Those who can, teach – 2

My great grandmother Sybil was also a teacher. We already knew that she met my great grandfather James when they were both teaching at a school in West Yorkshire but I did wonder how she had got into teaching and whether she was qualified to any national standard. In the previous post I wrote how James did his teacher training at the short-lived Kneller Hall Training College. I wonder how a young man, from a family of mill workers, who started his own career as a power loom weaver in Cheshire, came to be in Twickenham studying to be a teacher. I was even more surprised to find (according to the 1851 Census) that Sybil had moved away from her native Nottingham and was living in Kings Road, Chelsea at the age of 19!

Her name was on a list of young girls, together with a Lady Superintendent named Mrs Harries, who were all living at the same address “Whitelands”. A quick Google search identified the address as “Whitelands College”, one of the earliest colleges offering formal teacher training for young ladies and still flourishing as part of Roehampton University.

I have the History and Heritage Advisor of the University of Roehampton and the Archivist of Whitelands College to thank for the following information including Sybil’s college records.

Whitelands College was founded in 1841 by the National Society, and had its history in the desire of both the Church of England and the state to provide education for children of the working classes, in which England, apparently, lagged far behind many other European countries. It was not the first teacher training college in England, nor was it the first church of England training college. It was part of a growing number of colleges aimed at training teachers who would provide a reasonable standard of education for poor children.

Sybil arrived at the age of 18 in 1849. At that time the college was led and managed by Rev Harry Baber. He was joined in 1850 by Mrs Harries, the Lady Superintendent and shortly after by Miss Gillott, the first Governess. The subjects which the students learned to teach were some basic knowledge of history, geography, natural history and English grammar, with a heavy emphasis on religious studies, singing and all aspects of housekeeping!

This is the entry for Sybil in the College Record:

“Born at Snenton near Nottingham. Her father is a coal merchant & responsible for her payments. Educated for about 10 years in various private schools & afterwards engaged in teaching in a private school for a short time. Has been confirmed & is a communicant.”

I presume that Sybil left the college in 1851, after two years of study. I next know of her whereabouts in 1854!

All will be revealed (and it has a literary connection)………….

Those who can, teach – 1

I am leaving my travel tales for the time being to return to the family history.

After reading a post by Dr B of the “Buddha walks into a wine bar ……” blog (, my cousin and I decided to do some broader research on some of our interesting ancestors. She and I share one common thread and that is my grandma’s line (her great grandma).

We had been beavering away, starting to build our family tree, when I read a post by Dr B, encouraging family history researchers to fill in some background rather than simply adding more names and dates. Around the same time, I received an interesting email from someone I had contacted through Ancestry, who had my great grandfather in her husband’s family tree (albeit only at the margin). She sent me a copy of his obituary which turned out to contain information which was not only of interest to us but started to put some social context around him.

Great grandfather – for ease I will now call him James – was born in 1831 in Wilmslow, Cheshire. He spent most of his career in teaching, after training at Kneller Hall in Twickenham. This name rang a bell but I couldn’t remember why. A bit of research told me that, since 1857, it has been home to the Royal Military School of Music; that’s where I’d heard of it. But during a brief period in the early 1850s it was home to a short-lived, government-funded teacher training college.

The information we now have about the start of James’ teaching career is from “Kneller Hall; Looking Backward and Looking Forward” by Ed Harris of the Borough of Twickenham Local History Society.  Kneller Hall Teacher Training College opened in 1850.  It was named after Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), a society portrait painter, whose country seat it had once been. The government of the time wanted to give the most deprived children the chance of a basic education and decided to create schools which sought to turn the children into “able and employable citizens”. The teachers who were to be trained here were expected to teach in these schools after qualifying and provide vocational training for boys and girls. The Principal was Rev Dr Frederick Temple and his Deputy was Francis Turner Palgrave (he of the “Golden Treasury of English Poetry”.

From the start this venture was doomed to be an expensive failure because (and why does this not surprise me?) the government never delivered on its promise to create the network of District Pauper schools across the country. In fact, only half a dozen of these schools were started, so the new teachers went off to teach in workhouse schools, natioonal schools and prisons.  Some even went overseas to seek employment. Indeed, Dr Temple, who later went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury, was unable to say how many teachers had actually passed through the College.  So this ill-fated venture was over quite some time before the Royal Military School of Music was created. However it had equipped James for his career.

I wish I knew what took James from Cheshire to Twickenham to become a teacher. He was working as a power loom weaver in a cotton mill in 1851.  His father worked in the cotton industry as a “Beamer”,  watching over the machines on which cotton was woven and all James’ sisters worked in the cotton mills.  One of his younger brothers also became a schoolmaster and the other became a tailor.

We don’t know exactly when James emerged from Kneller Hall.  He may or may not have had an earlier position but, in 1855, he was appointed Headmaster at a National School in West Yorkshire.  That is significant firstly because of where it was and, secondly because it’s there that he met my great-grandmother Sybil!

More to follow ……….

Travels with myself

…… and other people

July is here and in a couple of weeks’ time I should be setting off to Italy for a cruise on the River Po. But this has been cancelled due to my still recovering arm and elbow. I rely so much on my arms to steady me because of my dodgy legs and, as I can’t fully extend my right arm, both I and my consultant agreed that this holiday was not for me. Or at least not this year.

My son then had the brilliant and kind idea of inviting me on holiday with him and his girlfriend. So, I am delighted that we shall be spending a week in Rome during August. And the five of us (including his girlfriend’s mother and father) will be staying in a swanky looking apartment right in the centre of the city.

This is the first time in many years that I will not be going on holiday alone. What started off as: “Well I’d better get used to the idea of holidays by myself” when my husband died, has become “Why would I ever want to go on holiday with somebody else?” I’m never lonely. If I meet friendly people I’m happy to talk to them and on a couple of holidays I’ve made some good friends. But I’m just as happy to sit on my own and read. I always choose holidays that include travel, whether that is touring or being based at a single place and having the option to go on days out and visits. I can do what I want, when I want.

Family holidays – well I’ve been there, done that, worn the t-shirt and washed the t-shirt too many times. I just like being on my own. I love people-watching. In the airport I like to guess who might be going on the same holiday as me and I always look to see what newspaper they are reading! I’m sometimes right and sometimes wrong and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by people.

After Thailand, the next country I visited was Kenya in 2007. This was the only time that I have been on a singles holiday. Bearing in mind that it was a Saga holiday it wasn’t exactly Club 18-30. There were about 12 women and 2 men (for some reason it seems that there are fewer men who travel alone) and we were all travelling alone. I suppose it’s more likely that you will strike up acquaintances when everyone is on their own but people with similar tastes and ideas still gravitated towards each other and you always wanted to get in the jeep with some people and not others.

As I’m still feeling a bit vulnerable I’m happy to let somebody else take charge this time. My only responsibility has been booking my train tickets to London and I have said that I’m happy to be taken wherever they choose or to be left behind at a cafe if I can’t keep up! I’m excited about visiting Rome for the first time and I’m truly looking forward to the holiday. But the independent part of my soul has got me making plans to visit to India again next February. All that remains to be booked are the flights.

Travels with myself – 3 Thailand

23rd – 28th June – Being lazy
And so my long holiday in Thailand began to draw to a rather lazy close. All the Saga trips had finished and we were left to our own devices. With my friends, I returned to the night market where we spent a lovely evening browsing the stalls. (I was fascinated by one woman who was repeatedly putting a fish through a mangle.) There was the inevitable break in Starbucks for a frappuccino and to make use of their air conditioning. I also spent some time exploring the tiny local stores outside the hotel and out beyond the shop which took care of our laundry, where we discovered a neat little cafe.

Another day I returned to the spa for an aromatherapy massage and a facial. The smell of the oils was wonderful and it was great to finish off with a cup of ginger tea. I was so relaxed and well balanced I felt 2 inches taller as I walked back to my room.  If possible, I always try to fit in at least one massage, while I am on holiday.  Some are just good; some are out of this world!  Later that day we watched England beat Ecuador 1-0 in the second round of the World cup.

We were almost at the end of the holiday when my two new friends and I went out on a trip, part of which now makes me feel very uncomfortable.  The first part of the trip was a visit to an elephant village and of course the experience included a ride. If I had known then what I know now about the treatment of elephants who carry tourists in these places, that place would not have been on my itinerary. So the least said about it the better.

Following that we went to visit a monkey village.  By contrast the monkeys had a totally free run of the small village which ran from a hilltop down to a stoney beach. They were everywhere pestering visitors for the bananas and sweetcorn that we were encouraged to buy before starting out. There were some sweet babies but there were also some fairly aggressive males. My usual combination of fear and fascination kicked in. I can’t stop looking at monkeys but I’d rather they left me alone!  Is that asking too much?  The village also had a number of temples, which were very much in the Chinese tradition rather than Thai.  They reminded me of the many temples I had seen in Borneo.











Our last full day involved mainly swimming and and further visit to the night market (and inevitably to Starbucks). On our final day I had hoped to swim but it rained heavily and, by the time the rain stopped, it was too late.  So I wasn’t able to break my record of 27 lengths in a day.  I enjoyed the drive back to Bangkok. I think that any new wild landscape is interesting and so it was good to see so much of the country before leaving. There was plenty of time to mooch around the airport and have quick bite to eat before enduring a departure lounge full of teenagers who spent their waiting time dancing inexplicably boring dances.

Once again I tracked my route over Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and then Europe before touching down in London just before 7a.m.

So, I was beginning to feel a bit of a seasoned traveller and, almost as soon as I arrived home, I started to look ahead to next year……..



Travels with myself – 3 Thailand

18th – 19th June 2006
Over the next couple of days I continued to hone my swimming skills and was reaching 20 lengths. That was not all at once I should add, it involved popping in and out of the pool for a rest and also chatting to the frog who still declined my offer to kiss him and turn him into a prince.

I also shared taxi to look at the shops and stalls at Cha-Am Beach which seemed to be Thailand’s equivalent of Blackpool with lots of tat and dreadful smelling food (just with squid and octopus rather than hot dogs). Added to this it rained all the time and it was incredibly hot and sticky. Then I had 30 minutes of heaven with a shoulder and neck massage back at the hotel. During the course of this my feet were washed and I was pounded all the way down my back my head and my face, then given a cup of ginger tea and a hot towel.

That evening it was my turn for the rickshaw ride. When we set off at 6pm it was still raining. We drove to the dock in Hua Hin where the fishing boats bring in their catches. There was very little activity there, just one boat getting ready to leave and a few women cleaning earlier catches. Then it was back on the bus to the railway station where rickshaws were waiting for us – one for each person. We rode through the town in a convoy through some very narrow back streets, then along some fairly major roads to a restaurant where we had a lovely meal. In fact it was so lovely that I will tell you exactly what we had!  First of all it was soup with pork, vegetables and glass noodles, then chicken wrapped in banana leaves with crispy noodles, rice with sweet and sour fish chicken and cashew nuts, crispy stir-fry pork and stir-fry vegetables, followed by fresh fruit and coffee.  By the end of the meal it had stopped raining, so our guide decided we should go back to the market.  Unfortunately the rain returned but still we all descended and walked through the night market. If we had been hungry, there was a fascinating array of food and drink!

Evening at the docks – Hua Hin


20th June 2006
It was time for another grand day out. We set off at 7:30, driving south for about 150 km. Our first stop was a temple on the coast and the first sight of it was a huge gold Buddha which local people had funded to mark the Queen’s 60th birthday.  We had to climb up a lot of steps to visit the temple which was built to mark the King’s 50th anniversary in 1996. From the temple we had about an hour’s drive to see the border with Myanmar. There was little to see other than a road disappearing over a hilltop. Then we went for lunch at Prachuap Khiri Khan, a small town on the coast. It is described as “a relaxed place; quite the antithesis of Hua Hin”. STA40145.JPG














Finally, on our way back to Cha-Am, we stopped to see a small enterprise making paper from pineapple leaves. We were allowed to try out part of the process – firstly spreading out the pulp over a frame and then taking the dried paper off the frame. I decided to buy some little gifts here because I thought it was an enterprise that really deserved supporting.

21st – 22nd June 2006
Having forgotten to use the insect spray on the previous day I was covered with big bites – in fact they were megabites! The day was spent mostly continuing to improvinng my swimming skills and taking my clothes to the laundry.

On the second day we had our last Saga trip which was, perhaps the least successful. We headed for a project, which had been started by the King, for farmers living on very poor land.  When we arrived we were unable to watch a slideshow about the project as the main building was being restored, so we set off to see a farm which is part of the project but there was no one there! Then off to a co-operative selling nuts, dried fruits and handbags made of sisal. Across the road was a school for children living in the project. Some classes were doing maths, some were reading and one was even doing fruit carving (much better than I achieved!). We had come armed with books and pencils as we are always encouraged to do by Saga. Then it was off to visit the most beautiful temple, via a roadside cafe selling wonderful desserts and iced coffee. The temple was a Khmer temple from the 12th century.


Our final visit of the day was to a Palace built by King Rama VI. It was designed by a German and was very obviously European.  The main thing of note was a huge banyan tree growing in the grounds. It appeared that several trunks had developed from the one original trunk and which have spread huge branches and shoots which have touched the ground and rooted. It was like walking into a small room but all from the one tree.















The route back to the hotel took us via Cha-Am beach which was not anymore prepossessing in its entire length in the sunshine than it was when we saw a little bit of it the other day!


Travels with myself – 3 Thailand

17th June 2006 – A day of mixed emotions
For we of the Saga generation, the building of the bridge over the River Kwai is a familiar part of history and we were grateful to have the opportunity to visit this site. After setting off at 7 a.m. we drove for 3 hours to reach Kanchanaburi where we first visited the memorial museum. This museum was created by a local monk in memory of the prisoners and it is housed in replica buildings like the original POW huts. Inside were items which had been used by the prisoners, together with some of their drawings and accounts of their terrible life in that camp. It was a sombre visit for all of us

We then boarded tiny boats and set off down the Kwai towards the bridge. The boats travelled so fast that they bounced over the water and we had to hang on to our sun hats. As we arrived at the bridge a train was passing over it. We then had a little time to visit the local memorial and walk some of the way over the bridge, while dodging onto small platforms whenever a train came by.

















We boarded our coach and drove through the countryside past small villages and farms. Lunch was at rather unusual restaurant, run by an American and organised with extreme precision (and good food!).

A short journey took us to a railway station where we got on the train and travelled for an hour and a half down the line and across the famous bridge. It was a beautiful journey with amazing scenery. In places we saw the river and then the distant hills, the forest and the farms. We got off at Kanchanaburi station and made a final stop to pay our respects at the war cemetery for English, Australian and Dutch soldiers..













Then a 3 hour journey back to the hotel just in time for dinner.

Travels by myself – 3 Thailand

14th June 2006 – A day which left me feeling frazzled
Today started with a visit to a Buddhist temple in Hua Hin. The monks were already eating their lunch. It seems that they are not allowed to begin their meal after 12 o’clock. There was also a school on the site and the small children were just settling down for a nap. Then it was on to the railway station to board the 11:38 train, which was only a few minutes late. The train was very crowded, with women passing up and down selling all kinds of food. We got off at Pran Buri station and our coach met us to take us to Pran Buri Village, where we walked a little and then had lunch at a small seafront restaurant.

Temple at Hua Hin












Pran Buri – This is one of the many displays we saw commemorating the King’s 60th anniversary



After lunch we drove to a river for a rather slippery climb down to some very small boats which took us sailing down the river for over an hour. I remember it seemed a long time because there was not a lot to see other than some egrets and a couple of monitor lizards. There was a little breeze but when it stopped we were left exposed to a burning sun so that by the time we climbed out of the boats we all felt frazzled and fried.

To make things worse, I was due at the village’s No 1 dressmakers for a dress fitting. Mr and Mrs King were leading local entrepreneurs. In their shop they sold beautiful materials, had a team of dressmakers and tailors and they did our laundry cheaper than at the hotel! I just made it.

That evening there was a Saga reception with free drinks and nibbles, which always brings all the Saga visitors together! Then there was dinner in the Bua Chompoo restaurant under James Bond movie on the telly!

15th – 16th June 2006
In a holiday of almost four weeks there have to be some days when there’s not much going on! However I was not entirely idle and on the first of these days I went to a vegetable carving demonstration. Under the guidance of one of the chefs I produced a flower from a tomato and another one from a piece of turnip. My teacher produced some fantastic creations. I promised myself that I would practice when I got home but I never have!

The next day there was a shopping trip. One of my new friends had arranged for a taxi to collect some of us to take us to the shopping village just half an hour’s journey away.  We could have almost been at home again because there was even a Tesco! I felt duty bound to look around to see if the products on sale were the same as they are at home. Some were but the stock was mostly local produce.

Tomorrow was going to be a big day, so there were no Scrabble games or TV watching that evening.


The “art” of vegetable carving!

Travels by myself – 3 Thailand

12th June 2006 – An episode of “Lost”?
I was rather less enthusiastic the next morning as I got up at 7 a.m. we left at 9 a.m. for something which was described as “trekking”.

We drove for about 2 hours stopping on the way to look at a pineapple farm followed shortly afterwards by the Dole factory where they process the pineapples. We drove into a national park and up towards a waterfall. A guide joined us and took us back to a lower car park. Some alarm bells rang! We set off through the jungle. I was with a group of people from other parts of the hotel, much younger and fitter looking than my companions in the Saga group. It started off quite gently, climbing up alongside the river. It got a bit rocky and steep as we walked alongside the river, then we had to cross it. We did this by clambering over rocks and along a tree trunk. It got much harder going as we criss-crossed the river. On  one crossing I waited too long to step and unbalanced, so I stepped right into the water. Well, at least one foot was nice and cool! The man behind me slipped and sat right down in the water and the man behind him decided to just wade across. Eventually we arrived at a bridge. Was it the end of the trek? No. And when the guide pointed out the tracks of a wild boar and we saw a pitch covered up with sticks and found a monkey carcase, I began to feel as if we were auditioning for an episode of “Lost” (a popular TV programme of the time about people who were stranded on an island when their plane crashed).I felt as if I could audition for the part of the little old lady who says: “Go on leave me behind, I’m old. At least you will all be safe”.  Eventually we could see a waterfall and, above the sound of the water came voices.  We had simply walked back to the first car park and the area was filling up with people who had taken the sensible decision to join the river there instead of doing it the hard way!

I gave up, exhausted, at the first waterfall. Some of the others made it to the second one and one couple made it to the third.  I was very pleased to look at their photographs but I had seen quite enough of the jungle for that day.

STA40097.JPG       STA40098.JPG






We returned (the short way) to our bus and we were taken to have some lunch which was very welcome. There were lots of butterflies there to some absolutely huge ones. I bought some beautiful handmade cards which will made from mulberry paper. So off we went downhill again. The road was uneven and full of potholes and our driver had to keep slowing down, sometimes almost to a standstill. Then we stopped at a small shop and on our way to visit a Karen village.  I bought some sweets and exercise books. These people were refugees from Myanmar, with the border still only 15 km away. They’ve settled and a small village has grown up.  But the houses looked very poorly maintained and the children we saw playing were poorly clothed. As I said on my visit to Borneo, I have mixed feelings about this visits but the children were happy with their books and, of course, the sweets.

I was in the pool within a few minutes of arriving back at the hotel and then I met my friendly ladies from the Midlands and we spent the evening together.

Half our group were doing “Hua Hin By Night”. Unfortunately for them it rained for much of the evening. I hoped that it would be a better night for us the following week when it was our turn.

13 June 2006
Time for a brief spell of laziness and relaxation during this very busy week. Another walk with my friends along the beach and then the black clouds came over.  I was caught by the eventual downpour while in the swimming pool and had to run inside. The TV continues to be constant coverage of the 60th anniversary celebrations!