Lawnside School was one of the first girls’ schools to be founded in Malvern in the mid Ninenteenth Century. It closed its doors for the last time in 1994, but last week 100 past pupils, from all around the UK and the world, came back to town for an Old Lawnsidians’ Reunion.
Girls who had been at the School from the 1950s through to the1990s came from as far afield as Hong Kong, Australia, the US and Canada to join Miss Duseline Stewart, Headmistress from 1971 until 1990, for the event. Teachers and House staff who still largely live locally, also attended.
Lawnside is now part of the Malvern St James Old Girls’ Assocation, and a Lunch was held at MSJ, followed by the opportunity for Old Girls to wander around Malvern before gathering in the grounds at Lawnside House on Albert Road South for a group photo. Finally, they went for Tea at Elmslie House which was previously part of Lawnside School, known as The Grove.
One Old Girl commented, “I hadn’t been back to Malvern for 30 years and had forgotten what a beautiful place it is. Lots of lovely memories came flooding back”, whilst another said, “Some of us hadn’t been reacquainted for 44 years and it was just like yesterday. Such memories!” Others remembered power cuts in the 70s: waking up to ice on the inside of the windows and having to get dressed under the bedclothes, it was so cold.
For those who returned to see their former classmates and teachers, it was a day filled with laughter, chatter, reminiscing and rekindling friendships. One Old Girl was the last in three generations of her family to attend the school, there were several nonagenarians amongst the crowd, and at least one mother and daughter visiting together. In the words of one Old Girl, “I am still buzzing after such a spectacular day.”
The school was cherished for its creativity, individuality and its strong Arts emphasis – George Bernard Shaw was a famous visitor to the school. Music and drama were always a particular strength of the school’s curriculum. Miss Stewart, who lives locally in Herefordshire, led reminiscences about the School. She said, “It was so rewarding to meet my Old Girls and find that they were taller and older, but basically the same as they had been at school.”
When Lawnside shut, the girls joined St James’s & The Abbey School in West Malvern. Subsequently, St James’s merged with Malvern Girls’ College, to form the existing school, Malvern St James.
Malvern St James Old Girls’ Association and everyone who attended the reunion are very grateful to the residents of Lawnside House for allowing them access to their gardens, and Anna and Bernard Taylor, owners of Elmslie House, for not only opening up their house, but also providing a sumptuous and much talked about afternoon tea.
Next year’s Malvern St James Old Girls’ Association reunion will be celebrating 125 years since the founding of Malvern Girls’ College, which was based in the current MSJ building, and a 40 years on Reunion for The Abbey School which was based in Malvern Wells.
Malvern St James has a thriving Old Girls’ Association and regularly welcomes Old Girls back to the school, not only for reunions but also to give talks and run workshops for current pupils. MSJ girls have recently enjoyed talks by Old Girls Caroline Lucas MP and Gay Haines, both of whom are Old Girls in The Times/Debretts Top 500 Most Influential Britons list. They will welcome Jennifer Kirby, star of the BBC’s Call the Midwife, to present Prizegiving this next week (7th July).