The Edwardian Era
King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon 1902-1914


Edgar Cranmer, pupil 1904-1908, recalls his schooldays

Edgar Cranmer, sitting cross-legged on right, as a member of the cricket team, 1908 1st XI cricket team, 1908

I started at KES in September, 1904, and left in November, 1908. We were taught English, maths, Latin, French, chemistry, history, geography, scripture and gymnastics from the first form upwards. Greek was included in the syllabus from the fourth form onwards. Art was introduced in 1906. Music lessons were given - private tuition only.

There were five members of staff - the head, the Rev Cornwell Robertson, the deputy head, the Rev Clarke, the English master, Mr Williams, the French master, Mr French and the chemistry master, Mr Topaz, but he was not there for more than two terms and then Mr Scott came. They were very strict. Discipline was strict but fair. All boys had to wear their black jackets and dark trousers, black boots and these had to be cleaned, hair cut short and caps had to be worn whenever you were out of school except on Mop Day. If you went into the Mop with your school cap on, you were for it. If you were in trouble - minor things like talking in the form rooms or playing the fool - you had a compulsory drill which was in the gym on Wednesdays from 12.30 to 1.00 and Saturdays, 12.30 to 1.00. Of course, we had to attend school on Saturday mornings for normal lessons and then games in the afternoon. Games were compulsory unless you had a doctor's certificate.

We had a break for quarter of an hour at 11 o'clock in the morning. The area in front of Pedagogue's House used to be a garden. The lessons were about three quarters of an hour each. Lessons were from 9 a.m. to 12.30 and 2 p.m. to 4.30 - Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12.30. Of course, we had chapel first for about a quarter of an hour.

My favourite subject was maths. The head had been a Wrangler at Cambridge and he took maths throughout the school. You had to take all the subjects, except Greek which you took when you got into the fourth. The exams were Oxford Senior and Oxford Junior. There were no 0 or A levels. The masters always wore their mortar-boards and gowns.

I liked the headmaster very much. I got on wonderfully well with him, everyone did. He was fair - if you worked. He knew what your capabilities were and if you kept up to them, it was alright. If any maths question came up and you couldn't cope, he would go back over it again.

I went into the first form and was there for one term and then the second form for two and then upwards until I finished up in the sixth. When I was in the fourth form, they started a prep school but it didn't last for more than twelve months, I don't think, because the mistress who took it and the master she was engaged to fell out with the head's wife and they left. So the prep school was dropped. I think it was taken up again later in Cecil Knight's time with Miss Lupton.

For sport, we did rugger and cricket. The cricket field adjoined the Boat House. Fives didn't come in until the new buildings were put up in 1906. There was no boat club and no cadets. When the fives court was erected, there was a target on the front of the court - a big metal sheet and then a wooden target. They used to fire at it from as far away as the Memorial Library.

There was no school pavilion. The rugby field was at the top of the Welcombe Road and there was an old cow shed in the corner - no facilities whatever. You either walked or cycled home and you were covered in heavy clay so you can imagine what it was like. Boarders had to go down to School House for a bath. At the cricket field, there was just a hut near the town cricket field where all the kit was stored. Then, after I left, Jaggard's father started raising a fund to build what is now that restaurant near the boat club.

The School Sergeant was Sergeant Worrall and he started PE here as well. He was an ex-Warwick soldier. He had served in India and then came to the school in 1904 and stayed until 1914. Then, he joined up with the Warwicks.

The school buildings in Edgar Cranmer's time The school buildings in Edgar Cranmer's time

The fives court is the only part of the buildings built in my time still remaining. There was the fives court; next to it, the lecture room and the lab. next to that. The only buildings in my early days when I first went were Big School, Council Chamber, the Armoury, Pedagogue's House, rooms one, two and three and the Gym. I remember the Muniments Room but it was never used. There was a big old chest and a lot of junk there. We used the staircase from the Armoury to Council Chamber. The latter was a library then with cases all along one wall with thick wire meshing in front but nothing on the other side. They only used the Old Vicarage for the prep school for the short time that was there and one master had a room there. Otherwise, it was empty.

There were open fireplaces - two in Big School, one about five yards from the big desk on the courtyard side and one right at the other end backing onto the Almshouse. There was one in Council Chamber, one in the Armoury, one in P1 and P2 (in Pedagogue's House) and one in the chem lab. The school motto was on the fire grating in P1. I don't think it was on any of the others. The head now has P2 and P3 was where you got caned if you were in serious trouble. It is the secretaries' room now. BS was for forms one and two, P1 was for the third form, P2 was for the fourth form, the fifth form was in the Armoury and Council Chamber was for the sixth form. Guildhall was only used in the summer term for exams. It wasn't used at any other time except by one of the masters who kept a bicycle there.

I remember the boarders had a separate playground more or less where the chemistry lab is now. There was a wall all along there and there was a doorway into the playground. There were no school dinners then but the boarders had a dining hall in School House, which has now been demolished, but the day boys had to go home.

I was a day boy. There were more boarders than day boys. Roughly there were about forty-five boarders and just under forty day boys. Most of the boarders were in School House and about ten or twelve of them were with the deputy head, the Rev Clarke, at Eastnor House in the Shipston Road.

I remember we had a concert once - I think it was after the new organ was put up in the Guild Chapel. When I first went, the only organ they had was one which the master used to pedal. That was near where the lectern is now. The new organ was just round the corner from that and it was one which a boy had to blow. There was a gallery then and the old pews faced the altar. We had Chapel every morning and boarders had to attend a service on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Day boys and boarders made up the choir with one or two masters. I was in the choir from the time I went until I left. When I did leave, the head said that, as I would be starting work in Stratford, I could still come in and they'd be pleased to see me every Sunday morning or evening whenever I could come and take my old seat in the choir. I did this until I left for Atherstone in 1910.

There were four scholarships for day boys and the sons of burgesses in Stratford and three became vacant in the summer of 1904. I received one of these. When you tried for a scholarship, you took an exam in BS and then the governors approved of your appointment. The scholarships were for three years. If, at the end of the three years, the head recommended that you continue, they gave you an extension. I had two extensions. The boarders and day boys had to pay. I think it was 2 per term for a day boy.

Big School, c1910 Big School, c1910

Shakespeare's Birthday was a big event, and, if it fell in the holidays, the day boys were expected to turn up. The Rev Robert Stuart de Courcy Laffan instituted it in the 1880s. But, it's a lot bigger now because more people come to Stratford. It was chiefly Americans in my day. All the boys had to attend it. There were roughly one hundred in my time. But near the time when I left, it dropped to about seventy - a lot of the boarders had left.

There were other various schools in the area then. There was the Commercial School in Grove Road and they had about as many pupils as we had at KES. It was a fee-paying school. If parents couldn't pay, the children went to either the Council School in Broad Street or the Church School on the Alcester Road. I went to Broad Street as a youngster - until the age of twelve. After that, there was either the Grammar School or the Commercial School for boys - no girls' schools.

There was no resentment towards the school. If you sat for a scholarship and didn't get it, well, that was unfortunate and you just went to Broad Street or Alcester Road. Of course, there was the Catholic School on the corner of Henley Street. Many people left school at fourteen and they might become shop assistants or work on a farm or do building.

The school's finances relied upon the proceeds from the Guild Estates. I think the amount due to the school is 40% of the income from that. It's made up of rents and rates from properties over the town which belong to the Guild Estates - I think there are a number in High Street. Some of the property seems to have disappeared. I've got a book going back about a hundred years with a list of properties owned by the Guild including twenty acres of land in Bristol. Well, I don't know what's happened to that.

I never won any prizes at Speech Day. It was held in school, in BS. There was no guest speaker. As far as I remember, the head just presented the prizes himself.

All boys had to provide their own books for lessons. Then you had a report at the end of each term - a report on your work.

Of course, there was no electricity in the town. We had open gas burners - the fish tail burners. The boarders did prep in BS - how they managed to see properly, I don't know. However, there were no fires in my time though I remember hearing of one of the beams above a fireplace catching fire. BS was bitterly cold and forms one and two - about twenty of us - all sat as near to the fires as possible. We all scrambled for the seat nearest to the fire when we came in.

The only time I ever went to School House - because it was exclusive to the boarders - was when we had a knockout competition at cricket. You paid tuppence to enter and the winning team came away with sixpence. It was a two-innings match and I happened to be in the winning team. We started in the morning and, at one o'clock, we went up to School House for lunch. In those days, the boarders rented punts from Waterside to get across the river. On that particular day, when the teams came to go up to school there was only one punt left and the boarder who was going to pole us across said that we could either all get aboard or we could all walk round over the tram bridge. Well, all twenty boys and a master got on board the punt. When we got across to the Bancroft, one fellow jumped off with the rope and I followed him quickly. The punt tipped and the result was four got clear and seventeen went into the river including the master. There were three Old Boys on the boat club balcony watching and they struck up, "Three cheers for the school". I can still hear them now.


Edgar Cranmer, pupil 1904-1908
talking in 1984 to Michael Hampel and Philip Sawbridge


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