Amy Walmsley (1868-1928 ) trained at the Croydon Kindergarten College and was experienced in educating children as well as in the training of teachers. She was appointed principal of the Bedford Kindergarten School at 14 The Crescent, in November 1895 and under her administration the number of children and students grew rapidly. By 1896, a branch school, Froebel House, was opened on Goldington Avenue.
(photograph reproduced by kind permission of Bedfordshire and Luton Archives Service)
In 1899, using her own money, she took out a lease on a property in Ashburnham Road, Bedford, to serve as a hall of residences for those women training to be teachers and as a home for herself. The desired result of attracting more students was successful as parents were happier for their daughters to live in a properly-supervised hostel than with a variety of landladies.
In 1901, she bought out the majority of shareholders and became the sole director of the kindergarten and college. The college flourished so much that larger premises were needed and a brand-new brick building, on the corner of The Crescent and Tavistock Street, with much better facilities, was opened in May 1906. Those training to be teachers were often used as apprentice teachers in the kindergarten and once qualified many went to work abroad
Also in 1901, Miss Walmsley visited America in order to see the work of John Dewey, an educational reformer. His work confirmed in her mind the paramount importance of early training for the child of nursery and junior school age.
Walmsley was the first female councillor in Bedford and was very involved with the First World War work in the town. She was joint honorary secretary of the Bedford Borough Recreation Committee for the troops and she and her students served refreshments and organised entertainment at the Corn Exchange which was opened as a canteen and recreation room. When Walmsley retired in 1927 the number of trainee teachers had increased fourfold and the number of kindergarten children doubled. She died a year later, aged only 60.
- On others’ shoulders: an illustrated history of the Polhill and Landsdowne Colleges by R Smart (1994)
- The women’s suffrage movement; a reference guide 1866-1928 by E Crawford (2003)
- Bedfordshire Times, 28th December 1928
All available from the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives Service:
- Bedford Training College Archives, list prepared by R. Smart [130 BED]
- Bedford Training College 1882-1982 – A History of a Froebel College and its School, by R. Smart [130 BED]
- The Froebel Gazette, Autumn 1957 [pamphlet 50]
Amy Walmsley by Bedfordshire Libraries, 2015
Page last updated: 23rd November 2015