Katrine ‘Nitter’ Baird

In 1912, Mrs Armstrong’s second cousin Katrine Baird, co-founder with her twin sister Alice of St James’s boarding school for girls in West Malvern, founded a second school, Abbot’s Hill in Hemel Hempstead in a large country house which had been her home in early childhood. She acted as head mistress and taught Latin, German, and English literature and grammar. Her younger sister Mary also worked at the school, supervising the housekeeping. When Mary died of pneumonia in 1927, Katrine decided that it was time for her to retire from school work. A year later, she transferred Abbot’s Hill to Lady Marjorie Dalrymple.

Although Katrine had retired from Abbot’s Hill, she did not retire from work. She continued to give direction to the School of Household Training at Evendine Court, which she also owned, and took an active role in Colwall Women’s Institute and in local committees. She became a keen motorist and an avid gardener, and enjoyed short breaks abroad.

In 1930, Katrine’s health began to fail and she was diagnosed with cancer. In July 1932, after a series of severe operations, her London surgeon told her that nothing more could be done. The day after receiving the news, Katrine hosted the Abbot’s Hill Old Girls’ charity dance as she knew how much her presence would mean to her former pupils. She met with Lady Marjorie Dalrymple to talk to her about her hopes and dreams for Abbot’s Hill, and paid a farewell visit to the school on 26 July to watch a tennis match played for a Silver Cup which she had presented many years before. She died on 2 September 1932, two months before her 61st birthday.

Katrine’s twin sister Alice continued as head mistress of St James’s School in West Malvern until her retirement in 1948, after 52 years of service. She died on 10 August 1959, aged 87.

image of Abbot’s Hill School today

Abbot’s Hill School today