Ground-Breaking Multilingual Education in Victorian Winslow

by Ed Grimsdale

Bilingual education is a natural model where two languages co-exist: e.g. in Wales. Elsewhere, especially in the rest of Britain, it has been a rarely encountered methodology. However, some of today’s leading educationalists advocate teaching part, or all, of the curriculum from the early years in a foreign language which they claim not only encourages the acquisition of a second language but helps to promote subject content at the same time.   The state has been slow to employ such ideas. Here’s a piece from the BBC’s website:

The first bilingual state school in England has been approved - with lessons in French and English.

The project in the Wix School in Battersea, south London, is to be supported by the French embassy. Pupils joining the bilingual class will follow the national curriculum but will study all subjects in both languages throughout the primary school. The initiative is the result of co-operation with the Lycée Charles de Gaulle, a French school in London. Both the Wix School and the Lycée Charles de Gaulle will admit 14 pupils each to the bilingual class from September 2006.

Imagine my surprise at finding an announcement in the Morning Post that a secondary school with a MULTILINGUAL curriculum was transferring from Mannheim on the river Rhine in Germany to Winslow ready for start of the new academic year on 1 Aug 1848.

The ENGLISH INSTITUTION of MANNHEIM is REMOVED to WINSLOW in BUCKINGHAMSHIRE. - Dr. Lovell informs his friends that he has taken a large Mansion, with extensive grounds, at Winslow (ten miles from Aylesbury), where his School will be RE-OPENED after the present vacation, on the 1st of AUGUST next.

After a quick check with one of the two éminences grises behind this Winslow history website, I discovered that “the large mansion with large grounds at Winslow (ten miles from Aylesbury)” was none other than Winslow Hall!  Oh, how Sir Edward Tomkins, who spoke perfect French (he had a French mother) , became our distinguished Ambassador to France and retired in 1975 to live in the Hall, would have loved to know that this great stack by Sir Christopher Wren had housed one of Britain’s earliest multilingual schools.

What of its pre-history? Dr Lovell opened The English School in Mannheim “exclusively for the sons of Gentlemen” in 1836. It prepared students for entry to British universities, military and naval colleges, commerce and other professions.  The tuition combined all branches of  “a sound classical and mathematical education, with the rapid acquirement of the French and German languages.” Multilingualism was at the heart of the methodology of an English School before Victoria ascended to the throne. It would seem that the students were drawn from three countries as Mr Lovell recruited through agents in London and Paris.

Henry Hill Lovell had been born in Holborn, London on 13 March 1811 to Daniel Lovell and Anne (or Anna) Field (or Hill). Apart from developing his school, Henry Lovell was improving himself during these Mannheim years and he became a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.). “Heinrich Hill Lovell” met Anna Franziske Graeff, a Mannheim girl (born in Preussen, 30 June 1819), and they were married in a local Evangelical Church on 7 April 1842. They soon started a family of three girls: Anna, Emilia & Eliza plus a single boy, Francis Henry who was born between Anna & Emilia.

We do not know what caused Dr Lovell to relocate, lock, stock, barrel, teachers and German servants from a major city on the banks of the Rhine to a rural idyll in deepest Bucks, but two causes may have been part of the mix: a desire to live as an English gentleman and a concern that his young family, and especially his son, would be English, too. There was a hiatus in baby production as the coupled settled in Winslow Hall, but the 1851 census records that two further children, Rosa and Eleanor, had arrived. Francis Henry, now aged 6 and a “scholar at home”, was the sole, and beloved boy with five sisters.

Dr Lovell’s advanced, liberal methodologies shine through this early advertisement. (It was Dr. Lovell’s habit to locate himself during long vacations in London so that he  could “network” easily with parents and putative students from Europe.)

Morning Post, 30 June 1849

WINSLOW HALL, Bucks – Dr LOVELL’S PUPILS RE-ASSEMBLE on the 22nd July – The Course of tuition pursued by Dr. Lovell unites all branches of a liberal education with the rapid improvement of the French and German languages. Foreign assistants reside in the house. The domestics are mainly German. The premises are among the finest for scholastic purposes in the kingdom. References,  terms &c. to be had of Dr. Lovell, 9, Norfolkstreet, Strand. He can be spoken with daily from Twelve till Two – N.B. On desire trouver un Monsieur, né Français, comme Maitre de Dessin et de Langue Française. S’adresser (p.p.) au Dr. Lovell.

Henry Lovell quickly joined William Selby-Lowndes (the owner of Winslow Hall, now living at Whaddon Hall) and his fox-hunting circle and was present when the latter was presented with a trophy in 1851.

The school continued to thrive. With its large, open rooms, the result of Wren’s(?) highly original construction, a central, massive, weight-supporting pillar that encloses massive chimneys with floors jettying outwards, Winslow Hall could have been designed as a school.

From Notes and Queries Number 187 (28 May 1853) we learn that “the number of pupils is limited to thirty. The Principal is always in the Schoolroom, and superintends the Classes. There are also French, German, and English resident Masters. Prospectus and References can be had on application to the Principal.”

Dr Lovell was dedicated to his craft and any suggestion that he might be elsewhere than in the classrooms of Winslow Hall was met with a fierce rebuttal as may be seen in these paragraphs from his letter published in the Bucks Herald on 23 Aug 1851:

SIR - In your account, this day, of a "Teetotal Demonstration at Hartwell", a Dr. Lovel is mentioned as having addressed the meeting; and it is supposed by many that the article alludes to myself.
Such a rumour is likely to be of injury to me in my profession, if I am thought to be attending these exhibitions (whether laudable or not), when I ought to be at my desk.
If, therefore, you will kindly mention in your next number that the gentleman (Dr Lovell) who spoke at Hartwell, was not the schoolmaster of Winslow Hall, it will much oblige me.
Yours obediently,
Winslow Hall, August 16, 1851.

Census records suggest that Winslow Hall School had 27 resident pupils, perhaps leaving some room for the older Lovell children – or, at least, Francis Henry. Read more about some of the pupils.

Anna and Henry suffered a double tragedy in 1856 when Eleanor Matilda died on 6 Dec “in the 6th year of her age”, only to be followed by the death of her youngest sister, Alice Anne (aged 3), ten days later from croup. Christmas at Winslow Hall must have been subdued in that year.

1857: Bucks Herald, 21 Nov: a new school opened by one of Dr Lovell's masters.

A GOOD & RESPECTABLE BOARDING SCHOOL will be opened at the above named Villa, in JANUARY NEXT, by MR. JOHN WEBB, of WINSLOW HALL. The course of study will include Classics, Commercial Subjects, and Scientific Agriculture. Terms Low. For Prospectuses, apply to MR. HEWIETT, Bookseller, &c., Bicester


The Lovells’ family were growing up and their expenses were growing. In 1859, they relinquished part of the grounds of Winslow Hall: Dove Close, selling: 5 capital young Yorkshire cows, sheep, a chestnut cob, a bay pony, hay, farming tools and dairy equipment. No more fresh milk from the school’s farm for the Winslow Hall boys!

In 1862, Dr Lovell moved his school once more. This time he took a short trip from Bucks to Beds and settled in Aspley Guise where he insinuated his boarders in an existing “more commodious” school – it had accommodation for 50 pupils and staff. More details of his ten-year career spent in an attempt to revive Pain’s Aspley Guise Classical Academy may be found on the Bedfordshire Archives website.

That website tells us that all its buildings were sold in 1874. That would have been a consequence of the death of Dr Henry Hill Lovell.

Clearly, Dr Lovell’s educational programme in German, French and English made an impact on his eldest son, Francis Henry, born during his family’s years in Mannheim, as you can see from this report which appeared in the Bedford Times during 1868. Doubtless, it was a proud Dr Lovell who supplied his local paper with its details:


In the year 1866, Mr Francis Henry Lovell, the acting house-surgeon of Winchester Hospital gave up his appointment there, went direct to Berlin, and offered his services to the Chief of the Medical Staff. The latter proposed to appoint him to the care of an hospital either in Berlin or elsewhere, but the candidate declined this and expressed his wish to be sent “to the front;” and to the front he went, to the army of the Crown Prince then in Bohemia. Some of his experience in gunshot wounds of the most extraordinary kind was afterwards published in the Lancet. He served as staff-surgeon till the end of the campaign, when he resigned his commission. We have the pleasure of stating that he has just been decorated with the Bronze Cross by order of his majesty the King of Prussia for his services in the victorious Prussian campaign of 1866. Mr F.H. Lovell is the eldest son of Dr Lovell of Aspley and at present house-surgeon of the South Devon Hospital, Plymouth.

Francis Henry Lovell received his medical training at Bart’s Hospital in London and his Prussian experience was the first of many forays abroad for he joined the British Colonial Service and worked for it in Sierra Leone, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, before returning to Britain to work in the London School of Tropical Medicine. Realising that it needed greater facilities, Francis travelled the whole world to enlist support, bringing back £10,000 and promises of more donations to come.

Francis was made a K.M.G. and just after the start of the 20th century he was knighted for his distinguished service. He died in 1916 and was given a most laudatory obituary in the British Medical Journal.

It wasn’t just Dr.Lovell’s boys who took confidence from tri-lingual methods. His daughter saw the world as her oyster. Here’s a marriage announcement in the Bucks Herald in 1874:

WEEDON – LOVELL  At Bombay [my emphasis] … Pryce Weedon, Esq., to Emily Caroline, second daughter of the late Dr Lovell of Apsley Guise, previously of Winslow

Pryce and Caroline Emily (note the inversion) remained in Bombay for some years. Their son, Aubrey Pryce Lovell Weedon became Deputy Director of the tax department within the Finance Ministry in Cairo during WWI, and his son, Martin Pryce Weedon,  became a captain in the British Army.
So, the good doctor of Mannheim who brought his multilingual brand of education to Winslow in 1848 and then moved on to Aspley Guise fourteen years later had died in his 6th decade [he died in 1869, after which some of his family moved to Mannheim, where the death of his 3rd son Theodor was reported in 1871]. In many ways, Dr Lovell had been ahead of his time and  he left his mark on his children and the dozens of boys who, having been taught at Winslow Hall school,  proceeded to useful careers as lawyers, soldiers and sailors. It’s worth noting that a party of people from Winslow travelled to Aspley in 1863, the year after Dr Lovell and his school had moved, to present “in private” a “massive” silver salver and a claret jug or “loving cup”.  The Oxford Journal termed it “a substantial testimonial of their esteem”.  Dr Lovell, his family and the boys and staff of his school had made a positive impact on the economy of Winslow and its people cherished fond memories of them.

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Copyright 22 April, 2020