Paul Nash - Yateley Schoolboy

When Paul Nash was living with his aunt in Yateley at Harpton House he was sent to Mrs Wilding's private school for girls on Cricket Hill. What sort of school was it? We have a description from a pupil. Based on notes and a letter by Mrs Margaret Christison in 1972


  1. I originally wrote this article before I was asked by Hampshire Museum Service to appear on one of their WW1 commemorative videos, made to tour their museums. Paul Nash joined up with the Artists Rifles, but subsequently transferred to the Hampshire Regiment. The Museum Service's short video on YouTube explores his Hampshire connections, including his schooldays in Yateley.
  2. When Paul Nash was living in Yateley at Harpton House he was sent by his aunt, Mrs Susan Chapman, to Mrs Wilding’s private school for girls on Cricket Hill. What sort of school wasit? We have a description from a pupil.
  3. Mrs Wilding founded Lingfield“School for Young Ladies” in existing houses on Cricket Hill Yateley about 1895. In 1903 she transferred the school to a larger house called Dullatur on London Road, Camberley.
  4. Widow of a Yorkshireman,killed in a mine accident, with two daughters to bring up, Mrs Catherine Wilding came to Yateley as governess to the Misses Stilwell, daughters of John Packenham Stilwell of Hilfield. He owned the Stilwell Bank in Lower Regent Street. Mrs Wilding then lived in the house which stood on the Cricket Hill side of the Hilfield barnyard. This house, which was later occupied by Mr Chapman the Hilfield gardener, has now been enlarged and was known as Wellmore in 1972 when Mrs Christison wrote her recollections about the school.
  5. The 1881 census records Catherine Wilding living as a governess aged 29 at Wellmore Cottage with her two daughters Ethel (8) and Winifred (7). Her widowed mother Emma Williams, a54 year old annuitant, was also living with her. Mrs Wilding had one domesticservant. By 1891 Mrs Wilding only hadone daughter and one domestic servant living with her. Her address is given asRigby’s Lane, undoubtedly the same premises as in 1881. Her daughter’s name isrecorded as Agnes but, from her age (18) and her birthplace (Islington) we candeduce that Agnes was the Ethel recorded in 1881.
  6. Mrs Christison says that whilst living at Wellmore Mrs Wilding “discovered an opening for taking charge of girls whose parents were abroad. Moving to Lingfield, (now Cricket Hill House but Cricket Hill Cottage in 1972) she gathered more children, more than the house would hold. So she next took the cottage on the otherside of the road (later lived in by Sergt Sillence), and that proving too small left it for the double-fronted cottage next up the hill which had formerly had a shop window where the girls could buy sweets (2 oz a penny!), cheap exercise books and pencils, both slate and lead. By now there was an English governess who was in charge of the cottage, and a French teacher who had a room at the Horne’s, on the lower side of the first cottage.”
  7. This move from Wellmore to Lingfield is confirmed by the 1901 census. Mrs Wilding was then 49, giving her occupation as Principal of School and her address as Lingfield. Winifred (26) and Ethel (27) were living with her as school teachers, as were Sarah May and Ella Read. Eleven pupils were boarding at Lingfield, seven British subjects born in India and four born in the UK, whose parents may also have been abroad.
  8. Of the 22 inhabited houses on Cricket Hill in 1901 most heads of household were tradesmen such as bricklayers (5), gardeners, blacksmiths and dressmakers. There were no ag. Labs. However living amongst them were other teachers, notably Mabel Hutchinson from Guernsey, a young lady of 23 who gave her occupation as governess, as was Dora, living with her. Probably a third sister Lillah Hutchinson was a 17 year old student who was boarding in the main house. The elder Hutchinsons were boarding with Mary Ann Rackley. Francis Wells gave his occupation as Army Tutor (perhaps at a crammer for Sandhurst run at The Grange by Mr Kirchhoffer). Someone has scrawled ‘school’ over the top of Francis Well’s occupation, making it difficult to read. But there is no doubt that his wife Rose was a teacher.
  9. Corroborating Mrs Christison’s account the 1901 census confirms that James Horne and his family housed four boarders including three domestic servants (for the school?) plus a 22 year old school teacher from France whose surname was Grabe, but whose first name is very difficult to read -- something like Mdlle. Stated to be a French Subject she could well have taught German too.
  10. Moving up the hill the next house had James Sillence as head, a sergeant in the Hampshire Volunteers. The next house is declared in the census as uninhabited. This must be ‘the cottage’ taken by Mrs Wilding as extra teaching space. Next door to that was the home of Alfred Bracknell and his family, with Alfred Coombes and his family next door. This makes a group of five houses, one more than the the four houses marked on Mrs Christison’s hand-drawn sketch map.
  11. No school children are recorded as boarding in any of these houses. Mrs Wilding obviously preferred officialdom to think they were all sleeping at Lingfield, although five adults and 11 girls, mostly teenagers, might be considered a cram for the main schoolhouse described in the 1910 Land Tax assessment as having five bedrooms and a dressing room, two reception, a lounge hall, a pantry, scullery and conservatory.
  12. It should be mentioned here that the Mrs Margaret Christison from British Columbia who wrote this account for Sydney Loader in 1972 was the daughter of Dr John Mills of Holly Hill, situated just to the east of the junction of Cricket Hill with the main Reading to Blackwater road. John Mills, a retired high ranking surgeon in the Indian Army, had lost his first wife Margaret in 1884, and Margaret Sophie was the product of his second marriage to Sophia Eliza. Margaret Mills, thus named for both his wives, was 12 in 1901. Also in the Mills household at Holly Hill was a relative. Florence Mills a pupil born on the Isle of Wight, and Lucy, Margaret’s younger sister.
  13. Mrs Christison contined her account at the point where Mrs Wilding had expanded the school into the cottages across the road from Lingfield, and in the year she was sent to the school herself “Now day girls were added, we were about 20 in all. The younger (elder?) Miss Wilding taught four days a week, going to Reading for art classes twice a week. She later returned to Yateley as a widow, Mrs McArthur. The younger sister, Miss Winnie, taught the youngest class and “calisthenics”, at which we put up some good displays. More exactly drill was taught by the current Drill Sergeant, Sergt William Hilton of the Volunteers, and then by Sergt Sillence of the TA. Discipline was good; rules were not many but they were very definite. Mrs Wilding herself took “Bible Class” four mornings aweek. Here we read a portion of the scripture verse by verse round the big table and the teaching was applied without hesitation to current events. This was also applied to the daily life of the school: tidiness, the need of elegance, etc….
  14. “The education was sound, suitable pupils being sentinto Reading to take Oxford Local, Junior and Senior Exams. We were taught to learn, what more could weask?”
  15. In a subsequent letter dated25 Mar 1972 Margaret Christison stated that these notes were “quite unfinished!” So she added “As regards dates I am a bit vague. Personally I cannot remember her atWellmoor but I do remember herresidence there being talked of as if it were in everybody’s knowledge. Shetaught the Misses Stilwell from there for quite a while. I see from the life ofBeatrice Stilwell that she later continued her education at Lingfield, so I should guess the move(to Lingfield) was about 1895.
  16. Mrs Wilding was, by the time of the move [to Camberley], taking girls whose parents were abroad (sometimes for three year terms) so she made a home for them in the holidays too. I have photos taken about 1896 showing various Lingfield girls. I think it was about 1897 that I started going there for dancing lessons, and shortly after, for French. There was always a French Mistress who lived in the front room at Horne’s “cottage”. I first remember this in the cottage next above the Horne’s. This became too small and the next cottage up the hill becoming vacant – it was double fronted and had been used as a tiny shop – an exchange was made. My sister and I began to attend regularly in the summer of 1899, and I have never had cause to regret that my education till I was 18 was at that sometimes laughed at institution, a “School for Young Ladies”.
  17. “Drill by the local Drill Sergeant of the moment;first from Henry Hilton, then Sergt Sillence, but the younger daughter, Miss Winnie, took us for Swedish exercises and fancy displays – rod drill, scarf exercises and other refinements. Much attention was paid to posture and Mrs Wilding believed in Elegance, which she regretted was being neglected. I believe some of the most useful lessons were learnt during General Knowledge. At any spare moment we were asked, or allowed to ask, questions on any imaginable subject. If our views and that of our teacher disagreed we were all allowed to bring evidence for our view. If logical we received our mark which had been held back for confirmation. In 1903 the accommodation became so inadequate that Mrs Wilding moved the whole school to Dullatur, London Road, Camberley, where it continued successfully, having eventually to move to yet larger quarters at the Knoll, Camberley.
  18. “Dear me! I seem to have let the typewriter run away with me! I expect you have a copy of the little book got up as a Memorial to Miss Beatrice Stilwell by her sister Norah. I have one very much annotated by myself as I was much with her at hockey, Rifle Club, and VAD work.… How times change! There was no bathroom at Lingfield. The sanitation – if it could be so called – at the house was a bucket earth closet opening out of the hall and the “cottages” just outside pits! At Holly Hill the bathroom was put in within my memory and we had one water-closet and three assorted earth closets.
  19. “You may be interested to know that I have a nice letter from Cecil (Sir John Cecil Masterman 1891-1977) the other day. Our local, and generally very unliterary, paper had a long account of his spy book which induced me to write to him.
  20. “So I had better end; with every good wish to you both, and to Yateley in general.

    Margaret S Christison, British Columbia, Canada”
  21. Although she does not mention painting and drawing classes specifically, Mrs Christison did state that the elder of Mrs Wilding’s daughters spent two days a week at “art classes” in Reading. It was then generally thought to be a necessary educational accomplishment for young ladies to learn to draw and paint competently. Indeed the drawing accompanying this article by Valerie Kerslake of Cricket Hill Cottage, formerly Lingfield School, admirably demonstrates this. The Yateley Society possesses a portfolio of local watercolours, collected by Sydney Loader, painted by several different alumni of Lingfield School -- showing considerable competence.
  22. It cannot therefore be dismissed that Paul Nash’s interest in painting was first aroused as the only boy attending Mrs Wilding’s school on Cricket Hill, Yateley.
  23. P J Tipton, 4 October 2013