Tag Archives: Old Nottinghamian

Bygone football clubs (2)

Last time, I looked for the most part at the early days of Notts County and Nottingham Forest. They were not the only football teams to play their fixtures down on the Forest, though. A veritable plethora of small local teams flourished in Nottingham during this era. They had some wonderful names, all marvellously evocative of the origins of their players:

“Notts Artisans, Notts Athletic, Nottingham Bank, Nottingham Castle, Notts Forest Swifts, Nottingham Co-op, Nottingham Lindum, the Nottingham Manufacturing Company, Notts County Rovers, Nottingham Lace, the Notts Law Club, Notts Magdala, Notts Pioneers, Nottingham Postmen, Nottingham Post Office, Nottingham Press, Notts Thursday Athletic, Notts Thursday Rovers, Nottingham Thursday Wanderers, Nottingham Strollers, Nottingham Trent, and Nottingham Trinity.

All of the “Thursday teams” would have been from Sherwood, given the day when the shops closed for the afternoon in this northerly suburb of the town. Have a wild guess when it was half day closing in Sheffield. Yes, on a Wednesday. But what about the little Welsh town of Abergavenny?

Here is a sleepy Sherwood as recently as the early 1950s. How many houses have been demolished to make way for charity shops and empty premises!

pivcture

Not much is known about many of the smaller Nottingham clubs, except that their names sometimes figure in the very early rounds of the fledgling FA Cup. I would be very surprised indeed, though, if there were any connection between Nottingham Trent Football Club and Nottingham Trent University.

In the list above, mention is made of Notts Law Club. They played the High School on an unknown date during the Christmas holidays of 1879-1880 and duly beat their young opponents by 3-0. All three goals were strongly disputed by the High School and no further fixtures appear ever to have taken place against this opposition. Notts Law Club was the original team of the most brilliant outside right of his day, Arthur Cursham, who played for Notts County, among many other clubs, and eventually captained England. Notts Law Club, though, were an extremely violent set of individuals, and gained such a reputation for rough play and a willingness to argue the toss about every single decision that other local teams soon became unwilling to arrange fixtures with them. Indeed, so hostile was the general local reaction to the Notts Law Club that the team was eventually forced to disband completely. Notts Law Club never had a player who won an Olympic Gold Medal, but one of the other little teams did:

article-2178161-143110FA000005DC-268_634x630

This team was Notts Magdala F.C., who had a very famous player in the person of Frederick William Chapman, an Olympic Gold Medal winner in the United Kingdom team in the 1908 Olympics held in London. Here is a photograph of the team which won a hard fought Final against Denmark by 2-0, with the first goal coming from that very same Fred Chapman of Notts Magdala F.C. and also of the High School, which he had attended from 1891-1898. In the Olympic Final, Fred played as a central defender. The second goal was scored by the era’s legendary amateur centre forward, Vivian Woodward. Previously the United Kingdom had defeated Sweden by 12-1 and Holland by 4-0. Arguably, their Olympic victory made England, who provided all of the players for the United Kingdom team, Champions of the World. Fred Chapman is the second player from the right on the back row:

gold medalFred Chapman was still a relative unknown, however, even when he became one of the Notts Magdala club’s eleven Vice-Presidents, and later the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. The club had 55 members and its playing captain was another Old Nottinghamian, John Barnsdale, (1878 –1960) born in Sherwood and later to play for Nottingham Forest on 28 occasions during the 1904-1905 season.  He was living at Lenton Hall around this time:

lenton

Houses must have been cheaper then. John Barnsdale was already Fred Chapman’s godfather, and years afterwards, became his “Uncle Jack”, when Fred married his sister, Evelyn Mary Barnsdale.

Not all of the local clubs on the Forest were called after the town. Prominent sides also included Basford Rovers and Sneinton Institute. It must all have been extremely colourful. Just a few of the old clubs’ colours have survived, and I thought it might be nice to recall them using present day teams who wear the same colours.

Notts Druids wore amber and black quarters, as do Hesketh Bank AFC most Saturdays in the West Lancashire Football League Premier Division:

black amber heketh bank xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxNotts Olympic lasted from 1884-1893.  They wore pink and white, rather like Portsmouth FC used to wear from 1898-1909, just before they joined Division 3:

pink whiteNottingham Press, appropriately perhaps for a team of journalists, wore all black, rather like DFC United in the USA. Another local team who wore all black were Notts Swifts.

all black dc utd.jpg xxxxx

Nottingham Rangers, who still exist, used to wear scarlet and white shirts. So did Notts Wanderers. Either team might have played in this kit, found in an online catalogue:

scarket white 1

or in this one, worn by Ottawa Fury FC in the North American Soccer League:

fury xxxxxx

or like the slightly more boring Charlton Athletic:

scarlet white bobbyor perhaps Stoke City:

 

scarley white 3

Nottingham Rovers used to play in black and white, perhaps like these gentlemen:

mike-ashley_zzzzzzzzz

Or like this old kit of Glossop North End AFC now in the North West Counties Football League Premier Division after a brief spell in the Football League:

black white glossop n e

I cannot really imagine that they wore the same kit as Portuguese team, Boavista:

proposta

Nottingham Scottish used to wear white shirts and blue shorts, exactly like Rangers’ away strip:

rangers white, bluxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Only the fabrics change in football kits. The colours of the shirts never seem to change very much.

These are Fred Chapman’s Amateur International caps:

chapman caps

I will tell you more about his career in another blogpost. By the way, the illustrations of old football kits came from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all those boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

 

 

 

 

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Bygone football clubs (1)

Over the years, the Forest Recreation Ground has been used for many, very varied, sporting activities. Here is a modern map:

forest

In the medieval period, bear baiting had been probably the first activity on the Forest, with a horse racing course eventually being constructed on the very same site.

Originally the racecourse measured four miles long, but in the early 1700s, this was shortened to two miles. In 1797 a new track in the form of a figure-of-eight was laid out. Unfortunately, this rather strange layout was not successful, and another more conventional course, therefore, oval in shape, was constructed soon afterwards

By the 1860s though, the racecourse was in decline, offering only small prizes, and attracting only second rate horses.  The last race meeting took place on September 29th-30th 1890, and Nottingham’s horse racing subsequently moved to Colwick.

Around 1800, the centre of the racecourse had been used as a place of exercise by the many officers of the cavalry who lived in a distinctive Georgian building on Forest Road. Familiar to all High School pupils, it played host to a tiny sweet shop originally called “Baldry’s” and, more recently, “Dicko’s”. It is now a bakery. Most of those cavalry officers were destined to charge at the Battle of Waterloo:

Scotland_Forever

By 1849, cricketers were using the western end of the Forest for practice, and they soon moved to the centre of the racecourse to play professional games for large sums of money.

It is not really known when football was first played on the Forest. A group of young men regularly met there in the early 1860s, to play a primitive kind of field hockey called “shinney”. They soon thought of giving this up to play the new sport of football.

An initial meeting was convened therefore in the upstairs room of the then Clinton Arms in Shakespeare Street, and the “Forest Foot Ball Club” was duly formed in 1865.

Their first fixture on the Forest was on Thursday, March 22nd 1866, a friendly game between Fifteen of the Forest, and Thirteen of the Notts Club. The game was eventually played between Seventeen of the Forest and Eleven of the Notts, and, according to some sources, was goalless, Nottingham Forest’s first ever goal being scored in their third game, another friendly on the Forest against Notts County, which finished as a 1-1 draw.

Other contradictory sources say, however, that the initial game finished as a 1-0 victory for Nottingham Forest, with Old Nottinghamian, William Henry Revis, providing the decisive score.

One early newspaper article, described how:

“When the men were spread out, the field looked exceedingly picturesque, with the orange and black stripes of the Notts, and the red and white of the Foresters.”

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One of Nottinghamshire’s greatest early footballers, E.H.Greenhalgh, who played for England in the first ever international match against Scotland in 1872, was to write, of football on the Forest:

“The first set of players who came out were regarded as a company of harmless
lunatics who amused themselves by kicking one another’s shins, but did no great harm to the public at large, although in earlier days they would have been put in the stocks.”

Richard Daft, wrote in similar vein…

“When a young man I played regularly with the Notts County Football Club when it was first formed. I believe I played centre forward, but I am not quite sure about this as we were never very particular in those days about keeping in one place. Charging and dribbling were the chief features of the game at that time, and often very rough play was indulged in.”

The exact location of Nottingham Forest’s pitches has never been ascertained for certain. My own researches have led me to believe that they must have been immediately to the east of what is now the “Park-and-ride” car park, at the bottom of the slight slope, but I have no way of being totally sure about this. Look for the orange arrow:

Untitled forest

Forest certainly had major problems with their location, however, when they entered the F.A.Cup from 1878 onwards. The Forest was common land, with free access for all, but the regulations of the F.A.Cup stipulated that an admission charge had to be levied. For this reason, “Forest Foot Ball Club” had to move to the Meadows area for the 1879-1880 cup campaign.

This was not, of course, before the club had introduced various innovations. Samuel Weller Widdowson had invented the shin guard, which was first worn on the Forest in 1874. In 1878, the first ever referee’s whistle in the world was heard on the Forest, most probably in a game between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Norfolk. It was blown by Mr C.J.Spencer, and marked the first step in a long, long journey of what shall we say, talking points?

zid

The club’s departure however, did not mean that the Forest itself was suddenly devoid of football clubs. Throughout the Victorian era, football was always to remain the main sport, played by scores of different local teams, all wearing their own unique and brightly coloured shirts and shorts.

Indeed, at this time, there were so many local teams using the pitches that the High School were frequently unable to fulfil their own fixtures on Saturdays, but instead had to play on Wednesdays, occasionally Thursdays, or even Tuesdays. At the time, of course, Wednesday was half day closing for shops and businesses in Nottingham, and Thursday was half day closing in Sherwood.

On these half days, it was by no means unusual to see footballers on buses and trams, travelling to their game, already changed into their kit. A newspaper at the time wrote of

“persons hurrying to the Forest football grounds, and dozens of players in full
rig making their way in the same direction,”

Notts County wore black and orange hoops, and at least three other kits:

notts county

Nottingham Forest had always worn their famous “Garibaldi Red”. Here are some of their oldest kits, with only minor changes from year to year, and those sexy shorts getting shorter and shorter:

forest 1868 zzzzzz

By the way, all the illustrations of old football kits came from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all those boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

Forest and County were not the only football clubs in Nottingham.  Next time I will look at some of the less well known local teams in the area at the end of the Victorian era and before the First World War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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George Brown

On Saturday, July 8th 1944, Old Nottinghamian, Lieutenant George Colin Brown, was killed in action during the aftermath of the D-Day landings. He was just 24 years of age. Lieutenant Brown was in the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment (3rd Infantry Division). He is buried in the War Cemetery at Ranville near Caen in Calvados, Normandy. This cemetery houses some 2,567 war casualties.RanvilleCimetiere

Here is the church tower:

ranville ch

In actual fact, Ranville was the first village to be liberated in France.

George Colin Brown was born on February 22nd 1921. His father was WA Brown, a Schoolmaster of 10 Grove Street, Beeston. He entered the High School on September 16th 1932 when he was eleven years of age and immediately became a member of White’s House. He obtained his School Certificate in 1936.

At the High School, George was a keen cricketer, and the school magazine reported poignantly that his “fast in-swinging yorker on the leg stump was devastating on its day”:

crickxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

George had appeared for the 1st XI in 1936, 1937 and 1938. I have only been able to trace the exact details of just one single game that George played in. On May 29th 1937, therefore, he appeared in a fixture at Valley Road against King Edward VII School, Sheffield. The High School scored 77 all out, but Sheffield managed a narrow win by two wickets, with their score of 80 for 8. George scored nine runs when he batted and was bowled by Fletcher. We do not know exactly what type of bowler he was, but his performance was eminently successful, taking three wickets for 28 runs. His performance was bettered only by GF Palmer, who took three wickets for only seven runs.

Boys still learn to play cricket down on the cricket pitches at Valley Road. Almost eighty years after George used his “devastating fast in-swinging yorker on the leg stump”, games against other schools are still won, drawn and lost, all in that same spirit of good sportsmanship that George would have recognised:

nhs

Overall, though, his “fast in-swinging yorker on the leg stump” must have been very effective. In 1938, George took six wickets out of ten against Burton Grammar School and conceded a paltry fifteen runs. Later in the same season, he exceeded this with a haul of seven wickets for twenty runs against Stamford Grammar School. During that distant summer of 1938, he played exceedingly well because in total George took 45 wickets at a cost of just 6.42 runs per wicket. This was the best performance by a High School bowler during the season, in which the First Eleven was victorious in six matches out of twelve. Opponents included such old friends as Forest Amateurs, Notts Amateurs, the Old Nottinghamians, Ratcliffe College, Stamford School and Trent College, left hanging on at 50 for 3, chasing a winning total of 162.

When George Brown played down there at Valley Road, just before the war, a gigantic tree stood very close to two of the pitches. Alas! It was blown down in the great hurricane of 1987. It used to stand on the grass, perhaps directly in front of the house on the left. As I mentioned, it was close to two of the cricket pitches, so not one but two teams would wait to bat under its canopy of leaves :

untitled
I have been unable to trace any exact details of poor George’s death, but I suspect it was in the battle to control Caen, as the Allies moved inland after D-Day.

A website which details the entire war day by day says:

“On July 8th 1944, a major British and Canadian attack began around Caen. 2,726 tons of bombs were dropped by 450 RAF bombers overnight as part of the preliminaries. The battleship HMS Rodney delivered hundreds of 16-inch shells. US forces coordinated an attack to the west. British and Canadian troops entered the outskirts of Caen, only to find SS Colonel Meyer’s Panzer tanks still firmly established outside the city.
The citizens of Caen stayed huddled in their cellars while the Germans stubbornly held out. Hitler had ordered that every square kilometre should be defended to the last man, but the Allies managed to penetrate into the very centre of the ruined city along the north bank of the River Orne. There they were stopped by Meyer’s men. In a month of battles, every single one of Meyer’s battalion commanders was killed and he received no replacements. Meyer wrote in his diary:

“My officers and men all know that the struggle is hopeless, but they remain willing to do their duty to the bitter end.”

That is the point of view of an apparently honourable man but ultimately, it was pointless fanaticism, which may well have resulted in the death of another honourable man, George Colin Brown, at only 24 years of age.

30_caen04xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

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John David Fletcher: Part One

John David Fletcher entered the High School on September 17th 1931. He was born on March 22nd 1920. He was eleven years old. His father was John Fletcher, a Captain in the Royal Artillery Reserve who lived at 16, Edingley Avenue in Sherwood, Nottingham.

Edingley Avenue is just a brisk ten minute walk from where I sit now, drinking coffee and eating biscuits. John Fletcher left the High School in December 1936:

nhsxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Young John Fletcher was yet another Old Nottinghamian to answer the “Call of the Skies” when the Second World War broke out. Initially, like so many others, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, but he soon progressed to an active squadron, namely 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron. Here is their badge:

badge

97 Squadron operated Avro Lancaster B.Is and B.IIIs at Coningsby in Lincolnshire.  Here is one of their aircraft, bearing the squadron letter, “E-Elizabeth”:

elizabeth 97 sq

By April 1943, they had become a Pathfinder Force squadron, tasked with using flares to mark targets for the rest of the bombers. By now, John was Flight Lieutenant Fletcher, serving as a Rear Gunner on a number of raids over both France and Germany.

In actual fact, John made a very promising start to his career as a rear gunner, a “tail end charlie”, one of the most dangerous jobs in any armed force during World War Two. At one point, there was a life expectancy on active service of a mere four operations, or perhaps two weeks, for every Rear Gunner.

A search through the Operations Book for 97 Squadron shows what he did in terms of operations. He was involved mostly in bombing communications targets in France to prevent the Germans moving troops to oppose the D-Day landings.

I have transcribed the Operations Book more or less intact, so you might need a dictionary:

3 May 1944 — Mailly-Le-Camp

ND346O  Up 2204  Down 0343.
6 clusters 7” flares, 8 x 1000lb MC, 3 x 4.5” flares.  Very slight haze, nil cloud, vis good.  RSFs seen on target.  Original Oboe marker wide, then one RSF dropped on aiming point; this was backed up by more RSFs.  Early bombing was wide but later improved and sticks were seen to burst across the RSFs.  Bombing on whole very successful and two definite areas of fire resulted.

300px-Royal_Air_Force_Bomber_Command,_1942-1945__C5083

7-8 May 1944 – Tours Airfield

ND452S  Up 0040  Down 0517.
6 x 7” cluster flares, 8 x TI RSF, 3 x 4.5” reco flares.  Weather and identification as above.  Two first RSF were on aiming point but just off the hangars at 0250 hours.  Ordered to back this up and out own fires were seen to fall right on hangar buildings.  Other backers up well placed but one slightly undershot.  Most of bombing very accurate.  Some explosions seen, one appeared to be a fuel dump.

10-11 May 1944 – Lille

ND452S  Up 2204  Down 0104.
6 x 7” clusters, 1 x 4000lb HC, 8 x 500lb MC, 3 x 4.5” reco flares.  Weather over Lille – cloud, vis moderate.  Target located by RSFs.  Flares down on time.  RSF obscured at time of bombing.  Only one message heard

A_Lancaster_Mk_III_of_N

19/20 May 1944 – Amiens

ND346T  Up 2316  Down 0255.
11 x 7” clusters, 3 x 1000lb MC, 3 x 4.5” reco flares.  Located target by flares and RSF through 8-9/10ths cloud.  First run, one or two RSF near target.  Flares scattered.  Yellow markers not seen.  Glow seen through cloud only.  Identified target on second run.  No spot fires at all.  Raid called off 0125 hours.  Gee faded out at enemy coast until re-crossing on return journey.

22/23 May 1944 – Brunswick

ND346T  Up 2251  Down 0257.
12 x 7” flares, 1 x 2000lb HC.  Gee u/s after 3 degrees east at 2347 hours.  Icing experienced in very thivk cumulus 5217N 0121E, 2316 hours, 6,000’.  Endeavoured unsuccessfully to avoid; late at enemy coast, crossed at 12,000’, got off track, ran in to large belt of searchlights, lost 30-40 minutes trying to break through and decided too late to reach target in time to bomb anywhere near H-hour, so decided to return to base.  Soon afterwards, Bomb Aimer found unconscious.  Navigator took over H2S and soon discovered correct position.  Gee came in again at 0209, thence plotted on Gee.  Bomb Aimer still in complete daze when aircraft landed at base.

Avro_Lancaster_B_Mk_II_ExCC

24/25 May 1944 – Eindhoven (Phillips Works)

NE625O  Up 2256  Down 0218.
12 x 7” clusters, 2 x 1000lb MC, 3 x 4.5” reco flares.  Received orders to abandon exercise 0038 hours on VHF.  Confirmed by W/T at 0039 hours.

27/28 May 1944 – St Valery-en-Caux

ME625O Up 2357  Down 0301.
12 x 7 x 4.5” clusters, 2 x 1000lb MC, 3 x 4.5 reco flares.  Slight ground haze.  Target identified by Gee.  First flares dropped about ¾ mile west of town. Two minutes later more flares called for, which fell over town;  RSF then put down.  At 0145 hours, VHF order and two red verey cancelled.  At 0153 ordered to bomb on or near RSF.  Appeared very good attack.

3/4 June 1944 – Ferme D’Urville

A small but important wireless station just south east of the Cherbourg Peninsula.

ME625O  Up 2307  Down 0241.
9 x TI Green No 23, 1 x TI Green No 16, 2 x TI Yellow No 16, 1 x 4000lb HC, 2 x 500lb MC.  Weather clear, visibility good.  Target identified by red and green TI.  On arrival aircraft was too close to make accurate run on first red TI (down at 0058.18 hours).  So made second run and backed up green TI with bombs because Controller said marking was okay, so third run was unnecessary.  Only one backing up wave was requested or needed.  Second Oboe TI red fell at 0059 hours.  First red was on target and second to north of it.  Green TIs covered whole target area between red TIs and Main Force bombing almost obliterated first marker, so aircraft actually bombed second red TI.  Target disappeared under smoke and bomb flashes.  One or two bombs fell in sea but concentration appeared good and accurate.  No wind correction was necessary;   Controller appeared satisfied from the start though no assessment was heard.  No second backing up wave requested.

Avro_Lancaster_Mk_1_ExCC

5/6 June 1944 – La Peanelle (in conjunction with 83 Sq

ME625O  Up 2228  Down 0356
10 x TI green No 16, 4 x 1000lb MC.  7/10ths cloud at two layers at 10,000’ and 5,000’.  Visibility fair.  Located target by red TI.  Oboe marker could not be seen, aircraft orbited and as it was 13 minutes late on run, dropped bombs on green TI, backing up green TI adjacent to two red TIs which had previously given out.  Stood off awaiting instructions from Controller who had stopped bombing just after aircraft had released.  Bombing appeared inaccurate, some sticks a few miles south, some out to sea, possibly due to cloud layer.  Illuminating flares poor.

6/7 June 1944 – Argentan

ME625O  Up 2332  Down 0326.
9 x 7 x 4.5” clusters, 6 x 500lb MC, 3 x 4.5” reco flares.  Target Argentan, northern aiming point, tops 8,500’, 6,000’ base.  Haze below.  Located by markers.  Flares (which we were only to drop on order) not needed.  Target marked with RSF assessed as 40 yards/360 from aiming point.  Ordered to bomb 0132.5 hours.  Bombing seemed excellent although target very smoky.

9/10 June 1944 – Etampes

Up 2157  Down 0209.
9 x 7” flares, 7 x 500lb MC, 2 x 500lb MC (LD), 3 x reco flares.  10/10ths cloud, base 7,500’.  Slight haze below.  Location by markers.  First flares released on Oboe.  heard over VHF at 0001 hours, also on W/T (same time).  Ordered to bomb most easterly green with 200 yards under shoot at 0011 hours, after target had been re-marked.  Green in bomb sight and a RSF beyond it further east with another green west of green bombed.  Unable to assess attack owing to smoke.

12/13 June 1944 – Poitiers

ND625O  Up 2232  Down 0431.
9 x 7” clusters, 1 x 1000lb TI red, 1 x 1000lb MC, 4 reco flares.  Sky patchy, thin stratus, some haze.  Identified target by markers.  Over target marking flare run, Controller asked Backer 1 (0142.5 hours) to drop red TI on aiming point west of RSF already down.  Position as described by Controller was two RSF in line with green TI between slightly nearer most north-easterly RSF, all three being in line along direction of railway but on easterly side of it.  Our marker assessed as 40 yards west of aiming point (0148 hours).  Instructions for bombing followed immediately.  Further flares cancelled.  Own run for MC bombs okay.  Bombing appeared very successful.  A few sticks fell exceptionally wide in centre of town.  Controller assessed quickly and accurately.

By Friday, June 23rd 1944, young Flight Lieutenant Fletcher was becoming quite a veteran with twelve “ops” behind him, a commendable total for a rear gunner. That afternoon though, between half past three and four, he was killed, not in action over Germany, but practicing close formation flying with five other Lancasters over Deeping Fen in quiet, rural Cambridgeshire. John was just twenty-four years of age:

cambrigde vity cem

Needless to say, as I was not a witness to all of these dreadful events, this article could not have been written without using the series of excellent books by W.R.Chorley, and a number of other websites.

Part Two to follow in the near future.

 

 

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School Gardener wins F.A.Cup Medal !!!

During the early months of the Easter Term of 1925, the long serving and popular School Gardener, Mr Kidd, was taken seriously ill. He had worked at the High School for thirty-seven years, and “must have been seen by thousands of boys at his work in front of the school.”  Mr Kidd was not well enough to carry on with his job and, poor man, was eventually to succumb to his illness during the early part of the Summer Term.  He was duly succeeded as the School Gardener by Mr Wragg, whom the “Nottinghamian” called “a footballer and cricketer of great prowess”.

Mr Wragg was paid £3 per week, which was a decent wage in 1925. At the same time, my own Grandad was more than happy to earn £2.20 as his weekly wage in a clay works in South Derbyshire. I have done quite a lot of research about who exactly Mr Wragg was.  Of course, nearly a century after the event, it is impossible to establish the truth without the slightest shred of doubt whatsoever, but I am now 99.9% certain that the High School’s new Gardener was William Arthur “Willie” Wragg.

williamwragg

Willie Wragg was born in Radford, Nottingham in 1875, and initially played local football for Notts Olympic, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Newstead Byron and then Hucknall Portland. He was soon signed by Nottingham Forest and played for them as a professional footballer from 1896-1899. Appearing usually as a left-half, Willie made 48 League appearances in the First Division for Forest and scored one goal. Overall, he played 58 times for Forest in all competitions. This photograph shows the home of Nottingham Forest, the City Ground, during the 1898-1899 season:

City-Ground-1898

Willie made his début at home to Liverpool on November 28th 1896 in a comfortable 2-0 victory. He went on to play a further twelve times in the First Division that season, with a further four appearances in the F.A.Cup. He scored a single goal in a friendly match, a 2-1 victory over Dundee United at Crystal Palace. The following season of 1896-1897, Willie Wragg made 24 appearances in Division One and six in the F.A.Cup. He scored a single goal in the First Division in a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland. The next season of 1897-1898 was his last at Forest. He played 13 times with most of his games coming as a left fullback. His final appearance came as a left half in a 0-0 draw at home to local rivals Notts County in front of a crowd of some 16,000 spectators. Here is Notts County’s magpie kit on that long ago Saturday, September 4th 1897. The crowd was a very respectable 15,000 spectators:

notts_county_1890-1900

As far as the boys are concerned the School Gardener can be a rather anonymous figure, working away quietly at the front of the school, a man whom the majority of pupils would not even notice. They were probably unaware of his lengthy pedigree as a professional footballer, but many hundreds of those unknowing little boys would have given a great deal to get their hands on what Willie Wragg had won during his three years at Forest, namely a Winner’s Medal from an F.A.Cup Final.

Willie had played at Crystal Palace on April 16th 1898 in front of a crowd of 62,017 spectators, when Nottingham Forest beat Derby County, Steve Bloomer and all, by three goals to one. Here is the front of the programme:

programme

And here is the back:$(KGrHqFHJE4FGNV2GFfCBRonbILDSQ~~60_35

From his position as a left-half, Willie actually created Forest’s first goal, for it was from his free kick on the left near the touchline, that the ball eventually reached Arthur Capes who hit  the back of the net through a crowd of defenders.  Here is a picture of the game in progress…IMAGE_386

And here is a second photograph from a little further back…

Capture

Later in the game, Wragg aggravated an injury suffered in the first-half, and, in the days before substitutes, was forced to move out on to the wing, not taking much further part in the game.That did not stop his appearance on the souvenir cigarette card…

$_35

Willie then left Forest, to go and play for Leicester Fosse in the Second Division. He spent two seasons at Leicester, making 50 appearances and scoring four goals. He was perhaps a little slower now and played at full back. Willie also became the club’s free kick specialist. He went on to appear just once for Small Heath (later to become Birmingham City), but he was unfortunately unable to displace George Adey from the team. His footballing career then rather petered out as he played for Watford in the Southern League and then Hinckley Town in the Midland League. His Football League career began again with Chesterfield Town (20 appearances, no goals) before a final return to non-League football with Accrington Stanley, Doncaster Rovers and finally Brighton & Hove Albion. Overall, Willie Wragg had made 119 appearances in the Football League.

Personally I believe that Willie Wragg may well have acquired his job as School Gardener at the High School through his past career at Nottingham Forest. At the time of the Cup win in 1898, the club’s then Chairman was Mr William Thomas Hancock, a prominent Old Boy of the High School, who had retired as Chairman of Nottingham Forest in 1920, only five years before Willie Wragg was appointed as the School Gardener. In 1925 Mr Hancock was still a Life Member of the football club.

Most romantically of all though, perhaps ex-Chairman Hancock still remembered his day of glory when he posed on the Official Photograph of the F.A.Cup Winners of 1898 and knew exactly who had done more than his share to make possible that unique and unrepeatable thrill of being a winner. Mr Hancock is the gentleman third from the left on the back row.

forest team

Indeed, in 1898, when this photograph was taken of the players in the victorious team at Crystal Palace, how proud Mr Hancock must have been to stand with them:

back row: H.Hallam (Secretary), T.McInnes, Mr W. T. Hancock (Chairman), A.Ritchie, D.Allsop, unknown, A.Scott, unknown, A.Spouncer, G.Bee (Trainer)

front row:  C.H.Richards, Frank Forman, J.McPherson, W.A.Wragg, A.Capes

sitting:  L.Benbow

The photograph is, in itself, quite interesting, because it is one of two very similar photographs. In one of them, Forest posed with the cup, and in the other, they were photographed without it. The reason for this was that the crowd for the F.A.Cup Final was 62,000 spectators and almost all of them invariably invaded the playing area after the end of the game. This made it quite impossible to take a proper photograph of the winning team. And certainly the crowds do look huge and they seem to be pretty much left to their own devices…

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The usual convention, therefore, was that both teams were photographed before the match, in conditions of complete calm, the photographers taking two pictures of each, one as victors with the trophy, the other as losers without it.  Afterwards, the two irrelevant photos were destroyed, although this has clearly not happened in this case.

It is also known that in this particular year, enormous problems were experienced with Forest’s red shirts and blue shorts, which did not show up particularly well in the comparatively dull weather conditions.

forest kit

The photographers therefore asked them to pose in Derby’s kit, wearing white shirts and black shorts. Perhaps this is why they look especially miserable, although, of course, Forest were certainly to have the last laugh.

Whatever the reason for Willie Wragg becoming the School Gardener, though, there was certainly an enormous connection between the football club and the High School. Almost forty Old Nottinghamians had already played for Forest, especially in the 1880s, and many of them had represented the club in important cup games, including semi-finals. By 1925, they were all just of the age to occupy important administrative posts in the club and certainly Tinsley Lindley had been a Committee member at Forest.

tinsley

Another familiar face at the City Ground was an Old Nottinghamian who had made his England début alongside Tinsley Lindley in a 6-1 victory over Ireland in Belfast. This was John Edward Leighton, called “Teddy” when he was at school, or, when he played for Forest, “Kipper”, because of his incredible ability to fall asleep in the dressing room before games. Indeed, old Mr Leighton was to fall asleep for the very last time at the City Ground, on the afternoon of Saturday, April 15th 1944, at the age of seventy-nine after a fatal seizure. His sudden demise occurred during a Wartime Cup tie between Nottingham Forest and Northampton Town, a fixture in which the Reds were eventually to triumph by 1-0. Here is “Kipper” though, on a better, and younger, day, sitting with all his pals, it is thought, in the Church Cemetery on Forest Road. They are all wearing the same bright scarlet shirts, and they are universally known as “The Garibaldi Reds” One day they will win the European Cup. Twice.

teddy

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Gunpowder, treason and Nottingham

Not many people would connect the High School and Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, but the link is there, if you trace it through carefully……

…..Brian Garnett, or Garnet, is thought to have been the Master of the Free School during some unknown period between the years 1564-1575.

free school

It is considered most probable that he took up the post between 1564-1567, and then retired in, probably, 1575. He may then have lived in Beeston, but he was certainly buried in Heanor in Derbyshire on December 21st 1576, as the “Late Skoolemaster of Nottingham”.

With his wife, Alice Jay, he had at least three sons, Richard, John and Henry, and three daughters, Margaret, Eleanor and Anne,  all of whom became nuns at Louvain.

Of the sons, Henry is the most notable, because eventually he was to become the Superior of the Jesuits in England, and, allegedly, an active member of the Gunpowder Plot which, in earlier centuries, often used to be called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason. In general terms, the plot, of course, was a failed assassination attempt to blow up the Protestant King James I of England and his entire Parliament, by filling the cellars of the building with gunpowder. lighting the fuse, and retiring quickly and sensibly to a minimum distance of at least fifty yards.

GunpowderPlot dddddddddGarnet was not quite tasked with carrying the barrels of gunpowder into the cellars, but rather, he was deemed to have been guilty of knowing all the details of the assassination attempt, but then doing nothing to save either the King’s life or those of his courtiers. Here he is….

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In recent times, some doubt has been cast on the extent to which Garnet was actually aware of the dastardly plot, because all the details he knew were revealed to him through the plotters’ confessions. Of course, by the strict rules of his Catholic religion, Garnet was automatically prevented from informing the authorities by the absolute confidentiality of the confessional.

None of this alters the basic fact, though, that Henry Garnet was executed for treason, on May 3rd 1606. At his trial, the jury had needed only fifteen minutes to reach their verdict.

Where the tiniest of doubts still exists, however, is whether Henry was ever a pupil at the Free School, as no registers of this period are still in existence. It is certainly true, though, that he was educated in Nottingham, and the national rules in place at the time allowed only one school in each town or city. In any case, it is surely beyond credibility that he was not associated with the Free School during his father’s tenure of the position of Master, that is to say, the only teacher who was working there.
Indeed, at least one source says that young Henry came to the Free School during Henry Cockrame’s time as Master (most probably 1563-1564), possibly a year or so before Cockrame left in 1565 and was replaced by Henry’s father, Brian Garnett of Heanor, Derbyshire. Henry is supposed to have studied for two years under his father’s tutelage, before leaving for Winchester College where he was elected as a scholar on August 24th 1567 and duly entered the school in 1568.

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Henry had been well taught in Nottingham, and proved to be an able student at Winchester. According to “The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”…..

“His love of music and “rare and delightful” voice were complemented by an ability to perform songs without preparation, and he was reportedly also skilled with the lute.
Father Thomas Stanney wrote that Garnet was “the prime scholar of Winchester College, very skilful in music and in playing upon the instruments, very modest in his countenance and in all his actions, so much that the schoolmasters and wardens offered him very great friendship, to be placed by their means in New College, Oxford.”

Instead of the delights of New College, Oxford, however, when he left the school in 1571, Garnet moved to London to work for a publisher. Shortly afterwards, in 1575, he travelled to the continent and joined the Society of Jesus. Garnet then moved to Rome to study for the priesthood with the Jesuits. He was finally ordained as a priest around 1582. (Note the ear of corn which will be important)

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Whatever happened in his life during the next twenty three years in the service of the Lord, by virtue of the events of May 3rd 1606, Henry Garnet must surely remain the only Old Nottinghamian ever to have been convicted as a terrorist, and, indeed, one of the very few ever to have been hanged, drawn and quartered, and then to have had his severed head placed on a pole on London Bridge.

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(That’s going to hurt)

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(This engraving will be next month’s Caption Contest)

Thankfully, the more lurid details of his execution have survived in Antonia Fraser’s book, “The Gunpowder Plot”…..

“Garnet said his prayers, and was then thrown off the ladder and hanged.

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Before the executioner could cut him down alive, many in the crowd pulled on his legs, and as a result, Garnet did not suffer the remainder of his grim sentence. There was no applause when the executioner held Garnet’s heart aloft and said the traditional words, “Behold the heart of a traitor”.
His head was set on a pole on London Bridge, but crowds of onlookers fascinated by its pallid appearance eventually forced the government to turn the head upwards, so its face was no longer visible.”

From this peculiar pallid appearance of course, came the widely held belief that Garnet’s head did not suffer any signs of decay or change.

nov 4th heads xxxxxxx(Can you spot Garnet’s head?)

Nowadays, of course, we are a lot more civilised and the heads of traitors are no longer placed on a pole on London Bridge. Instead, we have just two or three of the more unsuccessful Premier League managers.

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(Why is nobody taking any notice?)

The final, and a slightly more serious thing to be said about Henry Garnet is that way back on May 3rd 1606, according to those who were there, a miraculous portrait of him apparently appeared on an ear of corn onto which drops of his blood had fallen at the moment of his execution. This particular ear of corn was later credited with achieving a number of miracles. At one point, it was taken secretly out of the country into the possession of the Society of Jesus, before, with its size surely playing a part, it was lost, rather appropriately, during the French Revolution.

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The Roman Catholic Church, of course, has a large number of saints who have done far less than Henry Garnet to earn their sainthoods. Names which spring to my mind would include St.Buriana, St.Erc, St.Ia and any number of Cornish villages named after other dimly remembered saints.

Perhaps one fine day, Henry Garnet may yet become the only Old Nottinghamian ever to be canonised.

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