1890-1914

Miss MARY ALICE DOUGLAS, daughter of the Rev. Canon Douglas of Salwarpe, Worcestershire, was appointed by the Governors to be Head Mistress of the Godolphin School at the end of 1889 and took up office in January 1890. She had, for a few years previously, been Second Mistress and mistress of the Sixth Form in the Worcester High School, under Miss Ottley. She gives the following account of what were, in her opinion, the chief factors in preparing her for her work as Head Mistress of the Godolphin School.

I was born just too soon for its being a natural thing for my parents to send me to school and college, but I had the great good fortune of being trained by those who were doing or helping to do big things. Till I was twenty-two, home was the training ground. Parents, nurse, governess, many brothers and sisters above and below me in age, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends, these all were my teachers, and my sister Lucy shared all of them with me. Then came Alice Ottley, who made the great Alice Ottley School in Worcester, whose “children” are scattered for good all over the world. When my father came into the dining-room one day to say that there was an account of the opening of a High School for girls in Worcester, I quickly found my way to his study and said I would like to go and teach in it. He was surprised and did not look very encouraging, but the next morning, after he had departed in his dog-cart to Worcester, a telegram was handed to me, telling me to follow him forthwith to see Canon Butler (“of Wantage,” and afterwards Dean of Lincoln), and so I came into pretty close contact with a man noted for strength and kindness and a fiery eagerness for work in the service of God and man. I found him at first rather alarming with his large eyeglass and standing, as he often did, on one leg with one knee on a chair, and as a leading Governor of the new school, he told me he didn’t think there was any need for me there, but he could find me work in many parts of England. I replied that I wanted to remain at home as I had some things to do there, but I thought I could come in to the new school from Salwarpe, where we lived. Next came an invitation to stay at the Deanery, and I can never say what I owe to the Dean, Lord Alwyne Compton, who had the mind of a scholar and of an artist, and was possessed by sheer goodness and the humility which goes with a large outlook; or to Lady Alwyne, who could read French when she was six years old, and whose brilliant cleverness was equalled by her goodness and intuitive sympathy. This was shown, as far I was concerned, by writing to Miss Ottley, who had suggested the need of a secretary, that there was a “handy girl” who would be happy to help her in any way she could, and so I got into the Worcester High School. It was a wonderfully happy place for all who entered it, and there I saw a school made from the very beginning, for my work before the opening day was to mark the school dusters; and as Miss Ottley and I folded them up and arranged them with our heads together in a dark cupboard in that beautiful old Britannia House, she unfolded to me her great ideas. Soon after that I was taken on as a supernumerary to help to teach the “First Eleven,” as the eleven children who were the first to come to the new school were always proud to be called. I taught a little writing, and I turned down strips of calico and taught them to hem, and I can’t remember anything else clearly except that I felt that it would be useful to go farther with my own education, and after six months another great woman suddenly appeared. I had heard of her before, as she was a connection of my mother’s, and we had felt great interest in knowing that Constance Maynard had been one of the very earliest students of Girton. About the same time that Alice Ottley came to Worcester, Constance May­hard became the first “Mistress” of Westfield College, Hampstead and I met her soon afterwards at a garden- party given by Bishop and Mrs Walsham How. She told me all her hopes for her college as we walked up and down the paths, and after she had gone I said, “I wish I could beg, borrow, or steal, and go to that college.” I don’t think I had said so to her, but some months after­wards she wrote to my mother and offered a kind of private little scholarship if my parents would let me go to Westfield. There were only seventeen students in the house in Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, where the college began: Miss Maynard left it a great and distinguished college with its fine buildings and equipment, and affiliated to London University. The great company of old students scattered all over the world can never be grateful enough for the creation of Westfield and for their contact with Miss Maynard and Miss Richardson (afterwards Vice-Principal). Some of us, too, remember with undying gratitude the lectures given by Miss Tristram (afterwards the distinguished Educational Missionary in Japan), and Miss Gray (afterwards the first High Mistress of St. Paul’s Girls’ School), and the firm friendships made with them and with fellow-students.

I went to college very hungry for the feast of lectures spread out before me, and I tried at first to partake of ever so many things at once, but some I found had to be dropped. I was only there for little more than one year, and then returned home and was appointed to a post on the regular staff of the Worcester High School. There I remained for four and a half years till, in November 1889, I was appointed to be Head Mistress of the Godolphin School. My sister Lucy and I had been somewhat separated for a few years, but now we rejoined to work together in close companionship at Godolphin.

There is one other thing I should mention, because it was a very direct preparation for a whole-hearted response to the call which came to the school to join in the Union of Girls’ Schools for Social Service, known first as ” the Mission ” in Camberwell. Bishop Walsham How, Bishop of Bedford (East London), the first Bishop Suffragan of London, was my uncle, and a great hero in the family, and through him the names of Miss Octavia Hill, Canon and Mrs. Barnett, Toynbee Hall and the People’s Palace were familiar from my young days, and it was with eager excitement that I received the letter from Bishop Talbot asking the Godolphin School to join with other schools in supporting work in South London. An account of the U.G.S. appears in another part of the school’s record, but I cannot leave out the name of Bishop Walsham How as one of the people who, by giving his life in the service of great causes, helped so much to prepare me for trying to put ” Service ” in the forefront of the training given at the Godolphin School.

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