Pupils attending the Shakespeare birthday celebrations in 1920
Shakespeare birthday celebrations, 1920
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Boys from all over the country were boarded at the school in the inter-war period. There was also an associated preparatory department which catered for boys too young to enter the main school.

Use the scrollbar below to move along this gallery from left to right and read the memories of staff and pupils from those days.

I arrived at Stratford upon Avon on 2 May 1925, one day after my eighth birthday. With me that day came my trunk of regulation school clothing and my tuck box. Regulation clothing implied dark grey suits with a black suit for Sunday wear, and large starched 'lampshade' collars which were superseded in later school life by wire starched inside collars. That trunk served me well and was not finally thrown out until the early 1970s. The tuck box failed to survive my school days but was fun while it lasted.

Joe Stephens, boarder 1925-34, writing in 1984

At school, the boarders formed the chapel choir. A service was held each morning then as now and it was by no means unusual for homework to be completed illegally in chapel. One morning the headmaster, Mr Knight, happened to see a boy with his nose in a book other than a hymnal, and immediately forbade the taking of books into the service. This proved a great blow for the homeworkers.

Bill Norman, pupil 1912-16, speaking in 1991

Dining Room, c1930

Dining Room, c1930
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On Monday it was cold meat after the hot roast on a Sunday; probably stew on Tuesday; fish on a Friday. We used to do big steam puddings with the jam at the bottom, and rice puddings. Used to cut up swiss rolls and put tins of peaches on, covered with custard - the boys liked that! We had no end of different things. The boarders' main meal was at lunch time and then they had a tea and I think they provided their own jam. At supper time, after prep, they had soup in the winter, then I think they had sandwiches and lemonade: we always had to make the lemonade with lemons and citric acid.

Lilian Bowen, maid and cook at School House, speaking in 1992

At the beginning of each term - and supplemented if possible during term time - we banked our pocket money with the housemaster who issued it weekly. At the tuck shop across the playgound my sixpence per week had to be budgeted carefully and the choice lay usually between twopence expended on a whipped cream walnut or chocolate marshmallow or Turkish delight, or perhaps, going for volume, the choice was for liquorice strips at one-halfpenny, a sherbet fountain perhaps, or aniseed balls and gobstoppers.

Joe Stephens, boarder 1925-34, writing in 1984

The Staff, 1929

The Staff, 1929
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There was a laundry… we used to have these great big hampers and we used to have to count the handkerchiefs in tens and the collars… and then the chauffeur or the gardener would take them down to the laundry at the end of the almshouses, there's an archway there. There was a sick dormitory there, we had a sick dormitory in School House also but it was only if they had got the measles or things like that. If there was anything more infectious they were sent off to … the 'sanatorium', they called it.

Lilian Bowen, maid and cook at School House, speaking in 1992

I received my elementary training in the 'three Rs' at Miss Lupton's capable hands in Trinity House. Later, the kindergarten was moved to what is now the headmaster's house. Sitting there I could see the boys in the main school walking into chapel. These were indeed delightful days, with Miss Lupton in firm control of her aggressive brood and instilling into each one a firm foundation for their later education.

Ken Boyden, pupil 1928-1942, writing in 1965

 
Ever since 1902 the local education authority had, to a limited extent, provided some financial support to the school and as a result a small number of local boys were educated free of charge.

Most of my mother's friends' children went to Miss Howe's school up on the new Dyer's estate off the Banbury Road but my brother Jimmy and I were sent to the Church of England School. And it was from there in 1938 that I won what was called 'a scholarship' to KES… you were paid for by the county council. Four of us went from the one class and they were also open to children from Broad Street School, St Gregory's Roman Catholic School in Henley Street and all the village schools around Stratford.

Bill Collins, pupil 1938-1946, speaking in 1992

 
There was no central curriculum laid down by the state, boys were working towards the School Certificate examination and the schoolmasters, although they were university graduates, had no training in teaching.

When I first came here I had MM1 for mathematics. Mr Turner told me it meant 'Mostly Mugs' but, in fact, it was Middle Modern. I had them for seven periods of maths. But I was so new to all this that I thought you'd only got to show someone a thing once and they'd know how to do it. So I finished the entire arithmetic syllabus in one week and at the end was surprised to find that they didn't know anything about it. Now it so happened we had a Mr Riddle here. He taught these young boys geography and hated it. I said I'd love to teach them geography too. I used to read them folk tales all about different parts of the world.

Denis Dyson, physics master 1926-1975

New Classrooms, 1931

Memorial Library & new Classrooms, 1931
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… across the playground from the pedagogue's block and the quad was an isolated memorial library where in the mid-1930s, I had my French oral as part of the Oxford School Cert. Near the memorial building and back towards Chapel Lane, alongside the town tennis courts, a row of new classrooms was built in the early thirties, including a new physics laboratory for Denis Dyson, remarkable for the modern folding chairs and the degree of automation he introduced …

Joe Stephens, boarder 1925-34, writing in 1984

Stratford Regatta, 1934

Stratford Regatta, 1934
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The Rev Knight's deputy was Mr Smallwood who most people feared but with whom I got on well because I was good at history. He didn't tolerate any slackness whatsoever. If you'd done your work you were all right… He sat you in the classroom in your form order and then every lesson at some point there was an oral test and as you answered the questions you moved up around the class until you were sitting in the history class order.

Bill Collins, pupil 1938-1946, speaking in 1992

Big School, 1944

Big School, 1944
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…the black shiny tops [of the desks] were so deeply carved with generations of initials that it was quite impossible to write over this uneven surface without at least half a thickness of exercise book under the pen - and by 'pen' I mean a steel nibbed stick which had to be dipped at every half sentence into the porcelain inkwell at the top right hand corner of the desk. Even at the age of 12 we still had one period a week of copybook practice, when we had to copy out line under line of the copperplate example stretching along the top of the wide page. We used to enjoy this not very demanding task…

Tindall Leefe

Mr Barnsley was the geography master and used a huge old-fashioned epidiascope to put up pictures from 'National Geographic' magazine on the board. He also had marvellous map tests and I thoroughly enjoyed geography. The only trouble was that you couldn't take geography at school certificate in those days; you finished at the end of the fourth year.

Bill Collins, pupil 1938-1946, speaking in 1992

Other resources on the Boarding School

School House Dormitory

There were three dormitories in use at School House at that time, all with bare floor boards, no heating and no plumbing but a row of china washbowls on a stand along one wall and a "gazunda" under each bed
Read more of the life of a boarder in Brian Walker's reminiscences


Newton's rings


Read about the design of the physics lab opened during this period and its many facilities

Or return to the Boarding School contents page

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