01. The Calne Fates

The Calne FatesIn 2017 it was noticed that a rectangular block of stone, which had been largely overlooked in an area of the school grounds, had a hollow relief on one of its faces. Following this discovery, the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes undertook an investigation. After conservation and scientific analysis alongside historical research by a team of experts, the stone was identified as being Roman in origin, probably from the second half of the second century. Carved from a shelly limestone typical of the south Cotswold area, it has been possible to identify the quarry outside Corsham from which the stone came.
The relief has three standing female figures representing The Fates, whose mythology derives from the Greek Moirai. On the left is Klotho holding a distaff from which she spins the thread of life, in the centre Atropos holding the scales of equity in her right hand, and on the right Lachesis reading from a scroll which is the record of a life lived and now ended. A similar depiction of The Fates has been found on a stone altar in Altenstadt in Germany, and although they are seen in wall paintings and mosaics on the Continent, few others have been found in sculpture, making this a significant and exciting find. The sculpture may be from a grand tomb. Along one edge are markings, which could be an inscription, and with them a series of unexplained drilled holes. These may hold more clues as to the stone’s origin. Research is continuing but the sculpture seems to suggest a sophisticated culture in the society of central southern Britain with an interest in classical Greek iconography and myth.

The relief has three standing female figures representing The Fates, whose mythology derives from the Greek Moirai. On the left is Klotho holding a distaff from which she spins the thread of life, in the centre Atropos holding the scales of equity in her right hand, and on the right Lachesis reading from a scroll which is the record of a life lived and now ended. A similar depiction of The Fates has been found on a stone altar in Altenstadt in Germany, and although they are seen in wall paintings and mosaics on the Continent, few others have been found in sculpture, making this a significant and exciting find. The sculpture may be from a grand tomb. Along one edge are markings, which could be an inscription, and with them a series of unexplained drilled holes. These may hold more clues as to the stone’s origin. Research is continuing but the sculpture seems to suggest a sophisticated culture in the society of central southern Britain with an interest in classical Greek iconography and myth.

The relief has three standing female figures representing The Fates, whose mythology derives from the Greek Moirai. On the left is Klotho holding a distaff from which she spins the thread of life, in the centre Atropos holding the scales of equity in her right hand, and on the right Lachesis reading from a scroll which is the record of a life lived and now ended. A similar depiction of The Fates has been found on a stone altar in Altenstadt in Germany, and although they are seen in wall paintings and mosaics on the Continent, few others have been found in sculpture, making this a significant and exciting find. The sculpture may be from a grand tomb. Along one edge are markings, which could be an inscription, and with them a series of unexplained drilled holes. These may hold more clues as to the stone’s origin. Research is continuing but the sculpture seems to suggest a sophisticated culture in the society of central southern Britain with an interest in classical Greek iconography and myth.

The relief has three standing female figures representing The Fates, whose mythology derives from the Greek Moirai. On the left is Klotho holding a distaff from which she spins the thread of life, in the centre Atropos holding the scales of equity in her right hand, and on the right Lachesis reading from a scroll which is the record of a life lived and now ended. A similar depiction of The Fates has been found on a stone altar in Altenstadt in Germany, and although they are seen in wall paintings and mosaics on the Continent, few others have been found in sculpture, making this a significant and exciting find. The sculpture may be from a grand tomb. Along one edge are markings, which could be an inscription, and with them a series of unexplained drilled holes. These may hold more clues as to the stone’s origin. Research is continuing but the sculpture seems to suggest a sophisticated culture in the society of central southern Britain with an interest in classical Greek iconography and myth.

The relief has three standing female figures representing The Fates, whose mythology derives from the Greek Moirai. On the left is Klotho holding a distaff from which she spins the thread of life, in the centre Atropos holding the scales of equity in her right hand, and on the right Lachesis reading from a scroll which is the record of a life lived and now ended. A similar depiction of The Fates has been found on a stone altar in Altenstadt in Germany, and although they are seen in wall paintings and mosaics on the Continent, few others have been found in sculpture, making this a significant and exciting find. The sculpture may be from a grand tomb. Along one edge are markings, which could be an inscription, and with them a series of unexplained drilled holes. These may hold more clues as to the stone’s origin. Research is continuing but the sculpture seems to suggest a sophisticated culture in the society of central southern Britain with an interest in classical Greek iconography and myth.

02. Founders' plaque

In 1910, the last surviving founder of St Mary’s, Penelope Murray, died at her home in Bath. The following year the pupils and alumnae of the school erected a brass plaque in the school chapel which commemorated the three founders and benefactors: Canon John Duncan, Ellinor Gabriel and Penelope Murray. The plaque was transferred to the new chapel when it was built in 1972 in time for St Mary’s centenary the following year. 1911 was the final year of the headship of Florence Dyas. She had worked with all three founders during her twenty-two years at St Mary’s, as had her deputy, Miss Little.

03. First minute book

A modest leather-bound book provides one of the first windows into the early running of St Mary’s. Hand-written, most likely by Penelope Murray when she became superintendent of the school in 1879, the book draws retrospectively on records kept by her predecessor, Ellinor Gabriel. There is a brief account of the management of St Mary’s from its foundation in 1873 and a record of early property transfers and endowments. Detailed accounts show that a deficit each year was covered at first by Ellinor Gabriel and later by Penelope Murray. Staff names are recorded and the number of pupils, although not their names. Press articles on St Mary’s annual speech days feature and minutes from some meetings are included. External examiners’ report summaries are transcribed with mention of individual successes.

The document is of historical value to St Mary’s in its detail of how a small school was run at the end of the 1800s. We see salary levels for staff and the expenditure on stationery, books, piano tuners and school prizes. We know the subjects on the curriculum, that Shakespeare was studied in English and detailed map drawing was required in geography. A high standard in spelling, grammar and neatness was expected. Individual pupils are mentioned for their achievements, and recommendations are given by examiners on texts books and study techniques that might be adopted.

Penelope Murray retired in 1896 but maintained close contact with St Mary’s. Some of the continuing handwriting in the minute book appears to be hers while other script is probably Canon Duncan’s. The final entry is in 1909 a year after St Mary’s moved from its premises on The Green to its present site and the year before Mrs Murray’s death.

Penelope Murray retired in 1896 but maintained close contact with St Mary’s. Some of the continuing handwriting in the minute book appears to be hers while other script is probably Canon Duncan’s. The final entry is in 1909 a year after St Mary’s moved from its premises on The Green to its present site and the year before Mrs Murray’s death.

Penelope Murray retired in 1896 but maintained close contact with St Mary’s. Some of the continuing handwriting in the minute book appears to be hers while other script is probably Canon Duncan’s. The final entry is in 1909 a year after St Mary’s moved from its premises on The Green to its present site and the year before Mrs Murray’s death.

 

04. Early legal documents

Early legal documents

St Mary’s holds several legal documents relating to early property transfers undertaken by the school. When founded in 1873 the site of the school was on The Green near the church in Calne. By 1907 the school needed to expand and so moved to its current site. The first school house was a fine early 19th century stone house standing between others on the north side of The Green. Initially rented by the school from Ellinor Gabriel, in 1880 the freehold was sold to Canon Duncan for use as a school. Ten years later she bought two smaller adjoining houses which she gave to St Mary’s and a further house on the west side of the original building was bought and given to the school by Penelope Murray. Two further cottages in Castle Street were given to the school in 1907 by her son, the Rev. D. S. Murray, as an endowment for St Mary’s. They were sold in 1932.

These four houses of the first school provided class rooms, a chapel, kitchen, dining room, music room, office and dormitories. There was a small recreation area at the back. Moving in 1907 to a larger site with room to expand made a huge difference to the school and allowed it to take on additional boarders.

 

05. List of early pupils

ListWhen Miss Florence Dyas arrived as headmistress of St Mary’s in 1888 she recorded all the pupils who were at the school and she continued to add to the list year by year as new pupils came in. Despite being a small document, it is extremely useful as we have no formal school register before this time. Although there are mainly girls on the list, there are some young boys, often siblings of girls in the school. Many of the names are from families that were part of the fabric of Calne, the grocers, solicitors, stationers, bakers, butchers, cabinet makers, foundry owners and farmers. Beside some of the  names are small red crosses signifying the children that died in early life.

06. Sampler

A delicate and faded sampler was given to St Mary’s by Ruth Buckeridge, sister of Agnes, the girl who made it when she was a pupil at the school. It is possible to make out the writing as:

Agnes Buckeridge

1891 Aged 10

St Mary’s School Calne

Do not look upon the vessel

but upon that which it contains

Agnes, known as Aggie, was born on 28 June 1880, daughter of Albert and Agnes Buckeridge. An ancestor, John Buckeridge, had been a bishop in the 17th century and a chaplain to King James I. The family had a grocery and wine and spirit business in the centre of Calne and lived in a house adjacent to the shop. For some years St Mary’s rented this house from Agnes Buckeridge as a boarding house and then later bought it. Agnes had three sisters, two of whom were at school with her at St Mary’s, as were her four brothers for their early years. Her father was one of St Mary’s earliest trustees. Agnes later emigrated to Australia with her husband and their son, who became Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth and was knighted by the Queen. Agnes died in 1965.

07. Bishop's seal

A seal of John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury from 1885 to 1911. On 17 November 1889 the bishop visited St Mary’s church in Calne to conduct a confirmation service for the town. After the service he went to St Mary’s, which at that time was on the Green, and presented the school with a document that bears the seal, his signature John Sarum, and the biblical text, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it”, which became the motto of St Mary’s School. The school used the name Wordsworth for one of the dormitories in the old school.
St Mary’s was founded as a church school and had the support of the Diocese of Salisbury from its foundation. It received a financial contribution from the diocese when it looked to buy property on a new site in 1907 and the bishop attended the opening ceremony the following year. The Bishop of Salisbury acted as visitor to the school and for many years the Bishop of Sherborne was on the governing body of St Mary’s.

The school’s custom of naming dormitories and buildings after people connected with St Mary’s began in 1889. In addition to Wordsworth, other rooms in the first school were named Duncan, Gabriel and Dunstan. Calne parish church stands on the site of an ancient Saxon church at which Dunstan had officiated. An early archbishop of Canterbury, he was later canonised. One of the four houses which made up the school on the Green was known as St Faith’s and this name was later given to a boarding house that St Mary’s had for a time near the present school site.

08. Lime kiln

Standing between the main school buildings and the sixth form boarding houses is an industrial relic that indicates how the land was once used. The lime kiln has been a familiar feature of the grounds of St Mary’s for generations of pupils. It is now no longer open for the girls to climb but at one time pupils used it as a performance space and for relaxation.
Lime kiln, girls on top

Calne lies on a type of limestone made of petrified coral known for its richness in fossils. There were several small quarries around the town and four lime kilns are recorded of which the one in St Mary’s is the only surviving one. It is a listed building.

During the 19th century the area around the limekiln was a quarry. Extractions were used for building and agricultural purposes, burning limestone being one of the processes. Originally the quarry was divided by a north-south wall with the west side owned by Lord Lansdowne and the east by Dr Ogilvie who lived in Curzon House, now part of St Cecilia’s, one of the boarding houses. When Lord Lansdowne bought Ogilvie’s quarry in 1869 the wall was demolished and the combined quarries were known as Piece Quarry. Towards the latter half of the 19th century limestone extraction ceased and the quarry area was used for allotments. Arthur Dunne KC, one of St Mary’s governors, bought the land for the school in 1919 from Lord Lansdowne for £338 and it was turned into a games pitch, but the lime kiln remained. The sides of the quarry are still visible within the grounds and for many years an area behind the limekiln contained ponds which were used to collect biology specimens. Deemed unsafe the ground was filled in in the 1960s, planted with willow and balsam and grassed over for recreational use. The sixth form houses stand there today.

09. Prayer book

Morning chapel has been the focus of the start of the school day from St Mary’s foundation. Each day the headmistress would lead the service. In 1927, when Marcia Matthews was head of the school, the leaving girls gave a gift of a prayer book. In tooled leather with the lily crest on the cover, the book contains the school prayers written on parchment in illuminated writing. By the 1980s the prayer book was no longer in daily use but some of the prayers are still used today. In 1930 a matching book of general prayers was given to the school by the deputy headmistress, Miss Alexander. St Mary’s no longer has this book.

10. Diaries

St Mary’s has a set of hand-written, leather-bound diaries covering the period 1915 to 1960. The diaries were started when Marcia Matthews became headmistress and continued into the time of the following headmistress, Elizabeth Gibbins. In addition to the scribed text, many other items are included such as photos, letters, programmes, telegrams and newspaper cuttings. The pupils and staff present each term are listed. The diaries are an invaluable and vivid record of St Mary’s throughout this period.

The diaries were initially written by the deputy head of St Mary’s, Miss Alexander. On her retirement the following deputy, Miss Thouless, took over and later the head of music in the school, Barbara Nesbitt, was the author.

11. Dining room plaques

In November 1935 the foundation stone for a new assembly hall, dining room and kitchen was laid by Lady Lansdowne. Using reclaimed stone from the old Calne workhouse which the school had bought in 1934, when completed the building stood proudly above the lower grounds of the school.

One of St Mary’s early school houses had been given the name St Faith. The tradition continued with two further buildings named St Prisca and St Bridget. The headmistress, Marcia Matthews, wanted these three saints associated with the school to be represented in relief work on the face of the new building. However, the architecture of the assembly hall called for four plaques and as the hall would be extensively used for music, St Cecilia, the patron saint of church music, was included.

12. Sundial

To mark the millennium St Mary’s commissioned an interactive sundial. The design was driven by the physics and art departments of the school and was undertaken by a team of pupils, incorporating ideas from the junior school, St Margaret’s. The St Mary’s lily, the signatures of all the pupils and staff, and Calne’s town crest are depicted. Footsteps in brass of the headmistress, Carolyn Shaw, and of the pupil with the smallest feet, lead to the calendar stone in the centre. Historical designs showing events from each of the centuries of the previous millennium are etched in granite and marble plaques which radiate from the centre. The dial is located near the school theatre on an area that had been a rose garden for many decades, and nearby is a buried time capsule. The sundial was officially opened with a piece of music, Sol Gloria Mundi, especially written for the choir by one of the pupils.