School Library

Many old pupils will fondly remember the library, an important room for study, with its oak furniture and well stocked shelves. There were two long tables in the centre, usually occupied by the more studious girls, and round tables near the windows where pupils could easily be distracted from their studies by the view across the beautiful playing fields at the front of the school.

The original library eventually became too small for the expanding school. Extra books were needed for the growing number of sixth forms, and so when the old Ferrers-Stafford cloakrooms were converted into sixth form rooms, one of them became a sixth form library, and was known as the Lower Library. The walls were partly lined with book shelves, and the room doubled as a lower sixth form room. The new library had a periodicals section that included newspapers such as The Guardian, and magazines including The Illustrated London News, The New Scientist, The Reader’s Digest, and French and German periodicals.

The old Paget-Audley cloakrooms were also converted into form rooms. One of them housed a small library for the 11 to 14 year olds.

Music and Drama

From the early days the first forms had a short music lesson daily, and the other forms had two 40 minute lessons each week. There were inter-form singing competitions, and an annual carol concert. Piano and violin lessons were given by a member of the teaching staff or by a visiting teacher. The school orchestra began in 1927, greatly helped by the efforts of Miss Fitzgerald who taught the violin. The orchestra played at a few choral concerts, and for a mass gym display in 1932, but rapidly declined when Miss Fitzgerald left the school. It started again in 1948 and went from strength to strength.

The school’s Choral Society began giving concerts in 1918. All the girls except first and second formers were eligible to join. Since 1937 the society included male singers, who were recruited from the parents. By 1960 there were 112 members including about 20 male parents. The first and second formers could join the Junior Choir, which by 1960 had around 60 members.

House plays began in 1948 and took place every two years. Each house selected a one-act play which was scrutinised by an outside adjudicator. The girls undertook all aspects of the production, including stage management, costumes, and scenery. The interest in school drama spread to all age groups, and in 1959 junior house plays began.

The Senior Dramatic Society began presenting plays to the whole school, initially in the school hall. Their last production there was a version of ‘The Rivals’ in 1950, which was very popular. Unfortunately the stage in the hall was too small for large productions which needed a large cast. In 1954 the society’s next production ‘Iphigenia’ was held in the Wulfrun Hall, as were two other productions; ‘The First Born’, and ‘Dido and Aeneas’. Because the plays were so  successful, the Parents’ Guild decided that a fully equipped school stage was a necessity. It was to built as part of the school’s Jubilee celebrations in 1961.

There was also a Junior Dramatic Society which presented some excellent plays in the school hall, including ‘Everyman’, ‘The Tall, Tall Castle’, and ‘Noah’, followed in 1961 by a version of ‘Toad of Toad Hall’.

A science laboratory.

The War Years

In the early years of the Second World War, the Luftwaffe was a constant threat, and so air raid shelters were built in the front field. At the beginning of the school year in September 1939, the girls worked at home until the air raid shelters were built. On their return, air raid drill had to be practised. The sound of the electric bell meant one thing, leave school and head for the shelters, which were often several inches deep in water, during wet weather. The electric bell was replaced by the ship’s bell from the steam merchant ship, ‘Port Hardy’ which had been sunk by a German U boat in April 1941. Luckily the shelters were not often used.

Gas masks had to carried, and because of rationing and shortages, school dress was more relaxed. Stockings were no longer compulsory, and blouse sleeves could be shortened. Because of the shortages, domestic science was restricted, mainly to theory. Any garments or dishes created, had to be used. Waste couldn’t be tolerated. During the war there were no gardeners looking after the grounds, so the girls planted peas and potatoes, which were all put to good use.

There were visits to children’s concerts in the Civic Hall, and also to the Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. The winters of 1940 and 1941 were severe. There were heavy snowfalls and so some of the senior girls had to clear a path down the drive, using hockey sticks because of the lack of brooms.

The event that had the greatest impact on the school at this time was the 1944 Education Act when the school became a grammar school, although it retained its original name. Fees were abolished, and entrance depended upon the results of the eleven plus examination.

The Late 1940s

After the war, several alterations were made to the school buildings. The cloakrooms were moved from the front of the building to be near the toilets. The former Ferrers-Stafford cloakroom became a second library, and two sixth form rooms. The former Audley-Paget cloakroom became a craft room, and a junior library.

In 1948 the school acquired its third head mistress when Miss D. E. de Zouche retired, and was replaced by Miss R. E. Scargill, M.A.

A school corridor.

The 1950s

The school arranged many holidays abroad for the pupils. As early as Easter 1928 a party of twelve girls and Miss Griffith went to Paris, and in 1932 a number of pupils went on a Mediterranean cruise and visited Portugal, Gibralter, and North Africa. In between 1950 and 1961 nearly 400 girls visited countries including Norway, Austria, Holland, and North Africa. The favourite destination was Switzerland, with visits to the Bernese Oberland, Grindelwald, Kandersteg, Leysin, and Berne. There were also steamer trips on Lake Lucerne, and Lake Geneva.

The 1960s

Work began on a new dining room and kitchen, new changing rooms and showers, a new cloakroom and toilet, all sited beyond the old geography room which was to become the domestic science room. The old domestic science room was to become the art room, complete with a kiln for pottery. The old art room then became the geography room. The building work also included two new laboratories that joined the hall and the laboratory wing.

The school had a great impact on the pupil’s lives. Many of them kept in contact long after their departure. In 1960 to celebrate 20 years of meetings, a group of old girls went to the Stratford Memorial Theatre to see ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ followed by a meal.

In 1961 the school celebrated its fiftieth birthday with a Jubilee Gala. Speech Day was held in the Civic Hall on 7th February, and attended by many guests including Miss D. E. de Zouche. There were songs by the Choral Society, accompanied by the School Orchestra, speeches about the school’s past, and many old friends to meet. On the evening of the 21st March a fashion show was held in the Civic Hall that was attended by the girls, their parents and friends. On the 19th and 20th April  the Senior Dramatic Society performed ‘Tobias and the Angel’ in the Wulfrun Hall. It was the society’s most successful play.

On Saturday 6th May there were two events. In the morning a staff reunion was held at the school, and in the evening the Old Girls had a celebration dinner at the Victoria Hotel. A Jubilee party was held at the school on 18th July. Six hundred girls came along and were treated to treasure hunts, a concert, and a personal visit by Cliff Richard and the Shadows. There were sporting events including athletics, flower pot and slow bicycle races, relays, and high jumps. The sporting events were in the form of a House competition which was won by Paget House. Other events included a fashion show, and entertainment by a conjurer.

The last event was the Jubilee Service held on 28th September at St. Mark’s Church. It was attended by all the pupils and representatives from the many organisations that have contributed so much to the school. Also present were the School Governors, the Parents’ Guild, and the Old Girls’ Union.

Since those days the school has gone from strength to strength, and in 2015 it outperformed all other local secondary schools. Its reputation is second to none, and places at the school are eagerly sought after. It has a bright future ahead, and hopefully will continue to be as successful in years to come.

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