Brunswick Square school Penrith

My post on the young men of Brunswick Square, Penrith, who went off to fight in the First World War brought an inquiry from a reader.

“I’m looking for information about a ladies school run at 6 Brunswick Square, Penrith during the time 1891- 1900s. Any information will be appreciated.”

Here is what I have found. If anyone reading this can add more, feel free to use the ‘contact’ page.

Brunswick Square school – the short version

Number 6 Brunswick Square, Penrith (aka Brunswick House) was a day and boarding school for girls from the summer term of 1883 until the end of the spring term of 1896.

Girls were taught English history, geography, arithmetic, scripture history, Latin and French. They were able to sit examinations set by university exam boards. Music was something of a school speciality.

And a lot of the pupils – like the family who set up the school – were from Scotland.

The Petrie family

David Petrie was born about 1830. He married Catherine Fraser, and in 1861, he was a clerk (publisher) in Inverness. Their daughter Hannah Helen Petrie was born in 1860. Mary Jane followed three years later.

‘Why Penrith?’ is anyone’s guess. But for whatever reason, by 1871, the Petries had moved to Cumberland (4 Duke Street, Penrith) – and David Petrie the clerk had become a master hosier.

An 1873 trade directory includes: 2 King Street, David Petrie, ladies’ outfitter.

In 1881, David Petrie was 51, Catherine Petrie was 41, and they were still at 2 King Street, Penrith. Helen, at 20, and Mary Jane, 17, were described as teachers. And there was a son, John Petrie, who was aged just 8 months. Clearly an ‘afterthought’! (Assuming he WAS David and Catherine’s son, rather than the ‘secret’ son of either Helen or Mary Jane).

A newspaper advert in April 1881 declares:

The Misses Petries’ next quarter will commence on Wednesday, April 6th, St Andrew’s Square.

However, just a few weeks later:

The Misses Petrie beg to intimate that they have removed their classroom from St Andew’s Place to the house in Burrowgate lately occupied by Mr Lumb, where they will have accommodation for a few boarders under the charge of Mrs Petrie

And in January 1883:

The Misses Petrie intend in future to adopt the three-term system. 16 Burrowgate. Senior Honour Certificate from Edinburgh University and First Class Musical Certificate from Trinity College London.

Brunswick Square school – the history

According to his obituary, David Petrie ‘gave up business to reside at Brunswick House, where he and his daughters established a day and boarding school for young ladies.’

It may have been a case of being pushed, for in March 1883, it was announced:

To be sold by auction, that desirable block of businesses in Burrowgate, in the occupation of Thomas Lumb (wine and spirit stores) and Mr Petrie (house). Immediate possession can be had.

This was followed by:

1883 April 3. The Misses Petrie intend moving in the course of a few weeks to Brunswick Square, where they will have accommodation for a few additional boarders. Next term will commence on Wednesday, 2nd May. 16 Burrowgate, Penrith.

Brunswick Square School, Petrie, Cumbrian Characters

Similar adverts for subsequent terms tell us:

‘The house and grounds are well-adapted for boarders’.

‘Pupils prepared for university local examinations.’

The 1891 census tells us how many pupils were then boarding at 6 Brunswick Square (but not, of course, how many day pupils there were).

The ages of the pupils at Brunswick Square school are surprising.

1891. 6 Brunswick Square, Penrith.

David Petrie, 61, teacher ladies’ school, born Scotland,

Catherine Petrie, 51,  born Scotland

Hannah H Petrie, 30, principal of ladies’ school, born Scotland

Mary Jane Petrie, 27 principal of ladies’ school, born Scotland

John Petrie, 10, scholar. born Penrith

Scholars (all born Scotland): Catherine Burgess 21; Jessie White, 20; Jane Fullerton, 16; Annie Fullerton 18; Anna Taylor 17; and a domestic servant.

One can only wonder now how they fitted a family of five, the servant, and five paying boarders into the living accommodation and still had – how many classrooms? (And how many day pupils?).

Pillars of the Penrith community

Between them, all the members of the Petrie family were dedicated to church, to good works, and to music, as well as Brunswick Square school. They were heavily involved in Penrith Presbyterian Church – but also took part in concerts and fundraising events at the Primitive Methodist Chapel and the Congregational Church.

Between them, they supported the Band of Hope (temperance organisation), Barnado’s homes for destitute children, an educational trust, and the Oddfellows friendly society.

My favourite news item about them says:

1886 October. Penruddock English Presbyterian Church harvest thanksgiving… conspicuous among the works of art were to be seen a banner and a text. 

The banner, the work of the Misses Petrie of Penrith, was simply excellent. 

The words ‘The Lord will provide’ were delicately dotted with tapioca. 


David Petrie

David Petrie was elected joint secretary of the newly formed Penrith Musical Society in 1889. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the role, and in 1893, ruffled a few feathers by saying members who wanted to go on outings under the auspices of the society shouldn’t expect help from society funds. 

“Every tub should stand on its own bottom”. 

He said that previous trips had been nothing more than private affairs with the society’s name tacked on to get cheap teas and reduced fares.

In August 1890, Penrith Grammar School’s summer term report tells us: Mr Petrie, Brunswick Square, had kindly conducted the examination of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

David Petrie died at Brunswick House, Brunswick Square, Penrith, in October 1895, after a chill turned to pneumonia.


Catherine Petrie

1884 Penrith and District Literary and Scientific Society annual meeting and conversazione … the following were elected members of the society… Mrs Petrie, Brunswick-square. 

Catherine Petrie’s other main ‘claim to fame’ seems to have been serving teas, and running stalls, at church bazaars and other such occasions. 

Catherine Petrie died in 1904.


The Misses Petrie

Neither Hannah Petrie nor her younger sister Mary Jane ever married. As well as running the school, their names crop up time and again in reports of church and charitable events where they played the harmonium, the piano, or the organ. Sometimes solo, sometimes duets.


John Petrie

Young John may have learned a lot from his family – but they ran a girls’ school. He attended the grammar schools in Penrith, and then won a scholarship to Carlisle Grammar School. He went on to become an electrical engineer.


Back to Brunswick Square school

David Petrie’s death in October 1895 was not the end of the Brunswick Square school.

1886 January. Brunswick House, the Misses Petrie, assisted by a resident governess and visiting masters, will begin their next term on January 20.

However, it wasn’t long before they did move: not, as you might think, to downsize after the loss of their father. But, actually to expand. 

1896 April. Boarding and day school for young ladies.

The Misses Petrie beg to give notice that they will, at Whitsuntide, remove to Mostyn Hall. They will be assisted by a resident governess who has resided on the continent; also by visiting masters and mistresses. Preparatory class for little boys. Pupils prepared for exams. Summer term begins May 4

Mostyn Hall 

Just as the 1891 census shows us the handful of pupil boarders at 6 Brunswick Square, so 1901 shows us the size of the new school at Mostyn Hall.Which, to anyone who knows both locations, is hardly a surprise!

As well as Catherine, Hannah and Mary Jane Petrie, there were three assistant mistresses: two of them born in Scotland and one, clearly the French mistress, born in France.

There were 18 girl pupils boarding there (14 of them born in Scotland). And a housemaid and a cook.

The youngest pupil was 9, the oldest 20.

In December 1908, the Penrith Observer did a ‘look back’ with a list of well-known people who had died that year. It included Hannah Petrie.

Mary Jane Petrie carried on the school at Mostyn Hall, with a staff of fully certified mistresses – but in August 1909:

Recognised girls’ boarding and day school, sound education, moderate fees, dancing class open to outside pupils… Principal Mrs Flora Board Jones.

The 1911 census for Mostyn Hall has Emily Holland as the principal, with Frances Lilian Board Jones, 12 a pupil. No sign of her mother Flora.

By 1914, James Pears the (Pears and Elliott) grocer and family were living at Mostyn Hall – James died there on October 15, 1914, aged 50, leaving a widow and six children (aged 24 down to 14).

Mary Jane Petrie, in 1911, was living in Fishbourne, Sussex, with her brother John and a domestic servant.

Brunswick Square school: the pupils

1886. Edinburgh University Local Examinations. The following pupils of Misses Petrie, Brunswick House, Penrith, passed their preliminary examination in English history and geography, and Scripture history: Annie J Mounsey, Eamont Bridge; Annie H Simpson, Kincardine-on-Forth; Margaret A Simpson, ditto. Miss Mounsey and Miss Margaret A Simpson have also obtained junior certificates.

1887 July. Edinburgh University Local Examinations. Mina Middleton, Montrose, obtained a senior certificate, having previously passed in English, Latin, History, Geography, Arithmetic, and Scripture History. Elsie G Thom, Askham, Junior Certificate. Frances E Edmonson, Walloway; Alice M Muir, Clifton, passed their preliminary examination in English, Arithmetic, History, Geography, and Scripture History. All these young ladies are pupils of the Misses Petrie, Brunswick House, Penrith.

1888 July. Edinburgh University Local Examinations. Preliminary: Miss Maggie Dickson, Montrose, Miss W Macdonald, Garmouth, passed in English history, geography, arithmetic, Scripture history, and French. Junior certificate: Maggie Dickson for French, German, English, history and geography. Miss Frances E Edmondson, Walloway, Miss Macdonald, and Miss Susan H Middleton, Montrose, for French, English, history and geography; Miss Macdonald taking honours in history and geography.

1889 July. More exam success. Lizze Burgess (Garloch), Sarah J Lemon (Digwall) – English, arithmetic, geography, history, scripture history, and French. Both junior certificates. Elsie G Thom (Redhills), senior certificate for English, French, history, and geography. Miss Mounsey (Eamont Bridge), former pupil, received a senior certificate.

1890. July. exams, just Jennie White, Colinsburgh. Senior Certificate, and passed in English, history, geography, arithmetic and French.

1891 July. exams. Annie M Ferrier, Brechin, passed prelim exams in English, history, geography, arithmetic, scripture history and French, and got a junior certificate. Anna S Taylor, Perth, added Latin to her pass of last year.

1892 July. pupils Miss Curr, Dundee, and Miss Rose, Portree, passed in English, history, geography, arithmetic, and French, and received junior certificates.

1893. Isabel Scott, only daughter of Penrith solicitor Thomas James Scott, married William Sanderson Shield, district manager of the North of England branch of the Norwich Union Life Assurance Company, Newcastle. Miss M Petrie, formerly governess to the bride, played the Wedding March.

(1891 has Thomas as a solicitor’s CLERK. Isabel was then 21. William Shield was 7 years older.

1893 Oxford local examinations. Juniors. A Edmondson, M G Mackenzie, Dora J Mounsey.

1894 Trinity College Musical Examinations, junior honours: Annie R Carr, Penrith.

John Petrie secured a 3-year scholarship to Carlisle Grammar

1894 Oxford local exams. seniors Lucy Wilson. Pass Jeannie R B Cross.

1895. Oxford local exams. Senior pass. Katherin Mary Shiack and Mary Wright. Junior honours Effy Lyall Graham, Annie Mackinnon, Nora Mary Ritchie.