The Willows school

Training Schools

The Willows was a training school for women missionary candidates. The C.M.S. sent women to several different training facilities in order to prepare them to be sent into the field. The Society also had other training schools named The Highbury and The Olives. The majority of the women Miss Barber served with were from either The Willows or The Highbury. A missionary from The Olives was not on the Fuzhou Mission roster until 1903, and she was the only one.

All three schools were located in London. The Willows was in Stoke Newington, which is a northern suburb of London, while The Highbury and The Olives were both a little northwest of central London in South Hampstead.


Below is a description for the arrangements, coursework and selection process for the Willows. This official CMS notice is published as Appendix I in a paper entitled Women’s Work for Women, by Ian Welch (2005)

Arrangements for Training Lady Candidates for Missionary Work.

  1. All candidates for Missionary work, unless under exceptional circumstances, are required, on acceptance, to undergo a period of training, the length of which will be determined by the Candidates Committee, who do not as a rule entertain applications from ladies under 22 years of age. By arrangements with Mrs. Pennefather, ladies who have been accepted as Probationers, may be sent to the Mildmay Training Home, ‘The Willows,’ Stoke Newington, N. [London].
  2. The first term after the commencement of training is regarded as a testing period; if the Probationer is, during this time, deemed to be, from whatever cause, unsuited to the work of the Society, the course of training is not proceeded with.
  3. The General course at ‘The Willows’ embraces the following subjects:—
    1. Holy Scripture, Articles and Formularies of the Church of England, Church History, etc.
    2. India, China, Japan, etc., their History, Geography, Climate and Religions.
    3. One or more of the languages of the Mission-field.
    4. Missionary Enterprise in the East, especially among women.
    5. Ambulance Lectures, [First Aid].
    6. The peculiarities of life, work, health, etc., in tropical climates, and the moral responsibilities of Missionaries amidst heathen and worldly surroundings.

      These subjects vary, of course, from year to year according to circumstances, and they are in addition to the ordinary course of teaching at the Home, which includes Housekeeping, Drawing, Book-keeping, Tonic Sol-fa, Theory of Music, Training Lessons, Mission Work, etc.

  4. The Committee do not undertake to give such Medical Training as will enable the Missionary to become a qualified practitioner. But, where it is deemed, and where a class of not less than six can be formed, a course of Elementary Medical Training can be had at an inclusive charge of £75 per annum, in connection with Mildmay. In cases where special arrangements have to be made for Medical, Nursing, or other training elsewhere, the cost may sometimes be in excess of this.
  5. Those who enter for the General Training at ‘The Willows’ and remain longer than one year, can have some experience in Nursing, Surgery work, and Dispensing.
  6. Periodical visits are paid to the Candidates under training by members of the Candidates Committee; and periodical reports are forwarded by those responsible for the training, for the information of the Committee.
  7. The Committee wish it to be clearly understood that, in accepting any lady as a Probationer, to enter the Training course, they do not pledge themselves to send her out to the Mission-field, unless at the end of the course, she is, in their opinion, likely to prove an efficient Missionary, and unless a favourable medical report is given to the Society’s professional advisers.
  8. It is expected as a rule that the Probationer or her friends meet the cost of training, which for the General course at ‘The Willows’ is £55 per annum, to be paid in advance in three equal portions (one at the commencement of each term) to the Lady Superintendent. This course commences in September, and commonly occupies one year. In addition to the £55 per annum there are extra expenses, such as:—
    Money for books (10s to 12s per annum.
    Personal Expenses, e.g. laundress, travelling, and holiday expenses.
    Pew-rent (30s per annum).
    Medical assistance if needed.
    Extra lessons if required, e.g., riding, dispensing, etc.

    Probationsers are also required to take with them to ‘The Willows’ 3 paris of sheets, 6 towels, 3 pillow-cases, and a plain dress for the districts, not to be worn in the house.

  9. The Society does not, as a rule, send Lady Missionaries to India; the work there, with a few exceptions, being undertaken by the Zenana Societies.
  10. The Committee, though receiving offers of service for a particular part of the Mission-field, prefer that the Candidate should be willing to leave her location to them.
    Communications on this subject should be addressed, in the first instance, to the Rev. F E WIGRAM, Church Missionary House, Salisbury Square, E C.

    Subsequent correspondence is in the hands of the Secretary of the Ladies’ Candidates Committee, BROPHY, C M House.

    Hon Secretary, CMS.


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