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Connecting with our heritage: QMS
Alex Brown / 05 April 2019 / Categories: News

Connecting with our heritage: QMS

An interview with Miss Joan Charlton, a well-known former headmistress of Queen Mary School (QMS) by our archive volunteers

Miss Joan Charlton, a well-known former headmistress of Queen Mary School (QMS) from 1970-81, was recently interviewed as part of an oral history project being run by archive volunteers at the school.  Now in her 99th year, Miss Charlton is still driving, baking her own bread and supporting her local community at her home near Hexham in County Durham.

She was able clearly to recall her time at Queen Mary School which moved from the direct grant scheme to independence in 1976, and saw many changes in curriculum and teaching techniques.  Miss Charlton’s own education started in the front room of a local infant school teacher in the ‘gritty little mining town’ of Stanley.  She was remarkable in winning a scholarship to study English at Girton College, Cambridge, at a time when pupils could not even aspire to go to university. 

During her time as Headmistress at QMS, Miss Charlton took the first year senior pupils on a Friday afternoon and recounted stories, entirely from memory, from the Odyssey, Beowulf, the Mabinogion and other ancient myths, sparking a great interest in Classical Studies and Ancient History.  Always an avid reader, she was happy to discover recently that she could still understand medieval Latin, when she ordered a history book which she had expected to be in English!

Whilst in Lytham, she formed an enduring friendship with Mrs Joan Putz, who moved to the area with her husband when he became Head of Modern Languages at QMS.  The two Joans discovered that they had attended the same secondary school in Tanfield, County Durham, and that their fathers had been colleagues at a small local coal company.  Mrs Putz went on to teach Religious Instruction at QMS and her daughter, Cathy, a former QMS pupil, is now Head of Touring Exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Mrs Putz is now a resident at the New Thursby Nursing Care Home and is still in weekly contact with Miss Charlton.

Volunteers at AKS archives are keen to interview other former members of staff and pupils of QMS, King Edward VII and Arnold Schools in order to record their memories to enrich the archives.  Volunteer, Liz Bickerstaffe, is also writing a book on the history of QMS and welcomes memories from those associated with the school.  Contact: or tel: 713850.



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