History of Gumley House
Celebrating over 180 years of education
The name Gumley is not a common one. It is thought to have originated in France, where it had a slightly different spelling (Gommeley, or perhaps Gautchmondley) but the same pronunciation. Whatever its origins, it has since 1700, been associated with Gumley House in Isleworth, Middlesex.
Although unremarkable architecturally, the house on the Twickenham Road has an interesting history, more than half of which is bound up with the school founded by Madame Marie Madeleine d'Houet, the foundress of the Faithful Companions of Jesus.
The original house was built by John Gumley in 1700, a cabinet maker by appointment to George I and George Il. He specialised in mirrors, one of which still hangs in Hampton Court Palace, one in the Queen's bedroom in Buckingham Palace and two in Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. John Gumley had a shop in the Strand, London, but he lived in Isleworth, taking an active part in local life there, and was a church warden for many years.
He and his wife Susan (or Martha) had three sons and four daughters. The eldest son George is described as 'very profligate and disobedient and not to be trusted with an ample fortune.' He was cut off with £130 a year.
Anna Maria, John's eldest daughter, was admired for her beauty, but not for her good character. Alexander Pope describes her as: 'Fantastic, vain and insolently fair. Grandeur intoxicates her giddy brain.' (The Looking Glass). He advises her to look into one of her father's mirrors and 'by reflection learn to mend her face.' In 1714, she married William Pulteney (who later became Earl of Bath) and played an important part in political affairs during the reigns of three monarchs: Queen Anne, George I and George Il
Later, in 1722 and through the influence of his son-in-law, John Gumley entered Parliament as member for Steyning in Sussex. He was given the post of Commissary General to the Army, a position that increased his fortune. A lot of money could be made through army contracts.
John Gumley died in December of 1728 and was buried on Boxing Day at All Saints Church. In his will he left Gumley House to his second son, John. His widow continued to live at Gumley with her youngest daughter, Laetitia.
From to 1750-1840, Gumley was occupied by Laetitia and her husband, their son (who became General Lord Lake), Quakers Benjamin Angell and his family, and then to Elizabeth and Charles Allen.
Charles became ill and died at the early age of 47. His widow found that there was not enough money for her to keep the estate going. It was put on the market and sold to Madame d'Houët in 1841.
Madame d'Houët, foundress of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, bought Gumley House and established it as Catholic educational establishment. This was the beginning of a new era in its history: for the first time it was not to be lived in as a family home. Two schools were then founded on the Gumley House property: a boarding school for the wealthy and a day school for the poor children of the parish.
Extensive additions were made during the next twenty years. It was at this time too that the lake was filled in, being considered potentially dangerous for the pupils. The boarding school was particularly useful to Catholic parents who wanted to have their daughters educated in England, instead of sending them to France or Belgium, as had been the custom before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.
Marguerite of Orleans
Two of the most famous pupils of Gumley House in its early years, were the two princesses, Blanche and Marguerite. They were the daughters of Duc de Nemours, the eldest surviving son of the exiled King of France, Louis Philippe. The two young princesses were day pupils, living in Bushy Park and driving over to school each morning.
The boarding school for 'young ladies' and the 'poor school' for the local children continued to flourish. As the years passed, the need for a day school to provide secondary education for the children in the neighbourhood became obvious. In 1890, St Mary's High School was opened (currently known as our School 'S' Block).
Madame d'Houet acquired Gumley House as a convent for her Faithful Companions of Jesus and opens two girls schools - a private boarding school and a poor school for the children of the town; the forerunners of Gumley and St Mary's Schools respectively.
Father Green came to serve at Isleworth in 1906 and found a large and growing Catholic population (he estimated it at 1,200-1,300) served by a small back street chapel with a capacity of 200. There were several religious houses and a number of schools. A poor school for boys was attached to the chapel and the nuns of Gumley House provided one for girls. Gumley House also provided a convent boarding school for older girls.
The Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus continue to this day to educate young people across the world. The French noblewoman, Marie Madeleine, inspired by the spirit of St Ignatius Loyola began a tradition which has educated young people for generations - and will continue for generations to come.
More information about Marie Madeleine can be discovered when reading about on our Vision and Values.