Sarum Hall School was founded in September 1929 at 51 Eton Avenue, Belsize Park by Miss Violet E Webb, the first Headmistress. Miss Webb had been a pupil at the Godolphin School in Salisbury and named Sarum Hall after that town – Sarum is the Roman name for Salisbury.
The first term began with just seven pupils; double that number enrolled for the second term and at the beginning of the second year there were 28 pupils. The oldest year group that started at Sarum Hall in 1929 had just three pupils in it all the way up through the School.
Revolutionary and traditional
When the school first opened the girls were delighted to find a modern, even revolutionary, style of uniform. Most girls’ schools at that time had the typical ‘gym’ tunic. Sarum Hall girls, however, had pleated kilts and warm jumpers in the winter and pretty cotton dresses in various shades of green during the summer months.
In 1933 deportment ties were introduced as a means of distinguishing those whose general carriage was particularly good at all times. These ties were dark green with light green stripes and girls who were awarded them were allowed to wear them instead of the regulation dark green ones. Many owners of these ties, once they received them, then ceased to bother about their posture! It was therefore decided to give a bad mark every time a deportment tie owner was discovered sitting or standing badly and five bad marks meant the confiscation of the tie.
When ascending or descending the stairs the girls had to walk up the wall side and down the banister side, just as we try to do today. When the girls went home or received presentations in assembly, they always did the ‘Sarum Hall bob’ as they shook hands with their teacher.
War and evacuation
In 1939, at the outbreak of war, the school was evacuated to Whatcombe House in Dorset. Unfortunately the evacuation was unsuccessful, only lasting about one term. The conditions, including cooking facilities, were far from ideal and the bombing in the Hampstead area of London was not as bad as expected, so many parents wanted their children back home with them. Following the short evacuation, the school was forced to close and reopened again in 1945, following repairs to the building caused by war damage.
Sarum Hall girls have always participated in sports activities, opportunities that were not available at all girls’ schools in the first half of the 20th century. The original school had a gymnasium and organised annual sports days at Hampstead Heath Extension. In those days the prizes were real silver and consisted of items such as cups, spoons, clocks and candlesticks.
Upon the retirement of Miss Webb in 1960, the school became a charitable trust.
In the early 1990s, the Governors announced exciting plans to move the school to a new building further down Eton Avenue. The staff were involved in the planning and development of ideas for the new building and in 1994 the whole school attended a ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone. A time capsule was then buried in the far corner of the new gym, which may be found by future generations if this building is ever demolished. The time capsule contents include coins, a fountain pen, some of the school uniform, letters written by the girls at the time and school magazines.
In 1995, the school moved into the award-winning purpose-built premises at 15 Eton Avenue. At the official opening ceremony, instead of a small ribbon at the front door for a VIP to cut, the building was encircled by a giant ribbon with a huge bow at the front door. The school looked like an enormous birthday present! All the girls gathered at the front of the school and had balloons which they launched into the air.
In September 1995, the School also welcomed the first Nursery and Reception girls. Our modern and inspiring environment has since been extended, and continues to be improved. Despite the many changes and developments over the years, Sarum Hall School has remained true to Miss Webb’s original vision of a school that promotes outstanding education for girls.
Sarum Hall Headmistresses
Mrs Christine Smith 2008-present day
Mrs Jane Scott 2000-2008
Lady Sandra Smith-Gordon 1984-2000
Miss Jan Rowell 1965-1984
Miss Rosemary Minnis 1960-1965
Miss Violet E. Webb 1929-1960