The Red Maids’ School: the proud history

March 31 2016

The Red Maids’ School: the proud history

1634 The Red Maids’ School is founded in 1634 by John Whitson, Lord Mayor and MP for Bristol. Despite having three daughters, he outlived them all, and he left his estate for the founding of a unique establishment, The Red Maids Hospital. The school opened in Denmark Street in central Bristol with 12 pupils wearing their distinctive red cloth uniforms, and their Mistress, Mrs Greenwell.

1654, further money is left by John Whitson’s widow to provide accommodation for 40 orphaned or abandoned girls and two teachers.

1791 Education, beyond reading and sewing, begins. The older girls are expected to learn to write and count. By the beginning of the 19th century, they are reported to be learning reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing and housewifery, singing and Scripture.

1830 Alderman Daniel, an influential local politician, doubles the number of girls in the school during the 1830s and a new building is opened to house 140 boarders.

1911 The school moves from its central Bristol base to Burfield country house in Westbury-on-Trym, then in open countryside north of Bristol, where it remains today.

1934 A new block of buildings are opened in celebration of the school’s 300-year anniversary. These include a gym, art room, laboratory, library & new classrooms. The amount of day girls increases to 140, and provision is made for 80 boarders. A mixture of John Whitson’s legacy, bursaries and the Direct Grant Scheme enables girls from a wide range of backgrounds to benefit from education at the school. Many new buildings have been added in recent years, including the assembly hall and the library. There are now over 500 students who are soon to be joined by those from Redland High School. John Whitson’s importance to the school is celebrated each year on Founder’s Day, November 19th, when the school processes through the streets of Bristol in full red ceremonial uniform to a service at Bristol Cathedral where his will is read aloud.