The Twickenham Museum

Twickenham County School for Girls

This school, in Clifden Road, Twickenham, has closed. It is now the main centre for the London Borough of Richmond Adult Education College.

The original school opened in 1907 with accommodation for 245 pupils. A new Assembly Hall and other alterations, opened on 31 October 1936, increased the accommodation to 495 pupils. There was a Ceremonial Opening of the new buildings on that day, presided over by Spencer Leeson, Headmaster of Winchester College. He was the son of Dr J R Leeson, Charter Mayor of Twickenham in 1926 and had been brought up in Clifden House, the family home just down the road.

A copy of the programme of the opening ceremony has been donated to the museum by Lucinda Ganderton who, with her sister were pupils at the school.

School information provided by a former pupil:

Uniform of dark brown with yellow and ecru, first striped moygashell dresses (yellow or brown), later pale yellow, tangerine or old rose self dresses. About 900 girls, known locally as the 'brown cows' for obvious reasons! I was a pupil between c.1956-62.

Miss Merriman was headmistress; academically militant for her girls (it seemed to me), she pushed us to take O-levels from 14 yrs, subject-stream from the same age, be academically ambitious; introduced new-look uniforms, with self-colour summer dresses, permanently pleated washable skirts, 3-quarter sleeve shirts, college-style scarfs, boaters instead of panamas. Nylons in place of socks or lisle stockings. Sixth form had yellow braid on blazers, prefects yellow stripes on ties. I still have the enamel school badge which was pinned to my boater. A little out of touch with the social changes of the 60s, as she admitted after having driven three of us to school every day during the bus-strike!

A well-equipped school, large library, art-room, science labs., gymnasium, assembly hall and stage, sick-bay, domestic-science room, classrooms, supplementary huts, annexe built later, the next-door house for the Upper Sixth. Most subjects proposed nationally could be studied, even on request, provided several pupils could be found to form a group (I was thus able to begin an architecture course), or a pupil went to a neighbouring school. No male teachers except for extras (eg music, Mr Keller on violin.....). In summer senior pupils from the art class were allowed to go sketching along the river bank.

Out of school: an official group moved in crocodile, two by two; hats were to be worn at all times; eating in public in uniform (even a sweet in the bus) or removing the hat, were to be reported (and were reported by passers-by and passengers) - both earned detention.

PE: aertex shirts & pleated shorts, even when it was snowing ("run to keep warm, girls", while the mistresses kept an eye on the stove in the changing rooms); playing field and tennis courts at the school, larger facilities shared with other schools. Winter: hockey, netball, country & social dancing when wet; Summer: tennis, rounders, cricket, swimming at Twickenham baths; gymnastics all year. No athletics: Miss Merriman considered them inappropriate and possibly injurious to the growing female.

A bell was rung by an appointed pupil for changing class; silent crocodiles of girls moved along corridors, up and down stairs.

Collecting funds for charity was encouraged strongly and forms competed for ideas to collect the most by summer. The School adopted and financed a refugee child at the Pestalozzi Centre.

Many societies existed, particularly the Debating Society; debating was also part of the English course. At National election times the School held mock elections.

'School-milk', frozen in winter; lunch in the canteen, two sittings, large tables with 2 seniors at each, overseen by mistresses.

Detention and lines for the misbehaved! Those of us who didn't go to University were given a talk about, basically, letting down the School... a period of social change with the younger teachers not always in agreement with their elders' policy.

There were many teachers, to the faces I remember, sadly, I can only give a few names: Dr. Frane, Mrs. Whitehead, Miss Mackinder - classics; Mrs. Roberts - English; Miss Gordon - French; Miss Irons ('Tinnie', kept her hanky in old-fashioned bloomers, sat on the desk, not the chair, terrified first-years), Miss Mimms ('Minnie', a slender, gentle lady who sadly fell off her scooter) - history; Mrs. Rippon, Miss Easel - geography, geology; Mrs. Hogarth & Miss H... - music; Miss Jones, Mrs. Skelton - mathematics; Miss Leech, Miss Penn, Miss Easel - PE; Miss Mina - art; Miss Rayner - domestic science.

TILBURY Christine
Telephone: (33-1) (Paris, France

Moyra Bigmore (Canada)writes:
To add to the names of teachers that I remember (1952-1957) I can add Sue Hyde who played field hockey for England. A group of us went to Wembley to see her play and there was a report on the sports page next day about "the girls in brown!". Miss Leach (another sports mistress) played cricket for England. To ride our bikes to school we had to take a cycling test with the local police and then we were allocated a place in the bike shed. Sometimes, if we didn't give up our seat on the bus travelling to school someone always phoned Miss Merriman to complain! The swimming galas at Twickenham Pool were great fun and very exciting as we had some top swimmers in the country. We also had the world Ice Dance Champion and some Olympic divers. Every Friday afternoon our form held a raffle to raise money for charity.

Sue Parkinson, nee Pooley/Hulford writes:
Attended TCS- 1951 to 1957. Teachers not mentioned before: Miss Parker-RE & Deputy Head, Mrs Struthers-Science and Biology- excrutiatingly painful sex education lessons starting with Amoebas! and my mentor Mrs Gooch-Art. Remeber going to Wembley to cheer on Miss Hyde, wonderful!. Funny memories of trying to get a full roast dinner home on the 667 bus after cookery, sprouts rolling down the aisles.
Mary Adams writes: I was a pupil there 1959-66 and saw the retirement of Miss Merriman. The new head Mrs McCleary may have been academically gifted but was low on interpersonal skills. She could never remember the girls' names - even the Head Girl on occasions! I remember so well the old guard - Miss Paybody (English and Dep Head), Miss Kirby (Science) as well as others already mentioned. What a breath of fresh air was Miss Radway (English) and Mrs Carter (History) - some of the first to see the girls as whole personalities to be developed rather than as machines for academic input. I also remember Miss Moyns (History) Miss Mina (Geography), Miss Hogan (Art) - they were sisters so had to invent a new name for one sister to avoid confusion - I believe Miss Mina was Wilhelmina Hogan. The other music teacher was Miss Harbutt who was so conventional and such a contrast to the flamboyant Miss Hogarth who made her choir so successful and lead music at the school so energetically. The first male teacher was appointed in the mid 60s - a chemistry teacher - that must have been some experience! I also remember Mrs Hopwood who with her husband organised school holidays and I was lucky enough to go for a summer trip to Switzerland. Who could forget the weekly summer swimming lessons at Twickenham unheated pool - freezing!!!! I have kept in touch with a number of old friends from school for 40 years. My year has just held its first reunion (2006) and I so enjoyed catching up again with pwople I hadnt kept in touch with after 40 years, reminiscing with them and hearing their news- I hope it wont be the last. We all remembered our time at TCS as happy and a good foundation for life - a shame it's excellence as a community was swept away in the name of social reform - comprehensive education. Email:

Christine Mayo writes: I remember... standing in the hall for assembly looking at the names of my mother and three of her sisters in gold lettering on the panelling, and wondering if there would be enough spaces left for mine (there was, just.)Little green hymn books, and having to kneel painfully on the sanded floor. Zoology classes in the new labs, with only six of us in the class - almost a private education! Going home on the train, and leaning out of the window at Hampton to let the Hampton Grammar boys know where we were. My friends teaching me on the school field how to throw a ball overarm. Hiding in a cupboard in one of the huts to avoid having to play hockey in the sleet!"

Mrs Pauline Wadl writes about her time at the school:

August 1941.

Uniform . Brown box pleated gymslip, some still from pre-war good quality gabardine. Blazer brown with T.C.S in gold on the pocket (Tom Cat School). Brass buttons if you were lucky enough to have the pre-war model.

September 1941.

Our normal routine was often disrupted when the sirens sounded and we would file out to the air-raid shelters. These were tubes half underground, looking like grass covered long humps on the outside. Inside were benches along the length of each one, to seat two forms of girls. There were steps down at both ends, and primitive toilets. We recited things and sang French nursery songs.
Incendiary bombs put part of the school out of action for a while. The staff did fire watching at night.

September 1942.

We knitted for the forces, in khaki, navy, or air-force blue wool. There were large air-raid shelters for the public in our playground. They contained many bunks and amenities, and smelled of damp concrete, people and disinfectant. We could walk through them to the school building, and see people getting up and dressing.

September 1943.

We produced National Savings posters to record how near we got to our form target. We knitted small garments in grey and red wool, for Russian refugees. In June 1944 the loudspeakers were on in the hall to broadcast D-Day. In July, the flying-bombs (buzz-bombs, doodlebugs) arrived. To save spending all day in the shelters we went to school one morning per week to collect homework for the week, and to hand in the previous week’s homework.

September 1946.

In August 1947 some of us went to work in a Harvest Camp. This was while so many ex-farm workers were still in the forces.