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Headington history: Schools

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Miss Hanwell’s Seminary


Miss Mary Hanwell, who was born in Kidlington in c.1791, ran a boarding school for young ladies in Kidlington until about 1822, when she moved to Headington with the school. The following notice appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 12 October 1822:

LADIES' SEMINARY, AT HEADINGTON, near OXFORD.
MISS HANWELL respectfully informs her friends and the public, she has removed her SCHOOL from Kidlington to a more commodious house at Headington, where every attention will be paid to the health, morals, and improvement of her Pupils.
TERMS: Under 10 years of age £14 14 0; Above 10 £16 16 0
French, Music, &c. &c. on moderate terms
Day Scholars, Half a Guinea per Quarter.

The school, which was known as “Miss Hanwell’s Seminary”, was in Church Street (now St Andrew’s Road), Old Headington, near the Church. Every January and July she advertised the start of her school terms in Jackson's Oxford Journal, and the school is listed in Pigot’s Directory for 1830.

On 25 July 1840 the case of Hanwell v. Parsons was reported in Jackson's Oxford Journal. Mary Hanwell brought an action to recover from the defendant, Mr Parsons (a farmer of Waterstock) the sum of £8 8s. due to her as a consequence of his removing his two daughters from the plaintiff's school without giving a quarter's notice, as required by her prospectus. Charlotte Nalder, who had been a teacher at the school for nine years, remembered the defendant having three daughters there, with the last two being removed at Christmas 1834. William Baxter said that he had been printing the cards with the same conditions for the school for thirty years. On hearing that the girls were to be removed to Miss Well's school, one of the daughters, Jane Parsons, reported that “Miss Hanwell said that Miss Wells's was a poor proud stuck up school.” Miss Hanwell won her case.

At the time of the 1841 census Miss Hanwell’s Seminary had sixteen girl pupil boarders aged between 9 and 15, but in 1851 there were only five, aged from 11 to 13, and it was probably already running down. At the time of the 1861 census Miss Hanwell (70) was still living at the school; the teacher was Miss Sarah Manning (16); and there were just three pupils boarding there.

The Headington ratebook for 1850 shows that Miss Hanwell owned as well as occupied the house used as the school building, and its rateable value was then £24, and its gross estimated rental £30.

On 18 January 1862 the following notice appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal:

DIED. Jan. 15, at her residence, Ladies’ Seminary, Headington, near Oxford, Miss Hanwell, age 71.

It is likely that the school closed soon after Miss Hanwell’s death. On 26 March 1862 a notice of an auction of the contents of her house were advertised for sale, namely:

Mahogany four-post, tent, and other bedsteads, with damask, chintz, and dimity hangings; capital feather beds, mattresses, and bedding; mahogany and painted chests of drawers, dressing tables and glasses, wash stands, toilet services, and other the usual chamber appendages for seven bed rooms; sets of mahogany and maple dining, loo, and other tables; sofas, couches, lounging chairs, chiffonnières, carpets, rugs, damask and moreen window curtains; two square pianofortes, music stools, Canterbury, school mas, book shelves, and kitchen requisites; also a double-bodied phaeton, with patent axles and elliptic springs; pair of new gig lamps, garden tools, and other effects.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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