Papers of the White family

Scope and Content

Papers of the White family, including diaries of Louisa White, 1883-1911; Lucy Winifred Nicholls, 1885-1960; and Mary Louisa White, 1905 and 1913; notebooks, mainly kept by Lucy Winifred Nicholls on the subject of education, 1888-1962; scrapbooks, mainly relating to the musical career of Mary Louisa White, [1900-1926]; photographs, 1890s-1960s, mainly of members of the family, but also including albums relating to activities at The Garden School in the 1930s; family correspondence, [1883-1910]; The Garden School Bulletins, 1924-1947; correspondence and papers relating to LWN's lecture tours and early school engagements, 1899-1915, 1933.

Administrative / Biographical History

This collection comprises the papers of three generations of the White family.

In 1864, Louisa Makin (1836-1912) married Robert White (1825-1887). He had two surviving children by his first wife, Elizabeth (1827-1855), a daughter Fanny Alicia White (1853-1922 - later married to Dr Julian Willis) and a son Robert Hornby White (1850-1888).

Robert and Louisa White had several children. After their first child, a son, was still-born in 1865, Louisa went on to have Mary Louisa (Louie) White (1866-1935); Lucy Winifred (Winnie) White (1869-1962); Jessie Gertrude (1871-[1941]; and Agnes Sarah (1873-1882). Winnie married Charles Henry Nicholls (1866-1938) in 1902. Their daughter, (born after the death of a first child) was Agnes Margaret (Poppy) Nicholls (1907-1993).

All three daughters were educated at Sheffield High School and worked as teachers.

Winnie Nicholls worked for two years for the London University matriculation, but gave up her studies when her father died. She worked as a private governess (1888-1892) and then as form mistress at Kensington High School (1892-1901). During this period she trained in elocution at the Guildhall School of Music, and between 1901 and 1917 she taught elocution and history of art at various local schools including St Margaret's, Harrow, Kensington High School (up to 1909), Putney High School, Croydon High School and Leinster House School. In 1916-17 she founded and was Head of The Garden School, which was based on principles of love, freedom, brotherhood, cooperation and service. The school moved from London to Ballinger, Great Missenden in 1921, and in 1928 to Lane End, near High Wycombe, 'where open air and contact with great natural beauty played an important part in the lives of pupils and staff. While academic subjects were given their due importance in the curriculum, music, rhythmic movement, drama, art and handicrafts were considered equally essential. All forms of original expression were encouraged'. Winnie Nicholls retired in 1937, though the school continued on for another 10 years. She was also heavily involved with the New Education Fellowship, which held conferences at the Garden School.

Mary Louisa (Louie) White worked as a music teacher. She was also a composer and pianist of some skill, and invented the 'Letterless Method' of teaching music to beginners. She taught at pianoforte at Kensington High School at the turn of the 20th century

Jessie Gertrude White, born c.1870. Educated at Sheffield High School, 1878-1890. She trained to teach the letterless method invented by her sister. She taught private lessons and pianoforte to individual children at [Clayston] High School, (from 1892), Kensington High School (1893-1923), and Leinster House School (from 1899).

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

Given by Helen Boyce in several accessions in 2002-2006.

Related Material

'Art at the Garden School', by Mrs C.H. Nicholls, New Era, Vol. III, Jan 1922, p.85.

Jessie Gertude White and Winnie Nicholls appear in the staff registers for Kensington High School in the Girls' Day School Trust collection (GDS/13/11/3/1-2). Jessie, Winnie and Mary Louise White also appear in the GDST salary register for 1902-1903 (GDS/15/1/3/2-3).