Founder of Girton House School
Agnes Ann Allen was born in 1841 at Trotten, Sussex, the daughter of farmer James Allen (b1798) and Harriet née Chase (1801-1880). In the 1851 census she was living with her parents and three older siblings; William, Harriet and Eliza, at Hambledon, Hampshire. In the 1861 census Agnes was visiting her sister Harriet who was a housekeeper on a farm in Beaulieu, Hampshire.
In the spring of 1865 Agnes married Walter John Nosworthy, two years her junior, of Bishopstainton, Devon, at Romsey, Hampshire. Walter was the son of Robert and Agnes Nosworthy and the family lived in the schoolhouse of Bishopstainton, his father being master of the National School and his mother being a retired schoolmistress. His older sister Hannah was a governess while Walter himself, at the tender age of 17, gave his profession as 'Professor of Music'.
Walter was a Freemason, initiated into the Lodge of Brotherly Love in Yeovil in 1865. He served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1884 and again in 1910.
Agnes and Walter are absent from the records of the 1870s and 1880s, but it is known that during the 1880s Agnes founded a school for young ladies in Hendford known as Girton House School. In the 1891 census they were listed as living in Kingston with a domestic servant, close to Sparrow Lane (today's Sparrow Road). Walter gave his occupation as Professor of Music and Agnes gave her occupation as Private School Mistress. The school itself however had been transferred by this time to The Park.
"My sister had been enrolled as a pupil at Mrs Nosworthy's establishment for the education of young ladies, known as Girton School, and I was taking music lessons from old Nosworthy, a cantankerous old fellow. I also was compelled, much against my will, to go to this girl's school twice a week to practice under the tutorship of a soured and vinegary spinster named Whittle, who made frequent use of a long pencil upon my knuckles. They had curious ways of teaching music in those days, and I nursed a consuming hatred for these two teachers of music. It was Nosworthy who insisted on the entering into the pages of a little book the hours of practice I spent of the piano, which led me into certain infringements of the moral code, and I fear that his instruction tended to make me a first-class forger and liar rather than a piano virtuoso. I remember nothing that these two taught me."
In the 1901 census Agnes and Walter were listed as living in Kingston with a domestic servant and from the location in the census it would appear that they were living close to Fiveways. Agnes gave her occupation as 'Headmistress, Private School' while Walter still gave his occupation as 'Professor of Music'. Both, of course, were running Girton House School where, according to the advertisement below, they were assisted by six certificated Governesses besides Masters.
The 1911 census is quite interesting for several reasons; Agnes and Walter, now aged 69 and 67 respectively, had been married for 45 years and had a total of four children, three of whom survived, even though none of them had shown up in any censuses living with their parents. Living with them was their granddaughter Eileen Hamilton aged 16 who had been born in Bombay, India, which may go some way to explain the absence of children in the census returns. Agnes and Walter were living at Girton House with a housekeeper and four domestic servants. There were also four resident school governesses, including their 16-year-old granddaughter Eileen, and 14 resident girl pupils aged between 14 and 18.
Girton House School was later taken over by the Grove Avenue School, run by Miss Cobb. Ultimately it became Yeovil Girls High School.
Walter Nosworthy died in the spring of 1917 at Westhampnett, Sussex, aged 73. Agnes died in the spring of 1927 aged 86, at Epping, Essex.
This photograph was taken by Yeovil Photographer Jarratt Beckett and published in his 1897 book "Somerset viewed through a Camera". This is the 'rear' elevation of Girton House school that faces away from Preston Road.
An advertisement in the 1892 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser for Agnes Nosworthy's Girton House School.
Courtesy of Olly Ewens
This photograph is from a 1952 newspaper article and was taken on the occasion of the opening of the gardens in June 1898. The group, photographed with the Mayor, Mr John Vincent, has as its background the thatched bandstand given by Mr James Bazeley Petter to mark the opening. Standing (left to right) are: - E Benson, W Summers, J Kerby Whitby, Mr Brown, WT Maynard, GH Gould, ES Ewens, H Jesty (mace-bearer), WW Johnson, CJ Hook, JB Petter (donor), W Armitage (Borough Surveyor), J Farley, WJ Nosworthy, WB Collins, C Fox. Sitting - Levi Beer, CW Pittard, Sidney Watts, Mrs Vincent, John Vincent (Mayor), JC Moore, W Cox.
Courtesy of Jack Sweet
Walter Nosworthy photographed in his masonic regalia in 1910.
Girton House - again, this is the 'rear' elevation that faces away from Preston Road.
A 1906 advertisement for Girton House outlining prices for private education at the time. It is interesting to note that even in 1906 students were being charged six shillings a year for pew rent.