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History of Godstowe

1900

Godstowe was founded in 1900

Godstowe's History begins in 1900

The Beginning

Godstowe was founded in 1900 when the land was bought and building work began on what is still known as “School House”. Godstowe became England's first all-girls Prep School, and forged the close ties with Wycombe Abbey that are still in force today. Mrs Scott, Godstowe's founding headmistress received much encouragement from Miss Dove, the founder of Wycombe Abbey.

The School name was taken from Godstow Abbey near Oxford. Nuns from Godstow Abbey had devoted themselves to the care and education of the girls in Wycombe many centuries before. The School motto, Finem Respice, meaning reach towards your goal, was chosen to reflect the sense of higher purpose.

The site of the present School was purchased for £1,100 in 1900, but has been enlarged by the addition of boarding houses and a Pre-Prep department over the years. The first year saw 12 pupils on roll, three of whom were the headmistress'! The uniform of straw boaters with a red band, cloaks, gymslips and white dresses was all made at Godstowe by the seamstress. The boater and cloak are still very firmly part of the School tradition today.

The Early Years

The early curriculum was innovative for girl's education at the time and included bookbinding and carpentry, with needlework being introduced a few years later. There was a tradition of compulsory cold baths, which is happily not continued in the present day! Emphasis has always been placed on developing the whole child and fostering many interests, and Godstowe is renowned for its family atmosphere. School pets were introduced by Mrs Scott including a hen called Mrs Brown that provided eggs for the Heads' breakfasts. There was also a duck that achieved the remarkable feat of laying an egg on Mitchell pitch during a Lacrosse match! Ponies, and Thomas de Godstowe the donkey, were also a part of School life. 

Godstowe also has its own sport – a version of touch rugby, which was played until recently in the school history. Attempts are currently being made to resurrect the Godstowe Game as a fun addition to School activities. Cricket also has a firm place in Godstowe tradition, being the first competitive game played by the School. The original site was very sloping, and the 1:3 gradient in some places was regarded as an advantage by the home side when batting during regular cricket fixtures in the early days!

The War Years

The First World War did not affect the school as much as the Second World War with all its bombing raids and severe rationing. During the Second World War the School had three air raid shelters, and fire drill involved girls abseiling down the side of the School buildings from their dormitories. The school uniform was in short supply too, and rare items such as the red hat bands and cockades had to be 'bagged' from a leaver. It also saw the introduction of Siren suits as part of the school uniform. The harsh winter of 1946 also saw compulsory tobogganing for all girls instead of games as all the pitches were snowbound.

The post-war years saw Godstowe's fiftieth birthday in 1950 and a big party was held to celebrate, with singing and charades by pupils past and present. It also saw the modernisation of Godstowe in many areas and a survival through the tough days of post-war depression. The curriculum was revised and expanded, and other school activities grew in popularity. Riding, for example, became so popular that Godstowe held its own annual gymkhana at Radnage Riding School.

Expansion and Improvement

1963 saw the opening of Lodge as a Pre-Prep department, instead of its previous incarnation as a boarding house. This was followed by other changes in the 70s that allowed for more space and more facilities for the growing school, the Jasper Knight Hall and the new swimming pool to name but a few. It also saw a change in the uniform from traditional gymslip to the skirt and blouse, with the cheerful red jumpers similar to those worn today. Academic life also flourished, as did music and drama, with a 75th Birthday party being celebrated by an open day for more than 1,000 people. The centre piece was a play called Times Change and We Have Changed with Them.

By the summer of 1980, new buildings were in place including science labs and classrooms, and the continued expansion of the facilities for pupils. Design Technology was introduced reinforcing the School's strong tradition of practical subjects, such as carpentry and needlework. The school celebrated the arrival of its first computer in 1983.

In 1994 the school opened its Nursery, and began nurturing its pupils from the tender age of three. 1996 saw the opening of a brand new Music School and Recital Hall along with the new Turner boarding house. Since the 1990s, the School has continued to thrive and develop its curriculum with more after school activities than ever before.

In October 2013, the Jubilee Sports Hall was officially opened by Gabby Logan, a Godstowe parent. The full sized, multi-purpose, indoor sports hall allows for tennis, four badminton courts, netball, basketball and indoor hockey. It is also used for gymnastics, indoor lacrosse, indoor high jump and Lodge gym, to name a few. Upstairs there is a dance/ballet studio and a generously sized function room.

Secondly, the JK Hall was revamped during the same year to create a theatre and drama studio. The newly named JK Theatre hosts termly productions, music concerts, after-school clubs, art exhibitions, assemblies and parents' evenings. 

1900

Godstowe was founded in 1900