The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 5

Last time, sad, sad, person that I am, I was sharing with you the electronic version of the Nottingham High School Register from the old Free School, which was then, of course, in Stoney Street in the Hockley area of Nottingham. Dating back to 1858, the Remarks Column in particular gave some very striking details of life in the school some 160 years ago:

January 1859 saw some fascinating details. Going down the column they read “ill. Out of town”, “middling”, “behaved well” and quite simply “dead”. That was poor William Henry Copley, of 2 Stafford-terrace off Shakespeare-street. He was the son of a Warehouseman and only 14 when he passed on. Stafford-terrace, I suspect, is now under the concrete and plate glass of Nottingham Trent University. A more spectacular death affected Benjamin Arthur Heald of High Pavement: “(at home) Died from the effects of over-bathing.” Well, you can have too much of a good thing. Or perhaps he was sharing the bathwater with the horse.

Quite a few boys were elected to a place at the Free School, but then “declined” to attend. Some “could not be found” as if alien abduction stretched back to 1858. Ironically, the boy labelled “cannot be found” lived on Forest-road within 100 yards of the school. Forest-road played host to one of the commonest means of transport of the day:

Some boys needed to buy a watch. “Did not come at the time appointed & was ordered to be crossed off.”

Not everything was easy. “Sent back twice, declined to try again July 1860”. Some abused the system, “Left without giving any notice”.

Some boys “behaved well” and others “Behaved badly, especially out of school hours”.  Truancy had been recently invented, “attended very irregularly”. Sometimes it was the parent’s fault “Behaved well and made good progress for the time, but was taken away too soon”. And what about poor Richard Thorpe, an orphan residing with his sister at 1, Northampton-terrace, off Portland-road?  “did very well, obliged to leave from ill health.”

Portland-road is close to Waverley-street and the General Cemetery. I was very surprised to find this grave was in the General Cemetery during my researches:

Indeed, the Remarks column of the Register often comes very close indeed to stating the obvious truth about a boy’s transgressions, namely that it was the parent who should have been punished, “Junior Prize 1860.  Suspended in consequence of the Father’s claiming the right of keeping him from school at pleasure” and “Suspended because his father took him away from school for a fortnight without leave.  Not allowed to return.”
The staff could be hard men. “Expelled for dishonesty at home” and he was then sent to Trinity National School which may be the ancestor of present day Trinity School.  And what about lucky Thomas Henry Naylor, the son of a Lace Designer from Hutchinson-street in the Meadows, a thoroughfare now long disappeared: “Suspended for being privy to another boy’s dishonesty. Allowed to return on sufferance.” Or else, it may have been “previously a private pupil.  Removed by his father at my request.”

Many of the Remarks are not very different to what they would be nowadays. The same cannot be said of Nottingham. Here is the exact area, and the orange arrow marks the approximate site of the old Free School:

In the middle of the 16th century, this is where Mr.Francis Pierrepont, or “Collonell the Right Honourable Francis Pierepont”, had a large residence built next to the school, and wanted certain windows of the school building “stopped up” so the naughty pupils could not watch the serving wenches being chased around the extensive gardens . Pierrepont’s mansion was the second largest in Nottingham, after Wollaton Hall. It had 47 rooms with fireplaces. No photograph of that survives. Here is the only one I have ever seen of the old Free School:



Filed under History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

14 responses to “The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 5

  1. Interesting stuff John. I was amused by the Pierrepont’s shenanigans next door to the school. The Pierrepont’s early dukedoms were of course over Newark, but then began a series of ‘Earl Manvers’ titles until the fourth Earl’s death in the twentieth century. The Pierrepont’s survived until Lady Mary’s death a few years ago, but the fortune is gone…largely squandered by the fourth Earl Manvers. My Great, Great Grandfather, an agricultural worker was listed in the estate records for Walkeringham and while I can find no record of it yet, his daughter, (my Great Grandmother), worked in servitude for the Earl Manvers … And became pregnant after one of those ‘chasings around the garden’ to give birth to my Grandfather. The whole thing was hushed up… And my grandfather never knew that his Aunt was really his mother. He did know that he was the bastard child of Earl Manvers, and lived with the shame that brought to him all his life!

    Kids today do not know how fortunate they are… My Grandfather described his childhood to his cousin Percy (whom he called a brother) as being like the victim children in a Charles Dickens novel.
    Certainly, he never benefited from his mother’s estate upon her death in 1950…the whole lot went to another grasping cousin.

    • Yes, it always makes me cringe when people go to visit huge country estates and say how wonderful they are. They weren’t quite as wonderful for the people who worked there for 16 hours a day. It’s the same with Downton Abbey which is a totally sanitised version of a time when the class divisions were emphasised with walls 20 feet high made of reinforced concrete.

      • At least most of those large estates are now in the hands of the National Trust, or Heritage England, for everyone to enjoy. The days of servant abuse (at least amongst native Brits) is long gone. I feel very fortunate to have been born in a time when my individual rights are autonomous. I do not have to defer to, or curtsey to anyone!

  2. Your ability to locate histories this far back still amaze me, John. A rare view back into ‘the days when…’

    • Thank you very much, you are very kind. I actually had a look to see what happened in the USA in 1858. Minnesota became a state and, most importantly, the Transatlantic cable was laid. No more battles a fortnight after the end of the war! I had not heard of what happened the year before… the Dred Scott case, which looked quite interesting in Wikipedia, although I will admit that, like most things legal, I didn’t read every single word!

  3. How on earth do you die from ‘over bathing’? That certainly has to be one of the stranger deaths occurring in Nottingham. Perhaps he slipped on the coal tar soap and suffered a brain haemorrhage as a result. What ever it was it makes for fascinating and oddly ‘humorous’ reading! Brilliant as always John!

    • Thank you very much. As you can imagine, there have been a good few strange deaths over the years and there are dark rumours of a cholera outbreak in the 1870s. In 1776, one old boy managed to turn his death into what would nowadays be quite an achievement..”Gilbert Wakefield died of sunstroke at an advanced age, having sat on Brighton Beach, on “a warm, treacherous, sun-shining day.” There haven’t been too many of those this summer!

  4. I think it’s probably wise not to take risks – I will be limiting my bathing activities from now on.

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