Older women

6th October 1995 at 01:00
There was a great deal to be commended in Susannah Kirkman's admirable feature on Christ's Hospital (TES2, September 15). However, as current chair of the 1,500 strong Old Girls' Association, may I correct the inaccuracy that "girls were first admitted in 1985"?

Tradition has it that the very first child to be admitted to the foundation in 1552 was a girl, and we have been there ever since - albeit fewer in number (usually accounting for about one third of the total enrolment, although these days the balance is becoming more equal).

From the outset, all children, regardless of gender, enjoyed the benefits of the foundation but while the boys were educated for the professions or the sea, the girls were trained as needlewomen or for housewifely roles.

Although the ethos of Christ's Hospital has always applied equally both to its male and female children, historians of the girls' school have always complained that the girls were in the shadow of their more illustrious brothers.

The girls were accommodated and taught in separate buildings until 1904, when two separate schools were formed with the boys in Horsham and the girls in Hertford. The separation allowed for the appointments of dynamic and inspired headmistresses which, coupled with the change in the role of women and with their greater educational opportunities, have served to raise the profile of the girls' school in the past 90 years or so. Christ's Hospital girls in the latter part of the 20th century have enjoyed the same opportunities as their brothers.

The two schools merged again in Horsham in 1985, this time on a truly co-educational basis (although accommodation is still separate!).

KERREN SIMMONDS

(at Hertford 1957-1966)

48 Admirals Walk

Littlehampton

West Sussex

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