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Log Books of the Ewell Girls School, 1862–1923

2010/3 pp5–6


Log Books of the Ewell Girls School, 1862–1923


Between 1816 and 1861 Ewell children of working-class parents were educated in a couple of cottages in Old Schools Lane, largely paid for by charitable bequests.


In 1861 a school was built in West Street by the National Society for the Promotion of Religious Education. It was supported by the Revd. Sir George Glyn, his family and subsequent clergy. The head teacher was instructed to keep a daily log book and the most interesting passages have been copied from this by a member of the Documentary Group. The girls occupied the first floor of the building: in 1904 the main room was 51ft x 18ft, the large classroom 33ft x 17ft and the small classroom 18ft x 12ft. In 1913 a large new school was built in the grounds of the school and was taken over by the girls and infants, leaving the whole of the old school to the boys.


Only two head teachers worked at the school during the period 1862–1912 – Elizabeth Deavin, who retired in 1902, and Kate Sperrin. There was, however, a constant problem in appointing and keeping supporting staff. A good number had to be uncertificated teachers and pupil teachers and their attendance was sporadic. The number of girls attending the school fluctuated widely, even after 1870 when education was made compulsory. In 1887, 75 girls attended, in 1904, 162 and in 1909, 119. Most girls left school at the age of 14 years as a matter of course.


Like the boys, the girls were subject to the usual childhood infectious diseases. In addition, after 1908 a number of girls were found to have nits in their hair. This was probably a long-standing problem, but was not discovered until a nurse attended the school regularly. There was a case of scabies in 1911, and a number of incidences of ringworm. Attendance at school could also be affected by the weather. In heavy rain or snow some girls could not attend school as they had only one pair of shoes and one coat, and there were no facilities to dry them out at the school. Health could not have been improved by the ‘very filthy’ conditions of the toilets.


The standard of their work was very variable. In 1873 Sir George reported that needlework was good ‘except that there are no specimens of darning and no instruction in knitting and herringboning’. In 1902 Kate Sperrin said the school was in a deplorable condition. The arithmetic tuition continued to give trouble throughout the period in question. Scripture lessons were given by Sir George, and subsequent clergy, and received good marks. These lessons stopped after World War 1. ‘Repetitions’, that is learning poems by heart, seemed satisfactory. The girls learned long pieces by Wordsworth, Tennyson, Longfellow and others, and presumably performed them on special occasions.


Sometimes the outside world broke through and the school was closed for those occasions: in 1863, the marriage of HRH the Prince of Wales; in 1889, the opening of the Cottage Hospital (in Alexandra Road) by the Duchess of Teck (mother of the future Queen Mary); in 1899, the Queen’s 80th birthday; in 1910, King Edward’s funeral; in 1923, the wedding of the Duke of York. After the First World War conditions improved and school days became happier. Sir Arthur Glyn gave them tea and entertainment at the annual prize giving and swimming lessons and netball games started in 1923.


The old school buildings are still in West Street, but are now stylish apartments. The Old Schools Lane cottages were demolished in 1964.


Barbara Abdy


Surrey Gaol and Session House, 1791–1824


2010/4 p6


Surrey Gaol and Session House, 1791–1824


The above is the title of the most recent publication of Surrey Record Society (volume 41). In the forward of this well-produced hardback, David Robinson says:


The construction of Surrey Gaol and Session House was an important step taken by the Surrey magistrates in response to the rapid increase in population in the county in the later eighteenth century, and in particular in Southwark and the other parts of the county opposite London and deeply affected by the growth of the capital.


He goes on to express gratitude to Christopher Chalkin, the acknowledged expert on county building in the Georgian period, for his work in editing the records.


The text reproduces three books – two volumes of minutes of the Committee of Surrey Justices responsible for building the County Gaol and Session House, to which a house of correction was attached, and the book containing the accounts of the Committee. There are also appendices comprising the Act and other papers about the building of what was the most costly English county gaol built at the time.


This publication is of particular interest to Ewell local historians because our Henry Kitchen tendered for the brickwork. At the end of the eighteenth century the Surrey authorities had decided to build a Surrey Gaol and Session House (where Quarter Sessions could meet) in response to a rapid increase in population, the need for administrative headquarters and demands for prison reform. It was to be in Southwark, which in those days was part of Surrey. Henry Kitchen was one of those tendering for the bricklaying. What was involved was a very large building, the most costly English county gaol to date, except for the Middlesex House of Correction at Clerkenwell, which explains the high value of the tender that Kitchen submitted, £12,755. However, it was lower than most of the other eight tenders, which is why he got the job. He may have regretted it, because there were numerous problems, largely the result of the Napoleonic wars: prices of materials shot up and bricks became so scarce that Kitchen had to make his own. He claimed compensation, but the amount he was awarded was considerably less than what he asked for, so he is likely to have been out of pocket. And the constant travelling from Ewell to Southwark would have been a burden. This Surrey Gaol took eight years to build working starting in 1791.


Charles Abdy

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