The school named to honour a woman ahead of her time

Jessie Younghusband was very much a woman ahead of her time and a beloved servant to Chichester for many years.

Such was her impact on the town that, following her death in 1960, it was decided to rename Chichester North Primary School – which was being built at the time – in memory of her.

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Now, 50 years after the school was officially opened, Jessie’s name is on people’s tongues once again as plans to celebrate the milestone take shape.

So, who exactly was she and why was she so important to Chichester?

Jessie Madeleine Younghusband was born in May 1892 in Eastbourne. Her mother Lucy was the daughter of Matthew Parrington, a Canon of Chichester Cathedral and a principal of Bishop Otter College.

Her father, Lewis, was a clergyman in Henfield but he died four months before she was born. He was only 35, and his death left Lucy to bring up Jessie and her brothers Godfrey, Cyril and Edward alone.

Her quiet manner concealed integrity and great strength of character, while her sincerity and strong sense of duty set a wonderful example to those who worked with her

Read at the official opening of the school in 1965

The Census of 1911 Census shows Jessie living at 60 North Street, Chichester, with her mother and two servants.

In later life she moved to a small detached house called ‘Southlea’ in Cambrai Avenue, Chichester.

Jessie spent a great deal of her life serving the residents of Chichester and was highly respected for her community and voluntary work with the Red Cross, Girl Guide Association and Chichester Branch Library.

She was frequently seen riding her bicycle around Chichester in her Red Cross uniform with her Pointer dog following on behind!

She was one of the first women members of Chichester City Council, serving from 1929 until 1949 and was appointed Bailiff and ceremonial Mace Bearer.

Her work for St George’s Church, Whyke, is commemorated by a memorial window.

Jessie served as chairman of the Chichester Primary School Managers for 20 years, and was still in the role when she suddenly died in 1960, aged 68.

A proposal was put forward that the Chichester North Primary School which was under construction at the time should be renamed The Jessie Younghusband School in her honour, commemorating her long and faithful service to schools in Chichester.

At the official opening of the school in 1965, Jessie was remembered with the following introduction: “Her quiet manner concealed integrity and great strength of character, while her sincerity and strong sense of duty set a wonderful example to those who worked with her.”

The school itself has proudly borne her name for 50 years and staff and students plan to do their utmost to mark to anniversary.

School governor, Vera Abraham, said: “Although the school accepted its first pupils in January 1962 it was officially opened on December 3 1965, so it’s this date that has been commemorated in previous years with a 25th anniversary party in 1990 and a very successful reunion of past pupils for the 40th anniversary in 2005.”

This year, however, the celebrations will be held on Friday September 11 and pupils will spend the first week of term on classroom activities related to the past, present and future of their school.

They will research the school’s history and follow its development over the years to the present day, thinking about how school life has changed during this time and what new experiences there might be in the future.

There will be a commemorative event in the afternoon, followed by a tea party for the children on the school playing field.

The late afternoon and evening will see the doors opened to parents, relatives, residents and past pupils.

From 3.15-4pm, parents and relatives will be invited into school to share their children’s work and enjoy the classroom displays.

Then, from 5-7pm, past pupils and local residents will be able to browse a range of archive information which will include old school registers, whole class photographs and other school memorabilia.

Headteacher Mandy Sadler said “As a new member of the school myself I am really looking forward to finding out more about the history of Jessie Younghusband School.

“This is such a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the school’s strengths and past achievements as well as working with our current school community to look ahead to future success.

“We are all very proud of our school which is made very special by all the people who so willingly give their time and effort to enable the children to achieve the best they can.

“I hope that anyone with an interest in or connection to JYS will come along and help us to commemorate this exciting landmark in the school’s history.”

Jessie Younghusband School would love to hear from any past pupils and staff about their recollections and memories of the school.

They would especially welcome copies of any old photographs of the school in the 1960s and 1970s as they have very few from this era.

Pictures can be sent to the school via 50th@jys.org.uk .

They would also be grateful if people could let them know if they hope to attend the evening session.

A new website has been created at www.jys.org.uk and a Twitter feed – @weAREjys.

It’s been almost 90 years since Jessie Younghusband took her seat on Chichester City Council among a sea of men.

One wonders how this amazing woman with quiet integrity and great strength of character would have reacted to knowing her name was still part and parcel of Chichester 123 years after she was born.

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