Memories of King Edward VII School,
Peter J. Unwin: Junior School 1945 - 1946, Senior
School 1946 - 1951.
Easter Island Statues
When we were all reading
Kon-Tiki, circa 1949 the arts master “Clarence” Helliwell
organised a wood carving competition.
These are a selection of the best entries.
Photo: P.J. Unwin
Junior School at
|My introduction to King Ted’s was failing the entrance
examination for the junior school. The post-war era of nationalisation
and equal opportunity either loomed or dawned according to your
political viewpoint. An entrance examination and fees denied all but a
select few from what was generally considered the best school in
Sheffield. I was sent for private tuition to a Mrs. Saville in
Broomhill. I believe that her late husband had been head of the junior
school. About eight pupils were given intensive tuition sitting round a
large table in the dinning-room. We concentrated on Maths and English;
fractions, decimals, calculating highest common factors, lowest common
multiples, mental arithmetic, spelling and taking dictation. After two
terms with Mrs. Saville, I sat the entrance examination again. We took
dictation and calculated highest common factors. Mr Baker, the
headmaster walked the aisles, “Pens down. In your head, think of a
number…multiply by twelve… subtract your number.. etc. Now write down
I was accepted into form J2M at Clark House for the
summer term of 1945 at the age of 10. My first surprise was school on
Saturday mornings. This was later changed to a compulsory games morning
at Whiteley Woods. Ultimate discipline in the junior school was the
slipper, administered by the head. Only local boys were allowed off
school premises during dinner time. For the rest it was a slippering
offence not to have dinner in the scout hut at the senior school. The
only escape was a letter from one’s parents. I was bribed, “get into the
top 6 in class”. By this means I gained my freedom. Once a week, with
two shillings each, John Stubbs went with me to the Sunshine Café in
town. Other days, there were chips… but don’t be seen eating them in the
street, go to the bombed-out St. Marks Church. Other days I explored
Sheffield, eating jam tarts while watching the rebuilding of Walshes or
walking round Woolworth’s. A cheap and reasonable meal could also be
obtained from the “Civic Restaurant” behind the city hall, a wartime
establishment intended for the “workers”. Freshly baked buttered bread
cakes could be bought in the maze of little streets behind the
cathedral, this left more time to brose the shops which sold surplus
ex-war radio equipment for my radio and electronics hobby.
|The Biro pen had yet to be invented, fountain pens were
not allowed. We had inkwells and “proper” pens. Tests were administered
several times a week in all testable subjects. We passed our paper to a
neighbouring pupil for marking. The teacher would call the roll and
record the marks for each pupil. I soon learned the roll-call,
“Beighton, Blagden, Braithwaite…. Stubbs, Unwin, Wells, Wills” because I
kept my own records. The marks were totalled to give our position in the
form at the end of every week.
|Moving into our final junior year in the
J1’s, we found ourselves being prepared for the Eleven Plus. We were
the first year to undergo selection in this way, no longer gaining
automatic admission to the senior school. Most of us seemed to pass, our
parents being delighted not to be paying school fees any more.
|On 10th. Sept 1946, I joined 2C
in the senior school. We were all issued with text books which we had to
back with brown paper. During morning break, we drank our free milk made
available to supplement the diets of all schoolchildren during wartime
rationing. We made a copy of our timetable and the classrooms to attend
for each subject. Basic School Rules were explained. For example, boys
may not use the main entrance unless locked out because they were late
and to be dealt with by the deputy head. Classrooms were out of bounds
during dinner break.
|Prefects, with their own common-room and the
power to give a whacking were new to us. I don’t recall any serious
bullying by them or by other boys. Most of the teachers wore their
gowns. The Head was Dr. A.W. Barton, a tall, fearsome Victorian style
headmaster who swept into morning assembly to an upstanding school,
wearing his gown and mortar-board. Pupils in the lower school rarely met
the headmaster other than by waiting outside his office for disciplinary
purposes which was often four or six strokes of his best cane.
|Also new to us were Houses for games. Each
house had its own morning assembly on Wednesdays when teams were picked
to play other houses or to go on the cross-country run. At the end of
term, cups would be given for display. Before the organ was installed,
these cups were in cupboards in front of what is now the organ loft.
|Games, especially football in ice or mud and
cricket when I had hay fever, did not appeal to me. I had little of the
“esprit de corps” demanded by Dr. Barton where this involved discomfort
or possible personal injury. I confess to sloping off where possible,
under cover of the river-bank, to visit the pictures in town. When
possible I opted for the run, walking the course with as many short-cuts
as were not detectable by the prefects posted as checkers.
|We were all encouraged to join one of the
extra-curricular activities. I joined the cine club. This gave lunchtime
film shows. The Invisible Man and old slapstick comedies were popular.
The club was planning to make a film. They were short of a cameraman.
Having used my father’s cine camera a few times, I volunteered. I was
the most junior of the production team which included Finlayson, Dawson,
Bingham and Roedel. The location was Symonds Yat near Ross-on-Wye. We
were to camp in a field behind Goodrich Court (Now demolished or taken
to USA). We set off by train, putting a sack containing a dead dog into
the guard’s van. Being summertime this stank. A large bottle of dettol
was poured over the sack. It still stank. As a matter of urgency it was
decided that the death of a dog on a railway line was to be filmed
first. The older boys drank more local cider than was good for them,
arguing endlessly about the making of the film. After taking the
required shots of the said dog, supposedly found dead on a nearby
railway line, no further progress was being made. We ate badly and
argued endlessly. Cows tripped over our guy-ropes at night. I lived on
bramble seedless jam and bread. I passed the camera to Roedel and left
after a few days. I never learned what happened to the film.
|Our form master in 3D was “Gerry” Woodage.
He kept good discipline by throwing a wooden board-rubber at an
offender. I suspect that he only did this when they were looking and
able to duck. We had “Spiv” Bramhall for French, immaculate with bow
tie, spats and slightly scented. His preferred punishment was press-ups
in front of the class.
|These were the days when Biology was
considered little more than advanced Nature-Study. It was not considered
a “proper” subject. Latin was. We had no choice about this, we all
studied Latin and at least one modern language. We learned physics with
large wooden voltmeters, galvanometers, and optical benches. Teachers
and pupils did a lot of practical work in physics and chemistry. Health
and safety rules had not been devised to curb this valuable activity. I
and several others did practical work at home. It was easy to buy six
pennorth of almost any chemical except the most poisonous at Prestons
the Chemists. We made ammonium tri-iodide (explosive!!), oxygen from red
oxide of mercury or sodium chlorate and silvered copper coins with
mercury. One boy did need hospital treatment after sealing dry-ice in a
bottle but serious injury was in fact very rare.
|It is hard for those born into the
permissive society to appreciate how things have changed. “Sex” and
“Condom” were forbidden words. A boy was caned when a master discovered
“Sex” in large letters on his blackboard. Gay meant what it means and
not Good As You, an unfortunate acronym reputedly
coined by American homosexuals. All girls, except what the older boys
called “Wenches” or “Tarts” said “no” to improper suggestions. Rare
magazines, such as “The Red Light Book”, “Health and Efficiency” (with
the interesting bits brushed-out) and certain exploits of a window
cleaner, circulated. Wild claims of sexual exploits were made, but in
fact we were mostly incredibly innocent. We dreamed of nymphomaniacs,
knew nothing about lesbians or that women had orgasms.
Master of Art.
“Tools away boys”
N.J. Barnes at the school organ
Photos: P.J. Unwin
|“Clarence” Helliwell with his unruly hair,
reputedly self-knitted tie and explosive temper, taught us art and
woodwork. Offenders in woodwork were bent over a bench and whacked with
a large T-square which often broke. At the end of our woodwork lesson,
Clarence would shout “ tools away boys”, causing much concealed
sniggering. My artistic ability was and remains that of a two-year old.
In every art lesson I delivered nothing but drawings of fish (side view)
and few strands of seaweed. Clarence made no comment, clearly
recognising an artistically challenged pupil.
|N.J. Barnes “Barney” was my third music
master at KES. He believed in free discipline ( see page 145 in “Tha’ll
never gerr in theer”). The result was that apart from a few gifted
pupils who sang or played in the orchestra, for most of us our musical
education ended. I was interested in music and did once try the
orchestra, but left-handed violinists do not integrate well. A group of
us enjoyed “knocking” a few tunes out of a piano by “ear” as they say.
We were left to our own devices which meant finding an unlocked
classroom with a piano, either in the school or by hiring a practice
piano at Wilson Peck’s during lunchtime. On one occasion we got into the
music-room (top floor) by way of a nearby window. Barney unlocked his
classroom to find us inside, playing his piano. We would undoubtedly
have received six of the best had he told the Head but he didn’t. After
this he sometimes allowed us to play the grand-piano in the assembly
|There were broad window-sills on the main
corridors. Dinnertimes on wet days, we used these sills for playing
shove-halfpenny, hangman or other games. Behind the school, near the
bike sheds and “backs” as the toilets were called, was the Tuck Shop in
a small hut. “Fatty” McGrath kindly opened this at dinnertime. Sweets
and chocolate were rationed for several years after the war; it was
“Victory V” lozenges or liquorice-root unless we had any sweet coupons.
Liquorice-root, as might be expected, was very woody … but given a good
chewing, the soggy end had a distinct flavour of liquorice.
|“Trotsky” Redston took me for maths for a
while. Trotsky did not believe in free discipline. We stood to
attention when he entered the classroom, not a shuffle or a whisper.
Dry, sarcastic and readily dispensing punishment to fit the crime,
nobody risked pranks with him in school. We were learning how to use
logarithms. I sneezed, he glared. I sneezed again, one hundred lines. I
explained that I had hay fever. He didn’t believe me, two hundred lines.
I truly did my best but collected over a thousand lines by the end of
the lesson. Whether we were interested in logarithms or otherwise, every
one of us learned how to use them for multiplication and division of
large and small numbers and for the calculation of square and other
|“Curly Harper” was both well liked and
respected. He taught me chemistry. His most memorable practical
demonstration was electrolysing water to fill a special thick-walled
glass bottle with an optimal explosive mix of hydrogen and oxygen.
then held a lighted match to the open top of the bottle. The whole
school heard the bang when he did this experiment.
He would chat with us, could be teased when he stood by the window
watching the girls playing net-ball at the nearby High School and still
teach us chemistry to a very high standard.
“Sam” Carter: Deputy Head.
N.L Clapton: Our new headmaster.
Photos: P. J. Unwin.
|The “Clapton” era began in my time at the
school. Established traditions seemed to slip away or lose their
emphasis. Dr. Barton had answered to fee-paying parents who had certain
expectations. Gaining entrance to Oxford and Cambridge, classical
studies, sport, rigid discipline, esprit de corps and social activity in
extra-curricula pursuits were what the fees paid for and what the
previous head, Dr. Barton, delivered.
|Boys need firm boundaries. It was “Sam”
Carter who kept these in place when Dr.Barton left. Sam wasn’t popular
but he was respected. He disliked me greatly, I had once corrected him
in a physics lesson on a minor point in electromagnetic induction. Ever
after, my usual good marks in physics fell dramatically. He once told me
plainly “ I don’t like boys like you who don’t like sports”.
|So why do we wrinklies grumble and rumble
about education not being what it was and what was special about KES ?
|Because something is crazy about education
and it’s beginning to be mentioned by many employers and universities.
It is also becoming obvious that we are short of plumbers and vital
skills such as roof repairing to prevent our computers getting wet. No
need to rabbit on about this, these problems will be corrected as the
pendulum of change swings from idealism to pragmatism - hopefully
without destroying the sound idea of equal opportunity.
|KES was special because it collected
academically promising students together, had clear aims and freedom to
run itself. Let me put it this way; collect or link a lot of criminals
together and you get better criminals, collect academics together and
you get better academics.
|King Ted’s undoubtedly gave me confidence,
knowledge and discipline, all of which have been of value in a rewarding
and varied career. Agnostic I may be, but the lessons read at morning
assembly taught me to appreciate biblical prose and wisdom. Gathering
around the War Memorial on Armistice day, hearing the dedications and
last post was moving and unforgettable. It was much more than the
teaching that made King Ted’s what it was. It may be that caning is
brutal and that masters should not tweak ears or throw board rubbers. It
may also be that the baby has been thrown out with the bath water during
the idealistic experiments in education that were to come. We were
prepared for a realistic world that can be unfair, is competitive and
has to be disciplined.
|Without Trotsky’s teaching, I could not
have understood floating-point numbers and used them to write low level
computer code for a numerically controlled machine. Thanks to “Curley”
Harper I have been able to understand etching and electroplating
solutions. KES gave me the background skills which lead to starting my
own company operating in the electronics industry. Clearly, in my case,
KES was special.
P.J.U. Sept. 2004