In 1856, Mr JH Hawley of the Castle School Kenilworth, announced in the Leamington Courier his intention to set up a ‘Classical and Commercial School’ in Brunswick Place, Leamington. An advertisement in the Courier in November of that year referred to ‘Brunswick House School, most healthily situated outside the town’, where a first class education was delivered by an assistant master in Classics, a Native [sic] in French, the Head of the Coventry Government School of Art taught Drawing, and ” a military man” taught Drill. Terms, advertised as moderate and inclusive, were as follows:
” FOR BOARDERS, FROM 28 GUINEAS,
FOR DAILY PUPILS, 8 GUINEAS PER ANNUM”
A later advertisement (1859) was more expansive: ” In this School, great attention is paid to the essentials of a good English Education, viz., Spelling, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Composition. The French and German Languages are taught, both grammatically and conversationally, by an eminent Resident Professor; Latin by the Principal, Drawing by the Head Master of a Government School of Art, and Drilling by a Drill Sergeant.. The terms include instruction in all the above branches. The moral and religious training of the Pupils are cared for, and no pains are spared to promote habits of cleanliness, order, and self- discipline.”
Within a couple of years, the school was able to field its own cricket eleven, whose fixtures were were reported regularly in the sports columns of the local paper. The venue of one match in August 1859, against the Midland School, Coventry, was on the Parr and Wisden ground, no less .
Hand written letters and documents in the archive of Alan Griffin reveal that whilst on the surface, all appeared well and the school was flourishing, there were ongoing difficulties in settling terms of the lease. The owners of Brunswick House, the Lloyd family, only one of whom lived locally, having agreed the terms of the initial lease which allowed John Hawley to set up his school, subsequently became reluctant to settle for terms which would have given the business a degree of stability, and in the event of his retirement, would have allowed John Hawley to sell it as a going concern.
In April 1857, J B Shepherd, Hawley’s solicitor in Stourbridge, received a letter from the Lloyds’ London solicitors, setting out a number of hypothetical objections to the lease of a school in that particular locality, on the grounds that the neighbourhood had changed since the granting of the original lease, and was ‘fast improving’. Even though the Lloyds’ solicitors themselves did not envisage any objection to the existence of a school ‘unless imperfectly conducted’, or that a school could be considered an annoyance or disturbance to the ‘present quality of occupiers of the adjoining premises’, letters regarding the terms of the lease continued to go back and forth between London, Stourbridge and Leamington for five or six years before the matter was settled. It seems that the Lloyd family took little account of the decline of that part of the town following the development of the New Town north of the river and the coming of the railway. Street directories of the time show that barely a third of the properties on Brunswick Street had been taken. Several properties close by had been empty for years, some never having been occupied at all.
The school was on the site of Springfield House, a large building with a shrubbery garden on the west side of Brunswick Street, an area later renamed Brunswick Place. Brunswick House School was popular. By November 1859 an extension was required, and a Memorandum was agreed between Hubert Lloyd of Leamington and Hawley, to build a new schoolroom.
The plans, agreed by Hubert Lloyd in return for an additional £20 p.a. rent and a ten-year lease, were devised by William Green, a Builder of Leamington Priors, to include a schoolroom, a wash house connected to the town water supply, and two water closets. In addition, Green was to ‘remedy the smell arising from the drain in the Drawing Room’. The mind boggles.
Brunswick House School was clearly a great success, and JH Hawley a popular teacher. He numbered the sons of prominent local businessmen such as Flavel, Staite, and Locke amongst his pupils. Nevertheless, he chose to retire In 1880, possibly at the expiry of the lease. A group of former pupils presented him with an illuminated address and a collection of 50 Guineas, a very substantial sum, the equivalent of almost £3000 in today’s money. Sidney Flavel Junior made a speech on behalf of all Brunswick House pupils, thanking John Hawley for all that he had done for the many boys who had been through his hands in the quarter century of the school’s existence. He attributed much of his own success to the education he had received under Mr Hawley’s care.
John Hugh Hawley was a man of many parts. In December each year he produced a concert by his pupils at the Music Hall in Bath Street, always received with great acclaim. When one year it was suggested that a collection be made to contribute to production costs, he asked that the money be given to the poor, that they might enjoy a Christmas dinner. In 1870, the concert was given on two successive nights, first to parents and pupils, and the second night, to the townspeople, with the specific aim of raising funds for “the distressed French peasantry”
John Hawley was a published author, – of ” A First Course of English Composition”, which ran to two editions. He chaired the Free Library Committee for many years. As Master of Ceremonies and Adjudicator, he presided over Spelling Bee competitions at the Public Hall, where on one occasion, there was a play-off between Miss Nelly Fryer of Westbourne Place and Mr Willifer of Norfolk Villa, involving words such as trysting-place, silliceous, panification and labyrinth. Miss Fryer, another teacher in the town, was the winner.
John Hawley was also Hon Secretary of the committee of the Warwickshire Horticultural Society, and on giving up Brunswick House School, took over the running of the Ranelagh Gardens. In typical Hawley style, he then went on to win prizes at the annual Flower Show, for both cut flowers and pot plants. The Leamington Courier of 17 December 1881 reported that he was obliged to take the owner of the Manor House Hotel to Court for the non-payment of a bill, – for 4lbs of grapes, delivered to a guest at the owner’s request. Mr Hawley was not a man to be trifled with!
After a brief interlude, JHH returned to teaching, this time in Surbiton, Surrey, to take over Elm House School. Here, as in Leamington, he had pupils from the town, the neighbouring regions and from as far afield as France and the United States, and seemed set for similar success.
J H Hawley and his wife Mary Ann had two children, a daughter, Elizabeth Sarah (1862) and a son, Charles William (1863), who both followed their father into teaching. Elizabeth taught Music, first in Leamington, and later in Middlesborough, in the old North Riding of Yorkshire. On graduation from Wadham College Oxford, Charles became an assistant teacher at Elm House School. After the sudden death of Charles in January 1900 in a railway accident, John Hugh and Mary Ann gave up Elm House School and moved to Middlesborough where Elizabeth was Assistant Mistress in a Secondary School. They both died there in their eighties.
Margaret Rushton and Alan Griffin
Sources: Alan Griffin archive, Leamington Spa Courier, Lyndon F Cave, Royal Leamington Spa, Phillimore, 1988, Spennell’s Street Directories. WCC Historic Maps