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Laurel Court House

1870

Information

Laurel Court House for girls was founded by Margaret Gibson and Annette Van Dissel at first in premises on London Road in 1869 before moving to Laurel Court in the Cathedral Precincts. The school prepared pupils for university examinations and specialised in music and French and German. Miss Gibson had a forceful personality but she had eccentric tendencies. She eventually went blind but remained in charge of her school. Nurse Edith Cavell (executed by German firing squad on 12 October 1915) was a student teacher at the school before taking up nursing. In recognition of Miss Gibson’s almost 60 years as the school principal and of her services to the education of girls she was made an Honorary Freedman of the City of Peterborough in1926- the first woman to receive this honour. She died in 1928 aged 91.





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Margaret Gibson, the First Freewoman of Peterbo...

1870

Information

The Laurel Court House Girls' School was first recorded in the house off the Cathedral’s cloister in 1862, one of the first girls' schools in the city. It was run for many years by the formidable Margaret Gibson and her Dutch colleague Annette van Dissel. Ms Gibson was originally from Ireland, and had settled in Peterborough in 1870, determined to run a school for young ladies. The school took both local and boarding students, taught art, music, literature and specialised in teaching French and German. Margaret Gibson ran the school with a strict discipline, but gained the respect and love of her students, particularly as she took a continuing interest after they graduated and offered help and support. In 1926 Margaret Gibson became the first woman to be given the freedom of the city of Peterborough. She is remembered for teaching Edith Cavell and for being a proud Peterborough citizen until her death in 1928.  





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The Earliest Recorded Girls’ School in th...

1753

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It is difficult to know which girls' school was definitely the first in Peterborough. The first for boys, The King's School, was founded in the reign of Henry VIII, but girls were not deemed to need educating, unless they were wealthy. They were educated in skills that were seen to make them more attractive and have more chance of marrying. In the Georgian period Dame schools started to appear. These were schools run by women to teach girls useful skills like sewing and dancing, as well as reading, writing and simple maths. The girls usually boarded with the women running the schools in large houses. Unlike modern boarding schools the number of girls would have been relatively small and dependant on the size of the building.
Bacon's Boarding School
Mrs Elizabeth Bacon was the headmistress of the first girls boarding (Dame) school in Peterborough. The first record of the school is from 1753. She ran the school until 1770 after which when Miss Searle took over as head teacher. (1) Other Dame schools included Mrs Horden's (see other entry) and a girls school run by Miss Mary Smith in 1791. (1) D.K. Shearing, Education in the Peterborough Diocese Following the 'Glorious Revolution' 1688, (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of London) p289 via http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/10018490/1/121273.pdf





The Death of Thomas Deacon and the Birth of a S...

1721

Information

Thomas Deacon is best known by his eponymous school, but his story was one of charity. Born in 1651, Deacon was a wealthy man. He owned many lands including Willow Hall near Thorney and lived for a time in Boroughbury Manor. He was a wool merchant, as much of the gentry were in the city, profiting from wool or fleece produced in the area. As one of the Feoffees he offered wool to the poor to provide an income. The poor were able to gain money for spinning the wool, which helped them out of poverty. Upon his death in 1721 he left a gift of money known as a legacy, which would pay for an education for 20 poor boys. At that time only the rich could afford an education, so this was a generous gift.
Deacon's Legacy
Thomas Deacon's school was originally sited on Cowgate, where a blue plaque has been placed. The school remained there until 1883 when it moved to Deacon Street and later to Queen's Gardens off Park Road. Thankfully it now educates both boys and girls. The Thomas Deacon Foundation continue to offer educational opportunities in the form of scholarships at Thomas Deacon Academy. A large effigy of Thomas Deacon resides in Peterborough Cathedral amongst the good and great of the city.