It has been dubbed ‘the school the Germans could not close’ and this year marks its 120th anniversary as part of the fabric of Southsea life.
Mayville High School’s longevity is credited in part to a visionary ethos born with its inception that the ‘whole child’ is at the heart of education.
Founded by Charlotte West in 1897 at 1 Gains Road, it then moved to the corner of Waverley Road in 1910 where at number four it became Mayville Boarding and Day School for Girls.
It was one of the few schools to stay open during both world wars, despite the intensity of the blitz on Portsmouth in 1940 and 1941.
Then situated in Clarendon Road with headteacher Doris Livesey at the helm, a former pupil recollects being in class and hearing ‘the roaring sound of aero engines… it must have been 30 or 40 feet above the roofs, a German Dornier bomber coming over, and all the crew sat up in front of this sort of glass thing. You could see the crew inside’. The teacher shouted: ‘Down! Down!’
In 1947 and into the 1950s Mayville continued to expand with the acquisition of three buildings in Clarendon Road including Kenilworth House.
In the 1950s Mayville went from strength to strength with that decade heralding the start of foreign travel.
Mrs Livesey was a passionate social campaigner and a philanthropist and had a keen business brain. Indeed she ran Mayville as a successful business while continuing Charlotte West’s holistic approach to education.
After nearly 50 years in service she left the bulk of her estate to the school so it could be established as a charitable trust in the 1960s.
Mrs Livesey was a woman ahead of her time who also believed in tradition and discipline.
In the Swinging Sixties she was determined to win the battle to keep the uniform policy in place.
In 1968 she called a meeting with her prefects, and said afterwards: ‘I pointed out that I liked miniskirts, but in their proper place. We decided between us that three inches above the knee was quite sufficient at school.’
Linda Owens took over as headmistress in 1994. At the time she did not intend to stay.
However, Mayville worked ‘its magic’ on her and she spent more than 20 years making the school what it is today – a school that offers something unique to its children and their families, a traditional but broad-based education, academic excellence, with pupil well-being at the forefront.
n The story of Mayville High School continues tomorrow.