Bromley Common and its Schools

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The Education of the Norman Family
(from ‘George Warde Norman’ by J L Filmer, unpublished research in Bromley Central Library)

Much of the material for Mr Filmer’s research came from Mr Norman’s autobiography which is in Bromley Central Library.   

Mr Norman wrote rather disparaging about the governesses employed to teach his sisters.  “Miss Matthesius was  a plain course woman, little calculated, I should say, to educate young ladies.  Miss Long was a lusty woman of 45, motherly in appearance and character.  In short, an excellent person but of slight knowledge and competence, ignorant of how to teach even the little she knew.”  Of Caroline Thelluson, he wrote, “I recollect her arrival and first entrance into the library and admired her pleasing countenance and pretty figure.” 

Of his own education, he wrote that his mother's efforts to teach him in his early days were unsuccessful; so much so that at the age of seven and a half, he was unable to read and knew little more than his letters.  He was sent to a school run by the Reverend James Smith, a curate of Elton, who kept a school for about 10 boys.  Mr Norman wrote later that he knew little of the business of education but was however kind and honourable and eager to do his best.  School hours were long, 7 to 9, 10 to 1 and 3 to 5 plus something to do in the evening.  The boys were also instructed in military drill, each having a musket and a bayonet. 

George was a border and cried for hours as he begged his mother not to send him.  During his time at Elton and his next school, Eton, he did not recollect his parents ever visiting him.  The groom rode over once a week or fortnight to see that all was well. 

He wrote of Eton, “The system of instruction in the school was as bad as it could be - not a line of mathematics - no modern language.”  These deficiencies were particularly significant to George given his later career.  He spoke Norwegian through working in Norway in the family timber business and for over 50 years he was a director of the Bank of England.

His son, George Herman Norman (born 1831) was sent to a school at Lee, kept by a Miss Hart.  A year later he was sent with his brother Charles to a school in Cheam (c1840.)  He then went to a preparatory school near the  Woolwich Arsenal as it had been decided that he would have a career in the artillery. 

In 1845, he was sent to Sandhurst as it was decided that a career in the line was better.  (He had not done well enough in his studies to be sure of a place in the artillery.)  He left Sandhurst at 17.  His studies there included Euclid, plain and solid geometry, geometry, calculus, analytical geometry, etc, field fortification, military surveying, the French German and Latin languages and general history.  While at Sandhurst, he wrote in a letter to his grandmother, “Two cadets ran away from here last night - they have sent dragoons after them.”