Norwich High School for Girls Extraordinary Women Project.
Pop-up exhibition and community call out.
The Assembly House Trust have been working in collaboration with The Freelance Creative for a new research project, culminating in an exhibition and drop-in event at Heritage Open Days.
Norwich High School for Girls was founded in 1875 by the Girls Public Day School Trust and was the first one of their schools outside London.
It was a fee-paying independent school created to provide good, affordable education for girls.
Although most the pupils lived with their families within walking distance of the school, some boarded with local families and relatives. Prior to school opening advertisements appeared in the Norfolk Chronicle (13.02 1875 and 20.02.1875) both asking for and offering accommodation for pupils.
When the school first opened, on 22 February 1875 it was situated in Churchman House St Giles and had 61 pupils aged 8+. The headmistress at that time was Ada Benson, she remained head for just 9 months before leaving in November to take up the Headship at school in Oxford High School.
Lucy Bagshot Wills then took over as Headteacher. As the popularity of the school increased the GPDSC purchased some of the Assembly House and the school moved here in 1877. By now the school had over 200 pupils.
In his book Norwich High School 1875-1950 P.R.Bodington said of this move “This change was of the upmost importance, not only because the larger building allowed steady expansion and development, but also because its character and beauty exercised an incalculable influence upon all who taught and studied there”.
In 1877 another important change also took place. The NHSG had always had its own internal exams but now pupils were to be entered for public exams -a move that would mean many would be able to gain entry places at university.
These first exams had to be taken in London and the school would arrange a special trip with the girls, of course, chaperoned.
To celebrate the exceptional women theme of Heritage open Days 2018 The Assembly House Trust launched a research project with members of the public to discover more about the exceptional women who taught at and attended this remarkable school. A school, it seems from the accounts that fostered lively, intelligent, confident, independent and strong women.
After a call-out to members of the public, the project unearthed suffragettes, war nurses, academics, missionaries, politicians and artists. Alongside the more famous alumni, like MP Dorothy Jewson, geologist Joyce Lambert and possibly nurse Edith Cavell, researchers found stories of ordinary women in Norwich, who did extraordinary things, concealed by the patriarchal society in which they lived. A society which prevented them from working once they married, suppressed their rights and their voices and passed them on into the obscurity of time.
The work of community researcher Sandi R-Urguhart, Chris Matthews and Anna Duckworth helped present some amazing tales and certainly some extraordinary women.