Abstracted with additional information from Newsletter 55 Spring 2012, 4-5

Chesterville School, Cirencester

Chesterville School was a private boarding and day school for young ladies run by Constance and Ethel Freeman. Precise dates for start and closure are not known, but evidence would suggest it was open from c.1891 to the 1930s, and possibly later, and with at least two addresses. Constance Freeman died in 1960 aged 91.


Richard Greener enquired by email of the history of this school, which his mother had attended in the late 1920s. He recalled: 


“Unfortunately details of this period are very sketchy. I have a torn copy of an Annual Report signed by Constance F Freeman & Ethel Irantex which states that my mother was a hard-working & diligent pupil winning several prizes. She went on to St. Katharine’s School, Wantage where she was Confirmed in 1930 by Bishop Shaw. Later she joined the V.A.D nursing detachment in the Isle of Wight.” 


The 1891 Census lists Constance (schoolmistress) and Ethel as living at 55 Lewis Lane, with three boarders and one general servant. In 1901 Constance remained as head, as a Boarding Day School Mistress, at Chester Villa, Lewis Lane, working with her sister and two assistants, with four boarders and two servants. Her brother was also living in, working on his own account. By 1911 the Census summary lists the Misses Freeman at Querns Hill House School, with 11 in the household (1M, 10F).


A trade directory of 1902 confirms the Misses Freeman as running their boarding and day school for young ladies from Chester Villa in Lewis Lane. The name ‘Chesterville’ appears to have been adopted from this original location. The school moved to larger premises provided by Querns Hill House which stood in extensive grounds at the bottom of Querns Hill, opposite the junction of Querns Lane, Sheep Street, and Querns Hill. The western boundary of the property was the line of the Great Western Railway. 


The house, no. 2 Querns Hill, was demolished in the early 1970s when the dual carriageway of the inner bypass was constructed by widening the line of the former railway. Several mature lime trees survive to indicate the former garden. An approximate national grid reference for Querns Hill House is SP 02180150. On Google Earth, GL7 Phoenix Way gives a general site location, now part of a small industrial and commercial area between town and ring road. 

One photograph, by Cirencester photographer W. Dennis Moss, is known of the school’s Croquet Club on a lawn surrounded by mature trees. This could have been taken at either location but is probably at Querns Hill House, which had extensive grounds. It is postmarked 04 December 1904 and was used as a Christmas greetings card from Constance Freeman for that year.
Another interesting point is that the boarders listed in the census returns were all born in India, suggesting that as well as local day pupils the school also taught children whose parents were working overseas in the colonial service.

As a summary source list:

Trade Directories: evidence from a small selection is given below; a search of others should indicate the approximate life of the school.

o 1902 Baily & Woods: Freeman, Misses, boarding & day school for young ladies, Chester villa.

o 1903 Baily & Woods: Freeman, Misses, boarding & day school for young ladies, Chesterville, Lewis Lane.

o 1906 Kelly: Freeman, Constance & Ethel (Misses), young ladies’ school, Querns Hill house.


Census returns were searched for 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911, plus the Electoral Registers for 1936 and 1937 which show the Freeman family at Nos 1 and 2 Querns Hill respectively, and also thereby confirming the re-numbering of houses and properties in Cirencester at that time. 


Further sources to be researched should include Gloucestershire Archives, the Wilts & Glos Standard newspaper and other trade directories and electoral registers.


Richard Greener & Linda Viner.