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.”


Lads Club Camp Diaries

Many thanks to Claire, one of the volunteers, for researching this post.

The first School Camp took place in 1905, on a farm “on the edge of the cliff near the middle of the sweep of Robin Hood’s Bay”, according to ‘Bootham’ magazine (October 1905 edition). There had long been plans for a holiday camp for boys from York. Before the first camp, much planning took place:

“Mr Sturge and Mr Spencer Smith had given much anxious thought to the careful planning of details. Preliminary tents had been erected in the garden of ‘49’; red and blue bunting had been wrestled with in the making of ‘B.S.C.’ flags; many solemn consultations were held on the merits of penny tin plates, and coloured linens for badges; the resource of the workshop had resulted in an excellent noticeboard; boiled puddings, cakes and vegetables had been sent in by masters’ wives and other friends; and many teas and chats on the engrossing subject had gone on in the Head’s garden.”

The camp was made up of staff, some boys from Bootham, and some boys from York.

We have in the archive a set of diaries for the ‘Lads’ Club Camps’ (as they become known), running from 1911 until 1968 (with some gaps). Here are some extracts from the diaries.

1911 – The very first diary entry was the 22nd July 1911, in Scarborough. Twelve officers and forty-five lads camped on this occasion.

Lads Camp 8 Lads Camp 10

1922 – The diary describes the layout of the camp along with the camp rules. “No smoking, no spitting about camp, preferably not elsewhere, barbed wire not to be climbed, use styles, no one to leave camp or go to the stream without notification to a commandant No washing in the water drawing bucket, iron basins provided, foul language and swearing discouraged, especially by officers!”.

Lads Camp 6


1933 – The camp took place at Thornton Dale, visiting “Farmer Elliott at Paper Mill Farm. Milk and butter were provided by the farm, water from the stream or spring on the hillside. Farmer Elliott allowed the lads to dam the stream “to make a deeper bathing pool”.

Lads Camp 16 Lads Camp 17


1954 – Camp was held at Bowbridge, Rievaulx. Nine days were spent there with, five staff, twelve boys from Bootham (officers) and twenty-three boys from across York.

Lads Camp 7

The “variety and quality of food was good, Friends of Bootham School donated tinned stuffs, biscuits, cakes and other luxuries”. The accounts give an idea of what supplies were needed.

Lads Camp 3