History menu >
Biography of Gladys Sayle, founder of Ellerslie Girls' school in Great Malvern
Ellerslie was the name of a private boarding school for girls in Abbey Road, Great Malvern, and now exists in name only, as a boarding house at Malvern College. The school was founded by Miss Gladys Sayle after the First World War, and she continued as Principal until 1957.
You can read more about the history of Ellerslie in our story of Malvern schools then and now. The photo below shows the house named Ellerslie in which the school started, which lies on the slope of the Malvern Hills at the south end of Abbey Road.
Ellerslie, uninhabited in 2012
In this story, we have attempted to tell you something about Gladys, her assistant Helen Norton Scales, and her family.
Gladys Mabel Pearson Sayle was born in Fulham and baptised at St Barnabas Church, Kensington, on 8th May 1889, the daughter of merchant George Moore Sayle and Emily Brierley Friend.
In 1901, aged 12 years, she was living at home, and her father was described in the census as a retired export merchant; we know nothing of her schooling.
By 1911, aged 22 years, she had left home and was an English Governess at a small private school for teenage girls at Waterlooville near Portsmouth run by Edith Maunders. Gladys's mother died two years later in 1913.
Kelly's 1914 Trade Directory of Hertfordshire next lists Gladys having a private school, at 126 High Street, Bushey Heath.
Eight years later, in 1922, the British Phone Book records Gladys Sayle having a private boarding school at Cherbourg, a mansion on the Wells Road in Great Malvern.
Cherbourg seen from the Wells Road, courtesy of Malvern College
There had previously been a boys' prep school at Cherbourg, which was attended by the author CS Lewis, who went on to Malvern College in 1913. We think Gladys took over the premises from schoolmaster's daughter Leontine Elise Lloyd-Jones, following the death of her father Ebeneezer in 1922. In 1934 LE Lloyd-Jones was recorded having a preparatory school for girls at Bredenbury Court in Herefordshire. Her father Ebeneezer Lloyd-Jones had founded The Priory School in the building which is now the Council House.
Ellerslie, another mansion a few hundred yards to the south of Cherbourg, had been occupied by North Foreland Ladies' School during WWI, which had been evacuated from Kent, and we imagine Gladys took over Ellerslie when the school returned to the south coast. Possibly that was as early as 1922 but certainly Gladys Sayle was recorded having a school at Ellerslie in Kelly's Trade Directory of 1924.
Ellerslie circa 1926, courtesy of Malvern College
About 1925, following the death of Frederick Hookham, retired headmaster of Kidderminster Grammar School, Gladys Sayle was able to acquire a third mansion named Hampton House, across the road from Ellerslie, which became a prep department for younger girls.
Hampton House circa 1926, courtesy of Malvern College
We think, about 1926, Gladys Sayle commissioned photographer Christopher John Grosvenor and his brother Edward, of North Malvern, to make an album of photographs of the school for loaning to the parents of potential pupils, from which the above black and white photos were copied.
An advertisement for the school can be found in Kelly's Trade Directory of 1932, just before an advertisement for Malvern College. Kelly's Trade Directory of Birmingham for 1940 contains a similar advertisement but adds that it is a Church of England boarding school and has a school chapel.
So it was that Ellerslie school expanded into adjoining large houses over the years, incorporating Cherbourg and Southlands on the Wells Road and Hampton House on the corner of College Road, opposite. In the grounds were a science laboratory, gymnasium and tennis courts. Later a hall, doubling as a chapel, was built on the north side of Ellerslie, and after Gladys Sayle left, a redbrick science block with study bedrooms above for sixth formers was built on the south side, circa 1971.
Gladys Sayle ran the school in partnership with her assistant Helen Norton Scales until 1957 when they both retired and went to live in Worthing.
The British Phone Book of 1940 indicates that Gladys had a home at Craithie in Blackmore Road, North Malvern, where she may have lived with a sister.
Gladys Sayle's assistant, Helen Norton Scales, born in 1881, was the youngest daughter of a Northamptonshire farmer.
The 1901 census records Helen, aged 19 years, as a school teacher (music) staying with her married brother, draper's traveller, Edward H Scales in Lewisham. The 1911 census recorded her, aged 29 years, as a music mistress at Marlborough College for Girls, a small private boarding school at Buxton in Derbyshire which had mostly British, but some French and German pupils. So Helen Scales would have been an experienced teacher in her forties when she came to Great Malvern.
An advertisement of 1905 had described Marlborough College, Buxton, as having:
Gladys Sayle's parents, George Moore Sayle and Emily Brierley Friend, were married at Plymouth in 1888.
Her father George Moore Sayle was born at Cambridge in 1858, the son of Robert Sayle (1816 - 1883) and Priscilla Caroline Ginger (1824 - 1904).
The name Robert Sayle probably means little to people today, but Robert, a farmer's son, became a draper building up a large department store in Cambridge which was to become well known. The store named Robert Sayle was eventually acquired by the John Lewis partnership circa 1939 but its name was only changed in recent years.
The National Probate Calendar records that Gladys Sayle's grandfather, Robert Sayle, of Leighton House, Trumpington near Cambridge, Silk Mercer of Shanghai in China and Hong Kong, and Singapore in the East Indies, General Merchant, died on 5th October 1883 leaving effects of £73,202. In terms of today's currency, Robert died a millionaire, and it may have been a legacy inherited by her father George which enabled Gladys Sayle to found Ellerslie School in Great Malvern.
Gladys was the eldest of six children, all girls. Her sisters were: Winifred Priscilla Brierley, Violet Pearson, Iris Eugenie Friend, Pearl Priscilla, and Agnes Isabella Willis. None of the girls married. Possibly this was partly because they were financially independent and partly because large numbers of eligible menfolk were either killed or crippled during the Great War.
At least two of the sisters would seem to have inherited a strong Christian faith from their forebears as you will see below.
Winifred Priscilla Brierley Sayle
Sadly Winifred (1890 - 1895) died an infant.
Violet Pearson Sayle
Violet (1892 - 1919) died in the Birkenhead registration district of Cheshire aged 27 years. Strangely she doers not appear in either the 1901 or 1911 census. We wondered if she had a disability and was hidden away?
Iris Eugenie Friend Sayle
Iris was born in London in 1894 and died in Cumbria in 1973. In 1911 she was a part time student living with her parents in Saffron Walden. At some time, and we don't know when, Iris became involved with a group of Anglican missionary teachers.
One of these, Monica Melanie Storrs (1888 - 1967) was the daughter of Rev John Storr of St Peters, Grosvenor Gardens. Her brother Ronald became a Governor of Northern Rhodesia and her brother Christopher became Bishop of New South Wales. Monica trained at St Christopher's College Blackheath which had been set up in 1909 by the Sunday School Institute as a training college for women interested in Anglican church work. Her grandfather had been a curate in Halifax and her father was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Monica Storrs became a missionary who herself went to Canada and travelled around the Peace River district to assist people during the years of the 'Depression' between the two World Wars. Another student at St Christopher's was Frances Hatton Eva Hassell (1886 - 1974) who purchased a motor caravan at her own expense to provide a travelling Sunday School, run by women for women, also in remote areas of Western Canada. About 1926 she was joined by Iris Sayle, who was said to be a skilled artist, and by 1929 there were 12 vans and the team had risen to 24. Their exploits are recorded in the book 'Across the Prairie in a Motor Caravan'.
Iris Eugenie Friend Sayle, missionary, died Cumbria, England in 1973.
Pearl Priscilla Sayle
Pearl (1898 - 1939) died at the home of her sister Gladys at Craithie in Malvern aged only 41 years, three days after the declaration of war on Germany.
Some years after writing this story we were walking down the path from the chapel in Malvern Wells cemetery and came across her grave.
Memorial to Pearl Priscilla Sayle in Malvern Wells cemetery
The inscription reads:
In loving memory of our darling sister, Pearl Priscilla Sayle
Born Holy Innocents Day 1897
Passed over September 6th 1939
'In his presence is the fulness of joy'
Holy Innocents Day commemorates the massacre of male children at Bethlehem by King Herodís order (Matthew 2:16). Also known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents, this day is observed in Western churches on December 28th.
Agnes Isabella Willis Sayle
Agnes, the youngest (1899 - 1992) became a teacher and missionary like her sister, Iris. Passenger lists record Agnes arriving at Cardiff in 1950 from Pakistan via Bombay and giving her home address as Ellerslie, Great Malvern. Also on the motor vessel Egidia was another missionary Laetitia Gertrude Marriott (1903 - 1990) daughter of Brigadier General John Marriott CBE DSO MVO (1861 - 1953).
MV Egidia, built 1945 at Port Glasgow, was a 9,952 ton cargo-passenger ship with only 12 single cabins.
An earlier document records approval for Agnes's appointment to a post in Lahore thus:
Passenger lists record Miss Agnes Sayle, a teacher, aged 27 of Ellerslie, departing London on 2nd September 1927 on the P&O ship Ranpura, for Bombay in India. This must have been exciting as it was the ship's maiden voyage.
Telephone directories record Agnes in later life living in Worthing in 1975, where perhaps she had been living with her sister Gladys, and subsequently at 17 Perrins House, Moorlands Road, Great Malvern in 1982, probably being part of the retired community at Davenham, once the home of the Perrins (Worcestershire Sauce) family.
Gladys Sayle's father had died at Bournemouth in 1935. It was perhaps appropriate that he had named his retirement home 'Malvernbury' after the house opposite his eldest daughter's school at Ellerslie.
A newspaper cutting, probably from the Malvern Gazette, related Gladys Sayle's retirement in 1957 (courtesy of Malvern College):
We wondered whether the Mrs Berkeley referred to in the newspaper report above, might have been Edith Ione Mabel Greenstock who was born at Malvern in 1908 and married William Vaughan Berkley, of similar surname, who became headmaster of the Downs School Colwall in 1952.
Gladys Mabel Pearson Sayle, founder of Ellerslie School for Girls, died by the sea at Worthing in 1974 aged 85 years. Her friend and assistant Helen Scales had died the previous year.
Vivian Cooke, who had taught art at Ellerslie during WWII, remembered the school being run by Miss Sayle and Miss Scale; apparently they were both characters! Vivian Cooke went on to become head of art at the Abbey School.
A former pupil who attended the school in the 1950s relates that Miss Margaret D Prior was the next headmistress. She was followed by Pamela M Binyon, who had been a missionary, in turn followed in 1988 by Elizabeth Baker who moved from Cheltenham Ladies College. In 1992 Ellerslie merged with Malvern College.
If you would like to suggest changes or to offer additonal material for this page, particularly a photo of Gladys Sayle, please email the webmaster
Last updated 30th October 2018