Miss Bidwell's Ladies Boarding School,


Brownston House, 47 New Park Street, Devizes, Wiltshire


Both the house and wall are Grade 1 listed buildings


Miss Elizabeth Bidwell’s Ladies Boarding School was located in 9 New Park Street by 1839. From at least 1859 until 1901 it was located in Brownston House, 47 New Park Street.

 Brownston House with St. Mary's Church behind it.

Miss Elizabeth Bidwell’s Ladies Boarding School was located on New Park Street by 1839. This date is obtained from the Robson’s Trade Directory for 1839. The school was at first in number 9 New Park Street, successively the home of John Tylee the brewer (d. 1812) and the former White Hart Inn. (From: 'The borough of Devizes: Religious and cultural history', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10 (1975), pp. 285-314).


The 1841 census shows that Elizabeth Bidwell was the Principal of a small seminary and her mother and younger sister were living with her on “independent means”. Miss Bidwell was born in Fakenham, Suffolk in about 1809


By 1859 (possibly earlier) the high class Lady School was located in Brownston House (Waylen, History of Devizes, 1859 p 406).


The census from 1841 to 1901 provides valuable information on the school and various directories show a consistent advertisement country wide. Miss Elizabeth Bidwell was the school principal from 1839 to 1880.


The School was home to up to 21 Ladies aged 6 to 17 in a private high class boarding school. The bar chart shows how the school grew in the number of both boarders and teachers peaking around 1871. It is not known whether or not the school took day girls.


Miss Bidwell and her girls regularly attended Sunday services at the nearby St. Mary’s Norman Church.


From 1851 Elizabeth had her young niece Elizabeth Anne Bidwell (born Teffont Wiltshire in 1837) living with her. In 1861 her niece is listed as an assistant teacher.



Maria Chandler of Devizes taught at the school from at least 1851 to 1871. By 1871 Jacqueline Dumarest (Dumarett) from Paris, France was a French Governess at the school. She stayed for at least 30 years; she is listed as still resident in 1901 after the death of Miss Elizabeth Anne Bidwell earlier in 1901.


In 1871 the School had twenty one boarders in the school with four teachers - including the two Bidwells - a cook, housemaid and 2 general servants. The young ladies were aged 8 to 16 and they came from a broad range of places. In 1871 9 of 21 were from WiThe rear of Brownston House and St. Mary's Churchltshire, 3 from Somerset, 1 from Kent, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Middlesex. Five girls were from out of Great Britain including 1 from Melbourne Australia and 1 from the West Indies.


Miss Elizabeth Bidwell died in Devizes aged 70. In 1880 Miss Elizabeth Anne Bidwell followed her Aunt as Principal. In 1881the school had 4 teachers, 2 new English Governesses and Miss Dumarest still teaching French. The number of boarders had declined to 13. Over the 20 years from 1880 to 1900 the school seems to have declined without her Aunt’s presence.


Elizabeth Anne Bidwell died in early 1901, before the census for that year and the school closed. Miss Dumarest was still in the house on census day 1901, but by the end of the year the house had been sold to the Misses Hilman sisters.See the History of Brownston House