Memories of 50 years of girls at Marlborough and Sheila Elliott

“I have just showed the most recent publication I have received (“Marlborough Together”, Autumn 2018) to my mother, Sheila Elliott, and she was thrilled to see pictures of the place in which she spent about 20 years of her early married life. She was especially interested in the celebrations of 50 years of girls at Marlborough, because she was there when it all began. She refers to these years as the happiest in her life.

Mum was “dame” of Cotton House, married to Housemaster and Classics teacher Alan Elliott (CR 1954-74), when the first girls arrived to occupy the converted maids’ rooms at the top of this Victorian edifice. She oversaw the decorations, bedspreads, curtains etc. I still remember those soft blues and greens. (She may not have been aware that a way was soon found to bypass the locked fire-door between these rooms and the boys’ dormitory next door!).

Before the girls’ arrival, Mum had to be the female stand-in for several House and School plays, treading the boards of both the Bradlian and the Mem Hall. On the stage of the latter, she acted in a Staff play paying tribute to John Dancy and his wife, who were depicted in a replica of the Gainsborough – the original of which was still in Adderley at the time – hung as a backdrop to her scene as one of the cleaners with, I think, Mary Roberts. (A photo exists somewhere of this scene, though I cannot locate it.) So, Mum was fascinated by the idea of the original Penny Reading, referred to in your publication, celebrating 50 years of girls at Marlborough.

As the oldest of three small daughters at the time, I regarded these exotic new girls with awe, being unaware that I would join their ranks a few years later, a year after Dad left Marlborough, as many Housemasters did, to become Headmaster elsewhere. (I was a contemporary of Harriet (née Egglestone), Baldwin, MP. We were the only two girls taking Russian A’level, and both went on to the same college at Oxford. Needless to say, I did not get the same First as Harriet did! My only claim to fame, having worked as a French teacher in international schools in Greece, France, and the UK all my life, is that I am the mother of 8x gold-medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen CBE, and of a son, Alex, of whom I’m equally proud, who is an NHS Physiotherapist and whose future wife has just finished a stint as a doctor in Savernake hospital where I was born. The world has turned full circle!).

Mum is still in touch with a few of the Cotton House boys of whom she was so fond. One of them very kindly drops in for a cup of tea whenever he’s in Brecon, where she now lives. Colin Goldsmith, who took over from us at Cotton House with his wife Pat, wrote a nice obituary for Dad for one of the publications in 2010. Mum would love to hear from anyone who remembers the Elliott time at Cotton House.”

by Caroline Christiansen (PR 1975-77)

If you would like to be put back in touch with Shiela Elliott, please email the Marlburian Club at