Tag Archives: Dr.Gow

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.

 

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part Four

In 1935, ten years after that poor little fox was shot by Mr Hallam the School Caterer, Mr.Boot the lovable School Caretaker, was promoted to the post of “School Marshal” or “Porter”. The advertisement to fill his job as a mere caretaker attracted 1,475 applicants, a measure, perhaps, of the depths of the economic recession into which the country had been allowed to sink. Mr.Boot was then succeeded by Mr.Hubbuck, whom Mr.Reynolds was to call the “Beau Idéal” of caretakers.

During the 1930s, there had been a Porter’s Lodge next to the Western Porch, with a parlour, kitchen, scullery, three bedrooms and some cellars. Eventually, the cellars of the Porter’s Lodge became the School boiler house, and the parlour became a storeroom, where generations of caretakers brewed their tea, until Mr.Boot drank the very last cup, shortly before demolition in 1939:

west end of school

During the Second World War, in 1940, what might have been a very serious fire in the new West Block of the School was only prevented by the vigilance of the ever watchful School Caretaker, Mr.Hubbuck. It started in the Quartermaster’s Room, which later became the Book Room, right up in the roof, and soon spread to the N.A.A.F.I., later to become the Prep Handicraft Room. Mr.Hubbuck saw soldiers rushing up the stairs carrying buckets of water, and promptly called the Fire Brigade. Only minor damage was caused by the flames, but, typically, much more was done by the water from the Forest Road fire hydrants used to put them out. For months afterwards, the roof of that corner of the building had to be covered by a tarpaulin while it was being repaired.

Not long after this episode, the school became a sorting depot for troops who had survived the Dunkirk evacuation, and the South Notts Hussars departed, taking a large amount of stolen school equipment with them:

South-Nottinghamshire-Hussars-Badge_grande

On one evening in Arboretum Street, Mr.Hubbock came across a group of local youths who were stealing ropes from the gymnasium of the Girls’ High School. He got the ropes back by pretending to be a plain clothes policeman, but was astonished to find that the Army had left the school without even locking it. This, sadly, was minor fare by the standards of the military. Many large country houses commandeered by the Army had been picked completely clean of all valuables by 1945 and in some cases, the damage done was so extensive that the houses  had to be demolished.

In one edition of the “Nottinghamian”, Anthony R. Broome (1944-1950) reminisced about how….

“During the Second World War, lunch was taken in the School Refectory. I am quite sure providing food for energetic and growing boys during and after the conflict must have been a nightmare for those responsible. The fare provided could be described as reasonably acceptable to fairly awful. On one occasion a friend looked at his meat, winced, looked at me and said,  “That reminds me …I have not seen Mr.Ings’ dog this week.”

Mr.Ings was the caretaker and his dog was a large Alsatian. Sadly the remark was overheard by Miss Fraser, the Matron, who was supervising the lunch. She went berserk. A master appeared in an instant and we were sent outside where the untimely arrival of the dreaded Mr.Reynolds the Headmaster added to our discomfort. That afternoon we arrived home later than usual…and hungry as well.”

Fortunately, in Easter Term 1949, sweet rationing came to an end, to the great relief of Bill Boot, the then Caretaker, who was operating the Tuck Shop at the time.

In another edition of the “Nottinghamian”, Staff Member, Bill Neville, an ex-Head of Biology, reminisced about how Bill Boot had occupied the corner room which contained D.H.Lawrence’s carved initials, in the same corridor as the Staff Room.

“Bill Boot had been for many years the School Caretaker, and later became the School Marshal. The Caretaker’s House occupied the space between the West Block and what is now the Founder Hall. Where the Caretaker’s Bungalow now stands was an open space on which stood a hut, where the CCF Signal Section was housed. When the CCF Radio Net was started in 1951 (?), a radio station, complete with aerial mast was installed, to the considerable annoyance of the then caretaker, Mr. Ings, who protested that transmissions interfered with reception on his newly installed television (9 inch, black and white screen) -he may well have been one of the earliest members of the school to have a TV set. Certainly there was no set in the school for several years to come”.

Here are those famous initials of D.H.Lawrence, Schoolboy Vandal:

P1470269 ZZZZZZZ

These photographs now show the luxurious Caretakers’ Room which was newly constructed in the early 1950s. They were taken by that very popular teacher from the past, the Reverend Charlie Stephens:

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In December 1949, F.Martin Hall and John G.Golds celebrated Bill Boot’s birthday with the following poem which appeared in “The Nottinghamian”. It was dedicated to the ever popular figure of the school caretaker and although I have already quoted it in another blogpost, I make no excuse for repeating it. …

To Bill Boot on his 70th birthday

You are old, Father William, the schoolboy said,
And your tooth is of marvellous length,
Yet your tap on the door makes the whole building rock,
Where on earth do you find all that strength ?

In my youth, said the Sage, when I fought for the Queen,
Frequent exercise, Generals demanded,
I chased Kruger each morning around Spion Kop,
Do you wonder my muscles expanded ?

You are old, Father William, the schoolboy said,
And your hair has long since turned quite grey,
Yet your voice like a clarion round the School rings,
How d’you manage such volume, I pray ?

In my youth, said the Sage, when I served with Lord “Bobs,”
His commands could not travel by wireless
So I bawled them (in code) right across the Transvaal,
And my throat, by this means, became tireless.

You are old, Father William, yet your eagle eye
Seems as bright as the stars high in heaven,
Pray, how does your eyesight thus function so well,
With no help from Aneurin Bevan ?

I have answered your questions, the wrathful Sage said,
And as sure as my name’s William B.,
If you pester me further, my patience will go,
So be off, or I’ll put you in D.

(With apologies to Lewis Carroll. In the last verse it was considered impolite to suggest that Mr. Boot would actually threaten to kick anyone downstairs.)”

William “Bill” Boot was to retire in December 1950 after twenty-eight years’ service. He was replaced by Mr.T.H.Briggs, who had previously worked as a policeman in the city. Bill Boot had fought in the Boer War, and was famed for his rapid, shuffling gait, and his extremely rapid speech, which, with his accent, was frequently almost unintelligible. His hobby was fishing, and he travelled widely at weekends. When he retired, he received a small pension, but, alas, did not live very long to enjoy it, as he was sadly killed while crossing the road on December 7th 1952. Another victim, perhaps, of the “Curse of the High School Caretaker”.

The caretaker’s house, which was only a yard or two away from the entrance to the Founder Hall, was demolished in April 1965. This photograph shows the land during one of its many transition points:

no caretakers' house

The present day bungalow was built for Mr and Mrs Oldham, the School Caretaker and his First Lady. At the end of August 1976 though, poor Eric Oldham collapsed and died one sunny Saturday evening, as he walked round the school, locking up all the gates. Another popular man, the “Nottinghamian” described him as “one of the school’s most devoted servants and a warm hearted friend”:

mr oldham

Two memorable characters then appeared on the scene as School Caretakers. The first was Tony Hatcher:

tony hatcher

The second was Ray Eastwood. Together they were two of the nicest men I ever had the privilege to meet during my 38 years at the High School. Ray Eastwood was to retire as School Caretaker after many years’ valuable service, on Thursday, January 31st 2008.  He was an unfailingly nice man who always did his very best to be helpful. He always carried what appeared to be the largest bunch of keys in the world:

ray cccccccc

Neither Ray Eastwood nor his colleague, Tony Hatcher, will ever be forgotten by those who had the privilege of knowing them.

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part Three

This is the third section of an eventual four, all of which tell the story of the remarkable characters who have worked as caretakers at the High School over the last 150 years.

In July 1950, Miss S.J.Webb, a teacher who was retiring after 23 years’ service in the Preparatory School for Boys from 7-11 years of age, had her “Memories of the Old Preparatory” published in the School Magazine:

“When I came in 1917, there were four Forms, 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D, and they occupied the four front rooms of houses No. 9 and No. 11, Miss Richmond was in charge and she and I lived in No.11. Mrs. Richardson was caretaker and as there was no dining hall, she provided dinner…for about twenty-two boys from the senior school. Her dinners soon became very popular, especially her puddings of which there always seemed an unfailing supply, and which were of a kind that usually finds favour with a hungry boy. The Prep. boys went home to dinner. This was possible as we had a very long dinner hour and in those days meat coupons had to be given up at each meal where meat was provided. Talking of caretakers, I can see old Holmes, caretaker of the big school, going down the steps and jangling a bunch of keys, calling out to the boys : “Doctor’s orders is . . .” (referring to Dr. Turpin, the Headmaster). His hobby was birds and his house seemed full of them:

m_budgie

He lived in the house now occupied by Mr.Ings on Waverley Mount, only it looked very different then. The Old Prep. was a very happy, busy, place and yet how leisurely compared with to-day! (1950)”

When Robert Holmes, the school’s eccentric and beloved caretaker, retired in the early 1920s, the following poem appeared in “The Nottinghamian”, in celebration of  an individual who was universally known as “Robert”. Almost totally deaf, and a great favourite of the boys, Robert was well-known for his poems, which he would pay to have printed, and then distribute himself around the school, to both boys and staff. In this way, for example, he celebrated the end of the Great War. Most unfortunately, few of his poems appear to have survived to the present day, although it may well be that the following effort, by “FROG”, is in the style of the great man. It starts by expressing the writer’s regrets at having eaten too many little cakes in Robert’s tuck shop:

TO ROBERT.

I.
Ah ! Robert, would that I could be
As free from pain as when
I had not yet gone on the “spree”
In thine enticing den!
When I did buy a penny cake.
And had a joyous chew,
I little thought that tummy ache
Would make me want to – – – – !
II.
And yet I curse my cruel fate
That I must parted be
From thee. O man of mighty weight
Who bid’st “good-day” to me
When up the steps of N.H.S.
At one past nine I race…..
Thou let’st me in, so heaven bless
Thy brightly beaming face,
III
In heat, in cold, in wet, in dry,
I hear thy morning bell
And sometimes if I’m lucky, I
Get in, and then all’s well:
But oft I’m late, and then, Ah Woe!
With fifty lines I’m vexed,
Or in detention have to go –
(Yes muse? Thank you for next.)

IV.
My muse forsakes me wherefore here
Mine eloquence I’ll stay;
Before I go away
May Allah ever champion thee,
And bless thy kind old heart —
Yes, Robert ? Doctor’s orders, eh?
All right, I will depart!

This cartoon of Robert appeared in “The Nottinghamian” in July 1922.  It was his job to ring the school bell:

ringing bell arly

In 1923, sadly, both Robert, the School Caretaker, and his wife passed on. Robert had always been a writer of very vivid letters, and, as we have seen, he wrote much poetry. This is how he celebrated the early days of the Cadet Corps…

“If you look through them gates
You’ll see Captain Yates
A-drilling of boys by the score.
So come on, my lads,
Get leave of your dads
And join the High School Corps.”

This seems to have been the only single one of Robert’s celebrated poems to have survived. It is extremely reminiscent of Pam Ayres, a very successful poet of the 1970s and 1980s.

During this period in the 1920s, many boys used the extensive rail network which criss-crossed the county at this time. Local stations included the Victoria Station, from which there was a long and tiring trudge up a never ending hill to the High School, firstly along Shakespeare Street and then up Waverley Street. Here is the long demolished station:

nottingham(c1903)victoria_old51

Quite often, the boys who were late would be able to hear the caretaker distantly tolling the school bell, and this event was later to be described by a great author,  D.H.Lawrence himself.  Another station which many boys used to use was on the far side of the Forest, at what is now the eastern end of Gregory Boulevard. Those boys could then make use of the many footpaths which came up the hill towards the school, around the back of the Church Cemetery. The “Train Boys” of course, were continually subject to the vagaries of the railway system, but, at the same time, they were famed for their ability to use this to explain away their extreme lateness, absence of homework etc. etc

cartoon of train boys

On the evening of Tuesday, June 16th 1925, a simply dreadful event occurred.  Mr.Hallam, the School Caterer, shot and killed a fox. the so-called “Mrs.Reynard”, and surely one of Nottingham’s first ever urban foxes. This cruel man provided a very sharp contrast with Robert Holmes, the Caretaker,who had loved all of God’s creatures.

The fox was a vixen who had been a particular favourite of the senior boys and who had introduced them to “unknown parts of the shrubbery”, in front of the school, where they had been able to take a keen interest in her activities. One prefect had even ruined his trousers by following her through the dense undergrowth:

Fox_009

One day, however, the fox went too far, and allegedly attacked the School Caretaker’s cat. The School Caretaker then asked Mr.Hallam, the School Caterer, for help, and the latter turned up one evening “in the playground armed to the teeth with a gun and two tame rabbits.” The staff and their wives, playing on the tennis courts, were then rather amazed to see Mr.Hallam leave the two tame rabbits on the lawn and await developments. Sure enough, the fox soon arrived, attempted to eat the rabbits, and was promptly shot dead.

The “Shrubbery” was a dense jungle of vegetation at the front of the school at this time. Nowadays, it has been opened up and gentrified somewhat, as the Lower Lawns. The jungle certainly appears thick enough to allow naughty boys, or naughty young men, to smoke a cigarette or two in there at break. This old postcard shows just how dense the foliage was:

front schoollll

This article will be concluded in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part Two

This is the second section of an eventual four, all of which will tell the story of the remarkable characters who have worked as caretakers at the High School over the last 150 years.

When “Knolley” Knowles retired from his post as School Porter in 1898, his place was taken by Mr Robert Holmes, the brother of the Army Drill Serjeant, George Holmes. The latter, after long years of faithful service, was allowed to move into “Knolley’s” old house on Clarendon Street, but only on condition that he found accommodation for his brother, Robert Holmes, the new caretaker. He, therefore, moved Robert into the rooms which he himself had just occupied, but had been forced to vacate because of the terrible fumes from the heating system.

The recently retired “Knolley”, unfortunately, did not live very long to enjoy his hard earned retirement presents, a “handsome easy chair, and a case of silver spoons”. He died on Sunday, March 25th 1900 at his home at 36, Hartley Road. He was seventy-two years of age, and his real name, unknown to nearly everybody at the High School, was William Knowles Keach. The funeral took place at the Church Cemetery on Mansfield Road on Thursday, April 27th and was attended by Dr Gow, the Headmaster, and a number of senior teachers including Mr Corner, Mr W.E.Ryles, Mr Liddell and many of the senior boys of the school. There were many handsome wreathes and crosses in evidence:

cemetry

Mrs Rebecca Keach was to outlive her husband by several years. She eventually passed away in June 1911, at the family home in Hartley Road.

During the last few years of the nineteenth century Dr Gow would coach his Classical Sixth Form class to Oxbridge Scholarship standard, usually teaching them for four periods a day, keeping just one period free mid-morning for seeing parents:

dr gow

There was no telephone in those days. Visitors’ cards and telegrams were brought to Dr Gow during class teaching time by Robert Holmes, the caretaker. One telegram particularly amused both the great man and his class. “Dear Headmaster, Please tell the boys that Bovril says Mafeking is relieved”…a slick piece of advertising.

Just after the Great War, a short novel entitled “The Three Merles” appeared in the bookshops of the nation:

lozengeIt portrayed the High School at the turn of the century and had been written by a former pupil of the school, Richard St.Clair Page. Set in an imaginary school, just like the real one, the plot had a Mr.Lupton, and a Serjeant Holmes as its School Porter.….The book’s sergeant was new to the job, having  just been promoted from being caretaker in a warehouse in the town. Hence he was always very polite when he brought a message:

“Dr.Govan wishes to see Master Grier at the break”

When the newness began to wear off, “Master” before a small boy’s name would soon just disappear. The Doctor had called him “The Porter”, when he introduced him to the school after prayers the week before.

“Boys, I wish you to know Serjeant Holmes, the new porter of the school.” And the sergeant, with his medals shining very brightly, had saluted the whole school.

As a body the school resented him. He belonged to the new order of things, and the school thought it preferred the old times to the many new things which were being introduced.”

Now though, let’s meet the real High School’s real George Holmes, who was the school’s Drill Serjeant. He was responsible for:

“…the usual manual exercise and marching drill, bayonet exercise, sword drill for infantry and cavalry and Indian club exercise.”

In this photograph of the staff, taken possibly in 1885, he is sitting on the grass:

staff 17890

Every time I see that photograph, I can imagine the Rolling Stones using it as an album cover. Perhaps that’s what the unfortunate fold is. Damage caused by Mick Jagger.

In 1901, the school magazine, “The Forester”, decided once again to look back into the past. It published “A Memory” of old Mr Knowles, the long serving school caretaker, who had retired just three years previously, and who had recently died. “Knolley” had obviously been so well loved in the school that everybody wanted to remember him. They just could not let him disappear for ever. He had:

“a wonderful sense of humour and a stock of jokes. With what gusto he rang that bell so that you stopped up your ears at the deafeningness of it. When raking out the fires, with what quiet satisfaction he gave the finishing touch, a smart single rap of the poker on the bar ! Never did he cause irritation, he was universally liked.”

“What Old Boy cannot remember the occasions when, by forgetting his books, he has obtained the privilege of making an awesome journey, with Knowles as guide, through the mysterious Coal Hole?

Who cannot recall the many times when the front door has been held open by Knolley’s friendly hands while a frantic headlong rush up the front steps has just saved a punishment for lateness? Who after the heat of the game hasn’t refreshed himself with a glass of cold water or excellent herb beer at Knowles’ Lodge?”

Equally respected was his wife, Mrs Knowles, who:

“was as kind as a mother to small boys…if we had scratched a finger, fallen in the mud, bumped a forehead, or met with any other of a boy’s accidents.”

In December 1915, Robert Knowles, “Knolley”s brother, who had been appointed as caretaker in 1898, set up the Nottingham High School Pets’ Club which took place every Wednesday. He spoke to potential members for forty minutes at an inaugural meeting, and kept them enthralled by his enthusiasm for the subject, offering advice on the care of pets and how to purchase them:

caret

Old Boy, Roy Henderson, was later to speak about the school just before the Great War….

“Nobody was ever allowed inside the school during breaks, but it never seemed to rain! In any case, all the boys were always very keen to get out of the building. There were few amenities for the boys, including just six to eight cracked stone washbasins. There was a tuck shop, near the south eastern corner of the present day West Quadrangle. It was run by Robert, the School Caretaker. The small shop on Forest Road which boys at the end of the twentieth century called “Dicko’s” was at this time called “Baldry’s”, and it was a sweet shop. A female member of staff, a Mrs Digblair, lived in the rooms above it. She was one of the school’s first ever mistresses, and members of the Sixth Form loved to go and have tea with her.”

This superbly detailed view of the school was taken from an overflying biplane in 1921. Waverley Mount, bottom left, used to be called Clarendon Street, and the first house on the left as you walked away from the High School was the “Caretaker’s Cottage”. In the garden, just to the right, the white areas are, in actual fact, lines of washing which has been put out to dry. Presumably, this means that the photo was taken on a Monday morning. Notice the figures on the tennis court. They are surely waving to this mechanical marvel as  it passes overhead:

aerial

This article will be continued in the near future.

 

 

 

 

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Caretakers? The people who take care of us : Part One

This is the first section of an eventual four, all of which will tell the story of the remarkable characters who have worked as caretakers at the High School over the last 150 years.

When I first became a teacher, my Dad, who had spent most of his life doing exactly that same job, gave me some valuable advice. He asked me “Who is the most important person in any school?”

I gave him a list of likely candidates, but he dismissed them all as incorrect by some margin. The correct answer of course, was “The caretaker.” If there is no Head Teacher, it’s no problem, and lessons will go on. A teacher is missing, off sick? Somebody else will cover the lessons, no problem. No caretaker and the toilets are blocked? No school, we all have to go home!”

caret

I have found it more or less impossible, though, to create a complete list of High School caretakers over the last 150 or so years, because such men are quite simply not considered to be important enough to be remembered, unlike Headmasters, the names of which are all displayed on the wall behind the Reception Desk.

That is not to say, however, that the High School does not value its caretakers very highly. In school magazines such as “The Nottinghamian” and before that, “The Forester”, there are many affectionate reminiscences either by or about the school’s caretakers. And in these reminiscences, it soon becomes abundantly clear that the High School’s caretakers have always been very popular, well loved figures, especially with the boys.

William Knowles Keach was one of the very first caretakers, towards the end of the nineteenth century. His daughter provided some trips down Memory Lane from the period 1880-1883…

“My father, Mr.Keach, was the first caretaker of the School when it was moved to its present site in 1868 ; he remained until about 1890 : for some unknown reason, he was always known as Knowles, or by the affectionate nickname “Knolley”. He was initially employed by Lawyer Patchett , a leading Nottingham figure. My father was an expert at his work for which he received 13s. 0d. a week, but lost his pay during “wet time.”, that is to say, periods when rain forced him to wait inside for the weather to improve. Mr.Patchett suggested to my father that he should try for the job at the new school which was being built. Naturally, my mother was consulted, and she thought it “a good thing, Bill” since the wage was to be 18s. 0d. a week, plus house, coal and gas, with no loss of money in wet weather. Children, however, were frowned upon, but my father gave an assurance that there would be no trouble, and his application was successful. The caretaker’s house was at that time a part of the school building and consisted of a kitchen and parlour on the ground floor, a cellar and three bedrooms upstairs – one over the side door, another over the bay window, and the third over Mr Liddell’s classroom (later 4A room). I was born in this house in 1870, and lived there with my father and mother, three brothers and three sisters. The family did all the caretaking and cleaning in the school. My father was also responsible for the upkeep of the grounds and garden:

front schoollll

He did all the lawn mowing, and supervised the removal of the sandstone when the yard and gardens of to-day were excavated – no small task. In winter we helped him to clear snow from the paths. For general repairs a Mr. Rushworth was called in. He was known as “quarter-to-three” feet, on account of the way he walked!

In those days the school yard was all open country, with grass and gorse bushes. There was no wall on Forest Road, a street where windmills still stood or had perhaps only recently disappeared. There were no railings on Arboretum Street, just a rough fence. The grounds immediately around the buildings consisted of sandstone outcrops, loose sand and plantations of trees and shrubs, some of which were on the site of the present caretaker’s house and the present Music Room, though at a higher level. Here is some of that loose sand, still there in the 1930s:

one west

The Headmaster, Dr, Dixon, lived in the end house of Waverley Mount (then called Clarendon Road). This house later became part of the “Preparatory School.”, and was demolished to build the present building. The other part of the large house was occupied by Mr. Taylor, the veterinarian. Many years later the great “Drawing Room” with its barrel roof was built on top of the north wing, and our house had to be partly demolished to make way for it. The present caretaker’s house was then built. Mr.Tait was responsible for the erection, under Mr.Patchett’s direction, and Mr.Jelly was the joiner for the Drawing Room. There was a bit of jealousy between them about the cost.”

In 1880 a new and rather grand sounding Porter’s Lodge was completed to the south east of what is now called Waverley Mount. Previously, Mr.Keach, aka Mr.Knowles,  had lived with his family in a room at the southern end of the class-room corridor (near present day W2). As mentioned above, his wife had given birth to at least one baby in this rather cramped accommodation. Young Miss Keach appears to be the only baby ever born in the High School, unless, of course, somebody knows better….

Mr.Knowles, as School Caretaker, had the duty of locking up all the gates on Forest Road at 2.15p.m.  His greatest delight was to lock up just before the appointed time, and then beam at the small batch of boys who came running up from the Forest, where they had stayed to see the first horse race, which was generally timed to start at 2 o’clock. This meant their running round Waverley Street to another school entrance and a bad mark if they were late! Here is the Forest in the 1880s, looking down towards the horse racing course:

forest

Mr.Knowles was also remembered for the occasions when he would come to put extra coal on the huge coal fires which were used to heat every classroom. If the Master’s desk was sited in the correct position, “Knolley” was able to go up behind the Master with his dirty, blackened, coal encrusted hands and pretend to move forward and seize the Master’s often bald head, as if to leave black sooty handprints on it. This caused enormous merriment among the watching schoolboys.

This marvellous photograph shows the school at the end of the nineteenth century. Notice the many chimneys all contained in large chimney stacks, and all obviously requiring frequent injections of fresh coal. Notice also the three boys lounging at the corner of the building. Their companion is sitting on the edge of the tennis court:

west end of school

On Wednesday, December 21st 1898 the High School broke up for Christmas, and Mr.Knowles, now the School Porter, retired after thirty three years of service. The school prefects had organised a collection, and the boys of the school contributed over £33. This enormous sum of money was used to purchase a “handsome easy chair, and a case of silver spoons”. The balance, a total of twenty five sovereigns, was presented to Mr.and Mrs.Knowles by W.A.Blackwall and the other prefects, together with a beautifully illuminated address.

This article will be continued in the near future.

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“Go straight to Hell ! Do not pass Go ! ” Part Two

In the first part of this article, I demonstrated how Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes, was, at best, a fairly unscrupulous businessman. I ended by relating how, in 1507, Richard had received a pardon for having committed offenses against the statutes of weights and measures. This charge related to problems with the purity of his bells. The metal, apparently, was just not as valuable as he said it was. Richard’s pardon would have been granted because of his previous position as Mayor of Nottingham. A less prestigious person would have been in very, very, serious trouble:

Church-bells-001

Dame Agnes, of course, may well have known absolutely nothing whatsoever about any of this rather serious matter. Like many, many husbands over the centuries, Richard may have decided, quite simply, to tell her nothing at all about it. And if she did know about her husband’s cheating and double dealing, then, like many, many wives over the centuries, she may perhaps have turned a blind eye to it, hoping that one day her errant husband would rejoin the forces of light.

He didn’t though. At least not for long, because on or about Sunday, June 16th 1507, Richard Mellers died, with the ink on the pardon if not still wet, then certainly recognisably damp. I think Dame Agnes would have seen his sudden demise as a direct consequence of his previous wrongdoing. She must have thought that her husband’s death so soon after receiving a pardon was the true verdict from on high.

In more modern, medical, terms, Richard may well just have hastened a natural death by continually feeling guilty or by worrying too much about the outcome of the affair. He may, quite simply, have been a victim of early sixteenth century stress. Irrespective of the clinical truth, though, for a devout woman in Tudor times, these events must have seemed like a clear judgement from Heaven.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, it would have been completely impossible for a sincere and devout Roman Catholic to be in any conceivable way ignorant of the rôle played by Hell in the scheme of things. How can Dame Agnes have possibly thought back about her husband’s life, misdemeanours and sudden death, and not have seen him as the proud possessor of a “Go straight to Hell, Do not pass Go, Do not collect a ticket to Heaven” card?

That must have been a very, very real fear in her mind.

Here’s how the Rock Combo “AC/DC” saw the situation, firstly on an album cover:

hqdefault

And then on stage:

More or less straightway after his death, therefore, Dame Agnes, the grieving widow, became a “vowess”. She resolved never to remarry, and instead to devote herself to the service of the church.

A “vowess” is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as:

“a woman who has vowed chastity or devotion to a religious life; a nun”.

Other dictionaries tell pretty much the same tale. One other interesting detail about vowesses is given in “The Customs of Old England” by F. J. Snell. Writing about how a vowess would view her obligations, he states that:

“Whatever fasts a vowess might neglect as non-obligatory, it seems probable that she would not willingly forgo any opportunity of showing reverence to the Blessed Virgin.”

More of this later.

Immediately after her husband’s death, Dame Agnes tried to repay many of his victims. She literally gave them back the exact sums of money which she was worried they had lost to her husband.

She then decided to spend the rest of Richard’s money on charitable causes. Most important of all, she decided to found a school. Or alternatively, she decided to fund a school which was already in existence and was clearly in need of financial assistance. She must have known that this one simple act would benefit the citizens of Nottingham in the long term, and make up for the occasions when, for short term gain, her late husband had cheated them. Here is the grateful city in 1610. St Mary’s church is marked with the letter “A”. Keep looking. It is there:

speed-map

Before the official first day of her school, February 2nd 1513, there had already been eleven apparent references to a “Nottingham Grammar School” between 1289 and 1513. At this point in time, of course, it is impossible to tell what connection, if any, there is, with Dame Agnes’ school. Indeed, we do not even know if the eleven schools mentioned before 1513 have a continuous history, or whether they were all short lived affairs.

Having said that, though, Dame Agnes may well have decided to develop an ancient original grammar school into her own school. This original establishment may have depended solely on fees paid by the pupils. Dame Agnes perhaps thought it would be a good idea to establish a foundation, which would then ensure a much better financial future for the school. Equally, she may well have wished to take personal dcontrol of an older school, and then, as a loyal Catholic, to bring it under the control of St Mary’s Church.

Whatever the details of founding, funding, refounding or whatever, from Dame Agnes’ point of view, the most important thing was that the school  should remain closely linked to St Mary’s Church. This, of course, carries out the words of F. J. Snell. Her efforts with this school clearly showed that Dame Agnes would “not willingly forgo any opportunity of showing reverence to the Blessed Virgin”. Here is St Mary’s Church nowadays:

ch 4

All this sounds like heresy now, of course, after a whole series of celebrations have commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the school, and books have been published, but these ideas are not actually mine own. In “The Nottinghamian” for 1924, for example, there was a clear connection stated in the school magazine between the older schools from before 1513 and the then Nottingham High School. Dr James Gow, the school’s greatest Headmaster, had died this particular year:

dr gow

In his obituary, it was said that:

“he was appointed Headmaster of the Nottingham High School, an ancient Grammar School, already existing in the thirteenth century, and refounded and endowed by Dame Agnes Mellers, under a Charter of King Henry VIII, in 1513.”

These words are anonymous, but were most probably written by Mr “Sammy” Corner who had been the school’s Deputy Headmaster until his retirement in 1914. Mr Corner had spent much of his spare time researching school history and had become a great expert. Much of this knowledge was to appear in the school magazine which he edited for many years, and which at one point had contained a serialised history of the school. After his retirement, the plan was that Mr Corner would finish writing his history of the High School.

Alas, this popular member of staff was destined never to write his book, as the Great War broke out only a month after he was due to start work, and, despite his advanced age, Mr Corner went off to do his bit for the war effort. At the end of the conflict, Mr Corner moved from Nottingham to Croydon, but his life’s work was to remain forever uncompleted, a source of great regret, as he later told Mr Reynolds, the Headmaster, in a letter. This is the great Sammy Corner in 1913, showing off the school’s charter in the 400th anniversary celebrations in 1913:

sammy corner s

On the afternoon of Monday, November 13th, 1933, similar ideas about the school’s history to those in Dr Gow’s obituary were being expressed by the Duke of Portland, when he performed the formal opening ceremony for two new High School buildings, the Gymnasium and the newly converted Library.

This very same interpretation was obviously still current around this time, when Mr.C.L.Reynolds, the Headmaster, wrote his own brief history of “The Buildings of Nottingham High School”. He described the events of 1513 as “…the re-foundation or endowment of the School by Dame Agnes Mellers.” Here is Mr Reynolds, seen with the prefects, in an unknown year, probably in the 1930s:

reynolds

Furthermore, a document more contemporary to Dame Agnes’ time said that what Dame Agnes was doing was to “…unite, create and establishe a Free Scole” as if there were some definite connection between her school and the Nottingham schools of previous centuries. Similarly, she is referred to in a number of other early documents not as a “foundress” but as a “fundress”, as if she were building and strengthening what was already there.

If this is the case, then it would give the High School a history of some seven hundred years, making it one of the oldest schools in the country. But not the oldest.

How that fear of the “Go straight to Hell, Do not pass Go, Do not collect a ticket to Heaven” card must have haunted Dame Agnes. As well as her wonderful achievements with the school, she also laid down that a service of commemoration for her deceased husband should be held every year on June 16th. This latter date is thought to have been chosen because it was the Feast Day of St Richard of Gloucester. Interestingly enough, St Richard’s shrine in Chichester Cathedral, at this time, was a magnificently decorated and popular destination for the Tudor Pilgrim. Perhaps Dame Agnes had been there herself as a dedicated vowess:

Chichester_Cathedral_epodkopaev

The ceremony which Dame Agnes had requested was, of course, a solemn Roman Catholic mass for the soul of her dear departed husband. It is thought that this mass was probably celebrated for about thirty five years, until such services were abolished by order of the then king, Edward VI. This same type of mass may then possibly have been revived under the Catholic Queen Mary, but it certainly would have disappeared for ever when the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558.

Even in the 1660s though, some hundred and fifty years after Dame Agnes, the students still went every Friday during the period of Lent, with their teachers, to visit St.Mary’s church, and kneel in front of the tombs of Richard and Agnes Mellers, and say prayers for their souls, and the souls of all their relatives. And even nowadays, every year on Founder’s Day, the congregation still says prayers for the souls of Dame Agnes, and more importantly perhaps, her husband, Richard. This is Founder’s Day in 1957, a beautiful backlit day:

founders dfay

This is the Cheese and Ale Ceremony in the same year:

cheese and ale 1933

They’re going to get very drunk very quickly if they fill those tankards too frequently. Here is the traditional Cricket Match on that sunlit afternoon in 1957:

cricket 1957

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“Go straight to Hell ! Do not pass Go ! ” Part One

Having explored the history of the High School for more than twenty five years, I have always thought that the school’s beginnings are shrouded in mystery. For me, the High School has always been very like the Soviet Union:

“a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”

What do we know about the founder of the school, Dame Agnes Mellers, for example? What was she like as a person? There are a very few illustrations which are thought to be her. This is the school’s charter:

charter

And here is a close-up of Dame Agnes and King Henry VIII:

charter001

This is the charter changed into a line drawing:

agnes

For me, there have always seemed to have been two enormously important motivating forces in her character. The first was her staunch religious faith as a Roman Catholic with a sincere love of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Dame Agnes seems in many ways to have been an uncomplicated soul, who viewed the world in a simple direct way. She tried to be a good person, with the sincere belief that we should all try to make things better rather than worse, that we should do good things rather than evil and that we should always strive to be on the side of the Angels.

The second motivation for her was the love she had for her husband, Richard, which seems as sincere and unswerving as her love for the Church. Richard was, as his name suggests, a rich man. He was at one time or another, Sheriff of Nottingham (1472-1473), Chamberlain (1484-1485) and Royal Commissioner and Mayor of Nottingham (1499-1500 and again in 1506). In 1499, he is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair the Hethbeth Bridge, as Trent Bridge’s predecessor was called. Here is one of the last photographs ever taken of the old bridge before it was superseded by the present Trent Bridge. You can certainly see why it was easier for the river to freeze up in those days:

old-trent-bridge-1871xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

This is all that remains of the Hethbeth Bridge nowadays:

771942beth heth xxxxxxxxxxx

It is in the middle of a road island to the south of Trent Bridge. If you decide to take a look at it, be very careful of the traffic and use the proper crossings. Look for the (camouflaged) orange arrow in the centre of the (red) road junction:

trent

Richard Mellers was a brazier, and probably a potter, and he had certainly dealt in metal pots and dishes. Most important of all, he owned the largest church bell-foundry in the region. The site of his premises has long disappeared, but its exact location is still known today.

From 1888 onwards, just a very few yards north of the city centre, steps began to clear away:

“a curious V-shaped slice of slum property…a most unhygienic and immoral neighbourhood and nothing good could be said for it”.

This slum clearance took a number of years, and resulted in the formation of King Street and Queen Street, the latter being opened on June 22nd, 1892.

During this time, it was inevitable that, along with all the slums and all the undesirable features, a few other more reputable premises were destined to disappear. Among these was Richard Mellers’ Bell Foundry, which is known to have stood more or less exactly on the site of the present day Queen Street Post Office. The orange arrow points to the general area, and the letters PO stand for the purple edged Post Office:

king street

Perhaps it was working so close to such an “immoral neighbourhood” that deflected Richard away from the straight and narrow. He had, for example, already paid out £20 to be the Mayor of  Nottingham for twelve months. There wasn’t really much of the democratic process involved here, or indeed, much evidence of any genuine interest in the workings of democracy. That payment of £20, a rather sizeable sum of money by modern standards, may well have been the reason that, in the very same year, Richard had been so keen to do a good deed by paying  for the upkeep of the ever ailing Hethbeth Bridge.

Richard was certainly widely known as a fairly unscrupulous businessman. During his lifetime, in his efforts to acquire great personal wealth, he certainly seems to have cheated many of his bell buying customers. In 1507, for example, we know that Richard had received a pardon for having committed offenses against the statutes of weights and measures. This charge is believed to have related to problems with the purity of his bells and the metal they contained. The pardon would only have been granted because of his previous position as Mayor of Nottingham. A less prestigious person would have been in very, very, serious trouble. These bells, though, are all 100% the real peal:

100911_Lowell_bells_147.jpg

To be continued……………………….

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School Sports Day, 2.30 pm, Wednesday, April 5th 1930

On Wednesday, April 22nd 2015 at 1.00pm, yet another High School Sports Day will begin. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to purchase, in an online auction, the aging programme which was sold (not given away, as they are now) to spectators who turned up at the School Ground in Mapperley at 2.30 pm on Wednesday, April 5th 1930. The programme was priced at 3d, which is around 2p in decimal money. We have already seen the long walk along Mansfield Road to the sports ground. Look for the orange arrow. The High School is in the bottom left corner of the map, near the meeting point of Mount Hooton Road and Forest Road East. The school is the incomplete beige rectangle which is outlined in black:

Untitled 2

I found it extremely difficult to scan this aging document. I have therefore divided it into a long series of smaller scans where, hopefully, all of the print will be large enough to be legible. An unknown parent has gone through each event and added the order of the finishers, and, in some cases, the performance they achieved. I taught at the High School for almost forty years, and how familiar are some of the boys’ names! I suspect that they may have been the grandfathers, or even great grandfathers of some of my own erstwhile pupils.
Here is the top of the front cover. The school badge is the same as nowadays, and so is the Latin motto. What I do not understand, though, is the presence of two swastikas. And they are proper swastikas, right-facing ones and not Hindu good luck symbols or badges taken from the horse bridles of the Lakota Sioux. And I don’t know why they are there. Perhaps the event had a secret sponsor:

cover top half

This is the bottom of the front cover. Three pence from so many different spectators must have been a nice little earner:

cover bottom  half
Here is the second page, with the  names of the two track judges. Nowadays there are twelve of them. but in 1930 things were a lot more sedate. The Brewills were a family with at least two famous athletes (G.F. and G.W.) who, in the latter years of the Victorian era, had both achieved a number of triumphs at national level in both sprinting and hurdling . A.S.Brewill had been the commander of the 7th Sherwood Foresters throughout most of the Great War. Almost thirty years previously, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 25th 1903, our current track judge, E.Brewill, had participated in the School Sports held at the same venue. Along with G.F.Brewill, he had been a member of “The Past” (Old Boys) tug of war team against “The Present” (Masters and Boys). The latter were a team of  three boys, namely R.Marrs, W.Oldershaw and H.A.Watson, and three masters, Messrs Hughes, Jones and Yates. The Old Boys soon pulled the School over the line, but were found to have included a seventh member of the team, J.Johnstone. (Cheats!!!) The result was overturned, and the School soon won a fair contest by 3-0. (Hurrah!)
Tinsley Lindley was a very famous figure in High School history and in the history of Nottingham itself. He will perhaps warrant his own blog post one day:

intro page 1

I have been unable to find any background information about J.H.Scothern, although there was a “Scothern” who played amateur football internationals for England before the Great War. As a frequent team mate of the High School’s Olympic Gold Medal winner, Frederick Chapman, both for Oxford City and for England, he would certainly have known him, and probably Tinsley Lindley as well. This bottom half of the page, with its list of House Colours, attests the presence of boys from both the Main School (the four on the left) and the Preparatory School (the four on the right):

intro 2

Here are the first two events, with winners and times, the latter expressed as fractions (much more of a challenge than those silly decimals):

1 & 2

H.W.Bellamy was a misprint. It should be H.W.Ballamy. Even here, more than ten years later, the Great War’s foul tentacles stretch out. Harold Ballamy came from a poor family. His father was a commercial traveller. Harold won many school prizes such as Silver Medals for Mathematics and Science, and Dr Gow’s Prize for Geometry. He was Captain of Football, Secretary of First Team Cricket, the School Librarian, the Colour Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps and the Captain of the School.
At Cambridge University, he won the Bishop Open Exhibition for Natural Science. He obtained a First Class Degree in Mathematics. He then changed to Natural Sciences, where he was placed first in the whole University of Cambridge. What more ideal choice, what better qualified man, to put in charge of a pile of mud near the village of Passchendaele ? And then he was killed:

ballamy 1234

And now, Events 3, 4 and 5. I have taught a Wildgust and a Weinberg:

3, 4 & 5
And I have taught a Sharman and a Lawrence. I wonder who the latter was related to. And why don’t they have “Throwing the Cricket Ball” any more? Health and Safety, I wouldn’t wonder:

6, 7, 8,

Notice that the High Jump was an Open Event with no age restrictions. I think the pencil mark means that the winners both achieved equal heights:

9 and 10

And here are the next events, except that another foul tentacle reaches out and grabs another victim. Captain Frederick Cuthbert Tonkin lived at 13 George Road, West Bridgford. He represented the High School at football, cricket and athletics. He interrupted his Dentistry studies at Guy’s Hospital to enlist and was killed on November 4th 1918, only seven days before the end of the war. He was just 24 years old:

medium

There were two long jumps, sensibly based on height, rather than age:

11 and 12

Why don’t they bring back the Sack Race? H.C.Wesson, by the way, had been Captain of the School in 1928:

13, 14 & 15
I just don’t know how the Tutor Set relay races worked:

16-18

Another Open Event, with no age restrictions:

19

An obstacle race. Much more fun than boring old athletics!

20  21

And another Sack Race. You can’t have enough of them, I say. Have you noticed how the parent has gradually began to lose interest. Fewer pencil marks. Fewer performance times.

22-24

Two more tug of wars. Or should that be tugs of war? Or just tugs? Sounds like fun for everybody, though. W.H.B.Cotton was a hero, a genuine hero, as well as a record holding athlete. Spending his holidays in Glamorgan in Wales in 1928, he had managed to rescue two sailors from a ship which was sinking, just offshore from Porthcawl:

25-27

The back of the programme is a grid where all the keen and interested parents can keep the inter-house score, event by thrilling event:

scan seven

And that’s it! The Annual Athletic Sports were over for another year. And, indeed, the days of holding them at Mapperley were over for ever. The Valley Road Playing Fields had been purchased for £5.600 in 1929. The ground had been levelled, the marsh had been drained and they were ready for athletic action by Thursday, April 30th and Saturday, May 2nd 1931. But that, as they say, is another story.

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Sports Day in the Victorian era

Nowadays, School Sports are held in April and can be, just occasionally, on the rainy or even the chilly side. The first School Sports I have been able to find any information about took place over two days, well over a hundred years ago…and not in April.

Instead, they were on Wednesday and Thursday, September 28th and 29th 1870, at Trent Bridge. (not for the first time, apparently). Events included the popular “High Leap with a Pole”, won by Woodhouse with a jump of 7ft 6ins, “a good jump for a man”. A total of 36 boys entered the stone gathering race, and the sack race was won by Darby, who had the bright idea of inserting a toe tightly into each corner of the sack, and then “shuffled along capitally”.
On the second day there was a “Stranger’s Race” with people not directly connected with the school allowed to compete. There was general reluctance to enter this race, because of the presence of Mr Sam Weller Widdowson, the famous captain of the Nottingham Forest Foot-ball Club:

weller

Named after the character in Dickens,  Widdowson was the inventor of the shin-pad:

shinguards

A number of gentlemen finally took part in this race, running in top hats and overcoats. As expected, Mr Widdowson was in first place, with Mr Frederick Rothera second. There was a “blind donkey race” with large boys blindfolded, and small boys riding piggyback, giving them directions. It was won by “Purchase and Brown”.

The next School Sports I can trace were on Monday, April 8th 1878, at Trent Bridge, in front of a “numerous gathering”, entertained by the playing of the Sax Tuba Band. Events included throwing the cricket ball, a 220 yard football dribbling race, a 100 yard three-legged race, a 100 yard sack race, a one mile bicycle race, and an Old Boys’ race.

One of the highlights was the 220 yards running race when the course had been marked out wrongly. One of the eleven runners, Sulley, took the wrong turning, and “effectually disposed of his chance”. The other runners also went wrong, but because they were trailing so far behind Sulley, they were able to run back, and get onto the correct route. Unfortunately, Small was knocked over in the confusion, and eliminated from the race, which was eventually won by G.F.Chalcraft. His prize was a handsome desk, donated by the teaching staff.
In the final of the sack race, F.Bailey finished second behind “the younger Walker”, having decided not to jump inside his sack, but instead, to lie down and roll along the ground.
Most interesting, though, was the “Bumping Match”, the exact rules of which, unfortunately, have not survived. It was surely one of two scenarios. Either a huge circle was marked out by a rope, and the last boy left in it was the winner, or it was some kind of sumo type pushing contest, where boy after boy fought in round after round, until only one remained as the victor:

“The contest caused great merriment among the spectators, who greeted the overturned combatants with roars of laughter. Finally two, varying greatly in size were left in, and after a prolonged struggle, W.A.Walker, who showed great quickness and dexterity in avoiding the attacks of his tall opponent, R.E.Fletcher, succeeded in knocking the latter over the line, amidst loud applause.”

The following year, on Tuesday, April 29th 1879, again at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, “a numerous and fashionable assemblage” was entertained by the Sax Tuba Band, under the conductorship of Mr J.Hindley. There were 22 events, including throwing the cricket ball and a 100 yards race with a Gladstone bag as first prize, presented by Sir James Oldknow. This is Trent Bridge  at the time, during a Test Match:

trent-bridge-cricket-ground

There was a half mile handicap race where the prize was a silver watch, presented by Captain W.E.Dennison  M.P., and the M.P., Saul Isaac.  J.E.Woolley led for nearly six hundred yards, but Barlow overcame his ten yard handicap about 120 yards from the finish, and went on to win. Woolley eventually finished third, and C.Cullen was second. The prize in the long jump was a luncheon basket, presented by the Borough Members. There was a three-legged race and a 400 yards race with only two competitors, G.B.Chalcraft beating E.H.Wells by ten yards. In actual fact, there should have been three runners for the race to start at all, but it was “run through an error on the part of the starter.” The one mile handicap bicycle race was won by A.V.Paton, and F.Bailey won the sack race. This event “…as usual, afforded great amusement.” C.Cullen won the 220 yards football race. His first prize was a cabinet Shakespeare, presented by the Dame Agnes Mellers Club. E.Thornley was doing very well until he kicked the ball out of his lane, and Cullen then went on to win.

H.R.Bramwell won the 100 yards hurdles, which was over six flights of hurdles. His prize was a writing desk, presented by Messrs J & J. Vice. In the 220 yards, C.Daft won a pair of binoculars presented by the Assistant Masters. “The most exciting race”, was the Old Boys’ race over 220 yards  won by F.F.Cleaver in 24 seconds.  At the end of the day came the “…usual bumping match and two consolation races”, won by Thornley and Butler.
Mr Charles Daft was the starter throughout, and Herr Altdorfer and Mr W.H.Bailey were the judges. The prizes were presented by Miss Lindley, and the President seconded a vote of thanks to her for her kindness. She was given a small bouquet of flowers, and three cheers by the school. Her father offered thanks for this kind gesture, and then called for three cheers for the President. With this, the day came to a happy close.
One interesting detail about the competitors in these sports is that there was a small fee payable to enter any of the events. At least one Old Boy in later life was to state that this cash payment did much to limit the number of competitors.

School Sports then seem to have died a death until, during his first term in office, in March 1885, the new Headmaster, Dr James Gow, started an Athletics Contest for senior boys. This soon evolved into a full School Sports Day. Over the years, the school magazines have given us a series of snapshots of the event has changed.

On Friday, June 29th 1888, for example, the School Sports, “…for many years in abeyance”, were revived, and were held in “very unfavourable weather” on the Castle Grounds. I am not really very sure, but I would presume that the Castle Grounds are the area of flat ground at the side of the Castle:

castle grouundszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

There was a good attendance of spectators, and among the more usual events was a three-legged race, won by W.A.Möller and C.P.S.Sanders, a sack race won by J.Blake, and a bicycle race over one mile, won by W.A.Möller in 3 minutes 45.4 seconds. F.Bramley won the “Throwing the Cricket Ball (for boys under 14), with a distance of 57 yards.
The Masters’ Race was won by the Reverend T.W.Peck, with Mr W.T.Ryles in second place, two yards behind. There was also an Old Boys’ Race which was a handicap, run over 220 yards, and a Tug of War, won by Team No 1, who defeated Team No 2 in the final. Again many prizes were in evidence, all presented by Mrs.Gow.

This staff group shows Mr W.T.Ryles in the back row, fifth from the right. His nickname was “Nipper”. His brother, Mr W.E.Ryles, “Jumbo” is on the front row, second from the left. The Headmaster, fourth from the right on the front row, is Dr Gow:

staff 1901

On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 3rd 1890, Sports Day was again held at the Castle Ground in dull and windy weather. Nevertheless, a large crowd attended, and enjoyed a day of “very fair sport”, and a selection of music played by the Nottingham Borough Police Band, under the leadership of Bandmaster Redgate. The prizes were presented by Miss Goldschmidt. Most of the events were similar to previous years including the 220 yards football dribbling race, throwing the cricket ball, an Old Boys’ bicycle race, a sack race and a whole series of running races, all of them with varying handicaps for the competitors .

The most interesting event, though, was the hundred yards Medley Handicap. In this, boys competed in a number of heats over one hundred yards, and the handicap consisted in the means by which they had to cover the distance. The methods included skipping, sack race, three legged, pick-a-back, on all fours, and, most spectacular of all, perhaps, on stilts. The final seems to have been a normal foot race, as the winner’s time was fifteen seconds.

On the afternoon of Friday, March 29th 1901, the School Sports took place at the brand new sports ground at Mapperley Park. We already know how to get there. Look for the orange arrow. The High School is in the bottom left corner of the map, where Mount Hooton Road and Forest Road East meet. It is the incomplete beige rectangle which is outlined in black:

Untitled 2

A large number of boys, friends, parents and Old Boys were in attendance, but the day was spoiled by the bitterly cold weather,

“…the turf was naturally affected by the overnight fall of snow, which made the going heavy.”

Two years later, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 25th 1903, the weather was beautiful, although not too warm, and there was another large crowd,

“including many ladies, whose bright, summer dresses amidst the pretty surroundings of trees and shrubs, made the scene most picturesque”

The spectators were entertained by “the lively strains of a band, and a hospitable tea tent.”
The numerous prizes were presented by Lady Blain and events included the one mile walking race, won by B.G.Saywell and an U-11 obstacle race won by C.F.Brasher. L.W.Malton won the potato race and a tug of war was held between “The Past” (Old Boys), and “The Present” (Masters and Boys). The Old Boys were G.C.Allsebrook, W.Allsebrook, G.F.Brewill, E.Brewill, S.Hoyte and H.A.Wootton. Their opposition contained three boys, namely R.Marrs, W.Oldershaw and H.A.Watson, and three masters, Messrs Hughes, Jones and Yates. The Old Boys soon pulled the School over the line, but were found to have included a seventh member of the team, J.Johnstone (Cheats!). The result was overturned, and the School soon won a fair contest by 3-0. I could find no photographs of this event, but here is the tug of war at the 1904 Olympics in Los Angeles. I’m sure it will give you the rough flavour:

The-Olympic-1904 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

On Saturday, June 24th 1905, it was very fine weather at Mapperley Park. Spectators were entertained by the band of the Robin Hood Rifles, under the directorship of Mr A.Pounder. The sports should have taken place the previous Saturday, but the rain was so torrential that this was completely impossible. Events included the usual ones, such as the 220 yards football dribbling race (R.B.Wray in 35 seconds) and the U-11 race over 75 yards (F.C.Tonkin, 10.8 seconds). There was a one mile bicycle race won by H.E.Mills (3 minutes 9.6 seconds) after the other two competitors, S.S.Parkinson and P.H.Hart collided with each other and both fell off. H.E.Mills  also won the potato race this year. J.H.Simpson won the U-11 obstacle race where competitors had to crawl through barrels and under pegged down clothes. The event created “much amusement”. The Old Boys won the tug of war against the Masters & Boys.

As war clouds slowly gathered, on the afternoon of Saturday, June 15th 1912, the Athletic Sports were held in splendid sunshine, again at Mapperley. The attendance was very large, and great interest was generated. Harold Ballamy ran 100 yards in 10.6 seconds, a marvellous performance on grass and wearing, presumably, ordinary pumps. There was again a football dribbling race, won by R.L.W.Herrick. This latter event was by now the only survivor of the many unusual and interesting events which had previously characterised the Victorian and Edwardian sports days. Now, virtually every event was a serious sporting trial.

The following year, 1913, was, of course, the very last Sports Day before the thunderstorm that was the Great War carried away the best of this talented generation of young men from the whole of the continent of Europe. Ironically, it was this bittersweet occasion that has bequeathed to us the only photographs that we have of a Sports Day of yesteryear. It is such a pity that they are of comparatively poor quality. This year, of course, marked the 400th anniversary of the school and both this day of athletics and the photographs themselves came as part of this occasion. Here is the huge crowd:

the crowd 1913

Here is the start of a race:

start of race

…and the exciting finish:

end of race 1913 handicap size runners

These are two exhausted athletes:

sports day 1913

The Headmaster, Dr Turpin, is the gentleman in the very middle of the picture, as the prizes are distributed:

give out prizes

And here he is again, this time making a speech. Look at the policeman and how impressed the little boy is:

prizes 1913

It should still be possible to establish the exact location of the majority of these events. I am sure that the all large Victorian houses in the background will still be there.

 

 

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