Day 16 of my Mary Stewart Advent Calendar, and I’m so pleased I’ve posted something every day so far! We looked at the early years of Mary Stewart’s education in my 12 December post: let’s look at some more of her schooldays today.
After Mary’s experience of being bullied at her first boarding school, she changed school at the age of ten (ie in 1926 or 1927) to Eden Hall near Penrith in Cumbria, over 80 miles west of the family home at Shotton Colliery. Eden Hall (also referred to as Edenhall; I am retaining Mary Stewart’s spelling) is described by the author as being ‘a very beautiful place, which later provided the hall, park and garden for my novel The Ivy Tree.’ (‘About Mary Stewart’, 1973, p4)
Eden Hall was demolished in 1934 but here is an image of how it looked in 1869:
There is more information on Eden Hall here, including on the Luck of Eden Hall. The architect of Eden Hall, Sir Robert Smirke, is arguably most famous for his work at the British Museum (main block and facade) although I know him better for one of his Scottish designs – Mary Stewart and I have both been residents of his buildings!
As to what Mary learned while she was at Eden Hall, again the booklet ‘About Mary Stewart’ is helpful. It gives the following information (p4):
Here lessons came a long way second after deportment and the social graces… I was well taught in English and French, shockingly badly taught in Maths and Geography. Science I don’t remember at all, except for tadpoles. The art teaching was conventional but sound. I made history (school history anyway) by passing all six grades of the Royal Drawing Society examinations by the age of thirteen, and had drawings hung in Junior Exhibitions at Burlington House. All seemed set fair for that great painter.
Mary Stewart had dreamed of being an artist as well as a writer – see her Jenny Brown interview. Also, in Roy Newquist’s Counterpoint book of interviews we have: ‘my first ambition, even before writing, was to be an artist. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t try to draw’.
Mary had to leave Eden Hall at the age of fourteen, when it went bankrupt. She sat her School Certificate some two years early and ’emerged with a creditable School Certificate with Distinction in English, French and Art. This record made it easy to find a place at a new school'(pp 4-5, ‘About Mary Stewart’).
Mary was a pupil at Eden Hall for only four years, yet it must have had a lasting influence on her for her fictional Forrest Hall and Park to be based on Eden Hall: her novel The Ivy Tree was published about 30 years after she left.