Monthly Archives: October 2018

Mrs.Walters Finishing School ~ Saint Helena’s Finishing School for Wayward Young Ladies

This story is based on the true recorded events of a finishing school in Bristol, England in the late 1800’s.

I have researched the accounts of ‘the Lady With the Birch’ as well as I can. I have narrowed its location down to Oakfield Road, in Clifton, near Bristol. A rather well to do and respected residential district. I have scoured as many Victorian photographs of dwellings in that typical middle class suburban district as I can find, here is one of Rokeby House.

Lovely isn’t it?

Something I read made me think this was it. But, now, after a few letters to the right people, I do not think that is the house we are looking for. But it gives you a good impression of the well to do area.

I think this one below, is the one I want it to be for our story…(I know the real one now, but it is not quite right for us, it has been altered too much) this one is very very close to the site of the school, but has hardly been altered. In fact, I read that she did so well, that she expanded, I am pretty sure that this is the property she expanded her school with, maybe an upper and a lower school, for varying ages.

So, this one is definitely on the same street, very close to where the real one was, and quite likely looks pretty much the same. Mrs Walters and her girls would have walked by here daily, the scene is set, you can now visualise the area.

Can you see the little brick arch in the centre at the top? Perfect for a school bell isn’t it? Along with the central gate, it looks more like a finishing school than any other I have found.

(The actual address given for the school was ?? Oakfield Road (I will not give the number) and an apartment there was recently up for sale, at the end of the story I will show you a photo of it as it is now.) I will respect the owners, I do not want to send loads of you sightseeing there!

I say school.

It was not a school as you know them today. It was for girls and young women, many of them over twenty. It taught music and art, as well as all the usual subjects. But it also taught deportment and manners. In other words it taught the Victorian young lady how to behave. In particular a certain type of young lady.

Naughty girls and wayward young women to be accurate. Unruly was the term used at the time.

Haughty young women, as we would call them today, the type of girl who considers many people who try to help her become an adult, stupid. She answers back, she says ‘you are wrong… ACTUALLY.” With emphasis on the words she feels make her sound important and clever. Usually spoilt, and spared the rod. Girls who become hysterical easily, stamping their feet, making a fuss over nothing. With weak parents or Uncles etc, who do nothing but let it proceed unabashed.

Let’s take an imaginary peek back in time…lets creep up to the house.

Imagine we are stood, silently, invisible to her…

“Can you see her?” There, in the bay window is sat the lady in question. A tall woman, sat straight, dipping her pen in the inkwell, let’s look to see what she is writing.

We look over her right shoulder, her pen is busily scratching away. It is such an evocative place, we can see an aspidistra, and lots of pale pink bilberry glassware, the smell of beeswax and coal smoke fill the air. A grandfather clock ticks heavily, as if counting the beat to a birching. And incidentally, there is a birch resting in a bucket of water by the fire, to keep it supple.

She is penning two advertisements, it seems three girls have successfully left and she has spaces.

What you are about to read are two real adverts out of the many she put in the local newspapers.

On the 5th October 1889 this advert appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

‘Bad Temper, Hysteria, Idleness etc.

Cured by strict discipline and careful training.

Three girls received’

…it seems a strange way of saying it, but I assume it means she will receive three more girls. I believe it was a little like a Victorian version of Twitter, an advert was only allowed so many characters.

She gave an address to reply to, that of Mrs.Clapp. Of St Johns Wood, Bristol. This was a company who made birches, canes, tawses, straps etc. I have no idea why the applications did not go straight to number ??. I surmise that they were close friends and associates.

And then, few days later this advert appeared in The Times.

‘Intractible girls trained and educated. Excellent References.’ It also advertised her papers for sale at a shilling each. They covered various subjects such as; Hints on Management of Children,  and The Rod.

Her own address given this time.

Think about this for a while, a Victorian Lady, with her own finishing school, especially for the naughtiest of girls. Where birching and other forms of corporal punishment are used, at her discretion. To correct them and turn them into ‘fine young ladies’ A real woman, paid to punish naughty young ladies…into their early twenties. It’s quite something isn’t it?

An investigative paper investigated the establishment…

The Truth sent an undercover woman reporter along to find out all about it. She explained she had an unruly daughter she wanted tamed. For the sum of £100 Mrs Walter offered to take the unruly girl under her wing for a whole year. She even offered references from the Dean of Lincoln, an admiral, a general and several aristocrats.

Mrs Walter was well equipped with a birch table, several birches and made the girls dress in a gown that was open at the back. She claimed never to birch or punish in anger, but to always punish soundly on the bare bottom when the young woman was ‘needful.’

“Taking the birch, I measure my distance and, standing at the side, I proceed to strike slowly but firmly” Mrs Walter explained. “By moving gently forward, each stroke is differently placed and six strokes may well be enough if given with full force. If the fault has been such as to need severe correction, then I begin on the other side and work back again.”

Mrs Walter did not like the girls to resist or even scream and for such behaviour she would add strokes or even repeat the punishment.

At its height Mrs Walter ran a respectable business advertising her services openly and contracting via the church magazine for a supply of birch rods from a reputable supplier.


I have read the interview by the reporter, where Mrs Walters describes her birchings, the number of strokes, the screaming girls, how they react and eventually accept the birch, and are grateful for it mastering them etc etc


Have a look at the engravings below the newspaper cutting, of finishing schools at the time she ran hers, who knows, one of them may be her school.

I have found this news paper account, I hope you can read it! …it is the start of our story…we answer it, and send our two very naughty unruly girls to her.

That is all fact, now it is time for my mind to take over….

Let these pictures set the scene of the school. Lots of mahogany, lots of polish, everything ‘just so’.

This is about two very naughty, very haughty young Victorian Ladies, deemed out of control by their ‘well to do’ parents. Charlotte and Samantha.

The school my wife and I have sent them to, in Windsor have dismissed them. It appears their final act of naughtiness was to wear no bloomers and allow their dresses to blow up in the wind at what the girls called ‘Windy Corner’! We admit that we seem to have lost control of them, I have been away working for the Foreign Office, and my wife has three more children at home, even with the help of our maids, we cannot in all honesty deal with our two daughters at home. We love Charlotte and Samantha very much, but it is time to admit reality. We have been too soft with them, we have spoiled them and pampered to their every whim.

They need to be mastered by the birch, or cane, or whatever you deem fit.

Soon it will be time to turn them out in to society as Debutantes, but how on earth can we? We will be laughing stocks!

I have written to a lady who seems perfect for our needs.

Dear Mrs Walters.

My wife and I feel quite ashamed to admit that our two eldest daughters, Charlotte and Samantha, twins, but not identical, have become unruly, rude, haughty and quite simply out of control. In two years or so we want them to enter society as young ladies.

Do you think you can correct their behaviour?

Mr A.Jones. esq

A series of letters followed, describing their ways , their need of correction, and after agreeing fees, paid in advance for two years, she has agreed to take them, and to turn them into ‘Young Ladies of Fine Standing’, to be proud of.

We have agreed to her being able to punish the girls in any manner she seems fit, with no limits on the length or strength of the punishments. They are totally in her strict care, a life of discipline awaits them.

Today, we dispatched them to Bristol on the train. They were defiant, saying that they will not be broken by a silly lady from the countryside.

We shall see…

Part One… They arrive.

Click here…