Snippets from the archives

Our archivist, Fiona Hirst, has been providing staff with interesting snippets of information from the archives over the past few terms. We are intending to post future such items as news stories so that they can reach a wider audience. For now, here are the 6 snippets collected so far. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

The School Pew

Anybody who has ever visited the SLT corridor will have seen the wooden pew which sits outside Mr Sutherland’s office. It is possible that the pew dates back to 1800 and it stood for many years in the porch of St Clement Danes church. At some time, possibly in the 1920’s or earlier,  it was given to the school which was then housed in Houghton Street , close to the church.  The Clerk to the Governors at the time, Robert J Lewis, remembered that “ form masters found it a most excellent one for boys to kneel on to receive corporal punishment , but a later Board of Governors decided to abolish this form of punishment”.  In 1928 the school relocated to Ducane Road in Hammersmith and the pew was taken to the new building.  

In June 1950, the pew was given as a gift to Chorleywood College for Girls With Little or No Sight which was then on the present site of the Cedars Retirement Village- I imagine that there may have been a personal connection between the two schools.   They intended to put on a braille plaque recording its origin but this was not done.  The pew, however,  was covered  as the V1th form  girls used it for daily prayers and snagged their stockings! 

When the College closed in 1987 the pew was returned to the school and took pride of place in the entrance.


St Clement Danes First X1  v  Queens Park Rangers1962 football team

One of the highlights of the school’s centenary celebrations in 1962 was a football match arranged between the school First X1 and a team from local club QPR.  At the time, St Clement Danes fielded one of the best school football teams in the country.  Between 1956 and 1962 they produced 3 full amateur internationals, 3 England Youth players, 6 England Public and Grammar School players and 16 boys won places in the London Grammar Schools First  X1.  They  often played club and university sides as well as other schools and remained unbeaten for three years.  The team received coaching from both Jimmy Hill and England captain Billy Wright.  Their goalkeeper, John Jackson, went on to play for Crystal Palace.

The QPR stadium was very close to the school and the match took place there on 28th March in front of 1,000 cheering pupils. The result of the tight encounter was a 4-3 win for the school team.

Later that day  an Old Danes International X1 took on an FA Representative X1 , also resulting in a victory for the school.  The Old Danes team consisted entirely of players who had represented their countries at Youth, Grammar School, University and amateur international level, notably Hugh Lindsay of England, Ron Broom of Wales and Jimmy Quail of Ireland.  The FA News covered the event and noted that “ it must surely be a record for any school to be able to field an active international team in one afternoon”.

The captain of the school X1, David Smith, recently had an article published in the Guardian supplement recalling the day.  I have put a copy of this , together with a photo of the victorious teams, on the noticeboard opposite the LRC so please have a look.  I also have the programme and several other items from the day if  anyone is interested in seeing them.


CommemorationImg 9449

The first Commemoration service as we know it was held in 1937 shortly after a new Headmaster, Mr J McGill  Clouston was appointed.  He remained in post until 1959 and was responsible for many changes and developments in the school over that period. He had a very strong sense of history and tradition and was keen to re-establish the school’s links to St Clement Danes church which had been weakened when the school moved from Houghton Street to Hammersmith in 1928.

So, on Tuesday November 23rd 1937, the whole school set off for the church in eight London Transport Omnibuses to attend a special St Clements Day service.  Some parents and former pupils also attended, including Old Dane Frederick Lack who had been at the school in the 1870s.  The service started at 2.30 pm with the hymn “He who would Valiant Be” followed by the lesson read by the Chairman of Governors, Rev F Harcourt Hillersdon.  After a prayer and the St Clements Day hymn, “The Angel of Remembrance” the sermon was preached by Rev W Pennington Bickford, also a Governor.  His theme was the school Houses and their origin. The service concluded with “Jerusalem” after which boys, staff and guests were taken on a tour of places of interest in the parish, visiting Fleet Street, Temple, and the site of the former school in Houghton Street.

One more service was held in the church in London before the outbreak of war in 1939.  The school was evacuated to Oxford in September of that year and the next service was held there on Thursday November 20th 1941.  It was the prelude to a very welcome long weekend break for pupils and staff who may have been able to meet up with their families.  By that time St Clement Danes church had been destroyed by enemy bombing (May 1941) and it was to be ten years until any thought was given to its restoration.


The first Headmaster

As we welcome Mr Sutherland as the 10th (14th if you count Acting Heads) Head of the school, a few words about the very first Headmaster, The Rev W J Savell.  We were contacted earlier this year by his great grandson so I was able to give him the following information about his ancestor.

The new St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Grammar School opened on 4th August 1862 in premises close to St Clement Danes Church.  The Rev Savell, MA,LLM was appointed as its first Headmaster – it was customary for a clerical appointment to be made and also appropriate in view of the school’s connection with the church.  The appointment process was laid down by the Chancery Court Scheme and required him to submit to an examination by the Upper Grammar master of Christ’s hospital.  The school had close connections with the church and the Rev Savell preached there annually on Ascension Day with all pupils attending the service.

He graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge in 1858 as “9th Senior Optime” meaning that he had achieved a second class degree in mathematics and was ranked 9th in his cohort.  He remained in charge of the school until his retirement in December 1894 providing much needed stability and continuity for the new school in its early years.

A history of the school says that “ he seems to have been a man who knew his own mind, was not afraid to express his ideas to authorities and was a firm believer in discipline”.

Throughout his tenure  the school maintained a local character, taking pupils from nearby mainly from the families of tradesman and minor professionals.  The emphasis was on preparing boys for clerical occupations to satisfy the demand for clerks in banks, railways, the civil service, industrial companies and so on.  The curriculum was dominated by Divinity and Latin but English, Mathematics, Science, French, History and Geography were also taught.  In the early years Rev Savell would have received a salary of £200 per annum, £100 per annum from fees and his house.  He had a staff of three masters and the history records that all wore silk top hats and carried canes to enforce discipline.

From its inception until the late 1880s the school grew, increasing numbers on the roll and achieving academic success.  However, the local area was changing as large areas were cleared of slum housing and pupil numbers began to fall.  It seems that Rev Savell wrote to the school Governors in 1887 to recommend that the school move from the Houghton Street premises but this was not accepted.  By 1890 the number of boys in the school had fallen into steady decline and when he retired in 1894 its future was so uncertain that the Governors decided not to replace him.  There were to be Acting Headmasters for the next five years.


The School LecternLectern

Next time you are in the Barbirolli Hall spare a couple of minutes to have a look at the lectern that stands on the stage with its fine carving of the anchor emblem and the school motto. There used to be two in the school’s Hammersmith days – another larger, winged and less decorated companion was in daily use then.   Sadly the second one is no longer here – David Heward tells me that it fell into disrepair some years ago and could not be saved.

Both lecterns were made by a senior master, Mr Reg Cleaver, who taught Woodwork and Metalwork at the school between 1945 and 1968.  A very talented craftsman, Mr Cleaver founded the school sailing club and the building of its boats and canoes took up a lot of his spare time.  He was also fully involved in running school camps- Harvest Camps, Fruit Picking Camps, Holiday Camps – and constructed all the scenery and lighting for the school plays. 

Old Dane Geoff Skinner (1954-59) remembers both lecterns well:

“Nowadays the lectern is quite dark in colour but originally it was a sort of shining tan – attributable to French polishing. Almost 70 years ago I contributed materially to that polishing. My involvement began with some misdemeanour and a resulting detention. Instead of demanding an essay, Reg set me to polishing. I found the whole business fascinating and had to be told to stop and go home when my hour of punishment was done.  Thereafter, sometimes accompanied by fresh delinquents, I voluntarily polished away in the evenings until I met Reg’s exacting standards.”  


The School SamplerSampler3 001

The card that is presented to prize winners on Speech Day shows the sampler that was gifted to the school in 1954 by Miss Margaret Matcham of West Kensington.  The original is in safe keeping but I have attached a picture and you can also see a very authentic looking, true to size framed copy of it in the SLT meeting room.

A valuation of the original undertaken in 1987 gives  the following description:

“ A fine George I  embroidered linen sampler, English, 1723, worked by Mary Windom , aged 10, at the St Clement Danes charity school , worked in brilliant silks in petit point, with traditional border bands, religious verses, “boxers”, a large anchor between two swans, a lady and a gentleman, 43 cms by 23.5 cms in pine frame.”

The establishment of Charity schools was one of the most significant  educational developments of the 18th century and the St Clement Danes schools were in the forefront, the boys’ school opening on January 13 1701 and the girls’ school a year later. They were among the earliest schools set up by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.

Both schools were situated in Carey Street in Holborn. The boys’ school was known as the “Church School”  while the girls’ was known as the “School in New Churchyard”  and occupied “several rooms and cellars” underneath the boys’ building.

In 1706  rules were drawn up to provide that both poor boys and girls were taught to read, write, cast accounts and receive  daily instruction in the Christian religion.  This was later expanded to include arithmetic for the boys and singing, sewing and knitting for the girls.  Mary, as one of some 40 girls  would have been provided with a uniform of straw bonnet and blue check dress and cape.  The boys, of whom there were some 70, would have worn blue jackets with an anchor badge, waistcoats and corduroy trousers.  Blue is the traditional colour of St Clement.

Arrangements  were made for the boys to go on into trade or business apprenticeships or into the navy where recruitment was a pressing problem. The girls went on to household service.  


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