bell broke the school's broad jump record with a distance of 7 ft. 7 in. The previous record was 7 ft. 3A in. The school's swimming team, once again, came first of five schools competing in the inter-schools contest at Lincoln.
The desperate need for mathematicians and the increasing importance of the subject in the study of the allied sciences enabled Mr. Taylor to join the staff in 1957 and relieve the hard-pressed mathematics and science staff. Mr. Taylor, incidentally, was the first permanent male member of the staff at the school, although shortly after the war a Mr. Wright had for a term stood in temporarily for Miss Leonard during her illness. The courage of these two gentlemen must not go unrecorded. The appointment of Mr. Lloyd as teacher of wood-wind in the county enabled a group of girls to begin learning the flute, oboe and clarinet. Miss Salter, who had joined the staff in 1947 and had been senior mistress during the last four years, left in 1958 to take up the headship of Durham High School.
The Parents' Association continued to flourish and the numbers of parents who attended the terminal meetings were indicative of the keen interest most parents took in their daughters' education. This year the school was especially grateful to the Association for its generous offer of five prizes, its gift of expensive books to the library and for the fayre it organised in June, whereby over £100 was raised for the Library Fund.
In the autumn of 1956 when the Hungarian tragedy shocked the world the girls' response to the needs of the refugees was splendid. Dinner-time bring and buy sales, biscuits made by the girls and sold at break, hastily rehearsed concerts and finally the collection at the school service enabled the school to send £75 to the Lord Mayor's Fund. In quite a different way the 'bus strike showed both the character of the girls and the support of the parents. Apart from two or three girls, who made this an excuse to prolong the summer vacation, everyone seized the opportunity to show her spirit. Groups of girls from the country cycled long distances, one contingent caught a train at seven o'clock in the morning, leaving to catch the only train back at 1.52 p.m., while one girl was even ready to do her seven mile journey on her pony.
The school continued to share its extra-curricular activities with the Grammar School. Despite the cramped conditions and the absence of some of the actors with Asian 'flu, Miss Newson and her company of fourth and sixth formers triumphed in their presentation of "A Cradle Song", a production which gained much from the boys who took part. Later in the year the school reciprocated by providing the necessary feminine talent for the King Edward VI School's revue, "Out to Play".
Two girls had brought honour to the school in a novel form. They were Christine Marsh and Pat Woodward, both of whom had been awarded distinctions for the poems they entered in the Nottinghamshire Society's Competition. The two poems appear below.
I reach up through the burning sky
The taste of joy upon my lips
I stoop and drink and grow incensed,
The ecstasy I lived is gone
PATRICIA WOODWARD, IV (Bradshaw)
COMPOSED UPON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE, 1958
(with apologies to Wordsworth)
Earth has not anything to show more base.
CHRISTINE MARSH, IV (Bradshaw)
Heavy rains led to the postponement in 1958 of Sports Day. Fortunately on the second attempt the weather proved more propitious and Anne Hollis was able to break the javelin record with a distance of 65 feet.
There was no Magazine for 1959. The printing strike and the internal upheavals at the school were the reasons for its non-appearance. The narrator has therefore to rely on the Headmistress's Report and his own rather faulty memory for a chronicle of events during the year. From January 1st, 1959, to the end of the year and extending into 1960 the life of the school was dominated by the noise of the bulldozer, the concrete-mixer and the pneumatic-drill while the builders gave practical expression to the plans for the new extensions. This resulted in several new additions; a new library and domestic science room, an assembly cum-dining-hall, a kitchen, a physics laboratory, a gymnasium, needlework and geography rooms. However, in spite of the noise and distraction, the examination results for 1959 were exceptionally good.
At Christmas 1958 Mrs. Hocken who had been responsible for the training of the commercial sixth, moved with her family. Her departure, combined with the development of a post-G.C.E. commercial course at the Worksop Technical College, was the virtual end of the commercial sixth. Thanks to the combined efforts of Mrs. Horrocks, Mr. Watson, Mr. Lloyd and Miss Pulley the orchestra became a reality of string and wood-wind. For the first time girls were sufficiently skilled to play in the orchestra in addition to those singing in the choir for the Southwell Festival.
By the middle of 1960 the building programme had been completed. In the Magazine of that year Barbara Urien recalled in verse the alterations to the old building, the frustration and the chaos which ensued during the period, although the changes were not as cataclysmic as she then, only in her second year, suspected.
THE FALL OF THE SCHOOL
Right in the middle of a busy town
Nevertheless, in spite of the mess,
Plaster fell off every ceiling and wall
A few months later the staff were all grey
BARBARA URIEN (Bronte, 1960)
Another pupil, Jane Mawby, mourned the loss of the covered way joining the school and the Haven.
EPITAPH FOR THE COVERED WAY
0, here it was, but is no more,
JANE C. MAWBY (Clough, 1959) 64
World Refugee Year began in the middle of the reconstruction period. Nevertheless the girls raised £212 for this worthy cause and it was a proud day for the school when Wendy Pick, the Head Girl, handed over a cheque for this amount to the Mayor of Retford.
At the inter grammar school swimming sports at Lincoln the school tied for first place with South Park High School. Anne Smith, one of the most promising girl sprinters in the school's history, was chosen to run for the county. Several girls entered for a national art competition and had their work hung in a small exhibition in London. Janet Whate designed a cover for the magazine of the County Young Farmers' Association. Anne Howard and Judith Rickett played their way to the final audition for the pianist to play a concerto with the National Youth Orchestra, and Christine Marsh was one of a group of sixteen girls chosen to represent Great Britain in Canada during the summer.
An old girl, Jane Walker, whose activities in Kenya have already been reported, was awarded her M.Sc. She was well on her way to becoming one of the world's authorities on sheep ticks and was awarded a travelling scholarship to America.
Two events stand out in the school calendar for 1961. The first of these was in the realm of scholarship. Two girls, Christine Marsh and Judith Rickett won State Scholarships. Judith had also won a place at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, to read music, while Christine went on to University College, London, to read history. This was the first time the school had had a state scholar since 1941. The governors awarded them jointly the Alderman Clay Scholarship. Mrs. Williamson brought further distinction to the school by becoming the first woman Alderman of the Borough of Retford.
The second event was the departure of Miss Jex, "who for thirty-two years gave to the school her scholarship, humanity and breadth of interest". During these years she had shouldered the highest responsibility without losing her interest in girls as individuals".
The school suffered another loss when on Tuesday, April 25th, 1961, Miss Southam died. She had retired in 1953 to her home in Shrewsbury. Shortly afterwards she was overtaken with ill-health against which she fought with her characteristic courage. The school had lost a good friend and she will be remembered with affection and gratitude by all those who came under her influence.
An innovation at this point was the School Council composed of the Headmistress, the Head Girl and a democratically elected member from each form. An excellent idea; the Council has solved many thorny problems with an equanimity that has earned the approval of the whole school. It was an ad-hoc, rather than a permanent expedient, designed to fill the needs of the hour. Perhaps it should become a regular feature of school life.
The year 1962 was not unlike many other years in the school's life. There were the usual successes and failures to record. Yet new furrows were ploughed, new ground was broken. Rosemary Thurlow graduated from Durham University as the first Bachelor of Law in the school's history. During the previous year Spanish was introduced into the fourth year as a choice for girls with linguistic ability, thus remedying a deficiency in the curriculum. Another remedial measure was the reintroduction of speech training, a task undertaken by Mrs. Wright, in the first and second years. The effect of such training became apparent when the Houses held their first drama competition. The experiment of entering thirteen members of the fourth form in four or five subjects at the Ordinary level of the G.C.E. proved successful. Twelve of these girls have already embarked on their sixth form courses.
The Head Girl, Carole Greaves, represented the county at the International Youth Science fortnight in London during the summer of 1961, and was offered a place to read physical science at the new University of Sussex. Rowena Prior went to Durham to read chemistry, Sheila Kirk-ham to Manchester to read physics, and Coralie Brown to Cardiff to read French.
Two girls, Susan Bishop and Margaret Howard, were chosen to attend a Student Christian Movement Camp in Finland where they met students from Kenya, Germany and Sweden as well as from Finland, and learnt something of Finnish life at first hand. During the year some £70 was collected to help the Sheffield Relief Fund, the Korean Mission, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, and the Cancer Relief Fund.
Rounders seems to be the game in which the school achieves its greatest successes. The 1962 summer season was the best for a number of years, both the under fifteen and under fourteen teams remaining unbeaten. The swimmers had another good year, retaining the inter-grammar school relay cup and winning the trophy for gaining the most points at the Notts Swimming Gala at Sutton-in-Aslafield.
Hardly a year passes without some alteration to the staff. In 1961 Miss Jex retired, this year it was the turn of Miss Kerr, who during her thirty-five years at the school had served on three occasions as senior mistress, and set the girls high standards in work and manners.
And so we come to the spring term of 1963. Two weeks after the commencement of term came the examinations for the middle and upper schools. For a time despondency reigned in the staff-room while members bemoaned the futility of their labours. There followed a short period of retribution, when errant pupils who had strayed from the path of scholarly pursuits, felt the verbal lash of academic chastisement. All, however, is serenity again, for staff and pupils have entered on a close entente-cordiale to meet the increasing demands of the forthcoming jubilee celebrations and to combat the wiles of the external examiners in the forthcoming examinations.
The School Magazine first appeared in March of 1926. Here is a picture of the first issues cover.
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