Newbury Town Council is pleased to announce the unveiling of its 14th blue plaque, to Esther Jane Luker (1872-1969), who served as the first headmistress of Newbury Girls’ School from 1904 to 1933. Luker notably led the school through the first world war.
Newbury Girls’ School was the first Newbury school to offer secondary education for girls to University standards, and Jane Luker (as she was generally known) was, therefore, a pioneer in that important advance. It has been noted that Luker was able to match and maintain the enthusiasm and charismatic traits of the former headmaster Edward Sharwood-Smith. The school was set up by Berkshire County Council in 1904 and was an immediate success, taking pupils from a wide area. By the 1920s, its girls were gaining entrance scholarships to Cambridge. In addition to academic excellence, Jane encouraged a love of art and music, travel, sport, and community service.
In 1910, the school moved to the purpose-built premises in Andover Road which were later known as “Luker Hall”. After her retirement, in 1945 it became Newbury County Girls’ Grammar School and was merged with St Bartholomew’s School in 1975. With the construction of the new St Bartholomew’s building in 2011, the Luker premises were sold for conversion to flats.
The plaque is being erected at the northern entrance of the Luker building and will be unveiled by the Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Billy Drummond, at 12:30 on Thursday 20 January.
Members of the public and especially former pupils of the Girls’ School are welcome to attend.
Cllr Nigel Foot, Vice Chairperson of the Heritage Working Group, said, “We are very grateful to Val Pollitt for advising us on Jane Luker’s life and achievements, to the Newbury Society for generously contributing £100 to the cost of the plaque, and to the owners and building managers of Luker House, Estates and Management Limited and FirstPort respectively, for kindly agreeing to the erection of the plaque.
The time of the foundation of Newbury Girls’ School was a period of rapid development of girls’ secondary education, an essential step in the development of our society, and Jane Luker set the school on a firm foundation.”