Founded in 1876, Broomfield House is Kew's oldest independent school. We have consistently succeeded in educating the children of local families who are looking for tried and tested teaching methods in the core academic disciplines alongside a broad and exciting mix of extended activities in the arts, sciences and sports.
To provide a flavour of our school's rich history please read about the personalities who have led Broomfield as our Head Teachers. We are grateful to the staff and parents who collected so much of this information which complements our ever growing library of school photographs. These are all carefully stored in the library and a small selection are here for past pupils especially to see. We hope you might find yourselves, your family or friends amongst our gallery of images accompanying the stories of Broomfield's colourful and inspiring Head Teachers
Our Head Teachers
1876 Miss Sara Eliza Mead (1830-1918)
Miss Mead founded Broomfield House School in 1876 and served as Headmistress until 1896. The first printed reference to the school was in the Richmond & Twickenham Times on 29th January 1876. The school offered tuition in English and mathematics as well as in languages, music, art and PE (especially gymnastics). Miss Mead gave us the school motto Lo Here is Fellowship. Her contribution to the Kew community is recorded in a memorial tablet in St. Anne's Church on Kew Green where the school still goes for our Carol Service. The tablet reads that it is a tribute to over fifty years charitable and intellectual activities in Kew. According to a former pupil, Miss Mead prided herself on being descended from Charles II, did her hair in the style of the period and wore long purple cloaks. She was petite, but forceful.
1896 Miss Kilgour
1901 Miss C.M.Waldron
Formerly Headmistress of the Northampton High School. She is described as "a much loved head" by a former Broomfield pupil of 1903.
1904 Miss D'Esterre-Hughes and Miss M.I Richards
E Collingwood was a pupil from 1899-1903 who recalls of Miss D'Esterre-Hughes that "she taught us elocution usually in the gym. I can see her now almost shouting at us - half a league, half a league onward - and we all shouted back with great gusto!"
1905 Mrs & Miss Fletcher (exact dates uncertain)
Beth Walker, a boarding student in 1918, recalls the school sports. "We were taken to Richmond Baths for swimming and diving lessons and to the Old Deer Park for netball. The two sides were called Spartans and Athenians and wore bright yellow or green arm bands."
1920 Miss Chettle
1922 Miss Chettle and Miss Petch
According to Joan Durrant, a pupil from 1923-29, "Miss Chettle and Miss Petch were joint Headmistresses when I was a student. Miss Petch ran the Kindergarten in the gym for 5-7 year olds. Miss Chettle ran the senior half of the school for 12 years."
Joan Durrant fills in some school history as she recalls:
'Miss Petch left sometime between 1923 and 1925. Miss Chettle continued but the school dwindled considerably. Eventually she sold out in 1926 to Gunnersbury School for Boys. Gunnersbury put in two new joint Headmistresses, Miss Cross and Miss Wilde.'
1927 - Miss Cross and Miss Wilde (after 1929 alone)
Joan Durrant tells us about these two new Heads of Broomfield:
'They bought the school up again and were very keen academically taking great trouble that pupils should pass into good senior schools'
As Gunnersbury School colours were red and grey, Broomfield adopted these as part of a new compulsory school uniform.
Sometime after 1929 Miss Cross left Broomfield to start a new school for 12-17 year old girls. This was in an old vicarage in Chiswick and subsequently moved to new premises on Richmond Hill. The school is still known as The Old Vicarage.
Joan Durrant tells us that:
"Miss Wilde was an eccentric individual who tended to wear rather dramatic clothes and was decked out in her full array whenever possible. She had a very memorable purple velvet dress and a striking orange one. She liked bright colours and was altogether a colourful character with great knowledge and the knack of imparting gems of information in such a way that her pupils never forgot them!"
Miss Wilde fell ill in 1935
1935 - Miss Phyllis Palmer (until her death in 1951)
In her first Headmistress' report at the school's joint Speech Day with Gunnersbury at Chiswick Town Hall, Miss Palmer noted the successful entries by Broomfield girls to schools including St Pauls, Notting Hill and to Miss Cross' Old Vicarage.
1939 - By 1939, Miss Palmer had taken over Broomfield as an independent school from Gunnersbury. Speaking at the first Broomfield speech day in the school's own hall Miss Palmer thanked parents for their support in this change of course:
"If Broomfield was to go to fresh success the time was right for the school to stand on its own feet and take its full position as an entity in her own parish and neighbourhood."
Miss Palmer also announced her delight that Broomfield now had the country's first air raid shelter in a private school, so the safety of the children was secured during the troubled times of the second world war.
The happy atmosphere of the school is remembered by Janet Somers, a pupil from 1938-47:
"I have many happy memories of the school in the war years, from sitting singing by the air-raid shelter on the lawn, to attending the summer holiday school sessions, organised at the time when holidays away in the country or by the sea, were then impossible for the children."
After many years service, Miss Palmer died in 1952. Her service to Kew and the school is commemorated by a plaque in St Anne's Church, Kew Green, erected in 1954.
1953 Miss Pamela Richards
Miss Pamela Richards was interim Headmistress until the school was sold to Mrs Maude Rose in July 1954, who came to Broomfield from Ashton House School in Osterley.
1954 Mrs Maude Rose
Under Mrs Rose the school continued to flourish and also began welcoming children of families from around the world, something that has continued to the present day. Mrs Rose notes in her 1956 speech day address that pupils had joined the school in that academic year from America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Borneo.
Mrs Rose maintained the school's balanced approach to educating the whole child. At the 1961 speech day she confirms this:
'If we measure our success by entrances into Public and Grammar schools we are successful. However, I like to feel that we have helped personalities to develop, good habits to be formed with right relationships towards our fellows.'
Certainly the school's academic achievements produced good results in entrance examinations during this period with a typical year seeing successes to all the good quality schools to which Broomfield boys and girls still regularly go. These include: St Paul's Boys and Girls Schools, Lady Eleanor Holles, Surbiton High, St Catherine's, Putney High, Notting Hill & Ealing High, Kingston Grammar, Colet Court, Latymer Prep, King's College Wimbledon and Westminster School. In addition, numerous boys and girls successfully obtained free places to the state Grammar schools of the time every year.
In 1969, Mrs Rose sold the school to Mrs Irma York, a local teacher, who had joined the school as a class teacher and music specialist in 1969. Mrs York had been a student at Trinity College of Music where she has since been made an honorary member in recognition of her services to education and to the college.
1969 Mrs Irma York
Mrs York brought a modern approach to the Broomfield tradition of academic success and personal development through arts and sports. The school continued to flourish academically with boys and girls passing into all the leading schools in London and to boarding schools around the country at 11 and 8 years of age.
Mrs York immediately set about modernising the school's classrooms, and every holiday saw the builders move in to build cupboards and paint walls. The PTA supported this effort with the purchase of a new wooden building that served as our school library for many years from the 1970s until the 1990s.
Music and drama developed to a high standard at the school under Mrs York with major summer productions each year for the seniors as well as Easter instrumental music concerts and a traditional carol service at St Anne's church, Kew Green. Junior pupils sang and acted each year in a nativity at Christmas as well as each class special summer play in the school junior concert.
The school was regularly in the local newspapers for community and international activities. The school bonfire night party became a well loved event in the village with over 300 people attending, sometimes surprised by one or two parents dressed up as witches for the occasion! The school adopted a boy in Kenya and sponsored his education and was delighted to welcome Kenya's High Commissioner to speech day in the early 1970s.
Mrs York instituted our school Houses, named after the three most prominent former Headmistresses, Miss Mead (yellow), Miss Palmer (green) and Mrs Rose (red), and ever since Friday assemblies have waited with baited breath to hear the news of which House has taken the lead in the House point race.
The school's academic success continued to attract many local families who wished to be secure in the knowledge that their children would learn the core curriculum subjects properly. This was a time of change in education philosophy within the country's schools, but Broomfield under Mrs York continued to innovate through traditional teaching methods and consistently produced well rounded children with high academic achievement. This was a contrast to other local schools that adopted wholeheartedly the education fashions of the time which have since been largely left behind in private and state education. Two teachers from Broomfield left the school in the early years of Mrs York's Headship to start the Unicorn School in Kew Gardens with the aim of adopting these more fashionable educational practices.
The continued success of Broomfield was celebrated at the school's centenary service at St Anne's Church, Kew Green on 30th January 1976, in the presence of Sir Anthony Royle, our then Member of Parliament, the Mayor of Richmond, the High Commissioner of Kenya, the Head Teachers of many London senior schools, and the school's past and present staff, pupils and parents. St Anne's Church tapestry guild kindly marked our centenary by making a new tapestry cushion for the church's pews which formally acknowledged the long and happy friendship we have enjoyed.
Amongst the local families since the 1970s who sent children to Broomfield were various actors and actresses including Hayley Mills, Honor Blackman, Martin Jarvis and Bond girl and old Broomfieldian Madeleine Smith. Indeed, Martin Jarvis produced a staff and friends production of a specially written play For the Sake of the School in which Mrs York played the school's founder, Miss Mead, and Madeleine Smith performed as leading lady, as a PTA centenary celebration. Since then many notable local residents have been associated with the school as parents, from weather man Michael Fish to St Paul's Boys School High Master, Dr Baldock some of whom have been notable in the school's archives for their boisterous performances at the annual PTA Spring social evening dressed in anything from togas to can-can dresses!
In the 1970s the school pioneered the early teaching of French with our marvellous teacher, Madame Chmerling. This was backed up with the adventure of school holiday trips to France and Switzerland. These were often the first time the children had been abroad and provided a excellent opportunity to use their language and see the sights of Paris, the Loire Valley or the Swiss Alps.
Broomfield's close proximity to the Royal Botanic Gardens afforded us many practical opportunities for learning and for playing our part in welcoming numerous royal visitors including Princess Anne, the Queen and the Queen Mother.
In 1980, Mrs York married Mr Ronald Harrow who, after retiring from the city, became a much loved member of the school's community and acted as school bursar until 1991.
Throughout the 1980's and 90's the school flourished with many families and teachers playing a long standing and active part in the school. Teachers, who past pupils may remember, stayed at Broomfield for many years building on the school's reputation for excellence. These include Mrs Zisman (whose three daughters are past pupils including Mrs Clare Oulton, now Headmistress of Benenden School), Mrs Russell, Mrs Raglan (remarried as Mrs Morgan), Madame Chmerling, Mr Viney, and Mrs Dickerson.
In 1989 Mrs Harrow undertook a major building project, removing the old school hall and replacing it with a beautiful new school gymnasium and two new classrooms. The gymnasium is fully equipped for gymnastics and as a theatre where many successful productions have been staged. This ambitious project was followed in 1999 with the removal of the old wooden school library and adjoining wooden classroom. These were replaced by a magnificent three storey media block and double height atrium. The atrium links the gymnasium and the media buildings. The media block houses classrooms for Years 1 and 6 along with purpose built music practice rooms, an art room, a new library and computer facility and a music and drama studio. These new buildings are now known together as Harrow House in recognition of Mrs Harrow's headship of Broomfield.
After 32 very happy years as Headmistress, Mrs Harrow retired in December 2001. Her career was celebrated with a Broomfield Ball for 150 guests at the Richmond Hill Hotel, also marking the school's 125th anniversary. Soul superstar and Broomfield friend, Billy Ocean, came out of his ten year retirement especially to sing for Mrs Harrow at the ball, arranged by Mr Norton York, Broomfield's new and first Headmaster, and Mrs Harrow's younger son.
2002 Mr Norton York
Mr Norton York has developed and enhanced the school led by his mother for 32 years. While retaining the family values and traditional academic strengths of an all round education at Broomfield, Mr York has modernised all the classrooms, created a new Science and Geography Laboratory (the Green Room), set up a successful After School Club, and instituted a range of new initiatives in science, sport, and arts. Our partnership with the education and horticulture departments of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is another new development that enhances our science programme and has inspired the creation of our own school garden.
Mr York has successfully led a school development plan to expand our facilities considerably. A three storey Annexe to our original Victorian building was built in 2004. This gives Years 2, 3 and 6 spacious, modern new classrooms, as well as new spaces for our ICT suite, a new junior art room, and an additional 3D studio for woodwork and ceramics.
We also built a new school kitchen and dining room in 2004 (since nominated for a RIBA award) which provides excellent freshly cooked lunches with a wide variety for the children to enjoy. Our kitchen and dining room sits within the heart of our newly laid and re-landscaped playground with lots of children's games and play facilities. This school development plan now means that Broomfield provides plenty of space for all our children to learn and exercise.
Mr York comes home to his old school at Broomfield after 8 years at the University of Westminster where he founded the Commercial Music Department and was Chair of the Department of Music, Film and Fashion. Since 2004, Mr York has continued his association with the University being recognised for his excellence and innovation in music education with the title of