The Early Days Of Canterbury: 17. Schools of the Sixties: Pioneer Women

CHRISTCHURCH,  2009

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CHAPTER 17

 

Schools of the Sixties: 

 

Pioneer Women

 

 

I want to devote this chapter to the ladies' schools and pupils of the early days, and I may say at once that I have found the collection of records in this connection a somewhat difficult task. However, I think this chapter will be read with much interest by those colonists of the sixties who are still in the flesh.

 

Mrs Charles Thompson presided over a ladies' boarding and day school at Avon House, Oxford Terrace west, adjoining the residence of Dr. Coward (which still is a very comfortable looking cottage after seventy years of service) and is remembered with affection and esteem by sur­viving former pupils.

 

Mrs Thompson's school was recognised in its day as the leading scholastic institution, numbering among its students in the sixties Mary Ffitch, who married Dean Hovell, a well known Anglican Divine with High Church proclivities; Louise Frazier, who became the wife of Cornelius Cuff the architect ; Emily Thompson, whose husband was Dean Henry Jacobs, sub-warden and headmaster of Christ's College; Ellen Taylor, who became Mrs H. Wallace, and was in later life matron of the Children's Convalescent Cottage at New Brighton; Louisa Davis, a daughter of Roland Davis; Annie Ollivier,

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a daughter of John Ollivier; Miss Chapman, daughter of Dr. Chapman; Mary and Gertrude Mathias, daughters of Archdeacon Mathias; Alice Gee, who became the wife of Thomas Khull; Jane Boag, who was the first wife of William McMillan, of Cairnbrae; Mary Tosswill, who became Mrs Mansfield; Alice Moorhouse, who was a medical practitioner, and married Rev. Morland, of Christ's College; Annie Moorhouse, whose husband was W. B. Howell; Emily and Minnie Moorhouse; Sarah Boag, who became the second wife of Williamm. McMillan, of Sudeley; Polly Douglas, who married her cousin, Dr. Douglas; Mary Murray, whose home was at Riccarton; Mary Wilson, a niece of Mrs Birch, of Kaiapoi; Mary Deamer, a daughter of Dr. Deamer. Mary Stedman, a daughter of the manager of the Bank of New South Wales; Lily Cooke, who married George Bowron; Annie Inglis, who became Mrs William Chrystall; Grace Inglis, who married Rev. Mr Purchas; Lizzie Black, a daughter of Robert Black, of Fendalton; Annie Field, a relative of the Parkinsons of Kaituna; Fanny Pratt, who married John Anderson Jr.; Miss Webb, a daughter of H. R. Webb; Lottie Brown, who became Mrs Simpkinson; Agnes Caverhill, who married Rev. Leonard M. Isitt; Florrie Pratt, a daughter of William Pratt; Richenda Ladbrooke, who became Mrs Holly Bruce; Catherine Hanmer, a daughter of Humphrey Hanmer; Nellie Alport, who married Charles Morris; Mrs Grosvenor Miles' two daughters, one of whom married Mr Samuels, of Fendalton; and the other

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Mr Naylor, of Lyttelton; the two Miss Parks, one of whom became Mrs John Deans and the other Mrs Dr. Symes; Grace Stansell; Mary Barker, the youngest daughter of Dr. Barker; Chrissie Gresson, a daughter of Judge Gresson; Dr. Coward's daughter, who married Mr Bennett; Lily Turnbull, a daughter of Dr. Turnbull; Margaret and Nellie Whithair; Kate Deacon, who married Rev. Latter; and Nellie Deacon, a daughter of Roger Deacon, now residing at Sumner. Mrs Thompson subsequently sold her property to Dr. Nedwill, and moved to the corner of Park Terrace and Salisbury Street, where she continued for some years, finally retiring from her profession, her home being purchased by Hon. William Robinson, who had his town residence here.

 

Mrs Furby will also be remembered as a school mistress in premises adjoining Conway Lucas's property in Gloucester Street near the Palace hotel. Her daughter was the wife of George Beatty and mother of Maud Beatty, the clever New Zealand actress.

 

Mrs Major Hornbrook, whose husband in the early fifties was the first licensee of the Mitre hotel in Lyttelton, will be readily envisaged for her firm adherence to the fashions of the mid-Victorian age - tall, stately, and strong minded, with the orthodox crinoline and pork pie hat and chenille net, Paisley shawl and sunshade. Mrs Hornbrook and her two daughters had their boarding school at the corner of Wilson's Road and Hornbrook Street, Opawa, the street being so named from their being its earliest residents.

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The Misses Leete carried on a successful girls' school at their home in Gloucester Street, next to the Jewish synagogue.

 

Miss Rose Godfrey, who became Mrs Thomas Wood, conducted a Church of England girls' school in the immigration barracks at Lyttelton and will be remembered by her pupils of that early period. Louisa Hare (who is now 80 years old), the wife of William Toomey, of Lyttelton, and the oldest surviving person born in Lyttelton, was one of Miss Godfrey's pupils. Rebecca Price, who became Mrs Manson, was another pupil, as was Elizabeth Mason, who became the wife of Robert Derritt, of Waiau.

 

Miss Ashwin, of Armagh Street west, will be remembered as the mistress of a flourishing boarding and day school for girls in the seventies.

 

The Misses Smith, of Cranmer House, Cranmer Square, will be remembered as mistresses of a very popular girls' school. And Miss Lohse, a German lady of culture, who opened a boarding school for girls near the residence of Hon. Charles Bowen, at Riccarton. Miss Lohse' establishment was one of the best advanced schools in the province. Leaving Upper Riccarton, Miss Lohse moved to Armagh Street west, where, after a number of years she was succeeded by Mrs Croasdaile Bowen, whose character moulding will be gratefully acknowledged by the many girls who were fortunate enough to come within the sphere of her magnetic personality.

 

Another of the early well known schools was

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that of Mrs Clark, on the site of the present Working Men's Club on Oxford Terrace. Among her pupils was Emily Monk, who became Mrs Andrew Rutherford; Lizzie Miles, daughter of William Miles, of Springston, who married Dr. Hurst; Bella Turnbull, daughter of Captain Turnbull, who married William Stringer Jr.; Kate Stewart, who became Mrs George Stringer, Nellie Stringer, who married T. G. Russell; Florence Stringer, who became Mrs Charles Champion; Matilda Stringer, who married Harry Quane; Ellen Annie Bruce, who married Charles Bean; Clara Woodfield, who married Alfred Hamilton; Lucy Woodfield, who became Mrs George Nell; Hilda Mountfort, daughter of B. W. Mountfort, who married E. J. T. Ford; Emily and Mary Mountfort, daughters of Charles Mountfort the surveyor; Amy Wood, who became Mrs J. D. Fairhurst; Harriet Wagner, now Mrs J. J. Dougall; Kate Ladbrooke, now Mrs Harry Horrell; Helen Ladbrooke, who married Arthur Bruce; Helen Worsley, sister of Commander Frank Worsley, who became Mrs Frank Knight; Marion Griffith, who became Mrs Simpson; and Kate Griffith, who became Mrs Bristed. Three daughters of Mrs Clark, of Gloucester Street, were also pupils, one of them marrying J. R. Proctor.

 

Miss Manchee, who kept a girls' school in Cranmer Square, will be remembered with her jet black hair, stately figure and crinoline dress.

 

These schools were, I think, the principal establishments of early Christchurch.

 

There were numbers of women of outstanding

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personality, as for instance Mrs Innes, who was a sister of Hood Williams, and a cultured lady of literary ability, and the author of many poems, etc., under the pen-name of "Kate." Mrs Innes will be readily remembered, massive and handsome, with her Skye Terrier dog at her heels, perambulating the main thoroughfares. And the Misses Lowther, who kept the millinery and dress­making establishment in a shop on the present site of the Press office. One could recognise the rustle of their black silk dresses as they walked - devotees to the old-fashioned crinoline.

 

Mrs Alabaster, who was the widow of Rev. Alabaster, will be remembered as the mistress in conjunction with Miss Martin, of the boarding and day school for boys in Cranmer Square, next to the brick residence of Dugald M'Farlane, the Crimean veteran. And Miss Nimmo, the Scottish matron of the Refuge Home in Linwood, exercised a powerful influence for good among the lassies who came under her care.

 

And surely one of the most outstanding women of the early days was Mrs Simpson, who, with her husband came out from London in the service of Charles Bowen Senior, and proved a veritable Florence Nightingale in the newly formed settlement. Mrs Simpson was one of the finest characters among the worthy band of pilgrims. Her husband, caught in the meshes of the gold fever, went over to Australia to seek his fortune, and was never heard of again, having probably succumbed to sickness in the tropical climate of the goldfields. Mrs Simpson became

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the first matron of the original hospital in Lyttelton, and ministered to, the spiritual as well as physical needs of her patients. Her second husband was Captain Ritchie, and it was as Mrs Ritchie that she became so well known in every household in early Christchurch and Lyttelton. After her first husband's death, she had adopted five small children whose mother had died on the way out, and whose father had passed away in the hospital shortly after landing. In addition to this load of care, Mrs Ritchie had assumed full responsibility for a male patient, whose spine had been seriously injured through some cargo falling upon him in the hold of one of the boats discharging in port. Captain Ritchie undertook to share this huge burden with her, but some years later he was lost at sea, his ship foundering, and all aboard were drowned. Mrs Ritchie, left with one child of her own, five foster children and a helpless permanent invalid, faced her task with that heroic spirit which had ever characterised her, and lived to minister to her bedridden patient's wants for forty years, until he passed away. She lived to see her daughter and her five foster children grown to maturity and settled in homes of their own.

 

When the original hospital was closed in Lyttelton, Mrs Ritchie transferred to Christ­church and became the first matron of the present huge institution and some years later entered into business as a dressmaker in Armagh Street, where she lived for many years, and finally pass­ed to her reward, her memory enshrined in the

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hearts of hundreds of people who loved her for the motherly care and sympathetic interest she had manifested. Mrs Ritchie was the actual founder of the Pilgrims' Hospital in the infant days of the province, and her name should be engravers in letters of gold upon the portals of St. George's Hospital, which, indirectly, is the consummation of her self-sacrificing labours in the earliest years of the Canterbury Settlement.