from the July 1947 Ely High School magazine
MISS EE FLETCHER ,
HEADMISTRESS OF ELY HIGH SCHOOL,
There took place at Parkstone, near Bournemouth, where she had lived since her retirement, the death of Miss EE Fletcher, first Headmistress of Ely High School. Although she had lived to a great age, our regret was not lessened at the loss of one who had been responsible for bringing the School into being, had fostered and ever nurtured all its earliest years, and after her departure from Ely had maintained a fresh devotion to and interest in the School she had loved so well.
A great deal of what we enjoy now in the School we owe to Miss Fletcher's efforts and struggles in its early history, indeed our debt to her is quite incalculable.
Although it was as early as 1905 when the School opened, and as long ago as 1929 since she retired, the fruits of her work remain, and to those of us who knew her or who have the opportunity of judging, become increasingly rea1.
Quite recently and just at the right time for this tribute to a great headmistress, there came into my hands a copy of the School Magazine of 1926, published on the occasion of the School's twenty-first birthday. Miss Fletcher wrote for it a short account of the history of the School up to that year, and as that was only three years before her own retirement, perhaps a brief account of what she wrote will also serve as a brief story of her work, telling of its fruits and success.
It was in 1904 that the decision was finally made that a Secondary School for Girls should be opened in Ely, and in 1905 the formal opening took place on May 18th, when, to use Miss Fletcher's own words: "forty two very subdued children appeared, ranging in age from six to nearly fifteen. Before the end of the term the numbers had reached fifty two. The school was divided into six forms. Miss Pigott taught two forms, I and II (the preparatory); Miss Fletcher and Miss Le Pelly forms III, IV, Va and Vb thus everyone, including the Head, had to work two sets of girls for all lessons. Shortly after the term began, Mr F Chubb was appointed singing master. He came Thursday afternoons, and the Headmistress was thus freed from teaching to interview parents on one afternoon."
The first Prize Giving was held in July, 1906, and in the following year on the same occasion Miss Fletcher was able to report that two girls had passed the junior Cambridge Examination, the first public examination successes which the school had ever had.
The first Chairman of the Governors was the Dean of Ely, the Very Rev CW Stubbs, DD, but when he left Ely in 1907 he was succeeded by the Very Rev AF Kirkpatrick, DD, who remained Chairman during the rest of Miss Fletcher's time. She speaks of the great privilege, of the Dean's guidance, judgement, interest and support.
After four years, in 1909 came the School's first Board of Education inspection. The conclusion of the report speaks volumes for the success achieved by Miss Fletcher in her first four years as headmistress. "The School is well organised on the lines associated with the best Girls' Schools, and the tone and discipline of the School are thoroughly satisfactory. The School already shows powers of assimilating pupils and exercises a marked influence on them as they pass through. The standard of work is rising."
From then on the tale is one of increasing expansion not only in the wider activities such as the first stage production, that of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" but also in numbers, and consequently in buildings. The long cloakroom was built, and the three north classrooms in the main building enlarged , in 1912, and in 1918, the Lodge was acquired, in the early days the present dining room was used as an assembly hall and it was not until 1920 that the School acquired an assembly hall, although Miss Fletcher had appealed on several occasions pointing out the great need for one; this was in the shape of the old hut, long since superseded by the present Gymnasium. Even then the buildings were far from adequate for when Miss Fletcher retired there were one hundred and ninety eight girls on the roll, and over a thousand past and present pupils. The School had gone from strength to strength and from success to success of a high order for those early days.
Miss Fletcher was imbued with the highest ideals in her educational. methods and aims, and had a strong sense of right values and of the importance of putting these first things first. By her own deep religious convictions and self-consecration she inspired in others a moral sense and purpose in giving a tone and dignity to the School which could have been achieved in no other way; this viewpoint was shown too in her teaching, for Miss Fletcher was always at pains to maintain good scholarly standards of work.
Her work must have been very heavy for in the early years she taught most of the time, and was responsible for the examination work, and she was not one who ever spared herself, all this was in addition to the arduous and difficult work which was hers, of building up the School from its first beginning, a task which was far from easy when secondary grammar school education for girls was still in its infancy, when traditions had to be made, and when many people had yet to be convinced of the usefulness and the need for a good education.
The affection of those Old Girls who knew and loved her is a fitting testimony to one who spent herself in the cause of education in the Isle, and whose early struggles were so gloriously crowned with success. Let us, too, who now enjoy and love the School which she began so well , feel thankful for all that was then done, for such a devotion to duty so characteristic of her age and time, which perhaps we shall not see again.
Our hearts out to Miss Fletcher's great friend, Miss A Parkes, who was with her on the Staff, and acted as second mistress. Miss Parkes retired at the same time as Miss Fletcher, and lived with her at Parkestone. The parting for Miss Parkes who was so devoted a friend, has been very hard but we hope her sorrow will be healed, and she will be able to make her life again when the time has softened the hard blow.
Tributes to Miss Fletcher
From a former member of Staff who worked under her for fourteen years, a present member of Staff who was one of her pupils from 1911-1919, from two friends who attended this school during the years 1917-1924, and from an Old Girl who was one of the first pupils to enter the School on the day it first opened:-
Miss EE Fletcher
To meet Miss Fletcher was to remember her always, so outstanding was her personality. She was gifted in many ways and she could have succeeded in many professions. She was a good organiser and a good administrator. She had an acute, logical mind which could rapidly grasp and master any problem. Widely read, interested in all things, holding strong religious views, she fond was fond of, and skilled in, discussion and could talk entertainingly and originally on all subjects.
She was also gifted on the artistic side. She was most clever with her hands and did exquisite needlework; she drew beautifully, created original and lovely designs and her taste in and love of dress were obvious to all. Everything about her portrayed the cultured woman.
She was generous, impulsive and temperamental, but she was great enough to show afterwards, by some means, that she realised and regretted her hastiness. Quick-minded herself, she did not always find it easy to suffer fools gladly. She abhorred all untidiness, all laxity and all nebulosity. Her discipline was strong and definite. Her own energy and driving force exacted hard work from both the staff and the girls.
A strong, dominant character does not appeal to all and Miss Fletcher had her critics who, at last, appreciated her strength. "Weakness is criminal" she used to say and her actions were firmly based on that aphorism. Strength, steadfastness, decisiveness, combative qualities were necessary to her in her position and, fortunately for the school, she possessed all these to a, high degree.
Difficulties beset her on all sides in those early years when she had to undertake the hard task of a pioneer in education. Her chief difficulty was, perhaps, the financial parsimony which continually hampered and thwarted her efforts. She was also handicapped by the real poverty of some of the parents and by their lack of understanding of the vital need for education. Her life was a continual struggle.
Her earthly life has come to its close but the work, which she started, still remains, still lives and still grows. She had the joy of seeing the prospering of her work and of knowing that she had won the admiration, affection and gratitude of those who were privileged to know her during her headship at Ely High School.
My memories of Miss Fletcher belong to the years 1911-1919, thus going back well into the past, but how fresh and vivid they are! Looking back I find, probably in common with most of her pupils, that of all the adult school personalities which affected our growing lives, Miss Fletcher herself stands out most clearly. Many factors combine to make this so: her position as Headmistress; the fact that she remained while mistresses came and went; and, still more potent, her brilliant colourful personality and the clear-cut determinate lines of her character.
Miss Fletcher was the first Headmistress of Ely High School. To the task of headship she brought all her strength and vigour, working ceaselessly, fighting when necessary, that the obvious external growth of the school should be healthy and satisfactory. In its internal management also she magnified her office; staff and pupils alike knew that the reins of government were firmly held in her most capable fingers, and that for the sound learning, right conduct, and true religion of the members of her school she regarded herself as a steward to whom the care of these things had been given in sacred trust.
To ensure sound learning, she not only chose her staff carefully and as well as possible in the face of many difficulties, but also did much teaching herself. Often her lessons appeared to follow no particular plan; their subject-matter was very different from that indicated by the time-table; but how memorable they were for the stimulus they provided; the vistas they opened; the inspiration they imparted.
Right conduct was even more important, and Miss Fletcher's pupils were left in no doubt of its nature. Certain behaviour in speech, gesture, movement, action was correct and right; its opposite incorrect and wrong: we were firmly guided to choose the one and eschew the other. When necessary the reasons underlying these indisputable judgements were explained to us.
Behind all Miss Fletcher's work for the school was the driving force of religion. Herself deeply religious she transmitted to us a sense of religion as the foundation and framework of life, As we heard her morning after morning, take school prayers, it was impossible not to realise that she was indeed asking God's blessing on the work of the school, and offering its activities to Him. Our efforts, our achievements, our failures, al1 aspects of our lives were fitted into the Christian philosophy, and we absorbed, unconsciously perhaps, the idea that to use our gifts of mind and body to the full, doing right and avoiding wrong, was not only a personal and social duty, but far more importantly, our reasonable service as Christians.
Thus Miss Fletcher as Headmistress; but not only in her official capacity did we know her. To us all she was a most individual person. Quick of thought, feeling, temper warm-hearted, enthusiastic, she evoked from us genuine personal reactions, which might run through a whole gamut of feeling. She could be exasperating, and again in a breath, most lovable; for our good, her tongue: could deal a sharp wound, and immediately, by wise, tender counsel, draw from the wound its sting. She was no Olympian dwelling remote, detached, serene on the high table-land of contented achievement; very much farther on than we were, she was still climbing the mountain side, she wished us also to mount; still achieving, still pursuing! She allowed us to see and recognise this and helped us along the difficult path by her loving fellowship, and understanding, as well as by the inspiration of her own life.
Miss Fletcher as I knew her.
As Miss Baird once so aptly wrote, for those who were at Ely High School in the years when Miss Fletcher was Headmistress, Ely High School was Miss Fletcher, and Miss Fletcher Ely High School. Girls of a younger generation have asked, But what was she like to look at, and as a Headmistress?
She was a smal1 person with a great personality: possessed of a presence that one felt very forcibly. Who among us would not fly to open a door for her or flatten oneself against the wall to her to pass majestically up the stair? She had a feminine love of beautiful clothes, it seemed to us that she possessed untold pairs of shoes of a remarkably small size, and her hats! Surely they came straight from Paris!
Miss Fletcher had a habit, rather disconcerting it seemed, of looking at one, quizzically - her head a little to one side, a penetrating look, shrewdly analytical. She would converse with one, as to an equal whilst one's immature mind groped vainly to follow her adult's brilliant reasoning.
To how many of us is the succesfu1 shaping of a career, due to the confidence in our own powers she deliberately instilled in us? Indeed these are her own words taken from her Report at the Prizegiving of 1928. "My keenest desire for the girls is that they should become possessed of a more definite sense of responsibility and believe in their own individual powers! We learned from her to proud to be a member of Ely High School, to guard jealously its reputation and impress on new-comers the honour which was now theirs.
She fought tenaciously for all the things that in her opinion the School needed for its betterment. She became very angry when forced to accept a decision which meant something second-best for the School. She did not get her way with all the improvements that she wanted and has not lived to see the fine new school that has been promised to her successors.
Of late years we have seen her at rare intervals, since the war and ill-health have kept her at Bournemouth, and she was unable to make the long journey to Ely as year after year the Old Girls fervently hoped she might. Now she has been taken from us altogether, but for us, as long as we live - she will live. It is as we, her girls, are growing older that we come to know how much we have been moulded and influenced by Miss Fletchers unusually fine mind, and we shall remember her through the years with love and gratitude.
LORNA KISBY 1918-1922
GWENDOLINE MARTIN, 1917-1924
I ask myself - how do I remember Miss Fletcher in the very early days of the Ely High School - (Bedford House, as we knew it then)? A swish, swish of silk, as she moved about, dresses, many varied, eyes that nothing escaped: one who worked hard herself and expected others to do likewise: her wonderful insight and care for the welfare of her girls, not only in scholastic attainments, but in every department of their lives - for each girl she felt a real responsibility for the development of all her powers, physical, mental and spiritual. In after years when she was living in Hampstead, she gave parties at her flat and those of us who were lucky enough to be there realised the great love she had for us all.
On Tuesday, May 18th, at 8.45 am a small group of girls was standing outside Bedford House. They were each carrying a holland shoe bag and were waiting for the door to open! It was the first day of the Ely High School - little did those girls dream that in a few years the School would grow to the size it is today.
We had watched, during the previous weeks, the workmen busy with the necessary alterations of changing a large private house into a school, the most obvious to us being the removal of the wide stone steps which had led up to the front door of Bedford House. The doorway was bricked up and the stonework removed to the left of the building where it is at present. Up to that time there was a wooden door leading into the garden. This is where the front door now stands.
On that first morning there were thirty two girls in the Upper School. The Staff consisted of Miss Fletcher and Miss Le Polly with Miss Pigott in charge of the Preparatory. (I believe the numbers in the Upper School and Preparatory were altogether forty two).
We had a visiting drawing mistress and singing master. The School at that time was contained in the main building which left a lovely stretch of garden going right back to Chapel Street. Miss Fletcher's sitting room was on the ground floor, the room which is now the School Library, smaller at that time, as it has since then, been added to at the same time as the class-rooms above. This looked out on to the lawn, flower beds and summer house. Beyond this, was originally the kitchen garden with green houses and fruit trees at the Chapel Street end. This was in time made into another lawn which in the first stages must have suffered considerably, as it was used during the first winter for basket ball.
At the beginning of the September term Miss Parkes, beloved by many Old Girls, joined the Staff. On December 10th, the School had its first Christmas Party which was held in the present Dining Room, known in those days as The Big Room. The programme gives the names of the girls who played the piano for dancing, which included The Lancers, Barn Dance, Washington Post, etc.
The first Prize Giving was held on August 1st in the Big Room. The Senior Singing Class performed a Cantata, The Hours and the prizes were presented by the Dean of Ely. There were seventeen prize winners. During the year Miss Hawkins and Miss Harvey joined the Staff.
In this year Miss Dannatt, Miss Theedam and Miss Burn joined the Staff. The second Prize giving was held at the end of July and as the numbers had greatly increased a Marquee was erected on the lawn for the occasion. The Senior School gave scenes from Tennysons Princess.
During the year Dean Stubbs became Bishop of Truro and his place as Chairman of the Governors was taken by the new Dean of Ely, Dean Kirkpatrick.
Miss Coate joined the Staff and during this year the numbers in the School had reached 122. The third Prize Giving was held on December 16th, in the Public Room, prize list of thirty two prize winners and many certificates. The Senior Singing Class sang two part songs.
This year was marked principally by the Schools first Board of Education Inspection.
There are two events, out of many, which stand out in my memory. One happened in my classroom and the other in the garden. It was during the. Spring Term, 1906, and the room, the middle front room of the main building, at that tine the 4th Form.
The Form had been having a Scripture lesson with Miss Parkes, when, as often happened, she was called away to speak to Miss Fletcher. Mary Fisher, one of our form (who did not attend this lesson), came into the room and almost immediately we heard Miss Parkes coming up the stairs. One of the girls, to get Mary out of the way, pushed her into one of the cupboards at the back of the room and locked the door. Miss Parkes, on entering found the class going on with the work she had left them. She resumed her lesson and all went well, until kicks were heard on the cupboard door and a muffled voice demanding "let me out. Miss Parkes ordered the door to be unlocked and out walked Mary!!
It was during the Summer Term, 1906.
Just beyond where the Gymnasium now stands were several apple trees. We were allowed to sit on the grass under the trees during break in the warm weather. At that time, there was a high wooden fence dividing the school garden from that of Laurel House (now the Lodge). This house was occupied by the Curate of St. Mary's Church.
During one afternoon break someone picked up some of the small green apples which had fallen off the trees, and threw them over the fence. Before long we were all called from our classrooms and Miss Fletcher informed us that the Curate had been round to report that the said apples had fallen very near the baby, who was asleep in his pram. I well remember that we had a very long lecture from Miss Fletcher, but I cannot remember who it was who threw the apples.
These are the principal events I can remember during the time I was in the School. I was present at the opening and stayed until July, 1909.
from an as yet undated
from an as yet undated
Research on Miss Fletcher shows that Elsie E Fletcher was born in Christchurch, Hampshire in 1870 and died in Poole in 1947. She was the daughter of William and Sophia Fletcher - and was teaching at the High School in Kings Lynn in 1901.
from the Ely High School magazine July 1952
OLD GIRLS' ASSOCIATION
The Reunion was held at the High School on Saturday, 21st July, 1951, when the Lectern in memory of the late Headmistress, Miss EE Fletcher, was unveiled by Miss Baird. Members of the Association and some present-day scholars subscribed towards the Memorial. The subscriptions amounted to £38 10s 8d.
The cost of the Lectern, which was supplied by Messrs. Rattee & Kett, of Cambridge, was £37. The balance went towards the expenses of the metal plaque. Several of Miss Fletcher's very early scholars were present at the Reunion. [Does that lectern survive? Does anyone have a photo of it?]
Miss Parkes was unable to attend but she sent a letter which we print below at her request.
Brent, Blake Hill Crescent,
July 14th, 1951.
My dear Old Girls,
I feel you would like to know that I have at last been able to have Miss Fletcher's name put on a tombstone at Christchurch. There is a little disused churchyard there, where there is a stone on which are the names of a good many of Miss Fletcher's ancestors who lived in Christchurch. Miss Fletcher was very fond of that little corner. We often walked past it, and she used to say that it was always sunny. So, after a good deal of investigation, I have been able to have her name put on the only empty panel left.
This is the inscription:
In very loving memory of
Elsie Elizabeth Fletcher.
Born July 14th, 1870. Died January 31st, 1947.
Grand-daughter of Sophia Brent and James King
Headmistress of the Ely High School 1905-1929.
" The peace man did not make and cannot mar."
It is just finished and I have been over there today and it all looked very peaceful and sunny.
If any of you ever did happen to be anywhere near, you might like to go and see it. It is by the side of the County Library.
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page created 3 Nov 10: last updated 4 Nov 10