Matrons

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

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LongGone
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Matrons

Post by LongGone » Sat Nov 17, 2018 3:24 pm

Back in the day (50's) what qualifications, if any, were needed to become a house matron?
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Re: Matrons

Post by michael scuffil » Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:35 pm

On paper, I imagine, none. I suppose matrons were appointed by the Lady Superintendent (?), and the applicant would have to demonstrate, on the basis of their experience, rather than formal qualifications, that they were competent organizers, had some knowledge of household management, and some basic nursing knowledge. I imagine at the interview a strong personality was also looked for. I should think that references were important.

I would be interested to know what matrons had done before becoming matrons. There was, after all, no such thing as a young matron.
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Re: Matrons

Post by rockfreak » Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:49 pm

I think a grasp of child psychology probably helped. And a good dose of common sense. Mrs Riches was our matron in Coleridge. I don't know what qualifications she had but she always seemed to me to have a relaxed and pragmatic way of dealing with our various little problems. Her son Graham was in one of the Thornton houses, possibly Michael Scuffil's. It must have been a bit of a lonely job back then, stuck out there in the Sussex countryside in an overwhelmingly male environment.

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Re: Matrons

Post by Foureyes » Sun Nov 18, 2018 9:04 pm

Two points on matrons.
First, the tradition of such posts goes back as far as that of the school itself. From the start, the pupils at C.H. were divided into wards and each ward was run by a 'dame', invariably middle-aged or elderly - no housemasters in those days. They were frequently widows.
Secondly, in the late 1940s and probably through most of the 1950s, many of the matrons were ladies who had lost a husband or fiancée in the war
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Re: Matrons

Post by J.R. » Mon Nov 19, 2018 9:41 am

In the Prep houses in my day, Matron was Miss Haigh. On reflection now, she seemed quite young for the post.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Matrons

Post by michael scuffil » Mon Nov 19, 2018 9:50 am

rockfreak wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:49 pm
I think a grasp of child psychology probably helped. And a good dose of common sense. Mrs Riches was our matron in Coleridge. I don't know what qualifications she had but she always seemed to me to have a relaxed and pragmatic way of dealing with our various little problems. Her son Graham was in one of the Thornton houses, possibly Michael Scuffil's. It must have been a bit of a lonely job back then, stuck out there in the Sussex countryside in an overwhelmingly male environment.
Yes, he was in ThB, and a foundationer of the RAF Benevolent Fund. Given that there were no married quarters for matrons, their children, if any, could not have been non-foundationer day-boys, even if the hierarchical structure of the staff* had ever envisaged such a possibility. I have no idea what matrons were paid -- certainly it didn't run to a car, which must have increased the isolation.

*Matrons had their own dining room in the kitchen block. I think they were brought into the dining hall on the same terms as housemasters in the 1970s some time.

Their most responsible job, I imagine, was to act as the gateway to the infirmary. You couldn't go to the surgery off your own bat.
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Re: Matrons

Post by peter2095 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:29 pm

I was very fortunate to have good matrons both in Lamb B and in Peele A. To me they were always that independent person who would listen and were almost 'mother figures' if you were ever feeling a bit low or homesick.

It was nice that they were very less formal than talking to a teacher and for many became a confidant. Yet they got more respect than some teachers i remember and if Matron told you off or asked you to do something, you would never answer back and fell in line very quickly.
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Re: Matrons

Post by michael scuffil » Mon Nov 19, 2018 6:09 pm

The thought of treating Miss Dalziel as a 'mother figure'? The mind boggles. I'm told Mrs Riches was more approachable in this respect, but then she was (almost uniquely) a mother. She was known to be sympathetic when you were injured; Miss Dalziel had no sympathy whatever.

One of the matrons' unofficial duties was to make coffee for masters during break. But this didn't always work. When Pat Cullen replaced John Page as housemaster of ThB, it became clear that he didn't like her coffee, and she didn't like him. (He told me the first, and the second was an open secret.)
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Re: Matrons

Post by gneuss » Mon Nov 19, 2018 6:26 pm

Michael wrote
There was, after all, no such thing as a young matron
and he also wrote
-- certainly it didn't run to a car
Evidence to contradict your first statement Michael can be found in the photo of Barnes B in 1961 I posted a long time ago (first post on Barnes House photos) as Irene Farr the matron in Barnes B was certainly not that old and as for the second statement she ran a green Triumph Herald. This actually leads on to another question - where did the staff park their cars? I think hers and Chris Miller's the housemaster (he never ever washed his car claiming that the dirt protected it from rusting) were parked in the main drive outside the house for at least some of the time. We must have marched around them.

To give Miss Farr her due - she was a very good matron.
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Re: Matrons

Post by michael scuffil » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:27 am

Thank you Geoff for that. I never realized she had a car. But surely she was in her 40s at least?

But does anyone know what a matron was paid c. 1960? I think a run-of-the-mill teacher (without special status or responsibilities) would be paid around 850 a year.
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Re: Matrons

Post by gneuss » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:12 am

Mike, I guess when you are only 11 or 12 any age over 18 seems like old age - sadly that it no longer the case. I consider 40 to be very young now!
However I think she was probably in her 30s not 40s, at least when I first arrived in 1959. Maybe she had some private income so that she was able to afford a car?

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Re: Matrons

Post by Katharine » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:38 am

Matrons seem to have come from the same stock as our Housemistresses. Remember, our were NOT teachers, they were very definitely second class citizens in the staff hierarchy. Did your matrons have responsibility for your uniform and overseeing laundry?

Ours lived in just two rooms in the boarding house, no private facilities. Some were widows, most spinsters, ours never revealed any family history. I don’t think it was much of a life, yet some stayed for years!
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Re: Matrons

Post by michael scuffil » Wed Nov 21, 2018 9:15 am

Our matrons were certainly in charge of laundry (within the house) and transferring/receiving it to/from the school wash-house. They were also in charge of repairs to clothing (and deciding when minor items -- shirts, socks, underwear -- were beyond repair). They didn't do this work themselves, of course, but were in charge of a team of four live-in housemaids, and supervised their cleaning activities in the dormitories. Standards varied greatly from matron to matron. (Whether they were in charge of the external charwomen who did the dayrooms and changing rooms, I'm not sure.)
Importantly, they were in charge of primary health care. Except in emergencies, you could only see the doctor if she sent you.
Matrons' accommodation was two rooms in the centre of the house block. That corresponded very largely with the accommodation of an unmarried senior housemaster. (Slightly better, actually, as it was further away from the boys.)
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Re: Matrons

Post by michael scuffil » Wed Nov 21, 2018 1:34 pm

It occurs to me that when I was thinking of the Barnes matron, it was not the young car-driving Miss Farr I was thinking of, but her predecessor, the formidable Miss Watts (who presumably was in her late 50s and retired at 60).

The formidable Miss Dalziel in Thornton was succeeded (after I left) by the (obviously considerably younger) Miss Benbow. She had a background either in the army or the police. Good training.
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Re: Matrons

Post by J.R. » Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:22 pm

I hadn't realised that the Coleridge matron, Mrs Riches, was a married woman, let alone that she had a son.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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