QE Crediton High School for Girls: 1910 - 1963

"My mother remembered how delighted everyone was that a new High School for Girls had been built in Crediton (1911)..." Elizabeth Osmond (nee Friend)

Like many other towns in England, there was little provision for the education of girls in Crediton before 1900. Some small charity schools supplemented the elementary education available at Haywards, but domestic service or marriage remained the major options for young women.

It is therefore both surprising and noteworthy that with the assistance of a generous grant from Haywards Charitable Trust a brand new secondary school for girls was opened in 1910 on land adjacent to the boys' grammar school. The splendid red-brick building (now QECC's West Wing) contained a mix of specialist and general classrooms; outside there were netball courts, a hockey pitch, an outdoor theatre and various garden/orchard areas. In the early years there was a Kindergarten department which took both boys and girls until age 11. After that, the girls were organized into academic and vocational streams, with a sixth form later developed for post sixteen students. The uniform, ethos and organization of the High School may have been influenced by the boy’s grammar school, but there was no attempt to strengthen ties despite their proximity – both schools valuing their independence and history.

I started school in the Kindergarten department when about six years old, which was in a large wooden hut beyond the netball court.............Main school followed when I was eleven in Sept. 1944. One memory is of our Pre School Certificate outing to Ladram Bay in July 1949. Oh those pebbles! ........Returning to subjects, all Maths were my "bête noir" much to Miss Woods' exasperation. Geography, Biology and Art were among my favourites. Swimming lessons were of course held in the Grammar School pool. We were strictly marshalled over there; it was rare to catch a glimpse of any boy!

Elizabeth Osmond (nee Friend), writing of her schooldays in the 1940's – from a collection "Memories of Crediton High School" compiled for the 2010 reunion.

After the second world war, the Girls' High School went from strength to strength, gaining a reputation for academic and sporting success. Girls began to move on to universities throughout the UK and into many professions. In 1949, a team from Crediton Girls High School won the "Top of the Form" national radio competition for England. In 1955, a new classroom block was opened with spaces for pottery, art and other creative activities(now the Art block at QECC); later a new canteen and dining hall were added(now the Asdan/Outdoor Ed. Block). More co-operation was encouraged with the grammar school; there were joint school productions, shared use of resources(e.g. St. Lawrence Chapel which had been purchased by Mrs. Drake in 1924 and given to the Girls High School), some joint sixth form lessons as well as several dances and social events organized by staff and students. By 1966, the co-operation was so close that both schools merged to form Crediton Co-Educational Grammar School, which in turn merged with the Shelley school following comprehensive reorganization in 1973 to form Queen Elizabeth's Community College. Thus three distinctive and outstanding educational traditions were coalesced to continue "the more polished learning" that Edward V1 had declared as his ambition for the young people of Crediton and Mid-Devon back in 1547.

One of the most outstanding features of the Girls High School was the development of the Boarding provision which had been a feature of the boys' grammar school since the sixteenth century. The girls' boarding house was extremely well organized and furnished, with an excellent dormitory, refectory and social areas. The atmosphere within the boarding house is described beautifully by Tricia French(nee Patricia Scott) – a boarder at CHS from 1958-1963.

"I remember my very first day ........... There were grass tennis courts, an open air theatre with a beautiful sloping stage and a hockey pitch. There were vegetable gardens on either side of the path that led up to The Mount, one of the boarding houses that I lived in. It was a lovely environment to grow up in. Sara showed me how to fold my knickers in squares and my vests and shirts in rectangles. Our drawers would be inspected for tidiness.

I remember life being very orderly. Homework times were regular and supervised, meals were always at the same time and more or less the same menu. There were times when you could go into Crediton shopping.........Sundays were for Church in the morning.........When we reached the sixth form we were allowed to cook supper for ourselves........it was sheer bliss to have freshly cooked food – usually the scrambled egg we had in the school canteen was made from dried egg powder. Saturday evenings we had a film at the boys' school – Queen Elizabeths' was all boys then. Saturday afternoons would be spent preparing for it – and although I don't think we sat together exactly, we were in the vicinity of each other......We did also have dances together occasionally. And later on in the sixth form shared lessons...

Taken from "Memories of Crediton High School" 2010 – a full copy is held by the Crediton Area History and Museum Group.