Nottingham High School on ebay (3)

Last time I was looking at a postcard sent to Noel George Peet of 2 Gorsey Close in Mapperley Park. The postcard was sent on October 27th 1926 and it was stamped with an 8.00 pm postmark. Here is the sender and the message:

It reads “Sorry! I shall be unable to play on Saturday next.”

I would say that the signature is of “JG Sykes”. October 27th 1926 was a Wednesday and JG Sykes is clearly writing to the person who organises a local sports team, probably the captain or the secretary. At this time, Noel was only 24 years old and I would therefore presume that he was the captain of the team, rather than the secretary, who is the man who organises the fixtures, the renting of the pitch and so on. At first reading, I would have said that the team was probably the Old Nottinghamians and that they were going to play rugby, but there is one big problem about this best guess.

JG Sykes did not go to the High School. It cannot be a local cricket team in late October, so it must be football, or soccer as my American friends would term it. Between 1914-1968 the High School did not play football, at least officially. There were, though, one or two renegade teams which I intend to talk about in a separate blog post. All I can offer, therefore, is that JG Sykes and NG Peet were members of a local football team, unconnected directly to the High School. Which one, I cannot imagine. Sherwood United? Mapperley Rangers? Who knows?

I did though, find out who JG Sykes possibly was. In the Kelly’s Directory for 1928, this entry appears:

That is “James Gordon Sykes of 97 Mansfield Street, which I feel should be written in that same old fashioned way, as “Mansfield-street”. However you write it, Mansfield-street is deep in the heart of Sherwood, the suburb, of course, rather than the leafy place where the Merrie Men hang out. The orange arrow points to Mansfield Street which does in fact continue northwards over Winchester Street.  If you look at where “the Yellow Road to Woodborough” goes off the bottom of the map, the letters “-RSEY RD” to the left refer to Gorsey Road.

In the bottom left corner is the double roundabout only a hundred yards from the High School. Clearly, as regards games of football, this really was a local team for local people.

Sooooo…….what’s on the postcard? Well, James Gordon Sykes clearly knew his captain’s educational ancestry because he chose this beautiful scene. The front of the High School:

And there have been one or two changes since, say, 1920. A lot of pinnacles and chimney pots have been removed, presumably in the days before the concept of listed buildings was invented. The School field gun has gone. Here’s the School in more recent times:

The photograph for the postcard was taken from over on the right, behind the bushes and the hedge. Most noticeable, though, is the war memorial which has been there since 1922. On the top is a life size statue in bronze which represents a young officer leading his men into attack. The statue was designed by an Old Nottinghamian, Colonel AS Brewill, the commander of the 7th Sherwood Foresters and it was cast in bronze by Henry Poole.

Just over 1,500 boys and masters had fought in the Great War. Two Victoria Crosses had been won, 124 men had been awarded other decorations, and 29 had been mentioned in dispatches. Most important of all, though, was the fact that between two and three hundred men had been killed, from a School which had an annual total of between 350-450 pupils in the years before the war.

The only other object in front of the School before 1922 was a 25-pounder field gun which somebody had brought back from the war as a souvenir. I haven’t been able to discover who it was, or exactly when or indeed, why. After four years of a war memorial and a field gun within thirty yards of each other, a decision was taken to remove the gun and have it made into ploughshares somewhere. Even then, the gun had its supporters:

” In July 1926 the Old Boys’ Society spoke out against the removal of the field gun from the front of the school. They felt that its barrel provided a wonderfully useful litter bin for the boys walking past.”

Here is that old field gun enlarged:

The building behind the gun is the caretaker’s house, demolished long ago. The tower is still there to this day. It is nothing to do with the High School or the caretaker’s house. It belonged to a man who was extremely keen on the horse races which were held nearby until 1890 on what is now the Forest Recreation Ground . He therefore had the tower added to his house so he could see if he had won or lost his money. The last meeting took place on September 29th-30th 1890, and the last race, the Cotgrave Gorse Plate, was won by Sir Hamilton, owned by Mr T Tyler, and ridden by A Nightingall. Horse racing subsequently moved to Colwick.

Just to finish, here’s an aerial view of the School taken in 1920 or thereabouts. It is isn’t of very great quality, but then again neither was the camera or the plane:

Notice the shrubbery, Dr Dixon’s house on Waverley Mount, AKA the “Last House on the Left”.  The caretaker’s house is opposite and notice the boys near to it. Top left is the Fives Court and Brincliffe  School still stands to the right of that, where the staff car park now is.

The back of the School was very different then. Here is the North Entrance in 1915:

Notice the bell tower and the extra flag pole.

One last fact about Noel Peet by the way. I have only just realised where he has appeared before in the context of my blog. His name is to be found carved into the mantelpiece of the fireplace between the General Office and the Assembly Hall. You can read all about that here.




Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

26 responses to “Nottingham High School on ebay (3)

  1. Good post, I enjoyed reading it and looking at the pictures.

    I grew up and went to school in Rugby where no one was allowed to play football. The Games Master was Welsh and rugby mad. He despised football and always called it soccer and pronounced it with a sneer. In Rugby the game was always called rugger and I have always assumed that this was to make it clear that it was the game and not the town. Perhaps you know the real reason?

    • Essentially, Rugby union became the sport of the southern upper classes and football became the sport of the northern working classes. Even northern rugby union was not welcomed and most men there finished up playing rugby league. As for rugger, I have always presumed that in their boarding .schools, upper class boys always turned surnames into nicknames such as Johnners. Aggers, Tuffers, Ebbers and so on. Northern working class men call people Bestie, Incie, Giggsie and so on….if it is possible. Trying to do it for “De Gea” is still at the experimental stage, as is Jesus, pronounced “Haythoothe”.

  2. The amount of men in the war from that school is incredible, John!
    Was there a draft system back then?

    • All of the British forces were volunteers from August 1914-early 1916, but the carnage was soon so great that volunteers were not enough. In early 1916, the conscription of single men 18-41 began. In May 1916 married men were included. In April 1918 the upper age limit became 50 (or 56 if casualties were exceptional). My belief is that the High School would all have been volunteers, young men raised with the idea that it was their duty to fight for England.

  3. Andy Jones

    Another fascinating post – many thanks!

  4. Very interesting John. The architecture of the old school is fabulous, they aren’t built like that anymore! It’s amazing what you can find out by digging dip into history, you must somewhat of an Nottingham expert by now!

    • History is fascinating. I have realised recently that with my Kelly’s Directories I am able to find out where people lived, down to the individual house. It gives me a real kick when I find out that, for example, the Dixey Chicken shop was where the pilot of a Handley Page Hampden used to live, or that No 36 in a perfectly ordinary suburban street was what the experienced rear gunner of a Lancaster used to call home.

      • They sound a fabulous historical record and so interesting to read. I think we often forget that these men were ordinary folk, who had ordinary lives, in ordinary suburban streets before they became crewmen in the RAF’s Bomber Command and co.

  5. Jeff Tupholme

    In the final picture I’m intrigued by the house-shaped structure in the corner of what later became the west quad (sans house). There appears to be a lower ground floor with a staircase on the right as the main entrance. What was that all about?

    • FIrst of all I don’t really know for definite, but in the original description of the new school in 1868 it says:
      “The finished building contained, to the west, the Upper or Classical School, and to the east, the Lower, or English School. Both rooms measured sixty feet long and thirty feet wide, and had an open timbered roof with hammer beam circular stayed principals. Each school was entered separately by porches right and left of the rear, while the main entrance was by steps from the terrace to the south……
      ……….Next to the western porch was…..a porter’s lodge, with a parlour, kitchen, scullery, three bedrooms and cellarage, with the masters’ toilets adjoining the eastern porch. Eventually, the cellar of the porter’s quarters became a boiler house, and the parlour became a storeroom, where generations of caretakers brewed tea, until Mr.Boot drank the last cup, shortly before demolition in 1939. “

      • Jeff Tupholme

        Thanks, that pretty much explains it. The building has certainly undergone many changes during its lifetime. When I was there I was always impressed that after every summer holiday something would have been upgraded, refurbished, converted or whatever!

  6. More fascinating research, John

  7. Jan

    Further to your observation about “Mansfield-street” and changes in style over the past hundred-odd years.

    The postcard message demonstrates how English has altered over the intervening years. Very few would use now use the modal auxiliary “shall” in that context – to the modern eye (or is it ear?) it seems slightly odd.

    If WSC were to address the nation today:

    “… we will fight in the fields and in the streets, we will fight in the hills; we will never surrender…”

    • Yes, language and grammar change. Even with somebody as famous as Shakespeare people can demand change. In the 1920s and 1930s there was quite a large number of people who wanted Shakespeare Street renamed to reflect the Bard’s original spelling of his name. To tell you the truth, I have forgotten the favoured spelling but it was something like “Shaekspir” as far as I remember. I would have done a blog post on it, but there wasn’t really enough material to get up to he requisite 500-600 words.

      • Jan

        “Wireless” has to be the outstanding example of a word that that has been modern, old fashioned and modern once again in the course of a lifetime.

  8. Ed Grummitt

    Strangers to the NHS Arboretum Street building may not realise that it was literally built on sand! (No 1960s type pupil cynicism please). In the 1880s excavations took place, iron girders were put in on left and right of the main entrance, and new classrooms were inserted underneath. The weird building at the back was an Art Room, supposedly based on Mr. Peggoty’s upturned boat in “David Copperfield”.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this post, John. It’s fun to go “hunting” for something or someone you are looking for. I met a photographer recently who had this really cool app on his phone that made bird calls, and when he pressed the Screech Owl, he attracted another Screech Owl, other then the one we were presently admiring. Last I saw of him was his back as he without hesitation went to find that other owl. You do the very same thing but in a different manner. What fun!!

    • Yes, Amy, it is quite fun, especially when you make a connection that has never been made before or one which has been long forgotten. I used to be a birdwatcher back in the day, and just be careful of owls. They are well known as one of the most aggressive of bird families and they have been known to attack humans on many occasions.

      • Story time ….. OK. And this is how this one goes. In the days hubby and I tent camped, in the middle of one night I woke up having to go the bathroom. Hubby has a high beam light (no electricity where we were camping) and believe me it is dark out there. I went to a bush and was doing my business when an OWL swooped down and grabbed some of my hair. I was SO freaked I started running, still peeing and with my pj’s around my ankles. My scream got hubby’s attention and so he made a lot of noise (we were alone in this section of the park) to scare the owl off. I’ll never forget that!

      • Apparently in Sweden, the everyday word for their largest owl means in Swedish “bump owl”. They are creatures not at all afraid of human beings.

  10. A very unusual spot for a ‘gun’, I guess. 🙂

    • Yes, it certainly is. I suppose years ago, just after the First World War, having a gun like that as a monument showed a certain amount of strength and power, but the statue to the fallen is infinitely better.

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