The following is compiled by, (& displayed with the permission of),
Jean C. Noble nee Barnes (a former pupil of Dalston County Secondary
School for Girls). Miss Bassett taught at D.C.S.S. in 1905/6."
"Rosa Bassett was born on August 9th 1871, the daughter of John
and Elizabeth Bassett of 43 Strickland Street, Deptford St Paul,
Kent. Elizabeth, her mother, was John’s second wife.
Her father, was the son of David and Mercy (Price) Bassett, and had
been born in 1829 in Darlaston, Staffordshire. David, a miner of
Pinfold Street, Darlaston, had been born at Sedgley.
By 1851 he and his wife Mercy had moved, with their family, to
Islington, London where he became a platelayer. Platelayers
worked in a gang employed on maintaining the tracks on the
John appears on the 1861 census, as a widowed engineer’s clerk of 8
Friendly Place, Deptford St Paul, Kent. At the same time David and
Mercy had two granddaughters staying with them. Susan eight and
Louisa aged six, both born Deptford and these girls are probably
John’s daughters from his first marriage.
By 1871 John and Elizabeth (born in Ramsgate, Kent in 1835) had
married and had the following children David William born 1863,
Frances H born 1865, Amy born 1867and Walter Frank born 1869
all born at Deptford, with them. Louisa from John’s first marriage,
who was working in a shop, was also living with them.
By 1881 and still at the same address (which continued to be their
address until after 1891) the couple had two more children, Rosa
born in 1871 and Walter Frank born in 1873.
Rosa’s eldest brother David William died in 1886 aged 23 and in
1890 her sister Amy married Tom Latimer, a schoolteacher from
Cumberland, who was the son of a Scottish schoolmaster.
Rosa studied at St Catherine's Training College and read a B.A.
Degree at London University and in 1891 was a pupil teacher.
Her father John died in 1899 and her mother, a widow, was living on
her own means in 1901. This indicates that John had probably left
her with sufficient funds to live on. Rosa, employed as a teacher
with the London School Board, was still living at home.
In 1904, the London County Council (LCC) education committee,
which had succeeded the London school board, proposed opening
four new secondary grammar schools in London. These were to be
at Kingsland, Forest Hill, Fulham and Sydenham. The one at
Kingsland was to be named the Kingsland County Secondary School
for Girls (K.C.S.S. later renamed Dalston County Secondary School
for Girls- D.C.S.S.).
APPOINTMENT OF ROSA BASSETT AT KINGSLAND
The LCC Education Committee and the four Head Mistresses of
these new schools met at County Hall to interview 250 candidates
for posts. Miss Rosa Bassett was amongst those interviewed and she
gained the position at KCSS as Second Mistress teaching French at
K.C.S.S. The other teachers chosen for Kingsland were equally of
high calibre holding B.A’s or B.Sc’s.
One week before the opening day of 25 September 1905, Miss Rich
and her staff took over the old Kingsland Birkbeck School building in
Colvestone Crescent. The school, built in the 1850’s, had
accommodation for 275 pupils. Built in a church-like style with
gothic windows, an open porch and belfry and buttresses it was
hardly suitable as a secondary grammar school. After D.C.S.S.
moved to the new buildings at Shacklewell Lane in 1939 the school
at Colvestone Crescent continued became an elementary school.
Today it is a primary school.
The school stood in a neighbourhood that had deteriorated since the
establishment of nearby Ridley Road market. The noises from the
market were a constant reminder of its existence. Additionally, in
amongst the houses were small factories that added to the noise
and, from a nearby rubber factory, evil smells emanated.
The world was considerably different place in those days, as Miss
Rich observed in 1955. “There was no such thing as a taxi or motor-
bus in Dalston, no one there had seen an aeroplane, no home
possessed a radio, or a television set, the women had long skirts and
wore hats, but as yet had no votes.” Horse drawn trams, cabs and
carriages were commonplace as were knife grinders, street vendors
and beggars. Gaslight lit many homes and coal was used for heating
According to Miss Rich, at the time of its opening, the school
building at Colvestone Crescent was in a poor state for the roof
leaked, the laboratory floor was unsafe; mice had invaded the Art
Room, some classroom windows refused to open and the factory
next door made many worrying noises. Additionally they had no
gymnasium, dining room, kitchen or staff-room. The staff and
pupils endured considerable inconvenience, dirt and noise before
On Tuesday 25 September 1905, the teachers having done
everything they could to prepare the building for this day, opened
the doors to 133 girls. Of those who arrived on the first day 88 were
Junior Scholars, 23 had been fee paying at the previous Birkbeck
School and, while these were shown as being in Form 3 and above,
most were re-graded and placed in lower forms. The rest of those
attending on that first day were Council pupils.
A list of the father’s occupations shows the variation in social status
for they came from all occupations. Cashiers, ministers, publicans,
clerks, inspectors, carpenters, dairy managers, schoolmasters,
shopkeepers, tailors, estate agents, police inspectors, engineers,
cabinet makers, furriers, builders, tramcar drivers, silver workers.
The pupil net for the school had trawled far and wide and girls who
had not attended the previous Birkbeck or a local school became
pupils. They came from Bethnal Green and Bow, Tottenham and
Edmonton, Homerton and Haggerston as well as locally.
For the next six weeks there were no textbooks and the pupils had
to remember their lessons without reference to them.
French was taught phonetically from the earliest days of the school
until well into the 1950’s. “I wonder if French phonetics still causes
you as much amusement as they did us. I am sure that, at times, we
must have sounded like a prosperous farmyard!” pondered Maude E
Clarke one of the early pupils.
Due to there being so few teachers many had to cover lessons other
than their own and a few weeks after opening a singing mistress
arrived but there was still no needlework mistress. Then Miss
Bassett offered to teach two forms, IIIb and IIIc, at the same time,
a total of 60 girls and she managed the task most satisfactorily.
Miss Trotter, History and English, admitted that she had only ever
been able to teach 18 to 20 girls needlework at one time.
During Term the Staff had tea and biscuits in their room at 4 O’
clock when the school day ended. They then settled down until 6.30
or 7 to correct books, give out textbooks or deal with other school
matters. All this was done out of school hours.
Miss Rich wrote of the time “Our early experiences are unforgettable
and nothing was really ready; yet we were so interested in our work,
which, of course, was pioneer work, that we managed to be very happy.
The building was altogether inadequate …”
In this first year Miss Bassett, there is no doubt, helped in setting
the school on the path to success and in 1906 the Board of
Education’s report on the school stated “Taking into consideration
the circumstances an excellent start has been made, for which very
great credit is due to the Staff.”
Miss Rich, in response to this comment, recorded that her staff had
given “Good measure, pressed down and shaken together and
“A new School is a new School and every tradition has to be
acquired. From the beginning, the children were shown they
received something from their school more than mere education. I
believe it was at the end of the first year that the girls who were
leaving clubbed together and bought a present for the School. It was
a charming idea. I hope they still do it, so that successive
generations of girls help to give to their Alma Mater just that touch
of distinction which is produced only by individual thought.”
“We all lived through strenuous happy days and were very absorbed
in our School. There were only five of us for all the duties and very
careful supervision was needed at first.”
At the end of the first year K.C.S.S., as a result of her impressive
and exceptional ability as a teacher, Miss Bassett was appointed as
the first Head Mistress of Stockwell Secondary School when it was
transformed from a teacher's training college in Stockwell into one
of the new secondary fee paying schools established by the L.C.C.
There she showed she was a true pioneer with her extraordinary
dynamism and integrity. In 1913 the school moved to its new
countrified site near Tooting becoming the County Secondary School
During the First World War, the girls took an active part in the life
of the community, knitting garments for the troops, and helping
with the distribution of ration books. After the war, an annual
garden party was held to raise funds for the South London
Women's Hospital in Clapham.
In 1923, after visiting America, she introduced the Dalton Scheme
(known as the Dalton Plan in America), to England. The scheme
was named from a teaching method that had originated in Dalton
High School in USA in 1913 and first put into practice there in 1920.
The scheme promoted Helen Parkhurst's educational system in
which children's initiative was developed by giving them monthly
assignments to complete in their own way and with self-imposed
discipline. It aimed to tailor each student's program to his or her
needs, interests and abilities; to promote both independence and
dependability and to enhance the student's social skills and sense of
responsibility toward others. It required a certain amount of pupil
discipline and individual tuition time to be successful.
Miss Bassett lectured and donated her fees and the proceeds of two
books to a scholarship fund, to enable other teachers to visit
America. She was made an M.B.E. and the school later bore her
Miss Bassett died in December 1925 following a fall on an icy
Miss Bassett’s career is a fine example of a working class 19th
century family giving their support and using the opportunities
education offered to improve the lives of their children. Miss
Bassett repaid her parents abundantly when she took the
opportunities offered and by her strength of mind and abilities
advanced the education of children in the 20th century."
Miss Bassett in the
Picture is scanned from
"The Pimpernel 1956"
Edition & submitted by
Audrey Staines (nee
Fry) .RBS: 1945-1952
M.B.E., B.A. (Lond.)