Morcove School, Vivat Et Floreat, The Schoolgirls' Own, The Schoolgirl, Schoolgirls' Own Library, Betty Barton & Co.
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Abbreviations: SO = The Schoolgirls Own; SGOL = The Schoolgirls Own Library, first series
There were more girls than previously thought. The updated list is below, with an added comment on some of the girls.
Oh, to have been growing up during the 1920s and 1930s during the heydays of The Amalgamated Press. Morcove School, that grand boarding school for girls, was created by Marjorie Stanton (Horace Phillips). The stories were featured regularly in The Schoolgirls Own from 1921 until 1936.
Morcove School was located on the north coast of Devon, facing the sea and a few miles away from the nearest town of Barncombe. Although the school itself was a fairly new building, it was built on the site of a much older establishment. Previous to the time of Henry VIII a monastery stood on the spot, but nearly all the buildings were pulled down during the reign of that King. A portion of the buildings which were left standing were turned into a Dames School in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, and this school continued for many years. Eventually, the remaining part of the old monastery and surrounding lands fell into disrepair, and sometime around the reign of George IV during a tremendous storm off the coast, the last remaining portions of the old buildings collapsed and the place was left alone until several years later, when the directors of the present Morcove School decided to build on this historic site.
The land belonged to the Earl of Lundy, who was a Director of the School, and through his efforts the School was built. There was some slight hitch in the proceedings with others claiming the land as theirs, but eventually the School was built and opened.
Morcove School was built in Grecian style, of white stone. There was the large main building, with north and south wings.
Main Building - the Form Rooms, Big Hall, Music Room, Dining
Room and other school rooms.
The current Earl of Lundy was a Director of the School.
Barncombe was the nearest town to Morcove. It was a typical Devonshire market town, full of old-world charm and quaintness. With the exception of a few modern shops, the picturesque High Street was much the same as it was in 1835. Old-world houses and cottages, quaint, narrow streets with bow-windowed shops; the spacious market square complete with market cross. At one end of the town was the river that meandered underneath many bow bridges before joining the sea at a little bay near Morcove. Morcove School was serviced by the railway, ending at Morcove Road. The branch line ended in Barncombe, with the main line running to Exeter. The main attraction of Barncombe was of course The Creamery, scene of many happy half holidays. Barncombe and surrounds were, of course, the meeting places of some undesirable persons where their various nefarious activities were unhatched. Betty and Co of course, managed to unearth these mysteries and solve them.
Polly Linton could never have been anywhere but next to Betty, for she was the captains dearest chum, and would stick to Betty through thick and thin. Vivacious and fun loving, she was always ready with a jest and a jape. Loyal but rather impetuous, Polly sometimes blundered, but for the cool wisdom of Betty to guide her. She was known as The Madcap, and thoroughly deserved the name, though she could, when necessary, be very serious.
Paula Creel was the amiable and elegant duffer of the Fourth, beloved by all and the constant butt of the other Fourth Formers. Paulas passion was dress and she was by far the best dressed girl in the Form. Paula was a staunch supporter of Betty. She had plenty of money and was generous to a fault. She could not pronounce her rs.
Naomer Nakara was the girl queen of a tiny kingdom in the desert country of North Africa. At Morcove she was an incurable tease and seldom out of mischief. Naomer was a close friend of Betty and Polly, and shared a study with them. Her chief diversion was the harmless teasing of Paula who, however, had a very real affection for the dusky queen. Naomer was not very brilliant at work or at games, but she was certainly the life and soul of the Fourth. Her English at times was rather weird and wonderful.
Tess Trelawney was the talented Fourth Form artist. Tess was a quiet, reserved type of girl who loved nothing better than to sit and sketch. Well liked by all the girls, who respected her ability and admired her charming modesty. Tesss best friend was Madge Minden.
Madge Minden was also an artist - at the piano. As a piano player Madge had no equal in the school, although she was very modest about her accomplishment. Madge was rather sedate in her manner, with a clever face and large, dreamy eyes. Madge was a girl who said little but thought a great deal. A very dear friend of Betty and Polly and Paula, she was always welcome in Study 12.
Helen Craig, popular with everyone, was the only daughter of a wealllthy widower, to whom she was passionately devoted. A very charming girl indeed, with an intellect above her years and a genius for entertaining.
Cora Grandways was undoubtedly the most unpopular girl at Morcove. She earned her unenviable reputation by constantly being the cause of strife and unhappiness throughout the school. The fact that she is was so disliked did not worry her, she was proud, reckless, arrogant, ready to descend to any depths of deceit to attain her ends. She had always been against Betty and Co, and even when she was almost alone in her dislike of the Study 12 chums, she still retained her proud but spiteful hatred of Betty & Co. Cora was tall and very dark, with an arrogant bearing; on very few occasions did her better nature show itself. On more than one occasion she came near to expulsion as the result of her reckless acts. She had few friends, but her chief toady in the Fourth was -
Ursula Wade, a mean cringing, spiteful girl, looked upon with contempt by the Form. Whereas Cora was at least a girl of spirit, Ursula was merely crafty; she was an incurable sneak and had been involved with Cora in many acts of spite against Betty and Co.
Dolly Delane was Morcoves only day girl. Her parents lived in a charming cottage a mile or so from Morcove along the Barncombe Road. Dolly had been nicknamed the Doormat because of her willingness to do for others. A very likeable girl, moderately good at games, and popular in the Form. As befitted the daughter of a one-time farmer, Dolly knew all about the country, and adored animals of all kinds.
Pam Willoughby was one of the nicest girls in the Form and a great friend of Betty and Polly. Pam was a fine type of modern girlhood - tall, athletic and clever. A girl of taste, with a love of beautiful things, her study was packed with little treasures. Pam was dark, with a vivacious and enchanting personality. She was good at games and a very fine pianist. Her people owned a famous country seat called Swanlake, some twenty miles from Morcove.
Note: I believe there are more girls than listed here,
however I do not know of them at this stage.
Some of these girls featured regularly as background figures. Occasionally a story revolved around them, but not to the extent of Betty and Co.
Also featuring from time to time, is a girl named Joyce Marshall of Gorselands Manor. She is fun loving, rather dubious, racy sort of character. Joyce plays a background part for some of the Morcove stories, and has mixed more than once with Audrey Blain and Cora Grandways. She is their Type of Girl, ready for a bit of illicit fun. If you are aware of the social history of the 1920s and 1930s, you will really understand these girls!.
Judy Cardew is a fascinating character. She is previously known as Judith Grandways, the girl who made good long before she became aware of her true identity. How this happens I dont know. Perhaps someone out there has the answer?
Head Girl Ethel Courtway. More than once trouble was also made for her, one story line in the form of an impostor named Agatha Drew. There were several story lines involving the other Forms in Morcove, however, as this article refers mainly to the school, surroundings and the Fourth, I will not digress at this stage.
The girls, especially Betty and Co, were extremely good friends with Lady Evelyn Knight, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Lundy. As previously mentioned, they live at Barncombe Castle. The Earl and Countess, with their daughter Lady Evelyn, threw open the castle and grounds several times a year for various charity events, in which Betty and Co. were heavily involved. There was no snobbery or pretentiousness at all with these people, which was perhaps why they were loved by all classes. The class system was very much apparent in those days, and it came to light in several of the Morcove stories.
Leonard Shields, the illustrator of the series, managed to make the girls come alive, against a background of the magnificent scenery, be it Morcove School itself, or moor land; sea shore; ruined buildings; in Barncombe itself. It makes you feel like you can jump right into the picture and take part of the story.
Leonard Shields died in Putney, January 1949. He lived until his mid 80s. He was an illustrator of many other publications as well. It is interesting to note that although Naomer was a black North African girl, she is illustrated as being white, with long dark hair tied back. Evelyn Flinders, illustrator of The Silent Three stories, also illustrated a few of the stories.
An addiction to the Morcove stories started in 1969, when I read my first Schoolgirls Own Library. I quickly came to like the Manorcliff Stories by Hazel Armitage, of course not knowing at the time that Manorcliff was a spin off from Cliff House. The addiction grew over the years, especially as I gained more knowledge of The Amalgamated Press, that the authors were actually men (such amazement), with the discovery of the first series Schoolgirls Own Library, and subsequently The Schoolgirls Own and The Schoolgirl. Actual collecting of The Schoolgirls Own and The Schoolgirl didnt begin until the mid to late 1990s, with the initial reading of my first Morcove story in the mid 1990s, about 65 years after Morcove ceased to exist!
The first Morcove story I read I found initially very hard to get into because of the intricate details in the writing. I persevered and eventually found that reading the stories made me relax and concentrate entirely on the story, instead of my mind wandering elsewhere whilst reading. At the same time I was reading the Cliff House stories and for a while I could not choose between the two. However, Morcove won the day and from then on I am a full blown addict of Morcove.
It is rather like a social history lesson, reading the Morcove stories. Cora Grandways and Pat Lawrence own motor bikes with side cars. That would be an impossible situation nowadays. Also the use of certain words that are never heard of today, like crone, nigger,
Pam Willoughby is my favourite character. Pam is the only child of Mr and Mrs Willoughby, of Swanlake. Swanlake estate is a small world of its own, the actual lake consists of two thousand acres, and there are several small farms incorporated in the estate. Mr and Mrs Willoughby are true country people. They will not be found abroad in the depths of winter, nor do they follow the social life of many gentrified people. Mr Willoughby works side by side with his men on the farms, in all weathers. Mrs Willoughby has the upkeep of the house and gardens.
Pam is a tall, serene girl, who dislikes any kind of snobbishness or ostentation. Any troubles she manages to hide behind her serenity. She will go out of her way to help others in need.
I am also extremely fond of Paula Creel. Paula is genteel and well mannered, even under the utmost adversary. I dont believe she is the duffer as is portrayed. Paula, also an only child, is daughter of Colonel Creel JP and Mrs Creel, and lives at Weir Hall, a beautiful Elizabethan manor house in Somerset. Her Grandmother also resides with the family. Paula is an absolutely loved and adored member of the Study 12 coterie, although in the beginning she wasnt. Paula is starting to see the good in Betty just prior to her being saved during a very bad thunderstorm by Betty. Paula goes on a picnic to Cove Castle, accompanied by Cora, Ella, Judith, Ursula, to name a few, and is left behind when a huge thunderstorm interrupts their picnic. However, Betty chances to come on the scene after returning from a goodly errand. As a result of this rescue Betty becomes very ill, but of course recovers. From this time onwards, the friendship is cemented on both sides. The Morcove Election
Paula cannot sound her Rs. Young readers of today would find her way of speech absolutely unintelligible but I can relate to it because of my English background. Her Bai Joves; and You Widiculous Cweature I am a weck, a wuin have me just enthralled, as does the brilliantly portrayed interraction between Paula, her best chum Naomer Nakara and Polly Linton. Paulas whole vocabulary to me, belies her duffer image, as a duffer would not have any knowledge of big words such as Paula uses. Paula is also a member of Morcoves Guide Company, of which Miss Redgrave is Guide Captain.
Jemima Carstairs also fascinates me. I read some of the Cliff House stories featuring her, and then was able to purchase. When Jemima Came to Morcove, by L. E. Ransome, a stand-in author, who wrote quite a few of the Morcove stories under the name of Marjorie Stanton. Jemima, after appearing in this story, and suffering at the hands of Ursula Wade, was transferred to Cliff House School. Jemima has a brilliant, sharp as a tack brain, disguised behind a duffer like fašade.
Note: The Guide Company seems to disappear in later Morcove stories.
Morcove stories published in The Schoolgirls Own Library.
Here are a few examples of the Morcove stories published in The Schoolgirls Own Library. These were originally published in The Schoolgirls Own, and subsequently re-printed for The Schoolgirls Own Library, both of which were printed by The Amalgamated Press from 1921 to 1936.