North’s Headmistresses

A recurring comment made to us on the CXXV project has been how few headteachers the school has had in its 125-year history, just eight. However, we can now appreciate that the school actually had five more heads between 1894 and 1965. These were in the Infants which was a separate department to North Street Junior School, and together they formed North Street Board or Council School.  The two were only amalgamated in 1965 when the last Infant head teacher retired. While John Harper was head teacher in the Junior School, Georgina Newman was in the Infants, followed by Miss Peachy who remained head until just before Captain Twyman retired in 1932. While Edwin Chisnall managed the Juniors in the 1930s and 1940s, Miss Weatherall, Miss Kernan and Mrs Flood led the Infants. Mrs Flood stayed until 1965 and then John Bezzant took over a merged North County Primary School.

“The Infant department opened at 9 a.m. with 101 children and 103 in the afternoon. The headmistress was Georgina Newman.” John Harper, November 1894.

Detail of North Street Board School. Image credit Essex County Standard 1895 

 

Georgina Newman qualified as a teacher in Bristol before moving to Colchester in the late 1880s. She worked in other local schools before her appointment as head at North Street Infants.  The school, which was on the same site as today’s nursery and infant premises, had a hall, 4 rooms, a cloakroom and its own entrance.    

It was a busy school right from the start with the number of children attending rising steadily over the first year.  By Christmas 1894, 174 children attended each morning and afternoon session and by April 1895 this had increased to 244 children in each session.  In May, Georgina Newman requested additional staff from the Education Board and Miss Kate  Peachey joined the Infant department later that month.

Miss Newman remained head of the Infants during several spells of ill health. In October 1912, she was taken ill at school and “was removed, stricken and unconscious to her home during the afternoon, apparently in a dying condition.”  She did return to work but after another spell of illness she died at the end of 1919.  The school was closed on 5 January 1920 for her funeral.

Kate Peachey took up the reins in the Infants.  She trained in Bishops Stortford but lived just round the corner from the school on North Station Road from the 1920s.  In 1922 the school was inspected and the teaching judged to be “careful and conscientious” although some children were “restless and fidgety” and “not sufficiently busy or interested in what they were doing”.   Other staff in the Infants were Miss Byrne and Miss Stewart in the nursery and reception classes, Miss Wray and Miss Peachey in the equivalent to year 1 and 2 classes.  Kate remained at North Street Infants until 1931 when she retired due to ill-health. 

Constance Weatherall was the next headteacher of the Infants during the 1930s. During this period the infant department was remodelled and improved from its “4 very small classrooms, a main room and a very poor cloakroom”.   Its was suggested that the only economical way to improve the provision was to rebuild and plans were submitted that featured new cloakrooms and toilets, a corridor separating the hall and 3 classrooms, dedicated nursery cloakrooms, kitchen and a head teachers office.  Permission was given and the Infant department moved temporarily to nearby St Paul’s Parish Halls in October 1938 during the rebuild, returning in September 1939.

Around this time, Miss Kernan replaced Constance Weatherall and continued until Mrs Flood became head of the Infants in 1947.  In March 1949, the Infants was inspected again and Mr. Roberts, H.M. Inspector, recommended the school as a good school to visit to observe modern methods of teaching Infants.  

Infant staff, L-R: Miss Howchin, Miss Underwood, Miss Stewart

The Infant team remained remarkably unchanged for many years with Mrs Betty Tricker, Miss Stewart and Miss Crowhurst (who became Mrs Duncan as head of the Infants) all staying for many years.

Mrs Flood had her office in the corner of the Infant Hall and former pupils remember going to visit her in the room for sweets on their birthdays, one for each year of your age.

The whole school attended the retirement presentation for Mrs. Flood in July 1965, and the junior and infant schools ceased to exist as separate units and became the North County Primary School, Colchester. 30 years later in 1995, Sharon Sciachettano became the first head mistress of the whole school.