This is an abridged version of a longer article, which will appear in the next Bradfieldian magazine in June 2019.In September 1989, thirty-five girls moved into a new boarding house situated at the top of Hogger Hill, behind what was The Close. The House, named after the late Sir Gordon Palmer (Warden 84–88) became the first dedicated boarding facility for girls at the College and began under the stewardship of Tim Chaloner.
The opening of Palmer followed a period when girls had studied at Bradfield on an ad hoc basis. Belinda Boyd (nee Somerset) (H 76) was the very first girl at Bradfield and was admitted by forward-thinking Headmaster Anthony Quick to join her brother Arthur (H 74-78) when her school in Switzerland closed just before her A Levels. “Perhaps I never realised what a cultural sea change it really was – but the effort made by the school to make me welcome most definitely eased that path.”
In the years before Palmer opened a small group of girls attended for 2 years of Sixth Form. One of those girls was Helen Cavendish (B 86-88). At the time the girls were fully integrated into Bradfield life, taking part in all of the Drama productions, joining in with the CCF and sport and helping to raise academic results. Now a parent to a current Sixth Form pupil, Helen believes Bradfield still has the same underlying core values, focus on education for life, committed teachers and idyllic setting.
Once Palmer had opened its doors, the first intake in Sept 1989 was relatively large and as a result the 1990 Palmer House entry was limited to just 16 pupils while there were over 100 applicants for those places. As a result, plans for a second dedicated girls House, Armstrong (J), were brought forward a year.
This was swiftly followed by the opening of Stevens House (K), something that Nickie Moss-Gibbons, wife of David, a former Housemaster of Stevens, remembers fondly. “Of all the jobs David had at Bradfield he enjoyed being Housemaster of Stevens House the most. We were only there for four years, but they were the best.”
Hannah Lee, nee Knapp (I 96-98), also remembers her time at Bradfield as it enabled her to form strong lifelong friendships with the other girls in the House. “We spent so much time together inside and outside of the school day. My best friends twenty years on are my I House friends. My bridesmaid was my roommate in the Lower Sixth and another friend is the godmother to my daughter as I am to hers.”
In 2003, the College took the pioneering decision to create a boarding house for all Bradfield’s first year pupils, Faulkner’s, the first and only co-educational House. One of the first girls in Faulkner’s was Radio X DJ Hattie Pearson (K 03-08) who remembers being one of only two junior girls in the school making for a unique early experience. The boarding experience of girls at the time involved a lot of moving around between the Houses as they went up through the senior years. Hattie went from Faulkner’s to Stevens for Year 10 before moving over to Stanley, then situated in the old B House above the SCR, in Year 11.
Lara Robinson (M 07-12) joined as the number of junior girls continued to rise substantially and Faulkner’s proved to be a huge success. “Faulkner’s for me was one of the best attributes of the College. It’s a great way of getting to know the whole year group, both the boys and the girls, whilst not being too intimated by the years above.” If you are an Old Bradfieldian girl and would like to catch up with your contemporaries why not join our Girls Get Together on Thursday 9 May?
Please register for the event here