Saturday, 9 April 2011

Misses Baird and the Bees

More about Princess Alice and all her fabulous dwellings here!  In 1917 she and her sister Sybil were sent to a girls' school called St James in West Malvern.  

Malvern St James

Their mother had considered sending them to the more fashionable Heathfield, but was dissuaded by the clothing list for the girls:  white silk frocks and stockings, white satin pumps, etc.  In contrast, St James only required white cotton shirts, navy blue coats and skirts.

The school was an old Victorian house built by Lord Howard de Walden.  It was run by twin sisters, Alice and Diana, heads of the senior and junior houses, respectively.  The Baird twins were two of the five Baird spinsters, all eventually to serve as headmistress of the school and all very tall.   Princess Alice wrote that it was rumoured that all the Baird sisters laid end to end would measure the same as a cricket pitch, but that seems unlikely when one does the math.

Whilst at school, Alice and Sybil shared a room.  She remembered it as being cold to start and then there was apparently a rule about having to keep a window open  even in winter so that sometimes there was snow on the floor when they woke.  War-time shortages meant the classrooms were also cold and they were fed only rissoles.  She broke her tooth on a nail in the rissole at one meal.  Her brother Billy was a soldier in France and his letters home were almost entirely about food:  what package had been received and what he wanted sent.

The Misses Bairds main interest was in stilling a sense of 'citizenship' and apparently many of their graduates went on to have lives of public service.  Mind, over here being Royalty is consider to be a life of public service.

On their way to and fron school they would stay a night with their Grandmother Ida ("Guida") at Castle Bromwich, in Birmingham.  

Castle Bromwich Hall

It is an Elizabethan manor house now referred to Castle Bromwich Hall.  The present owner is apparently selling off the furniture in case you are interested.  No, that's wrong.  The present owner is in the furniture business; my mistake. 

There was a trick the girls used on the train that I'm considering how we might borrow.  When they went on the train they took a small cardboard box with the hole in it.  They found a car that was empty and when anyone else tried to join them, they would say nervously to each other "I hope the bees don't escape!"  This wouldn't of course work very well in the modern trains, but occasionally one gets lucky enough to find a Harry Potter styled car!


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