Category Archives: Nottingham

They were only playing leapfrog…..

This story comes from a source which I have used quite frequently, namely “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood”. On this occasion, the year is 1794 and the French revolutionary government has recently abolished slavery on February 4th of that year. Only a week later, on February 11th, the sessions of the United States Senate are made open so the public can come along and watch.

Today, though, is February 23rd and the slack jawed young locals in the Hockley area of Georgian Nottingham have all assembled in Broad Street. They are going to have a damned good game of leapfrog while they wait for somebody to invent football. On this modern map, LRTS marks the tram system. Look for the orange arrow:

I presume that leapfrog  is a universal game across the world. This is Harlem during the Jazz Age:

And here’s one of those old Victorian stop motion films:

You wouldn’t want to play  leapfrog in the middle of Broad Street nowadays, but in 1794 it was not a problem. So what happened? Well…….

“A number of young men, in a playful mood, were diverting themselves in a game of leapfrog in Broad-street, when one of them disappeared underground in a remarkable manner. He had leaped over the back of a comrade, in the customary way, and happened to alight on the spot where there was a well,  120 feet deep.”

It wasn’t as big as this…

But it was still quite big and it soon attracted a crowd:

Anyway, back to 1794…

“The aperture had simply been covered with boards and a little earth, and was uniform in appearance with the surrounding ground . Fortunately, the man was extricated perfectly unhurt, and with an oath declared himself equal to any pantomime performer on the stage, inasmuch as he dare leap without being caught in a blanket! The well was immediately arched over.”

Nowadays, Broad Street is a busy but basically, fairly ordinary thoroughfare, except some bored fool with nothing better to do has painted ” Broad St” on the floor in big white letters :

The other end of the street has a famous pub:

This pub is nowadays the only real attraction in the street. Things might change though, if “arching over” an old well doesn’t solve the problem for very much more than 200 years. Then we might see some more excitement.

Here’s a better view of the pub:

Once you’ve had a refreshing pint of ale in the Lord Roberts pub, above, you might even feel like a game of leapfrog yourself. Here’s the army’s version of the game in that magnificent anti-war film about World War One, “Oh What a Lovely War”. The song is entitled “They were only playing leapfrog”:

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Filed under France, History, Nottingham

the Reverend Charles Stephens (3)

Last time I showed you some more of the photographs left to us by the Reverend Charles Stephens, a keen photographer who captured many aspects of the High School, both boys, buildings and activities. Some of the most striking ones were taken in early 1960 when the new block on the northern side of the West Quadrangle was opened.

We have already looked at the bottom floor and the top corridor with their absolutely amazing block parquet flooring, which was not just shiny but even reflective. That incredible quality of being polished so highly as to be reflective seems to have been really widespread in the school at the time. Perhaps whichever company polished the floors of the new block was given free rein with some of the other rooms. Here are the floorboards of one of the Chemistry laboratories:

Here is the Music Rehearsal Room. Notice how all of the boys are wearing white plimsolls, which they have presumably had to bring from home, along with their trombones:

The Old Gym was pretty much the same as the new West Block rooms. Just look at those boys at the top of those ropes! If I’d been able to do that, I reckon my application for the French Foreign Legion would have gone a lot better than it did:

The Reverend Stephens didn’t just do buildings though. He did groups of boys such as his Tutor Set, seen here in 1953-1954:

How clever! He got them all to autograph the back of the photo:

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

the Reverend Charles Stephens (2)

Last time I showed you some of the photographs left to us by the Reverend Charles Stephens, a keen photographer who captured many aspects of the High School, both boys, buildings and activities. Some of the most striking ones were taken in early 1960 when the new block on the northern side of the West Quadrangle was opened . This was the last part of the extensive school building scheme financed by JD Player, the cigarette millionaire and philanthropist extraordinaire. Pretty much the Bill Gates of the era in England, the nation smoked so many of his cigarettes that the taxes paid on them amounted to £1,500,000 every single day. And in 1960, that single pound was worth £21.66, according to this official website. Another way of representing it was that JD Player was thought to be worth 5p in the pound added to income tax.

We have already looked at the bottom floor and its absolutely amazing block parquet flooring, which was not just shiny but even reflective.  Here’s the top corridor:

Here it is again and yes, you’re right to be afraid. The men in white coats have come to take you away:

And here’s a Biology class, complete with shiny floor:

Not far from there was the Library. It’s very different from today:

It’s very different even from 1986:

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

the Reverend Charles Stephens (1)

Over the years, quite a few ministers of the church have worked as Masters at the High School. One of the most memorable in recent years was the Reverend Charles H Stephens who arrived at the school in 1945. “Charlie” was a much respected teacher of Geography who served the High School well until 1978. As well as Geography, he taught at one time or another, Astronomy, Divinity, Mathematics and Modern Languages. Above all, though, he was a keen photographer who left behind him a huge number of photographs of the school, both boys, buildings and activities.

In 1990 or thereabouts, I scanned virtually all of them into the computers of the day and produced a couple of CDs of his work. I was told as my reward that I could have my own set of photographs to do with as I wished. So here we are. A quarter of a century later, I’ve finally done something to preserve his legacy in an active way.

Some of the most striking photographs were taken in early 1960 when the new block on the northern side of the West Quadrangle opened for business. This was the last part of the extensive school building scheme financed by JD Player, the cigarette millionaire and philanthropist extraordinaire. Here are the new buildings, just a few days before their opening. Notice the dots on the windows so that the builders don’t smash them:

The new buildings consisted of two spacious geography rooms, two junior form rooms, and four sixth form rooms. At half term, the members of staff moved into their first ever purpose built Common Room, nowadays called the Staff Room. The rooms on the second floor came into use in the half term after this. They were originally designed to be a music rehearsal room, a prefects’ room, a general science laboratory and a biology laboratory. The latter was considered by Mr “Bill” Neville, the Head of Biology, to be the finest in the county. The new buildings were officially opened on September 22nd 1960, by the vice-chancellor of Nottingham University.

What was most amazing about this new section of the High School were the floors. I am no expert on flooring but I think they were block parquet floors and they were absolutely amazing. They were smooth, polished and reflective, a bit like me. They were quite wonderful. And the floors in the new block were not the only ones at that time. Here is the corridor on the ground floor:

And here is the other end with what in those days was the caretakers’ room:

Here it is in glorious close-up:

Don’t forget that I did a series of four posts about the High School’s caretakers over the years. Here’s a link to the first one, and the second, and the third, and the fourth.

Here are the new geography rooms. The chairs are actually reflected in the floor:

And here is the Reverend Stephens, teaching perhaps a Year 10 or Year 11 class:

 

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Earthquakes and Lights in the Sky

At least one physical phenomenon is very rare in Nottingham. Would that it were not so:

Untitled
“Northern Lights,” or “Aurora Borealis” was first recorded as having been seen in the neighbourhood of Nottingham during the winter of 1755-1756. The Northern Lights appear at their best according to an eleven year cycle, and 2015-2016 was quite a good year, so keep yourself entertained by doing a very long backwards calculation!
Here is a website which will tell you when is a good time to look for the Northern Lights.
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Another physical phenomenon is almost equally infrequent in Nottingham…Thank Goodness!
And luckily, when it does happen, it tends to do little damage, and it soon gets forgotten. Who remembers this one now?…

August 23 1752  The severe shock of an earthquake was felt in Nottingham and the surrounding district, about 7 a.m. Great alarm, but not much damage, was the result. The day was remarkably fine, both before and after the shock.”

And forty years later, another earthquake came to nothing…thank goodness:

February 25, 1792  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 cannonball upon a boarded floor.”

Another Victorian source mentions an earthquake on October 6th 1863:

“The earthquake appears to have been felt over a great part of England” and it was decidedly more severe in the western parts of the country, especially the West Midlands:

“At Birmingham walls were seen to move, and people rose from their beds to see what damage had been done, for though the rumbling, grating sound is like a passing train, it was known at once to be something more. At Edgbaston successive shocks were plainly felt, and houses were shaken to their foundations. At Wolverhampton everything in the houses vibrated. The houses cracked and groaned as it the timbers had been strained. The policemen on duty saw the walls vibrate, heard everything rattle about them, and were witnesses to the universal terror of the roused sleepers.
At Cheltenham, a deep rumbling noise was heard, the heaviest furniture was shaken, the fire-irons rattled, heavy stone walls were heard to strain and crack, and the boys at Cheltenham College were all under the impression that the rest were engaged in making the greatest possible disturbance.”

I was unable to find a picture of the boys of Cheltenham College, but, much better, here are the splendid young ladies of Cheltenham Training College around the same period:

chel traoining

And what of Nottingham? Well…

“October 6th 1863  A slight shock of earthquake was felt early in the morning in Nottingham, and in most parts of the country.”

and then, just over a year later:

October 30th 1864  Slight shocks of an earthquake were felt in Nottingham, and in various parts of the country.”

Those two earthquakes were so insignificant that they have, literally, not passed “the test of time” and I have not been able to find really very much at all about them.

In fairly recent times, my Dad experienced an earthquake in South Derbyshire:

“On one occasion when he was walking home from his job as a teacher at Woodville Church of England Junior School in Moira Road, Woodville, Fred was the hapless victim of an earth tremor. It must have been quite frightening because, as he was to relate many times in subsequent years, he was able to watch the pavement rippling up and down with the force of the shock.

Seismological records for the local area show that this event occurred most probably on February 11, 1957. Here is my Dad’s quiet little mining village around that time, in the late 1950s:

 

If you want to check the history of known earthquakes in England, then this is the link to the relevant Wikipedia page.

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Filed under History, Nottingham, Science

To bale out or not to bale out? (1)

This post is about an Avro Lancaster III of 61 Squadron, serial number DV 232, squadron letters QR-K. They took off, one of many, at 20:15 on September 5th 1943, from RAF Syerston near Nottingham to go and bomb Mannheim. This was a huge operation and involved 605 aircraft including 299 Lancasters, 195 Halifaxes and 111 Stirlings.

This is a Lancaster:

This is a Halifax:

And this is a Stirling:

Of the 605 aircraft, 34 were lost, some 5.6% of the attacking force, an unsustainable casualty rate.

On their way to the target, Lancaster DV 232 and QR-K had severe engine problems, with the port outer engine failing and the pilot unable to maintain height. And then the port outer engine caught fire. Pilot Officer Peter Todd, the pilot, extinguished it and feathered the propeller. The decision was taken to carry on and not to bale out. The aircraft’s 4,000lb cookie and the rest of the bombload were all duly dropped on Mannheim from around 15,000ft:

The crew then turned for home, full of a strange mixture of trepidation and perhaps misplaced hope. All credit to the plane, though, as the aircraft flew on sedately with Todd at the controls. Eventually he crossed the North Sea, crossed the English coast and discovered that the crew still did not want to bale out, even though they were over English fields. They wanted to stick with the plane which had faithfully brought them so far. They finally reached RAF Syerston where Todd attempted a landing. It did not go too well as the three remaining engines all stalled and the bomber began to sheer over towards the left. Todd missed the airfield buildings but soon found himself skipping too low and too fast over a landscape of fields unfamiliar to him. To the south was the River Trent and eventually the aircraft somehow skidded to stop in the welcoming waters of the river:

The crew were all completely uninjured, floating gently on the river’s calm cold waters:

And just in case you were wondering, the Lancaster was removed by floating it downstream and then rescuing it from the foaming torrent on the southern bank where there was a large flat area just before the village of East Stoke.

This story also turns out to be a very good example of how paperwork often went wrong in WW2. “We had more important things to do than get the bloody paperwork right!” as one high ranking RAF officer once said.

I mentioned just recently that research nowadays, especially with the Internet, can reveal many, many details about the events of the Second World War. But sometimes, quite basic details are lost. One website therefore, the best one, I would say, gives the crew as

Pilot Officer PH Todd (pilot), Sergeant S Robson, (flight engineer), Flying Officer J Hodgkinson, (navigator), Sergeant VR Duvall, (bomb aimer), Sergeant W Housley, (wireless operator / air gunner), Flight Sergeant Patrick , Sergeant John Cartwright, (air gunner).

 

An RAF Forum says, though, that the original Todd crew, posted in to 61 Squadron from 1661 Conversion Unit on August 25th 1943, was:

Todd, Robson, Shergold, (navigator), Duvall, Housley, Debnam, (air gunner). Cartwright.

Sergeant Patrick came from 1654 Conversion Unit on August 25th 1943 and he replaced Debnam for their first operation on the 3/4th September 1943. This was a disastrous raid on Berlin with 316 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitoes. 22 Lancasters were lost, an unsustainable rate, just below 7.0%. At least 70 aircrew were killed:


In Berlin, destruction was caused to major water and electricity works and to one of the city’s largest breweries. A total of 422 people were killed, namely 225 civilians, 24 servicemen, 18 men and 2 women of the air-raid services, along with 123 foreign workers made up of 92 women and 31 men. Another 170 civilians were missing. Two delayed action bombs eventually went off and they killed a soldier and seven “criminals”….convicts who could earn remission of their sentence by volunteering for this work. Later in the war, of course, when they ran out of convicts, the Germans made extensive use of Jews for the manual transportation of apparently live bombs which had failed to explode.

The same crew which flew to Berlin was used to fly to Mannheim. They were the ones who returned ultimately to slither rather ignominiously into the River Trent. My belief is that they were:

Todd, Robson, Shergold, Duvall, Housley, Patrick, Cartwright

All of the crew were able, incidentally, to walk to the bank of the River Trent along the fuselage and then out through the front gun turret:

 

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham

Staff cricket : the Golden Years (4)

I know of only one photograph of the staff team in action. I don’t remember who the opponents were, but I believe the picture was taken by Allan Sparrow who was very keen on photography and who ran the School Photography Society which had its very own dark room in one of those tiny rooms off the very short corridor which leads to the Language Laboratory. Anyway, here is that photograph of a split second in time, forty years ago:

The batsman at this end, his name, alas, unknown, has been, literally, caught out, and the bowler, Clem Lee, makes his loud appeal, “Howzat !” to the Umpire. This is Me, dressed as Ché Guévara in a Surgeon’s outfit. On the left, Tony Slack, who, in one game he played, once hit the England fast bowler Freddie Truman to the boundary for four runs, adds his voice to the appeals. The only one not appealing is the batsman near me, who just turns around to await my decision. My raised index finger signifies “Out!”

Here’s the second photograph:

This photograph shows the staff team, I suspect, on the same summer’s evening as the previous one. In the back row, on the left, is three quarters of Chris Smith, the English  teacher who left the school as long ago as 1992:

Next to him is Richard Willan, the best Chairman the Staff Common Room ever had:

Then there is Phil Eastwood, who must be very pleased indeed to see Manchester City doing so well:

Then Bob Dickason, teacher of German and French, who I haven’t seen for a very long time. He left in 1983, to go and teach in France, I believe:

Then there’s Clem Lee, the Head of Games:

There’s Ray Moore with his hair much shorter than when he first arrived. He went to West Bridgford School, I have heard, and had unbelievable success running the girls’ football team.

Then the best man at our wedding, Bob Howard, a friend I miss a lot and who I wish I had seen much more of over the years:

Then Me. That umpire’s coat must be the only thing I have ever worn that’s been too big for me. It also gave me the magic power to balance things on my head with consummate ease:

On the left of the front row is Norman Thompson the Head of Economics who taught at least one future Chancellor of the Exchequer:

Next to him is Harry Latchman, the Groundsman and Cricket Coach. He was the only proper cricketer in the team, having played for both Middlesex and Nottinghamshire and in Minor Counties cricket, for Cambridgeshire. He was elected President of Middlesex County Cricket Club in 2015:

Then comes Tony Slack:

He has already appeared in a post about the First XI football team. In fact, a number of posts about the First XI football team. One. Two. Three.Tony taught Chemistry and then he took charge of the School’s computers. More impressive, he played for the reserves at Rotherham United, and in one game was personally threatened by Charlie Hurley, Sunderland’s Player of the Century:

The final player is the Team Captain, David Phillips, the Maths teacher, who used to run both the Second XV and the Second XI if my memory serves me right. He worked at the High School for 37 years where he was an important rôle model for vast numbers of junior boys:

I don’t know if the staff still have a cricket team. The summer 2017 would mark their 70th Anniversary if they still played any fixtures.

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