Reception: 01235 520173 or 07738 642415

Admissions: 01235 530593

Executive Assistant to the Headmistress: 01235 546502

Bursary: 01235 520657

Joint Bus Service: 01235 546565

St Helen and St Katharine, Faringdon Road, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 1BE

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Old Girls Tea and Tour

On Wednesday 4 March six Old Girls gathered for our SHSK Society Tour and Tea event. This inaugural event coincided with the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Jean Duffield Library, in which the School Archive is located. For a few of these Old Girls it was their first time returning to the School and it was certainly their first time being allowed to walk through the main front door, which until relatively recently was out of bounds for students.

The tour commenced in Chapel which has remained mostly unchanged over the decades. Memories of attending daily services wearing veils were shared, and some Old Girls tried to find the kneeler that they had made in sewing lessons in the 1980s. The refectory brought conversations about school meals and how they have improved over the years! Shrieks from the Old Girls filled Old School Hall, which was followed by comments about how polished the floor is now compared to years ago!

One of the Old Girls was a boarder at St Helen’s so the group were taken up to the art studios at the top of the main building. For the Old Girls that were day students, or ‘day bugs’ as they are affectionately referred to, this was the first time visiting the former boarding rooms as only boarders were allowed in that area of the School. The group were shown photographs of the boarding cubicles by the Old Girl that used to board, and in the senior art studio she was able to identify where her bed used to be.

On moving into the Science Atrium there was an audible intake of breath. The Old Girls remarked that they thought the ‘old new science block’ (which was built in the 1960s) was modern but seeing what facilities are available now was astounding. The rain did not deter them venturing to the Sports Centre where discussions about cold, wet lacrosse lessons and inspirational teachers were held.

The tour then moved to the Jean Duffield Library. The School Archives are located on the first floor and the Old Girls were given time to discover what they hold. The School Archivist, Mrs Blackmore, had researched the Old Girls in attendance and was able to show them photographs of their time at St Helen’s, and for some she was even able to show them their entry in the School Admissions Registers. There were discussions about the uniform, memories shared about events such as St Kate’s Day, and Mrs Blackmore was delighted to be shown photographs and memorabilia that some of the Old Girls had brought along with them.

“It is delightful to be able to curate these personal tours for a small group of Old Girls. I find it fascinating to hear first-hand accounts about time at St Helen’s, and to be able to share the exceptional School Archives is always special.”

Mrs Blackmore (St Helen’s Archivist and 2005 leaver)

After a good amount of time reminiscing and discovering more about their time at school, the Old Girls returned to the Refectory for a sumptuous tea. This term the Year 5 students are studying the history of St Helen’s and were invited to attend this part of the event. The students were very excited at the prospect of being able to meet and talk with some Old Girls. Headmistress Mrs Dougall joined the party, and laughter filled the Refectory when one Old Girl asked her permission to run down the Chapel corridor!

“I really enjoyed talking to the Old Girls about their time here. I liked hearing that the boarders had midnight feasts….and I have now learnt from the Old Girls how to prank a teacher!”

Sophie (Year 5)

“As well as the fun of strolling down memory lane and talking to those of different generations, it was marvellous to see the splendid archive, Library and other facilities from which today’s students so clearly benefit.”

Sara (class of 1986)

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