Good sanitation so necessary for the little darlings at school!

Music and movement: girls at Gorleston's Highfield private school in the 1930s. Picture: SUBMITTED

Music and movement: girls at Gorleston's Highfield private school in the 1930s. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Submitted

It is six decades since I left school, and months since the last of my grandchildren did so. Their education system and mine seemed poles apart and, frankly, I did not grasp their set-up and sympathise with parents who have to understand its complexities and choices or otherwise jeopardise their children’s long-term future.

Mornington House School, Regent Road, Yarmouth, 1899. Picture: SUBMITTED

Mornington House School, Regent Road, Yarmouth, 1899. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Submitted

Hereabouts new-fangled academies have sprouted but non-academies remain. Our boys’ grammar and girls’ high and convent schools are history although nationally politicians are talking about the rebirth of grammars. Locally prep and private schools are no more, I believe.

So I was interested to read recently an 1899 magazine about education in our borough. It omitted council schools but covered the grammar (founded 1551) whose status then probably categorised it as private school, and it was given generous space to extol its merits.

The editor also included three undeniable private schools established in large houses. And I could help smiling to read that all were at pains to emphasise...the quality of their sanitary arrangements!

We take those for granted 117 years later, but stressing them was perhaps the equivalent of today’s hoteliers announcing colour television and wi-fi in all bedrooms, facilities high on the demands of prospective guests.

Room with a view: a Poplars staff members about to draw the curtains across a bedroom on its last da

Room with a view: a Poplars staff members about to draw the curtains across a bedroom on its last day as a home for the elderly in 1993. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

And I wondered if the pupils from well-heeled families used the word “sanitation” or a more down-to-earth term like youngsters from less salubrious parts of the borough...

Let us examine the descriptions and prospectuses of these three, beginning with the Mornington House School for Young Ladies in Regent Road on the corner of Apsley Road, years later to become the Granville Hotel. It had been running for 28 years, long-serving principal Mrs Charles Hall being succeeded on retirement by Mrs Francis Blagrove.

Most Read

Boarders and day pupils could enjoy commanding sea views and proximity to places of recreation and exercise. “A drawing room is held once a week when the young ladies are taught deportment,” said the magazine. Book-keeping and shorthand tuition were available.

“The list of gentlemen and ladies to whom reference can be made includes a number of well-known clergymen, professional men and private gentlemen, and the high character and efficiency of the college are abundantly attested by the numerous letters of thanks and appreciation from parents of former pupils.”

Wellesley House School, Regent Road, 1899. Picture: SUBMITTED

Wellesley House School, Regent Road, 1899. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Submitted

Oh yes: “The sanitary arrangements are maintained in a perfect state of efficiency.”

Also in Regent Road, on the junction with Wellesley Road (a site later occupied by fancy-goods store Spalls), stood Wellesley House Preparatory School for Boys aged six to 14 as boarders or day pupils, under very experienced principal Miss Eggett and her staff.

Its proximity to beach and recreation ground meant opportunities for learning to swim and play sports.

A limited number of boarders meant the principal could give each lad personal attention and supervision “and to make life at school as much like home as possible.” Arrangements could be made for boys whose parents or guardians “desire them to remain under the principal’s charge during the holidays.”

It cost ten guineas a term for boarders. And “constant care is exercised in the matter of perfect sanitation.”

Over in Gorleston, Miss Tuck was the principal of Glanmor, a “home school for the daughters of gentlemen.” Its location - “one of the best possible in every respect” - is not specified but it was possibly on Cliff Hill because it “commands a fine view of the German Ocean (as the North Sea was then known), the South Denes and the picturesque harbour mouth.”

Miss Tuck told readers: “The air is notoriously pure and bracing, and has a first-class reputation among the best medical authorities.” Notorious? To my mind, that is a derogatory word, not a recommendation - my dictionary defines “notorious” as “famous for some bad quality or deed.” But teacher knows best...

Teacher Miss Denby “is a fully certificated hospital nurse of many years’ standing” and, in addition to responsibility for pupils’ health, specialised in the physical training of delicate and backward children. Summer occupations included “pleasant excursion for sketching and botanising.”

Sanitation? “Constant attention is given to the maintenance of a perfect sanitation throughout the whole of the premises.”

Later into the private schools sphere and established probably in the early Thirties - decades after the need to mention sanitation - came the Highfield boarding and day school for girls up to university entrance, and kindergarten boys. It stood at the cliffs end of Avondale Road in Gorleston.

Founder Marion Priestley Barrett styled herself “school mother” and for moderate fees offered education to university entrance. Highfield was “highly recommended.” Also, she agreed to take “entire charge of children whose parents are abroad.”

In 1950, Highfield having closed, the building became The Poplars, a council-run old people’s home. Two years later Miss Barrett generously gave her building to Yarmouth Corporation. It closed in 1993 and is now residential apartments, I believe.

The private Duncan House School was founded in Camperdown in Yarmouth in 1898, moving to Albert Square and out to Scratby 1948, changing “house” for “hall” in its name; it closed 20 years ago.

The only other private school I recall is the American one in the Stradbroke Road premises from 1968, aimed at the children of overseas personnel in the offshore oil and gas industry.