Ely High School 1905-1972

Golden Jubilee

Supplement to the Ely High School Magazine, May 1955


The Very Reverend C. W. Stubbs, Dean of Ely, 1905-1907.
The Very Reverend A. F. Kirkpatrick, D.D., Dean of Ely, 1907-1936.
The Reverend G. W. Evans, Canon of Ely, 1936-1938.
Alderman T. Peake, 1938-1944.
Mrs. Sinclair Martin, 1944-


Miss E. E. Fletcher, B.A., 1905-1929
Miss E. M. Verini, M.A., 1929-1936
Miss B. Tilly, Ph.D., M.A., 1936-



The School was born in the College, in the house which is now the Bishop's House, but was in those days the Deanery. On July 26th, 1904, a meeting was held there of the Ely sub-committee of the Isle of Ely Education Committee. The seven members present at this meeting were the Very Reverend the Dean of Ely, the Venerable Archdeacon Emery, the Reverend Canon Kennett, Mr. Charles Bidwell, Mr. Arthur Hall, Mr. T. B. Granger, and Dr. Dufton, H.M.I. It was decided to establish a school, and at the same time to purchase the present buildings.

The Dean (the Very Reverend C. W. Stubbs), was appointed as the first Chairman of the Governors and Mr. Arthur Hall, J.P., the first secretary. It is thus seen how from the first the School had a close connection with the College, and owes much to those Churchmen who took a deep interest in its welfare. Dean Stubbs left Ely after two years, to be succeeded as Chairman by his successor, Dean Kirkpatrick, who held that office for twenty-nine years. His place was taken by Canon Evans, and for several years after that, Dean Blackburne was a member of the Governing Body.

When it was decided to establish a school, an arrangement was made with Miss I. Piggott, principal of a private school in Ely, by which her pupils were to form the nucleus of the High School, and Miss Piggott was to hold the position of Head of the Preparatory School, to be run in connection with the new High School. The Preparatory was open to boys as well as girls, and in this connection it must not be forgotten that our School has many Old Boys, as well as Old Girls. The Preparatory, which was housed in what is now the Sixth Form block, continued to exist until 1948, when it was closed as a result of the Education Act of 1944.

In a sense it seems fitting that the School should have been established in buildings which had served for several years as the Old Fen Offices, the headquarters of the Bedford Level Corporation. The drainage of the fens made possible the farming of the land, and the majority of the girls are those whose fathers are engaged in working the fertile reclaimed soil, and enjoying its rich returns. From this land, too, comes part of the money, in the form of rates, by which it is maintained. When the present buildings were purchased by the Corporation, about 1800, and rebuilt in their present form in 1827, it was little thought that they would later serve as a girls' school !

The present dining room was used as the Board Room. A very fine silver mace, presented by the Duke of Bedford, was always placed upon the table before business began. This is now to be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Registrar of the Corporation lived in the house, and the whole was known as Bedford House. Hence was originated the name by which the School was known for many years.

When the Fen Offices were moved to Cambridge, the buildings became a private house, and so continued until they were purchased for our School. We still have in the garden, an old keystone dated 1846, which belongs to the times of the Old Fen Offices. It is inscribed with a verse of poetry by Samuel Wells, a fenland poet, and reads:

"At times the lofty arch is proudly reared
To some how lov'd, to some in life how fear'd.
A grateful heart erects this humble pile,
To Bedford's Level and to Ely's Isle."

Do not let us forget that our old buildings are historic, and have been of vital importance for the life of the Isle. We shall perhaps remember them with affection when we have left them for the new buildings, which are even now rising rapidly on the Downham Road site.

On May 17th, 1905, a reception was given for the newly appointed Headmistress, Miss E. E. Fletcher, B.A., by the first committee of Governors. The following were the first members:

The Very Reverend the Dean of Ely (Chairman). Mr. Charles Bidwell, J.P.
Mr. Arthur Hall, J.P.
Mr. Albert J. Pell, J.P.
The Reverend Canon Punchard, D.D.
Mr. T. Bartell Granger.
The Reverend Canon Kennett.
Miss Emery.
Mrs. R. S. W. Perkins.

The School was formally opened the next day, May 18th, when forty-two children appeared, ranging in age from six to nearly fifteen. There were six forms, and two mistresses, in addition to Miss Fletcher. Everyone had to work two sets of girls for all lessons, so that teaching, even such small numbers, must have been very hard work.

With the very beginning of the School began its growing pains which have been going on ever since. The premises were, unfortunately, never adequate even at its inception. What must have been a fine and beautiful garden, comparable with any in Ely, became gradually cluttered with wooden huts, put up from time to time as the numbers of pupils became unworkable in the existing accommodation. In the early days there were fine lawns, an old thatched summer house, even a hothouse, where grapes and tomatoes weregrown.

All these have long since disappeared, and now there remain only a small playground, and a small piece of lawn. The tale is one of ever increasing expansion and makeshifts of various kinds to meet it. About 1912 the old buildings were enlarged at the back to make larger classrooms, and the long cloakroom was added.

It is difficult for us now to believe that in the early days the present Art Room was the Gymnasium (after the floor had been lowered to give necessary height to the room), and that Cookery was taught in the present square cloakroom, where there was an old kitchen range, and that the Dining Room was the Assembly Hall for Prayers.

About this time, too, the Laboratory was enlarged to its present size. There was no real relief to the overcrowding until the Lodge was acquired in 1917, and the Headmistress was able to move in and vacate much needed space in the main building. During the 1914-1918 war the numbers in the School rose to some two hundred. What a relief it must have been when an old Army Hut (costing only £220) was erected in the garden in 1920, for, during the meantime, one class had to be taught in a room in Cass's Garage.

In this hut, now partitioned off for Domestic Science and a Senior classroom, Prize Givings were held. On these occasions there were to be seen banks of ferns and the whole school in white frocks.

Expansion continued rapidly: 1932 saw the building of the present Gymnasium, which also serves as our Assembly Hall. Then, when numbers again threatened to become unworkable (for they nearly reached two hundred and fifty), two extra classrooms were added in the garden, between the Old Hut and the Main Buildings, in 1934.

During the Second World War the national awakening to the need of education, again sent the numbers soaring up. The peak was reached in 1944, with a total of four hundred and fifty-five in the School, including the boys and girls in the Preparatory. Extra new buildings were impossible in wartime, but fortunately we were able to use three rooms in Archer House in the Market Place, until 1948 when the last addition was made to our premises, giving us four classrooms, a laboratory and cloakroom accommodation.

The life of the School is always full of events great and small, more than can ever be recorded. Some, however, stand out in our history which should not go untold. During the 1914-1918 War some Belgian refugee children were pupils in this School. The Second World War affected us more closely. In 1939, when schools were evacuated from the larger populated areas to country districts for safety from air raids, we received, as evacuees, the Central Foundation School from Bishopsgate in the East End of London.

We all quickly made friends and found ways of working together. They remained with us until 1944, and it was then that we were able to acquire desperately needed extra accommodation by taking over from them rooms in Archer House. In 1947 disastrous floods devastated much of the Fenland, and were so menacing that the Military were called in. For a fortnight our Preparatory Department was Military Headquarters, and the pupils had a holiday. When the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester toured the flooded areas they visited the Military Headquarters, and ate a picnic lunch seated at one of our school tables in the larger preparatory classroom.

In the space of fifty years the School has served the needs of education in this widely scattered rural area. It has thus been the only centre for secondary grammar school education for girls for a district stretching twelve miles and more in every direction of the compass. The total number of pupils which has passed through its doors is only a little short of three thousand.

Of these, some twenty-five have graduated at various universities, over a hundred have attended Training Colleges for teachers, others have become Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, and Horticulturists (or have entered other careers), others, these in large numbers, have entered the Nursing Profession; the largest number have taken up the greatest of all careers, that of marriage, and many of their children have also received their education here.

The greatest cause for rejoicing are our new buildings, so long looked for and desired, which grow rapidly before our eyes on the Downham Road site. This is a fitting scene for this our Jubilee year, especially since the first Headmistress once wrote prophetically these words, "I have in vision a new site for the School on the Downham Road, in its own playingfield, with lofty classrooms, Assembly Hall, Gymnasium,and Laboratories."

All these, and more, will be ours before many more months are past. May we be worthy of all that is being done for us, and remembering that the School has always stood for Christian principles, for Truth and Honesty, for sincere hard work, and serious purpose, let us go on to aim at reaching heights of excellence in all our endeavours. To use again some words written by Miss Fletcher, "May Ely High School of the future, owing something to its past traditions, become greater than those traditions."



Miss E. M. VERINI, M.A. (Oxon.) : Headmistress 1929 to 1936.

It is nearly twenty-six years since I went to Ely High School and nineteen since I left. So much has happened in the intervening years, both in the world at large and in my own experience that it is difficult to know what to write of those days, though they will always stand out with a warm glow, and (as one looks back, rather than as one experienced them), with a feeling of wonderful tranquillity in contrast to the whirl of more recent years.

Lovely open skies, the garden still containing its vine, its carnation borders, its delphinium beds, its apple trees, and, even after the gymnasium was erected, crocuses still piercing through parts of the asphalt playground - in summer girls doing barefoot Greek dancing and rhythmic movement on the lawn to music played through the old round dining room window - such were some of the joys.

It is, in fact, the great happiness of those days that remains in mind - though, indeed, they offered many problems; that is constantly the refrain of recollections when one meets old E.H.S. friends or re-reads the old Magazines - happiness and growth.

What a pride and pleasure it was when our Magazine was selected for an Exhibition of English School Magazines, when samples of Miss Hay's Art work were requested.

What a delight when Miss Simpson's generosity provided a fine gramophone for a daily record before Prayers - when there was Pottery to be made and murals executed - when the Domestic Science equipment arrived - when Miss Richards and her band of workers provided the Biology Department with a pond.

Always behind all stood the Cathedral, a personal bond being maintained by successive Chairmen of our Governors, the Dean, with his patriarchal white beard, followed by Canon Evans.

Amidst the quiet of a still almost rural city there was always some engaging liveliness in school - how many Old Girls from those days will now be enjoying that in their own children or pupils ! Teaching, Nursing, and other welfare professions have claimed many. A group of about half a dozen of us including Graduate and Froebel Teachers and two Graduate Laboratory Workers met in Cambridge recently; all had begun in the Preparatory Department.

One hopes that the School made its small contribution to the outstanding work of Edna Gotobed in relieving at the first possible moment those in misery in Belsen. Among nurses we find at least one Matron and several leading Sisters in large Hospitals, among wives, the wife of a Headmaster in Africa, of a Consultant Surgeon, Chairman of the Mothers' Union for the Deanery in a large town,

Already I slip into the present; but perhaps that is the most healthy way to regard the past, especially of a School. Nostalgia would be a feeble comment - one needs to see the days as a foreshadowing and it is in that setting and significance that the little incidents stand out rather than the more public events.

What has happened, I wonder, to the small person who bicycled all the way from Littleport and back one hot Sunday to ask for a mulberry leaf when her silkworm seemed to need one - a stalwart response to need, which, after all is perhaps the greatest contribution we can learn to make to our fellowcountrymen.

In those six and a half years I learnt many things and not the least of these was the great debt that Ely and its neighbourhood owes to the selfgiving work of the School Staff at that time, and most profoundly to the daily spadework and the interest in it given for so many years by Miss Baird. To me they were years of much quiet delight and many friendships; the school grew, it flapped its wings - it could not have done so without the happy stability of its Staff-room, a compound of ability and steady devotion.

It is the personal contributions of Staff and girls that one remembers most vividly, and that makes people what they become, and a school what it is.

Miss A. E. PARKES. Senior Mistress 1905 to 1929.

So many world-shaking things have happened in the last fifty years that they seem to make the Ely High School just a very small speck in the world; though not to those of us who remember it. In 1905 it was a very important place !

I was not at the School on that first opening day. I went to the school a few weeks later, when I stayed with Miss Fletcher to go into Cambridge for examinations, and I came to teach in the school in September 1905.

I have still in my possession a postcard, dated May 6th 1905, which Miss Fletcher sent to me at Bournemouth, saying: "I think I shall be proud to show you the school." And that was her wish all through those years, to be proud of the School and her girls.

I believe there were forty-two girls and boys on that first day, but I am not very sure now, who they all were. I think I am right in remembering Gladys Woolnough, Bertha Sennitt, and Arthur Tyndall, and of course the only two mistresses besides Miss Fletcher were Miss Pigott and Miss Le Pelly.

One of the things I remember was the League of King Arthur's Knights, formed by the children of Miss Burns' form, I should think about 1907. The League had secret vows, which were not known to Miss Fletcher till many years later. One was "never to be rude to mistresses." One of those children I know was Dorothy Clark.

One of Miss Fletcher's dearest wishes was that a new High School should be built, and she worked for it all those years. However, one obstacle after another prevented it, and she never saw her wish come true. Now I understand the building has actually started, and my wishes are that it will be a very happy and prosperous place.

Miss B. R. BAIRD, 1916 to 1946. Senior Mistress 1929 to 1946.
Purely Personal.

Congratulations to all members, past and present, of Ely High School, on its reaching its fiftieth birthday.

Greetings to all those with whom I worked and whom I made to work in the years 1916 to 1946. What fun it was too - nearly always. You were such a high-spirited, eager, friendly set. You knew me and I knew you. We were there in the growing, formative years of the school and each of us has given something to the school and received something from it also.

I send to you all, and you are more than a thousand in number and many of you now in distant lands, my sincere wishes for your real happiness and I would like to tell you of my deepest gratitude to you for your kindness towards me when you and I were there together at Ely High School.

MISS W. PATER. Head of Preparatory Department 1931 to 1948.
The Preparatory, 1931-1948.

The Preparatory began as a private school run by Miss Pigott and it formed the nucleus of the High School in 1905. In 1931 she resigned, but she loved her old school, and every new term we found a vase of flowers, which she had brought from her garden; even in January we had Christmas roses.

At this time there were thirty-six children, aged five to nine years. These numbers gradually increased until they reached eighty, when we had to have an extra member of staff, and the use of the classroom in the Lodge.

Certain events stand out above others. In 1932 the art mistress offered to paint the walls of the classrooms with the help of girls and staff. All went well until a girl fell off a ladder (no damage done), but the staff continued the work alone.

"No room, no room," was said to Alice, and as numbers increased in the whole school, there really was no room for us in the hall. After two very crowded Speech Days it was decided that the Preparatory should have a Day of their own in the Summer Term when they could act their plays, and listen to short speeches.

London friends came to share our rooms for a short time in 1939 until they went to Archer House, and we also had some children who came as members of our school for the duration of the war.

Floods in March 1947, were serious, and the Army commandeered our rooms at a moment's notice. We scrambled out, and the Army moved in.

Under the new Education Act no new pupils were admitted after 1946, and in 1948 the school was closed.

I had seventeen very happy years in Ely, and am always grateful for the kindness of the parents, and friendliness of the children and staff. Now, one hears of those children as mothers, farmers, nurses, teachers, librarians, and in the services, and one is glad to have had the privilege and joy of teaching them, and the further joy of hearing their news as the years pass.

G. O. WOOLNOUGH. 1905-1907.

Fifty years I ask myself, can it be possible ? It seems but half this time since I first entered the doors of Bedford House, as we then called the Ely High School. There were so few of us, only thirty-two I believe in the Upper School, the rest were in the Preparatory.

Of those thirty-two there are not many left, and I am the only one who has had an unbroken connection with the School since May 1905, having lived in Ely for the whole of the period. My greetings and very best wishes to the School of which I have such happy memories.

GERTRUDE EDMONDS (née COY). 1905-1909.

Fifty years ago I bicycled from Chettisham with a small sister to the Ely High School. Outside I met Bertha Senitt who had bicycled from Stretham, and who has been a friend to the present day.

Timidly we entered the school. My sister was taken to the preparatory in the care of Miss Pigott, and we entered the main building. I knew practically all the pupils, as we had been to Miss Pigott's private school, and formed the nucleus of the new school. It was almost like a party.

Lessons could not start at once as we had to be sorted according to age. There were no entrance examinations in those days, and there was quite a lot of playtime for the first few weeks. In the gardens were a lot of old stables and buildings, and hide-and-seek among all sorts of rubbish with a number of girls was bliss to me, who lived rather isolated from friends on a farm.

There were only two teachers, Miss Fletcher who taught English subjects, maths, and drawing, and Miss Le Pelly who struggled with our French. Later Miss Parkes joined the Staff and took over Art and some other subjects.

Lessons in those days were not looked upon as hard work, and most of us were quite unconcerned as to whether our work was of a high standard or not. We were brought sharply to earth when the results of our first public examination were published. Discipline began to tighten up and consequently I had to pay frequent visits to Miss Fletcher's private room.

Games and drill began to play a bigger part in the school life and occasionally we had to drill before some of the Governors. Imagine my feelings when, every time I marched by, one of them (the late Mr. Arthur Hall) tried to hook my ankle with his walking stick.

After a length of time spent in France, when my French and no doubt general manner, had been improved, I returned to the Ely High School as a junior form mistress, and among my pupils was a present mistress, Dorothy Defew. After a few terms I was able to enter a Physical Training College, and later became Games and Gymnastics Mistress at March High School.

I have always watched Ely High School's progress, and have been grateful for the good grounding I received there, and particularly for the high sense of Right and Wrong that Miss Fletcher tried to instil into us.

Ivy BUTCHER (née RICE). 1910-1915.

As an Old Girl of the generation which entered the Ely High School in 1910, I join in sending greetings to the School on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee.

What changes have taken place ! We were all housed in the main building, with an occasional visit to the laboratory as our only departure from Bedford House. What a mere handful of girls we were as compared with present day numbers.

I have vivid recollections of those sailor hats we wore above our pigtails, anchored by elastic bands under our chins, and of their various shades of straw according to age.

Having had friends or relatives with daughters attending the school over a long period, and thus having been able to return from time to time, I have noted with interest the many changes which have taken place.

As Old Girls, Joyce, my daughter, and I hope to attend the Jubilee Celebrations.

LORNA KISBY (née HAMMOND). 1918-1922.

It was with something of a shock, on being asked to contribute to this magazine, that I realised that I have been more or less closely connected with Ely High School for thirty-eight years.

The School to us, as children, was a most happy one. To go there day by day was a delight, although we were most firmly disciplined. How fortunate we were in those who taught us and I am especially grateful to those who taught us to appreciate the beauties of our English language in poetry and literature: whilst we had only to look through a classroom window to see towering above us, a poem in stone, almost overpowering in its grandeur and solidity.

What of the Colossus who bestrode our narrow world - Miss Fletcher ? Others have spoken and written of her: and as time goes on, I find that more and more we are realising that she was a great Headmistress. It was she, together with such Olympians as Miss Baird, Miss Parkes, and that most loved of mistresses, Mrs. Bywaters, who, by their teaching and their example, showed us how to escape from the microcosm of our own small lives; taught us to feel part of something made greater than ourselves.

Through them we were shown how to become part of all we have known of Truth, and of things beautiful and of good report. I salute them in gratitude !

And now, new and beautiful buildings are rising, day by day, on the Downham Road. May the School, at last suitably housed amidst the green fields of the fertile fen, go from strength to strength; and in the words of Miss Fletcher, "train generations of girls and mothers of future girls." And may the character and spirit of the old school never be lost in the novelty and efficiency of the new.

DOROTHY BURGESS (née MARSHALL). 1916 to 1924.
Prizegivings Thirty to Forty Years Ago.

The picture is rather faded now, but I can still see it with various backgrounds provided by Holy Trinity Parish Room, the Public Room, or The Hut. The picture itself does not vary very much, the greater part of it consisting of a hundred or two hundred girls arrayed in white dresses - white dresses of all kinds, mostly of muslin, voile or pique, though every year a few elegant people appeared in silk or crepe-de-chine.

White gloves were desirable for everyone, but were compulsory for those who received prizes. With those beautiful white dresses we wore black woollen stockings and black shoes. By modern standards this is a sartorial incongruity, but not so then. We were quite happy and thought we were very grand.

The ceremony was presided over by the benign and broadly bearded Dean Kirkpatrick, and with the words, "Miss Fletcher, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Girls of the Ely High School, on this auspicious occasion" the proceedings began.

The musical part of the programme usually consisted of Carols, but we did sometimes have songs, and the two I remember most clearly are "Orpheus with his Lute" and "The Galway Piper."

LOUIE CHEESERIGHT. 1921 to 1928.
(Inspector of Primary and Special Schools in Sheffield).

What do I remember of Ely High School ? Navy tunics with box pleats, blazers, and of course, the gloves which must always be worn in the street. Every afternoon the crocodile set off across the Cathedral Green and down Back Hill to the station, escorted by a member of Staff. Miss Baird usually wheeled her bicycle and seemed a little detached from us, but no young gentleman from either King's School or Needham's dared make a rude remark on these occasions.

The day had begun with Prayers in the Hut. When all were assembled Miss Fletcher had to be summoned. At one stage a little bell was rung at the side door, but later a prefect went sedately to the Lodge. There was the swish of Miss Fletcher's gown, girls' fumblings with dog-eared hymn books, and then black stockinged knees kneeling on bare boards "grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings may be ordered by Thy governance, to do always that which is pleasing in Thy sight." These words come back after more than twenty years.

So to the work of the day. Botany in the 'Lab' meant a walk across the gravel. These were enjoyable lessons, and, thanks I think particularly to Miss Jarvis, although not a scientist, I developed a real interest in living things. Incidentally, the Lab. always stood as something of a final hall of judgment with us, since it was there that we wrote those fateful papers for the Cambridge Examination Syndicate when grown to the stature of the Fifth and Sixth.

My own happiest memories are of what I learnt of history and literature; and a glimpse of certain books in a bookshop even now, recalls some form room at Ely and the mistress who first introduced me to that classic. "Hereward the Wake," read with Miss Huggins, was one of the earliest - somehow Hereward always seemed just over behind the Cathedral; Miss Parkes guiding us to enjoy "Julius Caesar," or the thrill of stories of King Arthur, read with Miss Fletcher; Sixth Form memories of "Coriolanus" and Chaucer, gathered round the Library fire with Miss Watson; and then there were Miss Thomas' history lessons.

In the Upper School Scripture lessons were occasions for which we tidied the formroom. Then we wrote out the passage we had learnt, and awaited, with fitting demeanour, the coming of Miss Fletcher. Whether in spite of or because of two years' study of it for examination, Miss Fletcher kindled in me a real affection for the Book of the Acts.

Second only to our awe of Scripture lessons were our feelings for French. Many of us began it with real awe, but as the years passed, we came to appreciate more and more the kindly and understanding shrewdness that guided us. We knew that, assuming steady work, we could even anticipate Miss Baird's summing up at the end of term calmly, and we were sure we should always have French homework on the first evening after a holiday.

The end of each day was heralded by the ringing of the Cathedral bells.

Outside the daily round there were Guide meetings with Miss Bailey, and one outstandingly happy camp at Sandringham.

Our schooldays saw the school's coming-of-age. My recollections are hazy, but Miss Fletcher received a bouquet on the lawn, and later, there was a performance of scenes from "Quality Street" by some of the school's past scholars and grandchildren.

Then each year had its Prizegiving and Sports Day. The strains of "Marche Militaire" always conjure up for me a picture of Miss Hill playing the piano, whilst a line of white-robed maidens marched sedately down the Hut. Beyond, behind banks of ferns, we glimpsed the day's special visitor beside Miss Fletcher and Dean Kirkpatrick, and nearer to us, the Staff in gowns and hoods.

Sports Days recall the smooth green turf of the Theological College grounds, and then entertainments on the lawn at school. Despite fears and forebodings, I never remember the day being wet, and this event always heralded the approach of the long summer holiday, even if one had the result of external examinations to come later.

As we journeyed further afield, we realised that many schools had buildings more imposing than ours. Yet we could still think lovingly of the poplars that skirted the gravel, the hollyhocks by the Chapel Street Gate, and the apple trees at the end of the lawn.

I suppose that very soon now the High School in St. Mary's Street will be no longer, and new generations will build new traditions elsewhere. We would wish it so, for some of us are working to build new traditions in Education. From knowing many schools I have come to value more that ideal of Christian Education of which I learnt much under the shadow of Ely Cathedral.

PHYLLIS WELCH (née VAIL). 1925-1930.

I really cannot think of anything useful for the magazine. I always remember being so thrilled when Miss Fletcher bought the whole school an ice cream and allowed us to eat it in school time. I cannot be sure, but I am almost certain it was on the occasion of the twenty-first anniversary. It may not sound much nowadays, but to me it was wonderful.

They were the days when we were not allowed to eat a sweet in the street, when we always had to wear gloves, summer and winter. Miss Baird always seemed to be around the City of Ely and in the country walking. We could never be sure when we should see her. This was a trial, as some of us had discovered that our Panama hats suited us turned. down at the back, consequently we always had to be on the alert, turning them back, putting on our gloves and walking quietly and sedately, ready for the inevitable "Good. afternoon, girls," or, if we were alone, our Christian name was always used.

PHYLLIS RENYARD (née GANDY). 1926 to 1932.

Greetings and best wishes to all the mistresses who taught me during the years 1926 to 1932, years which left me nothing but happy memories and a sincere wish that my own children's schooldays will be as happy.

Baking summer days when we sat on the lawn during the lunch hour; when we sang the "Cuckoo Song" with the Hut door wide open, and had the hum of bees and the whirr of the lawn mower for accompaniment; freezing winter days when I glowed by the time I reached school after my long cycle ride, and when we were so glad to see the coal fires that burnt so merrily in the grate in each form room.

Community singing for the whole school taken on Friday mornings by the Cathedral Organist. His "Louder, Louder !" must have made the staff long for ear plugs as we shouted "Oh ! No, John," and "I can play on the big bass drum" at the top of our voices.

Gym on the lawn in long black stockings and white shoes. (Do the girls still have inspection of these, I wonder ?). Cycling to "Paradise" on blowy days for a boisterous game of hockey. Oh ! the pavilion with twenty-two girls trying to change stockings at once ! Standing first on one foot and then on the other in anguish in the corridor at the Lodge, after being told by the form that I had been "sent for," only to discover inside the study that it was April 1st!! Miss Verini's delighted laughter and friendliness over the whole thing gave me my first glimpse of the great headmistress she was.

Sports days in the Theological College grounds where the sun always seemed to shine.

The wonder and excitement of the Dramatic Society. Our delight in the formation of Houses.

The smell of sizzling hair in the Science Laboratory, and Miss Richards leaping from the platform and running to the Bunsen burner over which the said hair was suspended.

Above all, the preparation for the job of living, the patience and guidance of all the staff, the encouragement which they gave to us all. Miss Baird's wonderful gift of giving us a little homily before each lesson will always stand sharply out.

The "shining morning faces" at Prayers, and the singing of "New every morning."

Then the patience, care and thought given to the future of each girl. Miss Verini encouraged me in my desire for nursing (she is still my good adviser and my very dear friend and godmother to one of my daughters). I loved every moment of my nursing career, and enjoyed even the exams, and now I am married to a very busy surgeon and so am still in close contact with hospital life.

May Ely High School for Girls go forward into the future with many blessings, and give happy schooldays to girls of many generations to come.


I remember particularly the twice-yearly school plays and, from my present standpoint, pity the poor producer. The daily gramophone record which then used to precede School Prayers gave many of us our first chance of appreciating music. It was part, I think, of Miss Verini's campaign to help us to share her own love of music, other aspects of which included recitals from celebrities such as Harry Isaacs and Helen Henschel.

Most of my school life was spent under Miss Verini's headmistressship, and her personality, with that of Miss Baird, made a very strong impression on me. She must have been a gifted English teacher, for I remember her lessons - on Gray's "Elegy" and "Macbeth", for instance, together with Miss Defew's on Blake and the Romantic Revival - to this day.

She seemed to enjoy what she taught and seemed to like us too. And she seemed to have such confidence in our ability to succeed that she inspired even the most craven-hearted with confidence also.

Miss Baird's personality seemed complementary to that of Miss Verini and they were an excellent combination. We feared but respected and liked Miss Baird. I can remember her excellent method of getting a class started on time. She would start saying"Maintenant je vais vous faire une dictée" as she came out of the staffroom, so that by the time she had got into our form room opposite she was well away, and we had to listen and write hard so as not to miss any.

I am now Senior English mistress at a large mixed County School in Pinner. I received this appointment a year after my return from Australia, where I spent a year in exchange. Before that I taught in grammar schools in Chiswick and Sheffield.

My very best wishes to the Jubilee Celebrations.

JOYCE BUTCHER. 1936-1943.

During the Second World War we took into our already inadequate buildings an "evacuee," a whole school with whom we shared not only premises, but also, to make the latter possible, the hours of education; we attended the morning sessions only, they took over after lunch. In spite of this our tuition progressed, a tribute indeed to those concerned with organising and dovetailing the two timetables.

After a time Archer House and the Club Room became available as extra accommodation, and we resumed full-time attendance, the old order of things being modified to include escorted trips to these new educational outposts by way of Market Street. This must have been a most irksome business for the Staff, but it provided a welcome diversion for scholars who enjoyed a look at the "world" in between sessions.

Indeed, it is whispered that two wayward pupils found the lure of the world of pleasure too much for them, and that (having placed themselves strategically at the tail of the crocodile) after passing the Rex Cinema the class saw them no more.

Without doubt the happiest days were those we spent as Sixth Formers. A little work and a great deal of talk seemed to be our maxim. Perhaps it was a good thing, since so many of us went into the teaching profession, but the abstruse nature of some of our discussions would have heartened any listener even if we had been driven by overcrowding to doing our work in the pottery room amongst the paint pots and the still-life arrangements.


What a rich experience it is to look back on eight years spent at Ely High School ! Those years to me are a kaleidoscope of people, events and buildings, affecting each one of us, in some way or other, and helping to make us what we are.

The Air Raid Shelter - a hideous necessity, yet forming a barrier round the tiny piece of untouched lawn with its apple trees, was the perfect summer retreat for Sixth Formers, either for work or for interminable chatter. Each Sixth Form must have its strengths and weakness - our weakness, I remember vividly, was tea-making ! It would be immodest to mention our virtues.

Years earlier, I remember those wonderful visits of the Martin Harvey Company, to many perhaps their first contact with the living theatre, certainly to most the first glimpse of actors arriving with their paraphernalia, of the partially made up professional, busy about his transformation from man to superman. And not only drama we had song recitals, lectures, and instrumentalists, which we accepted as our right, not realising it was our privilege.

One cannot think of those gatherings in the hall (on those dreadful stools !) without seeing again that indomitable figure, Miss Baird, walking from row to row, demanding "Have you any sweets ?" "Have you any sweets ?" Who could meet her gaze, and not be truthful ? The only escape was to look studiously in some other direction, and hope not to arouse suspicion !

There was another figure familiar to generations of girls - that of Cutworth, endlessly toiling up flights of stairs with two coal scuttles, always cheerful. (Cutworth may still be seen sometimes in the early morning, still cheerful and smiling, carrying, no longer coals but fresh vegetables and fruit from his allotment for school dinners. Editor's comment).


My first memory of Ely High School is of sitting on a revolving chair in Miss Verini's room - was it nineteen years ago - and "twirling" round on it, while Miss Verini and my mother talked ! Needless to say that was something I never dared to do again.

I remember all kinds of things about the Kindergarten and the people in it. Of "Polly" Pater and how she always held her skirt up at the back when standing in front of the fire, and of how someone put some chestnuts in the fire one day ! How we divided into gangs, and were so pleased one day when - but I can't put that in, he might remember too.

How we had parties at Christmas, the first year, and a big Father Christmas on the wall with a real sack of sweets !

Also I can just remember Miss Verini showing Miss Tilly, in a brown costume, into the First Form room.

Next, the Big School, or very nearly - the Second Form with Miss Curtis and her beautiful handwriting; Miss Bufton and holiday competitions with prizes for collections of wild flowers, leaves, or the longest list of names of inns - and, of course, Miss Judd with her spinning wheel.

Then there were two plays the staff in "Passion, Poison, and Petrification," which we thought very funny indeed, and then the Martin Harvey Company in "Tobias and the Angel" which I thought was quite wonderful.

Later on, selling buttonholes on Fete Day, then held in the playground and on the lawns, putting on the gramophone on Friday mornings and hoping I'd remember not to get up during a pause in the music to turn it off; presenting a bouquet to Mrs. Legge-Bourke at Prizegiving in the Rex Cinema.

Many things have changed, not least the buildings. The room now used as the Studio had, to me then, fascinating harvest scene murals painted all round the walls; the whole school could get into the Hall; there was a square of lawn between the two playgrounds with one - or was it two fruit trees. This was later dug up to provide space for an Air Raid Shelter and of course there were no prefabs ! Even in those days a new building was talked of.

Of some members of Staff something must be said: of Miss Baird, of whom I stood very much in awe in the lower school, but whom I gradually came to respect and to see that there was something "special" about; Miss Defew to whom I owe any small appreciation of English Literature that I have, and for whose good teaching I am grateful; Miss Roy, who must surely be remembered by everyone for her sudden "You look as though you're going to talk. Please go outside !"

Miss Oates and Mrs. Zagorzycka for their encouragement and help; Mrs. Staniforth for her, then not always appreciated, grasp and teaching of history; and Miss Tilly for her never-failing help and interest both while I was at school and afterwards.

I seem to be seeing this through rose-coloured spectacles; though that is perhaps because I'm on the other side of the staff-room door now !

ENID RICE. 1943-1953.

"School days are the happiest days" .... so the saying goes. My schooldays were certainly very happy, and it is to Ely High School that I attribute many of my successes in the past, and present position in the University of Reading. I am very grateful to many of the staff for the interest they took in me, and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking them, and especially Miss Green, who encouraged me greatly to press forward, and to Dr. Tilly who has been an invaluable help and adviser all through my school career.

It is very cheering to know that Ely High School will soon be the proud possessor of new buildings, because I fully realise the difficulties under which staff and students have worked during the past years, and I hope that the helpful and friendly atmosphere which was maintained in the present buildings during my ten years at the school, will be transferred to the new premises. May I then, wish present students, past students and members of staff every success, and the School great achievements and prosperity in the future.

From the Present Upper Sixth Form.

In this Jubilee Year we, as the senior form, would like to express our pride thus to be ending our school days in this year which is a milestone in the history of our school.

We hope that fifty years hence the pupils of the school, although in different buildings, will look back over their schooldays with memories as pleasant as ours.


1913 - Bertha Sennitt, B.Sc., Honours Mathematics, Class I, Royal Holloway College (University of London), Open Exhibition.
Mary Peck, B.Sc.
1921 - Eva Lister, B.A., Honours, Modern Languages Class II, University of Aberystwyth.
1922 - Dorothy G. Defew, B.A. Honours, English Class II, Royal Holloway College (University of London).
Elsie May Fyson, B.A. Honours, Spanish Class II, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
1924 - Nellie Brown, M.A. Honours, History, University of Sheffield.
1927 - Winifred Covell, B.A. Honours.
1930 - Gillian Ada, B.A. Honours, English Class II, East London College (University of London).
Nina Ambrose, B.A. Honours, French Class II, University of Reading.
1930 - Winifred Butcher, B.Sc. Honours, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
1933 - Avice Hatch, B.A. Honours, English Class II, University of Reading.
1935 - Grace Beatrice Houghton, B.Sc. Honours, University of Reading.
1936 - Rhoda Joyce Bird, B.A., University of Reading.
1938 - Dorothy Atkins Dade, B.A., University of Southampton.
Ivy Steadman, B.Sc. Honours, Class II, University of Reading.
1941 - Margaret Anna Vince, B.A. Honours, English Class II, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
Elizabeth Alice Howard, B.A. Honours, English Class II, Div. I, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
1943 - Pamela Vince, B.A. Honours, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
Inez Elizabeth Lambert, Honour, Classical Moderations, Class III, St. Hugh's College, Oxford.
1947 - Ella Thurmott, B.Sc. Geography, Honours, Class II, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
Margaret Gentle, B.A. Honours, History, University of Nottingham.
1948 - Jean Dewse, B.A., University of London.
Klazina Van Oosterom, B.Sc. Honours, Agriculture, Class I, University of Durham post-graduate award.
1951 - Megan Constance Levett, B.A. Honours, Geography, Class II, St. Hugh's College, Oxford.
1953 - Barbara Jean Sanders, B.A. Honours, English Class II, Bedford College for Women (University of London).
1954 - Beryl Levett, B.A. Honours, English Class I, University College, Exeter (University of London) post-graduate award.
Elizabeth Anne Stow, B.A. Honours, English, Class II, University of Southampton.

The following are at the University at present:
Doris Elizabeth Burns, Bedford College for Women.
Enid Rice, Reading University.
Norma Patricia Breeze, University College, Exeter.


Arthur Tyndall, fell at Passchendaele, 1917. (The prize for Junior Nature Study was endowed in his memory).

Sister Mollie Evershed, drowned at sea, 1944. This heroic Old Girl went down with a hospital ship after helping to save many of the wounded who were on board. Together with the Matron she saved nearly seventy-five stretcher cases on board.

Edna Gotobed, Distinguished War Service Certificate, 1944. Edna served with the British Red Cross Commission as a Relief Officer and was one of the first workers to enter the notorious Belsen Concentration Camp. Later she was Welfare Officer for Belsen Bergen, being responsible for the welfare of displaced persons after the camp was burned down.

Audrey Norfolk, who was one of Sir Winston Churchill's nurses during his illness in Libya in 1942.


1931 - Mildred Sawyer.
1932 - Beatrice Brailey.
1933 - Joyce Smith.
1934 - Doris Clarke.
1935 - Stella Ager.
1936 - Ruby Lodge.
1937 - Patricia Atkin.
1938 - Megan Coghill.
1939 - Muriel Faulkner.
1940 - Kathleen Norman.
1940 - Inez Lambert.
1941 - Barbara Ambrose (Autumn Term).
1941 - Bernice Morgan.
1942 - Margaret Gentle.
1943 - Ella Thurmott.
1944 - Jean Dewse
1945 - June Macdonald.
1946 - Pamela Blakeman.
1947 - Stephanie Wells.
1948 - Barbara Sanders.
1949 - Anne Stow.
1950 - Pamela Wilson.
1951 - Jean Gibson.
1952 - Paula Leonard.
1953 - Winifred Smith.
1954 - Mollie Wigg.

source: Ely High School Magazine, May 1955, Golden Jubilee - Jubilee Supplement: via Jackie Sotheran née Bidwell

source: Ely High School Magazine, July 1956

Jubilee Celebrations.

One of the most memorable of the Jubilee Celebrations was the Service in the Cathedral at which the Bishop of Peterborough gave the address. His words were an inspiration both to appreciate the fifty years' heritage into which we had entered, and to realise the importance of the traditions we, in our turn, were making for the future.

The Service was followed by tea at the School by invitation of Dr Tilly, for which the Hall was beautifully decorated, and at which a special Jubilee Cake appeared, bearing the new School Crest, and wearing a "hat-band" in the School Colours. It had been made by Miss Johnson.
Owing to bad weather the Jubilee Sports had to be postponed till the next week, when they were greatly enjoyed.

The Staff Play, "The Happiest Days of Your Life," caused great amusement both to the School and to the Old Girls.

Jubilee Week ended with a special Old Girls' Reunion, reported in the Old Girls' pages, which was a most happy occasion to the many Old Girls from far and near who attended it.

During Jubilee Week a Jubilee presentation, taking the form of a small clock, was made to Dr Tilly by the Staff and Girls.

Later in the term a most enjoyable Fête was held to raise money for a Jubilee present from the School to the School.


[extract] The Reunion held at the High School on Saturday, 21st May, 1955, will long be remembered by those who were present as a Happy Day. To mark the Golden Jubilee Reunion the day started with a luncheon, and the guests attending the luncheon included Miss Verini, Mrs Martin, Canon Balmforth, Mr Fendick; all the Governors of the School were invited.

Many very Old Girls of the School were present at the luncheon, annual meeting and tea; some had come from long distances. An exhibition arranged by Gladys Woolnough, of old photographs, prizes given in the early days of the school, badges worn and other articles, was held in the Needlework Room.

The Annual Meeting was held in the afternoon, followed by tea and at 7pm a play, "The Happiest Days of Your Life," was kindly presented by the Staff.

At the meeting it was decided that after this year the subscription should be raised to 5/- in order to pay for the extra cost of the magazines and other items, including postage. It was also decided that members could become life-members of the Association on payment of £5. The suggestion was brought forward that a gift from the members should be made to the new school. Members will receive further information about the gift.

page created 28 Jun 10: updated 15 Dec 10: 25 Mar 19