I traveled up from Gillingham by coach, the line from Salisbury not being opened then. The second “half year” began on 1st August and we went on without a break until about the 15th December, when we had four weeks’ holiday. At Easter three or four days were given, but I think no one availed herself of the opportunity offered of going away except Mary Andrews, who lived in the town. Her grandfather’s family, who had been friends of my aunt’s, invited me on more than one occasion to spend my monthly holiday at their house. The above-mentioned aunts had, many years previously, kept a school in the Close.
Good order, punctuality, etc., were a feature of Miss Polhill’s management. In those days the street called ” The Canal ” had a veritable canal running between the road and the footpath.
Our frocks (though I think we should have called them dresses) came down nearly to the ankles, and the bodies were about to the collar-bone, with sleeves to the elbow. On Friday afternoons we put on our Sunday frocks, in order that the week-day ones might be inspected and mended if required. We wore jackets or small shawls and bonnets trimmed with ribbon, some of which, with a lining, formed a stiff curtain, precluding the least breath of air from reaching our polls; these bonnets were tied closely under our chins. Three years later the dress was extended by a crinoline. On Sundays, before going to Church, we stood in a row with our dresses held back so that the lacing of our boots might be inspected; my boots, however, were elastic-sided ones, the new fashion, and of which I was justly proud. They were bought at Sydenham’s (later on Courtenay’s) on the spot now occupied, I am told, by the George Hotel. I remember quite well having the ancient pillar which stood between the two departments pointed out to me by my father.
I think it must have been in April or May 1857 that Anne Gilbert acquired a copy of Miss Yonge’s Heartsease, and we were so thrilled by it that we got up at five o’clock and sat in our dressing-gowns to read it, she doing the reading whilst I embroidered strips for the adornment of a baby my mother was expecting. Before we had finished our secret reading and embroidery our enjoyment was cut short, the reason given being that such early rising unfitted us for our lessons.
Our actual teachers were Miss Charlotte Polhill (Mrs. H. Blaekmore) juniors, and a prim little lady named Miss Moore, seniors. Miss Polhill (the Head) came into the schoolroom for prayers daily and about twice in the week to hear us repeat word for word the answers to questions in a history book which had been one of our lessons in the week. Were expected to speak French throughout the week.
On Wednesday afternoons we arrayed ourselves in white muslin frocks and white shoes, and Miss Polhill gave us lessons in deportment and dancing, and very good they where. On one occasion the elder girls studied Racine’s play, Esther, and acted it before a select company of Miss P.’s friends; the part I took was an unimportant one-the character of Haman was taken by Frances Edwards. A stately Miss Pinckney was the chief lady guest.
On Sundays we went to St. Martin’s Church and occupied the chancel seats! the only people so honoured. The vicar’s names was Tatum.
I must not forget that we learnt “The Use of the Globes,” and very useful it was in teaching us not only the bare subject desired, but also giving us the spur towards thinking.