Skating and Sliding

  skating and sliding title cropped

I’ve thought for a while that one of the marks of being ‘grown up’ is whether or not you get excited by snow. Last winter I had to concede that I might be grown up, as I checked the forecasts, got very cold scraping ice off the car, and worried about slipping over.

As the season for cold weather arrives again, it seems appropriate to start a series of extracts from the Observer with illustrations and words from ‘Skating and Sliding’, from November 1865, in which John W. Procter describes what happened when the weather got cold enough.

“The first time that we had occasion to put on our skates this year, occurred about the 20th of Jan, when we had sufficient frost to make it worthwhile ‘pouring down’ for skating and sliding.

Accordingly leave was applied for by some of our most energetic and skilful companions and being kindly granted the asphalt was covered for skating and a slide was made from the fives court down to the bottom of the playground, out of which we had a good deal of pleasure as well as many rolls and tumbles.

Sliding cropped

We also had some pleasant skating, though the primary foundation of the skating ground being composed of asphalt instead of water which necessarily made it rather rough and as there are always a great many performers, and not too much space to perform in, before very long it got worn through in some places and stones and other ‘tripups’ appeared in abundance, which of course, caused further skating not to be salutary either with respect to ourselves or our skates.”


  1. The Observer features handwritten essays by Bootham students on a wide range of subjects. It ran from 1856 to 1963, and many of the essays include beautiful illustrations.
  2. The essay is in Vol VI, Number 18, 1865, p329-340. The author was John W. Procter, who was at Bootham between 1862 and 1866. According to the 1935 Bootham School Register, he went on to become an agricultural merchant and chemical manure manufacturer.
  3. The essay goes on to talk about how they looked for other places to skate.  They were not allowed by skate at the new skating ground at Heworth, which was owned by the skating club, but were able to skate at Strensall Common.
  4. The essay includes a cautionary tale about the dangers of skating on frozen ponds, thankfully apparently no one was seriously injured or killed. I should point out that the passage should be read with a ‘don’t try this at home (or in the playground)’ warning!

3 Replies to “Skating and Sliding”

  1. I am surprised if the playground could have been used for skating. When I cam to the school in 1979 the playground (it was a playground and not a car park then) was loose ashes. It was a few years later that it was tarmacademed.

  2. I enjoyed the article about skating but cannot add any useful info for you unfortunately, tho I remember enjoying the slide by the chemistry labs etc .

    in the archives site I entered the search for Natural History Society and Askham Bog ,but nothing came up. any suggestions? we were very fond of and influenced by Clifford Smith during our whole time at Bootham in the 1950’s. any news of his family would be most welcome.
    thanks a lot

    Martin Johnson

    1. Dear Martin
      thanks for this – have you seen the piece on the main Bootham School website re the Natural History Society
      Also, if you’re interested, there was a beautiful book produced (printed by Sessions of York) to mark the 150 anniversary – copies are still available
      Clifford Smith was a much loved friend of Bootham – he has family still in York
      Best wishes

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