12 January 2016

Hove's Old Schools Index K - M

Listed below:- Kenilworth House, Kingsclere, Knoll School, Miss Herring's & Miss Bagley's School, Misses Thomson's School (Winston Churchill's prep school), Miss Poggi's Academy.

Kenilworth House
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2012

Miss Pearson founded the school principally to educate Roman Catholic girls but she did accept Protestant girls as well as a handful of boys. The school occupied two houses at 14 and 16 Eaton Road, the pair having inner access through a conservatory. The girls wore fetching red berets (larger than the standard school issue) with a KHS badge at the front.
copyright © J.Middleton
The entrance to Kenilworth House School 
in Eaton Road, Hove.

In 1924 Mrs Dorothy Wickham took over the school. She was the possessor of a history degree from Oxford University and appears in school photographs clad in her academic gown. She was a serious, reserved character and some of the girls were in awe of her. But she was ahead of her time in that she combined the roles of marriage and motherhood with teaching and running the school.

By contrast her husband was an outgoing personality who was an excellent teacher of maths. He was keen on sport and enjoyed singing, being blessed with a fine tenor voice.

Mr Wickham retired from the Indian Police Force in 1922, having served in the sub-continent for eighteen years. It was not that his family had any particular connection with India but his guardian decided it was time for him to earn his own living and suggested a perusal of the Civil Service Book to help him make a choice. Mr Wickham thought the Indian Police sounded by far the most interesting proposition and off he went. At that time India still took a grim toll of the British and out of the ten eager, young officers who went with Mr Wickham in 1904, two had died within five months and another six were dead within the decade. But Mr Wickham survived and rose to become Commandant of the Military Police Battalion at Peshawar. He was able to speak fluent Urdu, Arabic and Persian.

copyright © J.Middleton
This elongated school photograph was taken in the 1930s. Mrs Dorothy Wickham and Harry Temple Wickham can be seen at the centre.

Cricket was always a passion with him and it was a great consolation that the Sussex County Cricket Ground was nearby. He often went there in the evenings with a flock of young pupils whom he would coach in the nets. His interest in cricket was not merely academic because he played for the Sussex Martlets. It must have been a relief to play cricket by the recognised rules once more. During his time in India, he encountered the Maharajah of Kashmir who enjoyed playing cricket but had his own interpretation of the game. This meant his batting score was never less than 50, whatever his strokes were like. Likewise he would only agree to be out LBW. The Maharajah had two attendants to put on his pads, and another two to put on his gloves while a fifth man carried his bat to the wicket for him.

Mr Wickham was an all round sportsman. He also enjoyed golf and sometimes partnered Arthur Gilligan, the Sussex and England cricket captain.

Under the Wickhams’ ownership, more boys were admitted to the school than during Miss Pearson’s time but they all had to leave at the age of seven. Many of the children had parents serving overseas and the Wickhams looked after them during the school holidays.

In 1936 the Wickhams sold the school. Number 14 Eaton Road became Kenilworth Prep School for boys with Mr and Mrs OS Wauchope as principals; while number 16 became Eaton House School for girls with a kindergarten too.

By 1938 both schools had closed. Instead the RAF Volunteer Reserve occupied the premises under Wing Commander WH Dolphin.

However, Mr Wickham was far from finished yet. After his first wife Dorothy died, he married Phyllis in 1951. Mr Wickham did not die until he was 95 years old and the oldest Old Blue (one educated at Christ’s Hospital) in the country.


1924-1935 Mrs Dorothy Wickham MA (Oxon) and Harry Temple Wickham, Indian Police (retired)


Allen (C) Plain Tales from the Raj (1975)
Stapleton (L) A Sussex Cricket Odyssey (1979)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012

Kingsclere, Kingsway.
Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2017)

copyright © J.Middleton
Although the long tables and benches are standard issue, the potted plants, fine lamp-shades and pleasant carpet add an exotic touch to a schoolroom; but then this was a school for young ladies who, hopefully, had perfect control over their inkpots.

Kingsclere was a school for young ladies situated at 1 Walsingham Mansions, fronting Kingsway. It was there from the 1890s to the 1920s and was eventually absorbed by nearby Girton House.

Miss Ellis ran Kingsclere initially and then Miss Janson was the headmistress. Remarkably little information has survived about this school but then this postcard turned up out of the blue.

Kingsclere’s chief claim to fame was because of old girl Barbara Zwingler. She spent twenty years working for Miss Alice K. Cochran who ran the well-known Channel Laundry, as her personal assistant and chaffeuse. Miss Cochran’s brother was the famous impresario C.B. Cochran who was educated at Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School.

In the early 1930s Barbara Zwingler joined Hove Ambulance Service and four years later received her taxi licence. In 1965 it was claimed she had been driving her own taxi topped with a Union Jack for 31 years. The Union Jack went up in celebration of the coronation in 1953. But when she eventually removed it, so many little old ladies wanted to know where it had gone that she was obliged to re-instate it.

copyright © M. Fargetton
Kingsclere looks somewhat austere in this postcard that Marguerite Cusset 
sent on 6 October 1909

In 2017 an email arrived from France informing me that the writer’s grandmother had attended Kingsclere. Her name is Marguerite Cusset and she was born at Lyon on 19 September 1891 and thus she was a young lady of eighteen years when she came to Hove. Presumably, she was sent to Kingsclere to polish her English. It is possible that the Cusset family already had friends in the area because Marguerite mentions the family of E.J. Dennant in her postcards sent back to France. Fortunately, Marguerite enjoyed her time at Hove writing that she was ‘very happy here’. In 1911 Marguerite visited the United States of America.  

 copyright © M. Fargetton
This view of Kinglsclere’s dining room was posted by Marguerite Cussett on 7 July 1910


M. Fargetton
J.Middleton Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

Copyright © J.Middleton 2016

Knoll School
Judy Middleton (2002 revised 2014)

copyright © M. Hookham
This photograph dating from August 1956 shows the Advance Party for Knoll School Camp at Hole Farm, Nutley. The two boys standing at the back are G.C. Barnard and C.W. Butler. In the front row (left to right) are P. Grammer, D. Hill, G.C. Barnard, D. Weston, C.W. Butler, P. Hodgson and D. Smith.

Clayton & Black, the well-known local architects, drew up the plans for the school, which were dated 19 May 1931. It is interesting to note that the respective fathers of Clayton and Black had been responsible for the designs of the Portland Road Schools.

Messrs E.C. Tarrant of Byfleet, Surrey, won the contract to build Knoll School. In present day terms, the school was erected in no time at all because part of it was completed a mere five months later. 

Formal Opening and Speeches

Viscount Gage opened Knoll School in October 1931. Lord Gage said he had been comparing the amenities of the school with the conditions prevailing at Eton, where he was educated, and he thought ‘these modern schools are the equals, if not the superiors, of our great public schools in many respects.’

The Mayor and Mayoress of Hove as well as the Mayor and Mayoress of Brighton were present for the occasion. Councillor H.L. Hopkins, Chairman of Hove Education Committee, spoke of the extraordinary growth of this part of Hove in recent years. He mentioned that his colleagues in the Housing Committee had enabled some 700 to 800 new homes to be built for families with children. Knoll School was the first school built at Hove for 30 years and it cost £24,000.

Viscount Gage was soon in Hove again when he opened Knoll Infants’ School situated at the back of Knoll School on 20 November 1931. In 1956 the school moved to premises in Stapley Road.

School Numbers

The part of Knoll School that opened in 1931 provided space for 240 senior boys but when the work was completed there would be sufficient room for 320 boys and 320 girls.

The boys were housed on the west side with the woodwork room and metalwork forge situated at the end while the girls were housed in the east wing with the domestic science room at the end. Boys and girls had separate courtyards for playgrounds and there was a space allocated for their bicycles.

More Building

The second set of plans was also dated 1931 and the Board of Education stamped a coloured plan with the date 3 September 1934. Part of the plan was to build a house at 329 Old Shoreham Road and this was dated October 1935. By 1938 there were plans for new classrooms.

Second World War

In 1939/1940 A.E. Paulin shot a most interesting film for the use of the Air Raid Precaution people. It showed the air raid precautions and drill in use at the school. The film was seen publicly for the first time on 23 March 1995 at Hove Museum.

The children are shown at their lessons and incidentally the classrooms seem very well equipped. The boys hammer at an anvil, operate a lathe, or use a plane while others are sawing and carving.

The girls were filmed in the domestic science room clad in white aprons and hats for their cookery lesson while other girls learned the skills of the ironing board.

In another classroom an art lesson was in progress with girls working at easels to produce a large design for use on textiles.

Then the air raid siren went off. The children quickly took their gas masks out of the relevant box and put them on correctly. The classrooms were evacuated swiftly and in an orderly fashion. The children walk steadily away from the building and the next shot shows them safely ensconced in their sand-bagged air raid shelter, complete with books so that their studies might continue. In the final scene a boy and girl ride a rocking horse with the girl waving a Union Jack.

The film (on Kodak) was extremely well lit but it is not known if it was artificial light or natural light. The film was later used by Bristol researcher Richard Van Emden for a Channel 4 programme about children’s experience of war. He also managed to track down some of the children featured in the film. This prompted John Holloway of St Andrew’s Road, Portslade, to organise a reunion at St Richard’s Church Hall in September 1997 and around 180 former pupils were expected to turn up.

copyright © M. Hookham
Knoll School Boxing Team 1951/1952.
Back row. D.A. Lynn, B.F. Hampshire, A.A. Why, C.C. Minall, D. Poole, K. Price, R.C. Hoxey, D.N. Hill, M. Powell, P.E. Bourne, O.N. Karadzas. Centre row. B.W. Last, A.G. Tulley, K. Philips, G.W. Hilton, P. Baker, K.K. Henty (Captain) J.R. Williams, G.E. Briant, J.G. Why, J.C. McKendrick, D.A.J. Jenman. Front row. F.H. Parsons, F.R. Taylor, B.W. Hawkins, F.P. Le Duc, J.F. Pate, L.W. Elliot, P.W. Ward, E. Laycock.

HMI Report 1965

In 1965 the HMI Report concluded there was absolutely no space for expansion on the site. The classrooms were built around a quadrangle and some small classroom huts had been added to meet the increase in pupil numbers. The hall, dining room and gymnasium had to be shared between boys and girls. The children were obliged to change in a small cloakroom and there were no showers.

The boys’ school was arranged in four houses with a housemaster and there were 383 boys. The staff consisted of a headmaster, deputy head and nineteen assistant teachers, five of whom were graduates.

Girls Leave

In 1967 girls vacated the building and the extra space was used to create three new science laboratories and a new hall. The renovation and refurbishment were carried out during the summer holidays and cost £20,000. By 1968 the number of boys had risen to 595 and there was a staff of 30 teachers.

The girls moved into a new building on a splendid site with views over West Hove Golf Course in one direction and Greenleas Recreation Ground to the north west. The school cost £214,746 to build.

At the start of the summer term in 1967 just over 300 girls took up residence. There were eight classrooms, two house craft rooms, a needlework room, an art and crafts room with pottery kilns, two science rooms, a geography room, a fine hall, a gymnasium and a library large enough to hold 10,000 books.

No formal opening ceremony was held. Instead, there was an open week during which anybody who was interested could come in and have a look around. When the second phase of the building was added, the new school would be able to accommodate 450 girls.


In 1979 there was a major reorganisation of schools in the area. Knoll Boys’ School closed and amalgamated with Hove Grammar School for Boys and Nevill County School (Mixed) to become a new comprehensive called Blatchington Mill School. Knoll Girls’ School closed and amalgamated with Hove Grammar School for Girls to form Hove Park School. Both of these comprehensives were mixed schools.

Heads (boys)

1931-1938 S.J. Atherfold
1938-1957 H.W. Sparkes
1957-1961 Eric J. Dellar
1961-1968 J.K. Turner
1966-1979 Donald Ernest Morris

Heads (Girls)

1938-1952 Miss L.M. Gibson
1952           Miss M.E. Shields

Some Teachers

Eric Dellar – When he was headmaster he caused some controversy in July 1960 by announcing he would ban boxing from being taught at school and instead he intended to introduce fencing. Although there had been no injuries apart from some bloodied noses, he was worried about the possibility of a more lasting injury. Mr J.B. Liddell, physical education teacher, had been despatched on a fencing course to prepare for the changeover. (Argus 12 July 1960).

copyright © M. Hookham
These two photographs probably dating from the 1960s show some boys in their fencing gear practising their stance and feints. But unfortunately their names were not recorded.

Peter Fox – He became music master in 1971. He had previously taught at Millfield School where he had a staff of thirteen. At Knoll he had a single staff member. He set about forming a school orchestra, including a brass band section. He also encouraged the boys to make their own instruments.

Miss L.M. Gibson – She was the first head of the Girls’ School and when she retired in April 1952 she had been head of four Hove schools since 1915.

Mrs Richards – She retired in February 1945 from the Girls’ School after a career spanning 40 years teaching in Hove Schools.

Mr J.K. Turner – He was headmaster during the 1960s and he was particularly proud of the plays by Shakespeare and Gilbert and Sullivan operas that were produced at the school. He served as a magistrate at Hove for two years.
Famous Old Boys

David Dunne – In 1976 he was an Olympic bronze medallist.

Jason Winters – He remembered being caned across the hands frequently. After the war his family moved to Vancouver and Jason ended up being stuntman for the stars, including such legends as John Wayne.


Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Thank you to Mike Hookham and Derek Mann for kindly providing information and the loan of photographs.

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

Miss Herring's and Miss Bagley's School
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2012

Miss Herring and Miss Bagley made a career out of running schools in Hove; a career that in Miss Herring’s case extended to 50 years. One has the impression she was the dominant partner, if only because in Directories and advertisements, her name always appears first instead of the alphabetically correct Miss Bagley.
Their first venture into education was to take over a school for ladies called Windsor College located at 46 Ventnor Villas, formerly fun by Miss Atkins. The two ladies kept the school going for three years and retained the name.

copyright © J.Middleton
In the 1880s this house at 46 Ventnor Villas was home to Windsor College where young ladies were educated.

However, in 1889 they moved to 38 Medina Villas and named their school Heidelberg House. It would be interesting to know why they plumped for that name. Perhaps they had once enjoyed a delightful holiday in the German town of Heidelberg, famous for its castle. Whatever the reason, the name must have become something of a liability during World War I when anti-German sentiment was at fever pitch. A private school has to rely on the goodwill of parents and there may have been patriotic fathers who baulked at the idea of their daughters attending an establishment with such as inauspicious title. It is interesting to note that when the two ladies moved their school, they renamed it Medina College. Their new location was 44 The Drive and the ‘Medina’ kept up their links with the old address in Medina Villas. The original house at number 44 The Drive no longer exists and a large block of flats has been built on the site. 

copyright © J.Middleton
Heidelberg House, 38 Medina Villas, Hove.

But the Heidelberg House days were the high spot of their career. A full-page advertisement in the 1889 Directory states there were resident English and foreign governesses, visiting professors and university lecturers. The blurb continues ‘The Commodious Detached House, with lofty well-ventilated rooms and perfectly sanitary arrangements, is situated in one of the most healthy positions in West Brighton, close to the sea’. The usual English subjects were taught as well as maths, French, German, drawing, violin, mandolin, guitar and solo singing. There was special provision for delicate or backward girls and those with parents in the colonies would be taken care of in the holidays too.

An advertisement from a Directory of 1889.

The school benefited from having a private hockey field on the seafront. But the clothing the girls wore would not have allowed for swift movement. They wore ankle-length skirts and long-sleeved blouses while it was unthinkable to venture out into sunshine without wearing a wide brimmed hat to shield the complexion.

The school dining room was elegantly arranged; the tables were covered with starched, white tablecloths with table napkins folded into peaks. Heidelberg House was primarily a boarding school but day pupils were allowed to attend.

Miss Herring and Miss Bagley were partners for 40 years and after Miss Bagley died, Miss Herring continued to run Medina College on her own. By 1936 she must have been something of a Victorian anachronism.


1885-1888 Misses Herring and Bagley Windsor College 46 Ventnor Villas
1889-1917 Misses Herring and Bagley Heidelberg House 38 Medina Villas
1918-1925 Misses Herring and Bagley Medina House 44 The Drive
1926-1936 Miss Herring Medina House 44 The Drive

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012

Misses Thomson's School
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2012

There was already a school at 29 Brunswick Road, Hove in 1861 but it was a ladies’ school run by Miss Eliza Burrell, 52, in conjunction with Miss Helen Mounsey. There were five teachers, five servants and nineteen girls including Rosamund Churchill aged nine, the third daughter of the Duke of Marlborough. (It may be just a coincidence that there was one Churchill here in 1861 and another Churchill in the 1880s.)

copyright © J.Middleton
The Misses Thomson’s Prep School  was at
29/30 Brunswick Road, Hove.
In 1880 the school was taken over by Marylebone-born spinsters and sisters Charlotte Thomson, 37, and Catherine (Kate) Thomson, 35. In 1881 there were two female governesses, one male classical tutor, three female servants, a matron and sixteen boys, five of whom had been born in India.

In September 1884 Winston Churchill arrived at the school aged eight; he had a mop of red hair and the reputation of being naughty. But he also suffered from a weak constitution and the school was probably selected for the benefit he might obtain from sea air and the presence of the family physician, Dr Robson Roose, in Brighton. Another reason was that Winston had been deeply unhappy at his former prep school – St George’s at Ascot – which he described as horrible. There also appears to have been other offspring from the Churchill’s social circle present at the school. For example, Churchill in one of his letters home mentions that little Kim liked the school very much – this was Angus Drogo Montague, Baron Kimbolton, who became the 9th Duke of Manchester in 1892.

The Misses Thomson ran a more kindly regime and in fact Winston was very happy at their school. He later commented that he was allowed to pursue subjects that interested him such as history and French, he enjoyed learning reams of poetry as well as swimming and riding. He was proud when he could ride well enough to be able to do without a leading rein. 

But his health remained a worry and when Lady Randolph Churchill visited him at school in February 1885 she found him ‘very pale and delicate.’ Apparently the food also left something to be desired with Winston grumbling that on one occasion he only had half a sausage for breakfast. However, this may have been poetic licence in comparing more Spartan fare with the lavish meals served in the Churchill household.

There has been a general impression that Churchill was something of a dunce at school. This is not so. In October 1887 Winston wrote to his mother to tell her he had come top in his exams, being first in English history, ancient history, Bible history and algebra, and second in geography.

It is sad to note that despite his hard work, visits from his adored mother were regrettably few. Sometimes she did not reply to his letters and once she forgot to despatch a hamper she had promised. His father Lord Randolph Churchill was a figure of some stature in public life and his autograph was much sought after by Winston’s schoolmates. But when Lord Randolph was in Brighton on political business, he could not find time to visit his son.

Winston enjoyed Sunday afternoons at school because he was allowed to leaf through old copies of Punch. The cartoons fascinated him and he soon became familiar with the British lion and John Bull as depicted by Tenniel.

Winston wrote many letters home during his four years at the school and he always wrote ‘Brighton’ under the heading 29 & 30 Brunswick Road. On 17 December 1884 Charlotte Thomson had the unenviable task of writing to Lady Randolph Churchill to inform her that a fellow pupil had stabbed Winston with a penknife in an argument during a drawing examination. Winston received a slight chest wound but it could have been much more serious. However, Lady Randolph was not surprised to hear that Winston had pulled the other boy’s ear first.

There was a closer brush with death in 1886 when Winston became ill with pneumonia. On 15th March 1886 Dr Roose wrote to Lady Randolph that he was fighting the battle for her boy. Although Winston’s temperature was 103, Dr Roose refused to be anxious as long as he could keep it under 105.
It appears that Charlotte Thomson made the most impression on Winston. On one of his reports she wrote, ‘decided improvement in attention’ and when Winston wrote home he would mention her health or how she had been given a fox-terrier puppy. One early battle of wills resulted in a victory for Charlotte. On Sundays Winston used to attend the Chapel Royal, Brighton, with the other boys; but his Protestant soul was horrified when during the recital of the Creed, everybody turned towards the east. Winston felt sure his beloved old nurse, Mrs Everest, would disapprove of such a Popish practice and so he refused to turn with the rest of them. He prepared himself to be a martyr. But next time the boys went to the chapel, he found Charlotte had arranged for the boys to be placed in pews facing east.

copyright © J.Middleton
In this photograph of North Street, Brighton,  the Chapel Royal is the red brick building with the clock tower.

It was Charlotte who accompanied him to Harrow in March 1888 where he sat the entrance exam. She was almost as nervous as he was and he was violently sick afterwards. According to Charlotte, he just scraped through but his arithmetic papers scored top marks and no papers were set in his best subjects of English, French, history and geography. Instead there were papers on Latin, Greek, Euclid and algebra. Winston said it was far harder than he expected and there were some very difficult Latin and Greek translations. 
copyright © J.Middleton

Winston Churchill left Hove in 1888. The school itself left Hove in around 1898 and moved to Oathall Road, Haywards Heath, where it was known as Brunswick Prep School
There is a plaque on the Brunswick Road building to commemorate Winston’s stay. The original rectangular one was unveiled on 17th July 1953 by the Mayor of Hove, Councillor AE Brock, but Mrs Nellie Cushman (who had sponsored the tablet) was not able to be present. Unfortunately the dates were wrong and 1883-1885 was inscribed instead of the correct 1884-1888.
When a round blue plaque replaced the tablet, the same wrong dates re-appeared. But as both plaques were privately sponsored, there was nothing Hove Council could do about it. Every so often the Council receives an irate letter from people who have discovered the discrepancy but to no effect. One such correspondent was Celia Sandys (Churchill’s grand-daughter). There is another mistake too in the surname Thomson, which never had a ‘p’ in it.


1876-1878 Miss Young and Miss Hoggins
1879-1880 Miss Young
1880-         Miss Charlotte Thomson and Miss Kate Thomson

School colours – red and white

Churchill (RS) Winston S Churchill Companion Volume l 1874-1896 (1967)
Guedalla (P) Mr Churchill, a Portrait (1941)
Morgan (T) Churchill 1874-1915 (1983)
Sandys (Celia) From Winston with Love and Kisses (1994)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012

Miss Poggi's Academy
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2012

In the 1830s one of the most exclusive schools for young ladies was to be found at 32 Brunswick Terrace, Hove. Brighton and Hove were generously endowed with academies for young ladies at the time, there being around 100 of them. But Miss Poggi’s establishment was in a league of its own. Part of its exclusiveness was no doubt due to its exorbitant fees. Although the nominal charge was around £120 to £130 a year, there were so many extras to take account of that no upper crust parent could expect to get away with less than £1,000 for two years of schooling.

copyright © J. Middleton.
Brunswick Terrace provided a suitably elegant environment for the education of young ladies.

More is known about this school in this era than any other private school in Hove and this is due to Frances Power Cobbe who left a detailed description in her autobiography published in 1894. When she grew up she became an early supporter of women’s rights and a fervent anti-vivisectionist.

Cobbe’s mother escorted Frances all the way from Ireland in order to attend the school. The journey involved sailing from Ireland to Bristol (usually a passage of 30 hours) followed by three days inside a post-chaise before Brighton was reached.

Her mother insisted her daughter must have her own bedroom and they were duly shown a small bedroom that Frances understood was to be her new quarters. She was greatly upset when it was time to retire to discover the authorities had craftily introduced another bed into the room whose occupant was fast asleep.

The celebrated Miss Poggi had established the school but by the time Frances arrived in 1836 Miss Runciman and Miss Roberts were in charge. These two ladies conducted a terrible ordeal every Saturday afternoon known popularly as Judgement Day. They sat side by side at the head of a long table; behind them were ranged the various governesses while in front sat 25 anxious young ladies. There was a whole range of misdemeanours that were considered worthy of punishment, ranging from stooping to impertinence. If three of these ‘crimes’ had been committed within the space of a week, the young offender had to sit facing the wall for the rest of the evening. Frances wrote she had seen ‘no less than nine young ladies obliged to sit for hours in the angles of three rooms, like naughty babies, with their faces to the wall’. The sight was made even more incongruous because the young ladies were quite old enough to be married and were dressed in full evening attire of silk or muslin with gloves and kid slippers, which was the customary everyday rig.

The girls were taught their lessons in large double rooms and if their clothing was lady-like, the noise was not. The girls, seated at various tables dotted about the room, had to recite their lessons aloud in English, French, German and Italian while for a musical accompaniment came the sound of at least four pianos being practised in rooms above or next door. It was a rule that every girl had to practise the piano for two hours daily.

Music was taken very seriously indeed because being able to play an instrument or to sing in polite society was considered a major accomplishment. It must have been an uphill task because not every pupil had a natural aptitude for music. Miss Runciman rebuked one young lady who had been detected telling a lie ‘I would almost rather find a P in your music than tell such falsehoods’. P stood for Pretty Well but really meant Pretty Dreadful. Monsieur Labarre taught Frances to play a harp and other girls learned the accordion or concertina.

The famous old Madame Michaud plus her husband were in constant attendance at the school to instruct the young ladies in dancing. Naturally, they learned all the dance steps that were popular in England and featured at assemblies and balls. But they also learned almost every national dance from the continent too. Madame Michaud cut an unforgettable figure with her stout frame draped in heavy, green velvet embellished by a foot-deep sable hem.

There were weekly lessons in callisthenics when a military gentleman put the girls through decorous exercises involving dumb-bells. Other physical exercise was limited to a brief constitutional along the seafront under the watchful eye of a governess. Only six girls at a time went on these walks and they felt vastly superior when they encountered crocodiles of 20 to 30 girls from other schools.

The French, German and Italian accents acquired by the girls should have been fairly authentic because a native speaker taught the languages. One of them was very distinguished indeed being none other than Allesandro Manzoni whose I Promesi Sposi is the most famous novel in Italian literature. As this work was published in 1827, he had already completed it by the time Frances met him at Hove. Frances noted that Manzoni was an impressive looking man who won the hearts of the girls because he was always pleased with their efforts and pronounced everything admirable. But some of the translations read out to him, were atrocious.

The study of English came way down the list of important subjects and arithmetic did not fare much better. In fact Frances came to the conclusion that the amount of time devoted to a particular subject was in an inverse ratio to its importance. Thus music and dancing were at the top, followed closely by modern languages but no Greek or Latin. English, drawing and mathematics were allotted a few hours but lessons in geography or history took place once a fortnight. Religious instruction came bottom of the heap.

Frances gained the impression that nobody on the staff knew how to go about imparting religious knowledge and fell back on the easy option of making the girls repeat the collect and catechism every Sunday and marching them off to church, weather permitting. The girls also had to learn the text for the day from a little book entitled Daily Bread left in their bedrooms for the purpose. The text was learned in rather a rush, as the girls got ready in the morning. Often they would repeat it to each other while one arranged her hair in front of the mirror and the other splashed in her bath behind a screen – there were never more than two girls to a bedroom.

An amusing anecdote concerns Ash Wednesday when the girls were provided with a dish of salt fish. When this was removed to make way for roast mutton, they received a little homily on the virtues of fasting and hope was expressed they would abstain from the mutton because ‘it would be good for your souls AND OUR FIGURES!’ It is not recorded how many girls tucked into the roast meat afterwards.

The girls received full instruction in science according to the lights of the age. They attended nine public lectures delivered by a Mr Walker at Brighton. The lectures covered the topics of electricity, galvanism, optics, hydrostatics, mechanics and pneumatics and lastly there were three on astronomy, which Frances enjoyed very much.

When Frances was at the school, the 25 girls were aged from nine to nineteen. Besides the governesses and teachers, there were several respectable servants. All the girls had fathers of some standing, country gentlemen, Members of Parliament or offshoots of the Peerage. There were several heiresses and the grand-daughter of a duke who was teased all the time for being somewhat slow. Miss Smith was the school beauty; she was the daughter of Horace Smith, poet and author. Unusually for a poet, Horace Smith made a fortune as a stockbroker.

When Frances left school for good, she journeyed to Bristol on the coach Red Rover accompanied by her brother who virtually ignored her all the way and sat on top of the box. But she did not mind because she was reflecting smugly that her days of study were at an end and if the school was one of the best in England, then surely she knew everything it was necessary for a young lady to know.

This delusion was short-lived and soon Frances embarked on the real task of educating herself beginning with an exhaustive study of history with some light relief in the shape of Greek. She could not help regretting the hours of useless toil spent at Hove, particularly on music. She wrote ‘the waste of time involved in all this, the piles of useless music, and songs never to be sung, for which our parents had to pay, and the loss of priceless time for ourselves, were truly deplorable’. Although Frances does not say it, the school was no better or worse than comparable establishments of the time when young ladies were educated to be an adornment to society.

Borrer (MC) Willingly to School (1976)
Cobbe (FP) Life (1894)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
page layout by D.Sharp