Answers to Questions


Skidmore's School, Rickmansworth, circa 1861-71

November, 2007




Sheala (shealal @t from Ireland writes: I am researching my family tree,  my Great Grandmother's name was Lucy Eliza Brown born 10th April 1845 at 7, Russell St. Rotherithe, Surrey (now London) sometimes they put Lambeth on the census, I think she is the Lucy Brown in the 1861 census attending school at 'Scotts Bridge House' Rickmansworth, would you know if there is a web site or some other site where I could find out more information.

First a little about Scotbridge House:

Rickmansworth - A Pictorial History reports that Scotsbridge House (a.k.a. Scotts Bridge House) was owned by Vice-Admiral the Hon. Josceline Percy between 1827 and 1856 while the Victoria County History (published 1908, copy online) says "At the foot of the hill and on the [River] Chess is a large modern plaster and timber house known as Scotsbridge House, formerly the property of the late Sidney Roberts, J.P." A search on Google shows that it is now the home of a multitude of organisations - including the Cattle Information Service and the local Conservative Association. Its Post Code is WD3 3BB. The following map/satellite view allows you to zoom in and see some details of the House and the area where it is situated.


Now Skidmore's School, The Pines, High St, Rickmansworth:

Your reference to Lucy being at Scotts Bridge House is incorrect. If you have another look at the 1861 census returns you will see that you have fallen into the "implied ditto" trap. Only the first house on the page is given a name, and the others are left blank. Lucy was a pupil in a house several households away from Scotts Bridge House. In between the school and Scotts Bridge House the return shows two occupied properties and two new houses under construction - the "2B" in the extract.

Using the approach described in Locating Census Addresses on Maps it would seem that Thomas Skidmore's house was between Scott Bridge House and the High Street, if not actually in the High Street.

While Thomas E Skidmore is listed as head of household (no occupation given), his wife Ellen is described as the principal of a boarding school. In addition there are two resident teachers but only three pupils. (Perhaps there were others who had gone home for Easter - or there were more day pupils.) The possibility that Edwin Brown could have been Lucy's father visiting the school should not be ignored.

If one looks at the 1851 census Thomas Skidmore was described as a Coal Merchant and his wife was presumably looking after the young family. The location is somewhat unclear.

In 1866 the Post Office Directory lists Mr Thomas Emmott Skidmore as a private individual living in High Street Rickmansworth High Street. There is no mention of the school.. (Other directories were published at about 4 year intervals during the period. There are copies of some of them on the open shelves at the Watford Central Library.)

In the 1871 census Thomas Emmitt Skidmore is listed as a landscape gardener while his wife is described as a school mistress, as is their daughter. There are 8 pupils. They were in "The Pines," High Street, Rickmansworth - which I assume is the same house that they occupied in 1851 and 1861. There was another visitor called Mary Ann Brown! Maybe a co-incidence or could there be a link with either Edwin or Lucy Brown in the 1861 census?

In the 1881 census there is no sign of Thomas or Ellen or the school.

Perhaps the Skidmores lived in a fair sized house and as the children grew up Mrs Skidmore started to take in a few boarding pupils to supplement her income. This expanded a bit - but apparently the school didn't last for more than about 20 years.

It is very uncommon for any records of small private businesses - including schools such as this one - to survive, and even rarer for such material to be available online. You could try HALS or the Three Rivers Museum of Local History to see if they have any documentary material but you will be extremely lucky if you find any surviving school record that tells you more than you already know about the Lucy Brown recorded in the 1861 census. Newspapers such as the Watford Observer (which only started publishing in 1863) might have carried the very occasional advert for the school.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


Page created November 2007