“Of course, we were much younger then” (1)

The Reverend Charles H Stephens, as we have seen before on numerous occasions, was a very keen and excellent photographer, as well as a teacher of Geography and a Minister of the Church. He has left to us a great many photographs of the ordinary moments of school life at Nottingham High School between 1945-1978.

These first few are of the Junior Plays, but date from the late 1950s. Junior Plays were prepared and rehearsed in English lessons, and then put on in the Hall, say, with the rest of the year watching. The very best of the plays might then be watched by pupils from other years.

Here is a photograph by the Reverend called “R Williams & Junior Plays”:

I cropped the photograph to produce this one of Mr Williams, looking for all the world like an earnest disciple of Jean-Paul Sartre. I think wearing pullovers like that must have been compulsory until at least 1962:

The first actors captured by the Reverend are some of the members of Form 2K in “Island of Doom”. The photograph was taken in 1958:

The following year, the Reverend took this picture of the preparation for another round of Junior Plays. The Masters are labelled as Mr RWilliams (1956-1962), Mr CN Lammiman (1957-1962) and Mr BE Towers (1945-1964). I’m afraid that I know very little of any of them. In 1964, I  was still in my first year at secondary school:

This photograph presumably dates from around the same time. It is entitled “Unknown actors near E5”:

I have not written a great deal about Junior Plays in my various publications. I do know, however, that in 1964, 2L put on the very successful “The True Story of Good King Wenceslas”. This was in the same year as the first ever Old Folk’s Christmas Party.

In 1972, five Junior Plays were put on in the Founder Hall. 3A1 produced an “offbeat version of the Robin Hood legend”, 2A1 managed an “ingenious insight into the life behind cave paintings”, and 3B2 offered “Carry on Chaucer!” The theme of 1L’s play was “a serious one”, although the title has not survived. The competition was eventually won by Mr SG Nash (1970-1974) and 1H, with their unforgettable “The Gong Wong Ruby”. They received the Bryden Trophy.

On a warm July evening in 1975, four Junior Plays took place. They were “Charlotte’s Web” performed by 1M and masterminded by Mr R Stirrup (1968-1980), a modernised version of “The Kraken” by 2AL, aided by Mr G Powell (1974-1977), “Dillisclondes Saga” from Mr CJP Smith (1974-1992) and 3BT, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by 3BS and Mr JM Royston (1972-1975). The eventual winner was “Liang and the Magic Brush” from Mr PE Norris (1970-1975) and 1K, a traditional Chinese folk story, specially written for this occasion.



Filed under Film & TV, History, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

16 responses to ““Of course, we were much younger then” (1)

  1. A good jumper and a very fine moustache!

    • It is a fine jumper, provided that it is dark beige and not pink. It is the kind of jumper worn by a man who has tried to read Sartre in the original but found it too difficult and then had to collect the day-by-day “Daily Sketch Guide to Existentialism” instead.
      I would be surprised if he did not have a few books by Jack Kerouac at home, and one day, he may even surprise his Fifth Form by walking in and asking them “Do any of you know this up-and-coming guitarist, Bob Dylan?

  2. Jan

    The English Department seemed to have a relatively high turnover of staff, but those names from the 1970s are all very familiar. None of them ever rocked the beatnick look: all kipper ties and monster lapels. (teachers’ fashions over the decades might be a future topic!).

    I do recall Pete Norris directing our 1H play (the title and plot elude me) but what I well remember is the handsome wooden prop’ sword that Tracey Pearl’s father made. Odd what sticks after nearly 50 years.

    • Yes, it is almost strange what sticks in our memories. And yet, of our junior school class in Year 6 which would have been not too far under fifty, I doubt if I could remember very many more than about fifteen.

  3. His photographs are so sharp, as exemplified by that first crop

  4. The good old school play. Things haven’t changed except for perhaps, the titles of such events. Endless rehearsals, singing and sweaty palms as we desperately try to get children to not only learn their lines, but say them with even the slightest hint of expression. What joy. Maybe if I wear a similar jumper it’ll work for me too!

  5. I have never had the pleasure of doing a play although there was no escaping the Year 8 whole year assemblies, performed form by form. Eventually, I had a brilliant idea. Do it as a powerpoint show, with the first frame just a description of Billy’s hobbies, favourite music etc and the second one as a picture of Billy the Year 8 person aged three or four. That could not fail to get a laugh. And of course, it worked.

    25 hobby etc descriptions to read @ say, ten seconds each = four minutes

    25 pictures of little Billy in a nappy spraying sick at various members of the family / medical profession/ = ten minutes minimum

    And the beauty of it was that every year they all left for Year 9 so nobody could ever complain of repetition.

  6. Fascinating, the children looked so involved in their parts. They must have enjoyed looking at themselves. It is very nice. I have a photo of my father playing a female role in his college.

    • Yes, the majority of the children take it extremely seriously and try very hard to learn their lines. Ours was an all boys school at the time and we always had the problem that when boys play girls or even old ladies, it all gets very difficult indeed to carry off.

  7. The arts are such an important part in education. Unfortunately today, here in the states, many art classes are being cut. How sad!! Loved this post, John. I loved looking at the photographs of an era gone by. Thank you!

    • My pleasure Amy. Over here many secondary schools are specialised “Academies” which may concentrate on, say, science or technology or drama or painting and so on. In a city, I suppose you could find an academy for virtually everything, although in country areas, it may be a little more difficult.

  8. Ed Grummitt

    Mr. Knifton sir, thanks very much for putting these photos by “Charlie” up – my era as a pupil as I entered 2H, steered by Tubby Hardwick, in 1958.
    Great to see Chris Lammiman (another of my form masters), “Barch” Towers (a lovely man) and Robin Williams the mercurial, denizen of Turpin House, accurate board rubber thrower, who taught us about volcanic eruptions and occasionally was driven to them. I’ll show these to a couple of fellow Old Boys (and boy, are we old!) to see if we can ID a few more people.
    The developer used for those photos looks decidedly dodgy. But it was ever thus. Charlie allowed more or less anyone to use the lab and heaven knows how many times the chemicals were used. I still have a couple of appalling prints.
    PS could the pic of senior actors be “She Stoops to Conquer”? Probably not.

    • I am only too happy to be providing the photographs which bring back happy memories for so many people!
      If you do manage to ID any of the people in the photographs, then please contact the School Archivist, Ms Yvette Gunther, whose email address is
      She is always on the look out for extra information to fill in the gaps on old photographs.
      As far as “She stoops to conquer” is concerned, I know that the play was done in 1931 but that is clearly far too many years ago. Whether it was repeated in the late fifties or early sixties, I just do not know, unfortunately.
      And finally, thanks again for contacting me with all of those interesting extra details.

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