Category Archives: Schools

Poplars School

Photo originally by Tom Francis. Clip from Merton Memories reference Mit_Schools_18-1

From pages 45 to 47 of Eric Montague’s book Mitcham Histories: 2 North Mitcham

The Poplars was Mitcham’s first workhouse, created in 1737 by the adaptation of what had until that time been a gentleman’s house. The building reverted to being a private residence around the time of the French Revolution, and in about 1825 it became the Poplars Boarding Academy for Young Gentlemen.

The social reformer Havelock Ellis attended the school, and wrote about it in his autobiography My Life; excerpts below are from the Archive.org website.

NOW that I was twelve years old my mother decided that I ought to be sent to a boarding school. It was to be a small private school, for she had heard too much evil of large public schools to care to send her only son to them. Moreover, our means were not sufficient for an expensive education. We lived, indeed, in ease and comfort, from a lower middle-class point of view, on my father’s earnings as sea-captain under more prosperous conditions than have always prevailed in the merchant service since, and on a small income of my mother’s, and until I left home I never knew what money worries meant — though I have often had occasion to know in the years that have followed — but as my parents always lived well within their means a lavish expenditure even on so important a matter as education was out of the question. My mother accordingly visited a school at Mitcham which, from what she had heard, seemed likely to furnish a desirable education at a moderate cost. The house was large and old — one of the numerous houses wherein Queen Elizabeth is said once to have slept — and my mother was of course shown over it with all due consideration. But the ill-ventilated schoolroom full of boys smelt so fusty and dirty that she conceived a dislike of the place and came away without making any arrangements.

On her way back to Tooting Station she had to pass another school, The Poplars – a curious old wooden house, long since pulled down, though the brick schoolroom yet stands — facing an open triangular space with a pond which we called Frogs’ Marsh. She entered, and was so pleased with everything here that she arranged at once with the headmaster to send me to him, although the terms were higher than she had proposed to pay. I was to be a weekly boarder, for my mother, though she never made any similar arrangements for her daughters, wished to preserve a home influence over her son and to direct his religious education.

My mother was pleased with the ways of The Poplars, but it is not possible to make any high claims for its educational methods. My headmaster, Mr. Albert Grover, was an oddity, a tall middle-aged man, looking much older than his years, with a long grey beard, a bald head, and a blind eye. He had some resemblance to Darwin, but he cherished much contempt for that great man’s doctrines, and even published a little anti- Darwinian pamphlet in doggerel verse which so nearly verged on the obscene that it could not be sold on railway bookstalls. Grover had a weakness for verse; he liked to teach facts and dates in doggerel, such as:

“Preston Pans and Fontenoy
Were fought in 1745, my boy.”

It would be easy to write amusingly of the life at The Poplars, but beneath its eccentricities it was essentially commonplace and old-fashioned, quite comfortable, certainly, and without hardship. So far as my headmaster was concerned, the influence of school upon me was neither good nor evil. He was a kindly man who always treated me well. I do not remember that he ever punished me or ever had cause to, but he inspired no love for any kind of learning, and I continued, as I had begun, without aptitude for formal studies.

I had long been interested in the old English dramatists. On my way to and from school at Mitcham I used often to buy one or another of the extensive series of old plays then being published by Dick in small type at a penny each; Marlowe as well, of course, as Shakespeare, I had long possessed and loved.

Clarendon Preparatory School, Mitcham Park

Private school that was at 17 Mitcham Park until 1973.

From the Official Guide to Mitcham in 1938:

Clarendon Preparatory School with Kindergarten is situated in the particularly healthy suburb at 17 Mitcham Park, Mitcham, within easy reach of railway stations and buses.

The house is large, bright and airy and has a nice garden. The School
provides a modern, thorough education for girls and boys from 4 to 16 years, with preparation for Higher Examinations. The health capabilities of every pupil are carefully studied. The School Staff are child lovers and keen pyschologists.

Curriculum of the School includes Religious Knowledge, English Language,
Literature and Composition, History, Geography, Arithmetic, Drawing, Physical Training and Tennis.

One of the features of the School has been the Dramatic, Art and Elocution Tuition open to girls and boys from 4 to 16 years at a very moderate fee. The pupils of the School derive great pleasure from these courses and public concerts are given during the year.

There is also a very successful Dancing Class, Ballroom and Musical Comedy being given.

ad from the 1938 Official Guide to Mitcham

The school closed at the end of 1973 due to the ill health of the headmistress, as told in this article from the 21st December 1973 issue of the Mitcham News & Mercury:

Goodbye Mrs Chips –
head retires and her
school closes too

It’s goodbye Mrs Chips and the end of an educational era with going home time for good at Clarendon, Mitcham’s only private school.

Mrs Nellie Barker, who has reigned for 37 years as headmistress, closed the school last week. She is retiring and selling the building in Mitcham Park.

“I honestly think it would be very difficult to sell it as a school. I am very sad about it but times have changed. I have been ill and my husband has wanted me to give it up for a long time. But I couldn’t, it had become part of my life, but now I really mist,: she said.

Mrs Barker took over Clarendon in 1936 after first helping out and then being asked to become its headmistress. But it was a private school for the education of the children of Mitcham’s business and professional families long before then.

And now, as the surrounding villas in Mitcham Park have become slightly less exclusive and slightly more converted into flats, Clarendon too has fallen to the onslaught of progress.

The school’s 70 children have now gone to other private schools or local state schools.

“Many of our parents are very upset about this. There are still many parents who value our way of teaching where the emphasis is on learning and which is not afraid of discipline when necessary, she said.

“I don’t think any of my children could have held my belief in discipline against me because when they have left and grown up they often come and see me. And many have sent their own children along.

“At times I have had school inspectors here who have told me that there should be allowed more time for play. But I believe in learning – the children were allowed time for play but if modern day educationalists had their way they would be playing all day!”

Mrs Barker is to go and live in Cheam and is to spend more time on her hobby – writing children’s plays.

Mitcham Preparatory School and Kindergarten

clip from Merton Memories photo, reference Mit_Buildings_23-1, copyright London Borough of Merton.

This photo is of a pair of buildings north of, and adjacent to the Tom Francis London House stores, on London Road. The right hand one may be the Mitcham Preparatory School and Kindergarten. This OS map of 1910 shows London House on the west (left hand) side of the London Road, opposite Langdale Avenue (where the ’67’ is shown at the bottom of the map). A pair of buildings can be seen north of London House.

1910 OS map

Another clue is the entry in the 1911 street directory. This describes the buildings on the west side, going south from Tooting Junction station to the river Wandle. It lists no buildings after Upper Green until the Kindergarten and Primrose Cottage before getting to Thomas Francis, outfitter.

extract from the 1911 street directory

A further clue is what looks like a notice board near the entrance to the right-hand property.

Merton Memories also has a photo of the rear of this building.


Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

In 1927 a Saxon relic was sent to Mitcham Australia

From Norwood News – Saturday 18th June 1927, via the British Newspaper Archives.

MITCHAM, AUSTRALIA.
SCHOOLMISTRESS TO CONVEY GREETINGS.

The Mitcham school managers met on Monday night under the chairmanship of Ald. A. Mizen. It was reported that Miss A. D. Milne, mistress at Gorringe Park School, was visiting Australia, and the managers decided to ask her to convey a signed letter from them of cordial greetings from Mitcham, England, to Mitcham, Australia. The letter recalled that a flag was sent from Mitcham, Australia, to Mitcham, England, some years ago, and that more recently Mrs. Howard visited them in England, and conveyed fraternal greetings from Mitcham, Australia.

The chairman mentioned that Colonel Harold Bidder was sending to Mitcham, Australia, a relic from the Saxon burial grounds of Mitcham, England.

1933: Iolanthe performed by Mitcham County School

The Mitcham County School’s headmaster (1930 – 1952), Alan John DOIG, was an enthusiast for Gilbert & Sullivan, and his Iolanthe production was reported as a ‘remarkable show’ on the front page of the 27th January, 1933 issue of the Mitcham News & Mercury.

“IOLANTHE”
Remarkable Show by
Schoolboys

The Lord Chancellor – J. P. MacLaren
Earl of Mountararat – A. L. Watts
Earl Tolloller – P. C. Didcock
Private Willis – J. H. Stainforth
Strephon – H. A. Packer
Queen of the Fairies – S. A. R. Rose
Iolanthe – R. Stainforth
Celia – D. Trench
Leila – W. E. Trench
Fleta – V. C. Clark
Phyllis – S. J. Ashby

Chorus of Dukes, Earls, Viscounts and Barons: P. Adams, O. D. Brooks, R. Brown, K. S. Bulbeck, C. C. Creed, R. Cronk, R. C. Gifkins, T. A. Henry, D. A. Lucy. J. S. Seeley, J. Selby, B. Taylor, R. H Watts, E. W. Warner, S. Wilhelm, M. Wilkie, G. Winchester.

Chorus of Fairies: D. Andrews, J. A. Brett, K. F. Campbell, P. B. Chappie, J. H. Cliff, J. F. Courteney, D. P. Curran, C. Hale, Y. S. Hart, C. W. Hollowell, H. R. J?ffs, H. F. Johnson, P. F. Lockyer, L. A. Miller, E. G. Nichols, S.A. Rose, D. F. Mackay, E. W. Sanders, E. Y. Towner, R. O. West, A. White, E. T. Wilkie.

English peers and immortal fairies rubbed shoulders at Mitcham Baths on Friday and Saturday of last week, when the Mitcham County School for Boys presented “Iolanthe ” as their third annual Gilbert and Sullivan production.

Mr. A. J. Doig (heed master) showed great courage in the selection of such a difficult work, but he evidently knew the abilities of his pupils, especially in the chorus work. Twenty odd youngsters, obviously from the lower school, were transformed into flitting, silver-voiced fairies, who sang with that natural, clear tone which a female chorus can never do.

SPLENDID SINGING.

Obviously. for a young, all-male cast the opera presented difficulties, but from the vocal point of view it did not suffer owing to the absence of females. The singing was the greatest of all the features of the show, and a school able to produce a better standard of singing would be hard to find.

Mr. A. J. Doig once again shouldered the great responsibilities of producer, coach and musical director, and excelled himself in all three capacities. Evidence of his coaching was seen in the way in which the entire cast combined action with singing, not an easy thing for amateurs. Even with the large amount of talented human material available, the show must have been the result of tremendous effort and thought on Mr. Doig’s part. Whether the acting satisfied Mr. Doig or not, the large audiences assured him that they were more than delighted with the show.

Of the cast, perhaps J. P. MacLaren, as the Lord Chancellor, was the most Gilbertian. Possessing a pleasing voice, he sang and frolicked his way through a role which required constant action. He was warmly encored for his singing in the second act, and he seemed quite comfortable when fooling with Mountararat (A. L. Watts) and Tolloller (P. C. Didcock), the two noble suitors. Watts’s remarkably mellow voice was heard to advantage in the second act, and he and his partner, Didcock, worked in perfect harmony. Didcock also possesses a promising voice, and he combined well in the trio.

Iolanthe was played by R. Stainforth, and was the most difficult role in the cast. To look young and yet be the mother of a senior member of the school is no easy task for a boy of Stainforth’s age. The extent of his successful interpretation seemed to frighten him, and his small voice did not encourage him. A very creditable performance of an uncomfortable and very difficult part.

GOOD ACTING.

S. J. Ashby was charming as Phyllis, the shepherdess, and many of the audience thought that a girl was playing the part. Ashby gave a display worthy of sincere congratulation. Singing, acting and deportment were necessary for the part, and he sang delightfully, acted naturally and carried himself so daintily that a few females might be envious of such grace. What a pity that such a clear voice will perhaps before long give place to more manly tones.

H. A. Packer was a spirited Strephon, and got through those uncomfortable love scenes with Phyllis quite creditably. His duets with Ashby proved very popular. Private Willis (J. H. Stainforth) had little to do, but proved that he was quite capable of more deserving parts.

The chorus of dukes, earls, viscounts and barons lent colour to the settings, but their voices were hardly heavy enough to bring out the finer points of the chorus work. The fairies out-weighed them in strength, but lacked some of the finer points of acting.

S. A. R. Rose was rather apathetic as the Fairy Queen, but improved considerably towards the end. His difficulty was the problem of using his hands. After several attempts, he adopted the stance of a weight-lifter posing before camera. Nervousness seemed to be troubling him, but he acted more easily in the second act.

The admiration of the large audiences was for all those who interpreted female parts. An announcement in the programme said that the proceeds of the performances were for improvement in the school’s new playing field. The programme also contained an invitation to the public to see the school “Rugger” teams in action. To see Phyllis tackled by the Fairy queen would be good fun, and would show that operatic production is not the only winter pastime in the school curriculum.

Mr. A. J. Doig conducted the orchestra, which consisted of the following:

First violin – Mrs. D. Stickings, Mr. A. White, Mr. E. V. S. Ericson;
Second violin – Mr. L. A. Johnston, Mr. C. G. Reed, Mr. C. Jones;
Viola – Mr. R. W. E. Stickings,
Violoncello – Mr. John Podel;
Trombone – Mr R. A. Johnson, Mr Caldow;
Pianos – Mr F. C. Hambleton, Mr. L. W. Stephens.

For a history of the school, see the Old Mitchamians website.

Nine schools in big reshuffle in 1960

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 20th May, 1960, page 1.

NINE SCHOOLS IN BIG RESHUFFLE

A DEVELOPMENT plan to provide an academic stream in all Surrey secondary schools
will start next year. Nine Mitcham schools will be affected, five of which will be closed.

The scheme was due to be started early next year and completed by 1966, but too little
money was allocated by the Ministry of Education, and the completion date will not be for some years.

Top priority on the list is Gorringe Park Secondary Boys School. As the present building
is needed for the primary pupils, new premises will be built.

The boys from Rowan Road Secondary School, which is closing, will be transferred to the
new school, where it is planned to run one academic, one technical and two general courses.

TO BE ENLARGED

Rowan Road Secondary girls will have the entire school building, at the moment divided between the boys and girls school. They will have one academic, one home economics and two general courses.

Pollards Hill Secondary School will be enlarged. It Will take six instead of four entry classes each year and will have one academic, one commercial and four general courses.

Western Road Boys’ School will close and the girls will take over the entire building. With an academic and a commercial course there will be two general courses.

Singlegate Boys’ School will close, and open in a new building on a new site with one academic, one technical and two general courses.

Fortescue Girls’ and Links’ Girls’ schools will both be closed.

Merton Memories Photos
Fortescue Road School in 1925

Gorringe Park School (6 photos)

Pollards Hill School : Football coaching in 1955

Rowan Road School (10 photos)

Western Road School in 1954