1926 – 1940

To write a history of Godolphin since the publication of the Bicentenary Book in 1926 is not simply to continue a story. ‘The era before 1926 belongs to the age when girls’ public schools were new phenomena. They were presided over by a number of distinguished women – of whom Miss Douglas was not the least – who were pioneers and crusaders. They were building up their schools as communities dedicated to new ideals, each school with its own particular ethos and individuality, and it may fairly be said that the nineteen-twenties saw the fulfillment of these hopes for girls’ education. The Godolphin Bicentenary celebrations in 1926 were in that context more than just the marking of an anniversary in the history of the School itself, although the participants might not have recognised that fact at the time.

It seems incredible that it is fifty years since Godolphin held up the London traffic as it made its way to Westminster Abbey to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the School. It was in the following summer that it proudly marched through the streets of Salisbury joining in a procession celebrating the 700th anniversary of the granting of its Charter to the City.

The Bicentenary year was marked by many fresh developments in the School’s history. It saw the publication of the first number of the Magazine under the joint editorship of the School committee and that of O.G.A. It saw too, the moving of School House from the main building to the first house in the snicket. The removal of the House led to other changes. Four new form-rooms appeared, two in place of the old dormitories. The form-room next to the studio was transformed into a light, spacious craftroom, and the Prayer-room, now the Chapel, was moved to a larger quieter site over the old fiction library on the North staircase. The new gym was finished, its floor properly designed for running and marching and so ending the days when these, executed on the highly polished floor of the Hall, were reduced to balancing acts. Perhaps the best change of all was that of the old School House sitting-room into a library; up till then there had only been a collection of reference books partly housed inaccessibly in the Staff­room and partly scattered through the various form ­rooms. Now they were all gathered together by Miss Noakes and displayed on the beautiful oak shelving which was her own gift.

It was now that it was decided to hold Commemoration alternately in Salisbury and in London. The change proved to be of great value. Many, who could never spare the time nor travel the necessary distance for a whole week-end in Salisbury could easily afford a few hours in London. The meeting in the Abbey and the laying of the wreath on the memorial stone of our foundress have helped to keep her memory and the great debt of gratitude that we owe her. Her great gift to us has also been recorded in the Godolphin Book, the publication of which in 1928 was the next important event in Godolphin’s history. It was edited by Miss Douglas and Miss Ash and tells the story of the school and of all its activities between the years 1726 and 1926.

In 1930 we heard of the death of Miss Andrews, who was Headmistress before Miss Douglas, and was also an Old Girl. Until she died on the morning of her 87th birthday she retained her deep affection for and intense interest in Godolphin. It was in this year that Miss Douglas opened a new house in the snicket that was to bear her own name. This house is now re-named Jerred and the name Douglas transferred to one of the new Houses.

In the summer term of 1931 the doctors decided that Miss Ash must have special treatment for the aggravated form of arthritis from which she had suffered for some time, and so she went to a famous Austrian doctor for this and Miss Noakes went abroad with her. The School was very fortunate in having Miss Westlake, a well­ known friend, who had been both games-mistress and a house-mistress at Godolphin, to look after them for the rest of term. Some outstanding and unusual honours won by Godolphins of this period should be mentioned here. Mary Cartwright was one of the very few women to become a fellow of the Royal Society, and afterwards she became Mistress of Girton. Theodora Turner was appointed Matron of St. Thomas’s Hospital, London, and Dorothy Pearse (Spicer) was the first woman in the world to hold the four Engineering Diplomas of the Air Force. We are also proud to remember that Dorothy Sayers was at Godolphin.

In the autumn of 1931, in Methuen garden, a Domestic Science Room, fully equipped to provide a thorough training in housecraft was opened by Lady Hulse. It was to be called the Hulse Room in honour of this governor, who had been the first woman on the City council and later its first Lady Mayor. This year, too, saw the advent of an electric kiln for the firing of pottery in the Craft Room.

By the spring term of 1934 the library had been extended. During the holidays the room that had housed the Museum had been thrown into it, the two rooms being connected by a beautifully designed archway, and this enlargement had been shelved and furnished in keeping with the rest. We were very sad to lose our Librarian and Second Mistress, Miss Noakes, who retired the next term. It was most disappointing that Miss Ash had to miss the beginning of her last term. Miss Noakes came to deputise until her return.

On St. Valentine’s Day, 1935, Bishop Donaldson came to present to Miss Ash from the School, the Staff and the O.G.A. a portrait of herself. In spite of our sorrow at the approaching parting it could only be a glad occasion. Marcia Matthews, president of the O.G.A. and Headmistress of St. Mary’s School Caine, then thanked Miss Ash for all she had done for the School, and the portrait, painted by Arthur Connor, was unveiled. At the end of the term we said Goodbye to this our Headmistress and friend of fifteen years, a friend to whom the School owes a great debt of gratitude for her wisdom coupled with a warm human understanding, her scholarship and marked literary gifts, her humility and courage, but above all for a firm and living faith, which gave her a sweet serenity of spirit that found expression in loving reasonableness and kindly con­sideration for others.

In the summer term we welcomed our new Head­mistress, Miss D. M. M. Edwards-Rees, until then Head of the Duchess’ School, Alnwick. She brought to her work exceptional gifts of mind and heart, and she will be remembered by those who were at Godolphin in those pre-war years as a woman of imagination, sympathy and understanding. Her literary gifts and her wide ranging talents found expression in a number of books. Among her services to the School were the steps she took to introduce the Burnham Scale. She also appointed Miss Dunford as the first Careers Mistress and, in 1938, created a School Council composed of the Headmistress, Staff, School and House prefects, games captains and representatives of each form.

The year 1936 was a sad one for in it occurred the death of King George V, Bishop Donaldson and our Dean, Bishop Randalph. Most of the School attended the Memorial Service for the King in the Cathedral. There was, however, one bright spot. On a cold day with snow on the ground, but with sunshine and a blue sky, Miss Ash came to open the new Science block, now known as the Ash Building.

On 6th March, 1937, a small gathering of Governors, Old Girls, Staff and members of the present School met in the Hall for another ceremony. A panel commemo­rating Miss Douglas’s Headmistress-ship was unveiled. Its main feature is a bronze bas-relief of Miss Douglas’s head in profile surrounded by a beautifully wrought wreath of leaves in blue and green. The face reflects, quite remarkably, the penetrating attention and purpose with the never failing kindness so well known to Godolphins. At the base of the panel are the words:- “As the light of the morning.”

This was the Coronation year of King George VI, to celebrate which the School had an extra holiday. At the end of the year Hamilton lost its Housemistresses, both of whom seemed so much a part of the School – Miss Derriman who taught us so much more of life and literature than we learnt from the Classics, and Miss Falwasser who in her quiet way made the Kindergarten such a happy place. An Old Godolphin, Helen Poynton, came to be House-mistress of Hamilton.

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