Tag Archives: Sammy Corner

The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (4)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the penultimate section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Roy used to live at 3, Lenton Road in Nottingham’s richest area, The Park. He would be awakened by another High School boy called Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, who would come along the road as he walked the family dog, and whistle loudly that it was soon time to go to school. Roy was then accompanied to school by his friend, who was walking from his own family house at 2, Hawthorne Drive in The Park. One particular day in the Fourth Form, Alfred Chenhalls did not arrive, and Roy Henderson was therefore late. Mr Lloyd Morgan ticked him off:

“Who shall we punish? Chenhalls or his dog? ”

Alfred Chenhalls, whose father, like that of Roy Henderson, was a minister of the church, later became an accountant who dealt with lots of musicians and theatrical people, including the famous Hollywood actor, Leslie Howard. Chenhalls always smoked a large cigar, and as a big fat man, looked rather like Winston Churchill. He was killed on June 1st 1943, when the unarmed DC-3 of the B.O.A.C., carrying him and Leslie Howard between Lisbon and London, was shot down by Junkers Ju 88s of the German Luftwaffe. Here is the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, in question:

350px-BOAC_Flt_777

At the time, Churchill was known to be attending a conference in Algiers, and there was much speculation that a German spy had seen Chenhalls getting onto the plane in Lisbon, and had then organised its destruction. Here is Chenhalls pretending to be Churchill:

CHENHALLS

Further confirmation of the Germans’ interpretation was that Churchill’s colleague in Algiers, the Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, looked very like Leslie Howard. Alternatively, Leslie Howard may have been thought to be Detective Inspector Walter Thompson Churchill’s personal bodyguard. Whatever the complex truth of it, Churchill himself considered all his life that this was a definite  assassination attempt. The incident was also one of the very few occasions when airliners were ever attacked on this route out of neutral Portugal. Much more detailed information on the event is available here.
At this time, many boys had nicknames. Donald James Clarkson was always called “Pug” because of his upturned nose. Here he is:

clarkson zzzzzzz

Another boy, an extremely good Fives player, was called, for obvious reasons, “Sparrowlegs”. Strangely enough, though, only one particular boy ever had a certain nickname. Nobody could ever be called “Pug” or “Sparrowlegs”, as long as the original boy remained in the school. There seemed to be no obvious reason for the nickname of “Fuzzy” Barton, given that his hair was not in the least bit curly. Peculiarly enough, though, his elder brother had extremely fuzzy hair. He, though, was never called “Fuzzy”.

Eventually, the younger Barton became the Headmaster of King Edward’s School in Sheffield. The latter establishment had an extremely peculiar cricket pitch, which was constructed on various levels, with a number of different slopes, flat areas, and two or three quite sharp drops. Certain unfortunate fielders were unable to see either wicket, and pieces of information had to be passed on to them by other fielders one level higher up.

Because of the Great War, and the subsequent restrictions on travelling by train, there were very few away matches at cricket. Boys went only to Derby, Worksop or Sheffield, but never to Denstone or Birmingham. On many occasions, they played home fixtures against Army teams billeted in the area, including a few Italian ones. This was much more enjoyable than the very limited number of fixtures against other schools.

If they did ever travel by train, High School teams invariably used the now demolished Victoria Station. You might recognise the Clock Tower which still stands nowadays, outside the Victoria Shopping Centre. The hotel on the right is also still there:

Nottingham_Victoria_Station_3

Here is a steam train coming out of the tunnel which took rail traffic northwards towards Worksop and Sheffield. This tunnel is still visible, either from the modern multi storey underground car park or from Huntingdon Street:

train

At this time, in the school, in general, the rules on caps were very strict. Roy Henderson himself had a special dispensation from the Headmaster and was allowed not to wear a cap in school. For some unknown reason, his mother had contacted the Headmaster, and the latter had agreed to this special privilege. Roy wore a cap for the first time when he became a prefect, and that turned out to be a spectacular piece of headgear with a silver badge on it.

Roy was the secretary of the School Debating Society. He spoke quite frequently in debates, despite, by his own admission, not being particularly good at it. The meetings, which were mostly in the winter term, took place after school, between twelve and one o’clock on Saturday afternoons.

When he left the High School, Roy joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles. He had already learned a lot in the school’s Officer Training Corps, as was confirmed by the first drill sergeant that he encountered in the regular army. Later, he joined the Regimental Concert Party, which did its training at Lichfield. Roy, because of his age, missed the Great War by a few weeks, but he caught Spanish Flu in January 1918. He was not to leave hospital before August 1918.

At the High School, there had been no specialist singing master, and no real in-depth teaching of music. Roy had never realised that he had any particular talent in this field, until he sang solo during the interval of a school play, and was overwhelmed and astonished by the great volume of applause which he received. Roy later went on to sing at Speech Day. Within only a few years of leaving the High School, he had become one of the leading singers in the country, who was destined to work with some of the greatest musical talents in the whole world. I have been unable to find any photographs of Roy Henderson, but here is one of his record labels:

Decca_1929_Sea_Drift

And here is one of his album sleeves:

record

In the near future, I will continue with the fifth, and final, article in this series. I hope you are enjoying them and finding them interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (3)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the third section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Prominent boys in the High School at this time included Lancelot Wilson Foster, who, in the 1930s, was to become a vicar in Cheshire, and then a chaplain in World War Two.

William Donald Willatt became the Vicar of St.Martin’s, Sherwood, and eventually lived in West Bridgford. Here is St.Martin’s:

st martin sherwood ccccc

Along with Roy Henderson, William Willatt was later to start a school magazine called “The Highvite”. By Roy’s own admission, it was “a pretty dreadful magazine”, and only survived because it was financed by a variety of different adverts. The enterprising boys went round to local companies such as Sisson & Parker, and many other businesses. As editor of the other school magazine, Harold Connop was furious at the new rival. Roy didn’t get on very well with him at all.

Harold Arno Connop, however, was a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter, and a very fast runner, but for one reason or another, which Roy was not willing to divulge, he was, supposedly, never particularly well liked in the school, and in general, was apparently not a very popular figure. This may not have been totally unconnected, however, with Harold’s rare combination of outstanding academic prowess, and humble origins. His father was a mere Elementary School teacher, and Harold’s education throughout his time at the High School was entirely financed by his being both a Sir Thomas White Scholar, and a Foundation Scholar.

Harold eventually joined the Royal Naval Air Service, where he became a Lieutenant. He would not survive the conflict and was to die of his wounds on March 31st 1918. Here he is, resplendent in his uniform:

connop zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Percival Henry Biddulph Furley always used to sit next to Henderson in the Classical Sixth. He was one of Deputy Headmaster Sammy Corner’s favourites. In actual fact, despite being well over sixty years of age, Mr Corner was to leave his post as Form Master of 5b to go to the Great War. Here is Mr Corner, showing the School Charter to interested parents on the occasion of the school’s 400th anniversary in 1913:

sammy corner s

As a teacher, Mr Corner was famous for how easily he could be diverted from the work in hand. Anybody just had to get him started off on an interesting subject, especially in Scripture lessons, and the class would then seldom, if ever, have to return to what they were supposed to be doing. Percival Furley, for some unknown reason, was always nicknamed “Dab”. He was a member of the First Eleven at cricket for three years. His other claim to fame was his talent in school plays. At this time, all the female parts were taken by boys. Given his youthful good looks, “Dab” could always be made up into a very good looking lady or girl! When he left the High School, “Dab” joined the Army. He was eventually to be killed in a skirmish with some lashkars at Miranshah, in the North West Province of India, in June 1919. Here is the official account of that short rehearsal for our recent war in Afghanistan:

furley

And here is Miranshah today, now that it is running its own affairs:

PAKISTAN-UNREST-NORTHWEST

According to Roy Henderson. the younger of the two Boyd brothers, John Hardy Boyd, was the best athlete in the school. He was captain of the school cricket team and of the Officer Training Corps. His elder brother, Charles Gordon Boyd, had been the school’s wicketkeeper, and had represented the school at football from 1910-1912. He was killed on May 3rd 1917, while serving as a Second Lieutenant in the  9th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment.

Allan Roy Stewart Grant was the son of a Presbyterian minister. For some subtle reason, possibly connected with his initials, he was always nicknamed “Pongy”. Thomas Wright was quite a good bowler, as was Daft, the grandson of the famous Nottinghamshire cricketer. Other cricketers included Francis Arthur Bird and James Wilcox, and Roy was himself one of the better bowlers and batsmen. The school cricket coach at this time was, of course, Mr A.G.Onion, seen here, perhaps, in his later years:

onion

In one year, Roy was the school Fives champion. In the year before this, it had been Donald Clarkson, who was to become that most vulnerable rank of officers, a Second Lieutenant, killed on August 9th 1918 with the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters. “Pug” Clarkson lived only a street away from where I am now writing, at 52, Caledon Road, Sherwood.

Other school Fives champions included Victor Guy Willatt and his brother, William Donald Willatt. William Norman Hoyte, the Captain of Mellers House was also a very fine athlete, as was Sidney Charles Trease. The latter was to become a Second Lieutenant in the 11th Scottish Rifles. He went  missing on September 19th 1918 at the age of only nineteen. He was the beloved son of George and Annie Trease, of 85, Waterloo Crescent, within just a couple of minutes’ walk of the school. His death came in a fairly pointless campaign in Greece and is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial.

The School was converted to rugby by Mr Kennard. He had the unfortunate habit with smaller boys of pulling them close and then tugging their hair very hard. It was extremely painful! There was no real reaction on the part of the boys to the change of sports from soccer to rugby. They just did as they were told.

Roy played as goalkeeper for the school on several occasions. He once let in eight goals against Trent College, and towards the end of the game he became what was probably the first player ever to be substituted in the history of school football, when he was replaced in goal by Donald Clarkson.

At the time, boys who represented the school were awarded ornate colour caps.

This article will be continued in the near future.

 

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (2)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the second section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict:

Nobody was ever allowed to speak to or approach girls from the Girls’ High School. For this transgression, boys were punished by being confined to their own school. Attitudes at this time were very Victorian.

Dr Turpin, the Headmaster, was always a popular figure. On one occasion, Roy was grounded for three months for putting chewing gum on the seats of other boys. Perhaps fortunately for him, he was caught when just about to put it on Jumbo Ryles’ seat. Mr Ryles came in, and Henderson thought that he would be expelled for this offence.

There were two Ball brothers in the school at the time. They were both in trouble most of the time. The more famous brother, Albert, was “a real card”. This is a photo taken during the time of the Great War. It shows Albert, apparently still wearing his brightly coloured slippers, his brother Cyril and an unknown officer of the Royal Flying Corps:

Albert25 bro, unklnow

At this time, music was not in the curriculum. There were just “a few ridiculous songs” for the prize giving ceremony. The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO! NO! NOT YOU!! …YOU! ! ” The first four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.

Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and would then be sent out of the room. This is Albert in 1911:

Albert 1911 trent

According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert Ball’s actual expulsion came from an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets, which, at one point, was allowed to burst, and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.

Albert Ball’s father was a City Alderman, but at the same time, he too was “a real character”. He took Roy trout fishing on several occasions around this period, but always used worms, never flies. This is Albert with his father, Sir Albert and his mother, Harriet Mary:

Albert22 family

Roy’s brother was also in the school around this time. He seemed always to be in scrapes when Roy was a prefect. Eventually he left Nottingham, and went to Millhill School. Roy himself enjoyed the High School, although he was never very good in the classroom. By his own admission, he was very poor academically, and was totally hopeless at exams.

Roy was a best friend of Arthur Willoughby Barton, who was later to become the Headmaster of the City of London School. The pair of them always collaborated closely in Chemistry lessons with Dr Turpin. Henderson did the weighing and all the practical activities, while Arthur did all of the calculations. In lessons they always got full marks, but in examinations, Roy usually scored very low marks indeed. Arthur, of course, still got his ten out of ten. Here is the official paining of “Fuzzy” Barton as the Headmaster of the City of London School:

(c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The high point of Roy’s rather modest academic career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize, the Duke of Portland’s prize for an English essay. It was on “Militarism”, and Roy only won because the rest of the Sixth Form deliberately boycotted the competition, with the attitude of “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…..let him have it.”

The Duke of Portland, in his capacity as the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, was to unveil the school war memorial in 1922:

1900_Duke_of_Portland,_by_sssssssss

Roy sang a specially composed song, accompanied by a piano placed “at the top end, just inside the school”. A wonderful draught of wind blew outwards from the school throughout the very impressive and solemn ceremony. It carried his voice beautifully, but also gave him lumbago. Here is the school war memorial:

notting_high_school_war_memorial xxxxx

Here is a photograph of the dedication ceremony. One of the people is surely Roy Henderson. but I do not really know which one:

war meoorial ceremnoy

During the first year of the Great War, many of the Sixth Form members of the Officer Training Corps had gone to a special summer camp, working on a farm on the south side of Nottingham. It was hard, unpaid work, harvesting potatoes and hoeing turnips. The following year, Roy arranged his own summer camp, at a farm near Grantham. Six boys, all members of his father’s church, went with him. They were all Prefects, and comprised three pairs of friends, Harold Connop and Francis Bird, Thomas Wright and Lancelot Foster, and John Boyd and Roy Henderson. Unfortunately, as they waited for the train, the tent, which was supposed to arrive, did not turn up, so four of the boys went on to Grantham, while two had to stay behind in Nottingham. The farmer, unhappy with having to pick them up twice at Grantham, greeted the final two at the station with the words:

“What? What? My boy, I am not a little annoyed! ”

Here is Grantham relative to Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

granthsm

The boys were asked to load hay from a stack to the farm cart. They started piling it on enthusiastically, but they proved to be too quick for the man on the cart, a Mr Wright. The latter soon told them that half a load was enough, and then geed up the horse. When the cart set off, though, half the stack came with it, and the whole lot collapsed. Everyone found it immensely amusing, and they laughed about it for a long time afterwards. Other work for the boys included shaking the clover out of the cut wheat. At the end of the week, they enjoyed an amazing celebratory meal at the farmhouse. There was roast beef and duck, and by the end of the pudding, everybody was absolutely filled, collapsing with the weight of the food consumed. The farmer then sent for Henderson, obviously about to give him something as payment for the six boys’ work during the week.

When he returned they all quizzed him…“How much??? How much??? ” He replied “A pound.” There was a disappointed silence, which was broken only by Henderson’s single word “EACH!!” Everybody collapsed with excitement. They were totally flabbergasted, as, at the time, a pound was an absolute fortune. The boys were later invited to the farmhouse for dinner at Christmas. Under each of their plates, they found a ten shilling note as a gift from the generous farmer. In addition, the boys all went to the school’s army camp, but was a much more formal, military occasion.

This article will be continued in the near future.

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (1)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive.  In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details of my own where this seemed helpful to the reader.

This is the first section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Here is the High School around this time. Notice at least four boys in the picture, including one sitting down on the edge of the tennis court:

west end of school

Roy Galbraith Henderson arrived in the High School Preparatory Department in January 1909. He had been born in Edinburgh, although he had not lived there since the age of three. Given his Scottish background, he arrived at the school wearing a kilt. This proved not to be the wisest of decisions, since he was immediately picked on by two older boys called Jaffer and Dodds, both of whom were at least a foot higher than he was. On many occasions in the future, he was to have water poured down his neck by these two bullies.

The Head of the Preparatory Department was Mr Leggatt, who was one of the very first to volunteer to go off and fight in the Great War. The main game in the school playground at this time was called “relievo”. It was a particularly thrilling game to play in one of the era’s many dense fogs.

In the First Form, the form master was called Mr Radley, or “Pot-eye”. He always used to get the boys to begin work with a loud cry of “pens up!”. They would then write “like the blazes”, before the call of “pens down ! ”. Mr Radley is the third person from the left on the front row:

radley front 3rd from left

In Form 2a, “Nipper” Ryles was a very good master, and was thought to be one of the very few who did not possess a degree. Here he is:

jumbo ryles

In the following year, in Form 3a, his brother, “Jumbo” Ryles, however, was “terrible, absolutely hopeless”. He used to have his feet up on the front desk all the time, and would practically go to sleep. The Drawing Master used to poke his nose around the door, and wake Jumbo up with a gentle cough. The latter would then rouse himself, and say to the class “Now get along there! Get along there! ” Jumbo’s teaching technique was to line boys up in a row for a series of questions. If they were correct, they would stay where they were. If they were wrong, they would go back to the end of the queue. This cartoon dates from just before “Jumbo” retired:

jumbo ryles left

In the Fourth Form, Mr Lloyd Morgan went to serve at the front during the middle of the school year, shortly after hostilities began. He was replaced by Mr D’Arcy Lever, who was the butt of many jokes, and found the boys extremely difficult to control. They made a lot of fun of him. Later in the conflict, retired teachers had to return to the school. Mr Trafford took over 3c, the worst form in the school, who were famed for their ability “to play up a lot”.

In Form 5a, Mr Brock was a “very nice chap, and very popular”. Everyone liked him very much. The Classical Sixth was looked after by Mr Strangeways.

In the yard, games tended to be played by years. In Form 1a, for example, everybody always had pockets full of marbles. They often played in the covered sheds near the Forest Road entrance.

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The yard also had two Fives courts, one of which was covered, and the other was left open to the elements.

fivers

To the left as one entered the playground via the Forest Road entrance, there was some extremely dirty sand.

playgro 1932

This was used as a football pitch, with rough and ready goalposts at either end. Every year, around Easter, a competition was held among teams of eight players, each one of which was captained by a different member of the First Eleven. In 1913, Roy played in the winning team, which was captained by James Ivor Holroyd. On October 30 1917, Holroyd of the 1/28th London Regiment was to be reported missing, presumed dead, in the Second Battle of Passchendaele, at the age of only twenty one.

Form 2a enjoyed a game called “rempstick”. A member of one team would stand with his back to the wall, while one of the other members of his team stood with his head between the first boy’s legs. The next team member would then put his head between the legs of the second boy, and so on, until a long caterpillar-like scrum structure was formed, just one person wide. The members of the other team then took a long run-up, and, one by one, jumped onto the top of the human caterpillar. If they caused a collapse, then their team was allowed to have a second go. If the caterpillar held up, then its members were allowed to do the jumping:

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In Form 3a, the main game was football, which was played on the left hand side of the playground. looking from the Forest Road entrance, right at the very far end. In Form 4a, football was played again to the left, but not as far along as in the Third Year.

The Fifth Form played their football under cover in the sheds along the Forest Road wall, kicking the ball against the wall in an effort to get past their opponent. Among these boys, Lancelot Wilson Foster was remembered as a particularly good full back.

The Sixth Form spent most of their free time just walking and talking on the lawns at the front of the school:

front schoollll

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 facilities 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 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 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.

Finally, my own footnote on Mr Radley. He was a teacher with what would nowadays be considered ideas before their time. He loved literature, art and music, and taught the boys about understanding and peace among mankind. Indeed, this was perhaps not particularly surprising for a man who knew French, German, Italian, Russian and Welsh. On one occasion, he brought an Egyptian into school to show his pupils that there were “other men than Englishmen and other creeds than Christianity.” His obituary in the school magazine ended with the words “Goodbye, Mr Chips!”

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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“Dab” Furley Part One

Percival Henry Biddulph Furley was born on February 10th 1900. He entered the High School on  October 2nd 1906 at the age of six. His father was Willis Furley and his mother was called Bertha. The family lived at 72, Cromwell Street, which is fairly close to the High School. Look for the orange arrow. The pale orange buildings of the High School, edged in maroon, are in the top middle of the map, bounded by Waverley Street and Arboretum Street:

streetmap

Willis Furley was a Hosiery Manufacturer, and the whole family used to go to All Saints’ Church in Raleigh Street, just a short walk from the family home. The church has a ring around it in this late 19th century map. Further towards the top of the map are the High School, looking like an inverted Letter “T”, and the Forest Recreation Ground, complete with Grandstand:

church

I do not know if this young man was called Percy at home, but he was certainly called “Dab” at school. Apparently, none of his contemporaries knew where his nickname came from. I have researched the word “Dab” as a nickname on the Internet, and the best solution comes from The Word Detective, who believes that “Dab” means “someone who is an expert in or proficient at something” as in the phrase “dab hand”. While “Dab” on its own dates apparently from 1691, this particular expression of “dab hand” first appeared at the end of the 19th century, with the oldest example being dated as 1870 (“He was a dab hand at water-colours.”)
The Word Detective is unable to supply a guaranteed origin for “Dab”, but I suspect that he is right to say that it comes from “dapper” which means “neat, elegant, smart, stylish or well-groomed”.
Dab certainly proved to be a dab hand at a great many things in his time at the High School, not least in his academic subjects. In 1912, after his first year, for example, he had clearly impressed enough to become a Foundation Scholar. Dab finally left the High School in May 1918.
He was always one of the favourites of Sammy Corner, the Deputy Headmaster, especially in the Latin and Ancient Greek classes in the Lower Sixth.
As a teacher, Mr Corner was famous for how easily he could be diverted from the work in hand. If anybody started talking about an interesting subject, especially in his Scripture lessons, the class would seldom, if ever, have to return to what they were supposed to be doing.
Dab’s other claim to fame was his talent in school plays. At this time, all the female parts were taken by boys, and, given his youthful good looks, Dab could always be made up into a very good looking girl or lady! Perhaps this was what made him an especially “Dab hand”.
The High School had stopped playing football, or soccer, at the end of the Christmas Term in 1914, ironically, just in time for the Christmas Truce in the Great War.  The First XI finished with a 2-7 away defeat against Leicester Wyggeston School on November 25th 1914. The Second XI, playing at home at Mapperley Park against the same opponents’ 2nd XI, lost by 1-5.  Dab probably did play for the High School at football, but we have no record of any of the team line-ups for this shortened season. When the school began playing rugby in early 1915, they did not play any official fixtures, but instead, spent their time trying to learn this rather complex game.
In the summer, though, Dab was to be a player in the school’s First Eleven at cricket for three years. The website “Cricket Archive” does have some of Dab’s performances listed. Here is the High School’s First Eleven in an unknown year. The coach on the left is the much respected Mr Onions, and the three young men in blazers are, left to right, Dab Furley, Roy Henderson and FL Oldham. Nobody else is named unfortunately:

furley

On May 29th 1915 against Derby School at Mapperley Park, Dab batted seventh and was run out for a score of two. He did not bowl. Derby School managed 58 all out but lost to the High School who were 78 all out, having batted on after victory, as was the custom at that time. On June 2nd 1915, playing in another home fixture, this time against Worksop College, Dab again did not bowl, but he batted sixth and was run out for a score of 17.  Worksop College were all out for 113, but the High School managed an all-out total of 125, having again batted on after victory was achieved. Here is my first attempt at an enlargement:

another BIGGER close up

The next season, on June 10th 1916, Dab travelled to Parker’s Piece, Chester Green, Derby to play against Derby School. This venue has been used for cricket from 1883 to at least 2006. Derby managed a record breaking low score of only 13 runs. JH Boyd took five wickets for only seven runs and GA Wright claimed four wickets for two runs. The rest of Derby’s total came from four extras. When the High School batted, Dab opened the innings as number two, and scored just three runs before he was out caught by Cotterill of the bowling of Stray. The High School, not surprisingly, were the victors, and batted on to score 158 all out.
In later years archaeologists began an excavation to look for Roman remains at this site and duly found a Roman hypocaust just to the left of the pavilion:

Roman-Hypocaust-at-Parkers-Piece-Photo

Nowadays, the area has clearly gone downhill with even horrific dog attacks being reported there. Such things were clearly not a hazard in those bad old days of 1916!
I have found no more scores, but Dab went on to win the School’s Prize for the Best Batting Average during the 1917 season:

close up 2

The following year, in 1918, he was the Captain of Cricket, although this cannot have lasted long if he was to leave the school in May of that year.

Tomorrow, more about the life of Percival Henry Biddulph Furley.

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