CCHSG Magazine 1930-1938
These Magazines were produced in the first half of the twentieth century and reflect the language and social attitudes of their time. In rare instances, readers may find this offensive.
The magazines from this pre WWII period have a similar format, with an index on the first page. Some of this series also record the key events of the year as a “School Calendar”. All open with a foreword from the Head Teacher, Miss King and an editorial from the Magazine Committee. They were printed by Cullingford & Co, of Stockwell, Colchester and the 1932 edition details a visit by the editorial committee to the printing works “so that it might find out just how the magazine is produced (p18).”
It is interesting how these magazines reflect both consciously and unconsciously the political and social environment and events of the period. The 1930s are remembered for mass unemployment, the depression meaning that by the start of 1933 unemployment in Britain was 22.8%. Headteacher Miss King summarises the mood of the time advising CCHSG students to stay on at school as long as possible and “when you do finally leave, take whatever work presents itself.” “The difficult times through which our country is passing has made us realise more and more clearly that our school has a double part to play. While it has its own inner life, it becomes increasingly evident that it is part of the larger world outside.” (1931-2).
1935 saw the death of George V. “He will ever stand as an example of greatness achieved by duty simply and honourably performed” said Miss King’s tribute (p4). In May 1937 the country celebrated the coronation of George VI. The 1937-8 magazine includes a student’s account of attending the “Empire Youth Rally” and picnicking in the stands opposite Buckingham Palace while waiting for the Royal party to pass on their way to the Guildhall, (p18). On the Saturday before the Coronation Day 22 students visiting London to see Lawrence Olivier in “Henry V” at the Old Vic, also viewed the Coronation decorations and window displays. “What we noticed most was the transformation of the poorest streets, where the occupants had spent their poor savings on bright Union Jacks which were strung across from one side to the other”, (p22).
Remarkably, given the political situation, the 1937-38 edition contains an account from a past student studying modern languages at University College, London, of her six month placement at Jena University in Germany. While she commented on the hospitality and how enjoyable her stay was, “all the tales we had heard of gay German university life no longer applied.. Hitler has done his best to make them feel that every student must do his duty to the Fatherland…”, (p38).
In the summer of 1937 one student took a family holiday to Germany and were present in Nuremburg during the Nazi Party Congress (1938-9, p34)
During this period, prior to the wartime disruption, schooling was compulsory for all UK children, from the age of 5 until the age of 14, when most children left school to enter the world of work. Fee-paying pupils or those at grammar school had the option of staying on at school until the age of 18. The school day began at 9am and finished at 4pm.
The schools proud history of charitable giving can be traced back to the start, with donations carefully recorded in each Year Book. Fundraising frequently focusing on helping less fortunate children. In the 1920s and 30s the school’s “Young Helpers’ League” raised large sums for Doctor Barnardos homes. The Young Helpers’ League was founded by Dr Thomas Barnardo in 1891 to encourage children to support those less fortunate by giving donations of money and time. This was one the first schemes for mass charity giving. Student members paid a subscription to the charity and CCHSG had collection boxes which students contributed to throughout the year. In the 1930s the school made annual charitable donations of a substantial £50 to the Watt’s Naval Home, (Dr Barnardo’s) where “orphans and destitute boys” were trained for a life at sea in the Royal Navy or mercantile Marine. Boxes of toys, clothes and books were also donated to the Barnardo’s Homes at Christmas. In 1933 there were 172 members of the YHL at CCHSG.
Reflecting the increasing problem of unemployment in the town, the school also contributed to the Mayor’s Fund, which helped the local unemployed and in 1933 and the staff play was in aid of a fund for the jobless.
These reports are a consistent feature of all the CCHSG magazines, with the school’s performance in Tennis, Hockey and Netball reported in some detail. What also accompanies the general summaries is a criticism of the performance of each individual player on the team. Students needed to develop a thick skin when the whole school was to be told that in netball she “must be quicker and must try to get into the game before half-time.” (1930-31, p9) or that in hockey she is “a promising half, but will be of greater value when she has more staying power and has learned not to keep the ball to herself for so long.” (1930-31, p11).
Annual Sports Days, often affected by the weather, are reported on with events that we might expect such High Jump. There were however, a variety of other team events, such as the “Flag Race”, “Hoop and Ball” and the “Girdle Race” whose rules we can only speculate about. The relatives entering the 1930 Father’s Race “performed the feats of trimming hats and getting through hoops with incredible ease” (1930-31, p14).
Both North Hill and Grey Friars held annual gym competitions, with an invited judge who was not always universally complimentary. In 1935 Mrs Grazebrook commented that “when girls were running they let their backs and shoulders slope backwards instead of forward, so that the general effect was like circus ponies instead of race horses (p15). “The whole school looked very neat and uniform in blouses and knickers, and it is difficult to realise that we ever did gym in heavy tunics and stockings” (1935-6, p15).
Notes from the “Pre” referred to the Preparatory section, of both girls and boys in the early years, from the age of 5 who were based at Grey Friars. There accounts frequently refer to the gardens that they tended, the silk worms they raised and their bird diaries. The individual gardens remained a feature, with annual competitions for the best maintained. Flowers and vegetables were successfully grown, but there were also frequent requests in the magazines for the owners of the gardens to keep better control of the weeds. Form I reported that “There are 23 of us in our form this term and we all have gardens. Miss Thornberry ordered some new tools for us to use. We have made a bird tray and have a cocoanut (stet) hanging up. A robin, a blue tit and a great tit have all come to it (1930-31, p13).
From 1925 there was also a report specifically from the newly established Home Science Group, whose activities, such as Cookery, Needlework, Household Bookkeeping and Hygiene, while apparently enjoyed by all, would not conform to current health and safety regulations. As one student recalled “the frying pan going up in flames with one of us vainly trying to put it out with the hearth rug on which Miss Collier was standing.” (1930-31, p15). A variety of educational trips were made each year to destinations such as the local steam laundry, canning factory and Co-operative Dairy.
The classes took place in a specially converted flat, over the caretaker’s house. A “staff house” was opened at “Lyndhurst” on Colchester’s Maldon Road, and this was also used as a base for some of the Home Science teaching, with students living there for weeks “work experience” keeping house and catering for the inhabitants. When this building ceased to be a staff hostel in the mid 1930s, Miss King found new accommodation for the course in her own flat at 60 High Street.
The magazines record a variety of trips and visits which took place each year. Students made regular visits to London, in 1930 one such “expedition” visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, lunched at the YWCA club, toured Italian paintings at Burlington House (now the Royal Academy) and attended question time at the House of Commons. (1930-31, p22).
On various occasions during the 1930s Geography expeditions visited what was then the “Imperial Institute” in South Kensington. In 1932 they explored the industries of Canada, New Zealand and Australia. After lunching at the Victoria and Albert Museum they saw films of Jamaica, Bermuda and “bee-keeping, maize-growing, pike-fishing and the eider-down industry.”
There were also annual residential visits such as the Upper Fifths expedition to a farm in Stockbury, Kent, detailed in the 1932 edition. Here the students worked on Botany and Geography and visited places such as a paper mill and potteries as well as seeing “the relief of the district and the vegetation of the different soils.” (p19) In 1933 a party of 18 students spent a fortnight in Derbyshire, going down into a coal mine, visiting a cotton mill, the Royal Crown Derby Pottery Works, Haddon Hall and the Derwent Reservoir, (p21). In 1935 a group spent a week in Worcestershire, dropping in “by unanimous vote of the party to see the last hour or so of the county cricket match between Worchester and All-India at Worchester. Here, keen photographers and autograph hunters had some success. In fact, Ramaswarmi became quite perturbed because of the number of books and programmes thrust under his nose”, (p25). Cotah Ramaswami was a Cambridge graduate and double sports international who represented India in both cricket and tennis.
There were also frequent picnics, particularly for the Sixth Form, who in summer 1934 had a picnic at Mersea, “swimming, boating and playing rounders; for once people didn’t bring their knitting with them, an unusual event, for the Sixth has grown remarkably fond of this pastime (p7).”
Drama and Theatre
Attendance at theatrical performances, particularly to see Shakespeare productions, was a regular event. In 1935 20 students visited London’s “New Theatre” to see a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” with a cast including John Gielgud, Lawrence Olivier, Edith Evans and Peggy Ashcroft (later Dame). The staff performed a play annually for the students, usually a comedy and the School Play was a great source of revenue for the Scholarship Fund. The 1935 “Taming of the Shrew” raised the huge sum of £41 and “never in the history of the school has a play been performed with the voluntary work of so many people behind it”, (p21).
The organisers of the various societies attended by students also provided an annual report for the magazines.
Hark Report (The Historical and Archaeological Society)
Notably popular amongst the societies was “Hark”, founded in 1924, “to encourage an interest in History and Archeology by lectures and expeditions to ancient remains” (1924, p11). The group organised expeditions to sites of interest such as Framlingham Castle and Ely Cathedral. Visits were usually by hired bus, or train, except in 1926, when the general strike forced more local trips in to Suffolk, undertake by bicycle (1926, p27). These visits to ancient churches and sites also inspired brass rubbing competitions. Back at school the group listened to papers read on topics such as Saxon Architecture, The Mediterranean and the History of Colchester, did play readings and organised folk-dancing. In 1933 the group’s “Debating Circle” considered proposals such as “the arts are of more value than the sciences”, “that the study of History if entirely useless” (1925) and, perhaps with some prescience, “an air force would be of more use than an army and navy combined”. There were also “dramatic readings”, social events such as the popular Friday evening “sing-songs” and country dancing. Harks activities became so wide in range that it was later reorganised in to nine separate sections as the “School Society”.
League of Nations Union (LNU)
The outward looking nature of the school was clear from the beginning with the school branch of the League of Nations Union (LNU) having started in 1920. This national organisation was formed 1918, at the end of WWI to promote international justice, collective security and peace, based on the ideals of the League of Nations. By 1930 the school had 169 members, who sought, in the words of Miss King, “to look beyond our school, beyond our town, beyond our country to a wider international ideal” (1932-3, p3). The Union collected funds to adopt a nine-year-old Hungarian boy, Làszlo, thought the Save the Children Fund, sending him parcels of clothes and food. The school hosted annual Model Assemblies of the League of Nations and in 1925 there is an account of representatives of the school attending the General Assembly, held annually in Geneva (1925, p29). In 1933 “the two questions that interested us most were Disarmament and Traffic in Arms.” (1933-4, p18). The members were however, not unaware of the apparent futility of their efforts to support peace across the world. In 1937-38 it was confessed that “the past year or two have been in many ways years of disappointment for the supporters of the League. The tragedy of Abyssinia, the horrors of the war in Spain, and now the news from China all remind us only too clearly that the League has not been strong enough to carry out its main purpose of preventing war (p15).”
Music was a prominent feature of school life, with regular concerts and recitals. A Miss Gordon, who must have had significant contacts in the music world, founded the club in 1925 and ran it for over a decade. In 1930 celebrated pianist Myra Hess performed to the whole school. She was later to gain even greater fame for the almost 2,000 lunchtime concerts that she delivered throughout the World War II blitz at the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square. In 1933-4 academic year there were no less than 12 Wednesday afternoon concerts on offer to students. These ranged from an oboe recital by Leon Goosens, then considered among the premier oboists in the world, a lecture on Beethoven illustrated by performances from students at the Royal Academy of music, Mozart opera and violin recitals to “Cingalese (stet) songs and spirituals.”
From 1925, until its closure in 1933, a small group of students boarded at “Westfield” on Victoria Road, privately run, but closely linked to the school. “Twenty girls, two small boys, two maids, and a dog live in the Hostel with Mr & Mrs Haydon and the Matron (1927,p20).” Referring to themselves as “The Hostelites”, these students had their own social calendar of picnics, fancy dress parties and outings, and kept pet canaries. In 1930 the entry concludes with “Fire Drill will have added zest, as we have to descend from the top storey of the house into the garden, by means of a fire-proof ladder. All casualties will be reported next year.” Well attended reunions of those who had staying in the “Hostel” were held every few years in central London (1937-8, p44).
Each year there are separate reports from the Reference and Fiction Libraries run entirely by students. In 1933 it was reported that “taking books out is now much simpler, because we have a large Borrower’s Book for the whole Library, one weighty volume which cannot easily be mislaid, instead of several smaller ones.” Students paid a small subscription to access books from the fiction section, supervised by prefects. Many of the books were donated by leavers, Governors or staff. The Fiction Library in 1938 announced that “books can be exchanged on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school and the charge each term is one penny. We have books to suit every taste from “Dr Doolittle”, and “The Princess and Curdie” to Sir Walter Scott’s “Kenilworth” and Dicken’s “Barnaby Rudge” (p26).
“Book mending”, which has its own section in the magazines, seemed to be a well- supported activity, especially once the grey “crash” fabric used to create new coverings was dyed in a range of bright colours. “So many volumes once tattered and torn, now sit upon their shelves with an air of quiet respectability” (1934, p15).
Around half the content of the magazines is literary compositions, and poems submitted by students in response to set themes. Annual competitions were also held for artwork and photography. Some of the lino prints and woodcuts printed in black and white were reproduced to illustrate the magazines from 1935 onwards. More unusually some of the magazines also record the winners of the “Sweet Competition” in which “the toffees were on the whole good, as also was some of the cocoanut ice. Some of the peppermint creams were grey in colour instead of white (!) and nearly all the marzipan was too moist.” (1933-4, p32). The “Grey Friars Cake Making” of 1935 proved a very popular competition although “one of two of the cakes had holes in the middle and in a few cases the fruit had sunk to the bottom, but many of them a really high standard and a few looked quite professional” (p35).
The Old Girl’s Section (Business Report)
The Old Girl’s Association had been founded in 1918 and during the 1930s, with a membership of around 250, three reunions a year were held, at the end of the Christmas, Easter and Summer Terms attended by past students and current staff and prefects from the school. In 1933 the Christmas meeting involved supper and country dancing and the Easter meeting was an “American Supper”, a fundraiser for the Scholarship Fund, where all the guests contributed by bringing food and drink to share. The Summer Term meeting was generally, weather permitting, a tennis tournament against current students, followed by tea, and the Annual General Meeting.
News of Past Students
Most magazines contained a detailed list of the destinations of the year’s leavers. Those who left after the Upper V during the 1930s, not taking higher certificates, often progressed on to work such as nursing, nursery nursing including as Norland Nannies or governesses, secretarial and clerical work or work in catering and retail.
Students at CCHSG were among the pioneers of university education for women. The first women’s college at Cambridge and the first residential university establishment for women in the UK was Girton College in 1869, it was not until almost a century later in 1948 that Cambridge began to actually award degrees to women. The 1925 magazine records 3 students progressing to Bedford College, 4 to Royal Holloway, 4 to Reading, 2 to Oxford and 1 to King’s College (1925, p20). The 1930-31 magazine records CCHSG scholarships to Somerville College, Oxford and students gaining degrees at St. Andrew’s in French, at Royal Holloway in Maths and at Reading University in Science, 1930 (p7).
For the Sixth Form students during this period, progression for a few was on to university. Significant numbers entered teacher training or training for nursing. The year 1931-32 saw the first award by the school of an annual Leaving Scholarship, intended to provide financial support to a student progressing on to further training. The first recipient went on to university, the second was a student training for social work at the YMCA College in Birmingham.
The magazine also printed letters from “Old Girls”, a section of the magazine that later in the decade, under Miss King’s guidance, took on more of a “careers” focus. Over the years their letters vividly described a remarkable range of experiences, some in distant locations. In 1930 a past student wrote to the school to describe her work as “the hired girl on a stump ranch in the backwoods of British Caledonia: so far West as to be almost East…”( p38). Letters in 1933 came from past students working as an Assistant Warden in a Youth Hostel, studying “Dairying” at the East Anglian Institute of Agriculture, working as an apprentice milliner in a London department store and undertaking Nursing Training at Guy’s Hospital. In 1938 recommended “Outdoor Careers for Girls” (p23), included dairying, horticulture and poultry husbandry.
There is little in the magazines which would predicted what lay ahead. In 1933 the magazine did record, ominously, that “Captain Deane gave us an exciting lecture on poison gases.”
In her foreword to the 1938-39 school magazine Miss King wrote “The clouds have closed around us and we are at war; for a few it is again. Be assured that in carrying on your home duties and meeting all these worries cheerfully you are giving real service to the country.”