On this day … 20 February 1879

1a Chapel Street, Preston. Former Preston High School for Girls
Preston High School for Girls, 1a Chapel Street: Nick Raponi, Preston Photographic Society

The Preston Guardian reported that a property at the corner of Chapel Street and Winckley Square had been purchased for a proposed Preston High School for Girls. A headmistress, the 28-year-old Louisa Frances Walsh, had already been appointed and the school began admitting its first pupils in September. Miss Walsh continued as headmistress until February 1883.

Rev Alfred Beaven Beaven, 19th-century headmaster of Preston Grammar School
Rev Alfred Beaven Beaven, headmaster of Preston Grammar School

Her time at the school was marred by the appalling behaviour of the headmaster of Preston Grammar School, the Rev Alfred Beaven Beaven, whose school was at that time round the corner in Cross Street.

He began his campaign against Miss Walsh by making public letters between himself and the Rev G. Steele, who was secretary of the girls’ school and a government inspector of schools, in which he questioned Miss Walsh’s professional competence. When she strongly defended herself against his slurs, he dismissed the defence as merely ‘whines and private jealousies’.

He even hinted at an improper relationship between Miss Walsh and the Rev Steele, alleging that they had been seen walking together in Avenham Park on summer evenings, and that she was observed talking in an ‘earnest and excited manner’.

Miss Walsh left Preston for Plymouth to become headmistress of the girls’ high school there. She married a widower with two young children and the couple went on to have two sons. She died of breast cancer in 1909, aged 55.

Headmaster Beaven’s own career and reputation suffered badly after her departure. He was twice chased for non-payment of debts, on the second occasion he was committed to custody for twenty days, but the judge suspended the order for a month.

Miss Walsh had soon filled her Preston High School to capacity, whereas the Rev Beaven saw his school roll fall from 137 in 1882 to 32 in 1898, when he was given twelve months’ notice to improve matters. He failed, resigned and pleaded poverty to the grammar school committee, which recommended that the town council give him £250 for his family. The recommendation was rejected. He moved to Leamington Spa to open a preparatory school, of which he remained headmaster until his death in 1924 at the age of 77.

Source: Friends of Winckley Square, which has much more on the people involved: https://www.winckleysquarepreston.org/heritage/louisa-frances-walsh/

1a Chapel Street, Preston. Former Preston High School for Girls
Chapel Street interior: Robert Turley, Preston Photographic Society

2 thoughts on “On this day … 20 February 1879

  1. peter love preston history can i ask to look into a subject for me a meeting was held in preston public hall 8th march 1914 was it about the war effort it was called services abroad reason my grandad enrolled in 1914 i would appreciate any help ken benson


    1. Hi Ken,
      I’m not going to be much help, I’m afraid. I’ve nothing in my files, but If you live within easy reach of Lancashire Archives, you could pop in there and check the local papers around that date.


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