History of ‘Broomwood’ School

Adapted from ‘ The County Secondary School Clapham ’ by Annie Ellis, member of Staff 1905 – 1945, the Memorial Book to Miss Jones 1966, the Jubilee Year Book 1959 and Quondam Newsletters covering three decades.



The School’s origins are not to be found in Broomwood Road but on the other side of Clapham Common, as the ‘Science Day School for Boys & Girls’ at the old Battersea Polytechnic. Here began, in 1899, a School to meet the needs of children whose parents could not afford the higher fees of the Endowed or High Schools. Secondary Education was not as yet aided legally out of Rates. The School’s Principal was Mr. Sidney Wells and, under him, Miss M.E. Stoker took charge of the forty-eight girls at the School.


Following the Education Act of 1902, the numbers of pupils admitted to the School became too great to accommodate and it was decided to move the girls to a separate building. Later that year the Girls’ School opened in ‘Clarence House’, North Side Clapham Common. (see Addenda *)


There were now 240 girls at the School and, in July 1906, an adjacent house ‘Woodlands’ was acquired to accommodate the ever-growing pupil numbers. (see Addenda *) The Sixth Form grew and University Scholarships were gained. The Schools’s curriculum was then very much as it was to continue, with Science at the fore. Alongside the academic subjects there was a vigorous Musical Society & Plays were routinely staged. A ‘Working Party’ formed in 1905 met each week to make garments for the Fairlight Mission, Battersea Home for Mothers & the Clapham Infant Welfare Centre, helping needy mothers and children, setting the tradition of charitable work by pupils. Donations were also regularly given in support of local Hospitals.

It was in this year too that the first School Magazine ‘The Gleam ’ was published.

The School continued to grow in these two houses for three further years by which time, with nearly 400 girls, it had been recognised that a more stable and long-term plan was necessary. The School had always been managed by the Governors of the Battersea Polytechnic whose interest and friendship contributed much to the welfare and development of the School but now management passed to the London County Council who set about finding a site on which to erect a brand new, purpose-built and well-equipped School. When Broomwood Road was selected there were no houses between the present boundary and Alfriston Road. (see Addenda **) The School which was built on the site, our School, was one of the last of its design to be erected by the London County Council. Later buildings had fewer floors and spread over a larger area.


On September 14th 1909 at Broomwood Road a new term began a new year at a new School. There was still much to do to finish off the interior fittings and there were concerns that the opening may have to be delayed. It was decided, however, despite the noise and bustle of workmen, that the School should open for the new academic year as planned. Now a Grade II Listed Building, this magnificent structure opened its doors to the public for the very first time.

… the next 100 years …




Throughout its history, the School frequently welcomed visitors through its portals but in this year the most memorable occasion was a visit by a party of Russian teachers who spent a couple of days mingling with Staff and pupils, watching and learning. To end their visit they entertained the assembled Staff and pupils with a medley of Russian songs.

April saw a performance by pupils of Concert & Drama to raise funds for the ‘Working Party.’

The year also saw the School’s first Speech Day & Prize-giving ceremony.


The year was marked by two important events, first of which was a mass Concert in Queen’s Hall conducted by Sir Frederick Bridge and performed by a large choir drawn from all the London County Council Schools. A thrilling occasion!

The second was the inaugural meeting of the ‘Quondam’ Club, the Society which endures to this day. The aim is, as it was then, to maintain contact between former pupils, Staff and their School. Miss Stoker was Quondam’s first President. A few years after inauguration the Quondam Club formed a Dramatic Society which continued to flourish and produce plays until 1934.


These years saw many theatrical productions, many of which were written by Staff members, including ‘A Roman History ’, ‘The Romance of Chemistry ’ and ‘A Pageant of the Education of English Women‘. In this latter production, since each Form was made responsible for one scene, the participation of the entire School was ensured. To mark the 1916 Tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death each Form again produced and performed a scene from one of his Plays.


The Summer of 1914 would be memorable when, as the end of term approached, the cloud of war began to cast its shadow. By the time the School returned in September battles had already been fought and the German advance on Paris halted. School life continued at Broomwood Road, albeit with marked differences, and there was no evacuation of the School during this war.

Many of the Staff & pupils gave freely of their time after school to help the war effort – carrying out clerical duties when Identity Cards & food rationing were introduced, working in Red Cross Hospitals and, not least, making local anaesthetics at Battersea Polytechnic’s laboratories. On one occasion in 1915, after the first enemy gas attack on London, they helped by making a simple form of respirator.

A War Savings Association was formed which continued to the end of the war. Part of the garden was given over to growing vegetables, some of which were used for School dinners. There was a weekly collection to buy eggs for the local Red Cross Hospitals and concert parties were formed to entertain patients, at the School when possible. Sewing groups made useful items for patients and Forces at the Front. On July 20th 1915, a Sale of Work was held at the School, combined with a Concert, to raise money for materials. £60 was collected. A similar event in 1917 raised £92.

At 11 a.m. on 11th November 1918 the maroons signalled the Armistice and fighting stopped. A service of thanksgiving was held in the Hall after which the School closed for the rest of the day.

The Mayor & Corporation of Battersea wished to mark the end of the war with something special for their Schools and ‘Broomwood’ persuaded them to give the School a permanent memento. This was to be the trophy called ‘The Peace Cup’ which was thereafter awarded to the Form achieving the largest number of points at the School Sports Day held at the end of Summer Term.

To celebrate the end of the war and the signing of the Peace Treaty, the Staff entertained the School with three fancy dress parties.

During the years from 1909 to 1918 the standard of work at the School was consistently raised: more girls took external Examinations, with greater degrees of success. Post matriculation or advanced courses had been established in the Sixth Form a few years before the war. One of the effects on the School of the First World War, however, was not unlike that of World War Two. It was easy for girls to obtain posts in Offices and in temporary Government Departments and this decreased the numbers staying on for work in the Sixth Form so that the advanced School work was more difficult to carry on. In spite of this, some girls did realise their ambition to enter University, a number of those with University Scholarships.

As School numbers had increased, more rooms had to be taken for use by the pupils – the Secretary’s room, the Staff Reference Library and the Museum Room all became Form rooms. Other changes in the building took place at a later date when the Secretary’s Room was divided into two, with one half becoming the Waiting Room. At that time too, the Sixth Form Chemistry Laboratory was created by moving the dividing wall between the Science Lecture Room and the Science Preparation Room, making the latter much more capacious.

From the earliest days at Battersea Polytechnic, Science had always been an important subject for the School. The removal of the girls from the Polytechnic in 1902 did not mean our connection had been severed. During the gradual increase in numbers while the School had operated out of ‘Clarence House‘ and ‘Woodlands ‘ the senior girls still attended the Polytechnic for Science, Domestic Science and for Physical Training. Their counterpart Boy’s School had by that time also moved from the Polytechnic building to another, near Latchmere, but they convened with the girls for major events such as Prize Giving, the School Concert and the annual ‘Conversazione’ held in the Great Hall. They also combined to produce and perform Plays. Joint Sports Days were also held during those years, at Herne Hill Sports Ground.

In 1909, the same year in which the newly-built Girls’ School opened at Broomwood Road, the boys moved to the new Thornton School for Boys at Clapham.


In 1919, after twenty years of dedicated Headship, half of which time had been spent in the new School building at Broomwood Road, Miss Stoker retired. She had steered the School from its beginnings, organising and developing its life through two difficult periods of change, in 1904 & 1909, and through the uncertainties of wartime. She left the School with pupil numbers of 540, far in excess of the 480 for which the new building had been designed.

Always ready to experiment with new ideas likely to widen the outlook of girls and increase their self-reliance, Miss Stoker had pioneered the construction of a complex organisation and assisted girls to find interesting and fruitful careers. During her Headship she had also established in the School sound traditions of loyalty and of co-operation & response to the claims of the community.

… a new era …




In May 1919, Miss Ethel A. Jones took office as Clapham County School’s new Headmistress. In a speech some years later, she remarked how fortunate had been the timing of her arrival, just after World War 1, and of her retirement 19 years later, shortly before World War 2 began. All her efforts were therefore able to be directed towards the success of her pupils’ education.

Post-war Britain had begun the lengthy task of rebuilding its battered structures and its economy. At Broomwood Road, school life also began to return to normal. Energies which had been diverted to helping the War effort were now concentrated on school work. The average school life began to lengthen with more girls being encouraged to enter the Sixth Form; entrance to University and Training Colleges of various types was now widely sought. In a Speech Day report, Miss Jones declared “A large Sixth Form is evidence of a healthy life in a Secondary School.” Girls were also inspired by Miss Jones and her Staff to take an interest in the wider world beyond school.


The School flourished during this period with ever-increasing numbers of girls gaining General and Higher School Certificates and Open or State Scholarships at Universities and Training Colleges. Resulting Degree qualifications, in a wide variety of fields, were impressive. The many Societies active within the School provided girls the opportunity to explore and gain a wider knowledge of favourite subjects, to supplement the work in the class room or laboratory. These included English Literature, Drama, Music, the Classics, Science, French, German, History & Geography. The groups were conducted as separate entities until 1931 when they were merged into one comprehensive Society under a Central Committee.

In 1923, or thereabouts, it was mooted that the girls would benefit from being able to enjoy performances by invited Musicians of standing, Pianists in particular, but the School’s piano at that time was not considered good enough for concert purposes. In true ‘Broomwood’ style then, fund-raising began in earnest. Concerts held in 1924 raised a sum of £252 which the School invested in a Broadwood grand piano. A short recital by one of the Music Staff the following January confirmed that the purchase had been wise and worthwhile and this was soon followed by a more formal ceremony of introduction, when Miss Harriet Cohen gave a recital to a large audience.

Drama was by now playing an important and most enjoyable part in School life.

In 1924 the first School Dramatic Competition was held. This became an interesting and eagerly awaited annual event, taking place each Spring Term.

In 1925 it was agreed that a Loan Fund should be set up. This was designed to help School-leavers, by granting them sums of money to assist in further Education or enable them to undergo specific Career Training. The Loan granted was to be repaid whenever possible. By 1927, through organising a Fete and Dramatic productions, a goodly sum had been raised which gave the Loan Fund its foundation. The Fund was added to from time to time by donations and from money raised through further Drama productions by pupils, Staff and ‘Old Girls’.

A desire had grown among some of the ‘Old Girls’ to recognise, with a tangible record at School, the devotion of former Head, Miss Stoker, in guiding the School’s fortunes in its formative years. A committee of Old Girls & Staff set about collecting donations for the commissioning of her portrait. The artist chosen was Philip Humphreys, a local Clapham resident.

On July 29th 1928, Miss Thomas, a long-serving member of Staff who had worked with Miss Stoker since the School’s days at Battersea Polytechnic, unveiled the portrait and presented it to her. After accepting it with pleasure and gratitude, Miss Stoker asked Mr.Gridley, Chairman of the Governors, to receive it as one of the School’s lasting possessions.

… 21st Anniversary …




The School celebrated its 21st Birthday in 1930 with a number of special events including several parties given by Staff to Senior, Middle & Junior school girls who all shared a large iced cake given by the Old Girls. The cake was decorated in the blue & white School colours and bore 21 candles which were lit by Miss Jones.

The first School Service at St. Luke’s Church, a thanksgiving service, was held on Saturday 11th October. This was followed by a large gathering of the Quondam Club.

The year’s main effort was to further plans for a proper School Library. There was no shortage of Reference books at school but they were scattered in different places – various Subject libraries, the Sixth Form library and a Staff reference library. The dream was to gather them all together to be housed in one room, specially fitted for that purpose. Not wishing to endure a long wait by applying to the LCC for funding, it was decided, instead, to apply the usual fund-raising methods.

In addition to generous donations by Old Girls and friends of the School totalling £167, a further £320 was raised by way of a large & successful Spring Fete. The total was adequate to meet the cost of converting the two rooms on the Hall floor into one, redecorating it, panelling the walls and furnishing it with book cases, tables and chairs. Miss Jones gave the valuable Persian rugs, the curtains & lampshades.

On 10th October 1930 the Library was formally opened by Professor Dover Wilson who gave an inspiring address. He had observed that the new Library was like any other, with books row upon row, as a symphony score has notes. But it would be absurd, he said, to conclude that is all a Library or Symphony means. The score does not become a Symphony until it is played & heard; the books on shelves not a Library until they are opened & read and become alive. His speech closed with these lines – “You are the heirs of the ages and, in that Library, you may take possession of your dower, the only dower that really matters, the best that has been spoken and thought by men.”

Miss Ellis, in her book, notes “It was in that spirit that we entered into possession of our Library … there is a precious tradition of how the Library should be used; it has been handed from one generation of girls to another.”

The Library contained many gifts to the School – books autographed & presented by their Authors; books given by friends from their own libraries; books given by Old Girls, girls leaving School and by Parents. The old English clock, vases, pictures and the table in memory of Miss Thomas, were all gifts to the School so that the Library also became a place of remembrance of those friends. The Library was the School’s most precious possession.

In the Hall, the William Morris table was given by Miss Jones and she had a bookstand and chair made to go with it. Together with the rug, they were her twenty-first birthday gifts to the School.

Speech Day, at the end of this 21st year, was a problem of how to accommodate in the Hall a school of 500 girls & Staff with parents and friends. This was solved by erecting a raised 3-tier gallery along the entire length of the window wall to seat as many of the girls as possible. The long rows of girls in their white dresses made an imposing and pleasant sight. This method of seating, fondly known as ‘the cake stand’ was very successful and was used on every successive Speech Day until 1938, the last before wartime evacuation, when the wood was needed to be turned to other, more utilitarian, uses and the ‘cake tiers’ were finally dismantled.


The intricate pattern of life at ‘Broomwood’ was firmly set but it was further & colourfully enriched throughout this decade. The Sixth Form flourished, with many girls going on to University and thence to diverse and, in some cases, eminently distinguished careers.

In 1936 the School was honoured by being chosen to accommodate the Summer Conference of the Association of Headmistresses, attended by several hundreds of Heads of Secondary Schools from all over England. It happened that it was our School’s turn that year to have its major spring clean and redecoration during the Summer break, so the building was seen looking its very best. Staff and Prefects were there to welcome the guests, complemented by bright vases of flowers, and the occasion was declared a great success.

During the years since 1919 more co-operation had grown between Secondary Schools. This was fostered by Inter-Schools Associations. Visits were made to other Schools and ‘Broomwood’ in turn hosted reciprocal visits. The London Inter-Secondary Schools Music Festival gave a great opportunity for this, the competing choirs and orchestras going each year to a different school in the area. Meetings of the Inter-School Classical Association, the League of Nations Union and the inter-school games matches all enabled everyone to get to know other Schools.

July 1938

After nearly twenty years of dedication to Clapham County School; encouraging, advising & assisting girls to pursue their goals; Miss Jones took early retirement with the intention of travelling widely. After only one year of ‘freedom’ however, the 2nd World War began when she threw herself, tirelessly, into new endeavours and challenges which would endure another three decades until her death. She devoted much of her time during the war to the Women’s Volunteer Service, after which she committed her efforts to educational institutions becoming Chairman of the Association of Headmistresses, Governor of Wye College (University of London) and of the North London Collegiate and Putney’s Mayfield Comprehensive School. She also served the Society of British Women Overseas and the Women’s Employment Federation.

When Miss Jones retired, her work both inside and outside the School had made it one of acclaim with a reputation for sound learning and a progressive outlook. She was widely respected but by none so much as her Staff and pupils to whom she was affectionately known as ‘Jonah’. The love and appreciation felt for her by colleagues, pupils and friends continued for the rest of her life and was evident at her Memorial Services in 1966 – the first held at the School on 26th May where the then Headmistress, Miss B. Viner, gave the address and on 20th June at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields where the address was given by Canon E.F. Carpenter, Archdeacon of Westminster.

September 1938

In the Summer of 1938 Miss E.A. Willey was appointed the School’s new Headmistress and took the reins with enthusiasm for the new school year which began that September. She had been Headmistress at the Lawnswood High School, Leeds for the previous ten years.

The years from 1935-38 had their difficulties; they were years of uncertainty in employment and in the relationships between different countries when war was always on the horizon. All this naturally affected the School and its ‘residents’. By 1937 Sixth Form numbers were beginning to dwindle. The prospects and challenge for any new Head were daunting enough and Miss Willey was to be congratulated for even considering a move to London at such a time let alone trying to maintain the School’s reputation during such unsettling times.

… The War Years …



* The Quondam Newsletters abound with accounts of this time in the School’s history and the reader should refer to that Index of Articles for more intimate and ‘in depth’ narrative of the trials and jollity of the years 1939-43 during which the School was in evacuation at Windsor. *

Miss Willey’s term of office began at a most crucial time. Without the luxury of being able to ease herself into her new post, her very first meeting with parents took place just ten days into the September term when discussions were held to devise a scheme for evacuation of the girls in the event of war with Germany. By her firm but sympathetic handling of this meeting and her quick appreciation of parental misgivings, natural in the circumstances, she showed characteristic vigour, versatility and courage, and created a feeling of confidence. Her ten years at ‘Lawnswood’ had developed Miss Willey’s administrative ability and she had a power to make rapid decisions.

Girls, then, had to be ready to leave London with little warning. Some girls, for a number of reasons, were not to be evacuated with the main body of pupils and an Emergency School would be set up to continue at ‘Broomwood’ in their absence. Those being evacuated, together with younger siblings who were to accompany them, brought their luggage to the School. This was piled up in the Form rooms in readiness for the emergency. Food stores were also prepared. Towards the end of 1938 it was obvious that evacuation would not take place right away so the luggage was despatched homeward again and the food stores used for school lunches. Ordinary school life resumed but forces of uncertainty beneath the surface gave it a restless feel.


In the Spring of 1939 the London County Council celebrated its Jubilee by holding an Exhibition showing all aspects of its work. There was a small exhibit by County Secondary Schools with a contribution by Clapham County but a larger share was arranged for Clapham’s girls in a local Exhibition at Henry Thornton School. Examples of Girls’ work in several subjects was shown and there was a gymnastics display & an Exhibition netball match.

The last of the Inter-Secondary Schools Music Festivals for the area to be held before the War was hosted by Clapham County School, taking place in the Hall.

During the last week of April a party from the Fifth & Sixth Forms travelled to Paris with Staff. This was the second such school journey, the first having taken place the previous year.

The School year culminated with Open Day & School Sports when the whole place was one of great activity with an impressive exhibition of school work, a concert and a gymnastics display.

With War looming, Staff returned to School on 26th August to prepare once more for evacuation. The weekend was spent mostly in clerical work and the making of identity badges. Girls who were to join the Evacuation Party, together with about sixty younger brothers and sisters, came to school on 28th August. Tension increased as they waited for evacuation orders. Fortunately the weather was fine and, when not listening to the radio for news, time was spent in the garden knitting, sewing, reading and playing games. Finally, instructions were received that everyone must assemble at 7.30 a.m. on Friday 31st August. By 8.30 that morning, after the roll of each group of fifty had been called and Staff & helpers had inspected luggage & labels, the School gates were opened and a long column in double file, with Miss Willey in the lead, left the School. At about 10.30 a.m. the party boarded their train at Clapham Junction Station, bound for Windsor and not knowing when, or indeed if, they would see their beloved School again.

There were many people waiting at Windsor Station to welcome the Evacuees although there was some initial consternation at the arrival of girls when, apparently, boys had been expected ! By the end of a very tiring day for all, especially the youngest members of the party, billets had been found for all and the friendliness of those receiving them reassured even the most timid. In Windsor, girls were billeted in private homes; in Eton, some were with families while the remainder were accommodated at a Bekynton College house which was run as a hostel.

By the end of the first week, Miss Willey had made arrangements for the girls’ education to be continued at the new County Boys School and it was there that term began on 12th September. Despite having three hundred girls thrust among them, the Headmaster Mr. Fairhurst, his Staff and the boys were most accommodating and very soon a ‘Rooms Time-table’ was in operation. School life was organised as near to normal as was possible although work itself, mainly for the older students, was often carried on in odd and uncomfortable places. So education continued along with the familiar Dramatic and Debating Societies, Sports and Speech Days. In addition to the established Form Music Competition, a new Reading Competition was first held in 1940.

The first duty of the School was to keep the level of School work as high as possible but the War Effort was not ignored - knitting for the R.A.F. Comforts Fund & for the W.V.S. and practical help at a local Forces Canteen were happily undertaken. Collections were also made for the Waifs & Strays Society. A War Savings Group was also set up with proceeds from Fetes adding to the coffers. School Allotments at Eton and, later, at Windsor provided vegetables for Bekynton & for the School with profits from sales going to the Windsor Hospital. The School also continued to meet its old obligation to support the ‘Broomwood Cot’ at the South London Hospital for Women.

Terms were longer than before. A rota of Staff was on duty during the holidays when girls reported to School twice weekly to register. Cycling, boating & swimming activities were arranged for Spring & Summer holidays and, in Winter, there were visits to the theatre and cinema. Parties were held at Christmas and New Year. Two School Companies of Girl Guides were also formed.

The School Magazine continued to be published up to December 1941 when paper shortages caused it to be replaced by a Leaflet which was produced in February 1943 and in 1944.

The Quondam Club too did not cease to meet during evacuation. The first ‘away’ meeting was held in June 1940 when a crowd of ‘old girls’ travelled to Windsor to give their good wishes. The Club functioned with a special wartime Constitution, meeting in Windsor until 1943.

As early as 1941 it was evident that the lack of stability in the lives of young people in evacuation was beginning to affect the educational foundation which had been relied upon back in London. More children were coming into the School who found it difficult to adapt to the new demands. However, in spite of all the difficulties, which included two periods of School closure – one for quarantine and another due to fuel shortage - good numbers of School Certificates at all levels continued to be achieved. It was not until the start of Summer Term 1943, when things in London had seemed to quieten down somewhat, that the School’s future in evacuation became uncertain and Miss Willey arranged a Parents’ Meeting to put forward the question of returning to London. Most Parents, being eager to have their daughters back at home, were in favour and the vote to return was almost unanimous. Due to special circumstances, a few needed to keep their children in Windsor and arrangements were made for those to join Windsor County Girls’ School.


After four long years, the end of Evacuation came suddenly and there was much to do to prepare for the return to Clapham. The last Speech Day closed and, slowly, the School dispersed. The boys hung an enormous banner across the building with the wartime slogan “Is your journey really necessary?” and, with mixed feelings, the girls departed. Evacuation in Windsor was over.

… Building for the Future …



Autumn 1943

The new Term began at Broomwood Road on 31st August where the Evacuees joined those who were in the ‘South West London Emergency Secondary School’ which had carried on there since March 1940. This fresh School year brought new experiences for them and for those returning.

This was, in essence, a new start for Miss Willey too, who had been whisked away almost as soon as she arrived to lead the School through unprecedented times. The record of those four years in Windsor showed the great success of her responsible efforts for, not only the education of the girls as her pupils, but their welfare, safety and fulfilment as her ‘orphaned’ charges.

No sooner had Term started than air raids on London began again to increase with intensity.


In June the flying bombs started and rockets soon followed. Some girls were again sent out of London by their parents, to all parts of the country, but the majority stayed. As in Windsor, so now, the whole School showed steadiness and quiet courage. School work was largely carried on in air-raid shelters where, fortunately, there was space enough for reasonable comfort. School Examinations were held here too, thereby testing the candidates in more senses than one!

In September the School opened with about two hundred girls but, as the flying bomb menace decreased, numbers began to grow once more. By Christmas, although rockets were still raining down, normality was beginning to return. The last rocket fell on London on 28th March 1945.


By the end of this School Year in July, School numbers had been fully restored and everyone looked forward with unity of purpose & a growing appreciation of what the School could achieve. New girls now entering the School had been only five years old when the war started so settled School life was that much easier to achieve from now onwards. It was also the start of a new chapter in the history of Secondary Education in Britain, bringing fresh challenges for all. Second Mistress, Miss Annie Ellis, who had served the School selflessly & with undiminished vigour for forty years since 1905 now felt that, with normality returning, this would be a fitting time for her retirement but not before she had written her account of the School’s history to date.

There was a General Election in July 1945, mirrored by the School’s World Affairs Society with its own version – the ‘Clapwood Election’. The Broomwood School Fete raised a goodly sum for the International Schools’ Relief Fund and the Council for Education in World Citizenship enabled the purchase of books & equipment for the College Fenelon de Jeunes Filles at Cambrai.

It was during the summer holidays, in August, when peace finally came so the School was empty of pupils. The only School unit assembled was at the Agricultural Camp at Wokingham. Three members of Staff and twenty-five girls celebrated with their own ‘Victory Banquet’ and toasted Mr. Churchill, Miss Willey and C.C.S. in various innocuous beverages.

The start of the autumn term and the removal of black-out restrictions saw the welcome renewal of out-of-school activities. A series of Career lectures was arranged and the Inter-Schools Classical Society was revived. In December the School production was “Tobias & the Angel ” although the annual Play subsequently became a biennial event, alternating with the Dramatic Competition.


This School year was remarkable for the growing number of School visits. Notable among these were the Sixth Form parties to the House of Commons, where they were entertained over tea by Mrs. Ganley M.P., and to the Hansard Society Youth Conference. There was also a visit to Cambridge to see ‘The Frogs’ performed in Greek. There was a revival of the Inter-Sixth Form Society and the Easter visits to Paris and the first of the Summer Concerts took place.

In June the School Magazine reappeared, the first since publication ceased in December 1941.


The beginning of this session saw the School more populated than it had been for eighteen years and a Junior Speech Day was instituted. New Societies continued to be formed – the Science, Art and Music Clubs embarked on years of successful activity. Another facet was introduced to school life when Mrs. Carr arrived from a New York school on a year’s exchange with our Miss Cullen.


In October, Mr. Fairhurst from Windsor Boys’ School presented the prizes. Mr.Drury, Chairman of the Board of Governors for fourteen years, took the chair for the last time although he continued to support the School for many more with the provision of the English Prize. He was succeeded by Miss Brittain. There was a new development this year when the Prize winners of the Rotary Essay accompanied Miss Willey to a Rotary Lunch where they read their essays.

In July 1949, Miss Nicholson retired after twenty-six years at Clapham where she served not only as Sixth Form and Second Mistress but as Head of the South West London Emergency School from 1940 to 1943 during the dangerous and unpredictable conditions of wartime.


Musical life was now developing apace. Girls who played with the National Youth Orchestra or the London Schools’ Symphony Orchestra were able to enjoy visits to foreign cities in addition to London venues. In May 1950, a party of girls and Staff sang the B Minor mass at the Albert Hall.

New activities introduced in 1950 were the German Club and the Field Club. The latter made strenuous use of their Saturdays and later extended its activities to Field Courses in the Lake District and Derbyshire at Sayer’s Croft Camp and Flatford Mill.

Coronation Day 1953

On 2nd June, thirty-eight Clapham girls were among the 31,000 London Schoolchildren assembled on The Embankment to watch the regal procession. Early the following term Souvenir spoons were presented to all the girls by Mrs. Baker of the London County Council.

By now, the School Calendar was so filled with events & meetings each term that planners had difficulty finding available dates. The introduction of two seatings for lunch made short meetings possible during the lunch break. These were eagerly seized by the Literary & Debating Society which made its debut in 1955. One of its most memorable occasions was the visit by the former 1920’s pupil, writer & novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson, wife of Lord C.P. Snow.

Other events included films by the Arts Council, a presentation of ‘The Barber of Seville’ by the Opera Players and Domestic Science expeditions to Polytechnics and the Ideal Homes Exhibition. There were also Summer Term visits by Christian Fellowships to Cathedral cities such as Salisbury, Canterbury, Ely & Winchester. A full School life could be enjoyed by all, whatever their interest.


Autumn 1956 brought the resignation of Miss Rotherham and Miss Evans who had been with the School since 1920 & 1924 respectively. Each had excelled as Teacher, Sixth Form and Second Mistress during that time. In December came the retirement of Miss Willey.

Miss Willey came to Clapham at the crown of her career, filled with energy and ambition for her new School, only to find it about to disintegrate under the threat of world war. She fought tenaciously to maintain the high educational standard already set and gave all encouragement for her pupils’ to achieve their goals & ambitions, despite such difficult circumstances – and she won. Along with her equally steadfast team of Staff, she was able to enjoy the reward of seeing the School revive and flourish once more. The sadness of Miss Willey’s departure was tempered by the number of happy farewell events which allowed for everyone to show their deep appreciation and affection. A special concert was held, with all her favourite songs, followed by a Quondam presentation party. The Staff held a dinner party in her honour in the candle-lit Gym which was decorated with holly & ivy and a Christmas performance of ‘The Tempest’ was dedicated to her. The nineteen Forms each produced a hand-made article for her home as part of their farewell gift.

Miss Willey presented to the School, in addition to a number of books and the picture of ‘The Boy in the Library’ already so much appreciated, three presents which symbolised her deep interests – a picture of ‘The Musician’ and a portrait of Richard II, and an exquisite small statue of the Madonna & Child.

Miss Willey, and her predecessor Miss Jones, continued to take a great interest in the School for many years after their retirement, returning whenever possible to be there for special occasions.


Miss Beryl Viner succeeded Miss Willey as Headmistress in January 1957 and entered a School much alive to the educational needs of the day. Pupil numbers had continued to increase and, with many more girls entering the Sixth Form by this time, numbers had reached 600. Every square inch of the School space of over 87,000 square feet was well used to full capacity.


Plans were prepared by the London County Council for a one-storey, glass-roofed building in the School grounds to house a new Art room, Pottery room and kiln, and a class room. The existing Art room space would provide Elementary and Advanced Biology Laboratories, a Preparation room and a room for the Head of the Science Department, while the former Biology Lab. would become the Advanced Chemistry Laboratory. The ‘animal’ room would be given over to Advanced Physics.

The School garden was also redesigned and the planting of new shrubs, bulbs and window boxes at the front greatly enhanced the building’s appearance. Sadly though, this year saw the loss of the School’s playing field in the grounds of the 19th century villa ‘The Maples’ as the site was needed for a new Secondary School. However, tennis courts at Wandsworth Common were utilised and hockey was played at the Clapham Common pitches. 1958 also saw the introduction of swimming at Latchmere Baths.

In August 1958, Miss Brittain retired as Chairman of the Governors. She had worked with three Head Mistresses and been a valued friend and guide to each. She was succeeded by Mrs. Aris.

In some ways the structure of the School was changing again, adapting itself to the needs of modern Britain’s demand for scientists, but not at the expense of the human side of education.

... Golden Jubilee 1959 ...



The period from Summer 1958 through to Summer 1959 saw the whole School buzzing with activity, preparing for the Jubilee Year celebrations: practising until we were made perfect. Miss Jones and Miss Willey also played a central part, giving stimulation with their constant interest and encouragement.

A Jubilee Fund was set up for the purchase of new items for the School; comforts & luxuries which were outside the normal provision and budget of the London County Council. Generous donations poured in with promises of more to come. This ultimately provided new curtains for the Hall & Library, valuable books for the Library, teak seats for the garden, photographs of Miss Jones and Miss Willey, some attractive copperware and, not least, a record player!

Open Day was an outstanding & gratifying success with visits by a large number of parents, friends and ‘old girls’. See Quondam website Photograph Section /’Memorabilia’ for the Poem by Pamela Hansford Johnson titled ‘Clapham County School’ which she dedicated to Miss Jones. *

The Jubilee Year book, skilfully edited & compiled by Miss Freeth and complete with photographs, was a wonderful testament to the School and the dedication of its Headmistresses & Staff over those first fifty years. There are cherished copies still in many homes across the world.

October saw the climax of everyone’s efforts & hard work flower into a joyful week of celebration. On the Thursday, a special lunch was given in honour of the School’s Governors who generously made a gift to the Jubilee Fund to be spent on books of local interest.

St. Luke’s Church was full to bursting for the special Commemoration Service and months of concentrated choir practice under Miss Stamps brought flawless singing to the rafters.

The climax of the week was a Grand Reunion which was attended by over one thousand former Staff and girls. Lunch was laid on in the Hall and Library with an enormous 3-tiered Jubilee cake, reminiscent of the old ‘cake stand seating’ used in the Hall at former Speech Days.

Entertainment was provided by the Staff to the great delight of the entire audience and there was a fascinating exhibition of photographs.

This whole period of celebration had been a grand triumph of which each and all could be justly proud. The Quondam Club had played a large part in the planning & organisation of events and, due to the great interest created amongst former pupils from all decades who attended during Jubilee Week, the Club reaped the reward of ending 1959 with a considerably increased Membership.

Miss Viner too had proved herself beyond the call of duty with her efficient organising, answering of mail, balancing accounts and arranging meals, to all of which many hours of her own time had been devoted, in addition to the upheaval in normal School activities produced by the occasion.

By the end of this wonderful and exhausting year, the School was looking forward to its future with excitement. The new Art rooms, Junior Library and six Laboratories were nearly completed and would soon be in use. Their provision, and a more varied curriculum, allowed Staff and pupils to contemplate and explore the many more Courses & opportunities which were now available to young School-leavers with a wider range of qualifications. Alongside the traditional academic & medical careers, which were widening in scope, women were now making their mark in the world of commerce, in law and in music & art. There was almost nothing to which a graduate of Clapham County School could not aspire and many girls’ aspirations were fulfilled due to the School’s facilities and the unfailing effort & encouragement of their Headmistress and tutors.

… The Glory Days …




The years following Golden Jubilee Year were comparatively uneventful while the School, with Miss Viner, settled down to the usual matters of School life and there was a comforting stability. The re-planned Laboratories and new Art Room block were now in use to the satisfaction of Staff and girls alike after what had seemed an interminable wait.

In honour of Miss Jones’ 80th birthday, former Staff & girls got up a collection to commission Peter Greenham R.A. to paint her portrait. This was presented to her at a special party in October 1960. Many girls will remember this fine painting, gracing the Hall outside her beloved Library.

In 1961 Miss Viner announced the sad news of the death of the School’s first Headmistress, Miss Stoker, on 14th June.

In 1962 a new School motto was adopted – Discendo Veritas – and incorporated into the new School badge which, as the School was being referred to more & more as ‘Broomwood’, also included a frond of the Broom shrub. * see July 2003 Newsletter cover for photograph.

It would be wrong to describe this decade as not being memorable, an offence almost to the girls and Staff whose time it was. The years they spent in their School, absorbing all it had to offer, enjoying new interests & skills, learning to co-exist with people, preparing for adulthood and making life-lasting friendships; these are their memories and not to be devalued. It was, rather, a time of stable normality after many years of rapid, uneven, sometimes uncertain, progress which had tested Staff & pupils severely. Clapham County Secondary School had earned its place and good reputation in the wider world. This decade’s pupils benefited from, and reinforced, that.

School Magazines of the period are bursting with examples of story-telling, poetry & art which have an accomplished but fresh appeal. Likewise, the many pages devoted to Examination Passes and School Prize-winners, special events and school trips, present a satisfying glow and pay tribute to teachers & pupils alike. The Quondam Club also thrived at this time, being able to reunite several times each year for happy events in the Broomwood building.

In 1966 news was received of the death of former Headmistress, Miss Jones, who had for some time been ill and with deteriorating mobility. It was, nevertheless, a great loss to the Broomwood community for whom Miss Viner spoke at the Memorial Service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, noting Miss Jones’ many attributes & accomplishments and her enormous zest for life & learning.

Throughout this account of Broomwood School’s life, I have refrained from mentioning by name the multitude of wonderful, colourful, sometimes formidable, members of Staff who were in the ‘front line’ of duty. Suffice to say that, though they are most worthy of such mention, this ‘History of Broomwood’ would grow forever were I to list them all with their qualifications & attributes.

The 1960’s however, did see the retirement of several of the last of Clapham’s time-honoured stalwarts including Miss Freeth, Miss Rayner, Miss Stamps and, in 1967, Mrs. Garten. Their departures were especially poignant as their faces & voices were every bit an integral part of the building’s fabric as the plaster Cherubs presiding over the Hall. We had thought they would be there with us forever. Indeed, there were many pupils who believed they had been born there!

Miss Viner best summed it all up – “It seems a good moment to look back in gratitude to the outstanding personalities who built for us the structure of so much that we enjoy and perhaps take for granted today”. So another decade closed and, perhaps therefore, it is time for a 1960’s ‘Broomwoodian’ to write its definitive book, as we have several accounts of the previous five. Hands up?

... changes afoot …

The new era, which would be marked by political, social & educational change, began ominously.


News came in April of the death of Miss Annie Ellis in her 90th year. She retired in 1945, after serving the School devotedly for forty years, including as Second Mistress and Head of Science Department. She continued for many years thereafter to be a constant friend and visitor.

In May, Miss Viner announced that Miss Willey had died after the long illness she bore so bravely. She was nursed through her last months by her dear friend & colleague, Miss Evans, former Head of Classics at Clapham. Miss Willey’s death left the School with a great sense of loss. A Memorial Service was held for her at the beautiful 12th century church near her home at West Harnham, Salisbury, where the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral read the lesson. The service was very well attended by friends, colleagues, Salisbury residents and representatives of the many bodies she had served both before and after retirement.

Remarkable tributes to both of these great women can be found in the School Magazine of 1970.


The 1970’s, as the decade it followed, was by no means a stagnant period for Clapham School. If anything, the reverse was true as it gathered momentum.

A typical Calendar year would include such diverse fixtures & expeditions as a Mixed Adventure Course at Marchant Hill; a visit by the Norwegian Girls’ Choir; a performance of ‘Swan Lake ’ at the Coliseum; a Mathematics Conference at Bedford College; and trips abroad, including Skiing & a Mediterranean cruise. There was a succession of Field Study visits across Britain. The School Societies also kept up a full schedule with Visits, Meetings, Seminars & Tournaments.

The tradition of the School Play was maintained affording Staff the opportunity of entertaining their audience with faultless production, imaginative casting and great memories to take home.

By 1975, not only Miss Thwaites & Miss Franklin had retired but Miss Bower and Miss Alford, Deputy Head, had announced their retirement too. All long-serving Staff members, Miss Alford had joined Clapham County in 1945, just as the last bombs fell on London and was forever after passionate about her School with a dynamic energy. She was an outstanding Geography mistress. Quondam hosted a buffet lunch in Miss Alford’s honour in April when over 200 people attended.

The loss of Miss Alford, Miss Viner’s ‘right hand’, was compounded when news came that the School’s future was in jeopardy. This was the age of the ‘Comprehensive’ School when larger, more streamlined and characterless Schools were being built for the instruction, conveyor-belt fashion (or so it was perceived), of vast numbers of students, often spread over two sites. Clapham County School had been selected to become one such ‘Comprehensive’ establishment. Miss Viner, the Governors, Staff, pupils, parents and friends were all motivated to rise up in protective unison against this demonic plan. So began a long and bitter battle.

Early in 1976 the blow came; the School’s fate was sealed. It was to be merged with Marianne Thornton School, at West Side, the two separate buildings forming a split-site Comprehensive. Miss Viner felt she could not compromise her beliefs and immediately tendered her resignation.

But all was not finished for ‘Broomwood’ – it was an end, but not the end. Those who were to carry the School forward into its new age felt they had to view the changes positively, doing their best to ensure that new opportunities should be seized and the excellence of sixty-seven years of quality education & great achievements not lost. After all, there was still much to be done and to aim for, so who better to do it?

1970’s … Clapham County to Walsingham … 1980’s



The amalgamation naturally brought difficulties and the early days of transition were a testing time. The most immediate task was to decide upon a name for the new School. Faced with the prospect of a hybrid such as ‘Clapthorne ’ it was felt that a completely new name should be chosen. An old map of Clapham showed that the area where the Schools stood had been called variously, Wassingham or Washingham Common, with a Walsingham Lane nearby. The preferred name ‘Walsingham’ was chosen, put forward and accepted.

The former Marianne Thornton School occupied a low-level, bright, well planned, modern building of 1960 with clean architectural lines – the complete antithesis of ‘Broomwood’. The pupil capacity of each was much the same. Girls at Marianne Thornton followed a basic 3-year course, after which they could proceed to GCE ‘O’ Level, the new ‘SSC’ (Secondary School Certificate), or RSA Examinations which specialised in commercial skills such as typing. Although a good proportion of the girls stayed for a fifth year, few went on to Sixth Form studies. At the time of the Schools’ merger there had only been ten Sixth Formers. That was all about to change.

The teams of Staff from both Schools toiled tirelessly to ensure the smoothest possible transition with, as far as was possible, uninterrupted classes and studies. With sheer force of will and their complete dedication, it worked. Former Headmistress of Marianne Thornton School, Miss Leighs, was overall Head. The Deputy Head of the Lower School at ‘Broomwood’ was Miss Jean Holder, former Deputy of Clapham County under Miss Viner and herself an ex-pupil of Clapham.

When Miss Leighs resigned in 1978 her place was taken by a young, charismatic Mrs. Alessandra Wilson who quickly established herself within the buildings and amongst the teachers & pupils. She was loyal, hardworking, conscientious and totally committed to the new Comprehensive system of education. She had a clear vision, saw what was required and worked with Staff to produce results. She also proved herself to be an extremely capable Administrator. Miss Holder, her second-in-command, was equally industrious and committed and they made a masterful team. The new Walsingham School was well on its way - and that way was up!

Much was achieved in those early years. 1980-81 saw the School fully-fledged with a full Fifth Year. The School prospered and was oversubscribed year on year. Some of the old Clapham traditions were hard to carry on although the Summer Fete, with the Staff fancy dress competition, remained a highlight on the calendar for several years. Clapham’s reputation for fine music and drama was, however, maintained throughout the School’s existence, as was its high academic standard. A large proportion of girls went on to University and to a wider than ever range of careers.

Problems and new ideas within the Educational System, however, continued to plague Schools in general and Secondary Schools in particular with a series of concerns about their future. Walsingham was no exception and these worries came to a head in 1983 when complete reorganisation of the system was a very real threat. During the mid-1980’s there was a growing unrest in the country. It was a time of economic recession when the prospect of unemployment brought financial concerns, lowering morale and strangling motivation. Teachers' pay disputes followed by strikes became headline news but, despite their validity and public support, they took an inevitable toll resulting in many Schools, including Walsingham, suffering considerable damage. The damage grew and, once again, the School was under threat of contraction, at best, or closure at worst.

Consultations took place and decisions were finally made by the Inner London Education Authority. It was with great relief that Walsingham learned of its reprieve and was able once more to focus all its efforts where they belonged, on their pupils’ education and wellbeing.

It was fitting too that this decision against change came in 1984 - Broomwood’s 75th anniversary. Recent repairs and redecoration saw it looking magnificent for its big birthday year. The structure, designed by architect Thomas Jerram Bailey, had recently received ‘Listed Building - Grade II’ status to everyone’s great pride. This would not, however, curtail plans already underway to convert the wonderful, but now underused, Library into a Staff Room. This news was, as Mrs. Wilson knew it would be, quite distressful to girls & Staff from former times but, although sympathetic to those feelings, she felt her decision to be in the best interest of the School’s future. She pledged that the Library’s contents would be listed and disposed of in a careful and considered manner. Books would first be offered to other Schools or Colleges with her promise that any not finding safe homes would be made available to Quondam members.

The ‘William Morris’ Library table bequeathed by Miss Jones was restored to its former glory and put up for sale, fetching a handsome sum from an American buyer. A fitting resting place as, we are told, it was designed by an American known as George Washington Jack, who worked for William Morris. The proceeds paid for the equipping of the new Staff room together with the purchase and installation in both Lower & Upper Schools of microcomputers.

Peter Greenham’s lovely portrait of Miss Jones was presented to her old College, Somerville.

Walsingham continued to progress although the uncertainty of its future constantly hovered nearby. Industrial action & nationwide disputes rumbled on and their effects could not be avoided or underestimated. Teachers’ pay and Conditions of Service were still unresolved matters. It was not a time for complacency. It took a great deal of courage and perseverance on the part of Alessandra Wilson & Jean Holder to steer a steady course through those troubled times.

Despite those ongoing problems, new ideas were implemented as the School developed. On the educational front, the new year’s intake of First Year girls was moved from September to July which was called ‘intake week’. This gave girls an introduction to the School & Staff and allowed them a short while, without the normal pressures of Term-time, to allay fears and make friends. A Language Awareness Course, devised for First Years, stimulated interest in and understanding of the many languages spoken by Walsingham’s girls. The Fifth Year Work Experience Scheme was also introduced with girls undergoing one week of carefully chosen placements. This proved an invaluable benefit in affording pupils a chance to re-evaluate their career hopes.

On the ‘social’ side, a Youth Club was formed which met after school at ‘Broomwood’ on three days each week. There were classes in Art, Pottery, Creative writing, Basketball and Netball. This in turn led to the birth of ‘Production Evening’ which was a combination of Music, Dance & Drama. The Youth Club forged real links with the local community through combined projects with the Sports Council and other funded bodies. Practical help was also provided, a good example being the London Contemporary Dance School’s provision of two students for half a term to work with the junior classes. The Performing Arts were declared “very much alive & well” at Walsingham.

Students were proud of their School and of themselves. This manifested itself in hard work and good Examination results, with Scientific and Mathematical achievements well to the fore. The 1986-87 year ended with above average public Examination results, the best for many years. In September 1986 the Fourth Year girls were the first group of students to take the new General Certificate of Secondary Education, or GCSE’s.

On the one hand, Walsingham continued to forge ahead with new curriculum developments while, on the other, still suffered losses of valued Staff and disruption to administration as a result of the bitter employment disputes, often leading to pupils being sent home. The Education Act 1987 finally brought a welcome end to the disputes and offered new hope. The year ended with the changeover of the use of the two School sites. It was felt that this would enable better use of buildings and resources, leading to more efficient teaching and even better examination results.

“You cannot dip your toe twice in the same river" (Native American proverb)




As with the river, so time and circumstance move on. The Great Education Reform Act of 1988 (‘Ger-Bill’) undid so much that had just been patched up. The reconciliation with Teachers promising stability was to be short-lived with consequences and fresh challenges closer to home.

The Inner London Education Authority had been on a collision course with the Government for many years. The new Great Education Reform Act and the break up of the ILEA would affect Walsingham in several ways. The ILEA had distributed resources across London, enabling poorer areas to compete on equal terms. The new reforms under local control, bringing drastic resource cuts, would curtail development and disadvantage, even disable, many of those Schools. While Wandsworth was a fairly prosperous area, it followed that it was an expensive area in which to live, so would soon be out of range for many Teaching Staff. Students were now expected to pay for more things than before. Funding for books and learning resources were cut. Even use of the school buildings for extra-curricular activities, including meetings of Quondam (long supported by Mrs. Wilson, its President), would have to be paid for. Sixth Forms were likely to be ‘axed’.

This whole package of cuts was a crushing blow to Mrs. Wilson’s trust in the educational system although she steadfastly maintained “I am here to serve the children, whichever political party is in power, and I look forward to serving the same community when Wandsworth takes over”. At the end of 1989, Broomwood’s 80th year, the School and a dispirited Miss Holder were once again thrown into the maelstrom when Mrs. Wilson gave up the fight and resigned from office.


The new Head of Walsingham, Miss Janet Sage, took up her post in January with a warm welcome by Quondam, having agreed to follow in the footsteps of all former Headmistresses of Clapham & Walsingham in becoming its President. Alessandra Wilson, not wishing to break her ten year ties with Quondam, agreed to be Vice-President.

In December of this year came news of the unexpected death of Miss Nancie Bower, Head of Modern Languages at Clapham County School from 1945-1975. * Tributes to Miss Bower by Miss Viner, former colleagues & pupils can be found in the January 1991 Quondam Newsletter.

More bad news came when it was announced that the Local Authority’s proposals for Secondary Schools reorganisation had included the closure of Walsingham in 1993. Although it became clear that they might be prepared to reduce the number of closures in the Borough from four to three, it was also clear that a surviving school would have to be co-educational. Walsingham’s new Head and Staff were convinced that there was a place, a demand and justification for an ‘all girls’ School. They decided that their only chance of survival would be to apply for Grant-Maintained status. Governors voted unanimously in favour of this with support from a substantial majority of the teaching and support Staff. This quickly moved to the next step of balloting the parents whose vote was a crucial part of the formal application procedure.

The ‘in favour’ result of the ballot was received on December 4th but it was no surprise to learn on 5th December that Wandsworth Council was recommending the School’s closure. Official Closure Notices would be published on December 13th. With little time to spare but determination on their side, Walsingham had to ensure that their formal Application for Grant-Maintained status was published on the same day. It was a hard task but the deadline was met. Now followed a wait of two months for a decision to be made by the Secretary of State for Education & Science.


The waiting period of two months seemed a lifetime, knowing that the desired decision would necessitate much preparation for the opening of a new Grant-Maintained School in the coming September. Pupil recruitment would be a priority – the School’s numbers had already been affected by the announcement of Wandsworth Council’s intentions.

The news finally came that, despite the strenuous efforts by Miss Sage, Staff, Governors, parents & other supporters, Walsingham had not been successful in its bid to retain the School. Not about to give up the fight, parents initiated action, spurring Miss Sage to seek a Judicial Review in the hope of a favourable outcome. Another wait ensued as the School Year ticked past. The date of 16th July was set for the Review to be heard in the High Court.

Miss Sage wrote her report for the Quondam Newsletter on 17th while waiting for news of the decision. Amid all the upheaval and uncertainty, she was pleased to announce that Walsingham had again had a praiseworthy year of achievements.

Sadly, the outcome of the Judicial Review did not turn Walsingham’s future around. The School was to close in September 1993.

More sad news came with the announcement of the deaths of two more ex-Staff members. Mrs. Mary Pinder, English Teacher and Head of Religious Education from 1934-71 and Miss Elsa Young, Head of Mathematics 1954-72. Fond tributes to both can be read in the August 1991 Newsletters*


The year began with certain knowledge that the School Roll would greatly reduce over the coming months with the consequential necessity of the closure of one or other of the School sites. Not knowing which site this would be, contingency plans had to be made for all number of things, including the annual Quondam Reunion.

Miss Sage’s spirit in such dire circumstances was commendable. She saw to it that School life, as far as possible, continued as normal. Pupils maintained their level of achievement and were encouraged to participate fully in, and reap the benefits of, the wider school life still available to them. Miss Sage was quick to praise all their efforts and support their interests. To her, the girls’ good morale was paramount, especially in those most demoralising times. It was also important to her, as she wrote in April’s Quondam Newsletter, that “even with the sad prospect.. of having to lose a considerable number of staff and pupils in July… Walsingham ethos will prevail and we will continue to demonstrate that Wandsworth made the wrong decision about this school”.

The year moved on apace, summer came & went, GCSE Passes and Grades had been further improved to Miss Sage’s joy and satisfaction and her planned departure at the end of December was now imminent. Miss Kath Bennett was to take over as Acting Headmistress until closure. With the diminishing School Roll for the final few terms, it was obvious that Staff must also be lost. No loss was to be more poignant than that of Jean Florence Holder who had dedicated much of her working life to her old School, facing many challenges with great fortitude and pride at the side of Miss Viner and Mrs. Wilson. The tribute to her by Alessandra Wilson was richly deserved.

By the end of the summer term 1992 ‘Broomwood’ stood empty. Furniture & artefacts, not owned by the Local Authority, had been moved to the West Side building and an inventory drawn up. Quondam Members were given the first option to express their wish to purchase particular items. The precious Honours Boards were also moved to West Side. It was decided, most fittingly, that Philip Humphrey’s portrait of Miss M.E.Stoker should be presented to Surrey University whose roots were also to be found in the old Battersea Polytechnic’s Science Day School, where Miss Stoker had first taught her girls nearly a century before.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …Charles Dickens : A Tale of Two Cities


Early in January, sealed ‘Tenders’ for the Broomwood building were opened at the Town Hall. Thomas’s London Day Schools’ offer was the highest although it soon became apparent that they could not raise all of the necessary purchase capital. In March, after invitations to re-tender, the bids were opened and scrutinised. By May a decision had been made and announced – Thomas’s School, which already ran a Preparatory & Pre-Preparatory School on the site of Sir Walter St. John’s Grammar School, were the new owners. There was a massive sense of relief locally, and closest to home within Quondam, that fears of possible redevelopment had been allayed.

Quondam was then the happy recipient of more good news. The Principals of Thomas’s School, Mr.David Thomas and his wife, Joanna, had expressed a wish for the Honours Boards to be returned from their temporary sanctuary at Walsingham to their natural home at Broomwood.

The ‘icing on the cake’ came with the bonus news that Mr.Thomas had also offered Quondam the use of Broomwood for its Annual Reunion, which offer was immediately taken up for October.

Quondam’s delight at all this welcome news was tempered by the looming closure of Walsingham, it’s last tangible link to the progressive, sometimes wayward, education system which should have continued to produce generations of ‘old girl’ Members, the better and wiser for their experience. Quondam Membership numbers had always been well maintained but it was now clear that the ’bank’ of School-leavers from which they were drawn would, from this point onwards, be finite.

Nevertheless, there was much to be thankful for and still much to be done before Walsingham closed its doors for the last time. Staff underwent a full appraisal to benefit them in applying for new careers. Pupils were kept as busy as usual with a full schedule and attendance & punctuality were kept up to standard. The whole school was a hive of activity, working towards its final months with true pride and vigour and a desire to go out on the highest note, having performed their best. This, it was hoped, would be their benchmark for the new places of learning they would enter, the first of which was only one term away. The social side of education & school life also did not suffer and all the usual activities, including School Trips were kept up.

As the final term drew near, plans to celebrate Walsingham were well underway. Commemoration mugs were ordered, a ‘Farewell’ Newsletter was prepared and plans made for a special Open Day.

The Quondam Committee too was considering how best to keep the memory of both Clapham & Walsingham alive with an appropriate memorial and Members were given the opportunity to put forward their suggestions.

The last pieces of furniture and articles from Broomwood, residing at West Side, were set to be auctioned and all the items - copperware, vases & bookstands - went to Quondam Members. Three of the old Library carpets had survived: one was sold, the others were sent for valuation.

School Records, sample School Magazines and other memorabilia were packaged up and lodged with the Fawcett Library, later The Women’s Library. There they would be processed, catalogued and, in due course, made available to students, scholars and researchers. These records provide impressive evidence of the education of women during the first decades of the twentieth century.

A new beginning for ‘Broomwood’




After all the farewell parties, when the sounds of the steel band, the laughter and tears had faded, and the school doors closed for the last time, it was realised that Quondam was left with no Head Teacher to call on as President. The Committee discussed how best to proceed and its views & proposals would be put to the AGM later in the year. Meanwhile, former Deputy Head, Jean Holder was appointed Chairman.

In March, Quondam representatives visited the newly decorated ‘Broomwood’ and were warmly welcomed by Headmistress, Mrs. Evelegh. The freshly cleaned and re-pointed façade looked like new. Inside the building was an air of it being loved and well cared for, with attractive furniture, rugs, wall hangings & vases of bright flowers. It was gratifying too to see that the Honours Boards had been restored to their place on the walls, the benches were in the Hall and the books in the Library, reaffirming its original use. It was clear that Broomwood’s new Owners were justly proud of their beautiful building and of the history they’d inherited. So proud in fact, that they had taken the trouble to use archive photographs of the building from its early years for their advertising brochure where it was described as “an excellent learning environment”.

Thomas’s, opened its doors in September 1993, providing a Preparatory & pre-Preparatory School for boys & girls from four to fourteen years of age. The rise from initial intake to full roll numbers would take between four and five years but it was good to know that this wonderful place would again be filled with the sounds of schoolchildren and fulfilling its educational purpose.

In July came news of the death of distinguished former Head of Music, Miss Margaret Stamps. She joined the School in 1946, and strove indefatigably to communicate her love of music to pupils and colleagues alike, so that it was always an integral part of school life. Girls of all abilities benefited from taking part in many instrumental & choral concerts during their school years, emerging with an appreciation of music’s wide range and a great fondness for their teacher. She had retired in 1969. Tributes to Miss Stamps will be found in the June 1995 Newsletter. *

The October AGM of Quondam produced a new Constitution which allowed for the election of an Honorary President. Senior Officers were duly elected with Miss Viner & Mrs. Wilson as joint Hon. Presidents and Jean Holder as Chair of Committee. The reassurance of their continuing interest and willingness to serve Quondam, along with the friendly support of Thomas’s School’s new Owners and Head in making us welcome to use Broomwood for Meetings & Reunions, all bode well for Quondam’s future and the year ended with a long overdue and happy sense of relief.

Alessandra Wilson too continued to support Quondam and in a very practical way, by providing facilities at Rectory School for duplication of the Newsletters, saving us considerable expenditure.


The previous year’s appeal for ideas for a permanent memorial to Clapham County and Walsingham Schools had brought a magnificent response so that this could now be pursued.

This year was also the 50th Anniversary of the end of Second World War and it was fitting that copies of the temporary Quondam Newsletter, in the form of Miss Willey’s original wartime Leaflets, should be reprinted in the June 1995 Newsletter. It was very strange reading and the passage of time made it all the more remarkable that School life had been able to continue at all, let alone that it should have been nurtured through those testing years with such extraordinary ‘matter-of-factness’ to emerge triumphant and more strong at the end. Testament indeed to Miss Willey’s and her Staff’s intrepid determination and the willingness & tenacity of their charges.


The favoured suggestion of a Plaque for the Broomwood building as a memorial to the former Schools, was approved by Thomas’s School and Quondam set the wheels in motion for sourcing a suitable manufacturer together with collecting the necessary funds to pay for the work.


The Plaque was designed and carefully produced by specially selected craftsmen with the work overseen by Committee Secretary Pat Cox who watched with fascination as it took shape. * see her delightful account of this in the January 1998 Newsletter.

The Plaque was installed on the front of ‘Broomwood’ early in 1997 with the formal ‘unveiling’ and commemoration service taking place at the October Reunion. The occasion was well attended and addresses given by Beryl Viner and Carol Evelegh. The white wording of the Plaque, set on a blue ground, reads “To Commemorate 1909-1976 The County Secondary School for Girls, Clapham, and Walsingham School 1976-1993”. *see Quondam website’s Photograph section for pictures.


This year saw a new four-floor extension being erected at ‘Broomwood’ to house a host of fresh facilities at a cost of some 1.7 million pounds. Although the new addition would be very large, the design ethic was for it to be sympathetic, in continuance of the spirit & character of the existing building in a way that would complement and not compete with the fine Victorian Architecture. This included such attention to detail as the window sizes, roof lines, the brickwork colour and stone banding, so that the new structure would blend and harmonise with the overall appearance.


The new extension was opened in March, providing a lift to upper levels and new toilets, showers and changing rooms on the ground floor in place of the old toilet block. The mezzanine level houses an IT (Information Technology) Resource room and Music Technology & Instrument Practice rooms, with a special area for Percussion. On the first floor there is spacious provision for a Music Ensemble area for Orchestra & Choirs. Adjacent is a Ballet & Drama room with a special sprung floor. On the upper level is a Drama Studio.

The whole of this new space was well-planned and appropriately equipped to a high standard.


A very sad year indeed with news in March that Miss Viner had passed away, at the age of 89 years. She had attended the 2004 Reunion Lunch in October and, although looking a little tired, she was her usual cheerful self, taking an interest in everyone and their progress in the world. Over the coming months much was spoken and written of this majestic lady who, whether as colleague or Headmistress, family member or friend, had touched the heart & imagination of each one as an individual. Tributes poured in with many appearing in the August Newsletter of 2005.*


Now we learned that Alessandra Wilson had died of cancer early this year, aged just 63. She was the last of the long-serving and dedicated Heads who served ‘Broomwood’ School. A visionary Headmistress, who took the reins at a time of upheaval & transition for the School, she was always a strong & loyal supporter of Quondam throughout her term of office there and beyond.

2009 - Centenary Year

Looking forward with aspiration

So ‘Broomwood’ enters its second century, continuing to accommodate a progressive School, affording its pupils the best of education by those best qualified to give it. It is a happy, settled place with the feel of a large, but well disciplined, family home.

A second generation of the Thomas family now looks after the business of managing both ‘Broomwood’ and the other Thomas’s Schools in South London with deserved success.

Quondam continues to sustain itself and flourish under their kind umbrella, still receiving long-lost ‘old girls’ into our midst as new Members but, perhaps more importantly, as old friends. Whether we are contemporary with our neighbour at a Reunion Lunch or not, we find ourselves at ease, as though amongst family. We enjoyed a common experience of place, education and in many cases, shared the same Teachers despite any difference (in some cases a decade or two) in our ages. Just being there, in the familiar old building, puts us all in context.

It is hoped that ‘Broomwood‘ will remain a School for many more decades to come, centuries even, and that the young people entering this establishment will appreciate what its heritage can bestow on them.

This is not an end, nor even another beginning, it is a point in time of the continuum which is the story of ‘Broomwood’ – its history, as yet young. If we could return to Broomwood Road’s School in another century’s time, what should we find ? Based upon the past 100 years’ events and progress, we cannot possibly forecast and that must be because it will continue to evolve, suffering blows with resilience and enjoying successes with relish in serving the community of Clapham and surrounding areas as it has always done.

So, for now, we are up to date. I am sure there will be more written, by other people at other times, of Broomwood’s progress; its set-backs, its celebrations and of their experience within it.

Happy Birthday & Long Live ‘Broomwood’

In 2011 Quondam will celebrate another milestone – its own Centenary Year!

Vivat Quondam!


In closing, I must thank those writers who went before me for providing the wealth of facts & details, along with their record of so many feelings, all of which I have unashamedly plagiarised. It has been a privilege to prepare this work for Quondam’s new internet website established in celebration of the 2009 Centenary – my own small gesture of thanks to ‘Broomwood’ & its people.

My thanks too to Quondam Committee Members Pat Cox, for her infinite patience, and Cathy Rowntree for providing all the Archive material necessary for the writing of this ‘History’ not least of which was thirty years’ worth of Quondam Newsletters in her safekeeping.

Last, but certainly not least, my grateful thanks to ex-CCS Staff, Quondam Member and friend, Mrs. Vivien Clutterbuck, for spotting my errors and giving her candid opinion, as ‘proof-reader’.

* * * Hilary Shaw (Quondam) * * *







On the North Side of Clapham Common, the house was still standing in 1945 although its neighbour, the adjoining house ‘Woodlands’ had by that time been demolished and a block of flats built in its place.

Clarence House, one of a group of 18th century houses, was reputedly where Captain James Cook’s widow, Elizabeth, took up residence after his death. There was a balcony high up at the back of the house which was known as the ‘Quarter-deck’.

The pupils from Battersea Polytechnic’s Day School used a side entrance to the house. This was accessed by a short road, then under an archway to the right of the house where there was a garden door. This in turn led to the cloak-rooms.

The house had been occupied as a School before and two rooms and a cloak-room had been added to the original building. The rooms in the main house were of very different shapes, pleasant places with white painted wood panelling. The main rooms had deeply recessed windows with window seats overlooking North Side where horse-buses ran between Clapham and Richmond. Off some of the main rooms were ‘powdering closets’ where wigs, a fashion of the period, were taken to be powdered. The narrow staircase was of wood and shook alarmingly as the girls went up & down.

There was a Science Room where Physics & Chemistry were taught up to the 4th year of the course. There was one gas point laid on and a sink with a water tap. Heat for experiments was provided by methylated spirit lamps. Quite a lot was achieved, although the modest equipment restricted the range of experimental work. The Art room was on the top floor - a long low room stretching the length of the house. The room was brightly lit by three windows overlooking the Common where Games & Gymnastics regularly took place.

School Dinners were served to thirty or forty girls in a Dining room to the right of the entrance hall where Miss Stoker served at one table and the duty mistress at another.


This was a house of later date than Clarence House. Its principal rooms were large & lofty with beautifully polished mahogany doors. Some had painted ceilings. The circular entrance hall had a domed glass roof and a spiral stone staircase with wide, shallow steps and elaborate ironwork handrail. At ‘Woodlands’ most of the rooms were used as Form rooms, except one which was reserved for singing.

One can see why, in 1909, when the girls were moved into their brand new and much better equipped ‘Broomwood’ building they, and their teachers, felt blessed at having the opportunity to enrich their school life in so many new directions, and in comfort.


William Wilberforce’s ‘Broomfield’ (later ‘Broomwood’) House stood on the site behind what is now 111 Broomwood Road .For details see Quondam Newsletter for July 2007.