Introducing Meg Hinwood
This is the story of a working-class girl from Dover who exceeded her wildest dreams at the beginning of the 20th century of being able to go to University to train to be a teacher.
In her excitement and joy when studying in London for two years and embarking on a future career as a professional young woman Meg would continually buy postcards depicting life and scenes during her Goldsmiths’ College life.
These would be produced by a resident College photographer called Mr Wilkinson.
Meg would write notes on the back with her latest news and post them to her mother with instructions to put them in an album.
This was the early 20th century medium of email or Instagram.
A social news picture and text message.
Though at this time it needed a stamp bearing the portrait of King Edward VII and the auspices of the Post Office to carry it to its destination.
Meg was at University during a crucial period in the social history of Britain.
Suffragettes were taking direct action in the campaign to win the right to vote.
London was the capital of an imperialist world power boasting that it controlled one fifth of the world’s surface with racist subjugation of many other countries and peoples.
This was an age when the working classes were beginning to organise for better pay and conditions through trade unions, and Parliament through Liberal governments were laying the foundations of a Welfare state.
A disadvantaged and Working Class Background
Meg (Marguérite) Hinwood was brought up in her grandparents’ home in Dover by her widowed mother.
Her father, William Hinwood, was only 27 years old when he died in 1889- just two years after she had been born.
She was too young to properly remember him.
He had been an accountant’s clerk and Meg and her mother Anne had been devastated by what the local newspaper described as his ‘deeply regretted death.’
They had to leave their life in Malmesbury Wiltshire to move in with Anne’s parents in Dover.
Meg was brought up in the terraced house at number 30 Clarendon Road overlooking the port and only a few streets away from Dover Priory railway station. They called their home ‘Fern Bank.’
The house is still standing in this residential part of the town.
At the time of the 1901 census, this household was pretty crowded by modern standards and presided over by her 73 year old grandfather, James Oxenham, a retired soldier living on an Army pension.
The rooms were crammed with an extended family of strong characters including her matriarchal grandma Mary and a dynasty of formidable aunts including at that time 50 year old Charlotte, working in Dover as a drapers’ assistant.
The Oxenhams also rented out one of the rooms to army school mistress Edith Bell. Perhaps she inspired 13 year-old Meg Hinwood to consider teaching as a career.
She was only able to experience higher education because state schooling for children up to the age of 12 had become compulsory by 1899.
The school leaving age was being extended to 13 with plans to increase this to 14.
Local councils throughout Great Britain desperately needed thousands of more trained teachers to staff the expanding number of elementary schools being built, and support the development of secondary and grammar schools.
In 1968 Meg described how she discovered the existence of Goldsmiths and how getting to the College became a burning ambition of hers:
“In 1905 I happened to meet a student from Goldsmiths’ College, London. In a “casual” conversation he told me all about it; and I listened, dumbfounded with surprise!
He was describing what amounted to a revolutionary new life- a huge College, capable of training 500 students, and half of them MEN; with a University Staff teaching all the usual subjects, with laboratories for science, Music courses, choir, Glee Club, Drama, gymnasium, sports, Debating Society, Student Christian Movement, photography, art, Museum, and a large exceptionally good library. Oh! and there was a good indoor swimming pool.”
Meg was determined to win a scholarship and grant from Kent County Council to enrol at University of London, Goldsmiths’ College in New Cross. She explained: ‘The prospect of me sharing in such a life “went to my head.” I told no-one, but I decided this was the place for me- none of your C. of E Girls’ Colleges, some more like convents.’
Meg wrote off for all the particulars and said she worked with ‘uncommon zeal’ to get a good placing in the Teachers’ Scholarship Examination in 1907. In fact, she achieved three distinctions, the most anyone achieved in Dover, and was offered a place with allocation to the Kent Hostel at number 37 Granville Park Road, Lewisham for accommodation.
This was part of the dream. Goldsmiths was a Day Training College, most of the students coming from London, but also specially training student teachers from Surrey and Kent who were able to live in hostels funded by their respective County Councils.
Dinners were provided, costing one shilling and six old pence and served in the College’s large dining hall. Meg would be so grateful she would actually include a photograph of the cooks in her remarkable album.
Realising the dream- arriving at Goldsmiths
It could be said that Goldsmiths’ College was Meg Hinwood’s ‘Hogwarts’ and ‘Shangrila’ combined.
She would learn to swim in the Art Nouveau timber-framed swimming pool with large naval porthole style windows which would allow the sun to stream in during hot weather.
The changing rooms line the pool either side with two balconies for spectators and sloping windows letting in more light.
She would gleefully join and participate in the Glee Club.
This was a singing group in a college or university which was less formal than a choir set up to perform hymns or classical music.
The Glee Glub would have fun learning and performing snappy songs which could be more folk-based, contemporary and popular.
Meg was also a committed and active member of the Student Christian Movement- known as S.C.M.
Goldsmiths would fulfil her dreams of a professional life and give her confidence and horizons that transcended the class system and economic hardship.
The College was in its third year of existence as the country’s biggest teacher ‘Training Department.’
It was operating in the impressive building in Lewisham Way that had previously been the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute and before that the Royal Naval School New Cross.
All these institutions had philanthropic aims and purposes. The Institute had been created and run between 1891 and 1904 to meet the demand of London’s working class population to better themselves.
The Goldsmiths’ Company handed over the Institute to London University in 1904 to establish a university college in south London.
But instead of setting up a University of London College in south London to match King’s College or University College, the University decided to concoct something rather different: a ‘unique’ combination of the Institute’s successful Art School, and a teacher training Department with adult education at night thrown in.
Nobody had tried this before and nobody has tried this since…perhaps for the rather obvious reason the ambition here was too challenging and difficult.
The funding was precarious and various.
The concept complicated and difficult to understand.
The future would be exciting and a constant journey of survival.
Nothing has really changed.
London County Council pledged to finance the Art School. Teacher training would come from grants by LCC and surrounding County Councils such as Kent, Surrey, and Middlesex.
Meg Hinwood’s joy starting Goldsmiths’ College in 1907- Beginning the first ‘Junior year’
In September 1907 after her first week at Goldsmiths, Meg sent her first postcard home.
It was a picture of the Kent Hostel in Lewisham. She told her mother:
“I will write a long letter on Saturday. No time now. I am having a simply lovely time here. At College I am in Group A, the top class. Lovely lectures. Am learning all kinds of things. Have met several people I know here from Dover to speak to. Noone particular. The girls are so nice. I share a room with M. [Mary] Fuller and C. [Charlotte] Batters. It is marked in the photo. 4 houses constitute the hostel. I have heaps and heaps to tell you. I never shed a tear after I left Dover. The food is great. The girls in my class are very clever. I feel an absolute dunce. We assemble every morning in the Great Hall. Dr. White plays the organ. The Warden is a fine man.”
Sixty years later Meg recalled:
‘That first evening I joined other girls from Kent in the Junior Common Room. Several had friends already there but I was soon “roped in” to a Group, and with Goldsmithian warmheartedness they made me feel “one of them.” A little later a new girl came into the room, just up from a small village near Ashford, Kent.
This time it was I who “roped her in” to our group. Mary became my greatest friend and she still is my greatest friend, but lives in Norwich, too far for visits; and we both have family responsibilities and happy homes.
The next morning Mary and I walked the two miles to the College, for we had little money for daily tram fares. Mary’s parents, and my mother (a widow) had sacrificed much to send us to College. (No grants in those days.)’
“All weekends Mary and I went for lovely walks- over Blackheath to Greenwich, and to Eltham (countrified in 1907). The Town girls, many from High Schools or Grammar Schools at Ashford, Maidstone, etc. were used to London and to social and Educational Clubs. At weekends they went to theatres and concerts, but for Mary and me- never.”
Friendships- Meg Hinwood’s life at Goldsmiths’ College between 1907-1909
In 1968 Meg wrote how she and her friend Mary were ‘overawed by our first Assembly’ in 1907:
“There was Dr. White playing the Voluntary on the 5 Manual organ! the staff of 35 taking their seats on the platform; then there was the Warden (William Loring) or a member of the staff reading from the Apocrypha, the Talmud, Pilgrim’s Progress, Shakespeare, and the Bible, etc. To us it was so strange! Always our schooldays had begun with hymns and prayers, and back in our classrooms after Registers were marked, it was Religious Knowledge til 10 a.m. with much stress on prayer-book knowledge.
I grew to look forward to College Assembly! It was thought-provoking. So also were the Friday Debates. Mary and I got placed in different Groups in College; for Mary was to be an Infant School Teacher, and I was to be a teacher of older children up to 14 years of age.”
Meg recalled that her close friendship with Mary rarely extended to learning together in the College classrooms. They may have been close companions, but their academic interests were entirely different:
‘In the subjects we took we seldom met in class. Mary excelled in Art, under Miss Anstruther’s tuition. I excelled in Essay writing, with Miss Coning as Tutor. I always aimed at, and received an “A” mark. In all other subjects I got “B: or “B”- and in end of term exam I got “E” for needlework; “E” for Chemistry and Physics; “E: for Physical Training- all because I didn’t like these subjects and never did my homework on them, yet I spent an excessive number of hours on my Essays.
Back at the Hostel, I would do the homework in the silent time in the Junior study and go to bed in time to be there before “10 o’clock Lights out.” Then in my dressing gown I would slip into the next door bathroom, where I knew the electric switch was independent of the main switch, and with this bright light on I wrote my Essays until I was satisfied that they were of “A” level. No-one ever found out and my two room-mates never told anyone.’
Meg wrote home to her mother 25th September 1907: ‘Can you find me? The 2 girls to my right are my bedroom friends. Nearly all my friends in this group are in the front row. Much love Meg.’ She also adds ‘Ethel sends her love to you’- a likely reference to fellow student and friend Ethel Elford who went to Chatham High School with a family home in Rochester, Kent. Ethel may be the young woman seated second from the right, middle row.
Meg’s photographic postcard collection suggests she was a great enthusiast for the inter Hostel drama competitions that would be held every year and she archived pictures of the College’s Dramatic Society productions that would be staged in the Great Hall.
Throughout her time at Goldsmiths her widowed mother was always sending her tuck boxes, money and supplies from Dover.
She would write back: ‘The parcel came safely. Many thanks. Pleased with everything. Lovely day. My flowers are still fresh and beautiful.’ During the first year, fashion, clothes, books and things would be despatched between Dover and Grove Park Hostel: ‘Please don’t send back two of the blouses- you know which and please mind the books for me. Don’t let them go on any bonfire. No, I don’t know where any essays are. I thought they would be among my letters.’
First year students would be called ‘Juniors’ and second year students would be called ‘Seniors’. ‘Seniors’ were always allocated a ‘daughter’ or Junior to mentor when they joined in the autumn of every year. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
‘Green Goldsmiths’ in the Edwardian era- Meg and Nature Study
It was during her first year, that Meg would be surprised and entranced by all the pleasures of studying and appreciating the environment and climate studies. For ‘Green Culture’ in the early 20th century was becoming central to the curriculum in Britain’s expanding state school sector.
In those days it was called ‘Nature Study’- a subject she said ‘Quite by chance I came to excel in and quite new to me.’
Meg credits one of her favourite lecturers for providing the inspiration:
‘Miss Strudwick did her best to interest the class but the Town girls from their grammar and High schools were slightly bored. They had learned Botany and Biology and now had to study flowers, trees and aquarium creatures, and make accurate drawings of them and their parts.
I recall our very first nature study period with Miss Strudwick, September 1907. We were all given sprigs of “Shepherd’s purse”- a weed!
By the end of that session, and during it, a new and ever exciting avenue of thought had been opened up to me, and Nature Study became my favourite subject.
Just one of the many “Sides” of this eternal and world wide subject was suggested by Miss Strudwick. Each one of us should adopt a tree, and make a weekly assessment of its appearance and growth. And there is a plane tree on Blackheath that was my adopted “baby” tree in 1907.’
I love to look through my sketch book. My drawings of sticklebacks, water spiders and even worms are lifelike.
Does Meg Hinwood’s adopted plane tree still grow and thrive on Blackheath? Certainly, there remain many avenues of plane trees between Blackheath and Greenwich Park- all well-established and with more than 100 years of growth.
Perhaps the roots and fruits of Meg’s Nature Study can still be enjoyed to this very day.
Votes for Women- Meg and Suffragettes
One of the biggest political issues of Meg Hinwood’s time at Goldsmiths’ College between 1907 and 1909 was the increasing militancy and campaigning for women’s suffrage by the Women’s Political and Social Union (WSPU).
She only makes one reference to the dramatic events taking place in and around London when she was a student.
When annotating the back of the ‘The Tea Party scene’ from a College production of Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby- she said:
“2nd girl from the left wrote me that poetry on my birthday. The one at the end is the Suffragette at Coll.”
Meg double-underlined ‘the” and this could mean many things; that the woman suffragette student was notorious, the only one known to be openly proclaiming her politics, was widely admired for having a reputation for being a direct assertive campaigner, surprise and wonder at her fellow student’s boldness, or even disapproval of what Meg might have regarded as political extremism.
In November 1907, only two months after Meg began her studies at Goldsmiths, militant suffragettes shouted down the Liberal Government’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Herbert Asquith, at a meeting in Warwickshire.
The Liberals were reluctant about supporting suffrage bills giving women the vote.
One introduced by the Labour leader Keir Hardie in March had foundered as a result.
Legislation had been passed to give women the right to be elected as councillors on local authorities, but the government would not extend this to standing for Parliament and voting in parliamentary elections.
Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst’s WSPU switched the activism to choosing to be jailed rather than pay fines after arrests.
Nine WSPU members were arrested on 30th January 1908 after disruptive protest incidents outside the homes of cabinet ministers.
1908 was the year Mrs Pankhurst began to deliberately provoke arrests and go to jail herself.
On October 24th Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christobel were jailed for conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace by inciting the public to ‘rush’ the House of Commons.
Mrs Pankhurst caused a sensation by calling for the Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone and Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George as witnesses for her defence. (Asquith had been made Prime Minister in April)
They were compelled to appear, and actually gave evidence that their demonstration at Parliament on 13th October had been ‘orderly.’
Another witness said she had been more jostled at society weddings.
Mrs Pankhurst told the Court: ‘We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.’
Nonetheless, the Magistrates still found them guilty and put them behind bars when they refused to be ‘bound over to keep the peace’ and pay their fines.
Gladstone refused to treat them as political prisoners.
The direct action would be stepped up during 1909 with WSPU women activists going on hunger strike and the prison authorities introducing ‘force feeding.’
This involved doctors forcing two feet length rubber tubing into their nostrils while they were pinioned by wardresses.
Meg Hinwood and ‘anyone for tennis?’
In the 1908 London Olympics tennis was one of the major sports contested with 40 men and 10 women players competing for Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
Indoor tennis events in ‘covered courts’ took place at the Queens Club from 6th May 1908.
The outdoor tournament was played on grass courts at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Worple Road, Wimbledon from 6th to 11th July 1908.
Women played for singles medals both indoors and outdoors.
Great Britain dominated most of the matches winning a total of 15 medals out of 18 and taking all six Gold medals for outdoors and indoors Men’s Singles, Doubles and Women’s Singles.
Their names are very much lost to history. The Men’s outdoors Singles champion was Major Josiah Ritchie beating Germany’s Otto Froitzheim in the final. The ‘Major’ was actually his real forename and bore no indication of any army career.
Dorothea Lambert Chambers took the Gold in Women’s Singles. She was a legend in tennis history, winning seven Grand Slams in her career and taking the Wimbledon title in 1911 without losing a single game during the entire tournament.
She wrote Tennis for Ladies, published in 1910, and at one point held the record for playing the longest final in 1919.
She held out for 44 games against French player Suzanne Lenglen, and despite holding two match points lost the final third set 7-9.
The Women’s Indoor Singles Gold medal was won by Gwendoline Eastlake-Smith who was born in Sydenham, Lewisham.
Tennis at Goldsmiths was clearly then ‘on trend’ to use the modern vernacular.
It was popular, fashionable and nearly everyone wanted to play it.
The Quad area behind the College’s gymnasium and Blomfield building and Kingsway corridor had the perfect shelter.
Stray balls would bounce back onto the courts, though a lecturer and professor might find that leaving their windows open was somewhat hazardous.
And the students would love crowding into the square to watch keenly played and close-fought matches.
Theatre and Performance at Goldsmiths’ College 1907-09
Drama was another great fashion and active interest for staff and students at Goldsmiths’ College.
It began with presentation of ‘Drama for Schools.’
In 1905, the first year of the college, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was presented in a shortened version but without tampering with the poetry and leaving the chief situations clear.
One of the first lecturers performing, Josephine Laidler, recalled:
‘”Teacher told us that Sir Toby would make us laugh, and my word he did,” was a tribute not to be forgotten, coming as it did from a child whose only source of amusement so far had been early comic films. Some parents who saw the play compared it favourably with the cinema; they had never seen “live” drama before.’
In January 1907 riots had broken out at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin during the first performances of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World.
People in the audience objected to the playwright’s depiction of peasant life in Ireland and the police were called.
The main troublemakers were Irish nationalists and Republicans who regarded the play as offensive and insulting to public morals and the dignity of Ireland.
The theatre’s founder, the poet William Butler Yeats, had received a telegram in Scotland after the second act saying ‘Play a great success’ and then a follow-up sent during the third act saying: ‘Audience broke up in disorder.’
There had been outrage at the use of the word ‘shifts’ which was a reference to women’s underwear.
The late theatre historian Martin Esslin, and also much respected editor of BBC Radio Drama, described Modern Theatre in England between 1890 and 1920 as a time ‘when new drama was linked with Henrik Ibsen’s socially aware prose plays, the ‘new woman’, and the need to expose the hypocrises of Victorian Society.’
Esslin identified the critic William Archer and the playwright George Bernard Shaw as key figures in these developments.
He also observed that the adaptation of Shakespeare and other classics in somewhat more ambitious productions and striving for historical authenticity became a recognisable trend in the Edwardian period.
Shakespeare would be the mainstay of the Old Vic- arguably the most influential local theatrical institution to Goldsmiths’ College.
The Old Vic would eventally evolve into a non-commercial centre of innovation and cultural entertainment and become the inspiration for a national theatre.
There had been a social action dimension to this development.
One of the great Victorian social reformers, Emma Cons, had taken over what was then called the New Victoria Palace and operating as a music hall and rather notorious as a haunt for drunks and prostitutes.
She re-invented it with clean, temperance worthy, and alcohol-free entertainment for the working classes.
It was renamed the Royal Victoria Hall and Coffee Tavern. The reforming producer of Shakespeare, William Poël, was an early manager.
Scenes from Shakespeare combined with musical numbers attracted local people with low prices on the door and good quality coffee next door.
In 1912 Emma Cons’s niece Lilian Baylis succeeded and consolidated the tradition of the continuing Shakespearean cycle and a growing reputation for being ‘an unofficial national theatre’ when run as a charitable trust.
The touring actor-manager Ben Greet, educated in the Goldsmiths’ College main building when it was the Royal Naval School, would become a key associate and participant in the Shakespeare and drama for all ‘theatre in education’ movement.
These were the influences and models which inspired the drama created by staff and students at Goldsmiths in 1907-9.
Meg Hinwood was a keen member of the audience for a staff scripted and adapted triple bill of scenes from Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens, The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot, and an English representation of Molière’s Le Médecin malgré lui, translated by Henry Fielding called The Mock Doctor.
Meg’s postcards and annotations are set out below. She identifies though does not name the College Suffragette.
As possible evidence of cultural anti-Semitism of the time, she identifies the student Elsa Myers as ‘a Jewess’ playing a lead part in The Mock Doctor.
She also says Elsa was known as ‘Hickey Mo’, but does not explain why.
This expression of prejudice in Meg’s language can be tempered by the fact that Goldsmiths was founded as the first non-Christian denominational teacher training College and therefore was able to and encouraged the admission of students from Britain’s Jewish community.
Meg also kept postcards of the production by the College’s Dramatic Society of the sentimental comedy of manners She Stoops To Conquer written by Oliver Goldsmith in 1773 which was presented in the Great Hall May 15th 1908 to a huge audience.
The space could accommodate up to 1,000 spectators.
Remembering the Women Lecturers- Meg’s ‘favourites’
The image below of the College’s women lecturers teaching in the years 1907 to 1909.
She annotated and identified each one- along with the subject they taught and indicating with a cross those who were her ‘favourites.’ We have added their first names where we have been able to obtain these from staff records.
Back Row- Counting from the left.
- Miss Barbara Templeton- French
- Miss Nancy Catty- English
- Miss Henrietta Brown-Smith- Infants
- Miss Mary Payne (sic) actual spelling was Paine- English
- Miss Hilda Judd- Science
- Miss Muriel Storr- Mathematics x (favourite)
- Miss Andrews- Drill
- Miss Murray- Maths
Front Row from the left.
- Miss Wragge- History
- Miss Emma Coning- English x (favourite)
- Miss Ethel Spalding- History x (favourite)
- Miss Caroline Graveson- Vice-President Educational psychology x (favourite)
- Miss Birley- School Practice
- Miss Catherine Kemp- Needlework [It’s not altogether clear why Miss Kemp is so high up compared to her colleagues on the front row. It might be because they had run out of chairs and she had to perch on a stool.
- Miss Strudwick- Nature Study x (favourite)- the lecturer who inspired Meg to carry out her fossil collecting project in the summer of 1908 and adopt a baby plane tree on Blackheath.
Three not there:-
Miss Edith Anstruther- Drawing
Miss Carter- Science
Miss Kathleen Bonell (sic)- Actual spelling was Bunnell- Needlework.
Remembering all the Staff Lecturers.
This image below was emphasised as Meg Hinwood’s most important and treasured picture postcard from her Goldsmiths’ College album.
She has carefully identified everyone from this group staff picture dated 1909 and given them consecutive numbers from 1, Mr Bishop to 37, Mr Wimms who wrote one of the first textbooks on psychology for College and University students.
The College’s Warden, William Loring is seated centre on the front row with Vice-Principal for Women, Caroline Graveson to his right and Vice-Principal for Men, Professor Thomas Raymont to his left. He has the distinctive thick moustache.
Meg wrote on the back of this postcard dated May 1909:
“Many thanks for the parcel and contents. Aunt Harrie came to the College and Hostel yesterday and in the evening she and Mrs Cooper came to our dramatic concert. I’m afraid they didn’t enjoy it much. It was not nearly so good as last year. Marion Ogg is here today. She likes it very much. Please put this most precious postcard in my album. Mary is coming to see you very likely Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Love Meg.”
Meg Hinwood- Men, Prefects and The Howard Club
Meg Hinwood often hinted at friendships and kindly inclinations with the short notes she would leave on the back of her postcards.
The picture left is the Goldsmiths’ College Cricket XI. She observed: ‘Some of our cricketers. Dr. White and Mr. Raymont (Deputy Principal for Men and Professor of Education) are in the front row. Dr. White is on the right. I met the 2nd fellow on the front row from the left at Deal.’ In another note written into the album but not accompanying any picture she wrote: ‘Men students burned down the Cricket Pavilion on Telegraph Hill in 1909 (I think?)
The picture right of Group VI men students was sent to her mother ‘because it has the two Egyptians- Osman Farid + Mohommet Subhi in it.’ Both students and their time at Goldsmiths have been profiled in another posting of the Goldsmiths History Project.
In the collection of images left below, Meg Hinwood has preserved a record of the student prefects in the academic years 1907-8 and 1908-9. There is no evidence that she was entered for election, or considered for selection in this role.
The two images on the right represent members of ‘The Howard Club’- a college body and organisation held in great esteem and reverence by both staff and students.
Meg wrote on the back of the postcard bottom right:
“This is the Howard Club that goes in for social work. It is a great honour to be in this club. A candidate for it has to canvas votes among the members of the Howard Club and the lecturers. Mr Bell is the smiling lecturer.”
On the back of the postcard top right, Meg annotated:
The Howard Club. Four lecturers on garden seat from right:
“1 Miss Spalding 2 Miss Coning 3 Mr Bell 4 Miss Catty. Senior student at College next to Miss Spalding- Miss Blackman of the Grove Park Hostel.”
The Howard Club was formed in 1906 and sponsored by woman Vice-Principal Caroline Graveson and Ethel Spalding. Violet Babbage, a student between 1905-7, recalled:
“There were only about twenty members, staff and students, keen people who met to discuss social problems mainly. It was a most interesting and useful club and flourished for many years. One remembers Mr J. J. Bell as a very keen member.”
Certainly The Howard Club can be seen as one of the foundations of the social justice tradition at Goldsmiths which can be said to be thriving more than one hundred years later in the 21st century.
The world of London and studying to be a teacher in her second ‘Senior year’
Most of the messages sent to her mother during her final year 1908-9 indicate Meg was a young woman with little time to spare.
On November 19th 1908 she writes:
“My dear mother- many thanks for the parcel, money and cake. Have such a lot of correspondence to get through and College work takes up all the time. Last night I worked all day, right up till 10.45 p.m. Only 2 weeks’ holiday at Christmas, so good job I also come home at half term!. Goodbye, Meg.”
London was a place of excitement and intense noise and bustling business. The image below of New Cross Gate- only about ten minutes’ walk from the College and taken around 1909 shows the congestion of trolley buses, bicycles, and trams and horse-drawn carts.
The open top tram from Greenwich with the number 381 at the front and advertising the New Cross Empire for variety and music hall entertainment was a familiar symbol of transport and commerce.
The Empire was also known as the ‘Deptford Empire of Varieties.’
It was managed by Oswald Stoll from its opening in 1899 to 1912 when Sir Horace Edward Moss took over- Stoll and Moss are legendary names in the history of London theatre management and enterprise.
One of the senior students during Meg Hinwood’s first year, Thomas Henry Abbott, remembered talking to her about ‘the wild excitement in her school, when word came from the Kent Education Committee that two of them were to be admitted.’
This is because the opening of opportunities for working class aspiring teachers at Goldsmiths’ College was ‘an unexpected light on their horizon.’
Thomas had been part of a generation of early Goldsmiths’ College students who had been working as pupil teachers from the age of 13 and 3/4 when he had taken reading lessons with classes of 75 boys ‘several of whom were older and bigger than myself.’
Thomas became responsible at the age of 14 and 15 for regular classes of 50 pupils, teaching them five and a half days a week.
To get into Goldsmiths or any Training College he had to study at night to pass the King’s Scholarship examination.
He remembered in 1955:
“Some students had been earning a salary, helping to keep their home folk, and living in lodgings. Most of them felt themselves “experienced young teachers”. They were vigorous, outspoken and varied in type, and at once more mature and more ignorant and unsophisticated than the present Sixth Form product.”
The Goldsmiths’ College curriculum widened a narrowed outlook which had seen progress only in terms of cramming for external examination.
Thomas Abbott explained that the first year was devoted to non-professional subjects. Only with the second year did the actual training work begin.
All students took English, French, or Mathematics, History, Geography, Science in some form, Handwork or Needlework, Drawing and Physical Education.
This was when Meg Hinwood and her fellow students were introduced to The Golden Treasury– a text full of poetry and prose they were unlikely to have had access to in their Elementary and Secondary schools.
They had lectures almost without pause from 9.45 a.m to 5 p.m.
Every student by order of the Board of Education had to learn 200 lines of poetry by heart.
Wednesday afternoon was a free for all; though later, owing to rivalry between the men and women for the playing field, the men took Wednesday and the women Thursday afternoons.
There were no sports on Saturday mornings because of the respect for the College’s Jewish contingent and their holy Shabbat day of rest between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday.
As Mr Abbott recalled: ‘our non-sectarian character (most of the Training Colleges of those days were C. of E.) meant we had a fair number of Jewish students.’
London during these two years of the Edwardian decade was a lively and exciting world for students from the towns and villages of Surrey, Kent and Middlesex.
It was the capital city of a country that saw the ‘Nulli Secundus’, Britain’s first airship, round St Pauls after a flight from Farnborough and then struggle in strong winds across South East London with a forced landing at the Crystal Palace.
It was a country where the politics were dramatic. Two civilians were shot dead by soldiers in Belfast in August 1907 during clashes in the Catholic Falls Road area including a 23 year old mother looking for her child and a man returning from work.
American iced soda drinks could be bought in chemists also supplying the film, plates and cameras for the growing passion for photography. In February 1909 colour films would be screened in Britain for the first time.
Doctors were growing increasingly concerned about children smoking at a time when it was being reported in the press: ‘The King does it. Gentlemen and even some ladies do it. But doctors think too many children do it.’
The first state pensions for people from the age of 70 would be claimed in September 1908.
In 1909 a Royal Commission would condemn the appalling practice of children living in workhouses.
An international arms race with the Kaiser’s Germany was being fought in an Edwardian ‘cold war’. Six more British Dreadnought battleships were commissioned in February 1909.
And after Meg Hinwood began her first Assistant Teaching post in Luton and her graduation from Goldsmiths, Great Britain would be plunged into constitutional and political crisis.
The Tory and aristocracy land-owning dominated House of Lords threw out ‘The People’s Budget’ by Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George who was seeking to tax the rich to pay the pensions for the poor.
A struggle between inchoate democratic House of Commons and entitled and inherited land and gentry in the House of Lords.
Meg Hinwood, Finals, Graduation and starting out as a qualified teacher
It is final exams time at Goldsmiths’ College for 20 year old Meg Hinwood during the summer of 1909.
The image below right is a scene familiar to many generations of students with the tables laid out in the Great Hall and examination papers placed on each one for the candidates probably waiting in the corridors outside.
The interior has not changed much apart from the statues on plinths either side of the main entrance.
The College library is a very different location and setting. The image on the left was in the main building on the second floor. Periodicals and magazines are set out. A man looks towards a woman student poring over her book while seated at one of the tables.
The library would be the casualty of two catastrophic fires- one in 1940 during the Blitz, the other in 1971- most likely caused by arson and the subject of a special feature for the Goldsmiths’ History project.
Most of the books stocked on the shelves towards the left would, therefore, not survive into the present century.
On May 7th 1909 at 7 pm in the evening she writes the night before starting her teaching practice. She has also started to memorize her 200 lines of poetry by writing out the text over and over again:
“Dear Mother- I am going to Barnet tomorrow. Aunty asked me. Thank you for letter and stamps. Shall make good use of the latter. Have enjoyed myself immensely this week. Hope Granny is better. Aunt Liddiard was delighted beyond means to see me. Hampstead is a fine place. It was such a queer school we went to. Am going to write out texts. Now know them by heart. Best love Meg.”
On June 3rd 1909 at 12.15 p.m. Meg sends her mother a postcard full of pressure and panic. She’s also started her teaching practice at a school in Barnet:
“I simply can’t squeeze carry-ons in. Shall do badly at exams. Got too many things to think about. Grandma Hinwood sent me 5/- via Aunt Nellie. Mr Ward gave me 2/6, Uncle Will 2/6 so that’s 10/- in one week. Lovely isn’t it? Aunt G paid all expenses Monday. We went to Godstone. Had a fine time.”
There is something touching in the way Meg is describing how her family is clubbing together to help pay for her lodgings and expenses doing the compulsory teaching ‘work experience’ trainee teachers had to do to gain their qualification.
Meg remembered many years later:
“In the summer of 1908 I chose for my holiday project the collection of fossils, for it meant paddling in the sea at the foot of the cliffs between Dover and Folkestone, sloshing around in the clinging wet gault clay, discovering pre-historic creatures preserved in fossil form.
I mounted my collection on cardboard sheets, with explanatory notes, and took them back to College at the beginning of the Autumn term.
Perhaps it was this individual effort that secured for me “Distinction in Nature Study” on my Final Goldsmiths’ College London University Certificate.”
Certainly Meg did pass her final exams in July 1909 though she did not receive an overall distinction.
On June 24th 1909 she wrote to Fern Bank Clarendon Road:
“My dear Mother- Thank you very much indeed for letters, cash etc. I am glad the people are pleased about Luton. Only 2 weeks more! I shall go over to 62 [Reference to ’62’ unclear] on Saturday night, after our Juniors’ Party! Will take over my old clothes and things also I don’t want. Besides looking for my Golden Treasury, would you please see if I left any of my essays that I have written since I have been to Coll. (The ones on loose paper I mean- not any in books)- I have only one missing.
They will be useful for literature revision. I don’t seem to have half-a-second to spare for anything. Give my love to Granny and Aunty.
Two of our girls, Mahala and May, have been taken on by Middlesex. One more is likely to get a place too, so we are getting on slowly. Will send parcel Saturday. With much love from your most busy daughter Meg.”
The reference to ‘Golden Treasury’ is that of a popular anthology of English Songs, Poetry and Lyrics originally selected for publication by Francis Turner Palgrave in 1861 and considerably revised, with input from Tennyson three decades later.
This postcard and the College record of her graduation written in fountain pen ink reveal that she had secured her first teaching post at Newtown Girls’ School in Luton just before sitting her finals and she would later move there with lodgings in 14 Darrow Road, Luton.
Her college certificate was issued in November 1909 along with recognition by the national Board of Education that she was ‘a certified school-teacher.’ By 1912, she had moved back to her family home in Dover and was teaching in a County Council school at Hollingbourne in Kent.
In those days it had ‘elementary status’ and taught pupils up to the age of thirteen.
When she began corresponding with Goldsmiths in the 1960s, she hoped that the College library might still have her geological Nature Study project, but sadly learned about the Second World War bombing and wrote: ‘Alas! A bomb fell through the College roof and reduced these pre-historic relics (yes, they were kept as Museum exhibits!) to dust.’
Meg Hinwood’s legacy and personal archive at Goldsmiths
It is 1968 and Meg Hinwood (married name Rayner) donates her unique postcard collection to Goldsmiths’ College 61 years after she graduated as a professional teacher in the summer of 1909.
She was so proud of her education, training and life experience at Goldsmiths.
She wanted to acknowledge the friendships and bonds of companionship she made.
In modern biro she was so pleased to identify and acknowledge her hockey playing friend Mary- a relationship lasting over six decades.
Goldsmiths’ College in those later years of the Edwardian age was a place where generations of young people were setting out on life journeys with dreams, ambitions, and every indication of having as much fun as well.
Meg Hinwood was certainly amused to record this picture of the College’s Morris Dancers- all suitably costumed in bonnets, boots, some with bellpads and sticks.
One of Meg’s contemporaries Rose Haywood wrote in 1968:
“We sometimes show friends the photographs taken in the early years of the century, and they are amused at the long hair fashions, and skirts touching the ground, as well as our serious expressions. Yes, we were very much in earnest, enjoyed the lectures, and were conscious of the advantages we were having, far greater than previous teachers had when training colleges were few and too expensive for the ordinary pupil teacher.
I remember Goldsmiths’ College in its youth. We hear now that everything is entirely different, and we should see ‘couples arm in arm, long hair and beards, and little frills for skirts.’ Never mind, as long as you are loyal and hardworking, devoted to the education and welfare of the children in your charge, so that the coming generation will be prepared to take a good stand in a complicated world of many hazards. We salute you!”
Meg passed away in the village of Rixon, Sturminster Newton in Dorset four years later.
A dedicated professional teacher married to an Indian Office civil servant, Meg Rayner (née Hinwood) left a modest estate of £10,276- worth around £140,000 in today’s money.
Unlike the dreaming spires of Oxford and Cambridge, the more screeching tyres world of Goldsmiths’ College have produced generations of alumni who dedicated themselves to teaching and public service.
They may have had modest incomes and hard-working lifestyles, but they have made a contribution to human society with vastly different and enduring riches.
This online feature is dedicated to the memory of Meg Hinwood and all her fellow students at Goldsmiths’ College during the years 1907-1909.
Special thanks to Lesley Ruthven and Dr. Alex du Toit of Goldsmiths, University of London Special Collections and Library.
Forthcoming: That’s So Goldsmiths-A History of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.