Nottingham High School on ebay (1)

I always keep an eye on ebay to see if anything is on sale which is connected with Nottingham High School, the school where I spent my entire teaching career. First, here’s something that I didn’t buy because I thought it was far too expensive. Here’s the front:

And here’s the back:

The seller wanted £85 for it which I thought was just too expensive for me. It was a medal awarded to Benjamin Herbert Heald of Wilford, a little village on the River Trent to the south of Nottingham. Born on September 16th 1874, Benjamin entered the High School at the age of 12 on September 11th 1887 as Boy No 664. His father was Francis Berry Heald, a designer. Benjamin left the High School on the last day of what was at the time quite frequently called “Term Three” in July 1893. He went on to Queen’s College, Oxford with an Exhibition of £42. That would have been at least 20 times the average worker’s weekly wage.  At the High School he was a true Clever Clogs of the Very Highest Level. He was a Foundation Scholar (1890), a William Enfie Exhibitioner (1892), a Morley Exhibitioner (1891). He won 12 School Prizes in his time at the school, and a number of medals. You can make your choice as to which one this was. They were the Bronze Medal for Good Conduct (1889), the Gold Medal for the Best Open Scholarship (1893) , the Silver Medal for Classic (1893) and the Bronze Medal for Good Conduct (1893). If anybody knows which medal this is, please make a comment. I presume it is one of the Bronze ones. Notice how the reverse has the normal badge of the School:

It also has the cross which appears on the coat of arms of Nottingham:

I don’t recognise the shield with the ring on it, but it does seem vaguely familiar so perhaps somebody has an idea about that.

I found out one strange detail about Benjamin Herbert Heald. In the School Register is a boy called Benjamin Arthur Heald who was born on May 11th 1856. He entered the English School at the Free School on Stoney Street, as it then was, in January 1866. His father is listed as Benjamin Heald and he was a “lace agent and designer” living at 18 High Pavement. Benjamin Arthur Heald was surely a relative of Benjamin Herbert Heald. Anyway Benjamin Arthur is recorded as having died at home from the effects of overbathing, probably in June 1867, when he was 11 years old.

Eventually, Benjamin Herbert Heald became the Headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School in Sussex. In later years he was to reminisce about how the High School’s Headmaster during his time at the School, Dr James Gow, was different from all the other teachers. He never called boys up to his desk to go through their work, but always went to sit alongside them. Lessons usually finished with the customary phrase, “…I think that just about finishes our dose.”

This is Dr Gow, the High School’s greatest ever headmaster:

Next time, some dirty postcards. Well, second hand, at least.



Filed under History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

25 responses to “Nottingham High School on ebay (1)

  1. Fascinating where a medal can lead you

    • Absolutely Derrick ! I want to be a history detective when I grow up. Uncovering minor, insignificant, things that have been long forgotten is quite an interesting pursuit.

  2. stephen hall


    “…having died at home from the effects of overbathing”

    What were they putting in the water back then?

    • Well, cholera, for one, but that may be another blog post! I think he may have been so fascinated by the heat of hot baths that he just took one or two that were so hot that they affected his heart, particularly if it was weak in the first place. The reasons given for the deaths of young boys in the nineteenth century are often relatively inaccurate as if the coroners of the day were happy enough with something plausible rather than necessarily accurate.

  3. That is the sort of Headmaster that schools need these days!

    • I think the clue may be that he was not a teacher but an ex-lawyer. He knew no accepted ways of doing things in a school but did what he thought was fair. With the staff, he was usually on their side, and always willing to give them the tools they needed like new cupboards, a new desk and so on. I think that a good source of people to run schools nowadays would be the services. They would automatically be respected and know how to create a feeling of everybody on the same side, making progress.

  4. A medal led you to a story. I’m always bragging about your research!

  5. Jan

    Can you imagine the current High School Senior Leadership (I believe that is the TEAM terminology nowadays) divying up for the production of a modern version of the medal? It would cost an absolute fortune. £85 was a steal!

    As for the unknown shield, an e-mail to the heralds at The College of Arms would probably be your best bet. Failing that, here’s a link to one of the best resources on civic heraldry.

    • I have no idea how much a medal in bronze would cost nowadays, but I suppose it would be quite a lot. Awarding lots of medals and prizes, especially to the boys who came top in B and C forms was one of Gow’s best ideas for getting people onside. I suppose that he would have had them made in large quantities which might have brought the cost down. Thanks a lot for the link. I’m quite a heraldry fan, actually.

  6. Jan

    It is St John’s College Oxford. Founded by Thomas White.

  7. Wow, John, I had no idea that your school dates that far back in history. That’s 82 years before Sir Walter Raleigh makes his first expedition to the Orinoco in the Guiana region in search of El Dorado.

    • It sounds as if you are as impressed with the passing years as I am! It’s so difficult to imagine know just how long ago a date like 1513 was.
      I always think that the world then was so different from our world that if we could time travel with our tablets, mobile phones, laptops and so on, we would be guaranteed a burning as a witch! Even my Grandfather back in 1920 would have struggled to understand so many of the ordinary events of our lives nowadays.

  8. Another intriguing post John. How do you die from ‘overbathing’? surely they don’t mean drowning?

    • I have always taken it to mean having too many hot baths. It was thought, for many years, certainly up to WW2, that “too much bathing isn’t good for you”. Indeed, there is a John Wayne cowboy film I dimly remember, from the 1940s, where he says, “too much bathing can weaken a man”.
      In the last 100 years or so, there have been lots of premature deaths in a school as large as this, and there have been a number of drownings but it’s not a topic I would ever cover because even if I found a few from the early nineteenth century, they might still trigger grief on the part of the relatives of the two boys who drowned in 1944 and 1952.

      • That’s really interesting to know John. I wasn’t aware of the idea but I can imagine John Wayne saying such a thing. Drowning certainly still occurs with children left alone in the bath, so I can understand your sentiment.

  9. Great blogpost Mr. Knifton, though 85 pounds does not sound like a lot money when you have done such research and have confirmed the provenance of the medal. It could then be lent (or sold!) to a museum and conserved properly for future generations to appreciate. Can you still buy it? I just searched for it on eBay and couldn’t find it. I can only see the “School board attendance” medals, which do not look as noteworthy. Kind regards, William Parker-Jenkins, House of European History (Maison d’Histoire Européene), Brussels p.s. you taught me French in year 7 🙂

    • As if I could forget! I just thought at the time that £85 was excessive bearing in mind the size and metal of the medal. I had also just read somebody else’s blog post about the inflated prices on ebay so that may have had an effect as well!

  10. Wow all this just from a medal. You know, John, perhaps this life you are preparing for what you dream of doing for next life. I was in fact thinking along the same lines for myself. Being born a child prodigy or a child who just knows what he or she wants next life and then putting all that preparatory work from previous lives together for one great big slam dunk! You never know! 😉


    Benjamin Herbert Heald was a relative of mine. He was a judge in India not a headmaster, that was Bernard Heald

    • Thank you for that information. According to the School Register, when Denys St John Heald entered the School in 1909, the little seven year old was living at 12 Addison Street and BH Heald was in what was then Rangoon in Burma, today’s Yangon in Myanmar.

  12. Dillon dawes

    I have in my possession the same said coin dated 1513 and yes it is for sale and I am about to put it on ebay,although you intellectuals via this link has preference.BLESSINGS!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.