bc Cliff House School, Kent, stories by Hilda Richards
Cliff House School
by 'Hilda Richards'
Compiled by
Sylvia Reed, a member of Story Paper Collector’s Digest, and an unashamedly hopeless addict of Cliff House (and Morcove).
Page finalised 9th October, 2010.
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia.
The origins of Cliff House School dates back to 1909, when it was mentioned in The Magnet. The Magnet was a boys’ weekly paper, published by The Amalgamated Press. Charles Hamilton was responsible for the beginnings of Cliff House School.

Later authors of the Cliff House saga were Horace Phillips, (Marjorie Stanton) who was responsible for Morcove School), Reginald Kirkham, L E Ransome and John Wheway. Some other regular Amalgamated Press writers also added stories to the Cliff House saga. These were written under the name of Hilda Richards. L E Ransome developed the superb Jemima Carstairs.

Because Cliff House School became so popular, it was decided to start a weekly paper for girls named the School Friend, in 1919. The Schoolgirl was begun in 1929, superseding the School Friend. At this time, John Wheway was the regular Hilda Richards. Most of the illustrations of the later Cliff House stories were by T E Laidler. G M Dodshon was the original illustrator of the Cliff House girls.

Cliff House School was situated on the north coast of Kent, not very far from the market town of Courtfield, and within an easy walk of Friardale Village.

Another place where adventures took place was on a private island in the middle of the River Sark. This was named Stowe Island, and owned by a Mrs Frith. She was very friendly with Barbara and Co, so they had permission to land on the island whenever they desired.

At one stage in its history, Cliff House was a private residence. An ancestor of Clara Trevlyn’s lived there, and legend had it that she was extremely wealthy. However, this fortune was never found. Towards the end of the reign of The Schoolgirl, a superb character was introduced to Cliff House. Her name was Glenda Maine. Glenda Maine was girl crook, and also was a master of disguises. In a story full of twists, turns and intrigue, Glenda becomes aware of this treasure, and plans to steal it for herself. However, the fortune was eventually recovered and returned to the rightful owners, the Trevlyn family.

The original Cliff House colours were black, red and white, however at some stage the colours changed to blue and white. Later they were royal blue and gold. Later again, the colours changed to royal blue, red and white. It is also interesting to note that the later Cliff House crest was an inverted copy of the original.

The Cliff House stories were either serialised, or complete in each issue. At one stage there were two serials running, and a section devoted to a character in the series. One of the best characters was Jemima Carstairs. Jemima was a boyish figure, extremely elegant, Eton cropped. She also wore a monocle, which she used to remove and polish when she was pondering a problem. Jemima was wise beyond her years, she never panicked, and never troubled about what people thought of her. She was also an extremely kind, and sensitive person.

Over the years of the Cliff House saga, there were many pupils in the Fourth Form. However, the main core of girls were:

Fourth Form
Barbara Redfern Form Captain
Insert Cliff House scan 020
Clara Trevlyn
Bessie Bunter
Jemima Carstairs
Mabel Lynn
Marjorie Hazeldene
Rosa Rodworth
Lydia Crossendale
Janet Jordan
Diana Royston-Clarke
Marcelle Biquet
Leila Carroll
Bridget O’Toole
June Merrett
Marcia Loftus
Jean Cartwright
Janet Jordan

Most of the articles and stories centered around these girls. There were other girls of course, whose reign was brief, but they made a huge impact upon the Fourth. Two of these girls were:

Thelma Warrington, a thoroughly bad lot. Thelma’s Aunt, Miss Dorothy Fielding, an old girl of Cliff House School, was planning on bequething a huge amount of money to the, on certain conditions that must be met. However, her nephew and his family, who are ne’er do wells, plan to ingratiate themselves so much to Aunt Dorothy and at the same time discredit Cliff House School. Thelma was sent to Cliff House as a pupil to start the mischief making. Of course, the ne’er do well’s plans are thwarted, and Cliff House School enjoys the bequest.

Faith Ashton, an astonishingly pretty but completely insidious girl, who was a cousin of Barbara Redfern. Faith entered Cliff House School, and at first everyone was taken in by her hyprocrisy and her sweet honeyed nature. Bessie Bunter strangely enough instinctively disliked Faith from the start. Faith soon began her schemes and wiles only to be found out and removed from the school. However, she was re-installed at Cliff House after presumably becoming repentant. It wasn’t long before she decided to oust Barbara from the Captaincy, so that she could have the ‘power and glory’ for herself, as she saw it. Faith’s reign was short lived though, as girls began to see through her cunning plans and schemes, and she removed from Cliff House School once and for all. Of course, Barbara Redfern obtained the Captaincy once again.

Head Girl
Stella Stone.
However, Stella left Cliff House to follow a veterinary career. She was replaced by Dulcia Fairbrother.

Other Prefects
Lady Patricia Northanson, Sarah Harrigan. Connie Jackson. Connie and Sarah are extremely nastly pieces of work.

Miss Primrose

Fourth Form Mistresses
Originally Miss Bellew, who was replaced by Miss Steele, then Miss Matthews and finally Miss Charmant. Miss Matthews accepted the position of Head Mistress at Whitechester School. Whitechester was regularly featured in Cliff House stories. Miss Valerie Charmant suffered badly at the hands of Shaw Dennis Shaw Dennis was a scape-grace nephew of Mr & Mrs Charmant, Valerie’s adoptive parents. Shaw Dennis turned out to be a no-hoper, and was always jealous of Valerie and her achievements. He pledged to get revenge on Valerie. However, Shaw Dennis met his comeuppance, and Valerie Charmant remained as popular as ever! This story was serialised in The Schoolgirl, and later re-printed as The Schoolgirls’ Own Library No 700, New Rule at Cliff House. For a while, Miss Bullivant was Mistress. She was a most tragic figure.

Tuckshop keeper
Aunty Jones.

School Porter
Piper. Piper is an extremely interesting person. He begins a lot of his words with H. As in ‘You young himps!’. This seems to be a true version of a London ‘Born by the sound of Bow Bells’ dialect. Piper’s crusty exterior hides quite a soft touch. He sometimes secretly sided with the girls over some misdemeanour they were involved in - usually lateness, after the gates had closed. Piper allowed himself to be bribed sometimes, by ‘saying nothing’. Diana Royston-Clarke frequently bribed Piper to keep his silence.

Piper is assisted by Boker, the Page Boy.

Cliff House School became so popular with young girls of the 1920’s and 1930’s, that they aspired to become part of the school. It was decided to form a ‘Cliff House School’ in theory, and girls were invited to write to the Editor of The Schoolgirl, encouraging them to tell of their interests, their favourite Cliff House characters, how they were progressing at school. They were then ‘placed in forms’ at Cliff House School, according to their age. Some girls empathised with Cliff House so much that they even sent Postal Orders for Bessie Bunter!.

Where are these girls now who wrote so long ago to The Schoolgirl? Are they still alive, what were their lives like after growing into adults? Did they have careers, did they get married and have children of their own? Would they read these stories today? How would they feel if they suddenly came across any long lost copies of The Schoolgirl, or any reference to Cliff House School? #

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