Tag Archives: Oxford University

Fred goes to Lincoln Cathedral

Towards the early part of his career in the Royal Air Force, probably in the winter of 1941-1942, Fred was stationed for a short period at Cranwell, the RAF College. Cranwell is a very imposing place:

This episode took place at the very start of his stay there, when, in his first period of free time, Fred decided to go out on a visit somewhere.

It was a glorious, cold, clear, bright blue, frosty day, and Fred went out of the front gate of the camp accompanied by a friend. It’s difficult to miss the gates at Cranwell:

Seeing a local man pushing his bike along the road, Fred asked him the way to Lincoln, but instead of offering directions, the man just stretched out his arm and pointed along the road, which was a Roman one, and absolutely straight, to the distinctive shape of the cathedral, silhouetted sharply against the bright light of the sky. Lincoln Cathedral is on a high hill, surrounded by a flat landscape, so it is fairly difficult to miss:

The man said not a single word but just carried on trudging along with his bicycle. Fred and his friend, armed with the usual 24 hour pass, set off cycling along the road to Lincoln.

This initially unnamed friend may well have been Joe Fielding, a highly educated man who had studied, among other things, Latin at Oxford University.  The two young airmen were taken around the cathedral by one of the amateur guides, who had many interesting things to explain to them. When they reached the shrine to St Hugh, at the eastern end of the cathedral, near the altar, the guide told them all about the life of the saint, and his pet swan, but he confessed that, as a modestly educated working class man, he was unable to translate the Latin inscription on one of the metal tablets near the altar. Joe, however, with his degree level knowledge of Latin, proceeded to translate the inscription fluently.

The guide though seemed to be really, really, upset. Fred felt that, while Joe’s behaviour was perhaps the product of innocent helpfulness, he should rather just have kept his mouth shut, and let the guide remain the expert. Fred was certainly highly embarrassed by the whole affair.

As one of the coincidences that fill all our lives, Fred was to pass away on the very same day that I myself took a party of schoolboys to visit Lincoln Cathedral. I was able with ease to find that single plaque written in Latin, unchanged in the sixty or so years between the two events.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Personal

Young Men behaving Badly and a Touch of Class (1)

In the recent past, I published four articles which were, I hope, bite sized sections of a much larger whole. They were all about the High School before the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict. All of the material came from the reminiscences of Roy Henderson, an Old Boy  from this time. None of these articles would have been possible without the original research by my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, who interviewed Roy Henderson at length. Simon, of course, has done some incredibly detailed research about the school’s casualties in the Great War. This can be found in the Nottingham High School Archive. Take a look, for example at the material he has found on Harold Ballamy, perhaps, the High School’s saddest and most pointless loss of the entire conflict. Poor Harold is also remembered by Nottinghamshire County Council, who incorporate much of what Simon Williams has produced.

When I composed the four articles, I deliberately chose not to include anything negative from what Mr Henderson said. I cannot, however, fail to include this almost surreal tale. Hopefully, you will find it interesting to read it and then try for yourself to work out what is really going on, what the real motivations are behind people’s behaviour, and what is happening behind the scenes.

Firstly, a little background information.

Roy Henderson’s father was a minister of the church. The family lived at No 3, Lenton Road in The Park Estate in Nottingham. This part of Nottingham is about as rich as it gets in the city. One website says that “If Nottingham were Los Angeles, this would be its Beverly Hills”.

Recent house prices there reached £535,000 (No2), £820,000 (No9) and £840,000 (No11). Another house in the road is currently for sale for £1,150,000. One website currently values No 3, Lenton Road at £816,382:

the park

Arthur Willoughby Barton was the son of Professor Edwin H.Barton, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Professor of Experimental Physics. He lived in Private Road, Sherwood, where very large Victorian houses change hands nowadays for around £500,000:

private

After the High School, Arthur went to Trinity College, Cambridge and gained First Class Honours in Physics. He was then a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he helped Lord Rutherford to split the atom.

Harold Connop was the son of an Elementary School teacher, Mr Arno B Connop, and Mrs Ada Connop. There seems to be some confusion about the address. Some sources give it as 33,Westwood Road, a street in Sneinton, one of Nottingham’s working class areas. It is the first house on the left with a white door:

westwood lane

In 2001, this terraced house, with, perhaps just four or maybe five rooms, sold for £25,000. It is now worth around £57,000. Another address listed for Harold is 20, Stewart Place, a location which has now been demolished, probably in the slum clearance under the Socialist government immediately after the Second World War. Ironically, these houses were originally built by a local philanthropist, as “good houses for poor people”. This kind gentleman was the Reverend Robert Gregory, who was eventually to become Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Harold’s education at the High School was financed solely by scholarships, awarded on the basis of intellectual ability. He entered the school as a Sir Thomas White scholar, and then became a Foundation Scholar. Two years later, in 1913, the Sir Thomas White Scholarship was renewed and then subsequently extended for a fourth year.

Harold won prizes for six different subjects and the Form Prize for the Fifth Form in 1913, and the Sixth Form in 1915, 1916 and 1917. Here is the school in 1915:

1915

In his public examinations in 1913, he gained First Class in six subjects, and subsequently five distinctions at Higher Level. He became a Prefect in 1915, and Captain of the School in 1917. In the words of Roy Henderson, he was:

“a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter in rugby, and a very fast runner.”

Harold won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and was also awarded an exhibition, worth £65 annually for four years. At Oxford he was regarded as “the first Scholar of Corpus Christi College”, in other words, the cleverest and best one there:

Corpus-Christi_College_Oxford_Coat_Of_Arms_svgCompared to both Barton and Connop, Roy Henderson was, quite simply, not in their league. He enjoyed school, but himself admitted that he was never very good academically and was totally hopeless at exams. The high point of his career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize for an English essay on “Militarism”. Henderson only won because the rest of the Sixth Form boycotted the competition, saying “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…let him have it.”

Around this time, Roy Henderson, along with William Donald Willatt, founded a new school magazine called “The Highvite”.  As editor of the original school magazine, Connop was apparently furious at this new rival.  Henderson didn’t get on very well at all with Connop, for a reason which Henderson was not willing to divulge, even after the best part of seventy years. Henderson added that Connop was not very well liked in the school as a whole and he was never a particularly popular figure.

William Donald Willatt was one of six brothers at the High School, the sons of John Willatt, who  lived at 4, Pelham Road, Sherwood Rise. John Willatt was a wine merchant, whose business was presumably prosperous enough to pay the school fees of his six sons.

I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind. I will tell you about the quarrel next time.

 

 

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School