PIONEERS IN THE NEW CHAPTER OF GODOLPHIN’S HISTORY (1890-1913)

ETHEL E. JONES.

On 17th January 1890 I arrived in a cab in the rain at Hill Side, next door but one to the Godolphin School, in Elm Grove. I felt very important, but had I heard the remark of Miss Lucy, peeping through the blinds: “Mary, you can’t keep her, she is too ridiculously young,” the bubble of importance might have been pricked. What is now Fawcett House was the school, and the staff were housed at Hill Side. We were full of zeal, full of enthusiasm, and youth and high spirits, again to fade away when I was asked by one of the girls: “What form are you in ?”

There were no games in those days, except what one tennis court could provide. I was Games Mistress, so I made the lists daily, and each girl got one afternoon a week, and the rest were put down for “Walks,” one hour every day and two hours on Saturday. Miss Edwards and I generally “took the Walks,” as Mademoiselle Le Camus could not speak or understand much English, so it was tempting to lead her far astray! Once I got back in the dark without May Jackson, and crept in to tell Miss Douglas I had lost a boarder. “Then you go back at once and stay out till you have found her.” I found her near St. Edmund’s Church, where I had taken the school exploring. We did enjoy those walks; tearing over the downs from Harnham Hill, all helter-skelter, finding the ford at the end of Exeter Street of which I had read, fording the Avon, racing round Old Sarum, discovering old thirteenth and fourteenth ­century buildings and almshouses all over the place.

Miss Douglas taught all the Scripture, and Miss Edwards taught everything else, except music and German, taught by Fraulein Bechler, and French and needlework, taught by Mademoiselle Le Camus. I taught drill in what is now Fawcett’s dining-room, and once I got my tail on fire as I stood in the fender.

When we got into the new school in October 1891 we began cricket, and later Miss Baird’ introduced hockey. We played on a strip of grass between the asphalt court and the hedge, part of what is now “the old pitch.”

The museum was a great joy. I remember one of the girls saying, “There’s nothing here to make a museum of, “to which I replied, “Indeed there is, look here,” and I picked up a lump of flint. So we were given one shelf in the hall, and every one gave her sweet boxes to hold specimens, and it grew and grew till one day, a golden day for me, Miss Douglas arranged for it to be in the lovely room I left it in in 1913. We used to have an hour once a week to work in the museum, and about half a dozen girls chose it instead of hand work.

Hand work was a special feature of the school. There was bookbinding, carpentry, fine plain needlework, and my museum, and, later on, cookery and laundry.

Every time the school building was enlarged, the work went on just the same, in spite of inconvenience of many kinds. I remember at one time Miss Douglas’ sitting ­room had to be a form room, and much business and interviews with the staff and girls took place in her bedroom.

One of the best things in the early days of the school was Miss Edwards’ Art Class, and every year she collected more and more pictures and knowledge, and enthusiastic classes of girls and mistresses. How much love and true appreciation of beauty has spread far and wide through those classes! Miss Lucy, a born actress, was our dramatic coach. What a feast of that particular delight we had! She was never an irritable coach, but always amusing, and always getting the best out of every actress and every play, and when it was a Mistresses’ Play she was sometimes the prima donna!

Miss Douglas was, from the start, eager to give every girl and every type of girl, the opportunity to do her own best work and to express all that was in her, in the best possible way. So whenever anyone had an idea for some new project, it was always given an opportunity for thorough trial and investigation. The Domestic Courses in school, “Contemporary,” Debating Society, the Sketch Club, the Magazine, the School Diary, Art Class, Acting, Gardening, and “Work Party,” were very early exploits. I forget whether we cooked or laundered in the old school, but we very soon did it in the new. One day a week all the School House domestic premises were invaded by keen, inefficient, eager, blundering, excited, messy, budding housekeepers. The main burden of preparing the regular food for the establishment was transferred for that day to back kitchen, and the small room down the steps to the kitchen, which was also Miss Lucy’s sitting-room, a house­keeper’s room, and a “Division Room,” where Miss Alice Baird taught Literature, stooping low to get into it, and where I have had Divisions of Arithmetic dolts, my specialty, and where Daisy Campbell and Ruth Peto used to say their Returned Euclid, only it was not correctly “Returned,” as it had never been learnt at all, because, in one unguarded moment, I had announced as a cheerer for riders, that for all they knew they might be as original as Euclid, who invented all the proofs for all the proposi­tions. ” Learning,” therefore, instantly in those brilliant brains was displaced by original experiment, which ended dismally in the little dark room under the stairs in “free­time.”

Nelson House, with ” Miss Edith,” a trained Domestic Teacher, supplied an extra kitchen, and here cookery, laundry, and dressmaking became popular. The “Special Forms” became my pets at once, and we had glorious Literature and History lessons, and lessons in all sorts of things that were never in syllabuses. Miss Douglas had a most disconcerting way of saying: “Now, dear person, this term Special V will learn Arabian history,” or Persian! And this term they did, little knowing that their teacher’s text-book was the Bible and a Dictionary of the Bible. Ruth Wordsworth used to be dreadfully worried as to whether a certain king was Artaxerxcs or Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, and whether Esther really did marry the real history one. She knew not the agonised references made by her preceptor to Greek and Classical Dictionaries, nor do I know whether she is yet appeased.

Every week every girl in the Lower School did a page of “accounts,” because we had to keep the decree of Dame Elizabeth that the young gentlewomen should learn ” the casting of

1 Head Mistress of St James’, Malvern.

accounts.” Allied to Domestic Courses were the Carpentry Classes, in the hall, with the joiners’ benches pushed under the platform afterwards. I have two book­shelves now in my room in East Pondoland, made by a pioneer member of those classes, my sister Aggie, I suppose about 1893. They have travelled half round the globe, in train, steamer hold, and ox-waggon, and are as firm as iron still. I have also several books bound in the Book­binding Class by Theophila Yeatman, and a flint implement out of the museum.

The Sketch Club began in the old school. They used to pass round a portfolio of their works of art once a month, and every one criticised every one else, and Miss Edwards wrote the expert criticism. We used to have tableaux. Oh, excellent fun! We dared and did marvels. “The Pink Knight,” I remember, with Peggy Deansley, I think (no, I forget who was Pink Knight), in shining pink calico armour; nursery rhymes, fairy tales, Shakespeare scenes, patriotic scenes, etc., etc., etc.

The School Diary began at once. Miss Douglas was going to run it; I believe she wrote the first year, on one and a half pages. Miss Lucy wrote the next, and then it went to Nelson House, where Miss Edith Jones is still its indefatigable editor.

I have the first volume of the Magazine at my elbow as I write (Summer Term, 1895). All the distinguished authors, and learned editors and harassed secretaries now on the School roll will feel a quiver of interest and sympathy at the first sentence in the Godolphin School Magazine: “All contributors are requested to send in their contributions written on only one side of each sheet.” Oh, Ruth Wordsworth, you editor, and May Wyld, you secretary, what an inspiring sentence to be the pioneer of such a (nevertheless) illustrious journal!

“Contemporary,” went on on mending nights. I’m not sure whether it did not tend to stop supervision of darning, but the exponent of the news has been grateful ever since for having been obliged to be such a diligent student of the news of the day. Miss Edwards always had an eye for telling articles and for pictures. As the houses grew in number, the Contemporary news-tellers were multiplied, and Miss Grace Bagnall was drawn in. “Work Party” began before “The Mission” did. We made clothes for poor folk. I hope someone is telling about “The Mission.” I know how keen we were. It took ages getting “Work Party” ready, and at first most fearsome garments were produced. I used to try to egg on my little set to make one shirt a night, I am glad to say I did not succeed. “Contemporary” and Work Party were sometimes com­bined.

Gardening was another avenue to life in Godolphin that Miss Douglas was very keen about. Little plots were cultivated even in the old school, but in the new the gardens grew and flourished apace. Olga Baillie-Grohman started a syndicate at Fawcett, which carried off most of the honours and began the gardening traditions in that house. Roper the old gardener was immensely interested in the gardens, and at “Commem.” he always had his own exhibit in the little room between the hall door and the garden door. Huge marrows and cabbages, and once I remember a pumpkin. And that reminds me of the Exhibition. It. grew out of hand work. That had to be shown, so at, “Commem.” we had a great show. It has gone on and on : that one original classroom-full has overflowed into many more. Lovely, lovely things were shown, and under Miss Prosser’s wonderful hands an Art Exhibition is now held periodically to which Old Girls-some of them now pro­fessional artists-are invited to send specimens of their work.

Then there were “Baths.” You present-day little creatures with your luxury, do not know the thrill of the Saturday walk down through the town, threading your way through all the carriers’ carts in the side-streets, and all the country folk come in for Saturday market. The best all-round swimmer had a silver medal.

Ascension Day and Groveley will be forever associated in Godolphin minds. But none of your charabanc-all-the way for hardy pioneers. No, a crocodile of the whole school to the station, a delightful train journey in assorted carriage-loads to Wishford, and then the long slow rambling walk to the wood. Oh, glorious! Here I write in a hot railway carriage in the Orange Free State over parched, dried up, drought-stricken veldt, and the dewy freshness of Groveley comes before me. Groveley! beeches, green and fresh; grey-green trunks and roots; soft, thick, moist, happy grass, and blue, blue, bluebells, valiant and straight, and dancing and blue; and soft green shade, with shafts of pale sunlight dancing through the leaves-Groveley. Happy couples, beginning to gather flowers the minute they get to them-hot bunches presented to an admired mistress, as soon as the gatherer found them too many to carry-long strolls and talks, and then lazy resting in greenness and lusciousness of growth and shade.

Such and much more lingers in one’s mind of pioneers in the new chapter of Godolphin’s history. But oh, to be there now! to be in it all once more, instead of only here, being thankful for the enormous privilege of having been made by it.

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