Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Closing of the Pelham Priory School for Girls in 1882 and the Departure of Head Mistress Nanette Bolton for Europe

In 1882, Nanette Bolton of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor, retired, closed the Bolton Priory School for Girls for good and left on a steamship for Europe after operating the school for four decades.  Nanette Bolton conducted the school in the Bolton family residence known as Bolton Priory.  Bolton Priory still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  By the time the school closed, the thirty-acre grounds of the Bolton Priory were a sad shell of their former glory.  One account published in early August, 1882 noted: "The grounds connected with the Priory consist of about thirty acres of land much run down and neglected, sadly reflected its former high state of cultivation." 

A local newspaper announced the closing of the Priory School for Girls and noted that the elderly Nanette Bolton had departed for Europe.  Within a year of the closing of the school and the departure of Ms. Bolton -- and forty-five years after building their beloved home in Pelham Manor -- the Bolton family sold Bolton Priory to Mrs. Frederic W. Stevens in 1883.  See Pelham Priory Changes Owners, New-York Daily Tribune, Aug. 11, 1883, p. 2, col. 2. 

"Bolton Priory" in Which the Pelham Priory School for
Girls Was Conducted for Many Years During the 19th Century.
Source:  Hackett, Owen, "The Island Home of Athletics" in
Munsey's Magazine, Vol. VII, No. 10, Jul. 1892, p. 396.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an article that appeared in the August 12, 1882 issue of the New Rochelle Pioneer announcing the closing of the Priory School for Girls and the departure of Ms. Bolton.  It is followed by a citation to its source and links to prior postings I have published regarding the history of the school. 


The doors of this old and celebrated institution, known throughout the country and abroad as the 'Bolton Priory,' is, at last, forever closed to the public as a female seminary.  The history of this grand old institution of learning reaches back through the corridors of misty time for upwards of half a century. Miss Nannette Bolton, at an advanced age in life, in broken and failing health, retires from the long and laborious cares as proprietress of the same, and sailed on the steamer Alaska of the Guion line for Europe on Tuesday last. 

The 'Priory,' situated in the town of Pelham, within stone throw of the village line of New Rochelle, was opened by the Boltons as a young ladies seminary in the spring of 1838.  It soon, under successful management, took first rank, not only throughout the United States, but in England, as one of the most reliable institutions of the kind connected with the established church.  For upwards of thirty years success liberally crowned the efforts of watchful teachers and those in charge.  About this time other similar institutions sprang into existence throughout the country, and the former glories of the Priory, from that period to the present, have gradually faded away.  Many ladies of rank and wealth throughout this country, from both Northern and Southern states, were sent to the school and happy girlhood days passed under the roof of the old Priory, now only a landmark of the past.  The Priory originally was the private residence of Rev. Robert Bolton, a native of Savannah, Georgia, and a son of Robert Bolton, Esq., a merchant of that place. History does no more than justice in speaking of the Rev. Robert Bolton, when it says the house, which is of stone, affords a good specimen of the old English style, and accords well with its romantic situation.  The building has two towers, affording splendid view, in which wood and water are beautifully blended.  The interior arrangements correspond with the style of the house and carry the mind back to the days of old.  There are some family pictures by Etty, of the Royal Academy of England.  There is also an original portrait of Bunyan, formerly in the possession of the Rev. George Whitefield.  The Library contains the original Italian edition of Pisanese, collected for Napoleon, bearing his initial, and surmounted by the imperial crown.  This extraordinary work on ancient and modern Rome consists of forty-two volumes royal quarto.  There is also a copy of Macklin's Bible, the largest ever printed, in six volumes royal quarto, a copy of Elliot's Indian Testament, said to be the first work written and published in the United States, printed at Cambridge, Massachusetts, A. D. 1661, by Samuel Green, the first printer in America.  When Elliot had finished this translation, he wrote in his diary: 'N. B. -- Prayer, faith and patience can perform wonders.'  Here is also a valuable cabinet of coins collected by the Rev. Bryan Hill, rector of Hodnet, Shropshire, England.  Among the most interesting are those of Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, and a series of Roman and ancient English.  Among the medals of the Popes is the celebrated one of Adrian the Sixth, upon the reverse of which is the idolatrous inscription 'Orem Creant Adorat,' (whom we create we adore.)  There is also a good collection of autographs, the oldest of which is that of Henry VII.  The signatures of Elizabeth, with her council, and of her successor, Queen Mary, are worthy of notice, as are also those of Oliver Cromwell and Richard Cromwell, presented by the late Oliver Cromwell, of Chestnut Park, England, who was the last direct male descendant of the Protector.  We have also to notice in this collection an original of Addison's 'Spectator' and a letter of Pope's, a note of Cowper's, one of Chatterton, Lord Nelson, Napoleon, Sir Christopher Wren, Percy, the author of the ballads 'Bishop Burnet,' 'Kosciusko,' etc.  Among the American autographs are those of William Penn, and his sons, the proprietors of Pennsylvania, Francis Lovelace, Governor of New York in Jonathan Edwards, Increase and Cotton Mather, Washington, La Fayette, Franklin, Jefferson, Schuyler, Sterling, Arnold and various other prominent characters.  The terrace in front of the house faces a long promenade, and the gardens are laid out in the French and landscape style.  The grounds are orchestrated with natural walks leading to various objects of interesting, [illegible]. 

A short distance from the house stands a neat Gothic church of stone.  This edifice was erected in 1843 and consecrated to the service of Almighty God by the name and style of Christ Church, Pelham, on the 15th of October, the same year.  The act of incorporation bears date the 25th of September, 1843, Richard Morris and Henry Grenzebach, wardens, Isaac Roosevelt, George F. Mills, John Jay Bolton, William Jay Bolton, Peter N. King, Jacob Le Roy, Cornelious Winter Bolton and Robert Bolton, vestrymen.  The Rev. Robert Bolton was the first pastor, and the Rev. Charles Higby [sic] the last and present incumbent.  The grounds connected with the Priory consist of about thirty acres of land much run down and neglected, sadly reflected its former high state of cultivation.  The grounds are somewhat elevated, commanding a beautiful view of Long Island and the Sound, as far as the eye can reach.  What will be the future of this historic ground cannot be surmised.  It is for sale and undoubtedly will ere long pass into the hands of the speculator, and if we mistake not the spacious hall of the crumbling edifice will yet re-echo to the voice of the Sheriff or modern auctioneer." 

Source: PELHAM PRIORY, New Rochelle Pioneer, Aug. 12, 1882, Vol. XXIII, No. 18, p. 2, cols. 2-3. 

*          *          *          *          * 

I have written about the Priory School for Girls conducted at Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor on many occasions. For a few examples, see

Wed., May 14, 2014:  Noted American Novelist Margaret Deland Attended Bolton Priory School in Pelham Manor.  

Thu., Sep. 03, 2009:  Advertisement for the Pelham Priory School Published in 1881.  

Tue., Jan. 20, 2009:  An Account of the Rev. J. L. Ver Mehr Regarding His Brief Stint as an Instructor of French and Italian at Pelham Priory in 1843

Fri., Mar. 2, 2007:  A Brief Account by American Author Margaret Deland of Her Education at Pelham Priory in the 19th Century

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