yeovil people

Henry cobb

Founder of Yeovil High School for Girls


Henry Cobb, in his early life known as Harry, was born in the spring of 1833 at Copford, Essex. He was the son of builder William Cobb (1797-1852) and Emmeline Susanna née Banner (1806-1843). In the 1841 census eight-year-old Harry was living at Copford with his widowed father, elderly grandmother, 11-year-old sister Emmeline, younger brothers Charles aged six, Alfred aged four, Nathaniel aged two and Eleanor aged one. In the 1851 census Harry was still living at home, now aged 17 and working as a printer's apprentice.

In the spring of 1860 Henry married Anna Coates at Woodbridge, Suffolk. They were to have four children; Alexander Henry (1861-1915), Fanny Sarah (1862-1951), Emma Mary (1864-1938) and Amy Elizabeth (1875-1952). In the 1861 census Henry and Anna were living in Ipswich, Suffolk, with their one day old son Alexander (at this time unnamed). Henry described his occupation as editor & publisher.

Fanny was born in Ipswich in the summer of 1862 and shortly after her birth Henry moved his family to Colchester, Essex, and the 1871 census listed them at 5 Trinity Street where Henry listed his occupation as 'Printer & Publisher, employing 6 men & 13 boys'. At this time Henry and Anna had three children and a domestic servant.

Henry was a Freemason, initiated into the Lodge of Brotherly Love in Yeovil on 5 April 1876 at which time he gave his occupation as a Bookseller. He served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1883.

By 1881 Henry Cobb had moved his family yet again, this time to Yeovil. The 1881 census listed him as a 'Bookseller & Printer, employing 1 assistant, 1 man & 6 lads' and was living above his bookshop at 79 Hendford, on the corner of Porter's Lane and next door to Stuckey's Bank. It was Henry Cobb's bookshop that was to be later the gentleman's outfitting department of Lindsay
's store. Henry and Anna were living above the bookshop with Alexander, Emma, new daughter Amy and a general servant. There was no sign of Fanny, in fact she was an English teacher at Landswell Hall School in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, at this time and was listed in the census as Frances Cobb.

In 1891 Henry Cobb founded the Yeovil High School for Girls in The Park, colloquially known as Yeovil High School, together with Colonel Marsh and others. His daughter Fanny became its first headmistress initially with just a dozen pupils. She was assisted by a Second Mistress, Miss Frances Mothersole, and Henry acted as School Secretary.

The 1891 census recorded Henry and Anna, together with Fanny and Emma and a general servant living at 26 Kingston. Henry, now aged 57, described his occupation as 'Distributor of Stamps'. Fanny gave her occupation as 'Teacher of Music, Drawing, etc.' and Emma listed hers as 'Teacher of Music'. Judging from the relative position in the census, their house was one of the houses facing Fiveways Roundabout just before Sparrow Road. Their next-door neighbours but one was Agnes Nosworthy, headmistress of Girton House School, and her husband Walter.

A company was formed called the Yeovil Girls' Public Day School Co. Ltd. The school grew rapidly and plans were made to build a new school in a new development which was to become The Park. In 1896 the new school building opened, a date stone of that date being affixed to the fabric, and an advertisement was placed in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1896 which stated that "New and spacious School buildings, with the latest improvements in ventilation and sanitary arrangements, have been erected in The Park."

The 1901 Census listed Henry and Anna living in Grove Avenue. By now they were aged 67 and 65 respectively and Henry still listed his occupation as stamp distributor. Living with them were daughters Fanny, now aged 36 and 'Headmistress of High School' and Amy now aged 26. Their house was being used as the boardinghouse for the school and boarding with them were Frances Mothersole, the Second Mistress, two schoolmistresses; Beatrice Wood and Edith Willis, a cook and a housemaid as well as four boarding pupils. The situation was similar in 1911, according to the census Henry and Anna, aged 76 and 75 respectively, had been married for 50 years. Henry cited his occupation as 'Editor (Newspaper) Retired'. They were living in The Firs, Grove Avenue, with Fannie and Amy and their nine-year-old grandson Keith. Also resident were a cook and a housemaid and boarding were five assistant mistresses and one boarding pupil (poor girl).

In 1912 a special sub-committee of the County Council's Education Committee reported "the Clerk to the Governors is Mr H Cobb, the father of the Headmistress. He is, himself, a Governor, but receives an honorary of £10 per annum (about £960 at today's value) for his services, a payment which should not be made to a Governor without the sanction of the Board of Education. We are strongly of the opinion that, in the interests of the school, Mister Cobb, who has reached a somewhat advanced age, should be relieved of the duties of clerk and be succeeded by someone who is not a Governor."

Henry Cobb died in Yeovil in the winter of 1921, aged 88, and Anna died in Yeovil in the autumn of 1925, aged 89.




From my collection  -  This colourised photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'

This photograph is taken from a postcard dated 1905 and shows Henry Cobb's bookshop & printers at left, in Hendford, above which he lived with his family. At the time of this photograph it was part of Denner's department store.


This photograph dates to about 1910 and looks along High Street to Hendford. Stuckey's Bank is the building facing the photographer and Henry Cobb's bookshop is to its immediate right, beneath the sign of the Mermaid Hotel.


Advertisement for the Yeovil High School for Girls in the 1892 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


An early postcard of the new, purpose-built Yeovil High School for Girls, probably dating to just after its opening in 1906.


Advertisement for the Yeovil High School for Girls in the 1916 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.