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


Gerald Jaggard recalls his time as a pupil, 1913-1920


When Denis Dyson came to KES I had already left the school, somewhat prematurely, as my father wanted me to go into a bank to help the family finances. When I, together with my twin brother, reluctantly entered the valete section of the school magazine, the Rev Cecil Knight was about in the middle of his long regime. Mr Dyson says that his pupils must have worshipped him, and I can vouch for this. Of course there were one or two rebels, but most of us thought the world of him. And that went also for his senior master, Henry Willoughby Smallwood, MA(Oxon), although in his case the band of admirers was confined to the boys who were in his good books, and even they could fall from grace.

Cecil Knight came to KES in 1914, taking over from that colourful character, the Rev Cornwell Robertson, who had a shock of black hair and a large moustache of similar colour, and who seemed about seven feet high. Later, when he re-visited the school, he was much less imposing. He was the only master who whacked me, and to this day I don't know the reason. I was in the KES prep. school at the time (at School House) and what a seven-year-old can do to deserve a caning I cannot imagine. Looking back, I can only conclude that he had fallen out with my father (which was not difficult) and was inflicting his displeasure on the Jaggard clan.

My elder brother, G W Jaggard, was of course in the senior school under Cornwell Robertson before me, so I had advance information of the regime. Apparently the headmaster's wife was not very popular with the boys, as she reported them to her husband when they fooled around at cricket matches or other sporting events. One of the staff, Mr Brierley, was married to the head's eldest daughter - Joyce. Mr B. was prone to sarcasm, never a popular quality with pupils, and he was also reputed to have sent a senior boy to the head for punishment because he didn't like the tie he was wearing!

The Chemistry laboratory, 1912 The Chemistry laboratory, 1912

The Science master was a Mr Scott, who was the hero of a dramatic incident in the laboratory. The head's eldest son Derek, when using a pipette, managed to get some strong acid into his throat. The science master immediately made him swallow an alkaline drink, which neutralised the acid enough to limit the burning that would have done serious damage. As it was, Derek was ill enough for several weeks, subsisting on a diet of milk and eggs, but he did recover fully.

When the Rev Cornwell Robertson left in 1914, he was presented with a book of names and a purse of gold. Some of us visualised a sack of glitter-coins being thrust into his willing hands, but in reality it was just a small purse.

The Rev A Cecil Knight, MA(Cantab) was a complete contrast to his predecessor in almost every way. He came with a burning enthusiasm to raise the standard of the school to new heights, and, while treasuring the school's traditions and antiquity, was keenly alive to the need for some modern innovations. At times he lamented that it was difficult to get the governors to appreciate the need for a proper assembly hall. Throughout his regime, he pressed strongly for this and other improvements, and I am certain that had it not been for his foresight, the school might have waited much longer for these additions. Cecil Knight was a man of great humanity. He was strong on discipline, and demanded constant effort, but given this, he was full of encouragement, and had a delightful sense of humour. His English lessons were, to many of us, extremely enjoyable. We read Shakespeare's plays in a way that brought out their drama, with the result that our appreciation of the poet was never killed by intensive study. In those early days, the school was a little kingdom of its own. There were very few outside contacts. Even the staff, I believe, were not expected to have outside commitments.

An example of this was the second master, Mr H Willoughby Smallwood. He presided over the debating society, and, during term, gave up every Saturday evening to preside over the debates. I well remember that when assembled in Big School, we had to wait until the thunderous reverberations of the Guild Chapel curfew had subsided before we could start our programme.

In those days, the famous novelist, Marie Corelli, lived at 'Mason Croft', a few yards from KES. She thought highly of Mr Knight, no doubt appreciating his intellect and courtesy. She presented a portrait of Shakespeare to be hung in Big School, coming along herself to read a long address which she had lavishly printed in an ornate binding. Later she invited 'dear Mr Knight' to bring the entire School along to have tea at 'Mason Croft'. On arriving, we found that pitchforks were waiting for us, so that we could first sort out the hay in the Paddock. As we consisted of both boarders and day boys, always at loggerheads, the resulting melee can be imagined. Many a straw hat was ruined that day. Marie had welcomed us, saying that with our farm implements, it looked like a scene from the French Revolution. She then disappeared, to have a private tea party with the headmaster, little realising that her words came literally true.

Our French master was Mr H A Virley, who, on a cold morning, would give us twenty minutes mental arithmetic to get us warm. We thought it very unfair to be given this extra dose of mathematics in addition to a long spell of irregular verbs. Mr Virley was thin, brisk, and waspish. Misdemeanours he punished by standing boys on a form, or flicking them on the chin with his very supple wrist. He taught us Parisian French, but as most of the work was written, it gave us no help whatsoever in the spoken language in after years.

Cecil Knight's regime was remarkable not only for its length, but for the fact that it included two complete world wars. Looking back, one can realise the staff difficulties that he must have had. I remember one chemistry master so clumsy that when heating magnesium in a crucible, he managed to make it explode. How he escaped being blinded I do not know. The same master, on another occasion, passed round a bowl containing a lump of phosphorus. This substance burns when exposed to air, and it was not very helpful when a boy managed to drop a piece behind a radiator. The classroom was quickly evacuated, and we spent the rest of the period in the playground, which was no great hardship to us!


Gerald Jaggard, pupil 1913-1920
writing in 1985


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