Memories of the nineteen hundreds
[by Ralph P. Jones, 1905-1914]
I entered the school in 1905 at the beginning of the Easter term just before my 7th. birthday. There were I believe about 130 boys in the school including 8 - 10 in School House, several of them Scots who followed B. D. Turner from Glasgow. I recall the first scholarship boys entering from the elementary schools but do not remember any feeling against them, except by the brighter boys, of whom I was not one, who found themselves ousted from top positions and prizes by the generally more hard-working scholarship boys. I think such snobbish feeling as existed was mostly confined to the forms without them, i.e. upper forms of 1907/8/9. As they came up the school they seemed to integrate without trouble. But B. D. Turner never liked them !
Everyone took French and Latin in the lower forms but at about 13 had to opt for Latin or German. Most took the latter because B. D. Turner took advanced Latin and was much feared - mostly for his sarcasm. Among the masters Mr. Imrie ['Pal'] was the greatest character - he took French at the top of the Tower, enlisted in 1914 though I think over age, and fought right through the War in the ranks ending as an infantry sergeant. I left school in 1914 a week before war broke out. I do not recall there was any feeling of apprehension - it seemed to us to come out of a clear sky. The Maths master, named Barton, used to talk about the "German menace" for a year or so before 1914 but this was regarded as rather a bore, though some boys would try to start him off to avoid the greater boredom of Maths. Some masters and most of my contemporaries went into the services as volunteers and in fact few survived.
The original science laboratory [now the library] had been built just before I entered the school, and I do not recall any building taking place during my time, except possibly the Reading Room.
Only a few boys came to school on bicycles before 1910-12 and most of those from outlying villages - quite a number rode in from Barrow, Wymeswold, Shepshed etc. lunching on sandwiches or later
provided with lunch in School House. Everyone else walked. I was not exceptional and walked over a mile to school, back home for lunch, back to school and home again at 4.30 or later from the age of 7. Quite a lot came by train from Coalville, Whitwick etc. by the L. N. E. R. to Derby Road Station, as well as by Midland and Central Railways from other villages walking to and from the stations at each end. The only trouble I remember during my time was around 1911 when two or three boarders were expelled. The Head evidently thought it best to make a statement so the School were assembled and he told us he had found three boys in the bushes which then surrounded the 1st. XI and had detected "the unmistakable odour of Virginia cigarettes." Sensation !! My time at school was one of stable prices and I believe my fees remained at about £3 10s. per term.
Exams were junior and senior Oxford locals. Very occasionally we heard of boys going to university but this was exceptional and not a general aim. Some of the sixth stayed on an extra year or so as 'pupil teachers'. They evidently obtained some qualification since they then left to teach in state schools. There was no careers master nor any guidance as far as I know. Most boys seemed to go into their father's business or office or shop, or into the Brush or Herbert Morris if their father worked there. The war broke this pattern. Prior to it the town and school were very much closed communities - few strangers came to the town. After the war strangers poured in and boys spread out from the school over the country and world.