Non-Member Visitors


Welcome to the Non-Member section of the website. Below you will find snippets of information of interest. If you would like to view the full website, or contribute in anyway, we would be delighted to hear from you!

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Carol Service 2018 

On 16th December 2018 we made a return to St Mary’s Church Kemp Town to share in their Carol Service where Team Member Sian Spencer (Williams) read a lesson and welcomed those Old Girls who had come along to join in the service.

One of our oldest Old Girls, Brenda, came from Rottingdean to attend the service. Sadly Brenda left before the after-service get-together so Sian was unable to say hello to her and ask her to sign our visitors’ book or invite her to join Jo, Alison and Lyn for drinks and nibbles afterwards. Two other Old Girls were present, singing in the choir (Camilla and Viv  who left in 1968)  but sadly neither was able to stay on afterwards. We hope they will manage next year though.

It seems fairly clear from the small number there that there is no longer a wish for us to make a formal arrangement around this event, so your Team has asked Sian if she will continue to maintain her personal links with the Church, and, if invited to do so, continue to give one of the readings.  We will, of course, publicise the date and time and we know that if Alumnae wish to attend they will be welcomed.

Here are some lovely photos, the first two taken by Brenda, the remainder by Sian. (Click to open - the photos are better than the Thumbnails!)

Virtual Common Room Reunion 2018

The inaugural “Virtual Common Room Reunion”, organised by Micki on Saturday 2nd June 2018 was a resounding success, as one would expect of anything organised and attended by Old Girls! A picture is worth 1000 words so here are some of those who were present, including Lindsey, Alison, Heather, Susan , Susanne, Sian , Jane , Jean, Penny ,Marilyn,  Angelica  and Virginia , together with a signed Tea Towel as a unique memory of the event. Sincere thanks to Micki for all her hard work organising this. Here’s to the next one!

The next 'Virtual Common Room Reunion' will take place in July 2019 in Brighton. If you are not a member of SMHA but are an Old Girl and would like to (re)connect with some of our Alumnae from across the decades, please contact us by clicking on the link at the top of this page.



We were honoured to have been invited to share the Carol Service held on 10th December 2017 at the Church where our Founder, Henry Venn Elliott, served as Curate and after whose Patron Saint our School was named, St Mary’s Church, Kemptown, Brighton.

We are most grateful to Team Member Sian Spencer for acting as your host, and reading one of the lessons. 

Sian Spencer reported:

On 10th December 2017 10 brave souls and their partners braved the weather and joined St Mary's Church Kemp Town for their traditional 9 Lessons and Carols service . All the traditional carols and readings together with David Wilcock's famous harmonies and descants.  We were welcomed like long lost members of the family  and we have been invited back next year !!!!

Meanwhile here are some pictures to whet your appetite!! (Click to open - the photos are better than the Thumbnails!)



Revd. Henry Venn Elliott had visited the clergy daughter school at Cowan Bridge, (later Casterton School), attended by Charlotte and Emily Bronte (and the inspiration for Jane Eyre) founded in 1832 by the Revd. Carus Wilson and was keen that there should be "a similar institution in the South". The pupils were "destined to be governesses" and Henry Venn Elliott considered Brighton as the place to build the school as the Prince Regent had made it a very popular place to live, and there would be many wealthy families looking for a Governess. The therapeutic qualities of the sea air appear also to have been a factor. (Those of us who boarded at St Hilary House remember the qualities very well, especially in the winter term!)

Looking back to the earliest register of pupils and their post-school destinations, it does not appear to have proved a particularly useful source of employment but Henry Venn Elliott was obviously a very practical man and not short of influence and powers of persuasion.

The Marquis of Bristol, who had property in Kemp Town, gave £500 for land on which the school was built. Henry Venn Elliott persuaded George Basevi (the very well-known architect of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge) to provide plans for "The Hall" free of charge, and collected some very influential supporters with money to contribute - Queen Adelaide was one. (Adelaide House).

Henry Venn Elliott was Curate of St Mary's, a private chapel - or chapel of ease as it was called then*. People paid to attend the services there and the minister had no formal remit for the cure of souls outside his paying congregation. The Elliott family had a fifty-year licence to operate the chapel and, as that came towards its end in the early 1870s, just as the Church of England was demarcating more parishes in Brighton, they decided to gift the chapel to the Church as one of the new parish churches. In 1876, work was underway to add a chancel to the old Georgian-style 'speaking house', when the whole structure split in two and fell down. So the new parish of St Mary's got an entirely new parish church, which was consecrated on 15 October 1878. The Elliotts funded most of the new church's construction and HVE's descendants are still patrons of St Mary’s Church today.

In the 1850/60s the Earl of Bristol decided to build a Church for the school in the same grounds and reading between the lines of the reports at that time, the Revd. Henry Venn Elliott was not best pleased and stipulated that the girls would continue to attend St. Mary's in his lifetime. Subscriptions for the new Church building were somewhat slow in coming and "the Earl of Bristol had to pay for the glazing himself".

The early reports include a prospectus and clothes list which are historically interesting. The clothes list states that "Every girl will bring with her a Bible and a Prayer Book, a new umbrella...." and a variety of petticoats (cotton, stuff, flannel); and "a silver knife spoon and fork which will be returned " ."Frocks, tippets and shawls will be provided by the Hall". (More intimate garments in the form of "6 pairs of drawers" appear somewhere around 1860s/70s). A laundry list of the 1880s/90s also proved interesting. (Later boarders recall the restrictions on "mufti" including as late as 1970 NO trousers - amended at around that time to be interpreted as NO jeans, but "smart trousers permitted except on Sundays).

The annual accounts have a simplicity that many schools would envy to-day. The Lady Principal was paid £100 p.a. (quite a princely sum then) and the six "governesses" a total of £150. "Butchers' meat" was nearly the same as the sum total for the Governesses and "Hair-cutting, coal and candles" all came under the same heading. Beer was also quite an item - presumably because the water was not fit for drinking.

Educationally the school was very far advanced and the school taught a great deal more than the usual "accomplishments" of that era. They took the training of a Governess very seriously indeed. The pupils arrived about the age of eight and became pupil-teachers somewhere in their mid-teens staying on until they were considered "qualified". We believe that the school was also one of the earliest schools who took the Cambridge Public Examinations in the 1870s - certainly the breadth of the curriculum including sciences, was unusual for girls at that time.

We are very grateful to Olwen Davies and Sue Meek for the above information, now supplemented with many other memories on our members' pages.

* A downloadable mini-guide can be found here. 

Henry Venn Elliott

Our Founder, Henry Venn Elliott and his family deserve wider recognition! 

and this link connects you with Brighton and Hove Discoverer’s fascinating article.

This article on the Barton Family also gives information on HVE &Co.

East Brighton Bygones Local History Society

East Brighton Bygones Local History Society have many interesting images of the School. They have kindly given us permission to link to their page from here.

Check out - and enjoy!

Douglas D'Enno book

Douglas D'Enno, son of SMH Old Girl Anne-Marie Burns who was a pupil at the school in the 1920s, has written a fascinating book about East Brighton and Ovingdean. (The volume is intended as a companion to his previous publication, 'Rottingdean through Time').

Douglas spent some time at the school taking photos for the book which is available from Amazon (East Brighton and Ovingdean Through Time).

This photograph of the school, taken from the book, will, I am sure, interest readers.


Douglas D'Enno Book


Miss Bristol mrs james mrs broadbent sue meek st. mary's hall brighton charlotte elliott henry venn elliott hilary house babington house elliott house girl's school boarding school smh smha roedean st. mark's clergy daughters blue plaque old girls kemptown
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