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Queenswood is an extraordinary place with extraordinary people. It would be our privilege to educate your daughters here.

Queenswood in the First World War

Monday 20 May 2013

During the First World War Queenswood was still at Clapham Park, London. At the start the school just carried on as normal. There are no mentions of the outbreaks of conflict in the minutes of governors meetings and the only brief references occur: a reduction of fees for girls ‘whose parents would otherwise have to remove them owing to the War’ (December 1914), but in June 1915: ‘The question of Fire protection in case of aircraft raids was considered and it was resolved to purchase nine more Rex Fire Extinguishers, and also to insure the Buildings and Contents against damage by Hostile Aircraft with Lloyds at the rate of ¾%.’

Queenswood at Clapham Park

At the same time the chairmen read out a letter from the girls asking that ‘the money usually devoted to prizes and bursaries should be given to some War Fund’. Also, the Principal mentioned the proposal to equip a Motor Ambulance to be known as “Queenswood” for the Front…’ By July £50 had been raised.

The two ambulances equipped by Queenswood

In October 1915 things were worsening. The school was considering what to do ‘with reference to risks from Air Raids’ and a letter was sent to parents explaining what precautions were being taken and asking their opinion on whether to move the school. 14 pupils had ‘withdrawn owing to the risk of Air Raids’. Miss Trew started looking for ‘suitable premises in the West of England should circumstances or a recurrence of the Raids compel the removal of the school from London.’ A parent from Dundee asked for a return of fees because of the non-return of his Grand-daughter owing to Zeppelin raids’, but this was denied.

A Queenswood ambulance at Selonika

In December 1915 the idea of ‘the removal of the school’ was rejected by the parents. There was another request for remission of fees in the case of a girl who wished to nurse her younger brother ‘who had unfortunately lost his leg’ being as his mother ‘was unable to do this as she was engaged in the nursing of wounded Soldiers’… ‘the Board fully sympathised with the distressing circumstances’ but as the child’s mother was still alive, did not grant the request. In February the girl returned to school.

Teachers who married had to leave the school, but In June 1916 an exception was made: ‘ one of the mistresses… had recently been married before her Husband left for the Front and the Directors approved her continuing to serve the school’
A school concert was arranged to raise money for the Star and Garter Fund for disabled servicemen.

In October 1916 fees were remitted to a girl who was caring for her sick mother while her father was ‘serving in His Majesty’s Forces’. The cost of provisions had risen by 50% and fees were raised. A new building was planned, pending permission from the Ministry of Munitions, but this was refused in November. The saving was passed on to staff as Christmas bonuses.

In September 1917 another letter was sent out regarding possible ‘removal of the school’, though ‘it was considered that the risk of Air Raids was a declining one, and that in the Winter Months especially, the risk should be very much diminished’. How wrong they were. The following month ‘The Principal reported that in consequence of the recent Air Raids a large majority of the parents had written stating that they did not propose to send their daughters back to the school so long as it was situate in the London area.’ The Director considered finding accommodation in a Hotel ‘at Trewquay in Cornwall, Seaton in Devonshire or Llandrindod Wells, to avoid the heavy cost of ‘removing all the School Furniture’ The possibility of renting “The Hayes”, Swanwick, Derbyshire was also considered. A week later it was resolved to take up the offer of renting The Hayes at £160 per month ‘as no better terms could be obtained’.

In March 1918 the Fire and Aircraft Insurance on Clapham Park was increased by 50% and in the absence of the pupils Wandsworth Borough Council asked if the playing field could be used for allotments. The board rejected this as ‘such a use of the field would make it unfit for games for two or three years thereafter.’

In July 1918 the ‘Chauffer and general utility man’ at The Hayes was called up and Miss Trew lodged an appeal which was successful.

As soon as the armistice was signed the school transferred back to Clapham Park and found itself ‘in the grip of one of the most formidable waves of influenza…wartime restrictions made the whole thing a nightmare for all concerned.’
Queenswood ‘reassembled in its old home in January 1919’.

A letter to Queenswood from ‘Dick’, one of the ambulances. Click to enlarge.