Stepping Back in Time

Wycombe Abbey Archives

On Tuesday 16 of November, pupils and members of staff congregated in Fisher Library after school for an evening of discussion and exploration of many items and documents that we hold in the Wycombe Abbey archives. This event was kindly organised and hosted by Miss Weatherby (Teacher of History of Art and Library Assistant) and was assisted by a group of Upper Sixth pupils and myself.

The evening kicked off with a wonderful talk by Meryl (UVI), detailing an overview of the life and achievements of Dame Frances Dove, our School founder. This fascinating talk had everyone engaged, aided by Meryl’s excellent and friendly oratory skills. Afterwards, the pupils and staff went round the Library, interacting with each other and the objects laid out on the tables. There were a few different sections, all detailing different topics within the overall theme of the archives event ‘Frances Dove and Founding’. The table by which I was standing was dedicated to the early life of the pupils at the School, adorned with an old Rubens boater with a pretty pink and cream striped ribbon and many photos of old sports groups and other group activities. One of the photographs, which I loved, was a picture of three of the first Housemistresses (Rubens, Cloister and Clarence If I remember correctly) with Dame Frances Dove. They were smiling broadly and sat outside the front entrance of the Abbey, and all looked so friendly. Alongside this, there was a collection of English work by a pupil, who was in Butler House in 1921, named Audrey Pim. A few of my friends and I stood around the table as I read out one of her essays on what the differences were between a woman in 1921 and 100 years prior. Reading it in 2021, another hundred years in the future, was a completely surreal experience, and had my friends and I saying ‘what do you think she’d think of us now?’ It was lovely to read some of the thoughts expressed by an old School pupil and brought a big smile to my face to be able to relate so personally to someone who walked the very ground we do now, but 100 years previously.

On the other tables, there were objects relating to Dame Frances Dove and the early formation of Wycombe Abbey as a school, including the original sales catalogue for the Abbey that detailed the building’s features (including a ballroom, which my friends and I thought to be Big School) and some initial newspaper articles on her Council related activities. In addition to this, a document that really caught my attention was a leaflet on extras and lessons available, showing needlework, art, singing and dancing among many others. It was super interesting to think about how lessons must have been for past pupils; it was very thought-provoking as to how things have progressed since then.

Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable evening, with a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It was such fun chatting to younger pupils, my friends, and staff members as to what they thought of the items, and their thoughts on the content and what the School would have been like. Thanks again to Miss Weatherby for organising and hosting the event, and I hope to see more events like it in the future.

Freddie, LVI