Overstone School

Northampton 1929-1979

Overstone Association Membership for Old Overstonians and Staff Members

 

History

 

The history of the school spans a neat fifty years.   Each of us who went right through the school covered 10% of its existence and in the case of sisters this could rise to 20% or more.  Thus we made a greater mark on the place than pupils at larger and more ancient establishments .   Could this explain the tenacity of the Old Girls Association?

 

It is touching to read the tremendous ideals and hopes which fired Mrs Franklin, the founder, and Mrs Esslemont and Miss Wix, the first Principal and Headmistress.  We have in our Archive papers documenting the foundation of the school, starting with a circular letter from Mrs Franklin, then Hon Secretary of the PNEU, writing to interested people about the proposed foundation of a public school for girls.  In February 1929 she wrote:

 

A beautiful property, in a very healthy open district in the Midlands which we have in view, and the services of an Ambleside-trained Principal with fine personality and good experience will however both be lost, unless we can raise a capital sum of 30,000 at once.   Shares will be of 10 each. 

 

And, daughter of the banker Samuel Montague as she was, she added:

 

 As you know, schools pay well after they are once started, and our supporters will not lose.

 

The response must have been prompt, for by June a public company was formed to be known as Charlotte Mason Schools Limited in order to buy and set up the school.   The first prospectus was issued, listing the Governors and setting out the aim of the school – to produce a human being at her best physically, mentally, morally and spiritually.  To this end the syllabus had been devised by Miss Charlotte Mason herself, founder of the PNEU.  The fees were 60.00 a term.   In September the school opened with six staff  - the Archangels - and the famous “14 Angels”.

 

The numbers in the next school photograph, at the end of the second academic year in 1931, have increased dramatically.  

 

 

 

The Keystone was first published in Autumn 1931 and to begin with was a termly production.  In 1934 the new dining room was built.   Already Old Girls were coming back to visit.   They were always welcome at Speech Days and Old Girls weekends but in 1936 the Overstone Old Girls Association was founded.  By 1938 it was decided than an Old Girl should serve on the board of Governors.

In September 1934 Peggy Edmondson died in a bathing accident.  She  had been at Overstone in the earliest days.  Her loss was very keenly felt - described by Mrs. Esslemont as “the first break in our circle”.   The rose garden beside Stonehenge was laid out in her memory.  There were other more cheerful memorials, for instance the Prefects’ Avenue of trees running from the cattle grid down to the church, each tree the gift of a departing prefect.   In time the avenue was complete and later trees were planted in groups in the park.  There were also reports of the first Overstone wedding and Overstone’s first  grandchild

 

photo album Binkie

 

The early school photographs have a school dog in the centre of the front row.  Binkie was the “First Friend” and he died in October 1937 after long and faithful service.   He was replaced by Rufus of Overstone, a golden cocker spaniel.

 

                                                                  

 

When the war came Overstone responded dutifully.  The cellars were converted into an air raid shelter and there was a plan to decorate the walls with scenes of school life.   Some of the men who looked after the buildings and grounds were called up and the girls did their best to replace them, working in the gardens and on some of the farms.  The first wartime winter was a very cold one with snow blocking the drive, “so that the baker and grocer could not bring their carts up the drive, but had to leave everything at the cottage outside the gates.  We went down with a home-made sledge, and hauled back sacks of potatoes and marrows, and dozens of loaves” reported the Editor of the June 1940 Keystone.  She also reported skating on the lake, waltzing to a gramophone placed on a chair in the middle of a smooth patch.  There was more unaccustomed work for the girls in the House, “clearing away and washing up, as so many of the maids have gone.   We also clean our form-rooms, and the maids are so amused at our efforts that they spend their time watching.”

 



 

From 1940 The Keystone became twice-yearly in May and November. The Principal’s letter noted the advent of a Junior Department as wartime conditions compelled parents to send younger daughters with the older ones when they started at Overstone.   One of the present Old Girls was an Overstone babe at the age of eight and remembers the kindness of the senior girls who were deputed to look after them.  In the Easter holidays a bomb was dropped in a far corner of the Park, knocking down about 25yards of boundary wall as the German fighter pilot tried to escape from an aerial dogfight.   One day a week the girls wore their gas masks up and down to the Works.  Tall grasses waved on the uncut tennis courts as the school was restricted to only enough petrol to run one car.   Incongruously amid all this austerity, the school now boasted William the peacock, strutting on the terrace, meekly followed by Mary, his third peahen.

 

In July 1943 a visit from Mrs Franklin, sparked the idea of keeping her birthday, as Founder’s Day.  We are happy that Founder’s Day is still observed by the OA.

 

July 1944 brought a severe drought and as Overstone had dependable wells the authorities pumped a great deal of water from the lake to serve nearby a village. The lake was “a poor shrunken remnant of itself, with mud banks all round its shores.  The causeway across it that we had always known was there by the ripple over it in stormy weather is now high and dry above the surface.”

Uniform must have been hard to come by with clothing coupons and other restrictions.   There is a cartoon in the July 1944 Keystone  - two drawings with the same group of figures.   Above is dated 1939 and five of the girls are in regulation tunics and ties, pointing at one in a plain dress.   In the 1944 version below the figures are the same but it odd one out is the one in the correct uniform. 

 

 

Many staff came and went but a notable departure was when Miss Plumptre, who had been at Overstone from the beginning, returned to Ambleside to teach in 1938. After Mrs Esslement and Miss Wix retired in 1947 she came back to Overstone as Headmistress and Principal.

 

 

Miss Plumptre carried on all the Overstone and PNEU traditions. She presided over the 21st and 25th birthday celebrations and left in September 1961.

 

Eileen Plumptre Headmistress 1947 to 1961

Miss Plumptre was followed by Mrs De Frisching as Headteacher. Miss Lynn, the Deputy Head, was succeeded by Miss Nancy Simon and several new teachers joined the staff. Mrs De Frisching was a graduate of Girton College, Cambridge, but was not trained in the PNEU tradition. The school began to move away from the PNEU guidlines. This was a sign of the changing times both at the school and the general progress of education and the National Examination system.

 

 

The uniform began to change as well. The colour block summer day dresses were replaced by striped blue, red, and green dresses.There was rather a gaudy floral replacement for the Sunday floral dress. Gradually the tunic disappeared and pupils were all clad in petrol blue skirts, white blouses with a proper tie and petrol blue V necked sweaters for the winter terms.
 
Mrs De Frisching stayed for a year and Mrs L Charlesworth arrived to caretake for one term. Mrs Charlesworth had been a highly respected and loved Headteacher of Sutton Girls' High School. She had links with Burgess Hill, our sister school, and was on their board of governors.
 

In 1963 Mrs Taylor took up the post as Headteacher. The school was changing and developing. New Classrooms were made from buildings at the Works alongside Whistlefield. The fifth forms were housed there for their 'O' level years. A pottery room was located nearby, equipped with wheel and kiln. A science block was built adjacent to these buildings alongside the road.

 

The Science block in 2013

 
In 1964/65 a 7 girl Upper Sixth form was decamped to Dairy, the little tower at the end of Monks Path. Here the members of the Upper Sixth toasted buns on a 2 bar electric fire, there being no heating! Mr Urmson, still a member of the Overstone Association, had joined the staff and taught history in the downstairs room. 
 

The Dairy in 2013

 

Stonehenge, which had been given over to staff quarters and pets, was transformed into Junior House with two dormitories. The School San was moved above the staff quarters on the far side , looking over the Rose Garden. This allowed the San rooms in the main house to be converted into study bedrooms for the Head Girl, Head Prefect, other prefects and members of the sixth form. Downstairs a room was designated as a Sixth Form sitting room.

 

 

Junior House 2013

Junior House took on another role in the 70s as the prefects and sixth form were allowed to move in and have their own space and cooking facilities here.
 
 
 

Overstone's First Headmaster Mr  John Airs

September 1968 to December 1973

 

Mr John Airs was appointed to Overstone and became the school's first Heasdmaster. John Airs was a housemaster and head of Modern Languages at a boys' Public School when he was appointed Headteacher of Overstone.

John recalls that he went to see Miss Charlesworth once or twice before taking up the post and was told the appointment of a male Headteacher was meant to make headlines, and if he could bring the school into the 20th Century it would be appreciated and if he could bring it into the decade it would be a miracle!

While John was headmaster he saw a variety of projects through, here is a production of The Mikado shared with the boys of Oundle School

 

Sadly for John, he was not able to see through all of his plans, which involved various building works. The death of Lilian Charlesworth, who was by that time on the Joint Governing Body ( Overstone and Burgess Hill) made life very difficult.. John left to pursue his dreams by establishing The Dordogne College in Dordogne. A self styled 6th Form College. John is an Honarary member of the Overstone Association

 

January 1973 to July 1979

Colonel Clarke was appointed Overstone's second Headmaster and took over the running of the School. Here follows an article from a local magazine, the source of which we have been unable to trace.

 Inspite of ringing around the local press no one has been able to identify the journalist or the photographer. Northants Life Magazine were the closest contact we were able to find, and they felt with acknowledgements we can publish scans of the magazine here as we have done all within our power to seek permissions to satisfy copyright issues. We give grateful acknowledgement to Jill Bosworth and Beryl Hoddle, and ask them to contact us if there is any problem with repoducing this piece. It is the final bit of our jigsaw, and linked with the 1979 whole school photograph we are pleased to round off our "History".

Please click on any Magazine page to see a larger version.

 

Mag Page 3

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Email contact: info@overstoneschool.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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