Miss E A Browne, 1852 – 1939

Leamington Ladies' College and High School

Leamington Spa Courier, 10th August 1895

Beaufort House, Clarendon Square

Beaufort House, Clarendon Square

Miss Emilie Browne came from an extended family of educators. Her paternal Grandmother had been a Governess, her aunt, Miss Mary Salter Browne was the founding Principal of the College, and at least two of her female cousins also earned their living as teachers. For over a decade, Miss Emilie Browne was Principal of Leamington Ladies College and High School after its relocation from Beech Lawn (site of the present-day Fire Station in Warwick Street) to Beaufort House, an imposing 5-storey house at the north east corner of Clarendon Square.

At a time when any unmarried woman with sufficient resources could set herself up as a teacher and take in boarders whose parents lived and worked abroad, both Miss Browne and her aunt were fully trained teachers, and pioneers in the education of girls. Rather than simply teaching deportment, penmanship and the crafting of a beautifully written letter, the management of servants, etc, and boys’ education was rigorously focused on academic attainment and university entrance, the Misses Browne set up their boarding school for girls aged 8 – 20 with the aim of producing young women who could hold their own in any walk of life. Students were encouraged to aim high academically, – their mornings were spent on the three Rs, Latin, French, German and Science, and their afternoons and evenings were devoted to music, art, dance, cookery, wood-carving, dressmaking and typing, with specialist teachers in purpose-built work rooms. Images of the time show girls in the garden on either side of a tennis net, racquets in hand and boaters clamped firmly on heads, so achievement in sport was important too. There was an equal emphasis on etiquette and good manners, and girls were encouraged to host reception evenings, take part in concerts and to contribute to the school magazine. School standards were high, but parents were allowed to opt their daughters in or out of examinations. There were weekly tests, and any girl who in appeared to struggle to attain the expected standard was allowed to study fewer subjects in order to spend more time on areas of difficulty. Miss Browne’s school prospectus set out her high expectations, but sought above all to reassure parents of the very high standard of care and attention paid to the girls attainment, comfort and health at Beaufort House. No doubt this consideration for parents was not simply a reflection of the amount they paid in fees, but also perhaps the result of some of the challenges faced by Miss Emilie Browne when she was in charge of the Leamington School of Art in the 1880s.

Courier Advertisement

Courier Advertisement 30th June 1888

The younger Miss Browne was a trained art specialist. For many years in addition to her teaching role at the Beech Lawn Ladies’ College and High School established by her aunt, Miss Mary Salter Browne in 1879, she ran the Leamington Municipal School of Art at the Town Hall. She advertised classes in oil painting, watercolours, still life, life model studies, wood carving and art needlework. She taught a very sucessful series of daytime courses, for ladies, gentlemen, teachers, and “a night class for Artizans and others”,on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Miss Browne’s students sat the Science and Art Department, South Kensington examinations, and were awarded a gratifying number of certificates and prizes. All went commendably well until in 1889, two candidates were considered unfit to be entered for an examination, and Miss Browne herself was deemed to have failed. There followed an acrimonious dispute based on a complaint by an unnamed parent, carried by the Leamington Courier in detail through several editions in the autumn of that year, resulting in Miss Browne’s resignation in September. Her management of her assistant teachers was then brought into question. To the consternation of the Mayor and the School of Art Committee, in December many of Miss Browne’s pupils stayed away from the annual prize distribution at the Town Hall, in protest. Miss Browne attended, and was only permitted to speak under caution from the Mayor who chaired the meeting, that anything he deemed out of order would result in Miss Browne’s being asked to leave. She nonetheless gave a feisty account of her management of the School of Art, proving herself more than a match for the Mayor. She had not, as he alleged, incited her students to rebel and absent themselves. She attended that evening simply to correct the misrepresentation of the statistics presented by her critics. The audience applauded, one of her students spoke up for her, and Miss Browne had the backing of the Countess of Warwick, but ultimately, the Mayor carried the day, and she left with the criticisms ringing in her ears.

 Miss E A Browne, Girl with Fowls Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum

Miss E A Browne, Girl with Fowls, courtesy of
Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum

However, so many of Miss Browne’s former students begged her to resume her teaching that the Municipal School of Art was obliged to allow her to set up in competition, For a time she taught in temporary premises in the Parade, whilst purpose-built studios were being built at Beech Lawn. The studios were formally opened in January 1890 by the Countess of Warwick, who commented, “I fancy nothing more enjoyable than being a young student …[under] the supervision of so excellent a teacher as Miss Browne” (Leamington Spa Courier, 25 January 1890) Miss Browne continued to run the School of Art at Beech Lawn until the move to Clarendon Square in 1895, when she began to combine her art teaching with the duties of Principal of Beaufort House School.

Miss Browne retired owing to ill health early in 1904, but continued to paint, depicting some well-known figures of the day.  She also illustrated books,  then became a portrait artist,  holding occasional exhibitions at her home in Dale Street, where she died in 1939 at the age of 83.

 

Margaret Rushton

 

Postscript

Beaufort House became a Nursing Home after Miss Browne’s retirement.  Some of the wounded soldiers of World War 1, among them Leamingtonian Harry H Clarke, were sent there to recuperate.

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