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The Education of Young Ladies of Distinction

by A. B. RANDALL, B.SC.(ECON.), M.R.T.P.I.

This article has been reproduced on this website with the kind permission of A. B. Randall

Private adventure schools in Carmarthen date back many years. Presentment returns for St. Peter's Parish for 1759 for example note "there are several private schools as also hath been time out of mind".1 The first three decades of the nineteenth century were to witness a proliferation of such schools, many of them listed by J. and V. Lodwick.2

One of the principal sources of information on private adventure schools is the Carmarthen Journal and it is from its columns that a picture has been built up of two Seminaries at Parade House, one known variously as Miss West's Seminary for Young Ladies; Parade House Establishment; Ladies Boarding School and the French and English Boarding School, and the other, Mrs. Brown's Ladies' Boarding and Day School.

Within weeks of the Carmarthen Journal first appearing it was to carry an advertisement that a Ladies' Boarding School was to be opened at Parade House, Carmarthen on Monday, 9th April, 1810, when Miss West proposed to receive young ladies. There had been a delay in opening the school "principally in consequence of a disappointment in the arrival of furniture and some school requisites". Parade House itself had been "at length repaired and improved to render it commodious and complete for a Liberal establishment". Miss West revealed that a sketch plan of the Seminary, together with the terms and testimonies accompanying it could be inspected at the two Carmarthen Banking Houses.3 Some time later this information was also to be presented to her "patronizers" and friends.

The school was being "founded on the basis of long experience". Later advertisements give some indication of Miss West's main motives which included the "most persevering and assiduous attention to the instruction of her pupils", and to "the best interests of her pupils" which since they were "a concern of importance, she trusts by her future endeavours to promote their welfare and improvement...".

In general the subjects taught by Miss West are fairly conventional. Both these and the terms of the Seminary are set out in the Carmarthen Journal for October 29th, 1813.

October 13th



  Per Quarter  
  s d  
INSTRUCTION in Reading, Grammar and other Branches of useful knowledge; Plain and Fancy Work 1 1 0  
Writing and Arithmetic 0 15 0 No additional Entrance
Geography and History 1 1 0
The French Language 1 1 0
Drawing and Velvet Painting 1 1 0
Music 1 11 6 Entrance each One guinea
Dancing 1 6 3


  Per Annum
Board, liberally provided 21 0 0
The English Language, and Work 2 12 6
Writing and Arithmetic 2 12 6
Instruction in Mnemonics 1 1 0
If Tea twice a day 2 2 0

Each Boarder to bring Six Towels and One Spoon
Charge only from the Day of Entering
A Quarter's Notice is required before a Young Lady
leaves the School, or Payment for a Quarter.

The "interesting system of Mnemonics as a wonderful assistance to memory in the application of it to Figures, Chronology, History, Geography, Grammar, etc. etc.", was introduced into the syllabus "for the advantage of her pupils" in July, 1813. We are also assured that the Velvet painting was "in a superior style". In 1815 Miss West extended the scope of her school by establishing a School for Drawing which was to be "open twice a week for the reception of those who wish to avail themselves of her instruction in that elegant art". The syllabus, though possibly typical of that practised in other ladies' seminaries, did not offer the very wide and unusual range of subjects taught in the town in later years which included lunar and sidereal observations, navigation and mapping of estates by chain and theodolite. As G. Eyre Evans, remarked, "the first three decades of the nineteenth century were not quite so behind hand in teaching power in Carmarthen as has sometimes been represented".4 In the early years there was little or no local competition. The only other school in the town to advertise by 1812 was Mr. White's Writing, Commercial and Mathematical School in King Street (which was taken over by a Mr. J. Thomas in 1819). Nevertheless there were advertisements for several seminaries for young ladies including Selina James Ladies Boarding School at Builth; Miss Farren's Seminary, Cardigan; Misses Rice and Wright's Young Ladies' Seminary offering "Education and Sea Bathing" at Aberystwyth; Mrs. Brown's at Narberth and locally Penycoed House Seminary for Young Ladies, St. Clears. The latter which was run by a Mrs. Penn and her daughters had moved in 1812 from Laugharne; it was to close by August, 1814 when Penycoed House was offered to let.

The early years of Miss West's Seminary appear to have been quite successful. By June, 1810 we learn that Miss West had "experienced a great deal of liberality from her numerous friends as well as firmness in their support". In view of the increase in the number of her pupils she was able to inform the inhabitants of Carmarthen that after "repeated solicitations, she has at length obtained her sister's consent to coalesce with her in maintaining the consequence of this establishment". Miss West's sister was to join her from Clifton.

Of her sister's qualifications there was no question. Miss West felt it would be needless to "pass encomium upon the talents and experience of her sister" which were so well known and attested "especially after mentioning that she had devoted her attention to the education of Young Ladies of Distinction whose attainments bear ample testimony of her competent abilities".

Miss West was due to open the school with her sister following the summer vacation, in the new term commencing the 16th July, 1810 but it is questionable whether her sister joined her until some years after. Nearly five years later, however, in January, 1815 Miss West was informing Journal readers that she had engaged a new teacher. In the following July her sister notified the "patronisers of the school and the public in general" that she had "recently relinquished an engagement to act in conjunction with her sister, flattering herself with the hope that she would not fail to give satisfaction and promote by her concurrence the success of an undertaking of so much importance as the education of young ladies".

Within twelve months of her sister joining her, Miss West's 'Parade House Boarding School' was to change hands. No reasons are given in any of the advertisements but it is tempting to speculate whether the two sisters were able to work together harmoniously. In March, 1816 the Journal carried a notice of a sale of "household furniture and school fixtures the property of the Governess of a respectable female seminary in South Wales, which she then intends to relinquish. The above would be worthy of attention of any person wishing to succeed to this Establishment". No names are mentioned but the advertisement clearly refers to Miss West's Seminary. The school was soon to be relinquished in favour of a Mrs. Charles Brown, whom Miss West had "the satisfaction to commend as a lady of great respectability and adequate qualifications such as might be expected from the daughter and grand daughter of clergymen".

In succeeding Miss M. West, Mrs. Brown begged "to assure her friends and parents and guardians who may honour her with support that every possible attention on her part shall be devoted to comfort, improvement and morals of the ladies entrusted to her care".

Mrs. Brown's school, the "Ladies Boarding and Day School, Parade House" opened on Monday, 28th July, 1816. The range of subjects taught was basically the same as at Miss West's. The terms of the school are listed below.


  s d  
Board (including tea twice a day) and Instruction in English Grammar, History, Geography, and all kinds of Needlework 26 5 0 per annum
  Per Quarter  
Entrance for Boarders 1 1 0  
Day Scholars 4 4 0  
Entrance   10 6  
Writing and Arithmetic (Boarders and Day Scholars) 3 0 0 no entrance
French 4 4 0
Drawing 4 4 0
Music 6 6 0  
Entrance 1 1 0  
Use of pianoforte 1 0 0  
Dancing 5 5 0  
Entrance 1 1 0  
Washing   12 0  
  per quarter  

An assistant had been engaged who was "perfectly competent to teach Drawing and also French, which will be spoken in the school by those who learn it". A later advertisement for January, 1817 indicates that the staff had further increased with "Music and Dancing by approved Masters". It is quite possible that drama was also included in the school curriculum. The young ladies of Miss Hide's Seminary, Carmarthen for example are recorded as having performed Mrs, Hannah More's sacred drama "Moses in the Bulrushes" on December 10th, 1817.5 It is likely that Mrs. Charles Brown was the same Mrs. Brown who advertised the opening of a school for Young Ladies in Narberth in May, 1812. Mrs. Brown of Narberth limited the number of her pupils to twelve "purposely that she may have more time to devote to their improvement". The terms of that school are included in the Carmarthen Journal for 23rd May, 1812.

Mrs. Brown's school was not to last as long as her predecessor's. Rumours of a closure had been circulating by 1817, so that when Mrs. Brown advertised the reopening of her school for a new term from Monday, 28th July, site added that she wished "to contradict a report which she finds has been circulating of her leaving Carmarthen; she can only guess the motive and use of such a report which she assures her friends is totally unfounded, and hopes for the continuance of the support she has already experienced".

The school entered what was to be its final term on Monday, 19th January, 1818. There was no notice of its closure but an advertisement in the Journal in March, 1818 includes a reference to Captain Charles Brown leaving the town. It announced a sale of "all the elegant modern household furniture and other effects of Captain Charles Brown (who is leaving Carmarthen) ..." to be held on Monday, 23rd March, 1818. On the same day the house itself was to be let by auction until the following Michaelmas. Parade House was in fact sold on June 15th to a local marble and stone mason, Daniel Mainwaring.6

In April, 1818 the only other ladies seminary in the town, Mrs. Gullivers (late Miss Hides) in Spilman Street also closed as Mr. Gulliver was leaving Carmarthen. The apparent vacuum was not filled until later that year with the opening of two Seminaries in Spilman Street; Misses Rees' Seminary, (August) and, Miss Lander and Mrs. Kenge's Ladies Boarding and Day School (Michaelmas).
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