Celebrating 120 years
Take a look at some archive pictures of Clarendon by clicking on either of the images below.
It will be 120 years since Clarendon was first formed in the same year that Monkton celebrates its 150th. The link between the two schools was always a strong one and culminated in a merger in 1992.
Clarendon School was started in a semi-detached house called Clarendon in North Malvern (pictured left) in January 1898 by Miss Amy Flint, assisted by her sisters, Annie and Mary. Apart from some time as pupil teachers, they had no teaching qualifications whatsoever. Seven boarders, aged between six and sixteen, were admitted. The Miss Flints' father had been a travelling preacher, their mother an invalid. The three sisters were of sterling Christian character and endowed with remarkable vitality and these qualities enabled the new school to prosper, thrive and grow. The Miss Flints were Great Aunts to Roger William James Young who attended Monkton Combe School in the 1950 /60s.
Miss Amy Flint was headmistress until 1930, by which time there were 46 pupils. More and more houses had been taken over to accommodate them all. In 1914 one of these houses, 'Little Clarendon', was established for the 8 - 11 year-olds (from 1938 housed in Westbury). In 1917 Miss Edith Swain (EG) joined the staff, and she was to take over as Clarendon's second head. Inspected by the Board of Education in 1932, the school was recognised as efficient.
The 2nd World War saw a growth in school numbers. Malvern was considered a safe haven from the Blitz. By 1947, the school had grown to 150, living in eleven different houses. Among these girls were several members of the Ethiopian Royal Family who had begun to arrive in 1938, and that link still continues. The end of the War focused Miss Swain's mind on the need for new premises. The school could not carry on efficiently in such a gaggle of buildings. Many large houses had become available, and after visiting several, and thanks to the generosity of Sir John Laing, Kinmel Hall, Abergele (pictured left) in Denbighshire was selected. Twenty Pickfords vans moved Clarendon there in April 1948 - the School's Golden Jubilee year.
1956 saw the setting up of the Clarendon School Trust, so that the school was no longer in private hands. For the Inspection of 1956, Miss Swain laid down the aim of the school as follows : 'Our ultimate aim and great desire is that girls leaving Clarendon shall go out into the world with a vital personal experience of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and as Master and shall become in due course Christian leaders in many spheres and the founders of Christian homes.'
Miss Swain retired in 1965 and Miss Sheila Haughton took her place. On September 29th 1975 fire swept through the centre of the main building. At the same time, a school in Bedfordshire, Hawnes House in Haynes Park (pictured left), had just gone bankrupt and its fine buildings became available. At the beginning of 1976, Clarendon moved for the third time. The move was providential, for at Abergele, the school was very much on the fringe when economic survival was becoming ever harder. A new headmistress took over, too, in the form of Miss Jean Howell. She was followed in 1990 by Mrs Marjorie Crane and finally by Mrs Molly Dawson in 1991.
With exclusively girls' schools becoming fewer and farther between and with boarding numbers declining, Clarendon's fourth and final move took place in 1992, when it merged with Monkton Combe School in Bath; a school which shared the same aims as Clarendon and held the Christian faith at its heart. Monkton was becoming fully co-educational that same year. So, Clarendon continues to flourish as a girls' boarding house at Monkton.
The Clarendon Merger
The early 1990s were a difficult time for small boarding schools. Smaller girls' schools were particularly at risk from falling numbers; smaller boys' or partly co-ed schools were not far behind. Mergers could be a way forward, and so it proved for Clarendon and Monkton Combe, which had been informally linked for many years. In June 1991, the Monkton Combe Chairman of Governors agreed to approach his opposite number at Clarendon about a possible merger, on exactly the same day that the Clarendon Chairman was writing to him with the same proposal! Another example of that divine providence which has punctuated Monkton Combe's story at critical times...
Over the summer, agreement was reached over the main principles of merger. An announcement was made at the beginning of the September term, and then an enormous amount of hard and detailed planning work began! A new Girls' Boarding House, Clarendon House, had to be designed and built; a merger committee discussed issues ranging from uniform (about which everyone, inevitably, had a view) to curriculum changes to changes in the School Rules; arrangements for girls (and some staff) to visit and to transfer had to be made. Then March 1992 brought a significant crisis: Clarendon would have to close at Easter, a term earlier than envisaged; there was a major doubt (later resolved) over the transfer of funds for the construction of Clarendon House; most of the girls would be coming a term earlier than expected. The merger team moved into overdrive and all was sufficiently ready (just) for the beginning of the Summer Term 1992.
Difficulties there may have been at the time - and pain, of course, for many Clarendon staff and pupils. However, over a longer perspective many have come to recognize the benefits: the strengthening of Monkton Combe's Christian ethos and coeducational practice; the support and prayer of so many former Clarendon staff and pupils; the balancing of Monkton Combe's motto with Clarendon's. Both mottos are engraved, so appropriately, on the glass entrance doors to the Chapel: Thy Word is Truth and Not to be Served but to Serve. What good twin themes for a Christian school......
Michael J Cuthbertson
Head Master, Monkton Combe School, 1990-2005
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