A steady aim has been pursued with regard to the Hall, and that has been to make it beautiful. Other parts of the building may have been left merely plain and serviceable, but here the best and choicest gifts have been bestowed to add dignity and beauty to the centre of the building, which is also the centre of the life of the School.
The beautiful window with its pearly glass and rich heraldic shields is the first thing one sees on entering the Hall; but it needs an interpreter to show how aptly it has been designed to illustrate the history of the school building. The late Mr. Dorling, the well-known Wiltshire antiquary, in an article contributed by him to the Godolphin Magazine for the spring term, 1900, wrote as follows: “Your window is history in shorthand. It tells you that your School was founded by Mrs. Godolphin in the city of New Sarum in the diocese of Salisbury, and that your foundress was a worthy follower of the noble example of Lady Margaret Beaufort. And it tells you this about itself, that the window was put in in the reign of Queen Victoria (she was the first English sovereign who bore the arms of the United Kingdom as depicted in the shield), when Lord Nelson was chairman of the Governors, during the Head-mistress-ship of Miss Douglas, and while Theophila Yeatman was Head of the School.”
The shields in the window are: (1) Douglas, (2) Yeatman (founder’s kin), (3) See of Salisbury, (4) H.M. Queen Victoria, (5) Godolphin, (6) City of New Sarum, (7) Lady Margaret Beaufort, (8) Nelson.
As time went on oak doors to replace the first pitch-pine ones were given by one or more of the Old Girls when they left school, or by other friends. And then, in 1914, Miss Douglas and Miss Lucy gave the fine oak panelling for the walls and the oak floor, which have added a dignity and beauty unknown before. The designs were made by Mr. Walter Medlicott, architect, and the material was on the railway running to Salisbury when the Great War broke out. Mr. Medlicott immediately ” joined up,” and, after serving throughout the War, was taken prisoner in Asia Minor and died on 18th September 1920. Thus the last bit of his beautiful work as an architect is in our Hall, and remains as a kind of memorial to him. We cannot dissociatc from him the memory of his only child Betty, who was at the Godolphin School at the time when the floor and panelling were placed, and who died on 18th January 1923.
The carved oak panel with the Godolpbin motto, in the form in which the School first knew it: “FRANCHE LEAL ET OYE,” now hangs up in the gallery at the back of the Hall. It was given in very early days by Miss M. E. Palgrave (afterwards Mrs. Crowder) and carved by Miss J. Bagnall. She got the interlacing pattern of the frame from one of the designs in Wilton Church.
On the platform are a large carved chair and an old oak desk, given by the School. In this desk are kept the “Coronation” Bible and Book of Common Prayer, ill their very beautiful special binding by Bumpus, which were given by Miss Waters in memory of two Governors, Mr. Waters (her father) and Canon Swayne. The School Prayer Book, beautifully bound in red leather and printed at the Letchworth Press, was compiled by Miss Douglas, and contains several prayers composed expressly for it, notably the one for the School used at Commem., which was written by Ruth Wordsworth.
In the desk on the platform is also kept the delightful “Hymn for Spring,” which is sung in the evening of the Ascension Day holiday. The copies of it were the gift of Miss Thicknesse, who made the case containing them.
Round the walls above the panelling hang several pictures, amongst them being a copy in oils of a portrait of Mrs. Elizabeth Godolphin, the founder, an excellent portrait of Lord Nelson, and two pictures of Miss Douglas; the one in oils by Mr. William Nicholson was presented by the School, Old Girls and other friends. The rest of the pictures are good reproductions. The copy of the work by Luca della Robbia with the beautiful inscription under it taken from the inside of the dome of St. Mark’s at Venice was brought by Miss Douglas from Italy, and the other pictures in the Hall were given by her and by members of the staff, by Miss Palgrave (Mrs. Crowder), and by Mr. Holgate, secretary to Bishop Wordsworth.
The Hall then, as was said, has been made dignified and beautiful because it stands for the very heart of the School ; it is not an annexe to overflow into, but the hub of the whole organisation. Here all the great School gatherings take place: concerts, plays, and other entertainments are given, and the lighter side of school life has free play and is enjoyed to the full.
Here, above all, every day begins and ends with School prayers, and the choice printing of the choice prayers and hymns is a token of the value set on this daily “hallowing of work.” Here, too, the Head talks to the School, and at Commem. to the Old Girls, when big issues are sometimes presented and faced and big decisions taken.