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Headington history: Schools

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Mrs Butler’s Boarding School for Young Ladies


Mrs Butler’s Boarding School

The above leaflet shows an idyllic picture of Headington Manor House in about 1840 when it was “Mrs T. Butler’s Boarding School for Young Ladies”. Two of the young ladies are having a game of archery, while others sit or stand in the foreground, near grazing sheep. The text reads:

Manor House,
Headington, near Oxford

MRS. T. BUTLER’s BOARDING SCHOOL
for Young Ladies.

The proximity of this healthy Mansion to Oxford affords every facility
for the assistance of eminent Masters

TERMS THIRTY-FIVE GUINEAS PER ANNUM
for Board with Instruction in the English & French Languages,
Writing, Arithmetic, History, Geography,
the Use of the Globes, and Needlework

Washing Four Guineas per Annum. No charge for Entrance. Single bed if required.

Italian, French, Music, Singing, Dancing, & Drawing,
by the finest Masters on the usual terms.

No allowance for Absence, & a Quarter’s Notice required previous to the removal of a Pupil.

Mrs Thomas Butler (née Selina Ackermann) was the daughter of Rudolph Ackermann, who introduced lithography into Britain. The words underneath the picture read “R. ACKERMANN EXECT REGENT STREET LONDON”: this means that her eldest brother, Rudolph Ackerman junior (who had been established by his father in a separate business in 1825) had published the leaflet, rather than her three younger brothers (who had succeeded their father in the Strand in 1832).

An advertisement by Mrs Butler for an articled pupil in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 9 July 1836 shows that Mrs Butler had been running the Manor House Boarding School in Temple Cowley at this time.

Headington Manor House (with its 75 acres of pleasure gardens) had been put up for auction by the Lord of the Manor on 3 August 1836, but it did not sell, and was transferred to the ownership of the solicitor in charge of the auction, George Alexander Peppercorn, on 13 July 1838. It appears that Peppercorn rented the Manor House out for the next seven years or so to Thomas Butler, and Selina used part of their large home to house her boarding school.

In Pigot’s Directory of Oxfordshire & Berkshire for 1842, the school is listed under Academies as “Butler, Mrs. Thomas (boarding) Manor House, Headington”. It was probably still in existence in June 1844, when Mrs Butler’s sixth child was baptised at Headington. But by the time of the second sale of manor land in 1846, the Manor House was already owned by the Oxford solicitor John Matthews, Esq., and directories of Headington from 1847 list him as the occupier.


Thomas & Selina Butler

Thomas Butler was baptised at All Saints Church in Oxford on 31 August 1800, the youngest of the ten children of James and Jane Butler. His father had been baptised in All Saints parish forty years before on 10 October 1750, and his grandparents were James and Martha Butler, who were buried at All Saints on 4 May 1781 and 14 December 1796 respectively.

Thomas Butler is listed as a printseller in Oxford’s High Street in 1823, but appears to have moved to London before 1827, as at the time of his marriage in Fulham on 29 January that year he was described as being of 1 Beaumont Buildings in the Strand. His wife Selina Jane Ackermann was then living at Ivy Lodge, Fulham, which was her father’s house. An announcement of the marriage was made in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 3 February 1827.

Selina Ackermann was the daughter of Rudolph Ackermann (1764–1834), who was born in Saxony, but came to England as a young man in 1787 (becoming naturalized as a UK citizen in 1809). He started off as a carriage-designer, but soon his interest turned to printing. In 1792 he married an Englishwoman, Martha Massey (1769–1811), and they had nine children, of whom six, including Selina, survived. The family moved to Fulham from Camberwell Grove in 1825, and on 4 October 1831 he married his second wife, Hannah Williams, at Finchley. (See Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for more information on Rudolph Ackermann.)

The first two children of Thomas and Selina Butler were born in London and baptised at St Clement Danes in Westminster: Selina Jane Butler on 29 January 1828 and Mary Ann Butler in September 1829.

In about the early 1830s the family moved to Oxford, and their third daughter, Catherine Butler, was baptised at All Saints Church there on 12 February 1834, with Thomas Butler described as a carver and gilder in the High Street.

The family moved to Temple Cowley around the mid-1930s: Mrs Butler was running a school there in July 1836, and their fourth child, Ferdinand Dick Butler, was baptised at Temple Cowley on 7 April 1837. At this point, Thomas was still described as a carver & gilder.

By 1839 Thomas’s shop at 20 High Street is described as “Butler & Margetts, printers”, and on 9 December 1839 their fifth child, James Lockier Butler, was baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Headington, suggesting that they were now ensconced in the Manor House; but Thomas is still described as a printseller. Their sixth child John Angelicus Thomas Butler was born on 18 August 1843 and baptised at Headington on 24 June 1844, with Thomas now described as a “gentleman”.

At the time of the 1841 census, Thomas Butler (who was then about 41) was described as “Independent”, while his wife Selina (who was in her 30s) was described as a Schoolmistress. They were living in the Manor House at Headington with their five children (ranging in age from 1 to 13), and five female servants. There were 22 girl boarders aged between 11 to 20 living with them, and just one little boy pupil, aged 9. Two of the boarders were relations of the proprietors: Octavia Butler (13), who was Thomas’s niece, and Maria Ackermann (14).

By the time of the 1871 census Thomas Butler had died, and Selina, a widow, was living at 3 Bury Terrace, Paddington. She died at the age of 83 in the Fulham district in 1887.


Two of Thomas Butler’s siblings
  • His brother William Henry Butler was an Oxford wine merchant (Mayor of Oxford in 1836/7), and in the late 1840s he too also retired to Headington (to the Lindens – now the Priory – in Old High Street), and is described in the 1851 census as a magistrate and alderman.
  • His sister Lydia Butler married the Oxford auctioneer Thomas Mallam (Mayor of Oxford in 1839/40 and 1846/7) on 21 July 1816.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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