Memories of the 1850s

Part I

[from memory's storehouse, by an old boy educated at Burton's Grammar School, Loughborough ; reprinted from 'The Loughburian' January 1903]

     The foundation stone was laid by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough [George Davys D.D.], a native of Loughborough. The Bishop of Lincoln [Dr. kaye] was also present. The ceremony took place 16th. August, 1850, the day being observed as a general holiday in the town. The Schools were opened in August 1852, the opening ceremony taking place in the large School, which was finished first.  There were, I believe, upwards of 60 boys in the first quarter, that being the term then in use for the division of the scholastic year. There were 12 Trustees of the Charity at that time, namely : John Cartwright, Edward Harley, William Paget, Edward Chatterton Middleton, John Smith, J.H.Eddowes, John Watson, John Barrow, Thomas Woodcock, Revd. Henry Fearon, ........White, .........Clifford. The arms of those who laid claim to such marks of distinction are represented on the shields above the wainscotting in the large school-rooms. With these Trustees rested the appointment of Masters.


     The first Head Master was Revd. John George Gordon, M.A., Classical Master of Cheltenham College, formerly Scholar and Gold Medalist, Trinity College, Dublin. He afterwards took the degree of L.L.D. The Second Master was Revd. Thomas White, M.A., Wrangler with Classical Honours, St. John's College, Cambridge. The Third or Commercial Master was Charles Edward Warner, he was formerly Head Master of the High School in Church Gate. A goodly number of boys came over to the new Schools, as they were then called, from the High School, the writer being one of them. Mr. Warner left in about 1855 and went to the Harley Grammar School at Osgathorpe, as Head Master, where he remained until his death. He was succeeded by Mr. John Spanton, a gentleman who had formerly conducted a Commercial Academy in Loughborough.

     The boys were divided at that time into classes, of which there were six. The first class consisted of about 6 boys, but as the numbers ascended, they increased. There was an examination held annually, at Midsummer, and a distribution of prizes. The first examiner was Rev. Henry Alford, M.A., Vicar of Wymeswold [I believe he was either Senior Wrangler of First in Classics] afterwards Dean of Canterbury. The Revd.......Bateman, Rector of Leake, examined another year, he was well known at that time in the cricket field. Rev. J. B. Ottley, Vicar of Thorpe Acre, formerly Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and a contemporary of J. H. Newman and John Keble, I believe was another of the examiners.

     Dr. Albert Maximilian Selso was the Master for Languages at the same time as Mr. White [1852-55] and Mr. Warner ; he was eminent in both Classics and Modern Languages, being able to converse freely in, at least, four of the latter. He left about 1855 and went to Dublin, returning afterwards I believe to Leicester, but I do not know what became of him eventually.

     Mr. C. E. Warner excelled in the art of penmanship, he had few equals, but no superiors. We used to break-up about the 18th. June, and resume duties again on the 1st. August. The Christmas vacation extended from about the 20th. December to the last week in the following January. At the time I left Dr. Gordon had eight boarders, principally Scotch and Irish boys, amongst the latter being a relation of the late Archbishop of York [Dr. Magee]. I believe there were upwards of ninety boys at the time I left, many of them coming from the villages round Loughborough. The opponents, in the game of football in

those days were "in town" against "out town boys", the latter being generally victorious as they were more numerous and powerful.


Part II

[Recollections by J. B. Slight, from the Loughburian, January 1904]

     When I first promised to think about jotting down some recollections of my time at the LGS I did not quite realise how hard it would be to recall events of school life after a lapse of nearly fifty years ; and moreover I thought to have the help of my old school-chum, Joseph Powell, son of the Vicar of Normanton-on-Soar, for many years in the office of the Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance but, when I called, I found he had passed away a year ago. Together I thought we might have remembered a good deal of our School life at Loughborough ; but so it was not to be. I believe I entered the School after the Christmas holidays of 1852 ; at any rate I remembered being examined by the Rev. Henry Alford, afterwards Dean of Canterbury, then the Vicar of Wymeswold, which was in June 1853. In the following year, 1854, the examiner was the Rev. R. J. Bunch, Rector of Emmanuel Church, and formerly Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge ; and in 1855 the Rev. J. B. Otley, Vicar of Thorpe Acre with Dishley. In October of this year I went up to St. John's College, Cambridge, the first, I think, to proceed to the University from the revived School. All of us, who were workers, owe a debt of gratitude to our chief, the Rev. Dr. Gordon. In School he was all that a Head should be to his boys. A good scholar himself, he spared no pains with us. Full of sympathy with the workers, he stirred up the careless and the idle as they needed ; bullies or wilfully bad lads he came down upon them as they deserved. The feeling of the First Class, or as we now say, the Sixth Form, was strong for him. Even as boys we could see that the removal of Mr. Warner from being Head Master of the High School to a subordinate position at the Grammar School was a grave mistake, however good, as undoubtedly he was, at the former. His successor, Mr. Spanton, we all respected a nd liked. The Second Master, the Rev. T. White, had charge of the higher Mathematics, and took great interest in his boys ; personally I owe much to him. It was a privilege too to be under such a teacher of French and German as Dr. Sels. He was a good disciplinarian, kind, but not one to take liberties with.

     I cannot recall much about our time-table. We had the usual Classics, Mathematics and Modern Languages, History and Geography. There was no special training in English Literature. The School books of those days were very different from the present. For example, our text book for arithmetic was Colenso. Dr. Gordon was a splendid Arithmetician, and he would frequently point out the clumsy method of many of Colenso's examples and would show us a neater way. He was preparing a revised edition of Colenso, but I never heard that it was published. I remember we were reading Horace once in the Upper First and were told to turn one of the Odes into English Verse. In vain we protested that there was no poetry in us ; the Doctor smiled but bade us try. We managed to produce something or other, but I don't think that then or in our after attempts we were encouraged to look forward to a place in the front rank of English poets.

     There was one great drawback, for none of the then Masters took any personal interest in the School Games. In fact there was no leaven of Public School spirit in the place, for at that time there was only one boarder in School House. The Cricket Ground produced in abundance almost everything but grass. Winter was a trying time ; the Big Schoolroom was bitterly cold in spite of the stove, and the ventilator supplied us all too freely with fresh air. I kept in touch with the School until the resignation of the Doctor, who, whatever his failings may have been, was a clever teacher and a true friend to his boys.