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News > Old Girls' News > Facing adversity by Clive Bartram, School Archivist

Facing adversity by Clive Bartram, School Archivist

School archivist Clive Bartram has written an article detailing how the school overcame adversity during the Second World War

Facing adversity 

We have all faced adversity in the past few months, some of us far worse than others.  It is how we respond to this that makes us what we are.  We are a truly extraordinary school and always have been and have confronted these current hard times in our usual resolute and steadfast manner.   

The last time the school closed in such a way was during the second world war, and for five years between 1940 and 1945 there quite simply was no school.  In this time the girls had been sent away, the staff had been furloughed, even the school itself had been repurposed as a base for the RAF.  So, when it came to reopening the school again in July 1945 there was a lot to do. 
The first thing to do was to appoint a new headmistress and Miss Margaret Bowden was chosen to start the seemingly impossible task of getting the school back on its feet.  

By this time, the school had suffered the fate of being badly bombed. In 1944 a doodle bug landed in Semley Place (near to Ebury Street) and the surrounding area underwent a lot of damage.  The RAF had quite sensibly cleared out of the school by this time leaving behind a right old mess.  There was no running water, no electricity, no windows in some places, no roof in other places and all in all the school was in a real sorry state.   

But this did not deter Miss Bowden; not at all. She set up camp in two rooms in the back corridor of the Senior School and from there she set about restoring the school. She fetched and carried water and provisions from the Church in order that she could remain in the school during this time of restoration. Contractors were hired and The War Office supplied the school with some money to start the repairs. However, a lot more had to be found and old girls, governors, ex teachers and the previous Headmistress Miss Morison all played their part in this daunting task. Nevertheless, in September 1945 the school partially reopened to 13 students, almost the exact number as were there when the school opened for the girt time in 1881! These 13 girls were educated in the presbytery of the church for the most part whilst renovations continued in the school. Finally, in January 1946 the school reopened in full and numbers quickly grew until by March 1st, the school's birthday, there were about 150 girls on roll. 

Miss Bowden would go on to be headmistress of FHS for another 20 years before finally retiring in the spring of 1965. There is much more to read in the book “The School that refused to die” by Elsie Quarrie.  A copy of my assembly on this topic can be seen on the school’s YouTube channel.  

Clive Bartram
School archivist 


 

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