The Mackenzie School of Music, located at 2 Mackenzie Road between 1923 and 1974, was founded by Emily (Emilie) and Flora Lewis
Mackenzie School of Music
The Mackenzie School of Music was founded by Emily (Emilie) and Flora Lewis in 1923, at their home, 2 Mackenzie Road, and was housed there until 1974, becoming later the Mackenzie School of Music and Drama. The School was named after Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the Principal of the Royal Academy of Music when Emily was studying there, and not after the street on which it was first located. The School still exists, as the Mackenzie School of Speech & Drama, and operates at the Unitarian Hall, Victoria Street (corner of Emmanuel Road).
The Mackenzie Road house, apparently built by Charles Lewis for his two daughters to live in, sits on a very narrow plot between Mackenzie Road and the avenue of limes, wedge-shaped, with a flat roof. One local resident recalls that, because of lack of adjacent grounds, the School used to conduct its ‘music and movement’ classes across the road, in the back garden of the corner house, 39 Mill Road, the occupants of which were Mr & Mrs William Lawfield.
The Lewis family
Charles Frederick Lewis (1871-1935) and Mahala Lewis (née Avis) (1877-1950) (the uncommon name, native-American in origin) were both born in Battersea, London; they were married in 1882 and were in Cambridge by 1900. Charles Frederick was a ‘clothier and tailor’, his shop — which was also the couple’s home — was 90 Mill Road (now Bacchanalia, still with its original shop front).
Charles and Mahala had three daughters, of whom the youngest, Amy Rose (1895-1898), died in early childhood. The older two were Emily (‘Emilie’) May (1900-80) and Florence (‘Flora’) Marguerite (1905-74). Emily held four diplomas: three from the Royal Academy of Music in London (teaching; vocal performance; speech) and one from the Royal College of Music (vocal performance), and was the Mackenzie School’s first Principal. By 1927/28, she was joint Principal with Mary Plummer, who had piano diplomas from the same colleges, but by 1929/30 Plummer was replaced by Isobel Wright, also with piano diplomas. Flora became ill in the late 1960s, and Emily retired in 1968 to care for her. Neither married. Since Emily’s retirement, the principals of the School have been Joan Appleton and Jackie Cunningham.
Emily was a leading figure on the Cambridge musical and dramatic scene, organizing concerts, singing as a solo contralto, teaching, and serving as adjudicator in music festivals. She founded the Cambridge Competitive Festival of Music, Dance, Speech & Drama, and in 1931 created the Mackenzie Society to give amateur artists the opportunity to perform on a public platform — both organizations continue today. Emily was a familiar person also on Mill Road, known for her large, flamboyant hats.
Parish : St Paul
articles in the Cambridge Daily News and Evening News, 16 Oct 1950, 13 Feb 1954, 5 Sept 1980
Spalding’s Street Directories of Cambridge
census reports 1901, 1911
communication from Catherine Green
By Ian Bent and Emma Easterbrook