Sunday, 8 May 2016

Sunday, May 08, 2016 -

The Girls of Cropton Hall

by Stanlegh Meresith
Published: Apr 8, 2016
Words: 195,816
Category: school
Orientation: F/F
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1. How Molly Played a Part

Established in 1888 to educate the daughters of the upper and mercantile classes in the North of England, Cropton Hall Girls Boarding School was, in the early 1950's, suffering a reputation for poor academic standards. It had become increasingly dependent for its financial survival on enrolling girls of a troublesome disposition, including even some expelled from other schools.

The building itself had been purpose-built, a neo-gothic Victorian mansion on three floors, laid out in three wings. The extensive grounds provided ample playing fields and space for rambling nature walks in the surrounding woods. It had been these fine facilities, along with the no-nonsense Presbyterian values of its founders, that had seen the school flourish through the earlier decades of the twentieth century.

Catering for the 14 - 18 age-group, Cropton Hall had capacity for 180 girls, with three class groups in forms four and five as well as in the lower and upper Sixth. By the summer of 1953, however, the roll had fallen to just 95 girls and the governors were discussing, with great concern, the depleted finances and even the possibility of closure.

The Headmistress, a Mrs Weekes, had recently resigned at short notice, citing the impossibility of raising standards among what she described in her letter of resignation as "such poorly raised, poorly behaved girls". No doubt she had in mind the three recent incidents in the nearby village that had brought opprobrium on the school and led to two expulsions that could not in truth be afforded. That she herself had been perceived by many of the longer-established teaching staff as ineffectual and unable to impose an adequate disciplinary ethos led the Chair of Governors to summon the Deputy Head, Miss Edith Bainbridge, a buxom lady approaching 60, to an extraordinary meeting of the governing body on August 2nd.

"Edith, thank you so much for coming in during your holiday," began Sir Wilfred Althorp. He had been Chair for some years and, though quite elderly now, was well-liked and trusted by everyone associated with the school. His wife, Lady Althorp, an alumna of the school and fellow governor, sat to his left. "As you know," he continued, "Mrs Weekes resigned a week after the end of term leaving us in something of a pickle."

"Indeed, Sir Wilfred."

"We urgently need to appoint a new Headmistress and we felt that the right course of action would be to start by asking if you yourself would be willing to step into the breach, as it were. We are well aware..." He included with a gesture the other five governors round the oak table "...that matters have become dire within the school. I was so personally... deeply... embarrassed by the appalling behaviour in the village that I felt obliged to apologise to the Postmistress myself. It is paramount that we put a stop to this kind of thing, and that we rescue the reputation of Cropton Hall as a matter of urgency. Otherwise..." He shrugged.