History of Maidstone Grammar School for Girls

Maidstone Grammar School for Girls was founded in 1887 with funds provided by the Wardens of Rochester Bridge. The school was opened at Albion Place in January 1888 with 18 pupils. In 1938 the present main building was opened in Great Buckland and additional buildings have since been added to meet the growing size and needs of the school.

Since the 1944 Education Act the school has been a Voluntary Controlled Grammar School maintained by Kent County Council. September 1993 marked a new phase in the school’s history with a return to entry at 11+.

In 2013 Maidstone Grammar School for Girls was 125 years old and we are proud that it has played a significant part in the education of Maidstone’s young people for that length of time. We have now amassed a fascinating archive of the history of the school and these records show some of the profound changes that have taken place over that one and a quarter century. We have accounts of girls celebrating Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, or stripping hop bines outside the front of the school during the Battle of Britain because it wasn’t safe for workers to undertake this work in the field, or being ushered into the school hall for an announcement that King George the 6th had died.

This school does not have a separate history divorced from the rest of society – it didn’t then and it doesn’t now – rather its history reflects the wider patterns of changing events over the last 125 years. The initial opening of this school in 1888 was at last a recognition that it was worth educating girls and there are many girls’ schools nationally that date from the same year. The school continued to function down in its first building in the centre of town throughout the first world war.

1913

We have this account of her school years from a student, Doris Mayger, who started at the school exactly 100 years ago this year in 1913.

I have several memories of school in wartime (the first world war of course), one being our weekly intercessions when pupils’ relations serving in the forces, were mentioned in prayers, but as the list grew so long, only fathers and brothers could be named. Occassionally, a girl would appear wearing mourning which brought the war very near. Once morning at assembly, Miss Kidd announced the tragic news that Una Duncanson, an old girl and a Red Cross nurse had lost her life when the hospital ship on which she was serving had been torpedoed by the enemy and she was drowned. A fund was raised to her memory the interest of which was later awarded to a girl or girls who had a good school record and were proceeding to university (95 years after that tragedy we are still awarding this prize).

Doris continues:

Then came the expected armistice day when with the stroke of eleven o’clock we proceeded to the hall for a short service of thanksgiving. As we lined up, I have a little hop and a skip, but was admonished by Miss Muggeridge who said, “Don’t be silly, Doris”. Surely a little hilarity was permissible after all those anxious and dreary years.

Opening of the current building in 1938

Lord Stanhope, spoke at the opening ceremony. His words present the world of that time. His praise of the new gymnasium and the new Domestic Science room were very revealing of the prevailing attitudes. Of the value of the gym he said,

“Women of England have realised the advantages of physical training. By holding their head up they appear more attractive.”

Of the domestic science room, he said

“Some day you will have homes of your own. I wonder how many of you will have happy homes if they are untidy, not properly looked after, or if bad meals are served up to your husbands.”

1940′s

After the second world war too, the history of the school reflects the expectations of girls at that time. A wide curriculum was taught but it also included for example how to clean a bathroom. Most girls left school at 16. Female teachers had to ask permission of the governors to marry. Entrance papers we have found to Oxford from that time show that different papers were set for male and female students and there was a cap on the number of female entrants to medicine as it was not considered worth training girls who would give up their career on marriage.