Tag Archives: memories

Stories from the Archive – Leisure Activities (Part 4 – Swimming)

In February 2016 I gave a talk about the archives as part of the Thursday lunchtime Recital Room series. I’ll put the talk on the blog in a series of posts. Click here for the previous installment.

PH.03.003.002a 1900s scrapbook page 2 Going to Marygate Baths

In terms of swimming, until the school swimming pool was opened in 1914, the school swam at the open air pool in Marygate. Sidney Kemp Brown remembered the opening of the new pool. “The school of course did not wait for the official opening before starting to use the bath, and No. 12 bedroom claimed the first bathe, decidedly ‘unofficial’ and taken at dead of night while the ‘tank’ was being tested, before even the glazed lining tiles had been laid. There was of course no filtering plant; the water got steadily dirtier and biologically more interesting until it was impossible to see the bottom, and then the whole lot had to be emptied and the bath filled afresh with cold, which took several days to warm up.”

Opening of Swimming Bath 1914

Opening of Swimming Bath 1914

Memories from the Archives – Part 7

In January 2015 I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Below is the final part of the talk. Read the previous part here. On Thursday 25th February I will be doing another talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series, see here for the full programme of talks (the talk starts at 1.05pm, entry via the front door of No.45 Bootham).

PH.03.004.005b 1910s scrapbook page 5 Swimming bath opening interior

The new swimming baths, opened in 1914

Henry Kenneth Fisher was at Bootham between 1909 and 1914, and remembers the then-new swimming baths. They were opened in 1914, so it was the centenary of the baths two years ago. “Then in my last year came the cutting down of the trees to provide for the building of the long awaited swimming bath. The teams of magnificent horses that dragged away the tree were the subject of my first photographs and I still have them. What a joy that splendid new bath was after the horrors of the old open-air Marygate Baths where the water was covered with leaves, soot and algae, and the surrounding slabs were so slimy as to constitute a veritable ‘death-trap’ to the unwary.”

Old Lodge 2

The old Lodge (on Portland Street) after the bombing raid in 1942.

Moving a little further forward, Douglas Stewart Jackson, who was at Bootham between 1939 and 1943, recalled his time at school during the Second World War. He remembered that: “I don’t think life at school was affected to any great extent by the war. The school staff may have had different feelings about the situation, some were called up for service in the forces and some pupils got involved in routine jobs that could be handled safely by those with a limited knowledge of the work and necessary safety precautions. A couple of us became ‘school electricians’ and having learnt the skill required to change lightbulbs, moved on to mending fuses and attempting to find and repair the cause of the problem. I do not recall either of us receiving an electric shock, but I am sure we did many minor jobs that would have been considered far too dangerous by the modern ‘Health and Safety Executive’.” He goes on to remember the air raid on York in 1942. It happened while the school was closed for the Easter holidays, and the main damage to school buildings was the destruction of the old ‘Lodge’ (the Bootham term for the health centre) at the school end of Portland Street. Douglas says that “At about this time there was discussion regarding ways in which pupils could become involved in activities which could help the people of York to overcome some of the adverse affects of the war. This was looked upon as a Quaker equivalent to the Officer Cadet Training Corps run by most boys schools. It started off with a series of practical training classes in bricklaying, cement and concrete manufacture and on a more basic level an attempt to salvage a high proportion of the undamaged bricks on the site of the Lodge. I thoroughly enjoyed this training and I think it was some of the most useful skills learnt at Bootham.”

This has just been a few snippets from the memories of a few people about their time at Bootham, but I hope that it has given you an idea of the extra detail and insight that can be gained from people’s memories, particularly if you then integrate that with other records.


Memories from the Archives – Part 5

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Read Part 1 herePart 2 herePart 3 here and Part 4 here.

James Edmund Clark lr

James Edmund Clark (1850-1944; Bootham 1862-67; Master at Bootham 1869-72 and 1875-97)

James Edmund Clark was at Bootham in the 1860s and returned as a Science Master. According to Natural History at Bootham – the Early Years, he was the first graduate to be appointed to the staff and the first person to be appointed specifically to teach science at the school. In an article for ‘Bootham’ magazine in 1903, he talks about the language used, the classroom arrangements, town leave, columns and top-hats.

“Quaker-boys ways were plainer then. ‘Thee’ and ‘thou’ was the universal language, and, except John Ford, masters had to be satisfied with their Christian names. It was ‘Silvanus’ and ‘Alfred’ and ‘Theodore’ and even ‘Fielden’. Well do I remember the light which dawned upon certain untutored minds, when it was suggested that, at public places, like the baths, ‘Thomas please’ would sound politer with the surname sandwiched in.”

Talking about the schoolroom, “One row of desks was under the playground windows, from the ‘altar’ to Silvanus Thompson’s desk. The central desks were in pairs of four or five each, back to back. On the other side was Mr Fryer’s desk, Silvanus Thompson’s serviceable ‘shop’, contained in the drawers of a table, while the junior master’s desk stood under the central window. Near him dwelt his little flock, their lessons frequently going on here with another class at either end. Their only retreat was the ‘junior class-room’ next to the old ‘senior’, and this was not always habitable. For it served, also, as natural history room, without possessing all the conveniences of the latter for the bestowal of refuse matter. The only receptacle, indeed, for such articles was an ominous looking black-ware vessel in the darkest corner, which only too fitly merited its suggestive title of ‘stink-pot’. Moved by that strange but apparently resistless attraction for doing the thing which should not be done, some small boy almost invariably ventured to give it a stir.”

Moving on to town-leave, he says “How altered is ‘town leave’ now! Six keys, later eight, used to hang up inside the library, and twice a day that number of boys might go out. ‘Mrs Gray’s, please’. ‘Thou mayst; not more that twopence’ was the usual formula. Little hope for a juvenile to be one of the six or eight, the eldest coming first.”

James also remembers columns (including the first half a dozen words on the list), and remembers that “My unluckiest day … was the equivalent of fifteen columns. Two of these were for whistling in the passage; three for leaping the railings of the boys’ gardens; ten for aspiring to the Observatory roof.” This would have been the old observatory, rather than the current one in the science block.

He also remembers that “The Half of my arrival witnessed also that of the first top-hat known in Bootham School. As the wearer measured 6 feet 2 inches in his stockings the effect was that of a city set on a hill. The infection caught on, until, before I left, half the school were victims of the unfortunate fashion.”


Memories from the Archives – Part 4

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Read Part 1 herePart 2 here and Part 3 here.

Joshua Rowntree

Joshua Rowntree (1844-1915; Bootham 1856-60)

Joshua Rowntree also attended Bootham at around the same time as Edward R. Allen (see Part 3). His entry in the 1914 Register includes some memories. “I started life at Bootham as a ‘brat’, subject, with eleven others, to a weekly foot washing by “Pea on a Broomstick”, as a tall housemaid with a small head was known amongst us.” We know very little about the non-teaching staff at the school from earlier years – often the only clues you have are brief mentions such as this.

Joshua goes on to talk about what he learned at school: “One thing I learned fairly well – to make fires. We might volunteer for stoking, receiving, I think, 6d. a week in recompense. It was a longish way from No. 2 bedroom to the schoolroom grates on cold, dark mornings, but a boy ought to know how to build up a fire quickly, and I never regretted the work.”

He also mentions games: “It was the pre-scientific period for games. Cricket was rather haphazard, and the junior club often resolved itself into discussions in the high key. Football had not come. Stag a rag was one of the best playground games with the rare exceptions of a big slide in time of frost, and Run-across was naturally enjoyable to a fair sized fellow. Boys who had sisters at the Girls’ school got a good run each week to accomplish their ‘visit’ in the half-hour after breakfast at Castlegate; and in after years in the hour before dinner at the Mount. The latter time was seriously curtailed when Mr. Hill and the old ferryman happened to be at the wrong side of the river with both boats together.”

It wasn’t until 1862 that the first football match was played, and Lendal Bridge wouldn’t open until 1863. As far as I can find out, Stag a rag appears to have been a version of tag.

Memories from the Archives – Part 3

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Edward R. Allen

Edward R. Allen (1841-1916; Bootham 1854-57)

Edward Allen wrote his early recollections down. Unfortunately there’s no date of writing, but it must have been after 1875 as he refers to a house move in that year. Before coming to Bootham he had spent several years in Folkestone, and compares his experiences.

“I went to Bootham and my stay of 4 years there was fairly uneventful. I found the tone of the school very different from what I was used to, and on one occasion when I was tempted to act according to the lights of Folkestone, one of my schoolfellows said “Thou mustn’t do that, the other lads will look down on thee” so I learned to do better.” He also talks about his natural history activities: “I was keen on butterflies and shells and shared with Albert Alexander the winning collection of 1855, obtaining a watercolour paint box for my prize, which I still have.” The Natural History Society had been formed in 1834 and was an important part of school activities.

Memories from the Archives – Part 2

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Read Part 1 here.

George Scarr Watson

George Scarr Watson (1842-1929; Bootham 1853-58)

Photograph from 1866 John Ford Memorial

George Scarr Watson wrote some reminiscences for the Sheffield branch of the Old Scholars Association, which were then reprinted in Bootham magazine in 1908, fifty years after he left school.

In the article he remembers music (or lack of it), sleep, and columns.

“The bare rooms of my day, cold, and destitute of sinful ornament, knew only the voice and the restrictions of the plain Friend. No music soothed our savage breasts save the siren strains of the Jews’ harp, and that was only tolerated for its Biblical associations. Now, I am told, string bands call up the ghosts of protesting broad brims and coal-scuttle bonnets, or would do if the sacrificial fire of a few years ago had not exorcised them and initiated a new era. Laughter and shouts are perennial, and we could do as well as our successors; we could sing too, in a way, but surreptitiously. Our choral song at 10pm one night was loud and without the refinement of a trained chorus, but the teacher who heard us need not have said he thought at first it was a party of drunken revellers returning home from their carouse.” It wasn’t until 1882 that the Committee gave the Headmaster permission to hire a piano, to be used only for practice during leisure time.

He goes on to outline his day, starting with the “wakening sound of the horrid startling bell – they always, as the little boy said, send you to bed when you are not sleepy, and make you get up when you are.” Staying in bed too late earned you columns. He says “Ten minutes’ work at twelve words per minute equals one hundred and twenty words: three syllable words extracted from Butter’s spelling book, beginning with ‘ abrogate, absolute, adamant, admiral, affable, aggravate’ (I know them still), and written on a slate.” Apparently one of the other boys at school at the time got into trouble so many times that he became very proficient, so was given a section of Virgil to be learnt instead.

Often those writing about their education expressed views about how good (or not) their style of education was, and what they thought a good education should look like. These are George’s suggested seven principles of education (his alternative to the seven arts and sciences of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music).

1.The formation of character
2.The formation of character
3.The formation of character
4.The training of the mind to think
5.The training of the mind to think
6.The training of the mind to think
7.The acquisition of a few facts.


Memories from the Archives – Part 1

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories of Old Scholars. I’ll publish the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog.

Today I’ve chosen to focus on the memories of students have of Bootham. Accounts by Old Scholars of their time at school turn up in various places – the school magazine (often comparing their own schooldays to the present-day school that they read about); the early editions of the register often contained stories of their most notable achievements or exploits at school; often Old Scholars will send in their memories for the archive, sometimes as part of an autobiography, other times just remembering one particular incident; over the years a number of oral history recordings have been done, and memories have been collected at anniversaries of particular events. In some ways these memories are a different kind of record to the ‘official’ documents – minutes, prospectuses, reports and so on. Often you need to bear in mind that the account may be of something that happened many years earlier, is written from the perspective of one individual, and depending on the audience, may have been edited! Having said that, the memories of individuals give an amazing insight into the experience of being at Bootham over the years, and when you piece those together with other records, a much wider picture starts to emerge. The memories often mention aspects of school life that would get missed out of the ‘official’ documents, perhaps because they weren’t seen as important or noteworthy. But I think that it’s often when you start to be able to see things through the eyes of individuals that events that happened in the past seem to come alive.

I’ve picked out about half a dozen pieces of writing by Old Scholars recalling their schooldays, and have pulled out short passages from each. I’ll work through them chronologically, although there isn’t time to give a complete history of the school.

Bootham School photograph dated June 1863

The first individual is George Scarr Watson, who was at Bootham between 1853 and 1858. I’ve put up a photograph of the back of the school from 1863 to give you an idea of what it might have looked like around the time that he was there. The school was originally started in 1823 in premises in Lawrence Street. For the first six years it was run by William Simpson, and then in 1829 the school was brought under the care of the Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting of the Society of Friends. At that point it was known officially as the Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting Boys School, and more generally as York Friends Boys School. In 1846 the school moved to Bootham, after the purchase of 51 Bootham, then known as No 20 Bootham, from Sir John Johnstone for £4,500. The decision to move had been made because of concerns over ill-health at the Lawrence Street site, and the Foss Islands area was not seen as particularly healthy. The photograph gives an idea of what the grounds at the back of the Bootham site looked like before the fire in 1899, which destroyed much of what you can see in the photograph.