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Dover College in 1975 – THE FIRST GIRLS

A parent’s story

My wife and I were living in 1975 some 7000 miles from England and we had two daughters part-way through their education at a girls’ school in Folkestone, Brampton Down. So we were somewhat put out at the end of 1974 when informed that their school was closing without further notice. Somewhat of a dilemma! But before we had even finished scratching our heads we received a telegram from the Headmaster of Dover College, David Cope, offering to take both the girls in at Dover immediately. He promised to have them met, accommodated, taken to the school outfitters to get kitted out, and generally looked after.

What had befallen to prompt this unanticipated offer, which came completely out of the blue, was that the girls’ brother, at the time in St. Martins, had spoken to the headmaster about the family problem, who made immediate response because he was planning to take the school co-ed. It provided a solution for us of course.

Although the college was already planning to take in girls, the proposed start date was still two terms off and there was no girls’ Boarding House ready to receive them – Duckworth was not opened for girls for a further two terms. But Jean Tuckwell, who had been appointed Housemistress, and Nigel her husband who was Senior Master, took our girls into St. Anne’s where they boarded in a basement bedroom prepared for them. That was their home for the next two terms until the College officially went co-ed.

There were ten others who joined at the same time who were therefore the first girls at Dover College.
January 1975 –

  • Margaret Bourner
  • Tessa Rosenz
  • Caroline Teed
  • Denise Stretton
  • Nicola Stenning
  • Alison Thomas
  • Liana Brown
  • Marcena Orcutt
  • Sandra Hignett
  • Kay Manning
  • Penelope Nickalls
  • Helen Nickalls

Then in April 1975 –

  • Rebecca James
  • Julian (sic) Squire [Julian Mary Squire]:-

A daughter recollects

It was an interesting scenario going to Dover ‘before they went officially co-educational’ but it was also not ideal for me having been completely let down by my former school. I was about to sit O levels, and had to change school, change examining boards and try and cover a new syllabus in a matter of one and a bit terms, eg all new books for English literature and maths went from trad maths to SMP.

I remember a geography teacher saying to me ‘do you realise you only know a third of the syllabus’ and he gave me a load of  pamphlets on different countries to try and close the gaps. It was a strange time and difficult. My brother being there helped a lot and then when the rest of the girls turned up in the Sixth form things began to ‘normalise’. However, we were welcomed and we were definitely looked after. A bit of a novelty for the boys!!!

I would guess from the schools’ perspective, the initial batch of dames helped the transition into co-education generally. They must have been better prepared when the formal change occurred and the boys would have settled to the concept too.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • "Ronnie" Barker November 30, 2015, 7:42 pm

    I was there that evening in January when the line of “young ladies” walked into the refectory lead by Mrs T. Strangely nothing much changed although the ladies first XV was noted by its ansence…. Those who thought it was the beginning of the end will be reassured that, to date, Dover has only ever had a headmaster and never a headmistress. Hurrah for the patriarchal system!

    Back in 1975, there were some lads who complained that “the girls” had better facilities and that the soon to be completed Duckworth House was full of new furniture and new equipment. Everything was new compared to the “somewhat less than new” state of the boys houses. Talk of insurrection was quickly suppressed during Headmasters weakly address with the obvious answer, “Well we were’nt going to buy old furniture and fittings were we….”. We conceded Mr Cope had a point. Happily this philosophy did finally peculate down to the boys houses.

    Ah! Those were the days. Although in my case I suspect it was “daze”…. I was obviously there, but I can’t remember a lot of it.

  • Kay Manning December 12, 2015, 1:15 am

    Whatever happened to most of these girls, some I know. It would be great to fill in the gaps. Kay Rowlands nee Manning

    • ellaseeking April 11, 2017, 10:54 am

      I’d love to catch up with any old Bramptonians, just to chat. I was there late sixties, early seventies and went on to Dover Grammar when Brampton Down closed.

  • Kay Rowlands nee Manning October 24, 2018, 8:42 am


    I was at Brampton Down for one term only (my guardian was told the school was closing the day she dropped me there). I was one of the first 6 boarders, we stayed in the Headmasters own home (Mr Cope), until Duckworth House opened. I never actually boarded in Duckworth, I stayed in what was the Bursary, name escapes me, with a Hungarian? house mistress, again can’t remember her name, Clara??. I can remember Caroline Teed, Marcena, Liana Brown, 2 sisters, Helen & ?, stayed in Mrs Tuckwell’s house, Nicola, Denise, Tessa. I think we were later joined by the vicar’s daughter Julian.

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