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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Milton Mount College, Gravesend, to be Demolished.
by Lynda Edwards.

Soon to be demolished for housing development is one of Gravesend's most interesting old schools, Milton Mount College, (NGR TQ 651730) which pioneered women's education in the latter years of the 19th century. The College was founded in 1871 by the Rev. William Guest, pastor of the Congregational chapel at Gravesend, as a Boarding School for the daughters of Congregational ministers. This example of the Victorian "Gothic" was built on the southern side of Windmill Hill and was originally E-shaped in plan, the middle bar of the "E" being the dining hall. It was considerably added to later. The classrooms were on the ground floor and the upper floors were divided into sleeping cubicles. Each girl had her own, though there were double cubicles for sisters. The annual fee was 15.

After 1875, the girls regularly took the Cambridge Local Examinations and achieved many notable academic successes. In 1889, the 'Lady Principal' Miss Hadland, was succeeded by Miss Conder who took the more modest title of Headmistress. Miss Conder felt that a separate Junior School was needed for the younger children and that more lay pupils would defray the extra expense. Therefore in 1895, Berkeley House in Gravesend was acquired as a Junior School which it remained until 1909 when it became a kindergarten and Prep. School.

The summer of 1915 saw many changes. A bomb dropped near the school on 4th June and shattered several windows. After this all the girls slept on the ground floor with respirators and necessary clothes nearby! It was finally decided to close the school on 24th June and reopen it the following term in a safer area. Accordingly, the school moved to Cirencester.

In March 1918 the Admiralty requisitioned the school as a Hospital for Venereal Diseases. Although the Admiralty did not stay there long the moral stigma made it impossible for the girls to return and twelve teachers told the Headmistress that they would resign if asked to return to Gravesend!

PHOTO: Milton Mount College, Gravesend.

Photo Caption: Milton Mount College, Gravesend.

The College never returned but moved into Worth Park near Crawley. However the school claimed 73,000 compensation from the Admiralty. Eventually 35,350 was awarded. After some time the buildings were sold to the Roman Catholic Waifs and Strays Society. Now it has been sold again and sadly will soon be swept away in order to build homes for Gravesend's expanding population.

By kind permission of St. Mary's Children's Home, in June of this year Milton Mount College was examined by myself and another member of the Gravesend Environmental Studies Research Group and a photographic record was made.

Every old or interesting building in Kent cannot of course be preserved but at least a full record should be made and for those interested I have a more detailed account of the History of the College.

(Ed. -- Perhaps other areas in Kent will take up the challenge of Environmental Archaeology. This particular Group in Northwest Kent go out "into the field" and tramp their areas street by street to find and record everything.

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