reckleford cross school

reckleford Cross School

Reckleford Cross, Market Street


Reckleford Cross School was a small private school run by three spinster sisters, Ethel, Susan and Kathleen Chaffey, the daughters of wool merchant Benjamin Chaffey and his wife Lucy. The Chaffey family had been living in the large, three-storey house with extensive grounds called Reckleford Cross House in Market Street, close to its junction with Reckleford, since the early 1870s. Susan Trenchard Chaffey was born in 1865, Ethel Chaffey was born in 1866 and their younger sister Kathleen Maud Chaffey was born in 1873.

Benjamin Chaffey died in 1884 and in 1891 Ethel, aged 25 and single, was listed in the census as a governess living at Reckleford Cross House with her widowed mother Lucy. During the 1890s Ethel took over a private school which had been run by the Misses James. This became the Reckleford Cross School, which Ethel ran in her home and by 1901 she was listed in the census as the principal of Reckleford Cross School.

It is confirmed that Ethel was principal in the advertisement below placed in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1892, although by the time the advertisement was published, Ethel had died. Nevertheless the advertisement is interesting for its view on late Victorian education in which "Miss Chaffey desires to provide a thorough education, based upon the modern system - her aim being to open the minds of her Scholars, so that they may be able to take an intelligent interest in the things around them. The School course includes - the usual English subjects, Literature, Book-keeping, French, German, Latin, Mathematics, Geometry, Drawing, Painting, Music, Harmony, Class Singing, and Drill."

In the 1891 census Kathleen Chaffey, at this time aged 17, was at Wilton Lodge Ladies Private School at Taunton.

Ethel died, aged 35, in 1901 while at Totnes, Devon, and in the 1901 census Kathleen was listed as a teacher at the Reckleford Cross School. Certainly by 1911 both Susan, now aged 46, and Kathleen, now aged 37, were listed as School Mistresses (Private School) and their 1916  advertisement in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser (illustrated below) shows them both as Principals of the Reckleford Cross School at which they "receive a limited number of Day Pupils, and give them a sound education on modern lines, preparing them for Examinations if required."

Susan died in March 1937 at Reckleford Cross. She was aged 72 and her will was proved in May by her sister Kathleen, her personal effects totalling £2,035 1s 6d (in excess of £117,000 at today's value). Kathleen died in the autumn of 1937, aged 64. Following her death Reckleford House, as well as other properties owned by Kathleen including Ilex House, were auctioned.

Reckleford Cross House was demolished in 1960 to enable extensions to be carried out at Yeovil Market.




This map, based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey, shows Market Street named as such for the first time and running from its junction with Silver Street and Court Ash at bottom left to Reckleford Hill, today's Reckleford, at top right. Reckleford Cross, where Ethel, Susan and Kathleen Chaffey ran their school, is seen as the first large house set in its own grounds on the north-western corner of Market Street.




This advertisement for the Reckleford Cross School appeared in the 1892 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


An advertisement for the school published in 1906.


This advertisement for the Reckleford Cross School appeared in the 1916 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


The sale of Reckleford Cross, Ilex House and other properties owned by Kathleen Chaffey and sold after her death - as reported in the Western Gazette's edition of 18 February 1938.


Courtesy of Olly Ewens  -  This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'

This photograph is dated 1960 and shows the three dwellings in Market Street about to be demolished. The two-storey, three-bay house at left is Ilex House and the three-storey, three-bay house at right is Reckleford Cross House. The small cottage between them was still occupied at the time by Mrs Mildred Bond who was waiting for new accommodation to be found for her.


A slightly earlier photograph of Ilex House, at left, seen from Vincent Street (now the site of today's Central Road).


This photograph also dates to about 1960 and shows the junction of Market Street, at left, with Reckleford, as the buildings shown were being prepared for demolition. This whole area was known as Reckleford Cross since at one time a wayside cross stood in the middle of the road at this point. Seen in the background at left of centre is the three-storey building known as Reckleford Cross House, formerly the home of wool mercer Benjamin Chaffey and later the Reckleford Cross School run by three of his daughters.