Class of 1961 reunion at Harrogate’s Belmont Grosvenor School

9 June 2014

Former pupils of a Harrogate girls school travelled thousands of miles to meet up for the first time in more than 50 years at a reunion lunch at Belmont Grosvenor School.

A group of nine women – six from the same class – enjoyed a trip down memory lane at their former school, now an ‘outstanding’ co-educational prep school.

The class of 1961 – all pupils at the former Belmont School, on Queen Parade – travelled from as far afield as South Africa and Spain to attend the reunion lunch.

Belmont School, originally founded in 1880, merged with the former Birklands School in the 1960s, then Grosvenor House School, to later become co-educational prep school Belmont Grosvenor.

Now based at Swarcliffe Hall, Birstwith, the school, along with its Magic Tree Nursery, cares for children from three months to 11 years.

Josie Swires and Elizabeth Pickard, who organized the reunion said it had been lovely to meet up again after so many years.


Mrs Swires (nee Worsnop), who lives in Beckwithshaw, near Harrogate said: There were only 23 of us in our class – it was lovely to catch up with former friends after 53 years.

There were a number of other girls from our class who we were able to contact but they were unfortunately unable to attend.

When we turned up at Belmont Grosvenor School, the staff had prepared name labels for us all, but we were able to recognize each other if not straightaway, but within moments despite the years that had passed.

Although the women couldn’t visit their original school building, which is now a private home, they toured Belmont Grosvenor School with Head Boy and Head Girl Toby Cook and Ruby Johnson.


Miss Pickard said: It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up on each others’ news over 50 years, each one of us remembering different situations that occurred during our time together at school.

Over the years, the former pupils have travelled the world, with Miss Pickard now living in South Africa, Mrs Tribe having lived in Iran and now based in Spain and Mrs Berry having spent eight years living in Ontario, Canada.


Mrs Merriman, headteacher of Belmont Grosvenor School, said: It was lovely to welcome the old girls back to school and hear of their happy memories of Belmont. School days are said to be the happiest times of our lives and I think this message was born out by the ladies.


Main photograph: Diane Morris (nee) Morris, Jane Walbank (nee Hargreaves), Josie Swires (nee Worsnop), Elisabeth Pickard (nee Pickard), Lynn Berry (nee Walters), Sheelagh Tribe (nee Wilson)


  1. I was a Prefect 1961-1963 and Head Girl at Belmont-Birklands for the year 1963-1964 ( the year the two schools merged) and was the Windsor House Captain from 1961 to 1964.I left the school to return to America with my family when my Step-father’s military tour of duty as XO at Menwith Hill Station ended. While at Birklands I successfully completed 5 O’s and 3 A’s and entered University in the USA in the Fall of 1965. Madame M. Derocher, MA Cantab. was the Headmistress during my time at the school and Mrs. Ingalls was the Owner/Patroness of the school. I remember Mlle Stevenson was the French Mistress, Fraulein Friedheim was the German Mistress, Mrs Greenwood was the English Language and Art Mistress, and Madame Derocher taught British/ European Medieval History and English Literature. Unfortunately I cannot remember the names of other my other teachers, it has simply been too long. My closest friends for the three years of Upper 4th to the ending of Upper Fifth were Vivien Otley, Claire Greenwood, Belinda Sharpe, Wendy Willett, Rosemary Dyson, Claudia Neville, Theresa Blaskoe, and Gillian Goodman. They all left after their O Levels were achieved. I was the only one remaining from our group who completed the 6th form at the school and sat for my A levels. My last year at the school I was in charge of starting a School News Letter called “The Birkmont” which contained poetry and stories written by students, interesting little tid-bits gleaned from some of the Mistresses, tallies for the year in Order Marks and Commendation points for the three Houses ( Stuart, Tudor, and Windsor) and the outstanding academic and sports accomplishments of various students. The Birkmont was sent out by the school to parents and guardians. I recall my time at the school fondly with great affection for the generally strict but incredibly patient Mistresses, especially Madame Derocher who personally tutored me for the British History and English Literature A Levels.

  2. I am very interested in the article above written by a former student who attended Birklands and was in attendance during the merger of Belmont Birklands. My aunt attended Birklands in 1911, verified in the England and Wales UK Harrogate Yorkshire West Riding, England, 02 April 1911 CENSUS.
    A School newsletter was referenced in the article above, perhaps there would have been articles written and photographs of Birklands in the earlier years which may have been published at the time of the merger in 1963.
    Another possibility, one of the former students who attended the Class of 1961 Reunion at Belmont Grosvenor School may recall a family member or a friends relative who would have attended Birklands in 1911 or during that period of time.
    My request, as former students, if you have any memmorabilia, photographs or newspaper articles thst you would be willing to share it would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  3. I was a pupil at Belmont before the merger with Birklands, so I only spent a short time there – I moved on to the Grammar School after ‘O’ Levels. I don’t remember Randal, but I remember the girls from Menwith Hill – Dixie Shollenberger was in our class, a brilliant, popular student. She moved back to the States before ‘O’ Levels – I don’t think she could wait to get back! I also remember Sally, her incredible gymnastic skills, her brilliance at lacrosse and for being extremely popular and fun.
    I’d love to get back in touch with some of my contemporaries from that time – I left in 1963. Does anyone know how to do it?

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