Mary Ogle

1807 - 1897 | 25 Winckley Square

25 Winckley Square: home of Mary Ogle’s Seminary in 1845: Photo Eckersley

Mary Ogle’s name is etched into one of the granite paving slabs in the centre of Winckley Square Gardens. Further research indicates that the dates in the paving are wrong.

Mary Ogle: an educator and independent businesswoman

Mary Ogle was an exceptional young woman. As a single woman who needed to earn a living she was managing her own household at a young age whilst looking after her sisters and running her own school which offered a ‘liberal’ education. Later, she entered into a business partnership; certainly unusual for women during the mid-19th Century. It’s possible she went into property development. She was able to work in business in this way as she was unmarried at the time and therefore unhindered by the restrictions of any marriage settlement in the years before the 1870 Married Woman’s Property Act.

There were few opportunities for women to earn a ‘professional’ living. The roles of governess and schoolmistress were seen as ‘respectable’ occupations for unmarried women and that was the path Mary chose. She must have had some capital to open a ‘seminary’ on Winckley Square in 1832. Mary’s working life spanned over 20 years until she married in 1854; she raised her young sisters and devoted some of her time to charitable work.

Pre-Victorian education for girls

Girls’ schools existed for the middle classes in pre-Victorian England. Many writers suggest that girls did not receive a broad education in such schools.

……seminaries were simply places where girls acquire nothing but the foibles, insipidities and delirium of their betters.

A scene at a prominent London girls’ seminary described by Dorothy Gardiner: 

 Mrs. Letitcia Tattle, who with no qualification save her reduced circumstances, instructed a crowd of voluble, young creatures in the fashionable phrases and compliments to use at tea tables or on visiting days.

 Dorothy Gardiner, English Girlhood at School. Oxford University Press: London, 1929.

 However, some schools offered girls a broader education as can be seen by this advertisement.

….Mrs WILLIAM’s Ladies Boarding School, near London, has taken genteel Apartments at Mr ROBERTSON’s, opposite the White Lion Lane, Norwich, where she opened on Wednesday last, January 2, 1782, a Day School for teaching young Ladies English grammatically, and all Kinds of Fancy’d [sic] Works, Writing and Arithmetic, on the following Terms per Quarter: Fancy’d Works and reading – 10 shillings 6 pence, Plain ditto ditto – 7 shillings and 6 pence. Writing and Figures, with Pens and Ink included – 10 shillings 6 pence. Firing – 1 shilling. N.B. No Entrance required except for the Paper Work, and that is Five Shillings, and Half a Guinea per Quarter.

N.B Fancy Work typically referred to sewing, embroidery etc. Firing probably meant the charge for heating the room. 

At this time male counterparts were taught Latin, Greek, algebra and history, subjects considered unfeminine for young ladies, hence for some their instruction was confined to ‘ladylike’ pursuits such as playing a musical instrument, sewing, singing and cultivating a young girl’s moral character.

Many women may well have taken Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) advice: 

A woman especially if she had the misfortune of knowing anything should conceal it as well as she can. 

Girls’ schools in Preston in the early 19C

Whittle’s Topographical, Statistical, & Historical Account of the Borough of Preston, published in 1821, mentions three public schools (in this time and context these are schools funded for public use and under public management) along with ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’s boarding schools’. There were five ladies’ boarding schools cited: ‘Mrs Godfrey’s, Mrs Yeats, Miss Cole’s, Misses Jones, and Miss Yarnold’s’. Interestingly, the town directory printed in the same volume lists several schoolmasters but none of the aforementioned schoolmistresses.

In Baines’ 1825 Directory of Lancashire there are several women listed running private schools in the ‘Academies’ section, a trend which continues in the later trade directories. These academies would often be advertised in local newspapers


A useful and liberal education

In 1821, Whittle’s volume on Preston had made a clear distinction between the purposes of male and female education with both public and private schools acting as:

 nurseries of men for the service of the church and state and those for the softer sex as nurseries of piety and virtue.

 These distinctions probably say much about the world view of the writer as well as general conceptions of men and women operating within separate spheres.

In A History of Women’s Education in England Jane Purvis echoes this when she notes that similar girls’ boarding and day schools were usually modelled on family life. They had limited curricula and were often established to provide their proprietors with a living in a labour market with very few openings for women. This may well have been one of the limited opportunities open to Mary Ogle, but this would not necessarily mean that she could not provide a good education within the constraints of the period.

Forty years before the opening of Mary’s school Mary Wollstonecraft had published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman which argued that women should have the same right to an education that would develop their faculties as well as the right to earn their own livings.  Although it was not initially well received, in 1844 a second edition was printed indicating that such enlightened views were becoming more widely accepted. In such a context, Mary Ogle’s ‘useful and liberal’ education was possibly part of a trend providing young women an education for worthwhile lives beyond the hearth and home as well as for their more usual roles as wives and mothers.

The notion of a ‘liberal’ education is interesting in the context of Mary’s school. In terms of university education, ‘liberal’ would have indicated learning within elite universities (almost exclusively for men) designed to develop enquiry and mental faculties as opposed to a more rigid vocational training. Charles Dickens had also used the term in 1844 when he claimed that a ‘comprehensive liberal education’ for all was needed to provide what was necessary to ‘Stimulate the idle, eradicate evil or correct what is bad’

Mary’s Story

Mary was born on 5th March 1807 in Preston. Details in St John Parish Register (Ref: PR 1447) were as follows:-

‘Baptism 1807, Mary Dr of Thomas & Sarah Ogle, March 5th, Born Nov 11th’

We don’t know what Mary’s qualifications were but we do know that no training was required for the teachers who ran seminaries. Mary Ogle’s description of her school providing a ‘useful and liberal education’ suggests a broader curriculum and an education that would be more than a preparation for domesticity.

Extract: Preston town/borough plan for the REFORM ACT. DAWSON 1832 when Mary opened her first school; Lancashire Records Office

Mary opened her boarding school in 1832. This notice appeared in the Preston Chronicle on 8 September 1832 on the first page.

Miss Ogle – Having recently informed her friends that it was her intention to open a boarding and day school, for the instruction of young ladies in all the essentials of a useful and liberal education, will have the pleasure of receiving her pupils on Tuesday the twenty-fifth of this month. Reference may be had by application at Miss Ogle’s, No. 10, Winckley square. Preston, September 8th.

Mary Ogle opens her school, Preston Chronicle, 8 September 1832

We don’t know at which building number 10 Winckley Square was located in 1832. House numbering was haphazard before 1851. As you can see from the map only half of the houses were built around the Square at that time. As more houses were built house numbers changed. We do know that 10 in 1832 is not number 10 today.


Mary: a victim of robbery!

The Preston Chronicle provides other snippets of information about Mary’s life. There are notices advising the public about the re-opening of the school such as one from 10 January 1835 where

Miss Ogle respectfully begs to announce that her school will be re-opened on Tuesday, the 27th instance.

She was a the victim of theft when, on 21st  December 1839, there was a report of  a ‘Robbery by a servant’ and that a ‘…young woman named Margaret Titterington was charged with stealing a quantity of wearing apparel from Miss Ogle, of Winckley Square, in whose service she had lived’.

Margaret Titterington was 13 and was sentenced to be imprisoned for three months for stealing  ‘a collar, two pairs of stockings, a cap and various other articles’ Preston Chronicle 4th January 1840

Robbery by a Servant, Preston Chronicle, 21 December 1839

The itemised PROSECUTOR’S BILL, Mary Ogle against Margaret Titterington for the court case appears in the court records in the Quarter Sessions’ Records and Petitions for January 1840 at Lancashire Archives. It came to the grand total of £5 12s 4d. (£308 today)

Mary’s community work

The Preston Chronicle reported Mary’s contribution to the local community. In May 1840 Mary was involved in organising a Bazaar at the Corn Exchange and collecting donations for the

Support and Improvement of the WESLEYAN METHODIST SABBATH and ‘WEEK-DAY SCHOOLS in Preston, and for the ERECTION of a more commodious SCHOOL ROOM.

 In November 1841 she gave 1 guinea (£1 and 1 shilling) to a fund for ‘the relief of the indigent poor’

That was the equivalent of £64 today. It was a sizeable amount and suggests her business was successful. We can compare it to Dr Brown’s contribution of £2.   

In the Preston Chronicle of 19 June 1852 Mary Ogle of Winckley Square also appeared in a list of women who agreed to become members of a committee to raise funds for the Parish Church. Her name appeared alongside other well-connected women in the town, several of whom had addresses in Winckley Square, Ribblesdale Place and Bank Parade. 

Parish Church Bazaar, Preston Chronicle, 19 June 1852

What the 1841 Census tells us

Mary Ogle’s ‘Seminary’, Winckley Square, 1841 Census: National Archives

In 1841 Mary was living in Winckley Square. She was recorded as being 25 and sharing the house with her sisters Alice 15 and Ann 10. In the same property, she was running a small seminary. There were six pupils with ages ranging from 10 to 20 and two female servants both aged 25. A total of 11 girls and young women were living in the house.

Today we tend to associate the word ‘seminary’ with the training and education of priests and rabbis. In Mary’s time it applied more widely to a place of learning. The first female seminary was founded in 1821 in America.

Mary’s advertisement tells us she took in day pupils. Only those staying at the house on census day in 1841 would have been recorded. The six pupils named in the census would have been supplemented by girls from the local area who attended the school as day girls while living at home.

Mary Ogle in the 1841 census  is listed as aged 25 however, these ages were not necessarily accurate in the 1841 census.

The fact that all the women living at the property were recorded as being 20 or 25 perhaps suggests that the enumerator has indeed ‘rounded down or up’. A glance at the fuller census sheet shows a surprising number of ages as ‘multiples of 5’ for most of those recorded.

House numbers were not given in the 1841 census but we do know that Mary moved her school several times in Winckley Square as the number of pupils increased. She lived in and ran the school at numbers 10,11,14,17,23,24,25 Winckley Square over a career that spanned over 20 years. 


A move for Mary’s school

On 22 July 1843 the Preston Chronicle noted that Mary was taking up residence at 14 Winckley Square formerly occupied by Reverend George Nun Smith (Headmaster of the Grammar School). She hoped that through the greater space in this house:

‘the comfort of her pupils will be further promoted and thus ensure a continuance of that patronage which she has hitherto so liberally experienced’.

Taking this at face value it does suggest that Mary was serious in her role as an educator and keen to provide an improved experience for the girls in her care. In addition she may well have wanted to increase the number of pupils on roll. At the same time Mary rented out number 11 Winckley Square; which suggests she owned rather than rented number 11.

Miss Ogle moves to the house of Rev G N Smith, Preston Chronicle, 22 July 1843


1848 – Ogle and Steel business partnership

Mary entered a partnership with Elizabeth Steel to open a new school on 1st February 1848. A Mrs and Miss Cooper had run a school in Winckley Square for 25 years and Elizabeth Steel had worked for them as Governess for 18 years. Mary Ogle and Miss Cooper until this stage must have been in competition for pupils.

The two schools in Winckley Square were then amalgamated.

MISS COOPER presents her grateful acknowledgments to those friends who have for the last twenty-five years so supported her School, and begs to say she has resigned in favour of her friend Miss STEEL, who has resided with her as Governess for eighteen years. Miss STEEL having entered into Partnership with Miss Ogle, Miss Cooper solicits for those ladies a continuance of the favours she has herself received.

THE MISSES OGLE AND STEEL respectfully announce that their School for the Education or Young Ladies will open on Tuesday, February 1st, 1848 Winckley-square.

Preston Chronicle 8th January 1848

 The relationship between Mary Ogle and Miss Cooper was probably an amiable one as they had both separately employed the same private Professor of French and Italian for individual young ladies since 1846.

Ogle and Steel’s school, Winckley Square, 1851 Census: National Archives
Ogle and Steel’s school, Winckley Square, 1851 Census: National Archives

The 1851 census shows that Mary Ogle and Elizabeth Steel’s school occupied both 23 and 24 Winckley Square. Mary’s age was listed as 35. Ages were not rounded down in the 1851 census. Both Mary and Elizabeth’s occupations were listed as ‘Governess School’

In 1851 the school employed a female ‘Professor of Languages’, Eugenie Maurel, aged 21 (born in Croydon!). There were ten boarders at the school along with two visitors and three members of domestic staff. The pupils were all young women in their later teens. The employment of Eugenie was almost certainly to provide modern language teaching for these young women which is an indication that the curriculum was certainly not narrow and could be described as ‘liberal’. 

The backgrounds of Mary’s pupils in 1851

Eleanor Fleetwood 14 from Tarbock in Lancashire. Tarbock is near Huyton (now Merseyside) and four other boarders also came from the Liverpool area. Ten years later the 1861 census showed Eleanor, aged 24, back at home in Tarbock with her parents. Her father’s occupation was ‘Brewer and Landholder’.

 Lettice Seed 17 was born in Preston. Lettice Seed’s baptism was recorded in the Holy Trinity Parish records of Preston for 1834 and Lettice’s father’s occupation was ‘Innkeeper’.

This evidence suggests that Mary was providing an education for the daughters of people in business and trade and perhaps hints at new social aspirations for the daughters of the upwardly mobile lower middle classes. It is also an indication that some parents who owned or ran public houses chose not to raise their daughters on the premises.

Perhaps it also reflected the fact that the number of women in the population was rising in a greater proportion to that of men, from 1,036 females per 1,000 males in 1821 to 1,054 per 1,000 in 1871. Consequently, there would have been a need for some women to be able to establish themselves without the financial security of a husband and home. They would, therefore, have needed a decent level of education and scholarly attainment.

Ogle and Steel bankruptcy

In the early 1850s several trade directories reference Ogle and Steel’s school under ‘Academies’. She appears to have moved once more to 23 Winckley Square.

In 1853, the Chronicle, as well as Perry’s Bankrupt and Insolvent Gazette, report the dissolving of the partnership of Ogle and Steel. The advert in the Chronicle formally stated that

The partnership heretofore subsisting between us, the undersigned Mary Ogle and Elizabeth Steel, at Preston in the county of Lancaster, is this day dissolved by mutual consent…27th January 1853.

The witness to the document was Preston solicitor William Gilbertson. Also, from 1853, in the Building Design Plans held at Lancashire Archives, there is one drawn up by Park, Son and Garlick for a house ‘…to be built in Winckley Square, Preston on the site of House occupied by Miss Ogle’ (Reference: CBP/2/549). It is not clear whether either the existing house or the proposed new house was the property of Miss Ogle.

Dissolving of the partnership between Mary Ogle and Elizabeth Steel: Preston Chronicle, 29 January 1853

As a result of their bankruptcy, in December 1853 the entire contents of what was described in the advertisement as typical of ‘a first class Boarding School for Girls’ were auctioned. This included a great deal of expensive furniture and household accessories:  mahogany card tables, painted dining tables, gilt window cornices, chintz drapes. Musical instruments included three pianos, a harp, music Canterburys (furniture in which sheet music is stored). All the school fittings were also auctioned: desks, chairs, forms, books and slate frames, blackboards, stocks, cloak rails, tables with slates, maps, school books, globes……

For the full advertisement  Preston Guardian December 24th 1852


Mary Marries David Jones 1854

Following the dissolving of her partnership with Elizabeth, Mary married David Jones, widower, in Handsworth. Preston Guardian, 28 /8/1854 recorded:


On the 23rd instant at Handsworth Church, Staffordshire, by the Rev-Murray, rector. Mr D. Jones, of this town, to Mary second daughter of the late Thomas Ogle, Esq, also of Preston  

David was 53, a widower, with the profession recorded as ‘gentleman’. His father Peter Jones was also recorded as ‘gentleman’.  Mary was 45, a spinster, with no profession. Her father Thomas Ogle was recorded as a ‘merchant’.

By 1871 David 69 and Mary 63 were living at Claremont Villa, Battersea. 

Prince Albert, 85 Albert Bridge road & Parkgate road, Battersea – circa 1890

David was described as ‘Income from Dividends’, born Denbighshire, Denbigh. Annie E. Ogle, Mary’s sister, Annuitant, was living with them along with a servant, Eliza Ley. 

It would seem that David Jones died between 1871-1881; Mary Jones was a widow in the 1881 census. Annie and Mary were living at 93 Fernlea Road in Balham, a village in Streatham. Annie died in 1883 and Mary moved to 8 Ormeley Road, still in Balham, She was described as the Head of the Household, Widow, 84, Living on own Means,

Mary Died on 12th June 1897 and her Probate, London 21 July 1897, shows she left effects to the value of £6,698.15s.3d to her nephew, Frederick Amelius Ogle C.B. retired major-general in Her Majesty’s Royal-marine Artillery. (over £800,000 in today’s money)

The other ‘Mary Ogle’

Mary Ogle has been difficult to research because there were two Mary Ogles, both school teachers, living and working in Preston at the same time. Mary Walker Ogle was running a girls’ school in North Road, Preston in 1841. She lived with her sister Elizabeth and both of their occupations are given as ‘Schoolmistress’. Both were the daughters of an Andrew Ogle and sisters of Thomas, a noted bookbinder, printer and photographer from Preston. 

Useful Sources

See the Useful weblinks page of this website 

A Needful Education: On Dickensian Feeling and ‘Passionate Utterance’: Nayzia O’Reilly. 2015 

Mary Wollstonecraft , A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 1790 

The manuscript annotation can be read online: British Library.

Michael Sanderson, Vocational and Liberal Education: A Historian’s View: European Journal of Education: Vol. 28, No. 2, Recent Trends in Vocational Education and Training (1993), pp. 189-196

Jane Purvis, A History of Women’s Education in England. 1991 Open University. For an in-depth analysis of Women’s education in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

Dorothy Gardiner, English Girlhood at School. Oxford University Press: London, 1929.
For historical information on the schooling of girls. It discusses theories on education, and how girls should receive schooling. It provides examples of different types of school that existed, what conditions they were in, as well as what kinds of opportunities the girls had at the time.

By Andrew Walmsley & Patricia Harrison