The wearing of veils and cloaks by the girls and the Procession through the Village date back to the earliest days of the School. In time past, it was customary for women to have their heads covered when in Church. It would, therefore, not have seemed strange for the girls to attend services with their heads covered. Accordingly, hoods were introduced by Miss Lacon, the first Headmistress (1875-1878). Mrs Rock (a lady from the Village who also taught the girls needlework) made the first hoods which were also worn at every weekday Chapel Service, well before 1900. Miss Roch vividly describes how in those austere early days of Miss Lacon she had to spread the patterns on the landing of S Anne’s House in order to cut the linen correctly.
Before 1876, when the first part of S Anne’s Chapel was ready for use, the girls walked in procession through the Village to the Parish Church for the Sunday Service.
S Anne’s Day was always kept at the end of the Summer Term on 26th July. By 1879, the Commemoration Service was part of that festival. Hymns were sung in procession when the foundation stone of the Nave of the Chapel was laid in 1880. Two years later, in 1882, when S Mary’s was founded, the girls of S Anne’s processed through the village to the new school at Bromley House in Bagot Street, wearing their hoods. On this occasion the Choir wore white cloaks with blue borders.
The hymn “Jerusalem, my happy home” was introduced by the Lady Warden, Miss Coleridge. It was sung for the first time in 1887 but it was the hymn “Forward be our watchword” which was sung by the procession of girls as they entered S Anne’s Chapel.
S. Anne’s Day 1893 marked the opening and dedication of the new S Mary’s building on its present site. The Commemoration Service was held in Chapel, the girls entering as usual singing “Forward be our watchword”. But after the Service, when they crossed the road to the new building, they sang “Jerusalem, my happy home”.
There appears to be no specific reason for the marshalling of the girls by height for the procession. It was not an uncommon practice to do this at schools in the late Victorian period, so it was probably so ordinary as not to merit attention. The earliest photograph of the procession dates from 1905 and the girls are certainly graded by height in that.
Now that parts of the school are co-educational we have a new element to the occasion. The boys have slotted into the procession well and the old traditions continue to be observed.