Memories of the 1870s

[by Frederick Albert Wood, the Loughburian, July 1934]

     I believe I am correct in saying that I went to the School in January 1873 and stayed there until December 1875, i.e. exactly three years. I was born on 15th. July 1862 so I was just 10 years old at the time, and I was accompanied  by my brother, Henry Clement Wood, who was two years my senior, and who died - poor boy - of consumption at San Remo in November 1893, leaving a widow and two daughters.

     If my memory is correct, I joined my brother as a day-boy at Nuneaton Grammar School and we remained there for about two years. Towards the end of 1872 our doctor was sending two of his boys to Shrewsbury and the question of a boarding school for us was mooted. We had living at Nuneaton a much respected gentleman farmer named Jee who had sent two of his sons to Loughborough, and I believe my mother also knew a Mrs Craddock whose son, Hurst Craddock, had also been sent there. The result was that it was decided that my brother and I should go to Loughborough, and I remember my father taking my brother and myself there in or about January 1873 and leaving us as boarders in the house of the Head Master, the Revd. James Wallace. Although this must be at least 62 years ago, I well remember our interview with Mr. Wallace and his wife and family [two boys, Percy and Frank, and his daughter May]. Mr. Wallace asked us a few questions about our past education and I remember he showed us a book with which in days to come I was to become very intimately acquainted. I think it was called "The Latin Primer", and I remember he told us to construe the following lines : Cacus Aventinae timor utque infamia Sylvae Non leve finitimis hospitibusque matum. Mr. Wallace was also of the classical school, and he treated my brother and myself as being possessed of about equal knowledge, and told us we should be placed in the third class. He never asked us anything about arithmetic, history or geography, but appeared to regard our knowledge of Latin as governing all other subjects. I then remember my father telling us he had arranged for us each to have 3d. a week pocket money, which we thought was rather splendid, and he then said goodbye and left us.

     It was the custom of the Head Master and his wife and children to have dinner with the boarders, Mr. Wallace carving at one end of a long table, and I believe the House Master at the other. I also remember Mrs Wallace, who was rather a handsome, showily-dressed woman, always had a glass of home-made lemonade at her elbow into which she emptied a glass of sherry. At this time the masters were, as far as I can recollect, the following : Revd. J.E.Hewison, Mr. Seth Taylor [English], Revd. Robt. Mountain [general] - both these last-named had a small boarding-house - Mr. Lowenstein [German] and one or two others whose names I forget [? Earp and two Nicholls] and our House Master, whose name I also forget, but whose nickname I remember was 'Bull-dog', a roughish man, but not at all a bad-hearted one. There were, I believe, about 35 boarders in Mr. Wallace's house and either three or four dormitories; of these the two [or perhaps three] were large and the remaining one a small room containing about six beds, where my brother and I slept. The care of the household department was principally in the hands of Mrs James [matron] and 'Miss Helen' who, I believe, was her sister. There were also, of course, several servant girls.

     At the time I commenced the boys sat at meals according to seniority, the older boys being [at dinner] next to the Wallace family at the principal table, at which the boys sat at both sides, and there was also another table behind at which the boys only sat on one side. At the head of the School there was a boy called Tommy Henley. He was rather small but very nice-looking. He had very curly hair and it looked rather strange to see him sitting at the head of and leading the other boys - or rather young men - who must have been for the most part two or three years older than Henley and looked very much more important. Among these I recollect are Tollemache senior, Auber senior, Lodder, Dickinson, Huddleston, Lillingstone, Bowley, I.E.Hall and one or two others. Among  the 'others' were the two Masons [Harry and Charley], and later, I think, came Bryon, A.K.Wallace [a cousin of the Headmaster], Tom Walker, two Potters, Charles Kidd, two other Tollemaches, Billy Smart, Durrad, Simkin, Bull, Fearon, T. Anlay Macaulay, 'Copper' Radcliffe, Hood, Barrs, E.H. Douty [I am not sure whether he was not a day boy], Duncan Gregory [whose gravestone in Edenbridge Churchyard I discovered recently], two Jeyes, Donisthorpe, Nall, Thomas Scott and 'Fatty' Frith. Among the day-boys with whom I was friendly I recall the names of Dobell, Percy Baldwin, Dick Greenwood, Hilton, Reuben Cayless, Pulman, two Bretts and three Taylors, of whom Denison Taylor mentioned above is one. I have often thought how much I should like to know what has become of these old friends. Some years ago an old Loughburian [at school after I left] found me out, and together we started an Old Loughburian Magazine, but the movement did not succeed very well and the Magazine died a natural death about 40 years ago. My friend's name was Frank Newham and I believe he afterwards went into the Church. I wonder if he is still alive ! [Now principal of an English school at Nicosia, Cyprus. - ed.]

     I think one of my most intimate friends was the youngest Tollemache. He was the son of a clergyman in Lincolnshire who had a fancy for giving his sons most distinguished Christian names. If my memory serves me, the names of the eldest were Lyonnel Felix Grassett Eugene Tollemache ; of the second one I forget the exact names, but I know Granville was one of them. The names of the youngest were as follows - an I may say he was teased unmercifully for having such a string of names - Marchmont Murray Grassett Reginald Stanhope Plantagenet Tollemache.

     Of the elder boys who were good to me were James Lyon Bowley and Billy Smart. The latter tried to improve me and bring me up in the way I should go, and I recall that he used to walk me round the big playground on Sunday morning [ or afternoon] and make me read a good book called 'Sunday Echoes in Weekday Hours.' He was a kind friend.

     A.K.Wallace [a relative of the Headmaster] was about the only boy whom I really disliked. He posed as being a good boxer and a very fast runner and he was inclined to be a bully, and I do not think had many friends. Up to about 15 years ago I used to see him sometimes in the City. I know he had a position in the Bank of England, but I have not seen him for a long time. I do not think I ever spoke to him since I left school.

     I sometimes think how strange it is that I have been spared to live to my present age [72] when so many of my friends, possessing far better physique than I, have been taken. At school I was a very small creature, not much more than a child in age, and I was always referred to by the boys as 'Skinny Wood' because I was diminutive, and the Headmaster generally referred to me as 'little Wood' to distinguish me from my brother.

     I stayed at the school for three years, leaving it on the death of Mr. Wallace. I recall two scenes which occurred during the last few months I was at the school. On a Saturday afternoon I was in the town and I met Mr. Wallace hurrying along and looking very hot and worried. He called to me and said "Little Wood, run like the wind to Dr. Eddowes' house and tell him to come up to the school at once." I did so and very shortly afterwards we learned that Mrs Wallace had had a little child, I think a daughter.

     The other scene is this. I believe it was a Saturday. I remember that Mr. Wallace had a friend to dinner, sitting down with us all, and after dinner I saw Mr. Wallace take this person into the school, evidently with the object of showing him over it. There is a sort of lobby, in which we boarders kept out play boxes etc., and this leads to one of the large school rooms. The door of the lobby was open and I remember seeing Mr. Wallace stagger into the schoolroom from a corridor and he fell across one of the forms. The next I hear was that he was dead. I have a clear recollection that we boarders were invited to go and take farewell of our old Master as he lay in his study in the coffin. I remember one of the elder boys told me that, of course, I need not go if I preferred not to. I was so young that I suppose he thought it might upset me. But I decided to go with the rest. It was the first time I had ever seen death, and I remember how waxen his face looked and how strange it seemed to see his great nose and face so near me and lying s still. I have never forgotten the scene and I never shall. He was a kind, considerate Master, and I think we all had a great respect and affection for him.