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Biography of Gladys Sayle (founder of Ellerslie school)


Ellerslie was the name of a medium sized private boarding school for girls in Abbey Road, Great Malvern, and now exists in name only, as a boarding house at Malvern College. The school was founded by Miss Gladys Sayle after the First World War, and she continued as Principal until about 1955. You can read more about the history of Ellerslie in our story of Malvern schools then and now. The photo below shows the house named Ellerslie in which the school started, which lies on the slope of the Malvern Hills at the end of Abbey Road.

Ellerslie in 2015

In this story, we have attempted to tell you something about Gladys herself and her family background.

Early life

Gladys Mabel Pearson Sayle, born in Fulham, was baptised at St Barnabas Church, Kensington, on 8th May 1889, the daughter of merchant George Moore Sayle and Emily Brierley Friend.

In 1901 aged 12 she was living at home and her father was described as a retired export merchant; we know nothing of her schooling.

By 1911 aged 22 she had left home and was an English Governess at a small private school for teenage girls at Waterlooville near Portsmouth run by Edith Maunders. Gladys's mother died two years later in 1913.

Miss Sayle was first recorded at Ellerslie in Kelly's Trade Directory of 1924, and an advertisement for the school can be found in Kelly's Trade Directory of 1932, just before an advertisement for Malvern College. Kelly's Trade Directory of Birmingham for 1940 contains a similar advertisement but adds that it is a Church of England boarding school and has a school chapel.

The school expanded into adjoining large houses over the years, incorporating Cherbourg and Southlands on the Wells Road and Hampden House in College Road, opposite. A redbrick classroom block with dormitories above was built on the south side of Ellerslie, and a hall, doubling as a chapel, was built on the north side.

As far as we know Gladys Sayle took no business partners, which may have ultimately limited expansion of the business, unlike Isabel Greenslade's school which became Malvern St James. The telephone directory of 1940 suggests that Gladys may also have had a home at Craithie in Blackmore Road, North Malvern.

About parents

Miss Sayle's parents, George Moore Sayle and Emily Brierley Friend, were married at Plymouth in 1888.

Her father George Moore Sayle was born at Cambridge in 1858, the son of Robert Sayle (1816 - 1883) and Priscilla Caroline Ginger (1824 - 1904).

The name Robert Sayle probably means little to people today, but Robert, a farmer's son, became a draper building up a large department store in Cambridge which was to become well known. The store named Robert Sayle was eventually acquired by the John Lewis partnership circa 1939 but its name was only changed in recent years.

The National Probate Calendar records that Gladys Sayle's grandfather, Robert Sayle, of Leighton House, Trumpington near Cambridge, Silk Mercer of Shanghai in China and Hong Kong, and Singapore in the East Indies, General Merchant, died on 5th October 1883 leaving effects of 73,202. In terms of today's currency, Robert died a millionaire, and it was probably a legacy inherited by her father George which enabled Gladys Sayle to found Ellerslie School in Great Malvern.


Gladys was the eldest of six children, all girls. Her sisters were: Winifred Priscilla Brierley, Violet Pearson, Iris Eugenie Friend, Pearl Priscilla, and Agnes Isabella Willis. None of the girls married. Possibly this was partly because they were financially independent and partly because  large numbers of eligible menfolk were either killed or crippled during the Great War.

Several of the sisters would seem to have inherited a strong Christian faith from their forebears as you will see below.

Winifred Priscilla Brierley Sayle

Sadly Winifred (1890 - 1895) died an infant.

Violet Pearson Sayle

Violet (1892 - 1919) died in the Birkenhead registration district of Cheshire aged 27 years. Strangely she doers not appear in either the 1901 or 1911 census.

Iris Eugenie Friend Sayle

Iris was born in London in 1894 and died in Cumbria in 1973. In 1911 she was a part time student living with her parents in Saffron Walden. At some time, and we don't know when, Iris became involved with a group of Anglican missionary teachers.

One of these, Monica Melanie Storrs (1888 - 1967) was the daughter of Rev John Storr of St Peters, Grosvenor Gardens. Her brother Ronald became a Governor of Northern Rhodesia and her brother Christopher became Bishop of New South Wales. Monica trained at St Christopher's College Blackheath which had been set up in 1909 by the Sunday School Institute as a training college for women interested in Anglican church work. Her grandfather had been a curate in Halifax and her father was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Monica Storrs became a missionary who herself went to Canada and travelled around the Peace River district to assist people during the years of the 'Depression' between the two World Wars. Another student at St Christopher's was Frances Hatton Eva Hassell (1886 - 1974) who purchased a motor caravan at her own expense to provide a travelling Sunday School, run by women for women, also in remote areas of Western Canada. About 1926 she was joined by Iris Sayle, who was said to be a skilled artist, and by 1929 there were 12 vans and the team had risen to 24. Their exploits are recorded in the book 'Across the Prairie in a Motor Caravan'.

Iris Eugenie Friend Sayle, missionary, died Cumbria, England in 1973.

Pearl Priscilla Sayle

Pearl (1898 - 1939) died at the home of her sister Gladys at Craithie in Malvern aged only 41 years.

Agnes Isabella Willis Sayle

Agnes, the youngest (1899 - 1992) became a teacher and missionary like her older sisters. Passenger lists record Agnes arriving at Cardiff in 1950 from Pakistan via Bombay and giving her home address as Ellerslie, Great Malvern. Also on the motor vessel Egidia was another missionary Laetitia Gertrude Marriott (1903 - 1990) daughter of Brigadier General John Marriott CBE DSO MVO (1861 - 1953).

MV Egidia, built 1945 at Port Glasgow, was a 9,952 ton cargo-passenger ship with only 12 single cabins.

An earlier document records approval for Agnes's appointment to a post in Lahore thus:

Agreed, recommend Miss Agnes Isabella Willis Sayle, Diocese Worcester, Uglier certificate Royal Drawing Societies, Full School Certificate, Teacher's Certificate, missionary preparation College of the Ascension, Selly Oak, September 1926, appointment Society of St Hilda, Lahore. Miss Sayle will receive Government grant support, outfit, passage etc.

Passenger lists record Miss Agnes Sayle, a teacher, aged 27 of Ellerslie, departing London on 2nd September 1927 on the P&O ship Ranpura, for Bombay in India. This must have been exciting as it was the ship's maiden voyage.

Telephone directories record Agnes in later life living in Worthing in 1975, where perhaps she had been living with her sister Gladys, and at 17 Perrins House, Moorlands Road, Great Malvern in 1982, probably being part of the retired community at Davenham, once the home of the Perrins (Worcestershire Sauce) family.

Gladys Sayle's father died at Bournemouth in 1935. It was perhaps appropriate that he had named his retirement home 'Malvernbury' after the house opposite his eldest daughter's school at Ellerslie.

Gladys Mabel Pearson Sayle, founder of Ellerslie School for Girls, died by the sea at Worthing in 1974 aged 85 years.

A former pupil relates that Miss Prior was the next headmistress; her aunt, who taught art at Ellerslie during WWII, remembered the school being run by Miss Sayle and a Miss Scale; apparently they were both characters!

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  1. Census of England and Wales
  2. Index of Births Marriages and Deaths
  3. National Probate Calendar
  4. Wikipedia

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