Sunday, 11 May 2014

Celebrating memories of Mary Datchelor Girls' school

Welcome to any first time visitors who have arrived here via the MDGS old girls' club on FB. To my regular blogging friends I hope you will excuse this extra long post and if you are just visiting to see my card challenge please scroll down to the end.

 I had a wonderful day on Friday celebrating the 125th Anniversary of my old school's old girls' might need to read that twice. During the 1970s I was a fortunate to be a pupil at very special school, Mary Datchelor Girls' School (MDGS) in Camberwell, South London. Sadly it closed its doors for the last time 33 years ago. My Mum was also a pupil and I really had hoped that one day my own daughter might get the chance to attend. Sadly that was not to be. I will not get into politics here but let's just say that a change in government in the mid 1970s led to the closing of most of the grammar schools in England. MDGS was a very small school (just 90 pupils in each year) and could not have existed in its location as a comprehensive. Rather than change the whole character and ethos of the school the governors decided to close it in 1981.

Mary Datchelor  founded her school in 1877 to educate girls from poor backgrounds. Some years after it opened it found itself in financial trouble. The Clothworkers' Company (one of the ancient London livery companies) stepped in to become a benefactor and took over the management of the school. There is a link to it here . It played a very large role in the life of the school.  Despite the school closing so many years ago the Old Girls' club is flourishing with new members joining each year. It now has over 850 members. That is quite extraordinary for a school which no longer exists.

On Friday 180 old girls plus some distinguished guests gathered for an afternoon tea at the Clothworkers' Hall in London.  Our old school buildings in Camberwell were turned into luxury flats many years ago.  The Clothworkers' Hall is a beautiful building near the Monument, a really interesting part of the city where ancient buildings meet modern ones and all seem to coexist perfectly well.
The photo below is the court where the hall is situated. It has been rebuilt on this site 9 times, the last time it was damaged was after extensive bombing during the 2nd World War. The coat of arms is very interesting as it is also seen on our school badge. Our school motto was also the same, "My trust is in God alone". We were to spot this theme many times during out visit. The last time I visited the hall was in 1977 when the 6th form were invited to celebrate the schools' centenary. The only memory of the building I have from this time was of the stone staircase inside.

Just around the corner is The Monument where the Great Fire of London is remembered

and these new buildings are all nearby.

 The tallest building of the moment, the Shard, is a five minute walk away as is the River Thames.

I have back to the Clothworkers' Hall......we were greeted at the entrance

 and went inside to collect our name badges. There were also commemorative mugs which had been commissioned for us to buy.
 Can you see the same crest and motto as the Clothworkers ?

At 2 pm we made our way up the stairs to the reception rooms. This was the staircase I remember from 1977 with lovely tapestry wall hangings.

 I went to the afternoon tea with my best friend Karen. We also attended the 1977 school centenary celebrations together. We met during our first term at MDGS and we have been inseparable since. I don't have a sister but I think I could have not a better friend "sister" than her. She is my rock and we have chartered the waters of life together and shared every peak and trough. Karen is on the right wearing a jacket.
Before the tea there was a little exhibition and we smiled at some of the objects on show including our old school blazer. Yes it was that bright; navy blue with yellow/gold stripes. We were very visible in a crowd. The blazer badge also has the crest and motto.
The surroundings were exquisite
with stained glass windows everywhere

A cake had been specially made for the occasion

Here is our Motto again or should I say that of the Clothworkers!

At 2.45 pm full afternoon tea was served in the main hall...what a beautiful room this was.

We all sat at tables with ladies from all eras of the school.
We enjoyed sweet and savoury delicacies.

 Special MDGS serviettes had been printed

even the seats have the motto in gold...
We had a delightful musical interlude at 3.30pm which included us singing Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring and He shall feed the sheep from the Messiah. MDGS was such a musical school. The current  president of our Old School Club (a former opera singer) treated us to a rendition of "I'm tone deaf", which she certainly isn't. Every year at the end of the summer term when we were at school we either sung The Messiah or Elijah. I used to play the trumpet, piano and I sang in the junior choir.  I still enjoy playing  the piano, even now.
Our old Head of music, Miss Seldon was a guest and  played the piano and led us. It was very emotional hearing us all sing. It brought back memories of summer days in the 1970s. If I say so myself we still sounded very tuneful indeed.

Time, as always, was not on our side and before we knew it was 5.30pm and  time for us to make our way home after the most extraordinary afternoon. I would really like to thank the organizers again for all their hard work in bringing this event to life. I now have some wonderful new school memories to treasure and it was so appropriate l that I shared my day with my dearest friend Karen.

For my card challenge today I decided to make an inspirational tag of the day, bringing together some of my memories and based on a very thought provoking Tim Holtz quote is a sneak peak
I wanted to use the colours of my old school blazer so I blended  Blue Sapphire, Squeezed Lemonade and Scattered Straw Distress Inks to make my background on a tag. I added a little spritz of water. I then inked through the TH clocks stencil with some Pumice Stone DI and added some  prose using a Visible Ink stamp called Bronte script. You can see this lovely script showing up on the yellow ink below.
I also added some remnant rubs, music seemed the perfect choice,
I die cut a Cheery Lynn butterfly which I inked. I thought a TH ink nib would be perfect here....yes the day I started school we still had wooden desks which had ink wells filled with ink for our fountain pens. I still use a fountain pen to this day to write with at work. I added some appropriate chit chat words and a ticket. "Trust" was the perfect one to use as it is part of my school motto.

Below is my tag in its entirety. I photographed it on the pages of my favourite book of piano music from my days in the 6th form at school; Scott Joplin's Piano Rags. My piano teacher and I used to also play duets of this, happy days. I still play "The Entertainer" even now.
The black and the yellow ribbons are special too as Karen and I won some notelets for being the youngest old girls there. They were tied with these ribbons.  I added some blue just to bring the colours together
So now I also have a memory tag to put in my Journal. When I look at it I will be able to transport myself back to the afternoon of Friday 9 May 2014............................................................................................
......................... and hear laughter............................
........................................................ and music.

I would like to enter my tag into the following challenges;

                                                     A Vintage Journey fond memories
Country View Nature's Glories
Natalie and Amy Rubber stamping
Visible Image Anything Goes 
Crafting Musketeers Anything but square
Penny Black and More anything goes
Stamping Sensations anything goes
Totally Gorjuss don't be square
Pan Pastel UK colour palette I have used the colour palette of my school uniform ie navy,yellow/gold

I hope you enjoyed my little piece of history I have shared here today. Thanks for visiting.

Back soon,

Bye for now,

Jane x


  1. Fabulous colouring on this gorgeous tag Jane and I just love that quote. Thanks for joining in at A Vintage Journey and sharing your memories with us. Nikki x

  2. What a wonderful day you had, Jane and such fabulous memories both of your old school and the new ones you made that day! You were in very beautiful surroundings and it looked like you had some tasty treats too! Your lovely tag represents your day brilliantly and I'm sure will be a constant reminder of the good times you had! Hugs, Lisa x

  3. The school blazer is certainly eye-catching! I bet you were all adorable. I enjoy sight-seeing through your eyes and appreciate sharing your memories with you. I'm glad you had a good time back then and now. Pretty tag too!

  4. Awe what a lovely post Jane, wonderful to go back in time for just a little while and relive your school days with your best friend! :)
    That is the part of London we stayed in the last time we visited, they were still building the Shard then!
    Your little tag sums up your day perfectly!
    Have a lovely Sunday and a great week ahead my friend,
    V xxx

  5. Such wonderful memories Jane - thank you for sharing these alongside your tag as it helps to make complete sense of the colours and words included. I was fascinated to hear about this remarkable school, having so many ancestors that were weavers/'upholders' (I believe that's upholsterers) in the East End and hatters in South London. What a joy to reminisce inside such an historic and impressive building. I'm thrilled that you've shared this with both A Vintage Journey and Frilly and Funkie. Jenny x

  6. wonderful make Jane and what looks like an amazing day full of memories xx

  7. Thanks for sharing your lovely card for Crafting Musketeers challenge 13: anything but square, Hazel, DT Crafting Musketeers x

  8. What a great story of your school and your going back for a lovely day. I'm so impressed with the dining hall! Lucky you! Love the card of course!
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  9. What an interesting post, Jane! And what an interesting school you attended too! I loved reading all about it and your happy celebrations too. Your tag is a wonderful way to preserve the memories!
    Have a happy week!
    Helen xox

  10. This is a really super piece of work for our challenges Jane - love the colour palette. Thanks so much for sharing your creativity with us at Penny Black and More and Stamping Sensations.

    B x

  11. What a fabulously interesting post dear Jane!
    Thank You so much, I have enjoyed it tremendously.
    YOu might not be a "scrapbooker" per say but you sure know how to preserve the past and share it too!
    Lovely card as well!!
    Many Thanks~

  12. Fantastic tag Jane! Love the design and colours. Thank you for entering our 'Anything Goes' challenge xx

  13. What a lovely share, Jane! Your tag is so gorgeous and I love the buttery and those divine colors! Thank you for sharing with us at A Vintage Journey!

  14. Hello Jane, Thanks for taking us along for your old school's celebrations.
    Wonderful to see more of London.
    The tag will be a special keepsake.

    Happiest May....
    Anne xx

  15. Dear Jane,

    What an interesting post! This is all so fascinating to me as we do not have school or the culture attached to them here at all. And how lovely to see you with your dearest friend, friendship is golden. And that tag just sums it all yup - great work, dear friend!

    Have a lovely day!


  16. Oh-o, sums it all UP!


  17. Enjoyed reading this post Jane, love the colours in your tag the sentiment is so lovely and so true. The entertainer is one of the few tunes I can still play on the piano. I have long forgotton all my exam pieces. Mo x

  18. Oooo what an interesting post and i loved reading about the experiences of you day and what a fabby momento you have created for it too.

    Thanks for joining us at Penny Black & More this month and good luck, Luv Sam x

  19. Fabulous creaion, Thanks for joining us at Stamping sensations this month

    Francesca x

  20. Lovely tag! Thanks for entering the Visible Image challenge. Good luck! KimB

  21. So pretty lovely your colours and the day must have brought back many happy memories xx

  22. What a wonderful celebration of your old school, that blazer has me envious, ours were plain navy (school colours were also navy and gold though). I went to a girls Grammar school, which my Gran and Aunts etc also went to. Oddly, now I have two children with different education abilities (one very bright, one less so) and the dreaded 11+ 'will they be put in for it' year coming up, I am less enthusiastic about the exam. I don't want Felix to feel second best to Charlie if he isn't selected to sit it, or worse, does but doesn't pass (Charlie will sail through). Such a shame your school closed, sounds like it was a similar size to Skipton Girls', which had 90 a year as well. I remember all the small primaries being shut down in the 1980's, mine was lucky to just scrape through as it had above the minimum 18 children, which I know sounds like a bonkers small number for a school, but most are in quite remote areas and the kids now have to travel for such a long time to get to the alternative ones. Progress.....I guess. Bethxx

  23. Fantastic tag. I love the colord and your fabulous buterfly. Thank you for sharing your wonderful tag with us at Stamping Sensation. I hope you join us again.
    Eret x

  24. Gorgeous tag! Love how you used the Bronte Script! Thanks so much for joining us for the Anything Goes Challenge at Visible Image.

  25. Wow! So gorgeous, can't believe I didn't see this! Just love the blue and yellow together Jane, absolutely stunning....... My DT now..... Love this and good luck in the May challenge :) xx

  26. A stunning tag, wonderful colour and so much interest.
    Thank you so much for entering it into the Anything Goes, Visible Image Challenge.
    Good Luck
    Crafty Hugs
    Karen (DT) xx

  27. I was a pupil at Mary Datchelor from 1953 - 1960. A long time ago, but I remember it very well and with great fondness. Many things Jane mentions chime with me. Our blazers were plain navy, not striped. Our summer frocks, of heavy cotton slub, were in five different pastel shades: yellow, blue, pink, green, violet. I can recall a speaker at Prize Day saying we looked like a bed of traditonal English flowers. When Princess Alexandra (one of our benefactors) came to visit, we all lined every corridor and then, indeed, we did resemble long flower beds. My hat badge when I was a prefect was the school badge in solid silver. Winter hats were of navy velour; summer ones were of Panama straw, We sang the Messiah (Halleliuja Chorus ) every Christmas (not at the end of the summer term, as Jane mentions), in conjunction with the London Police Choir, for the male voices. It was wonderfully uplifting. It was usually performed in the school hall; though occasionally we all trooped to Southwark Cathedral. Miss Seldon was one of the music teachers when I was there -- junior to a much older teacher, whose name, sadly, I have forgotten. We also were invited to a buffet tea by the Clothworkers to celebrate our centenary -- though they borrowed the Fishmongers' Hall for the occasion, because the Clothworkers' Hall was being refurbished. I can still remember the delicious meringues and the huge crystal bowls of strawberries. Incidentally, many of the mistresses in my era had served throughout the war and had travelled to Wales when the school evacuated there. Datchelor had many unusual clubs and activities. I recall weekly botany lessons with a long-retired mistress, who, as a child, had visited Charles Darwin at his home with her parents. I established the Geography Club, where we cooked different food from around the world. Miss MacRea (Susannah!) took girls on hiking and climbing vacations to places like the Black Forest. I remember going youth hostelling with Miss Adams and Miss Innes, the art mistresses. We even had two expert fencers -- Ba and Di Wheeler -- who represented the school at Inter-school fencing matches. I and three other girls helped the new young English mistress, Miss Savoury, paint her flat when she married. She took us to arthouse cinemas and could recite Chaucer and other classical works from memory with a medieval accent. A French mistress often took us to see French films in some very out of the way "fleapits." The memories come crowding back -- so I'd better finish before I write a book. I think it was a tragic day when the school had to close for political reasons. Datchelor girls were very special, a great asset to society.

  28. Such a lovely post. Thanks for sharing. I was sad to see that the school is closed. As a small child at Crawford Primary School we used to have swimming lessons at your school pool. I also attended 'Life Saving' swimming lessons there in the evenings, with Sharon Davies's Dad. I loved going swimming there, and I realise now talking to current school kids that this opportunity was a real luxury.
    Your account also takes me back to my own secondary school, Prendergast, a grammar school in Catford, which was supported by The honourable Leathersellers Guild. I was lucky enough to be invited there for dinner as a student, with all the associated Pomp of the occasion. I imagine our secondary schools were quite similar.
    It's nice you still remember your school so fondly.


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Jane x