EAGLE HOUSE SCHOOL TOTTENHAM GREEN
Lt RYPINSKI DRAWING PRIZE - 1850
It has all the makings of an episode from the BBCs Antiques Road Show when a long lost object is found lurking in an attic, and that is just about what happened when an old print of a painting, originating from the Eagle House School in Tottenham, was found in the back of a cupboard in a quiet London suburban street.
The picture was discovered when the executor of a will was completing the task of clearing the contents of a house in Fulham, West London, following the death of the occupier, an elderly lady, whose family had lived there for over 100 years. The lady had died aged 93 years and had lived all her life at the same address in Fulham. Her two sisters had died in their early teens, her father in 1923, and her mother in 1955 and she had never been well off. It was suspected that the picture had been lying around for many years (it was found tucked away at the bottom of a cupboard).
The Eagle House School was once situated on Tottenham Green, as were several other Quaker Schools in the same period. Refer to the extract from an old map dating back to 1864 that shows its location.
I was then fortunate to find the following extract regarding Eagle House School in a small booklet called 'Willingly to School', that had been published in 1970 to mark the Centenary of the introduction of the Education Act in 1870.
'This school was on a site between the present Town Hall and the Technical college. It was formerly flanked by Grove House School and Coars House, which had even earlier been used as a Quaker school. Thomas Coar having inherited Forster's establishment. The school was run by Dr A Price for 25 years, who specialised in an English education for foreign pupils. He was succeeded by his son-in-law Knowles, and the school eventually passed into the hands of Dr Fernandez who altered the character of the school, encouraging more day boys, many of whom were non-conformists. Lieutenant Rypinski, whose name appears at the foot of the prize certificate, was drawing and French master at the school in the 1850's. He had fled from Poland during the uprising of 1830 and as an émigré acquired a considerable literary reputation.'
As one might expect, given its history, the picture is showing signs of wear and tear received over the 150 plus years since it was first presented. The picture provides a wonderful testament to the quality of education and schooling provided by Eagle House School in the Mid-Victorian era.
The inscription at the foot of the picture reads:
Mr Prices Eagle House School, Tottenham Green, Middlesex
Drawing Prize given to Thomas Oxenham December 14th 1850 Architects Department
Lieut A Rypinski , Drawing Master
The Pigots directory dating from 1826 lists seven academies in Tottenham offering private education, several of which attracted pupils from abroad. One of these was Eagle House School on Tottenham Green, owned by Dr Price. It was reported that he took 150 boarders and day pupils and he specialised in an English education for foreigners.
A study of the 1851 Census disclosed an entry for the people residing at the school at the time. In addition to the schools Head-Master, Dr Alfred Price, the recipient of the drawing prize Thomas Oxenham, aged 14 was also listed. Furthermore, in keeping with its reputation among foreign students, it was noted that some pupils were from Italy, France and Spain.
In tracing the family of Thomas Oxenham the most likely candidates were that of Hugh and Hannah Oxenham. Hugh Oxenham was an Auctioneer. At the 1851 Census, he and his family were living in Oxford Street, London but by 1861 Census the family was living at Kensington Square Gardens. Their son Thomas was also living at this address, now aged 24, with an occupation given as a Master Brewer.
With the help of Bruce Castle Museum, we also found some more information about Lieutenant Rypinski. In a document titled Political refugees from Europe it quotes:
Undoubtedly the most distinguished of the refugees of that time resident in Tottenham was the poet Alexander Rypinski. He was not a Pole by birth, but a polonised Byelorussian nobleman, although he spoke and wrote in both languages
Apparently Rypinski had his own printing press in Grove Place, Tottenham and he was also a keen photographer, although none of his plates remain.
In 1858 Rypinski returned to his homeland where he died two years later
The staff at Bruce Castle Museum, Tottenham - were also able to provide me with more information, together with an illustration of Eagle House School on Tottenham Green.
You will note that not only do the pictures make a reference to the school of Mr A Price, but also the pictures were actually drawn by Lieutenant A Rypinski, the drawing master who presented the drawing awards.
Note also the splendid grounds and the grand looking stone Eagles that stand aloft of the gates to the front entrance
A study of the surname of the family who had owned the picture for the past 100 years, disclosed from the census reports from 1881 thro1901, that there were a number of people with this name who were in service and working in homes in Kensington and other parts of West London. We now understand that there is a strong probability that indeed some family members had worked in-service in earlier years. It is purely speculative to suggest we know, but it is possible that sometime in the past the picture may have been acquired or given by a grateful household to a servant in their employ.
So this humble picture found in a cupboard in Fulham has resulted in a raft of information being unearthed regarding its background which has proved to be most fascinating and rewarding exercise.
I am pleased to say that person who discovered the picture has decided to donate the picture to the Bruce Castle Museum so that it may be enjoyed by future generations of Tottenham residents and people with an interest in the Quaker Schools that feature so prominently in the history of Tottenham.
It's nice to think that after so many years it's returning home to its origins in Tottenham.
Alan Swain - October 2007