Ely High School 1905-1972


"somewhere to put bits and bobs for the time being"

Big Occasions

Ely High School, 1905-1957
Some Buildings Speak - What Does Our School Say?

EHS Alumni on the web please click EHS Alumni on the web
Extracts from the School Magazines



This motto translates as 'Bravely to the Top' - was introduced when the school moved from Bedford House to a new campus in Downham Road in 1957 in recognition of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing reaching the summit of Everest on 29 May 1953.
Miss Tilly, a Classics scholar, hoped it would inspire her pupils to reach the peaks of academia.

History of the City of Ely Schools - British History Online

School Administration

School Trips/Expeditions
This and that

from the Ely Standard, 3 Sep 1998, courtesy of Chris Jakes of the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Riverside report with Ann Powell [née Harding]

Fifty years ago this month I stood on the pavement outside Bedford House in St Mary's Street, a very new High School girl. In a navy blue beret with a bright yellow badge, a three pleat gym slip, navy and yellow tie and probably the regulation gaberdine mac. A spanking new leather satchel from Blakemans' shop and shoes polished to please a sergeant-major.

Eventually a teacher came out and herded the new girls into the school. The Headmistress, Miss Tilly, was away on a sabbatical in Rome, studying her beloved Etruscans. Her place was taken by the equally formidable steely-eyed Miss Defew.

The school had expanded to accommodate the influx of scholarship girls after the 1944 Education Act. In the playground a row of concrete prefabs stretched along the wall. About 80 new girls were divided into three classes, A, Alpha and Remove. As Lower IIIA, we were shown into the end prefab. The cloakrooms were so over-crowded, the whole class shared pegs in what was no more than a cupboard. Girls from all the villages way out in the fens as far as Lakenheath and Mildenhall travelled each day.

So there we were being given the chance of a lifetime, Classics, Mathematics, Science and languages. I do wish someone had explained what phonetics were before we launched into French accent and what Nominative, Vocative, Accusative represented before we started Latin. I was hopeless at languages, it came as a great relief when because of staff shortages we had to choose between French and Geography in the Lower Fourth.

03/08/10 Christine Fuller (Bell): Looking at 1954 school magazine, I wonder if any one remembers that on the afternoon of 26 March 1954 the school was hushed to listen to a section of Womans' Hour on the Light Programme entitled Journeying with Johnny when Miss Tilly’s younger sister Rosemary Popplestone recounted some of her travels in Africa with her young son John, born in 1951. I wasn’t aware until then that Bedford House had the means to broadcast right around the school!

14/07/10 based on Christine Fuller (Bell) and Jackie Sotheran (Bidwell): Unless joining in later years, pupils would enter EHS in one of the L.III forms - each year could be sub-divided as required into A, Alpha or Remove forms - then progress through the school, some to the Sixth Form:

L.III 1st form
U.III 2nd form
L.IV 3rd form
U.IV 4th form
V 5th form
L.VI Lower 6th form
U.VI Upper 6th form

If anyone knows the origin of this way of naming forms, and whether it had any predecessors, please contact us. Did the above convention run until 1972?

Jackie adds: When I joined in 1957 - the first year of the New Building - forms were L.III A and L.III Alpha and this was the naming convention through all my years, up to 1964.

There was a decision after the first-year exams, possibly based on Maths and Latin results. Some girls were moved across, in both directions, I think only half a dozen. Latin was taken by A girls only (an essential University entrance requirement in those days? Only A girls were expected to consider University?)

Some girls joined in third year after a 13-Plus exam and they had to go into Alpha as they had not studied Latin.

10/07/10 Christine Fuller (Bell): I spent this morning interviewing Wing Commander Ken Wallis MBE (born 1916) who was an Old Boy of EHS in the preparatory school in the 1920s. Amongst other things, after an illustrious career during WW2, he invented the autogyro featured in a James Bond film, which I was privileged to see this morning, along with many other similar machines. Only yesterday at the age of 94 he flew a 2 seater autogyro with a passenger from a grass field near his home.

His father had the shop in Ely known as “Walbro” where I used to take the accumulators to be charged to power our radio. A wonderful man with a razor sharp mind still – an inventor, entrepreneur, a superb model maker, thrill seeker and thoroughly nice human being. It was a privilege to meet him.

Ken Wallis died in 2013.

see Alumni on the web

08/07/10 Roger Sykes, formerly of 30 St.Mary's Street, Ely: As an old Soham Grammarian, I was attracted by the news that you now have a website for Ely High School for Girls.

I was born in 1931 at the house and sweet shop adjoining Bedford House. I have several memories of those days when I was growing up in the 30s and 40s. They include such things as the girls waving and calling to me whilst I played outside in our small garden, overlooked by the upper windows of the school. Hearing the voices of teachers on summer days when the windows were open.

We sometimes had a teacher as a lodger. I am still in touch with Ruth Buttenshaw (née Green) who taught maths and geography 1947 to 1951 who lodged with us. Also another teacher at that period whose surname escapes me, but whose Christian name was Marion. Our grammar school bus on the home run terminated outside the school, and hence my home, in the afternoons and loaded up with the girls. I daresay many patronized my mother's sweet shop. Some summer evenings Dr Tilly appeared on the flat roof overlooking our garden. As neighbours my parents, and me too sometimes, were invited to plays put on by the school. I remember too attending a speech day in the old Rex cinema.

I hope these few memories are of interest and I wish all success to the website and am sure you will have many contributions from the "old girls" who discover it.

We are grateful to the Soham Grammarians for helping us to be present on the Internet.
If you took part in any of the SGS drama co-productions with EHS (see via Productions) or someone in your family, or know of, was a Grammarian you may like to visit their website www.sohamgrammar.org.uk


IN THE GYM. We seemed to be back in our School gym when we joined in our first gym class in the fine gym of the Ely Girls’ High School. This gym is equipped with the most modern apparatus, largely of the Swedish type, and Mr. Joseph makes such full use of the equipment that our gym hour is crammed with every variety of gym exercise. The parallel bars, brought from our School in London by Dr. Bernstein, provide splendid scope for new work, and in this work Mr. B. Cousin is giving valuable help. We may truthfully say that our gym hour is “our finest hour” and we are deeply grateful to Miss Tilley for her kindness in allowing us the use of the gym for this grand work.

from the http://www.jfsalumni.com/ website: many of the Evacuation News Sheets can be viewed and often have interesting news about events in Ely and the villages in the area

page created 25 Jun 10: last updated 21 Feb 19: 29 Feb 21