history of clsg
Founded by a City merchant, William Ward, in 1881, the City of London School for Girls opened in Carmelite Street in 1894 at a time when there was so little faith in academic education for girls that the building was designed so that it could be turned into offices, should the project fail. At the outset there were 53 names on the register and the first Headmistress, Miss Alice Blagrave, was keen to encourage and aid her pupils in getting into University but “when work was done, she insisted on all enjoying themselves thoroughly”.
Miss Blagrave was succeeded by Miss Ethel Strudwick, MA, who initiated and encouraged various forms of war work. From 1915 there was a ‘tinned’ day every term, when tins of food, tobacco and other goods were brought to School to be sent to British prisoners of war in Germany, and in 1915 and 1916, money collected for sports prizes was sent to the Red Cross or to the British Prisoners of War Fund.
There were major changes within the School during Miss Strudwick’s time. She inaugurated the prefect system, began a tidiness competition for the form with the best tidiness record and presented a shield each year to the form with the best record for gymnastics. Changes were also made to the fabric of the building with the creation of a Physics laboratory, improvements to the Chemistry laboratory and expansion of the top floor of the building. Important events during Miss Strudwick’s years included the writing of the School Song and the attendance of a group of girls at a meeting which led to the School joining the Union of Girls’ Schools for Social Service.
Miss Strudwick left in 1927 and Miss Hilda Doris Bugby, MA was appointed. She was a mathematician described by her pupils as a bright teacher. In her annual report of 1929 Miss Bugby pressed home the point that it was time to start thinking about a new building on a better site, since the current building, once planned for 240 students, now had over 300 pupils. Following the death of Miss Bugby, Miss Julia Elizabeth Turner, who had been at the School since its opening day, was appointed as Headmistress at the age of 60.
She retired in 1937, and the arrival of Miss E.D.M. Winters was described as ‘meteoric’, ‘a breath of fresh air’ and ‘explosive’. She was a dynamo of energy and had no difficulty in imposing her personality and authority. Under her rule the School remained a place of learning and aspiration in spite of all the wartime difficulties. The curriculum before the Second World War was heavily academic, with the emphasis very much on Classics, History and English, although there were still classes in needlework and knitting.
When she arrived, the School was so overcrowded that classes were being taught on the stairs and landings. Adjacent buildings were acquired, and Miss Winters oversaw their conversion into an art room, library, geography room, staff room, classrooms for the Upper School and a large dining/recreation room on the top floor. Developments also took place in the old building simultaneously.
By 1938, the increasing likelihood of a European war forced the School’s Committee to consider the position of City Schools should a national emergency be declared. In early September 1939 some 200 girls moved into billets in and around Ashtead (site of the City of London Freemen’s School). However, with the fall of France, German occupation of the Channel Ports and the bombing raids commencing on London, the Ashtead campus was now directly under the bombers’ route to London. The School broke up in July 1940 for what was to be a long holiday, while safer accommodation was sought. Miss Winters made arrangements to share buildings with Keighley Girls’ Grammar School, Yorkshire, and around 150 girls made the journey. High academic standards were maintained and, even though books were sparse, it was taken for granted that University was the natural goal. By October 1942 numbers at Keighley dropped to 121.
In September 1943 the School re-opened in Carmelite Street with 153 pupils, 60 of them new girls. With the end of the war and return of some normality, numbers rose rapidly and out of school activities expanded fast. There were many new clubs, ranging from debating to photography, politics to chess and for the first time debates, play reading and concerts were shared with the City of London School. The privilege of involvement in some of the great traditional events of the City of London was also restored. Around this time the School’s musical life made great strides, increasing both the standard and range of the choirs, and so began the tradition of a senior girls’ choir singing in the annual performances of the St. Matthew Passion.
By 1947, the lack of space in the School took precedence over everything else. Miss Winters was adamant that the links with the City were of great value and that the School should not move to a more suburban area.
Miss Gladys Madge Colton took over from Miss Winters in 1949. She was described by one Sixth Form student as “a tall, elegant lady; the epitome of dignity”. She had special interests in careers and current affairs and was a fine administrator. Miss Colton inherited an uncomfortably full school with 360 pupils, and oversaw changes to the old building as well as other changes within the School, with the implementation of compulsory School uniforms, the first inspection from His Majesty’s Inspectors for 21 years and the development of the School orchestra. In February 1962 plans went to London County Council for planning permission for the building of the School in the Barbican.
Though the new School building is today part of a modern City development, the whole Barbican site is still rich in reminders of the area’s historic past. Opposite the front of he School is part of the wall of the great Roman fort built in approximately AD120. The new building opened with 446 pupils on 18 September 1969, coincidentally the School’s 75th birthday. Miss Colton retired in July 1971 and Miss Lily E.M. Mackie was appointed.
Numbers grew to 660 at a time when inflation put enormous pressure on fees, but there was no danger of lowering the academic standards by increasing the number of girls; the pressure on places had been steadily increasing. The difficulty, however, was in providing accommodation and by 1975 it had already become necessary to provide more teaching rooms, an extra cloakroom and a careers room in the new building. Around 1983 a floor was laid over the well in the School, and the dining area was re-designed to provide a lecture theatre, computer room and more laboratories.
Music, Art and Drama flourished and the Music department continued to present a largely classical repertoire but also encouraged the inclusion of works composed by gifted pupils, several of whom had entered the School as a result of the Music Scholarship established by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and the City of London itself. The scholarships were becoming increasingly important and the School was keen to continue to give opportunities to girls with good ability whose parents could not meet the full fees. Over the next few years a number of Scholarships were established and the School’s own Bursary Fund Appeal was launched.
The standards of academic achievements remained excellent and changes within the curriculum saw subjects such as Economics and Sociology offered as additional subjects at advanced level alongside History of Art and Classical Civilisation. Computer Studies was introduced in 1985. A Media Resources Centre was also established. Prize Day was held in the Great Hall of Guildhall in 1985 and subsequently in Barbican Hall.
In her final Prize Day report in 1985, Miss Mackie spoke of the changes that lay ahead; GCE was giving place to the new GCSE examination; there would be increasing demand for Craft Design and Technology courses and extra accommodation would be required. Mrs. Valerie France BA (Oxon) FRGS (later Lady France) took over as Headmistress in September 1986 and, with the introduction of new courses into the School, there was a need for extension of space and facilities.
The new CDT Centre was formally opened in May 1992 and the Headmistress then asked the Governors to turn their attention to reviewing other space requirements to take account of the demands of the National Curriculum. The 94- seat Lecture Theatre and Sixth Form lakeside Common Room and study area were developed, major changes made to the Library, and the Main Hall transformed into a flexible theatre area. Two new laboratories, a Media Resources room, a recording studio, a larger staff work area and extra storage space were also added. From 1993 a further phase of work began with the building of a new multi-purpose hall constructed in the open area of the top floor which was formerly a paved garden.
This was a great time of creative activity in the School led by the Music and Art departments and further fostered by the new proximity of the City of London School, which had moved into fine new buildings in 1986. School trips were plentiful and pupil exchanges were soon under way with schools in several European countries. The School’s charity group, Mission, had become well established. In 1994 the School celebrated its Centenary Year with a range of exciting events, culminating in a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to open the new multi-purpose hall and plant a magnolia tree in the sunken garden, as a permanent reminder of her visit.
The above is a précis of ‘Daughters of the City’ a history of the School written by Joan Carden, Jean Cardy, Rosemary Hamilton, Pat Bawden and Anne Savage published around the time of the School’s centenary.
Lady France retired in 1994 and Dr. Yvonne Burne took over the School in 1995 after seven years as Headmistress of St Helen’s Northwood. With the increasingly expanding electronic world, she remained a firm pillar, committed to reinforcing the endless options available to students. Under her leadership, City hosted the first Women in Leadership Conference and the Breaking Moulds Conference. She was also committed to expanding the School’s outreach work. City was one of the founding schools in the East London Consortium group, and currently hosts a series of Saturday Schools for less privileged girls from neighbouring boroughs. Dr Burne was awarded the OBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her commitment to education. Following Dr Burne’s retirement in 2007, Miss Diana Vernon became Headmistress after seven years as Headmistress of Woldingham School, Surrey.