The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 1

Most Nottingham High School pupils nowadays arrive by car, of course, or perhaps by bus, usually, either a special school bus or a Nottingham City bus.  We even have our own advertisements on one bus:

A few boys come by bicycle, a few come on the tram, a few walk and, I suppose, there must be some who arrive by train.
In years gone by, that was by no means the case. In the late 19th century, lots of boys lived on the other side of the Forest, or along Forest Road West, in the Alfreton Road area or even in the streets between the school and Shakespeare Street. They all walked in to school, which is indicated by the orange arrow. All the streets mentioned are on the map:

In the early 20th century, many boys lived in the Mapperley Park area and they arrived either by bicycle or on foot. And as Nottingham grew in the 1920s and 1930s, boys started to arrive in bigger numbers from expanding suburban areas such as West Bridgford. And in the 1940s and the 1950s, they began to arrive in greater numbers from more distant areas such as Arnold and Burton Joyce. They are both on the map, and the orange arrow points to the High School:

Before 1876, lots of boys are recorded as “Donation No x” which may refer to money which was given by a single well-wisher. The earliest, “Donation No 1 by Swann” (sic), was given to Haywood White Buller, who was born in July 1857, the son of a Hosier from 8 Addison Villas in Eastwood. The first ever actual scholar as far as I can see was a “Caup Scholar” (sic) although I don’t really understand what this was. He was Arthur John Cresswell, born in 1865, of 19 Harrington Street. His father was a Warehouseman.  Arthur entered the High School in May 1876, two months before General Custer came an unlucky second in his struggles with the Lakota:

Soon local councils were happy to provide help. Boys might be Derbyshire County Council Scholars, Nottinghamshire County Council Scholars or Nottingham City Scholars. The most famous was young David Herbert Lawrence whose father worked as a coalminer. Here he is in the Fifth Form:

DH Lawrence, though, was not the first miner’s son to come to the High School. That was Fred Cook, the son of Thomas Cook of 48 Watnall Road, Hucknall Torkard, the old name, I believe, for Hucknall. He entered the School on September 15th 1897 at the age of 13. And after him came David Herbert Lawrence, the School’s greatest author.  And then William Dunn in 1901, from New Brinsley in Eastwood. Then Willis Walker from Selston on the same day as William Dunn. John Thomas Moult in 1905 from 100 Derbyshire Lane, Hucknall Torkard. In July 1907 it was William Hutchinson from 7, Old Church Street in Old Lenton. In September 1907 it was William Ernest Thomas of 8 Glebe Street in Hucknall Torkard. A year later, the appropriately named Cyril Coleman from 34 York Street in Hucknall Torkard. Three more miners were to follow before the outbreak of the First World War:

There are no more coal miners in England now, of course. And during that period of 1897-1914 there were many High School fathers who had jobs which have become equally infrequent in our modern world. There were blacksmiths, bleachers, cheese factors, cork cutters, dairymen, filers, hosiery packers, farm labourers, framesmiths, hatters, goods guards on the trains and, most mysterious of all, “twisthands”. In actual fact, they were operators of lace machines. Here is the School in that period:

And as the years went by, the catchment area of the school began to resemble that of today. In other words, boys, and girls, from all over the county and the nearer parts of neighbouring counties. I worked at the High School for almost 40 years and the longest journeys to school I remember were in 1976 or 1977 when I helped Mr Padwick on the French Exchange to Rodez, and we were taking the French boys to see the splendours of the Blue John Mines near Castleton in north Derbyshire. One of the English boys’ mothers said that they would bring little Jean-Pierre to meet us as they lived more or less next door to the mine:


In the middle 1980s I had a boy in my tutor set who lived on the far side of Lincoln where his Dad owned a pig farm. He got up at 5.00 am and his mother took him by car to meet the school bus setting off from Newark to the High School.

And DH Lawrence used to complain about the travelling.

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27 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

27 responses to “The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 1

  1. Roger Benson

    Another interesting read. Are there any records of where the staff have lived whilst teaching at NHS?

    • There used to be a staff address list and I still have copies of that but they are only for the mid 70s at the latest. I know one or two addresses from before that, but it is really just a question of accidentally finding out what street a teacher lived in, and then using the Kelly’s Directory of Nottingham to find out what number house. It is virtually impossible to find the exact addresses in a Kelly’s Directory unless you have a prior indication of the street because there are hundreds of streets and thousands of houses. It would take you ages! In Victorian times some teachers lived in the large Victorian houses on Waverley Mount, in the 1920s and 30s it was the Ebers Road, Tavistock Drive area, which was next to the Sports Ground of the time. In the late 50s and 60s there was a High School ghetto in the Villiers Road, Marlborough Road are off Mansfield Road. Of the hundreds of teachers from the pre-1950 era, though, I don’t think I’ve ever found out more than 10.

  2. I wonder how many children have interesting trips to school these days, or are they all being driven to school bu their mother in huge over grown SUVs or whatever they are called in England.. It is rather a problem here in Australia where all the new outer suburban areas have rather a dearth of public transport.

    • I agree with you. They are certainly missing seeing a lot of other people’s lives by not looking out of the windows. There is lots of public transport in Nottingham but I suppose that parents are always fearful ,of what might happen once they get off the bus. By the way, in England it’s 4 x 4s, pronounced ‘four-by-fours’. A totally unnecessary vehicle in a city!

  3. I was fortunate enough to be able to walk to and from Wimbledon College for dinner in the lunch hour

  4. Simon Charles

    the folks moved from Cotgrave to The Park the year i joined the NBHS which made my commute an easy walk, from previously a bus ride to Broad Marsh and a walk up from there to school – however the walk from The Park to school came with its own delights, sights and sounds. I almost had my cricket bat ripped out of my hands one balmy summer evening going home, and had to use it in self defence fighting a retreat along Forest Road. interestingly, I never had any hassle on Alfie Road (and that area was rough as old houses), it was just those residents of Forest Road and its environs that were the culprits. character building it was. thanks Kniffo! Simon Charles

    • At one time both Alfreton Road and Forest Road were very affluent areas and the houses on Forest Road still have servants’ quarters just below pavement level. I always thought a lot of the problems came from the fact that it was compulsory to wear your blazer which advertised the fact that you were from NHS.

  5. What a wonderful post! It brought back memories of my own school days . I attended school in a small town in Colorado where the majority of students walked to school. Those students who lived on farms came by school bus. Because of bus schedules, they were often unable to participate in school activities most of which occurred after normal school classroom hours. Was that the case at your school?

    I would also like to thank you for your reference to Custer. It was an interesting chronological marker.

    • Yes, it was the case in the early 119th century, in particular, when boys came to school on either foot or bicycle, which was not a problem. If they came by train, though, they often had to hurry away to the station. The most famous example of this is DH Lawrence who was supposed to have been limited in his social contacts at the High School by the fact that he always arrived late and departed early. I’m afraid I’m not totally in agreement with this though….in 1900, Nottingham was not short of trains. They were almost as frequent as buses are nowadays. And by the way, thank you very much for your kind words. They are much appreciated.

      • jan

        There was a tram route from Ripley to Nottingham that ran via Eastwood. A young DHL could have caught it at the end of Forest Road.

      • jan

        Maybe not. The Ripley Rattlers didn’t start running until long after DHL left.

  6. Going to school was easier when there were sensible catchment areas and you simply went to the nearest one.

    • The problem comes, of course, when you live in a city where the schools are the worst in the land. The school my daughter would have gone to was so awful that it was actually closed down and then bulldozed flat. As long as people are offered education at that kind of school they will spend their money on sending them elsewhere.

      • But the massive transportation of children to school morning and afternoon creates other problems like traffic congestion and pollution. Surely better to bring all schools up to a standard and stop parents picking and choosing!

  7. Very interesting post John.

    I have the dubious legacy of a secondary education at the notorious St. Bernadette’s Catholic school in Sneinton. This school had the worst reputation for ‘louts’ and uncouth ignoramuses in the whole of Nottingham (poor me). It was closed in the late 1970’s I believe.
    Of a morning, I would catch two regular service buses from my had me in Woodthorpe (near Arnold), but in the afternoons I elected to walk home via Mapperley Plains. I didn’t walk overly fast, so it always took me 1-1/2 hrs to get there. I never thought it very far!

  8. Superbly interesting post as always John. Children today simply don’t know they are born. Everything is handed on a plate to them – many don’t even carry their own bags!

    • You are absolutely right, of course! I just wish that more emphasis in our schools was on making sure that kids got the qualifications that they will need in later life, whether that is to get into university or to be taken on as an apprentice or whatever. There has to be social mobility or we will finish up being ruled by a tiny fraction of the population with no chance of our kids ever bettering themselves and influencing the way the country is run.

      • Absolutely John. There are a whole bunch of issues around education today, many of which you are more than aware of. The divide is getting bigger and bigger and those in the middle and bottom of the pile are having reduced chances, impact or choice!

  9. Interesting stuff, and interesting comments too. You may find digital versions of Kellys and similar directories via some institutions and genealogical sites, for helping with local and family history. I wonder whether the University of Nottingham, or maybe Trent, has something.

    • Thanks a lot for the info. So far I have the 1904 and the 1928 for Nottingham off ebay and the 1931 MacDonalds from the same source. I bought the 1941 DVD from a company in Dublin and I will keep my eyes open for an early to mid 1930s. I will try the university and some of the genealogical sites. Thanks again for the info!

  10. Jan

    The NHS should never have lost sight of its “grammar school with brass knobs” status.

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