367 Chiswick High Road: Oxford College
A large Victorian house on the corner of Marlborough Road, 367 Chiswick High Road, housed Oxford College from 1916; the school had 70-80 pupils aged 3 to 16 and was said to be over 100 years old on its closure in 1973, which was followed by the building’s conversion into the headquarters of Brentford and Isleworth Labour party.
Source: ‘Chiswick: Education’, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7: Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden (1982), pp. 95-99. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22570.
Recollections from Beryl Cross, July 2012
I became a pupil at this school, in September, 1934. It was a school for girls and boys from age 4/5 to, I think, 13. The number of pupils was very small compared with local state primary schools and there were some children from overseas, including Switzerland and India.
Oxford College was run by two sisters (half-sisters?), known as Miss Fowle, the Headmistress and Miss Douglas. Miss D had particular responsibility for the youngest children. Miss Tombs specialised in English; grammar, spelling, and memorising of poetry and the setting of imaginative compositions, often fictional short stories, were especially popular with me and gave an excellent grounding in appreciation of one’s own language. I remember an English class where we read a short part of one of Shakespeare’s historical plays aloud when I was probably 8. The most talented of the teachers employed was Miss Thorpe, married with a son and daughter who also attended the school.
One room in the house at this time had a full-length mirror from floor to ceiling with a barre for ballet practice. Miss Fowle took these lessons. This room was also used for morning assembly. Sports were taught and marching, which I really enjoyed and a tennis court occupied most of what is now the back garden to the house. We learned to play tennis. Once a year, the college would compete in games and sports against Osterley College, an establishment also under the headship of Miss Fowle.
Some pupils, including me, were also entered for the Poetry Society’s poetry read aloud competition for which certificates could be awarded if the pupils reached the required entry standards. Oxford College put on an amateur stage shows, usually in Chiswick Town Hall. I did not usually enjoy participating in these but recall that my earliest role – non-speaking – was as a teapot.
The school was evacuated for the September 1939 and January 1940 terms but I was not evacuated and together with her own children and a neighbour’s daughter, also a pupil at Oxford College, Miss Thorpe taught us – usually at my parent’s home. Then Oxford College returned to Chiswick. During the summer term of 1940 each pupil was allocated a tiny plot in the back garden. I recall growing a very large carrot. We planted vegetable seeds as part of the Dig for Victory campaign.
The standard of teaching at Oxford College was very high and I owe a very great educational debt to the college.
(Beryl still lives in the house in Silver Crescent in which she was born and she still loves poetry! Her 5th collection is expected to be published soon).
Contributed by Beryl Cross and Marie Rabouhans, March 2014