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Old Girls Of The Central Foundation School

May 25, 2014
by Linda Wilkinson

Writer Linda Wilkinson, ex-School Captain and celebrated author of two books about Columbia Rd, went along with Contributing Photographer Patricia Niven to this year’s Central Foundation School for Girls Reunion to do these interviews and portraits of the Old Girls.

Millie Rich, 1929-1934

I left in 1934 to go to St Martins School of Art. I loved the school, it was very different then to the attitudes that prevail now. You were very respectful of the teachers, you always stood up when they entered the room. We did Latin with Miss Green who married one of the governors. Many of the girls were from the East End and were first generation English, so you inhabited two cultures and, in order to survive, you spoke in one way at the school and in another way at home. Life was a lot less socially comfortable for us than it is today.

Shula Rich (known as Ruth at school), Millie Rich’s daughter

I always wanted to go to the Central Foundation School because my mother and my father both went there (the boy’s school is in Cowper St). In addition, it closed at 3pm whereas every other school closed at 4pm, so I could go home like a City worker. I would sit on the train back to Balham reading my Evening Standard.

Later we moved to Ilford. On public transport you had to wear your beret, but I had a great big bee-hive and was part of a girl gang – we folded our berets in half and pinned them with two clips behind our hair. Whenever a teacher caught us on the tube and told us we weren’t wearing our berets, we could say “Oh yes we are,” and we’d show them the back of our heads. After school, we could either go and talk to the market men – which was a great treat – or somehow go into Dirty Dick’s to do some pulling.

Patsy Butt (née Felt), 1963-1968

We had a fabulous uniform – gaberdine macs with red lining in the hood, so that everyone knew you were a Spital Sq girl. I loved the friends, loved the teachers. The fact that, having grown up in an area where you didn’t realise you could own your own home and that bathrooms were inside the house, to be tutored into a world where you could join in with anybody and anything – What can you say about an education that does that for you? Fabulous!

Nadjie Butler (née Huseyin), 1971-1977

There are so many memories it is hard to pick a special one, but the most fun I had was doing the sports and the sports days, and going down to the playing fields at Buckhurst Hill. I remember laughing a lot and making some really good friends and enjoying my education here. It gave me the ability to look forward in life. Not only giving me the foundation to have a long and successful employment, but also it taught me a really good lot of manners and morals that I have taken through my life.

Sandra Smith (née Foster), 1971-1977

My main claim to fame was that I did a solo performance in a concert for the late Richard Beckinsdale. One of the girls we were at school with was the daughter of his manager, so he came along to the school to hear us. We had a very good day. The school was a great place – what a great education we had! A lot of the friends I made then I have kept in touch with over the years.

Carol Salmon (née Foster), 1973-1979

I remember as a first year doing cross country running at Buckhurst Hill, and I remember falling into a ditch and being completely covered in mud. I ended up having to go home wearing another girl’s knickers as I didn’t have a spare pair. God I was so embarrassed! The school certainly gave me the tools for life – in the end I became a Police Officer.

Doreen Golding (née Jackson), 1953

Doreen returned to the East End having moved to Redbridge during WWII where she briefly attended Beale Grammar School. After her father died in an accident, her mother and their family came back to the East End. As Central Foundation School was the local grammar school, Doreen’s mother came knocking assuming that her daughter would just get in.

I had been out of education for six months because, when my father died, mum had pulled us all out of school whilst she decided what to do next. Also the standard here (at Central Foundation School) was so much higher than my school in Redbridge. I was told if I wanted to get in, I would have to sit another exam. That is my first recollection of this school, of sitting in the sixth form taking an exam with all the big girls standing around me. I started here in 1953 and it was a wonderful school. My old grammar school had a brown uniform and the headmistress here at the time was very kind. She told me and mum that, as my uniform was virtually new, I could wear it until it wore out. So there I sat, a splodge of brown in a sea of bottle green.

Lydia Shine (née Andrews), 1953-1959

I was not terribly academic but I enjoyed my time here, I found it very stimulating. The teaching we had was above excellent, and it has left me wanting to seek knowledge and made me interested in life, in things, people, history and literature – all the things that somehow get missed these days. After school, I started teacher training but I found it wasn’t for me. Then I went into the Civil Service and worked in the Law Courts for a while. I got married, had a family and then worked in office jobs etc. I also went into care work and have found a lot of fulfilment in that. In retrospect, I think I should have been a nurse.

In latter life, I found a big interest in music which I think probably stemmed from Central Foundation School. I have sung in various choirs, some of them quite prestigious so that has really become a big part of my life.

Christine Beesley (née Andrews), 1957-1964

Miss Roberts, the Headmistress, interviewed me. She was tall, severe and terrifying. I nervously read a passage from a book and then she asked me the meaning of the word ‘security.’ “Safeness,” I said. “We usually say ‘safety,’ dear,” she responded, giving me my first taste of Central Foundation School correctness. I loved school because I loved to learn. Miss Roberts was followed by the inimitable, inspirational and exotic Mrs Dunford , at whose ‘feet ‘ I learnt to love , appreciate and write poetry. Many years later I found myself in classrooms teaching adults how to construct an essay.
We lived in a prefab, had little materially, but didn’t really know it at the time.  Somehow or another, we got the uniform from Gamages department store at Holborn Circus but mother was probably still paying for it when I left school. As with our Central Foundation School education, I doubt that most of us knew what we were getting yet I, for one, certainly know and value it now. I can’t tell you how emotional today has been for me – feeling part just for a while, of the great enabling machine that was Central Foundation School.

Maureen Modica (née Franks), 1953-1959

It was like ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,’ very much so. If you weren’t going to be university fodder, forget it. To get married and have a family, or anything mundane like that, was for the lower echelons.

I didn’t go to university but exploited being a linguist and the only way that I could do that was on the continental telephone exchange and then in various foreign banks. The languages I speak are French, German and Italian. I can get by in Spanish. If you were in the A form – as I was – Latin was obligatory and French for almost everybody, but because I wanted to do German I had to wait until I was in the sixth form and do a crash course.

I never had a cookery lesson. When I got married ,I had no idea why potatoes, meat and veg all put on at the same time didn’t work. At first, I used to say to my husband, “Can’t we go out?” He said, “Not forever!”

Sandra Dryer (née McKay), 1954

I was a terrible teenager, I did nothing at school. I wasted my time there but, when I was forty, I went to study. I did a degree, went on to do a Masters, and I tutored at a Sixth Form College where I became the Head of the Department of Theatre Arts.

Elspeth Parris, 1967-1972

The school was a very good place for me to have gone to. I really did need the Headmistress, especially Mrs Dunford’s attitude to people, but educationally – in terms of academic stuff – it wasn’t actually that good for me. I was very much science-based and in those days it was assumed that if you were going to a good university, and I had the scholarship to go to a good university, that you had Latin. You had to have Latin to get into Oxford or Cambridge. Latin was a direct clash in the timetable with Physics, so I couldn’t do Physics. I eventually did Physics totally from scratch at university as a mature student.

However, the attitude to us as people – for a child as troubled as I was – was really what I needed. It gave me the chance at some kind of self-esteem. But academically, it really didn’t work for me. I eventually got to university much, much later and did Maths when I was thirty but my health collapsed and I wasn’t able to finish it. But the school’s ethos, that people matter, brought me back and I went on and did Social Work at university. Then, about four years ago, I trained for the church to be a Lay Minister within the Church in Wales. I eventually got a degree from the Open University. Currently, due to ill health I am unable to work, so have decided to lead a very simply life which gives me time to reflect on how I may serve the world, something I have always wanted to do.

Lesley Young (née Pratt), 1969-1974, wearing her school scarf, beret and badges

Pat Baker (née Vanderstenn), 1952-1958

I loved school but I hated my junior school in East Ham because the teacher wouldn’t mark my work as I didn’t have very nice handwriting. At Central Foundation School, nobody took any notice of that. I stayed on and went into the secretarial sixth form with Miss Heath, the first year she was at the school. She was good, she got us all jobs. She sent us to an employment agency off Moorgate where she knew the lady who owned it. We all got a job from that. Eventually, I worked at BP and I loved it there.

Gillian Weinberg (née Taler)

Jacky Chase (née Francom), 1971-1978

The things I remember most are the things they took us out to do – all the extracurricular activities, like the sport. I remember getting on the coach to go out to Buckhurst Hill for athletics and to the pool for swimming. The fact that, even though we were in the middle of a big city, they made provision for you was amazing.

Then the school trips – I remember going to Switzerland skiing and that was the first time I had ever been out of the country. To go with school friends, and teachers, and the have such a fabulous time was wonderful. To be able to experience other cultures and to be able to use some of our French, which we never thought we would have been able to do.

It was just everything that went with it, an all-round education – it wasn’t just academic stuff, it was everything else that we had the chance to see and do. We were taken to ballets, theatre and  the opera. The chance to experience all that was just brilliant.

Joanne Veness, 1971-1976

I left just before my fifteenth birthday having taken my O levels and thinking that I had everything I needed to know about the world. I realise that I was very privileged to have had the education that I did. I didn’t make the most of it though. I remember most the camaraderie that we girls had, which continues on to this day. We still meet every three months or so and all the memories come out. If you’ve forgotten, there is someone who reminds you. Things like the big green knickers we wore for sports and being sick at the end of having tried to run the 800 metres.  I am delighted and privileged to have gone to the school.

Miss Audrey Leary (Teacher of French, Spanish and a little bit of History for Nellie Holt)

I came to London from Ipswich in the early sixties. My History wasn’t very good, but I decided to do the Norman period and thought it would be a wonderful idea if the girls did a newspaper about the landing of the Normans. It was an absolutely awful idea but Nellie the Head of History let me do it – this would have been in 1961.

I went with the school when it went it moved in 1975. Elaine (Dunford) did a fabulous job of combining the two schools and we, the staff, got on so well together that it was a good experience all around. I was very apprehensive about coming today. I thought nobody would remember me and I wouldn’t recognise anybody, but one girl said, “Come over here and sit with us.” You were a lovely bunch of girls.

(Note: Miss Nellie Holt was a beloved Head of History, she was clever,  funny and – true to say – a little eccentric.)

Reunion of 2014

In the Prefect’s Room , Christmas 1958

16th September, 1966

In the Prefect’s Room, Christmas 1958

Letter from Headmistress Elaine Dunford to a pupil upon the death of their mother

Bev, Sue & George in the Prefect’s Room, Christmas, 1958

Photo taken on the day of the closing of Central Foundation School in Spital Sq 1975

Photographs copyright © Patricia Niven

The Bishopsgate Institute is collecting a digital archive of memorabilia from Central Foundation School for Girls. If you have photographs, reports, magazines or any other material that the Institute can copy for the archive, please contact the Archivist   Stefan.Dickers@bishopsgate.org.uk

You may also like to read about

At The Central Foundation School for Girls in Spital Sq

The First Reunion of the Central Foundation School for Girls

29 Responses leave one →
  1. May 25, 2014

    Wonderful, thank you.

  2. May 25, 2014

    Those were the times — where have they all departed? The “old” lasses are forceful personalities and have all my deep respect…

    Excellent to read the older stories too!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  3. Susan Goldman permalink
    May 25, 2014

    Another great post. Thank you Gentle Author. I love the photo of Lesley with her scarf and beret, brings back so many memories of the time spent at our excellent school.

  4. Adele Schlazer Lester permalink
    May 25, 2014

    So many memories, and great seeing names put to faces.. Thank you, GA, for your continued interest in our school. The building may be all but gone, but the heart of the school lives on in the stories and memories.

  5. Beryl Happe permalink
    May 25, 2014

    Another triumph Gentle Author, excellent pictures from Patricia too.

  6. June Nash (nee Norris) permalink
    May 25, 2014

    Great once again, but an awful report printed, in my defence, it was when my mum was ill, hence the letter from Mrs Dunford.
    It was good to see the old school hall again, and meet some “old girls”, but sadly, only 5 of us from my year, so maybe next year ?

  7. David Cantor permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Interesting to see the Principle of Physics book after such a long time. Mr Nelkon used to teach us physics at William Ellis School, he also ran the inter-house boxing contest. Lovely man who seemed to pronounce his ‘g’s like a ‘k’.

  8. Lesley Young permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Just to say that I went to Central Foundation from 1969 – 1974 – I was only 5 in 1963.

  9. Barbara Goldstein permalink
    June 5, 2014

    I only went to Spital Square for a short while as we moved to Harrow when I was in the second year. I travelled every day for about a year from Harrow to Liverpool Street but then had to transfer to a school in Harrow. I always wanted to go to SS and I absolutely loved it. Seeing photos of the uniform brings a lump in my throat as I remember my time there – 1955-57.

  10. Judy Keiner permalink
    June 15, 2014

    I used to sit next to Sandra Dyer, nee McKay, in forms 2-5. I remember her being always immaculately turned out and not a time waster– but she was a style queen and a jive maven, while I was hopeless in all of those departments…..

  11. Sue Burton (nee Rush) permalink
    June 22, 2014

    Such wonderful memories, thank you so much. I went there from 1964, seems an age ago now

  12. Gillian Bennet (Nee Cousins) permalink
    July 18, 2014

    Would love to hear from anyone 1947 – 1954 who was in commercial sixth with Miss Day and who remembers me. Perhaps Maureen Hunwick, Evelyn Hayhowe and especially Pat Harrison.
    Best wishes, Gillian

  13. jean goodwin I was ar ss from1946-1953 i remember Evelyn Hayhowe permalink
    November 11, 2014

    I would like to hear from you I am not sure if I remember your name.I remember Sylvia Bendon and Iris Lane

  14. Jane Silvester permalink
    January 14, 2015

    I attended the school from 1958-1963. It was lovely to see all the photographs, reports and read the memories of former pupils.

  15. Jean MacKenzie nee Wastell permalink
    February 21, 2015

    I was at CFS from 1942 – 1947 a nd had to go to Ely when I first joined as the school had been evacuated there. I live in the North West Highlands of Scotland so cannot get to London as often as I would like, but in 2010 I met two of my school pals and we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant which in my day was the Assembly Hall. Happy Memories!

  16. Gill McManus (nee Fowler) permalink
    March 14, 2015

    Re: Central Foundation Grammar School for Girls. Reunion 2014.
    I have loved reading all the comments from the ‘old’ girls and looking at the pics taken at the 2014 reunion. As I am not a devotee of Facebook, would it possible to let me know when this year’s reunion is scheduled for? I would love to attend! I was at the school 1966 – 1971.
    Many thanks, Gill

  17. Penny Hooker (nee Long) permalink
    August 17, 2015

    I am very sad to hear of the passing of Mrs. Dunford. I’m afraid I wasn’t one of Central Foundations star pupils but never the less I was really proud to tell everyone that I went to Central Foundation School for Girls. My three friends at school were Margaret Webberley, who is still my close friend and Jeannette Clark and Lorna who both of whom I lost touch with. We were what you would have called in those days, naughty children. We were all suspended for two days once for not wearing our berets in the lunch hour. How ever we did still enjoy a good education and I went on to own my own business for 35yrs. I am semi retired now and I have been married for 45yrs.
    I remember Miss Leary, who taught us French and I remember Miss Holt. I also remember very well Miss York and I hope she is at the memorial service for Mrs. Dunford. My favourite teacher though was Miss Glynn who as well as being our form mistress was also our English Teacher. She was absolutely lovely.
    Penny Hooker (nee long)

  18. Mandy Lee permalink
    September 24, 2015

    I remember my days at CFS with great fondness. It was a tragedy when it closed & became comprehensive – it marked the end of a great school.

  19. Hana Kovler nee Sholaim permalink
    December 18, 2015

    Hana Kovler nee Sholaim
    December 18, 2015

    June Turena – I remember you and the incident when Miss Wake was locked in the classroom! I still talk about it today!
    How are you all? I remember you too Barbara Marling – you and your best friend were mad on Marc Bolan if I recall correctly.
    Hi too to Stephanie Morris, Barbara Jezewska and Verinda. I was never good at keeping in touch but am sentimental. I wish I had kept in touch because I do believe we had a special bond and sense of identity under Mrs Dunford’s leadership. She was unique and I believe influenced all of us. I was so sorry to hear that she had died.
    Please can you let me know of any reunions – would love to meet and catch up with you all. Ps You can catch me on Facebook.

  20. Anita Smyth nee Hewlett permalink
    December 31, 2015

    I attended CFS from 1958-1963 and have very many happy memories and am fortunate that am still in contact with some school friends, Linda Marshall and Valerie Smith.
    My favourite teacher was Miss Glynn, who I remember reading to us Treasure Island one winter afternoon with the blinds down to create a eerie atmosphere. I was quite scared of Miss York until she helped me clean my skirt after I sat on an inkwell, I was allowed to wear my non school skirt as I was going for an interview. From that day on she was very helpful and considerate to me.
    My parents paid for me to have elocution lessons which I shared with my friend, Elaine Barr.
    I was very fortunate to attend CFS although probably did not realise at the time but in hindsight it gave me confidence for later life.

  21. Janis Edwards (now Morrison) permalink
    January 13, 2016

    What a trip down memory lane. I remember you vividly Penny Long – and you dating Stanley Hooker the porter from the market! Remember gossiping about our nights out down the ‘Royal’ at the weekends? And you showing us all how to put our hair up in curls. So you have been married for 45 years how wonderful. I was best friends with the two Lindas Reid and Wallace, and have sadly lost touch with both of them. Remember Miss Glynn with great affection, but a bit bewildered that everyone has such fond memories of Mrs Dunford! Always thought she was very vain and self obsessed. When I left after O levels – a financial decision as my family needed a bit of help – I went in to say goodbye to her on my last day and she never even looked up from what she was doing. I was so upset!
    I live in Harrow, and have owned my own business for the past 30 years, I am a set and costume designer and prop maker and still working. Despite being made to give up Art in the 4th year, as it was I think looked on as a bit of a waste of time. Only thing I really enjoyed and caused a bit of a run in with Mrs Dunford at the time with my Mum coming in to plead my case – so maybe that’s what she was still annoyed about. Anyway thanks to all of you for your fab memories, and I have a Facebook – my name Janis Morrison – so glad to hear from anyone anytime. Best wishes to you all.

  22. linsey block nee paulding permalink
    February 16, 2016

    I attended CFS from ’74 and was one of the girls who, like Mandy Lee (see earlier post), had to make the transition to the dreaded comprehensive from Grammar. We had all passed our 11 plus to get into the school and we had it impressed upon us that even though we were to join Bow Girls at the new site in Mile Ends Tredegar Sq, we were still to be given a grammar education. Hence Mrs Dunford saying”no home economics for us”. Strange because I vividly remember having an argument with a sewing teacher whilst at Spital Sq.- so we must have had needlework at some point.
    I remember the kit that we all had to carry whilst at Spital square including 2 yellow dusters (1 for the board and 1 for the desk), and of having to stand when a teacher entered and left the room (the girl nearest the door had to jump up and open the door for any teacher going out)
    Ahh, bottle green zipped tunics ( constantly being zipped down as fusties), walking on the left? (left or right can’t quite remember, perhaps that’s why I was always petrified of being shouted at by Mrs D) in corridors and on the big ornate stairs of Spital sq.
    A big hi to all the girls of my year Elanine Tidiman, Kim McMurray, Gloria Spielman, Mandy and Maylin Lee, Lorna Vigil, and Susan Morton to name but a few.
    please post the date of the next reunion – I would love to come.
    Spe Labore Fide

  23. Joy Guy (nee Dowley). permalink
    August 14, 2016

    What a fascinating website to discover! Several names I recognise from my own time at CFS (1953-1961) and so many people expressing memories and emotions similar to mine. Like others, I’ve realised over the years what a valuable experience we were offered?
    I haven’t yet seen any reference to “Aggie” Anderson, one of the colourful members of staff, her firm control of hockey pitches in various public parks and old fashioned (even in the eyes of her younger assistant teacher) terminology in the gym.
    Does anyone else remember the stifled giggles ( among the younger staff as well as girls) in assembly in the year of fully circular skirts, when Miss Roberts complained about the selfishness of wearing ‘stiff voluminous petticoats’ in a building where space was limited?
    Are there more reunions planned? I’d love to know if so, as well as to get in touch directly with Beryl Lux (Beryl, we last saw each other in the Institute of Education…do you have news of anyone else in our group?) Audrey Scott (we met some years ago in Andover, Audrey; are you still there?) and others from the same years at school. Is there a way to make contact within the terms of privacy?

  24. November 7, 2016

    I have loved reading all the comments but only Anita Hewlett was a classmate. I still keep in touch with Jane Sylvester , as was, and Carole East. We were all in the same class together. All the teachers were very familiar, Miss Glynn especially as she was so kind to me when I came to a reunion. Mrs Dunford who let me sit in her office by the fire when I came back frozen and traumatised from an interview at Goldsmiths College. Unfortunately Miss Leary was so soft and kind she came in from some teasing especially our group led by Christine Seash. Don’t think anyone ever teased Miss Grey !! Miss Tobasnik was another favourite and we all piled into the Synagogue for her wedding which was educational as well as a treat. I have been told I have an outstanding memory for detail and could recall hundreds of incidents.
    Such a crying shame our school was turned into a Comprehensive. Wasn’t surprised about the move as the site must have been worth a small fortune !!

  25. Helen Gilles (Gritzman) permalink
    May 26, 2017

    Thank you for recalling such a very special time in our lives. We all think life was better in our younger days, but we Old Girls know that it was true,

  26. May 26, 2017

    Remember Penny and Janis. I attended CFS from 1962-1968. I came from another school and had to wear their uniform for a little while which was navy blue and used to stick out like a sore thumb until I got the bottle green uniform. I loved the style of our uniform but hated the beret. Used to have to walk past Robert Montefiore Secondary School so had to hide my beret as I used to be mocked when I walked by lol. Loved our school. Have very fond memories of how beautiful the old school was. So disgusted it was demolished. I used to live in Leyton and I had a bus pass but it used to take me forever to get to school because of the traffic down Lea Bridge Road. My mum couldn’t afford to buy me a tube pass which would have taken me about 15 mins! I ended up in the secretarial sixth with Miss Heath.

  27. Miriam McDowell (was Frost) permalink
    June 11, 2017

    Hi i was at CFGS 1966-72. Started in 1G with Miss Glynn. Very fond memories of her. Also went into secretarial 6th with Miss Heath rememberung her going into the market to get trays of strawberries for us all to take to Wimbledon. Also went on school cruise which was brilliant. I think I remember Gillian Fowler but doesn’t seem to be anyone else from around my time. Would love to hear from any old friend’s.

  28. Carol Harper nee Wood permalink
    June 19, 2017

    Thankyou for sharing memories I was at CFGS from 1964 till 1971 I was in the school swimming team. I remember Miss Davey and Miss Davis who were the sport teachers one of them the latter I think fenced for England . They also ran a school Mediterranean cruise which I went on it cost £64 and that included spending money. So many great memories . Did anyone have elocution lessons .I remember the poems even now . Would love to hear from any old friends .

  29. Janet Wheqtley (formerly Evans. permalink
    August 30, 2017

    I was at CFS from 1945 until 1952, Miss West was the headmistress. I went in to the Lower third – there was a junior section in those days. I wonder if anyone will remember me? I remember the name of a lot of the girls, but have never been in contact with anyone. I have been to Galvin La Chapelle, and found it very emotional. I have some photographs of the play Quality Street which we performed in the boys’ school.

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