Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 13, 2016.
Webpage updated: July 10, 2017

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The badge of the Devonport, Stoke & Stonehouse 
High School for Girls.
Courtesy of Mr Kevin Ross, of Tavistock.

The Devonport, Stoke and Stonehouse High School for Girls was established in May 1875 along the principles of the Girls' Public Day Schools Company in London.  It was at first held at number 1 Tamar Terrace, Stoke, where between 80 and 90 young ladies used to attend daily.  Its success brought support from Mr Joseph May and a local company was formed in order to erect their own premises.  Some 5,000 in 5 shares was raised quite quickly, which enabled them to a building at the top of Albert Road, Stoke, adjacent to the Anglican Church of Saint Michael's.

Built in the Tudor-Gothic style of architecture, to the designs of Mr H J Paul FRIBA, of London, the memorial stone was laid on Tuesday December 11th 1877 by Sir John Saint Aubyn, Bart., MP, who was chairman of the local council.  

It was built by Mr J P Berry of George Lane, Plymouth, at a cost of 6,000, exclusive of furnishings.   Mr Siddall was the clerk of the works.   Plumbing and gas fittings were done by Messrs Collins and Hocking, of Saltash Street, Plymouth, and the heating was installed by Messrs Haden & Sons, of Trowbridge, in Wiltshire.  Messrs Rendle and Prowse, of Union Street, Plymouth, were responsible for the painting and decorating.  The building was faced with Portland cement, this work being carried out by Mr A Lethbridge, of Tracey Street, Plymouth.  The frontage in Albert Road was surrounded by a limestone wall, surmounted with iron railings supplied by Messrs Macfarlane, of Glasgow.

In the basement was a large assembly or lecture hall, measuring 50 feet by 17 feet, along with a kindergarten room, 25 feet by 17 feet, two classrooms, two large lavatories, store rooms, furnace room and coal store.  The rooms in the basement were 11 feet high. 

On the ground floor was the entrance hall, lobby and corridor leading to three large classrooms measuring 28 feet by 17 feet, 27 feet by 17 feet and 23 feet by 17 feet.  In addition there was a large cloakroom of 25 feet by 17 feet, the headmistresses room, assistant-teachers' room and a WC.  Up the Portland stone Spanish staircase on the first floor were another three large classrooms, one of 29 feet by 17 and the other two of 25 feet by 17 feet each, plus two store rooms.  The rooms on the ground and first floors were 13 feet in height.

Outside was a recreation ground of a third of an acre in extent, 'well enclosed and laid out'.

The premises were held on a lease from the Lord Saint Levan, dated March 22nd 1879, for a term of 90 years from October 1st 1878.  The ground rent was 35 per year.  The pupils were already in occupation of the building and it was supposed to have been officially opened on Friday October 25th 1878 but as Sir John Saint Aubyn was away it was postponed.

Lord Saint Levan was appointed chairman of the school governors, with Mr Joseph May senior, as the vice-chairman.  The Headmistress in 1890 was Miss M M Hagg.

In November 1895 the Company was voluntarily wound up and the few remaining pupils were transferred to the Devonport Technical School building in Paradise Road.  They later formed the nucleus of a new school, the Devonport Municipal Secondary School for Girls, where the history continues.

The liquidator, Mr Edward Blackall, offered the premises for sale by auction at the Devonport Public Hall on Thursday December 12th 1895.  The auctioneer was Mr W J Lamb.  It was at first advertised as being available leasehold but Lord Stain Levan later gave permission for the site to be offered freehold for the sum of 683.  Before the bidding started there was some discussion as to how the building could be extended if the freehold was purchased, as the lease stated that while the building could be extended to the east and west, the southern side must only be utilised as a lawn or playground.  The bidding commenced at 2,000 and rose to 2,500 when it was again interrupted.  Mr Littleton -- presumably the local builder by that name -- asked his Lordship's agent, Mr Willis, to say definitely if they could or could not build on the land to the south.  Mr Willis was not prepared to make any statement about it.  Bidding then resumed and continued in 100 jumps until 3,000 was reached, the highest bidder being Mr F J Bone.  Whereupon, the auctioneer announced that as there was a reserve price of 4,900, he was withdrawing the premises from sale.

Mr E S Lancaster subsequently purchased the building for the sum of 3,500.  It transpired he was acting on behalf of Mr Alonzo Rider, of Stoke Public School, who promptly resigned from his post at that School and set up Devonport High School for Boys in the building.