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.

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

Stories from the Archive – Leisure Activities

In February 2016 I gave a talk about the archives as part of the Thursday lunchtime Recital Room series (click here for the full programme). I’ll put the talk on the blog in a series of posts. The first installment is below.

Arthur Rowntree

Arthur Rowntree (Headmaster 1899-1927)

Today I’m going to talk about the leisure activities of the school over the years. Inevitably the talk cannot be a comprehensive survey of all the leisure activities that students have taken part in, but hopefully it will give a sample of some of the activities, their development and the stories within those activities.

In January 1915 Arthur Rowntree, the Headmaster at the time, gave a talk to the Friends’ Guild of Teachers about Leisure. He argued that:

“Everyone coming to school ought to learn two things: to cultivate what he likes and to cultivate what he dislikes.”

“The leisure-hours of the modern boys’ boarding school ought to be well filled. If it is a twentieth-century characteristic to plead for leisure hours unfilled, then let me ally myself with the nineteenth century in maintaining that not one percent of the boys needs unfilled leisure time.”

“And let us remember that hobbies, beginning in small ways and developing until they unite with higher interests and involve considerable intelligence, encourage individuality in the boy, and last through life as a part of that true education which is an influence deepening and enriching human life everywhere.”


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.


Heritage Open Days observatory tours

11/9/2015 – Please note, the Saturday tour is now fully booked.

There are still a few spaces left on the observatory tours this weekend – email to book a place. The tours take place on Saturday and Sunday at 12.45pm, meeting in the Recital Room, access via the front door of 45 Bootham. Tours must be pre-booked as places are limited. Full details, as well as listings of other events in York, on the Heritage Open Days website.

PH.03.003.006b 1900s scrapbook page 6 Telescope in Observatory c1905

Heritage Open Days

11/9/15 – Please note, the Saturday tour is now fully booked.

Once again we are running tours of the observatory for Heritage Open Days 2015. There will be one tour on Saturday 12th September and one on Sunday 13th September, both starting at 12.45pm. Click here for full details. Tours must be booked in advance with Jenny Orwin (

Bootham School Observatory

Hoard of coins found at Bootham School in 1953

In September 1953 a workman digging drains for the new kitchen block found a hoard of medieval coins. An inquest was held in the John Bright Library, and the coins were declared Treasure Trove. The Yorkshire Museum in York, which now holds the coins, is doing some research about the collection. If you remember the hoard being found, or attended the inquest, it would be lovely to hear from you. Please get in touch with the Archivist, Jenny Orwin (

An article was written about the find by R.H.M Dolley and I.H. Stewart, click here to read it.

Heritage Open Days

We’re running tours of the observatory on Saturday 13th September and Sunday 14th September as part of Heritage Open Days this year. Bootham School has had an observatory and encouraged young astronomers for over 160 years. Come and explore the current observatory, which was opened in 1902.

Bootham School Observatory


You can find all the details on the Heritage Open Days website, along with other local events. Tours must be pre-booked.

Rowntree Society at Bootham for Residents’ Festival

It’s lovely to work with the Rowntree Society on an event they are organising for York Residents’ Festival this weekend (25th to 26th January 2014). There will be lots of Rowntree activities for all ages including finding out how quickly you can pack a box of chocolates! The Rowntree family were closely linked to Bootham School, and you can find out more about Quaker education in the exhibition. The event is in the Recital Room (entrance through 45 Bootham) and is open from 10am until 4pm on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th January. Check the Rowntree Society website for more details.