The History of Queenswood

The Educational Home for the Daughters of Wesleyan Ministers opened in Clapham in 1869 then transferred to Clapham Park and closed in 1893, only to re-open as Queenswood School in 1894, with 23 girls. The first headmistress, Marion Waller, was the daughter of the school’s founder Dr David Waller.

The name Queenswood derives from a lecture by John Ruskin (1819-1900) “Of Queens’ Gardens” published in 1865 in Sesame and Lilies and so does the school motto, in hortis reginæ (“In Queens’ Gardens”). Ruskin’s ideas on the education, power and place of women in society formed the basis of the school ethos.

In 1897 Miss Waller became engaged and had to resign her post. She died in childbirth a year later. Ethel Mary Trew took over and stayed as Headmistress for nearly 50 years. She was a great champion of Ruskin. Her ideas are clearly expressed in the symbolism of the school crest:

“And what shall be said about that lamp of knowledge and owl of wisdom that, with the lyre of music and song, complete the school crest? The lamp of knowledge burns brightly enough; such varied forces feed its flame that every girl, no matter how untalented, may add to its brilliance. The owl’s wisdom not only makes good pupils, but also good citizens, strong reliable women, fair wives and mothers.”

In 1915 Queenswood had a gymnasium, four tennis courts, a croquet-lawn, basketball ground, and a ten-acre field to play cricket, rounders, lacrosse and hockey.

In 1925 Queenswood transferred to its present location at Sheepwell House in Hatfield. Soon the school had a new Sanatorium, Senior House, Staff House, Stamp House (named after a governor, Lord Josiah Stamp, killed in an air raid in 1941), the Swimming Pool (1930), a Gymnasium and the Chapel. By 1932 there was a Queenswood prep school at Mymwood.

In Hatfield girls studied Horticulture, Botany and Nature Study. They wore white chantung silk dresses from Liberty’s of London, in imitation of the white water-lilies from Sesame and Lilies and they walked:

“... in Queens’ gardens where such blooms as Gladness and Joy, Flora and the Graces flourish is the gift that Queenswood has brought...”.

They also wore the famous ‘purple horror’, a purple chantung silk dress from Liberty’s with an embroidered collar.

 

From 1920-1965 the Queenswood music department flourished under the direction of Ernest Read, Professor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music, also president of the Dalcroze Association. Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a holistic method of musical appreciation through the whole body, was introduced into the school from 1921. Demonstrations were given every year on Trew lawn at Speech Day, with bare feet and arms.

In 1936 Sheepwell House, then called Head’s House, burnt down. It was replaced with an almost identical building. The wooden porch was saved and a cast-iron phoenix was made for the door knocker.

Two years later Queen Mary visited the school. The following year the Second World War broke out. In 1940 the first 1000lb bomb dropped on Queenswood’s hockey field. The year after the war ended Queenswood won the Aberdare cup for tennis.

Miss Trew reluctantly retired in 1944 (she died four years later). A Queenswood teacher, Enid Essame, took over as Headmistress. She was particularly interested in the Ruskinian origins of Queenswood and so was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who visited Queenswood in 1955. She was delighted with the Dalcroze Eurythmics demonstration.

In 1957 the new science block and the Bellman library were opened. Sir Harold Bellman, a self-made man, was on the board of governors from 1926 and was a champion of Queenswood. “Education involves the training of the body, mind and spirit” he wrote. Some of the books he wrote are in the library.

In 1967 Queenswood had a new art and music block, (the Essame Studios) and a quotation from Ruskin was placed above the entrance: ‘Fine art is that in which the hand, the head and the heart of man go together’.

On Miss Essame’s retirement in in 1971 Margaret Ritchie took over until 1981 when Audrey Butler, an ex-pupil, winner of the Aberdare Cup, (previously a geography teacher at other schools), became Headmistress.

Mymwood closed in 1984. The following year Belling and the ‘Pizza Hut’ opened as well as 16 all-weather tennis courts. In 1991 the ABC (Audrey Butler Centre) opened for classroom teaching. The Leach PE Centre opened the following year. In 1995, there were many events for the Centenary Celebrations. The Estate Manager, Maurice Hoare, commissioned the Queenswood Rhododendron from the Crown Estate, Windsor.

In 1996 Mrs Butler retired and was succeeded by Clarissa Farr, daughter of an Old Queenswoodian and a Queenswood teacher. In 2005 a new Swimming Pool was opened and in 2006 the Clarissa Farr Theatre. Miss Farr left in 2006 to take on the role of High Mistress at St Paul’s Girl’s School and was succeeded by Pauline Edgar. Recent developments have included the Haute Quisine cookery suite (2009) and the conversion of Stamp House into Lower School Boarding Accommodation (2011).