Established in 1761, the Blue School’s purpose was to educate young girls of poor families and train them for domestic service. Around twenty girls (aged 8 to 12) were taught how to read, write, knit or accomplish other household activities. They would come from Newport or the Newport area and stay about 6 years or until they reached 14. There was also a strong emphasis placed on religious knowledge and practice, and church attendance was compulsory for students and their teacher. After completing their education girls had to enter service on the Island for their first year, so their newly acquired skills could benefit the Island. The school closed in 1907 due to financial difficulties.
The “Blue Jenny” statue represents a girl from the Blue School, dressed in the school uniform (a blue dress with white apron, cap and black boots). This uniform was given by the charity and girls were given a new one yearly. The girls also received a bible and prayer book when they entered the school, which can be seen in Jenny’s right hand. In her left hand she holds a penny, suggesting that she represents a day scholar, girls who did not live at the school but came in daily and who had to pay a penny.
In the 1970s, the carved and painted wooden figure of “Blue Jenny” was moved to Carisbrooke Castle Museum where it is currently in storage. The statue was deteriorating due to exposure to the weather and funds were raised to have a replica made to replace the original. This replica stands where the original was for over a century, in a niche above the porch of the school in Crocker Street, Newport.
Carisbrooke Castle Museum has now heard that we’ve been successful in an application for funding to help us conserve “Blue Jenny”. We now hope to put Jenny back on display in the Museum next spring, for the first time since 2000.