Lincoln Christ's Hospital School

Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
Educating in Lincoln since 1090

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                                                                                                 Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School:

The School Boarding House

From the Garton Archive at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School

Occasional Paper No 38

Compiled by Peter Harrod

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Boarders on Greestone Stairs in 1948 (See Key to names in Appendix)

State school boarding houses, both for boys and girls, arose out of the need for parents or guardians to send their children away to school for a range of social, cultural and economic reasons. Boarding houses for girls attending state schools were typically those that co-existed with day pupils. Based loosely on the model of the classic independent girls’ public schools, they blossomed with the advent of girls’ grammar, or ‘high’ schools in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but began to decline in the 1960s, as indeed did state school boarding houses for boys. Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School was a typical example of a girls’ state high school, which, in its early days, offered a selective education for local fee-paying pupils and ‘scholarship’ girls, and for both weekly and termly boarders.

Although the Boarding House at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School (LHS) appears to have been in existence since the early days of the School in the 1890s, it must have been one of the best kept secrets in Lincoln. Apart from one or two passing references to the House in the School Diary section of the school magazine, and in early Prospectuses, there is a strange absence of any detailed information until relatively late in its life. The first substantive reference is to be found in the Summer 1959 edition of the magazine in which, for the first time, a section is devoted to the Boarding House.

Unlike the vast store of information held in the Garton Archive on the Lincoln School Boarding House (See Occasional Paper 37), there are relatively few pieces of evidence on its LHS counterpart. One that does exists is a letter written in 1918 informing parents of an increase in fees for ‘new pupils entering either boarding house’ (one for termly, and one for weekly boarders) owing to increasingly high prices. The letter, signed by the Clerk to the Governors, is reproduced in Appendix One below. Clearly the costs of the Great War were being felt in more ways than one.

Joyce Skinner, an eminent alumna of LHS (see Occasional Pape 34), in her unpublished history of LCHS, made no mention of the earliest days of boarders at LHS, but wrote that they became an ‘important part of the scene’ in the 1920s. She recorded that there were a dozen or so between 1911 and 1918, accommodated in Greestone House, which later became a staff house and centre for Upper Sixth Form study. An undated Prospectus from the early days of Greestone House recorded that the House was in the charge of Mrs Patterson, who was ‘…thoroughly experienced in household management and the care of girls’. The House was described as standing on high ground facing south, close to the High School, and under the supervision of the lady members of the Governing Body and the Head Mistress. The fees were 13 guineas per term, and 12 guineas for weekly boarders. The fees included ‘…the use of ‘plate’, and of piano for practising’.

The boarders then moved to 14 Minster Yard, which the School acquired in 1916. This became a home for termly boarders in the care of Miss Thurlow, lovingly known as ‘Hopping Gertie’ apparently because of her ‘hopping gait’, and later Miss Fanchiotti. ‘Witham View’ in Drury Lane was added in 1918, which remained in existence until 1940 for weekly boarders under the care of Miss Penny. Thereafter, the boarders were housed in 14 Minster Yard until 1961. Miss GM Thurlow was recorded in a Prospectus as having a National Froebel Union Higher Certificate; South Kensington Science; and ‘Drilling Certificates’.

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Witham View on Drury Lane

The photographs below, taken from the Prospectus, show the site of the house at 14 Minster Yard, and the boarders’ common room.

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Earlier in the life of the School before Greestone House opened in 1911, it is likely that the small numbers of boarders were accommodated in private houses near to the School. A Prospectus from Headmistress Miss Ashburner’s time advertised boarding houses ‘…under the management of ladies who have had much experience in the training and education of girls’. Fees at that time ranged from £9 to £13 and 13 shillings per term.

Fortunately, we are in contact with one or two former boarders at LHS whose memories are priceless in recalling what life was like as a boarder during the years leading up to the closure of the Boarding House and the School.

Elizabeth Ingram, née Macbeth, has written from her home in Killin, Perthshire, that she enrolled as a boarder at LHS in 1943 at the age of nine, having been interviewed by Headmistress Miss Savill, with the new Headmistress Miss Cleave in attendance. She was taught by the ‘gentle and encouraging’ Miss Annis, and as the boarding house was full at the time she spent her first year in lodgings in Longdales Road. When she moved into the Boarding House she slept in the ‘little dorm’ with four other girls. Miss Thurlow was the Housemistress at the time, although Miss Fanchiotti took over later in Elizabeth’s time at LHS, and the Matron was Miss Turner. Elizabeth described the household chores and routines of keeping their cubicles tidy, washing, table-setting, and loading the ‘dumb waiter’.

Wartime rationing was in place of course and the butter ration was 3oz weekly. Basic provisions were supplemented by food parcels sent to the farmers’ daughters, which made those girls highly popular! Elizabeth’s own popularity was enhanced by the light entertainment which she was able to provide using her small hand-cranked projector to show silent Charlie Chaplin and other films on the dorm ceiling! Pocket money was sixpence per week, of which one penny went to Guides, and twopence to church collections. Elizabeth recalled some illicit sunbathing by the more daring boarders, who were sufficiently agile and enterprising to be able to climb up onto a small flat roof above the attic!

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In the LHS Boarding House garden in 1949

Back row:    Elizabeth Macbeth, Margaret Scholey, Pamela Stevenson, Eve Mansell, Heather Spring, Josephine Wingate, Monica Stamp, Maryrose Knibb, Sylvia Barnard 

Middle Row:   Pat Royce-Evans, Mary Flintham, Marjorie Walker, Miss Fanchiotti, Miss Wright, Diana Richards, Margaret Hoyland, Margaret Taylor, Kristen Blumenbach (visiting German student)

Front row:    Athalie Wales, Ann Hill, Pamela Sparks, Marjorie Naylor, Rosemary Storey

The main advantage to Elizabeth of being a boarder was that she felt part of a large family, and special lasting friendships were formed. Margaret Butterworth, née Scholey, was her best friend and they still reminisce with laughter about their days at 14 Minster Yard. Elizabeth left LHS to go to university in 1952, and Pam Nixon, née Lawrence, who entered the Boarding House in 1952 and left in 1956, has narrated her story in graphic detail during a recent visit to the Garton Archive.

Miss Fanchiotti, affectionately known as ‘Fanny’, was the Housemistress at the time, and was described by Pam as a caring person, and one with high moral standards and a belief in a Spartan existence, with few material benefits. Her name betrays the fact that her father was Italian, but she had an English mother. Miss Fanchiotti was deeply religious, and attended the Newland Congregational Church in Lincoln, an interesting choice of place of worship in view of the fact that her father was a Catholic and her mother a Quaker.

The Matron was Mrs Buckle, who apparently cut a sad and somewhat lonely figure, and Pam also remembers a Miss Jubb and a maid called Jean, who did the domestic chores including washing up, lighting fires and general cleaning. One of Matron’s responsibilities was to take the junior boarders for weekend walks, which also involved exercising Miss Fanchiotti’s dog, Dusty!

Pam was a late arrival at LHS, having been a boarder at a school in Yorkshire, and as there was only space for twenty girls in 14 Minster Yard, she lodged overnight with a family called Muir in a house in the Cathedral close, but attended the Boarding House for meals and other daytime activities.

Breakfast was at 8 am, and Pam recalls the horror of tinned tomatoes on toast, and ‘fatty, shrivelled-up bacon’. White bread in the form of long loaves called ‘whales’ was washed down with tea, as Enid Blyton might have put it in her fictional stories of boarding house life in the 1940s at Malory Towers! Breakfast was followed by a bed-making routine before the girls descended Greestone Stairs for the school day. Lunch, which was remembered as being very good in comparison with food in the House, was served in the Tithe Barn with the day girls. Gwen Roberts, née Wright, has informed me that there was a special boarders’ table, and it was the best meal of the day because the dinner ladies took pity on them, and always gave them first call on second helpings!

At around 4 pm the boarders would return to 14 Minster Yard for tea, which consisted of bread, ‘marg’ and jam. There was also a ‘tuck’ cupboard, where ‘communal’ cakes supplied from home were kept. The girls then filed into the common room where the Head Boarder (Pam held this exalted position in her final year) would announce “Prep, please!” signalling the start of ninety minutes of work with a short break half-way through. Prayers were then said in Fanny’s study, followed by supper at 7 pm, consisting of cooked meals such as shepherd’s pie made with ‘bright pink meat’ (described by Mary Sanderson, née Neave, as being ‘disgusting’) or sausages. In summer,’ high tea’ took the place of supper, and Pam remembers the stewed apple puddings and the jellies. Bed times varied according to age, with the juniors going at 7.30 pm, and the seniors, who did more work after supper, having ‘lights out’ at 10 pm.

Austerity was the order of the day in the Boarding House. Space was at a premium, and it was bitterly cold in winter. There was a fire in the common room, and a gas fire in the dining room. Pam also remembers some form of inadequate heater in the attic, where the older girls did their late night prep, and where Fanny had a small sparsely-furnished bedroom. There were four age-related dormitories; small rooms with five girls in each one, and two bathrooms, where baths were taken three times a week in rotation. The girls were allowed to wash their hair once a week on Friday or Saturday, and when Pam was new to the Boarding House she caused Matron great consternation by asking if she could wash her hair on Sunday evening. This seemed to be considered a subversive request! There was little privacy in either the dorms or the bathrooms.

 

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‘Space was at a premium’

Weekends were described as “not very exciting”. There were various chores such as shoe-cleaning, organising laundry, sewing, knitting and mending. The juniors were allowed out as far as Bailgate, always escorted, and the seniors could go into town without wearing their school uniforms. Pam daringly met her boyfriend from Lincoln School at the library. Another boarder at the time, Mary Sanderson, née Neave, has confessed to being quite a naughty girl at school. The first thing she learned were the facts of life, and she also began to take an interest in boys by attending the Cathedral services, and afterwards passing messages to them over the wall on Greestone Stairs using a basket and a skipping rope to lower them down! There were also clandestine meetings in the Arboretum, where hands were held and kisses were stolen before the girls ran back frantically to the Boarding House in their ‘sexy sandals and white socks’ for reading at 3 pm! The boarder whom Mary remembers most was Fiona Macbeth, perhaps because she was described as being even naughtier than herself! Mary couldn’t believe that she received a ten shilling note each week from her mother! That was quite a lot of money in those days! Mary also remembers Miss Wilmott, whom she liked very much, taking over as Housemistress from Miss Fanchiotti. Fiona Macbeth, however, has described Miss Wilmott as more of a disciplinarian than Fanny, who governed the House in a more formal manner.

Some boarders were invited home for tea by the day girls, and there were opportunities for hobbies. Miss Fanchiotti would read aloud to the girls, choosing a selection from the classics for the older ones, in what Pam described as a “typical Victorian afternoon”. There was neither TV nor ‘wireless’, but there were two pianos, and a wind-up gramophone with a few records. Pam was allowed the privilege of  attending Friday night youth club at the Congregational Church, because she worshipped there, but when the girls went out, nylons were banned, and white ankle socks were the order of the day! Fiona Macbeth was one of the boarders who represented LHS at hockey, and was fortunate enough to travel on the coach to other girls’ high schools in Newark, Grantham and elsewhere.

Lunch consisted of stew, apparently garnished on one occasion by the head of a dead mouse! On Sundays there was a ‘roast of sorts’. The older girls were given the privilege of attending the early Evensong at the Cathedral, but it was the later service which all the boarders attended, and where they were able to ‘eye’ the boarders from Lincoln School on the other side of the Angel Choir. The celebrated actor John Hurt, a boarder at Lincoln School during the 1950s, described the entry of the girls in his biography as ‘like jewels in the night’! The younger girls would attend St Mary Magdalene Church in the Bail. On Sundays evenings the week’s left-overs, such as potatoes, cold porridge and toast and dripping, were consumed by hungry mouths.

Once she had settled down into the routine of life at 14 Minster Yard, Pam remembers her three years as happy ones on the whole, where she made some good friends. She has written a novel based on her experiences there, and details are provided in the acknowledgements below.

Christine Ramsay, née Neave (Mary Sanderson’s sister) was a boarder at LHS from 1953 to1958, so she must have been a junior during Pam’s time. Writing in the LHS booklet A Book of Memories, she recalled that her happiest memories of the School were of the Boarding House. On arrival in 1953 she was allocated to the Junior Dormitory, known as ‘Amy’, and her companions were Sally Wingate (who was the Prefect in charge), Sally Longbottom, Betty Aron and Fiona Macbeth. The two Sallys, known as Big Sal and Little Sal, soon showed the newer members the ropes, and firm friendships were rapidly established.

Fiona Macbeth, who was a boarder from 1953-59, has written that the Matron, Mrs Buckle, was a cheery Yorkshire woman, contradicting Pam Lawrence’s earlier description, whose room was between two dorms so that she could keep an eye and an ear open at night. She also looked after the sick bay, known as the ‘San’, when necessary. Fiona also told me that Fanny’s dog, Dusty, used to keep guard over the tuck cupboard at night, to ensure that the sweets and other goodies were safe from hungry girls seeking midnight feasts. However, there were sometimes treats in store when Mrs Bursey, the domestic science teacher, would take the girls home for some of her delicious home baking.

It is interesting how often the name John Hurt has cropped up in correspondence about the LHS Boarding House. Fiona has told me that she had her photograph taken with him in the Arboretum, never dreaming that he would become an internationally known actor! He was certainly a popular figure among the girls!

 

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John Hurt (left) as a boarder at Lincoln School

Not to be outdone by their male counterparts in the Lincoln School Boarding House, the girls were apparently not averse to a few pranks, and Christine recalled one she will never forget. Upon returning from the first half-term holiday, the girls were unpacking their weekend cases when Miss Fanchiotti entered the dorm to enquire if any of the girls had brought fireworks back with them for Guy Fawkes night, and if they had, would they please bring them to her room for safe keeping. The girls were disappointed to hear that the House celebrations would not be held on 5th November itself, as it was a school day in mid-week, but on the following Saturday night.

Disappointed as they were, the girls decided to keep back some of the fireworks, and hide them in their drawers. After ‘lights out’ at 8.15 pm on the 5th, the girls lay in their beds listening to the intermittent noise of fireworks being let off in the town, whilst catching sneaky looks at the colourful display of rockets, ‘Catherine Wheels’ and ‘Roman Candles’, by drawing back the curtains. When they heard Matron put out the lights of ‘Beth’ dormitory at 8.45 pm, and return to her bedroom between the two dorms, the girls deemed it safe to have their own display. Taking their small bundle of fireworks and sparklers to the window to see which end to light, they first pinned a Catherine Wheel to the prefect’s wash stand. The firework sprang into life, making considerable noise, and lighting up the room. However, as was so often the case in those days, it refused to spin! The excessive noise must have aroused Matron’s attention, because they heard her door open. Acting with haste, the girls poured water on the offending firework, causing more fumes and smoke than ever!

Hurriedly retiring to their beds, hearts beating fast, the girls prepared to face Matron’s wrath. “Whatever do you think you are doing?” she shouted, switching on the light, and soon seeing the nature of the problem for herself. Red-faced with fury she warned the speechless and petrified girls that the matter would be reported to Miss Fanchiotti in the morning. Little was said in the dorm after her dramatic departure. Big Sal was particularly concerned as she was the prefect in charge, but none of the girls had a good night’s sleep, dreading the consequences that the morning light would bring.

After breakfast, which none of the girls ate with much enthusiasm, Big Sal led the girls into Miss Fanchiotti’s room to face the music. A stern and lengthy lecture followed, and as a punishment, the girls were banned from shopping in the Bail for the following three Saturday mornings. As this was the girls’ only weekly freedom, it was described by Christine as the hardest punishment that could have been meted out.

I wonder if, secretly, the two ladies had sympathised with the prank, and had possibly even shared the expression, “Girls will be girls”? After all, if the prank was so serious, then surely Miss Cleave, the Headmistress, would have been involved?

Girls will be girls, of course, and former pupil at LHS Jane Bennett-Powell has described an incident from the time when two of her friends, Katy Hesketh and Catherine Jackson, and another pupil from Lesotho, were boarders in the late 1960s shortly before the Boarding House closed down.. There was one occasion when someone had been naughty during the late evening, and all the boarders’ bedding was taken out onto the lawn in the back garden. As a punishment, the girls had to make their own beds again before they could get some sleep!

After Christine Ramsay left LHS in 1958, the School magazine does finally provide a few insights into the life of its Boarding House. The 1959 edition describes the ‘Year of the Matrons,’ because so many changes had taken place. Matron Smyrneou left in October 1958 to take up an appointment in a London hospital, and was replaced temporarily by Sister Day who filled the gap until Christmas. Mrs James, not for the first time, then came to the rescue until Easter, when the School was delighted to welcome an old girl, Miss Marie Smith, to take up a permanent post as Matron.

Health had been good, despite the changes, with only four girls succumbing to the ‘flu’ epidemic at the end of the spring term. Ironically, the report highlights the ‘usual Hallowe’en and fireworks party’, which apparently proceeded on that occasion without incident! Other activities included a House Handicraft Exhibition, and Nativity tableaux for the School Carol Service with angels’ wings and halos in abundance!

Keeping boarders gainfully employed and out of mischief must have been a headache for all schools. Both boarders and day boys at Lincoln School, for example, had to attend lessons on Saturday mornings, whilst the afternoons were taken up with sporting activities. LHS faced this challenge by organising many activities and outings for its members.  Table tennis tournaments were organised, and visits arranged to the Guildhall, the Castle, the Art Gallery, the Cathedral Library and the Museum. The summer term in 1959 saw a group climbing the Cathedral tower, and its daunting 365 steps! Daringly, the Lincoln School boarders were invited to tea, tennis and rounders, when the girls were no doubt heavily chaperoned!

A trip up the Fosse Dyke on the Mary Gordon for the annual picnic was also arranged, and will no doubt bring back memories of readers who were residing in Lincoln during the 1950s. Apparently there are plans to restore the boat, whose rotting hulk currently resides in the garden of the Pyewipe public house.

Several former members of the Boarding House were welcomed back during the year, including Christine Neave herself, and Sally Wingate, Hannah Bacon, and Agnes Jelland (née Stephenson). Stories were told by older former pupils of juniors wearing pinafores for meals in the 1920s, of dormitories being hung discreetly with cubicle curtains, and of a resident domestic staff which included a ‘boy’ for the boots!

Another regular visitor to the Boarding House in the late 1950s was Headmistress Miss Cleave’s dog ‘Bim’, who apparently brought Miss Cleave to see the girls! ‘Tim’, who must have been the House cat, had learned to tolerate Bim, and the girls looked forward to the weekly visit and appreciated the keen interest which Miss Cleave showed in the girls’ welfare, and in the ‘doings’ in the House and garden.

The Autumn1961 edition of the LHS magazine recorded that the boarders vacated 14 Minster Yard, which had been steadily growing ‘barer and shabbier’, and was now destined for an overhaul, and a range of smart flats. After an ‘affectionate goodbye’ to No 14, the LHS Boarding House moved into Greestone House at Whitsun. For months they had been following the alterations with interest, and helping to choose paint, linoleum, curtains, carpets, bedspreads, loose covers and furniture. After much research on the part of Miss Wilmott, the Housemistress, and consultations with the girls, the new dormitories were given the names of Keyworth, Thoroton, Garcliff, Burton, Bell and Cornwallis, after former inhabitants of Greestone House, some of them going back to the early seventeenth century.

The boarders returned to a transformed House on 28th May 1961, and on the 30th the Chancellor, Canon Rathbone, and the Precentor, Canon Synge, both governors of the School, conducted a simple service of dedication. Among other items adorning the scene were Miss Fanchiotti’s lantern, and a brass knocker which was the gift of the head of the House, Betty Aron.

As a tribute to 14 Minster Yard, Miss Fanchiotti and two boarders, Sarah Steadman and Jennifer Ashcroft, had written their memoirs of the House, both past and present.

Miss Fanchiotti, who had been House Mistress from 1948 to 1956, wrote that it was a ‘shabby old place’ in 1948 after the war years, and the beds were hard. The fabric of the building was in such a dilapidated state that sometimes a ‘fusilade of water dropping into buckets cut sharply into the hum of evening prayers’. Despite its shortcomings, its chilly passages and the fact that the doormat had given up saying ‘Welcome’, Miss Fanchiotti paid tribute to the fact that nothing could hide the noble proportions of the building, nor the warmth which spread out from the common room hearth. However, a report on the state of the House in the early 1950s indicated it was not fit for purpose, and that there were several shortcomings (see Appendix Two below).

Small pleasures came to her mind such as Miss Turner’s little treats, which included baked beans at Friday suppers, and huge hot potatoes on ‘Mischief Night’. Who could possibly forget Mrs Buckle’s scrambled eggs or Miss Jubb’s treacle tart, stiff with breadcrumbs? Sunlight streamed through the windows and on the gardens below, and at the front was the majesty of the Minster that ‘…held the eye so that you forgot you were supposed to be waking the boarders’. Not that it mattered, apparently, as the little ones were always awake already and the big ones often needed calling twice!

Pleasant sounds also lodged in the memory; muffled giggles from a midnight feast; lively squawks from the bathroom where hair-cutting operations were going on; a loud ‘Amen!’ followed immediately by a brisk scrape of chairs after prayers; fun and games on a Saturday night. No mention, however, of fun and games on November 5th!

The place and the people suited each other, wrote Miss Fanchiotti. There were apparently few rules, but a host of traditions at No 14 Minster Yard, upheld by the seniors, and recognised within limits by the juniors. A ‘sort of democracy’ with its own character and charm was in place, where the small ones had their say, and the big ones bossed them, grumbled at them, and protected them. The House, tiresome in its inconveniences, yet a homely and lovable place in which to live, never had a name; not even a nickname. Instead, Miss Fanchiotti related, it sat contentedly at the Minster’s feet as ‘No 14’.

The two former members of the Boarding House, Sarah and Jennifer, had been invited to describe to ex-boarders how the House had been divided into flats. Regency appeared to have been the new style, and radical alterations to the shabby old downstairs cloakroom and the Wellington boot cupboard were described. The former common room, perhaps best remembered by former boarders, had been divided into two rooms, one a bedroom with ‘lavish designs of enormous deep pink roses and olive green leaves’. The passage where the shoe lockers were housed had been converted into a ‘gay, modern kitchen’. The dining room, ‘with its arresting view of the Cathedral’, had undergone a complete transformation. Lit by wall brackets and candles which enhanced its already elegant character, the room was decorated with Regency stripes and white paint. The institutional furniture had been replaced with an old mahogany table and chairs, and a carved chest stood in the bow window.

It is interesting to note that Miss Fanchiotti used the term ‘Minster’, whereas her former charges referred to that arresting building as the ‘Cathedral’. Both terms have been used historically, of course, but the latter seems to be the preferred title today.

The House remained ‘in the family’, as Mr and Mrs Bilcliffe, parents of three Old Girls, lived in the flat on the ground floor at No 14, and Canon Cook and his sister Mrs Evans, an LHS governor at the time, lived on the first floor.

At the end of the first full year in Greestone House, it appeared that the boarders had settled well into their new accommodation. There was the usual varied programme of visits and activities, including riding on Saturday mornings and the traditional bonfire fireworks display which, in 1961, had once again proceeded without recorded incident! The garden was flourishing, and the pool had been cleaned out. A new garden swing had been installed, and on hot afternoons the juniors took tea in a tent on the lawn.

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The Sundial, Greestone House, 1967 by Judith Parr                                                 Greestone House Entrance, 1970 by Anne Thornhill

A number of visitors stayed in the House, including two German girls who stayed for eight days and five French girls who stayed for a week. Matron Smyrneou, who had been in post at Minster Yard, spent a weekend there and was delighted with the new décor. Another regular visitor was ‘Piper’, Miss Cleave’s latest dog, who arrived for lunch each Sunday tugging her mistress along!

The Boarding House continued to flourish during the 1960s. The Autumn 1963 edition of the LHS magazine reflected that there was a time when most of the boarders came from Lincolnshire. Now many of the parents lived abroad, and arrangements had to be made towards the end of terms for journeys not only to Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Anglesey, but also to Germany, Cyprus, Uganda, Norway and Singapore.

The LHS Boarding House came to a sudden and abrupt end in 1968. Perhaps its death-knell had been sounded in Headmistress Miss Maureen Leahy’s Speech Day address in1966. In it, she announced that the Boarding House had suffered more changes than could be wished during the year, although she hoped that it would soon return to normal. She expressed her gratitude to Miss Fanchiotti for setting aside her own commitments for a term, and taking charge of Greestone House when Miss Davis left at Easter. In her Speech Day report in 1968, however, Miss Leahy, who had replaced Miss Cleave in 1964, paid a warm tribute to the staff of the Boarding House, Mrs Clarke and Mrs Warren. Mrs Clarke had arrived as Matron in 1964, and was appointed Housemistress in 1964. Miss Cleave admitted that the last few years had not been easy, and she expressed her gratitude to Mrs Clarke for all her hard work, often carried our single-handedly, and for her tireless devotion to the girls in her care.

Giving a thumbnail sketch of the history of the Boarding House, Miss Leahy informed her audience that the School had accommodated boarders for fifty-seven years. The first intake in 1911 was admitted to Greestone House. The House subsequently moved to 14 Minster Yard in 1916, where it remained until 1961, supplemented for part of the time by Witham View on Drury lane, which replaced Greestone House in 1918. Then Greestone House was occupied from 1961 and had accommodation for twenty-eight boarders.

Miss Leahy went on to inform the gathering that the financing of the Boarding House had become progressively more difficult. Each year it had a large and increasing deficit, and had finally been judged to be irretrievable. Thus, with the greatest reluctance, and after the Governors had considered every possible expedient, the decision to close the House was made. She conceded that the months following the decision were naturally anxious ones for the boarders. Some of them had moved to other boarding schools, some were living at home, whilst others, she was pleased to say, had been able to continue at the School.

Despite losing some of the boarders, numbers in the School had increased that year to 550, and the resultant problem of accommodation led to Greestone House being used as a temporary answer, being converted for the use of the Sixth Form, giving them more pleasant conditions in which to work, and to have their recreation. It was also a sign of the times that Miss Leavy noted that the new accommodation would offer considerably more freedom to the sixth-formers, whom she hoped would accept the challenge of growing up into responsible, independent, self-disciplined people with ‘thought-out standards of their own’. Despite the elapse of some 35 years, and markedly different social attitudes, it would appear that today’s challenges are not essentially different.

In a warm tribute to Miss Leahy, who had been Headmistress for six years from 1964 to 1970, Mrs Coxon-Butler reported that when she was appointed, she was responsible for a thriving Boarding House of 30 boarders, and worked closely with the Matron and the girls who looked forward to her frequent visits, and concern for their comfort and happiness. The closure of the House in 1968 was attributed to the increasing pressure on accommodation brought about by growing numbers both in the main school and the sixth form.

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                                                                                          Boarders in Greestone House Garden, 1960s

State boarding schools are witnessing a surge in popularity, with the number of places rising by a quarter over the past decade – an increase driven in part by family breakdown, which has in effect left some children homeless.

Instead of the cold showers and ascetic dormitories of public school tradition, modern boarding quarters feature purpose-built blocks with ensuite bedrooms, access to Wi-Fi and thumb-print recognition entry systems.

Boarding school accommodation is being re-created around the country. One school in Lincoln has recently opened a sixth-form boarding house with 60 places, catering for demand from RAF families and pupils who commute long-distance.

Footnote

The three boarding house buildings are still standing, and have hardly changed externally since they were occupied by the LHS boarders.

Acknowledgements

Grateful thanks are due to Jane Bennett-Powell; Margaret Butterworth, née Scholey; Elizabeth Ingram, née Macbeth; Mary Lucas, née West; Fiona Minkov, née Macbeth; Pam Nixon, née Lawrence; Christine Ramsay, née Neave; Mary Sanderson, née Neave; and Greta Stewart. These LHS alumnae have either shared their memories of life in the LHS Boarding House, or have contributed to the article in some other distinctive way. I apologise if I have inadvertently missed someone out.

Pam Nixon’s novel, ‘But I’ll remember this’, is based on life at the LHS Boarding House. I have yet to read it, but I am told that it is a very realistic account of life at 14 Minster Yard, with only the names changed to protect the innocent! The Oxford Times has described the novel as a bitter-sweet comedy, written in an elegantly, ironic style. It was published in July 2014 by 3Score Publishing.

Photo of John Hurt as a boarder courtesy of Jim Townend, former Captain of Lincoln School in 1960-61.

About the author

Peter Harrod is the assistant archivist at LCHS responsible for the pre-1974 archives. He was a day boy at Lincoln School during the 1950s, and strongly denies rumours that he used to meet LHS boarders in the Arboretum!

Appendix One

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Appendix Two

A description of the LHS Boarding House is given in what appears to be a typescript copy of a report to Governors, or to the Ministry of Education/Inspectorate, from the early 1950s. The Housemistress at the time was Miss Fanchiotti, appointed in 1948, assisted by a full-time Matron, Mrs Buckle. The domestic staff numbered four part-time non-resident women.

There were 20 boarders, aged 11-18, with home addresses in Lindsey, Nottinghamshire, Lincoln City, Suffolk, Middlesex, Bristol and Norwich. All were termly boarders; three came from broken homes, one was ‘unmanageable at home’, and one was at the School because she had a ‘delicate and difficult stepmother’.

The House was expected to be self-supporting financially, and fees had been raised to £95 per annum in 1952, and to £115 in 1954, in order to break even. Boarders had dinner in school except at weekends. The cost of the meals was heavy, amounting to over £250 per annum for 20 girls. Apparently the Ministry did not charge the same rate for boarders as for day girls, and this was queried in the report. Presumably there was a higher charge for boarders for some reason. All the girls were registered under the National health Scheme, with a dentist and a firm of local doctors. Occasional treatments, for example for verrucas, were administered at the School Clinic.

The position of the Boarding House was described as being ‘both pleasant and very convenient’, with ‘character’ and a good-sized garden. However, it was described as being inadequate for the following reasons:

1.            It was too small to be run economically. Moreover, if it were larger, there would be room for an affordable junior housemistress. The burden of work was too heavy for one housemistress.

2.            There was no senior common room other than a small attic.

3.            The dormitories were small, and the ceilings low.

4.            Another attic room had to serve as the housemistress’s bedroom.

Appendix 3: Key to boarders’ names in 1948 photograph

Back row:   Margaret Hoyland, Daphne Wales, Pamela Stevenson, Pat Royce-Evans, Mary Flintham.

Upper Middle Row:   Eve Mansell, Diana Richards, Heather Spring, Monica Stamp.

Lower Middle Row: Marjorie Walker, Margaret Taylor, Maryrose Knibb, Elizabeth Macbeth, Margaret Scholey.

Front row:  Josephine Wingate, Ann Hill, Rosemary Storey, Pamela Sparks.