Mildred Hooke - the Early Years
September 1890, Wandsworth, London. A first child is born to George Hooke, a Custom House Clerk, and his wife Ellen. They name her Mildred Alice, Alice being the name of one of her maiden aunts, a renowned chess player. (Alice Hooke - Chess Champion) During the next six years, three sisters and a little brother are born to complete the Hooke family.
Photo left: Guess taken approx 1895 - Frances (4), Mildred (5) Trixie (3)
Photo right: Guess taken approx. 1893 - Mildred (3) Frances (2)
Photo below: Guess taken approx. 1898 - Cyril (2) Ella (3). Cyril in a dress? Weren't little boys dressed like girls when they were little? This certainly has the look of Cyril! This collection of photos was in an envelope marked "Mildred", containing a unique collection of photos and newspaper cuttings of Mildred's life, almost certainly kept by her and then saved by Granny (Ella Marion) Hooke on Mildred's death; my Granny being the last surviving member of this generation.
No doubt, Mildred was a bright child and her parents chose the best education for her that they could afford. Aged 13 she became one of the first pupils at the new St Paul's Girls' school, Hammersmith, built to complement the renowned St Paul's Boys' School. Mildred clearly loved and valued her time at this school under the headship of Frances Grey because, much later in life after retirement, she referred back to saying goodbye to Miss Grey, who answered her words, 'How can I be worthy of all School has done for me?' with these words from Proverbs 3:6, in the Bible, 'In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct Thy paths.'
There would seem to be little doubt that Mildred's wonderful career as a Head teacher was in some way inspired initially by what she experienced as a pupil under Frances Grey.
A letter from Frances Grey written in December 1905 to Mildred's father, George Archer Hooke, offered a consolation scholarship for two terms to Mildred's sister, Trixie, who apparently must have just failed to win a scholarship in a recent exam. The letter indicates the respect this renowned Head Teacher had for the Hooke family in making them the first choice for this particular gift of money, and also for Mildred, whose work and conduct she described as "excellent". The letter is well worth a read and is displayed here in its entirety.
Photo Left: Mildred at the family home in Barnes. You'll spot many photos on the Hooke website taken on this wall at George & Ellen Hooke's house in Barnes, mostly taken at some point in the 1920s. Estimate - 1923 with Mildred aged 33.
Mildred studied at Cambridge University circa1909-1912, at the same time as William Farren, who became her husband much later in life in 1963. William's first wife was Carol Warrington who was known to be great friends with Mildred and I suspect that the three of them were friends together at Cambridge in 1910-1912, though I don't have clear evidence yet for this.
Mildred began her teaching career in Birmingham in September 1912 at the same time as her sister Trixie followed in her footsteps as a fresher at Cambridge. You can read the letters from her father to Trixie during 1912-13 here. Many of them reference Mildred or were forwarded to her by Trixie or vice versa, and they include a description of George & Ellen Hooke's first visit to the school in Birmingham (20 October 1912) where Mildred's career commenced. The letters indicate that her first year as a teacher was challenging!
Here is what her father wrote to Trixie after travelling by train to Birmingham and meeting Mildred on the station.
Our first visit was to the school. Most of the face of the building belongs to the Boy's School. Only a comparatively small portion of one belongs to the Girls. Inside there are fine wide corridors and staircases like at St Paul's but perhaps a little higher. But the building is narrow so that 3 or 4 floors are necessary. I see that it was opened in 1896 but the first scholar given distinction by having her name on the walls passed her Higher Local in 1887. That I presume must have been when the school was held in temporary buildings... Mildred is finding her first term rather hard, - much harder than I had expected. It is a long term, it includes more examinations than usual, there are more corrections than usual on account of the exams and Mildred naturally finds everything strange. Next term is to be exceptionally short and when the summer comes I expect she will do things with less trouble.
You can see some photos of the school on the Staffs Homeguard website; click here for the relevant page.
At the bottom of this page is one image of the school dated 1905 and another from the late 1920s.
Although her early experience of teaching was tough she quickly proved herself an excellent and popular teacher. One of her pupils, Christine Savery (sister of the author Constance Savery [1897-1999]) who was later awarded the MBE in the same year as Mildred (1953) wrote this in her diary:
"Miss Hook (sic) is our form mistress now she is rather decent" (19 Sep 1916).
The following term she wrote, "I took my crocodile to school and lent it to Joan. Miss Hooke saw it and confiscated it. She wouldn't touch it though" (2 Jan 1917).
A year later, aged 15 one of her letters revealed that, "Hookey says she doesn't think I ought to do gym any more she is going to talk to Teddy about it." (March 1918)
Finally, now aged 17, Constance wrote, "My report is awfully bad. Miss Hooke seems to think I haven't worked a scrap". (31 March 1920)
Below is what another pupil wrote (to Mildred's sister Ella - see photos right) when reminiscing about Miss Mildred Hooke on hearing of her death in 1977. Seventeen wonderful letters remembering Mildred were kept by her sister Ella Hooke who dealt with Mildred's estate on her death. These can all be seen here.
Photos: Right/Top - Ella c1920
Right/Bottom - Me (Graham Hooke) with my Great Aunt Ella and Granny (Elaine) Hooke, Spring 1980
7 Sherlock Road, Cambridge. CB3 0HR 31 December 1977
Dear Miss Hooke,
Thank you very much for letting us know of Lady Farren's death. I am very sorry. I had known her for a very long time, in fact ever since 1920 when I first went to King Edward's as a nine-year old child. It was because of her teaching that I became a mathematician. I owe her a great deal, as, I am sure, do many others.
B.G.O.E.C is of course the Birmingham Girls' Old Edwardian Club. The school address is K.E.H.S.G., Edgbaston Park Road, Birminghm B15 2UB.
I will try to write a short account for the school records of some of her lessons which I still remember. She was a very great teacher.
Here is what another ex-pupil wrote about her when thinking back to her King Edward Days:
Drewston House, Drewsteignton, nr Exeter EX6 6PN 6 Jan 78
Dear Miss Hooke,
Thank you so much for your letter - and I do send you very understanding sympathy on the loss of such a wonderful sister. I have always held her in much esteem & affection. It was pure delight to find she was my form mistress at the bottom of the middle school in KE days, - & then to have her again when she became form mistress of 3rd class - & later on taught me Higher Maths. But she was so much more to me, - I always felt I could take my troubles to her and have some kind and understanding help .
She must have been a wonderful JP .
I am glad you had some " quietly happy" days with her before she died. I do so agree with you that it is a heartbreaking task to clear up what has been a much loved home. It seems almost sacrilege. I always understood that she loved being near Cambridge.
Yes, we do live in a lovely part down here. I keep house for my son , who farms the 60 or so acres attached to the house. We came here from the Midlands after my husband died. I have had nearly 20 years of great content and happiness here and I love all the beautiful countryside and the quiet kindly people. But we suffer, like you do, from over busy councils who spoil all the banks and verges and wildflowers. My father was Sussex born and loved all the many orchids. How sad that they are disappearing. I think you will love that book by Edith Holden.
Again, thank you so much for telling me about "My dear Miss Hooke". She will always be a lovely memory to me - a truly wonderful lady.
with all kindest thoughts