Category Archives: Nottingham

The Battle of Britain (5)

Last time I mentioned the name of “Watty” Watson who was the High School’s only member of Churchill’s famous “Few” that I have discovered so far. I did find one other Old Nottinghamian who was in Fighter Command during the period of the Battle of Britain, but he did not fly the legendary Spitfire, yet another picture of which I just cannot resist:

Instead, Flying Officer Walker flew the Bristol Blenheim Mark I which was desperately pressed into service as a night fighter:

While he was at school, “Watty” had been a keen rugby player for the First XV:

He was a keen member of the Second XI at cricket:

Most of all, he loved the Officers Training Corps:

As you look at the photograph the boy on the left is “Higgs” and the boy on the right is “MacKirdy”. The three behind, left to right, are JMT Saunders, Burley and MJ Dodds, as far as we know.

Eventually, “Watty” was promoted to Drum Major, every boy’s dream, having your own drum. Having your own leopard skin wasn’t bad either:

And in close up:

But if you have a big drum, then you’ve got to bang it, bang it loud and march like a maniac:

What’s that quotation?

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

So “Watty” gave up his drum and his leopard skin, but he was eventually given something he liked a whole lot better:

Here he is, in close up:

“Watty” gave his life for this country’s freedom on November 28th 1940. He was “Blue Two” and he was just 19 years of age.

If you ever want to put some flowers on his grave, “Watty” is buried in the Nottingham Southern Cemetery on Wilford Hill, off the A60 Loughborough Road,  in Section  M.24, Grave 74. We all owe him, and his colleagues, one hell of a debt.

 

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The Battle of Britain (4)

The Battle of Britain was Nazi Germany’s first defeat. It was brought about by the famous “Few”.

In the picture above the pilots are running towards their Hurricanes, formidable fighters which claimed 60% of the Luftwaffe aircraft shot down. Here is the most beautiful aircraft ever built:

Even as a little boy, I was fascinated by that magic sounding colour for the underneath of a Spitfire, “duck egg blue”.

I used to teach at Nottingham High School. Two of our Old Boys fought, and died, in the Battle of Britain.

One of them was Arthur Roy Watson. He was born in Basford, a district in the north of Nottingham. Originally the family lived at 193 College Street in Long Eaton, a suburb to the west of Nottingham. College Street runs roughly north to south in Long Eaton. Here is his house, now divided into two semi-detached houses:

College Street’s southern end is on Derby Road more or less opposite Trent College where a propeller from Albert Ball’s aircraft is on display in the library and the original cross from his grave in France is kept in the college chapel:

Did young Arthur ever go to see these important relics? Did they inspire him?  I have already written about the famous World War One fighter ace and the various escapades he found himself involved in. Here he is in his days at Trent College, after his expulsion from Nottingham High School and the King’s School, Grantham:

After living in Long Eaton, the Watson family then moved to 48 Carisbrooke Drive, a leafy suburban road that overlooks the old High School playing fields at Mapperley Park:

His friends in the squadron called him “Watty”, “Rex” or “Doc” because that made him “Doctor Watson”. Here he is standing by his Spitfire. He was just 19 when he was killed:

 

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Nottingham High School on ebay (5)

I bought just a few more photographs on ebay than the ones I showed you last time. They were all taken down at our Valley Road playing fields, and the boys, all of them members of our Preparatory Department, were aged between nine and eleven years old.

The first one is, shock horror!!, a soccer team.

“But I thought it was a rugby school?” I hear you ask.

Well, the main School is a rugby school, but what is now the Junior School, and was then the Preparatory School, has always played football, presumably because there is less chance of serious injury for small boys when they play football. This is the Second XI during the 1965-1966 season:

The players’ names are on the back:

And now, Technicolor ©, the only one of the photographs I bought:

In this photograph you can see the huge tree which used to stand near the Daybrook. It was damaged by the Great Storm of 1987 and eventually had to be taken down. In its time it has sheltered hundreds of cricketers who waited, either to bat or to go out and field. Traditionally, they all seem to have eaten bags of fresh cherries as they sat happily out of the sun. Perhaps this was a particularly freely available local fruit at the time or perhaps it was just fun to spit the stones at each other afterwards.

The team is listed on the back:

I don’t know if Mr Clarke and Mr Willey are still alive but they were both good men, much respected by their colleagues over the years. The boys in these teams may well be retired now. I hope they all made it through to their pensions! The very worst thing about teaching is the number of pupils who leave us for one reason and another as we grow older. I am sure that most teachers think about them from time to time. I know I do.

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Nottingham High School on ebay (4)

Just a couple of years ago, I saw some photographs of High School sport for sale on ebay. They showed various sports teams from what was then the Preparatory School, all of them photographed down at our Valley Road sports grounds. Here are the sports grounds, indicated by the orange arrow:

On the other side of the road is the City Hospital and the large space in the bottom right hand corner north of Perry Road is HM Prison Nottingham.

The school bought the 18 acres of land for the new playing fields on Valley Road in 1929, largely with money from JD Player, the Old Boy and cigarette millionaire. The total cost was £5,600, with £13,000 more needed to level the site, returf the surface, and build a new pavilion.  The Headmaster and JA Dixon, the Notts County and England footballer and Nottinghamshire cricketer, had looked at more than twenty sites before the decision was made.
Until this time, the school had played its representative matches at Mapperley Park on Mansfield Road, with house and form competitions played on the Forest Recreation Ground. The old Mapperley Park ground was sold to the City Corporation for £6,750 and the rest of the money for developing the site, some £6,000-£7,000, was raised by the Old Boys.
Interestingly enough, Johnny Dixon for many years believed strongly that more land should have been purchased, and that the whole school should then have been relocated to a new campus, surrounded by its own playing fields.  On the other hand, the Valley Road site did have a marsh at the western end, and the possible problems and expenses caused enough uncertainty to back away from buying any more land at this site:

In December 1931 the School Magazine included a three page list of subscribers who had given money to support the appeal to develop the School’s new playing fields at Valley Road. Overall, a total of some £434 2s 6d had been raised. The most generous benefactors were Messrs E Bignall and W Bignall, HR Gillespie, JC Joynes, F Limpenny, FW Pare, L Pilsworth, TS Ratcliffe, GT Rigley and AS Rigley, HB Rose and EB Stocker, all of whom contributed ten guineas. In the least generous category, however, were the three who could only be persuaded to hand over 2s 6d. Arguably though, the finest human being of all was the bank, whose interest payments amounted to £12 2s 6d.

Anyway, here is the first photo I bought, the Under 10 XI in 1965:

The players are written on the back:

The next one, of the First XI in 1966, is perhaps of slightly better quality:

Again, the names are written on the back:

Next time, Technicolor © is invented.

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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.

 

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1792 : a vintage year

The details that I found for the year 1792 come from a source that I have used quite frequently before, namely “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood”.

The year started in spectacular fashion on February 25th:

“Between the hours of eight and nine this evening an alarming shock of an earthquake was felt in the Midland counties, but particularly at Nottingham, many of the inhabitants running out of their houses, expecting them to fall upon their heads. The shock was preceded by a rumbling noise like the rolling of a cannon ball upon a boarded floor.”

A bit like this, then:

At this time, there was, of course, no real sport in the city…no Nottingham Forest, no Notts County, no Nottingham Panthers, no Nottingham Outlaws, no Nottingham Rugby Club. And so people had no choice but to busy themselves by showing enormous interest in council planning applications:

May 9th . “On the arrival of the intelligence that the bill authorising the formation of the Nottingham Canal had received the royal assent, the bells of both churches were set a-ringing, and other congratulatory manifestations indulged in.”

Thank the Lord. We’re going to build a canal. Canals are wonderful :

If you look after them, and remember, like pot plants, to water them regularly:

I think by now people’s nerves were already on edge after over indulging in their personal celebrations of the success of the planning application for building the new canal. They were a little like small children who get fractious and behave badly after their routine is disturbed:

May 12th.  “A number of people assembled in a riotous manner in the Market-place, on account of the high price of butchers’ meat:

The Market-place did look quite different then:

The account continues:

After a stout endeavour to retain possession of their property, when further resistance might have proved dangerous, the butchers retreated from the Shambles, and left the mob in undisturbed possession. It being Saturday, the stock of meat was large and in a few moments the whole of it disappeared.

The magistrates at once called out the military, and by the expostulations of the Mayor, and the firing of the soldiers in the air, the mob dispersed, and the military returned to their quarters.”

Here come the military. They do look a little bit regimented, I suppose, but they are a lot easier to draw this way:

“Very unexpectedly, in the course of the evening the depredators reassembled, and bearing down upon the Shambles with renewed force, destroyed and conveyed away every door, shutter, implement, and book they could find in the shops, and made a great bonfire of them in the Market-place, yelling and shouting round it like  savages. The fire was burning from eleven at night till one in the morning, when the military succeeded in extinguishing it, and tranquillity was restored.”

For a moment there, it must have been touch and go:

I would think that for the second military intervention, they used the soldiers with the silly hats. Most people, when faced by these picked German troops, just ran away clutching their stolen sausages:

“For several days after, symptoms of a recurrence of the disorder were apparent, but the vigilance of the authorities at length finally suppressed them.”

Nobody nowadays ever thinks of England as ever being on the edge of revolution, but it had already happened once during the reign of King Charles I when the king was executed. The end of the 18th century saw a fair few Englishmen holding up the French Revolution as an example of good practice. They were pushed into that by a royal family who were perhaps the least charismatic of the many Germans who have ruled over our country. Parliament was no better. It was a place where rich landowners were vastly over represented. Their excessive number of MPs kept the price of the food their estates produced artificially and permanently high.

Many revolutions around the world have started with hungry people robbing shops full of food they wanted to eat but could not afford.

 

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Nottingham High School on ebay (2)

As well as not buying a rather expensive medallion on ebay, I have actually bought a postcard or two over the years. The first one was sent on October 27th 1926. It is stamped with an 8.00 pm postmark, so I presume that it was written earlier that day and then posted perhaps before dinner, or, more likely perhaps, on the sender’s way home from work. It was a Wednesday, which in those days would have been half day closing, so he probably left work at 1.00 pm and put it into the post box on his way home:

Notice how the Post Office slogan is “British Goods are best”. Only a few months after the General Strike, the economy was in real need of a boost if further discontent and upheaval was to be avoided. Notice too, the beautiful, classic stamp. King George V was a fanatical stamp collector, and loved nothing better of an evening than sticking his stamps in his thousand albums. When you’re an emperor, this is the album for you:

The postcard is addressed to NG Peet of 2 Gorsey Close in Mapperley Park. I couldn’t trace a Gorsey Close but I did find a Gorsey Road. Here is a close up view of the area. Gorsey Road is between the B684 Woodborough Road and Mapperley Road, in Mapperley Park, one of Nottingham’s leafier suburbs. Look as always for the orange arrow.  No 2 is on the corner with the B684, Woodborough Road. :

If you look at this larger map, you can see that Gorsey Road is not too far away from the High School which is in the bottom left corner in the area between Arboretum Street, Forest Road East and Waverley Street. The School is on the corner either side of the pale green patch. Gorsey Road, I should have said, is again indicated by the orange arrow.

This is No 2 Gorsey Road now, a little overgrown perhaps, and in a street which looks to have gone a little downhill, but obviously, it was a very beautiful house in its time:

The Peet family had only recently moved to Gorsey Close when that postcard arrived in the late evening of October 27th 1926. In the Kelly’s Directory published in 1925, their future abode was owned by Edward Westwick Kirk of Kirk & Macdonald. The Head of the Family, WG Peet, was living at that time at 249 Woodborough Road, presumably with everyone else in the family. Here it is:

Three years or so later, when all of the information had been collected for the 1928 edition of the Kelly’s Directory, the house in Gorsey Road was now recorded as being occupied by Mrs Ann Elizabeth Peet. She was presumably NG Peet’s mother, rather than his wife. At this time her son was still in his early twenties and it is by no means surprising that he was still living in the parental home. There is certainly no NG Peet listed as living elsewhere in Nottingham, nor indeed in the rest of the county.

In 1929, the High School prepared its own list of the Old Boys’ addresses. In that, NG Peet is listed as still living at 2 Gorsey Close although it could just be that they carried an old address forward.

NG Peet, incidentally, I should have introduced him earlier. He is Noel Gordon Peet, who was born on December 26th 1901, hence the name. His father was William George Peet who was a “General Agent”. Six years later, in 1925, the relevant Kelly’s Directory listed William George Peet as working for “WG Peet, Son & Company”. By 1928, he is listed as a “yarn merchant” operating from Kaye’s Walk. His telephone number was listed as “TN 42769” and his telegraphic address as “Knitiarns”.

Noel entered the High School on April 26th 1917, at the age of 15. He was Boy No 3662 and he stayed there until July 1919. At this time, 1917 at least, the family was living at 413 Mansfield Road. Here’s 413 Mansfield Road, in spirit a very similar house to 2 Gorsey Road. I’m a huge lover of trees, but these need a tree surgeon and his assistant for a day and the whole place would look so much better:

Noel packed a lot into his two and a bit years at the High School. He won the Fifth Form B Prize in 1918 and the Fifth Form Writing Prize in the same year. In 1919, he won the Sixth Form B Prize. In the Officer Training Corps, he became a Corporal in 1918 and a Sergeant in 1919. In cricket, he won the School Prize for Batting in the same year.  He had 13 innings and scored a total of 144 runs at an average of 11.07. His top score was 36. Not a classic season for the School apparently !

Also listed in the High School’s list of Old Boys in 1929 was William Ronald Peet, Noel’s younger brother. He too is recorded as living at No 2 Gorsey Close. He was born on October 9th 1910 and entered the High School as Boy No 4036 on May 1st 1919. He left in December 1926 at the end of the First Term. By the time William entered the School, the family had moved from Mansfield Road and were living at Sutherland Lodge in Lucknow Drive in Mapperley Park. The boys’ father is listed as a “manager”. Lucknow Drive, or rather the word “Lucknow”, is visible in the top right corner of the second map above.

Did anything significant happen on the day the postcard was posted, namely October  27th 1926, anywhere in the world ? Well, nothing really earth shattering, but there was one episode which I found quite amusing. Here’s a clue, with a picture of a Shipstone’s Brewery beer crate and some of their products:

Shipstone’s Brewery lasted from 1852-1991. I always felt that it was, at best, an acquired taste. Anyway, here’s the funny story to finish with. It comes from ‘Hansard’ which records everything said by everybody in debates in the Houses of Parliament. The story came out because Labour Party MP, Alfred Salter, was censured in the House of Commons for refusing to retract remarks of his that had appeared in the Daily Express:

 “I am not prepared to withdraw, modify or apologise for anything I have said on this matter, and I propose to repeat the words I made use of and about which complaint has been made.

I said, and I repeat it here to-day, that I have seen members of all parties in this House, my own party I regret to say included, drunk in this House not on one occasion but on many.”

A motion was passed calling the statement “a gross libel on the Members of this House and a grave breach of its privileges.”

 

 

 

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