Mansion House Establishment for Young Ladies
Hanley Road & Horsley Road
Established 1802The address places the school in north London, the date places it firmly in the extended Regency period, but I have been unable to find any further information on it. When I found no facts on Mansion House School I was compelled to invent its story, and it became the basis for my book “The Education of Portia”.
My fascination with the picture led me to further research on the private schools for young ladies which abounded in the Regency era. In fiction the schools have been immortalized by Thackeray in Vanity Fair “Miss Pinkerton’s academy for young ladies”, by Dickens in his Sketches by Boz “Miss Crumptons’ Minerva House” and by Jane Austen herself in Emma with Mrs. Goddard’s school.
1 states “The function of the lady who taught was not, then, so much to transmit expert knowledge as to serve as a model of elegance and moral rectitude for her pupils”.
These ladies were for the most part gentlewomen who had fallen upon difficult financial times, and they organized their establishments along the lines of a family household.
Those few schools which seriously taught academic subjects had a considerable body of material with which to work. There was also a surfeit of moral instruction available, foreshadowing the ponderous rectitude of the Victorian era to follow the Georgian age.
Some of the books available to a schoolmistress with the wit and the inclination to actually educate her pupils included Lowndes’ History of England, John Grieg’s Young Ladies’ New Guide to Arithmetic, Walker’s Elements of Geography, “Letters on the Improvement of the Mind addressed to a (young) Lady” by Hester Chapone, and Brown’s Elements of English Education.
I often wonder whether the Mansion House Establishment was one of the ‘society’ schools or a more serious institute of learning. The story I created for it put it firmly in the latter category, and Portia the schoolmistress was one of those teachers of wit and discernment. But I’ll never really know what it was like and that, for me, is the charm of history.
‘Til next time,
1 Pedersen, Joyce Senders. "Schoolmistresses and Headmistresses: Elites and Education in Nineteenth-Century England" The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1. (Autumn, 1975), pp. 135-162.