M.A. DOUGLAS – “Lessons” and “Work,” and Vocation

Lessons (1) When I was a child we always talked about our “lessons,” never about “work.” The seven little brothers, one after the other, did their “lessons” in the dining-room, though they certainly worked quite seriously with our mother, who taught them everything, including Latin, to get them ready for their preparatory schools at nine years old. The very small girls also “did their lessons ” in the dining-room with the eldest sister, and the eight of them passed on by degrees into the schoolroom to do their lessons with our wonderful governess. Miss Costerton, or “Cossie,” was wonderful, and spent twenty ­five years of her life teaching first our aunts and then us, and we never had anyone else. We had learnt to read before we went into the schoolroom, but she taught us writing, and set every copy, big and little, herself, and mended the quill pens; she taught us arithmetic, French, German, Italian, Latin grammar, Geography and the use of the exciting celestial and dull terrestrial globes ; she taught us English history, French history very much in outline, and the dates of a few of the more important points in the world’s history, e.g. “Hejira, or the Flight of Mahomet 600 A.D.” She kept six of us at different stages all going busily at once. She played the piano beautifully, and taught us to play-always the best music and gave us lessons in harmony, and taught us to sing, and to play the organ in chureh; she did pencil drawings charmingly, and taught us to draw and to paint, though she was not so clever with her brush, and procured help for us from sketches by a pupil of the younger David Cox. She taught us to dance, all the ordinary dances of that time, and the shawl dance with pink scarves, and the cachuca with castanets thrown in; she arranged strict times for the use of the poles and chest-expanders, and we took turns for the face-board as we repeated our lessons ; she taught us all the stitches in plain needlework, and we had to do a good deal of it. Besides the daily Bible reading, she gave us a Scripture lesson on Sunday and heard us say the Catechism, and read the Christian Year.

She herself made all our exercise books, as no bought ones satisfied her as to the copies set for the younger ones, or the spacing of the lines. So the special paper had to be bought in quantities from six miles off, and she cut it all up, and sewed it together, and bound each of the very many books in brown paper and named them, and she would sweep into the drawing-room every evening with ruler and pencil, which she plied very rapidly till bedtime. She did the same with regard to drawing. We never had drawing ­books, but good drawing-paper was bought, and very large or quite small pieces were cut up appropriate to the work. She sharpened pencils to perfection. If a visitor staying in the house sang a charming song, she would seize upon it, begging leave to copy it for us. She made all our pen­wipers, which didn’t take long, as they were only made of rag, but it was a good idea, and the ” chiffon ” box was always at hand. She never wasted a single thing, especially the small things belonging to other people. This was sometimes irritating, as when she insisted on burning tiny candle-ends perched on save-alls, which were apt to flicker out before schoolroom tea was finished ; and sometimes her economies were ludicrous, as when our house was gutted by an awful fire, and many irreplaceable family possessions were lost, she was seen amongst the debris asking the workmen if they had found any copy-books “with curious characters,” meaning our last German exercises. She took us for our daily walk, and, in the winter, hopped about in the hedges gathering sticks to make a blaze in the otherwise rather cheerless schoolroom fire before breakfast. That was wholly kind to us all. Strange to say, after twenty-five years of this, she was not worn out, and turned a deaf ear to any suggestion of living at ease in any one of the houses that would have been open to her. Instead, she chose to give the next seventeen years of her life to working under a Lady Superintendent of a Girls’ Home, where she spent a large part of her days in a kind of pulpit supervising laundry operations through a mist of steam. When she was seventy-five she consented at last to give up organised work, and went to live with our sister at Bridgnorth. The warmth of her heart and the quick vehemence of her nature never deserted her through those last happy and peaceful years. I have referred to this remarkable woman for two reasons ; first, because in these days when schools are staffed by teachers qualified to teach one, or perhaps two, subjects, it is, I think, interesting to give an account of a very fine example of an old-fashioned governess who taught everything ; in the next place, I should like to think that some of those who read this record may scent a whiff of the cleverness, and catch a flying spark of the genius for unselfishness, and perceive a flash of the almost fierce devotion to duty, and feel a breath of the deep piety of my dear old governess, who from the time I was seven years old to eighteen did so much to prepare me for going later to the Godolphin School.

Lessons (2) The first eight young orphan gentlewomen who came to Elizabeth Godolphin’s school also surely talked about “doing their lessons,” and we know what those lessons were. In the scheme proposed by Elizabeth Godolphin herself it is stated that the young gentlewomen should be taught ” to dance, work, speak French, cast accounts, and the business of housewifery in the best manner, and obliged to attend constantly the service of the Church of England at all proper seasons.”

Between 1815 and 1832 it is reported by the Charity Commissioners that, “the young ladies have been instructed by Miss Alford and Miss Emly in English, writing, arithmetic, French, and needlework ; Miss Alford has added geography. Under Miss Alford all, or nearly all, learnt music, and many dancing. Miss Emly has not taught dancing directly, but the young ladies on the establishment looked on when her private scholars have received their lessons, practised with them when the master was absent, and occasionally when he was present. Housewifery has not been taught otherwise than this, that the children have been instructed to provide themselves in the best manner, and make the best appearance small means would allow.”

Miss Fawcett could remember a Miss Child who, in 1845, lived in a little house opposite the College of Matrons in Salisbury, who wrote a book called The Spinster at Home in the Close of Salisbury, and speaks of the Godolphin Founda­tion as follows:­

There’s also a School on a useful foundation,

Where daughters of gentry receive education

In the Protestant Faith-and, with fortunes not large,

They are taught all the duties of home to discharge;

And those ladies have reason to bless through their life,

Godolphin the doctor, and Eliza his wife.

By the scheme issued by the Court of Chancery in 1852 it was laid down that: “The young orphan gentlewomen shall be taught the principles of the Christian religimi according to the doctrine of the Church of England, the English and French languages, general English literature and composition, history, geography, arithmetic, music, dancing, plain and ornamental work, and housewifery, and such other languages and accomplishments as the mistress or the mistress with such assistance as she shall procure, shall be competent to teach, and shall, with the approbation of the Trustees, introduce into the course of education at the School, and as the young gentlewomen grow up to a competent age, the mistress shall permit and require them to take in turns part of the domestic manage­ment, so as to give them a practical knowledge of domestic economy (but so as to interfere as little as may be with their lessons and studies aforesaid); and she shall (with the approbation of the Trustees) confide to them part of the education of the younger ladies, so as to accustom them to the art of tuition. That twice on Sundays, and at all proper seasons, the said mistress shall attend the service of the Church of England with the said young orphan gentlewomen. That some portion of the sacred Scriptures and suitable prayers, approved of by the Trustees, shall be read in the school every morning and evening by the mistress or one of the senior scholars, and the mistress shall be specially charged with the moral and religious culture of the scholars.”

The subjects taught later under Miss Polhill and Miss Andrews are described earlier in the book by those who remember vividly their schooldays of long ago, and the very valuable paper by Miss Andrews herself tells the story of the education given by her and by those who so ably assisted her.

Work – In 1890, if not before, the girls at the Godolphin School, in common with all other schoolgirls, talked about “doing their work,” not “doing their lessons.” In a school report some such phrase as this might often be read: “Dorothy’s work in this subject is painstaking. She must not be too much afraid of letting herself go.” This change in the term was not only a change in the fashion of speaking, but it marks a change in the thing itself. The emphasis, we may say, was shifted from the lessons learnt by heart to the work performed by the pupil. No doubt the education given in the home schoolrooms and in the best private schools was not restricted to learning by heart, and, for all time, good scholars at school or college will commit the information they get from teachers and books to memory. No doubt in many family schoolrooms much time would be given to reading. Racine, Moliere, and Schiller would probably have been extensively read, and acquaintance would have been made with Silvio Pelico and I promessi sposi, and English history, poetry, and other literature would have been read in or out of the schoolroom. The great possessions gained in this way were not acquired without effort on the part of the pupil and persevering work in overcoming difficulties, but probably it was an exceptional governess who required her pupils to write critical essays on what they read, and the schoolroom must have been rare where advanced mathematical problems were solved, or chemical processes tested.

In the great schools for girls which have sprung up in increasing numbers during the last fifty years, the tendency has grown, and is still growing, of expecting the girl herself to write critical essays, to tackle arithmetical and higher mathematical problems, to test scientific facts, to express her own ideas in drawing and design, and so forth. Surely this kind of work marks a great step forward in education; it marks a gain of great magnitude, and this movement in education comes to meet the extensive range of choice in careers now open to women who have been so trained as to give them the power of choice.

As the older ones amongst us look on, the schools of to-day present an exhilarating spectacle; they are great workshops existing for great ends. But the magnitude of the hopes they excite must be matched by the wisdom of those who govern them within and without, and in understanding co­operation with the primitive but, let us believe, abiding influence of a good home. Let the schools be equipped as completely as possible, and let there be grounds for play, and trees and flowers for beauty, but let there be somewhere a rest-room for peace, and let the windows all be made to open to let in the air of heaven, so that the end for which all schools should exist may be realised as fully as possible for every single child; the end of school days should send the grown-up girl to play her part in the world with a strong body, a mind eager to learn, and a spirit strong to fight the good fight.

In 1890 one of the principles governing the time-table was to keep down the number of subjects with a view to greater thoroughness in the work attempted, and in order to avoid over-pressure, and to leave room for outside lectures and general reading. Chemistry and physics were deliber­ately left out, but some training in scientific accuracy was supplied by botany, which could be pursued in country walks and recorded by diagrams which were often beauti­fully done and sometimes fitted in with work in the studio. There was no school work after supper at seven-thirty, which was a cheerful meal, for which every one “dressed.” The time before bed-time was devoted to a variety of occupations, e.g. musical evenings and illustrated lectures on music; work-party for the Mission; “contemporary,” when Miss Jones gave a summary of public affairs gathered from The Times; school plays and other parties; “Saturday dancing,” and anything else interesting or amusing that turned up as desirable.

In 1896 Ruth Wordsworth gained an open scholarship at Lady Margaret Hall, and so we began to have students at Oxford. In 1920 there were eleven Godolphin students at Oxford at the same time, and the tendency was to go to Oxford rather than Cambridge, as there were strong links between Salisbury and Oxford. Several Godolphin girls have, however, gone to Cambridge, London, and the newer universities. We may say without hesitation that Godolphin girls on the whole have acquitted themselves very creditably at college. They went there fresh and eager to learn, and ready to enjoy college life in its fullness, and certainly the Godolphin Register just published shows a great record of useful and even leading positions in later life filled by Old Girls possessing a university degree. In 1899 Mary Rammell was the first Godolphin girl to become a London B.A. It was a very great day for the School when Ruth Wordsworth, our first scholar, got a” First in Greats,” as did also Mary Gordon a little later. In 1912 Dorothy Sayers won the Gilchrist Scholarship at Somer­ville College, and Peggy Deansley, who got a First Class in History, was given the Arthur Hugh Clough Fellowship at Newnham. In 1920 Georgina Bacchus was the first Godolphin Wrangler.

These and others brought marked academic distinction to the School, and there are very many others who did very well and for whom their life at the university was a prepara­tion for fine work afterwards. In an Appendix will be found a list of Godolphin girls and mistresses who have become head mistresses. More than once has the work in English been referred to, and no one can tell how great is the result of being taught by women who love books and know how to share them with their pupils. Some half-dozen Old Girls have published collections of verses, many of them being of considerable merit and all of them showing taste and sincerity. Others have published writings in prose, the most notable perhaps being P. Deansley’s research work on Richard Rolle, and her book on The Lollard Bible and Other Mediceval Bible Versions. Molly Harrower wrote the Godolphin Bicentenary Play, a fine bit of work, and Mary Dalston has done a similar service for the Boston House School by writing a charming play which was acted at the Centenary celebrations of that school (which is the actual descendant of ” Miss Pinkerton’s “), when presided over by Miss Westlake.

Music and Drawing have been marked features of the School, and very many honours have come to Godolphin through the girls who have excelled in Piano or Violin, or Drawing and Painting. The teaching given at school has laid the foundation with many of them for going far after school days are over, as teachers or as artists or as both.


I see I have jumped into the third subject of this paper-vocation, and I must try to place on record the various other great vocations that have not called in vain to Godolphin Old Girls.

Some have followed the great profession of medicine and many others that of nursing. Some held, during the War, positions of responsibility as secretaries in Government offices-some are holding those positions still. Others have become private secretaries to distinguished people, and others are doing much as secretaries to smooth the path of doctors, lawyers, or other business men. We have our missionaries in Japan, in India, in Africa, and some have found their vocation in religious communities. And what shall be said of those who have become wives and mothers, and the countless good homes which we know and remember. Since 1890 nearly two hundred have married and there must be several hundred grandchildren of the School, and there are at least two great-grandchildren since the year 1890. There is still one great vocation which I have not touched upon, but which we are thankful to think has its followers ­that of living in the old home as daughters, or sisters, or “universal aunts,” and who besides answering the calls of home and friends, do the useful social service which comes to their hands, as leaders in the Women’s Institutes and of the Guide movement, or as helpers in clinics, or as Sunday School teachers, or Club Leaders. These are the very salt of the earth, and would there were more of them of the right kind!

The register shows that Godolphins are indeed scattered all over the world. Fifty-three are in Africa, forty-four in India, twenty-two in Canada, thirteen in Australia, eight in France, five in China, six in U.S.A., five in New Zealand, five in Egypt and Soudan, three in Belgium, three in Germany, three in Switzerland, two in Japan, two in the Argentine, and one in each of the following-Cape Verde, Holland, Italy, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine, and Siberia.

When Miss Ash became head mistress in 1920 it will be seen elsewhere what a great growth in accommodation and immense improvements in equipment took place, and it may truly be said that when the Bicentenary of the School was celebrated, provision existed to meet all aptitudes and tastes, and all demands made by the preparation necessary during school days for going farther afterwards. But whatever the material improvements, whatever the altera­tions and modifications in methods and schemes, the aim remains the same, namely, the desire to promote the balanced and strong development of the powers of body, mind, and spirit of each child who opens the door of the Godolphin School.


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