A modest leather-bound book provides one of the first windows into the early running of St Mary’s. Hand-written, most likely by Penelope Murray when she became Superintendent of the school in 1879, the book draws retrospectively on records kept by her predecessor, Ellinor Gabriel. There is a brief account of the management of St Mary’s from its foundation in 1873 and a record of early property transfers and endowments. Detailed accounts show that a deficit each year was covered at first by Ellinor Gabriel and later by Penelope Murray. Staff names are recorded and the number of pupils, although not their names. Press articles on St Mary’s annual Speech Days feature and minutes from some meetings are included. External examiners’ report summaries are transcribed with mention of individual successes.
The document is of historical value to St Mary’s in its detail of how a small school was run at the end of the 1800s. We see salary levels for staff and the expenditure on stationery, books, piano tuners and school prizes. We know the subjects on the curriculum, that Shakespeare was studied in English and detailed map drawing was required in Geography. A high standard in spelling, grammar and neatness was expected. Individual pupils are mentioned for their achievements, and recommendations are given by examiners on texts books and study techniques that might be adopted.
Penelope Murray retired in 1896 but maintained close contact with St Mary’s. Some of the continuing handwriting in the minute book appears to be hers, while other script is probably Canon Duncan’s. The final entry is in 1909, a year after St Mary’s moved from its premises on The Green to its present site, and the year before Mrs Murray’s death.