|The Liverpool Blue Coat School present day|
In October of 1937, my mother entered the Liverpool Blue Coat School for orphans and fatherless children. She wasn't an orphan - her mother was alive, living in the U.S. and working as a governess. Her father had left them when Mom was eight, and they didn't really know whether he was alive or not. A few years earlier, Grandma had sent Mom to England to live with relatives, but when she turned 12, Grandma enrolled her in the Blue Coat School.
The school was founded in 1708 by Brian Blundell, a master mariner, and the Reverend Robert Styth, with the intention of providing a sound education to poor children.
The school was very regimented and strict. Discipline for even minor offenses at times included caning. Students marched in and out of the dining hall and to the chapel, always organized according to height. All the students were boarders. Boys and girls were strictly segregated. Dormitories were long and wide corridors lined with single beds. The students rarely left the grounds. Former students refer to their time at the Blue Coat as their "incarceration," but at the same time, most express appreciation for the high quality education they received.
On Sundays, special occasions and on the rare occasions of leaving the grounds, the students had to wear uncomfortable wool uniforms that looked like this:
The school is located on Church St. Just down the street from the school is Penny Lane - yes, the Penny Lane of Beatles fame. In fact, John Lennon's father, Alf, was a student at the Blue Coat School in the 1920's.
When Mom entered the Blue Coat School, she had already been abandoned by her father and felt abandoned by her mother and other family. She was a shy American girl in an English boarding school, which made her feel different and like something of an outsider. It is the time between her entrance to the school in 1937 and her exit from it in 1940 that are the inspiration for my next novel.
Today, the Liverpool Blue Coat School is no longer a boarding school and no longer a school for poor orphans and fatherless children. It is now a school with limited, highly competetive admission and a top academic record.
In 2012, my husband and I visited the Liverpool Blue Coat School, where we were treated with the utmost kindness by several "Old Blues" - alumni of the school who collectively manage the affairs of the Blue Coat Brotherly Society. This association assists former students and their families, and was of tremendous help to me when I was trying to find out more about my mother's time there. Although parts of the school have been modernized and even sold off, the significant older structures such as the chapel and the bell tower that were there in Mom's time remain.
Here are some photographs from our visit:
|My husband and I at the Blue Coat School, with the chapel behind us.|
|The front door of the school. The door is huge, but right behind me is a very small door within the door, which you have to duck through to enter. Above it is a sign that reads MIND YOUR HEAD.|
|The girls' dormitory, where Mom lived, was sold off and is now private condominiums.|
|This is what you see when you walk through the main entrance to the school.|
|Inside the chapel|