Memories from the Archives – Part 6

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 herePart 4 here and Part 5 here.

Moving on into the 20th century now, Eric Henry Richardson was at Bootham between 1901 and 1904, during the rebuilding and opening of the new buildings after the fire. He recounts his experiences in the school fire brigade in the 1914 Register. Below are photographs of the fire brigade from 1911, slightly later than Eric’s time, but they give an idea of what the fire brigade looked like.

Bootham fire brigade 1911 lr Bootham firebrigade 2 1911 lr

“During my captaincy of the Fire Brigade I had the “privilege” of extinguishing an outbreak of fire in No. 2 bedroom. This was caused by the fusion of an electric light wire melting the adjoining gas pipe and igniting the gas under the floor. The thoughtfulness of Stephenson in turning off the gas meter in some mysterious corner of his “hole”, quenched the outbreak discouragingly soon from the Brigade point of view. One of the masters, realising with great presence of mind that some implement was necessary to tear up the boarding and get to the seat of the trouble, rushed downstairs, obtained a pickaxe from Stephenson (who had already turned off the gas), and proceeded, by excited miss-hits, to do considerable damage to both sound floor boards and mantelpiece jambs. With one bucket of water my Brigade extinguished the smouldering boards, but I have always somehow entertained a sneaking feeling that the honours of the day were with Stephenson. This outbreak occurred at 6.55am, just as the boys were dressing. If the wire had fused 10 minutes later when everyone was in the John Bright Library, the consequences must have been disastrous, and Bootham would have had for a second time to rise Phœnix like from her ashes with greater glory still.”.

The programme for the 2015-16 series of Thursday Recital Room events can be found on the school website.

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.


1914 Register – cricket, rats, fire and escape plans

This post continues from earlier posts with extracts from the 1914 edition of the Bootham School Register. Thanks to Claire, one of the volunteers, for researching the post.

Arthur Frederic Gravely (B. 1869-70)

Played in the annual cricket match with Schoolroom against the Seniors when, with I.H. Wallis as captain, they beat the Seniors in one innings: Remembers Septimus Marten’s great throw from the far side of the then adjoining field over the row of trees dividing that from the cricket field, the ball falling within a yard of the wicket: Postcards came into use whilst at Bootham, and he wrote and posted one the first day of issue to his sister at the Mount. Has a vivid recollection of J. Edmund Clark, then a teacher, learning to ride an early bicycle (“Boneshaker”) on the playground: also of a most enjoyable school excursion to Goathland, where he climbed a fir tree and brought down a nest of young squirrels for inspection, and afterwards with his clothes on slipped on a stone, and, to quote the words of an old song, “He caught a fine duck in the river”. Once when troubled with boils he went to Fielden Thorp, who welcomed him with the following “Come hither, come hither, my little boy, and do not tremble so, for I can prick the biggest boil that you ever did yet grow”.

Joseph Foster Lloyd (Lawrence St. 1844-45 and B.1846-49)

Became a Coal and Iron Merchant until his health broke down: Of rather retiring character, and as an invalid for some years before his death: At school he was a daring boy – watching a water rat in Langwith Long Lane, was greeted by John Ford with a “At him, Joe,” and without a moment’s hesitation he plunged into the ditch after the rat.

 Herbert Thomas Malcolmson (1897-1900)

At Bootham under John F. Fryer and Arthur Rowntree he remembers the “fire”, when he lost quite a number of Natural History specimens – in fact, some of his skulls were in the pot left boiling, and which is thought caused the fire, although he was not in charge.

George Mennell (Lawrence St. prior to 1829)

Arranged in conjunction with Henry Binns and John Bright to run away from school to America. H.B was caught on leaving the school premises and obliged to reveal the plan. JB., who had started second, pursued and caught on Tadcaster Road. G.M reached Leeds on foot, and was there found waiting for the others at the inn whence the coach to Liverpool was to start.

John Firth Fryer 1840-1914

John Firth Fryer

Today (28th February) marks the 100th anniversary of the death of John Firth Fryer, Bootham’s headmaster between 1875 and 1899. He started as a pupil at the school in 1854, and apart from a year at the Flounders Institute at Ackworth training to become a teacher, he remained at the school until his retirement in 1899. During his headship, he oversaw changes including teaching becoming departmentalised, permission being granted by the committee for the hire of a piano for practice during leisure time (which rapidly became the purchase of two pianos, hymn singing on Sunday evenings and the introduction of concerts), and the end of earlier customs such as no plates at breakfast or tea. Unfortunately his headship finished with the fire in 1899 which destroyed much of the school.

He seems to have been a keen footballer for a while, according to his obituary (in ‘Bootham’ magazine, May 1914): “When, however, the game [football] was sanctioned and John Ford himself gave the initial kick…in September 1862, no one proved a more enthusiastic player than J. F. Fryer, until an unlucky kick under the knee temporarily incapacitated him and made it undesirable for him to keep it on.”

His poem about football, ‘A Lay of Modern York’ was reprinted with his obituary in 1914, and its ending is particularly poignant considering what would follow later in 1914. Here are the last two verses:

“Thus onward speeds the conflict,

With various fortune blest;

First one side – then the other –

The poor ball gets no rest!

First to left and then to right,

Now here, now there, the ball is sped.

Anon one side the victory sees

An then its hopes are all but fled.

In short, so various is the scene

In this so happy, playful strife

As not remiss to represent

The strange vicissitudes of life.


Would that all strife as harmless were as this,

Would that all sanguinary war would cease,

All kingdoms of the happy earth rejoice

Beneath the reign of universal Peace.

The man of war his sword to ploughshare beat,

His deadly spear to pruning hook would turn;

Nations in battle fierce no more would meet,

No more with rage against each other burn;

And thus no longer war, but Peace delight to learn.”

J. F. Fryer

4th November 1862, 20, Bootham, York