DescriptionMiss Laura Jane Baker, who hailed from Warminster, Wiltshire, came to Wokingham from Salisbury in the late 1880s as a governess to the Butler family. As other parents wanted their children to be taught by her she and her sister, Lucy Baker, who took charge of housekeeping, opened their own school at The Retreat in Milton Road in 1890.
At first there were seven children and, in 1893, Miss Baker’s school moved to larger premises at Terrace Point, now Tudor House and named it Grosvenor School after the college in Bath where she had undergone her training. Such was her reputation that the number of children attending the school increased to approximately sixty with a staff of ten teachers.
Miss Baker then built a schoolroom to accommodate the kindergarten and the library at the widest part of the triangular site which faced Milton Road. The upper storeys of the house were mainly for the boarders and were reached by a staircase on the right of the hall. This led to a gallery landing from which everything going on below could be observed. Assembly was held at nine o’clock and the school day ended at four. Wednesdays and Saturdays were half-days. The kindergarten children played with sand and painting but the curriculum of the older pupils included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, French, History, Geography, English, recitation and class singing.
Grosvenor School continued to prosper and, in December 1919, Miss Baker purchased Montague House where she built a new school, Grosvenor House School, complete with school hall and dining room at the northern end of the house. In front of the house was a lawn and curved drive and there was sufficient land behind the school to accommodate two grass tennis courts, a croquet lawn and a large kitchen garden. On one side of the garden were small sections divided by hedges where the boarders had their own private areas to grow whatever they wished. There was also a summer house the walls of which were covered with murals.
Assembly was still held at nine o’clock and school ended at four. However the boarders left school at a quarter to four for a daily walk, half an hour out and half an hour back. This took place whatever the weather. The girls walked in pairs in a crocodile.
The school uniform for girls in winter was white blouses, ties and serge tunics which had three pleats at the back. In summer they could wear either tunics and blouses of a light fabric or navy blue dresses with white collars and cuffs.
The number of children increased to around one hundred, forty of whom were boarders. The tables in the dining room were set with tablecloths and napkins. To cope with the extra laundry the staff now included four or five residential maids. In addition to tennis and croquet the girls also played netball in the winter and walked in a crocodile to the hockey pitch or to the cricket field in Wellington Road.
In 1925 three school houses were formed: St. Andrew’s, St. David’s and St. George’s. There was great competition between them mainly during summer sports which comprised: slow bicycle races, ball-throwing, tug-of-war and a mistresses hundred yard flat race.
The 2nd Wokingham Guide Company was attached to the school led by Miss S. B. Denis De Vitre and, in November 1925, the 2nd. Wokingham Brownie Pack was formed. In that year the School Magazine was started which gave an insight into life at the school, including the formation of a choir that autumn. Various school societies were formed including Dramatics, Musical and Choral, the Science Club, and an Old Girls’ Association which organized re-unions, and socials and matches against the school.
On January 15th 1931 Wokingham County Girls’ School (now Holt School for Girls) opened. Soon after, most of the senior girls from eleven years of age and upwards moved from Grosvenor School to Wokingham County Girls’ School. From then onwards Grosvenor School became a day school for children of eleven years of age and under.
Miss Baker sold Montague House for £3,000 and built new premises at Albert Road. In 1933 she retired and Miss Rosalie Smith, one of the staff, became headmistress.
SourceMiss Baker's School and other Wokingham Memories by Jim Bell
“Laura Baker,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed August 18, 2019, https://wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0326.