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Old Warwickians

The Master's Books

Teachers and students at Warwick School have risen to the challenge of a whole new way of learning, with remote access and online teaching.  School archivist Gervald Frykman, exploring the two (as yet unpublished) Master’s Books from 1881 to 1906, is discovering a number of gems which show how far education has come in the last 140 years or so.


Two bound volumes, each entitled “Master’s Book”, were found locked in a cupboard in the headmaster’s house of Warwick School in September 2002, and were almost immediately released to the school’s new archivist, Gervald Frykman, by the new headmaster, E. B. Halse, for further study.

The first, with a pale off-white binding (in rather poor condition) was started by Rev William Grundy in July 1881.  It contains detailed notes as to the running of the King’s Grammar School, Warwick, examination results, notices to staff and so on, and is almost all hand-written.  Occasionally printed documents are pasted into the volume, for example, the 1884 set of School Rules.  The first volume ends with a note “To Masters” about school caps, dated May 17, 1894.  The tone with which the first entry in the first volume starts suggests that Rev Grundy was trying out a new method of communication with his staff – that is, making a reference volume of all the edicts that were necessary to run a small Victorian Public School.  The position of the apostrophe in the title of each book is enough to ensure that there was only one Master entitled to write in it.

The second volume features a handsome and imposing red binding, and is embossed in gold with the school crest as it was in 1894 – the Portcullis – and “Warwick School Founded 1546.”  The first note is dated May 17, 1894, and the last, a rather forlorn “Summer Term 1906” (the term in which the old Warwick School collapsed completely) on the penultimate page of the volume.  It is pertinent to note that the re-founding of The King’s School, Warwick, by charter of King Henry VIII, occurred in 1545, and not 1546!

Each Master’s Book seems to have been the major mode of communication between successive headmasters and their staff.  It would seem likely that, when there was a new notice to staff, the book would be left on display so that they could read it.  With only six to eight teaching staff, this would not have been a problem.  Through its pages, the headmaster sometimes berates his staff, for example when he found that a particular form was weak in a particular subject (usually Latin!).  The headmaster would personally test (“Review”) each form, and describe the results in embarrassing detail.  The book would undoubtedly have been carried into each school assembly (or prayers) by the headmaster, in order to read notices to the whole school.  Indeed, the red binding of Volume 2 carries perfectly placed marks on the front cover for the thumb, and on the rear cover for the rest of the left hand – exactly how the book would ceremonially have been carried into a school assembly, across the waist of the headmaster.

Of the headmasters who wrote in each volume, one stands out far above all others, both in the length of time he served, and in the amount he wrote – Rev J. P. Way (headmaster 1885 – 1896).  He used the books to describe every single important detail about running the school.  It was in Rev J. P. Way’s time that the young John Masefield (much later Poet Laureate) was a pupil at the school, and he gets mentioned twice – both times for poor academic performance.

It must always be borne in mind that the system of Forms was based on academic performance and not age.  Boys were promoted out of a Form when their standard of work in the weekly Form Order (probably a viva voce test) and examinations merited it.  This meant that there was always a considerable spread of ages in each of the Forms, and that the work of the Lower III (it was termed IIIb later on), the bottom Form of the main school, would always give cause for concern, especially, as seemed to happen, they were sometimes set the same tests as all the other boys in the school.  If the carrot was promotion, the stick was definitely the prospect of a beating for coming bottom of any Form Order.

Boys entered the school at age 10, into Form I (if there were enough pupils, otherwise it was just Form II).  These forms were renamed Lower Remove and Shell by J. P. Way in 1889.  They could reasonably be expected to progress to Form IIIb by the age of 12, and thus to the Sixth Form by the age of 16, although it was perfectly possible, as discussed above, for a boy of 13 to be in the Sixth Form and a boy of 17 to be stuck in Form III. 

The full list of those who wrote in these volumes in their own hand is:

Rev W. Grundy (headmaster 1881 – 1885)
He was aged 30 on appointment, and left to become headmaster of Malvern College.  The historian of Malvern College provides evidence that Rev Grundy was not at all happy with his time at Warwick.

Rev P. E. Raynor (locum for the summer term of 1885)
Although he tried to tighten up, and seemed slightly obsessed with absence from chapel, the Examiners’ Report regrets that there was so much “listlessness in many of the boys”, and hopes that “the new Head Master will soon be able to stimulate Forms V and IV to more industry” and “improve the relaxed discipline.”  On leaving Warwick School, he cycled on a tandem around Tasmania with his new wife, and eventually became headmaster of Ipswich School – from where he was sacked (for leading the school into bankruptcy) in 1906.

Rev J. P. Way (headmaster 1885–1896)
He married while at the school, commissioned Leach’s history of the school, built the Junior House at his own expense, caused the chapel to be extended and the gymnasium built, and left to be headmaster of Rossall School. He filled literally hundreds of pages of the Master’s Books with extremely detailed notices concerning every aspect of School life, and did so with a delicious use of the English language.

Rev R. Percival Brown (headmaster 1896–1902)
He presided over a serious decline in the number of pupils at the school, to the extent that he resigned and became a vicar, first at Stirling and then at Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, from where he retired in 1933.  His printed booklet protesting at his enforced resignation in 1902 is a masterpiece, and there is probably some justification in his feeling that he was unfairly treated.  The root cause of the decline in the number of pupils was the setting up, under the same Foundation, of a rival, cheaper town school, the King’s Middle School, in 1875, without apparent thought as to the consequences for Warwick School, its neighbourly Grammar School.

Rev W. T. Keeling (headmaster January 1903 – Easter 1906)
Although he increased admissions, it was not enough to save the school, and he left to become headmaster of Grantham Grammar School before the complete collapse of Warwick School.

R. Davies (deputy headmaster until the summer of 1906)
He presided over a skeleton staff, all of whom lost their jobs in 1906 - immediately after the whole school had performed in the Warwick Pageant.

When the school re-opened in September 1906, it did so as an amalgamation with the King’s Middle School, with its headmaster, H. S. Pyne, his chosen staff and only 13 pupils from the old Warwick School.  The finances of the school were now partially dependent on the Board of Education, and the organisation of the school, and the subjects taught, were no longer those of the Victorian era.  H. S. Pyne’s legacy is not a Master’s Book, but an equally fascinating pair of Scrap Books (1899 – 1906) containing press cuttings dealing, blow by blow, with the crises faced by what was to him a competitor school south of the river, and his Staff Register, also started in 1899, but still being continued into modern times.  One can almost imagine him relishing the obvious decline of Warwick School, and it must be the case that he was told quite early on that it could all, one day, be his.

A flavour of these incredible survivors from a time when records were appallingly dealt with – for example, pupil admission records for a school that was reputed to have been founded in 914 A.D. have only survived from 1871 – can be gained from the following snippets from each of the authors mentioned above.

No boy may use or possess a catapult.  Pistols and cannons of every sort are prohibited.
Rev W. Grundy, March 31st 1882

Breakfast.  Lateness and irregularity in the morning having increased, the following rules have been made:
The bell is rung at 8:00.
The roll is called immediately afterwards.
No boy may enter the room while the roll is being called.
When the roll is over, the door is opened to admit stragglers, who are fined.
Boys entering after 8:05 are liable to an imposition of 50 lines in addition to the fine – after 8:15 of 100 lines.
Entire absence from breakfast is liable to more severe punishment.
Rev. P. E. Raynor, May 20th 1885


Headmaster’s Review, July 1891.  A paper containing short sentences to be turned into Latin was set to Forms V, IV and IIIa.  They had been previously reminded to familiarise themselves with such constructions as involved uses of Relative, Gerundive, Interrogatives, Ablative Absolute, impersonal use of verbs (so-called), misapprehensions of the English “that” or “to”, conditional sentences (easy) & oratio obliqua. 
Rev J. P. Way, July 1891
[It was in this test paper, which survives, that 12-year-old John Masefield, of Form IIIa, scored 10%, and promptly ran away from the school for good.]

Notice.  Instead of ¾ hour lessons, there will now be lessons of one hour each…  Better provision is made for Classical Composition, also for special teaching in Mathematics, Modern Languages and Chemistry…  Greek & German will be begun in the Upper III instead of, as heretofore, in Lower III.  A new Form to be called Lower IV will be inserted above Upper III…  Though the hours of the work of each Form are necessarily divided among various masters, yet each Form has but one Form Master proper.  To him boys should look for help & advice in connection with their work & general interests.  He is their rightful patron and advocate. 
Rev J. P. Way, Feb 9th 1895

Notice.  Some absurd rumours have been set on foot about the epidemic at this school which I must ask the members of the school to do their best to contradict.  We have only five boys in bed at the present in addition to one boy with a bad leg.  It is true we have in the School House lost the best and kindest of Matrons but that was more due to a weak heart than to the influenza.  We have only had 3 cases at all to be called serious, whereas in the big schools the influenza has attacked them by hundreds.  I even know of one school which at the beginning of the present week had 60 cases of measles & 100 cases of influenza, and had lost two of their boys.  I have to thank boys for their good sense in not sending home false alarms, & their parents for the confidence they have shewn in us.  We have only had 3 letters at all indicative of alarm or distrust. 
Rev J. P. Way, March 7th 1895

Hair Cutting
In future this will begin on the 1st, 5th and 9th Mondays of each term, & the following rules will hold.
The time will be 7 – 8:30pm & 8:45 – 9:30pm.
The whole School House, without exception, will go on these occasions – according to the order of the House List – Prefects first.
Every Boy is to fetch his own brush & comb from his cubicle on his way to the haircutter & to take them back to his cubicle before returning to Preparation. 
Rev R. Percival Brown, May 18th 1897

To Masters.  While I am on the subject of Punishments I ought perhaps to add that I received an enquiry a short time ago concerning caning in the school based on a statement that caning on the hand was employed by some Master.  I informed my correspondent of his mistake & informed him of the principle we follow – that a boy can be caned only by the Head Master or his House Master. 
Rev R. Percival Brown, October 7th 1897


Notice.  It is officially announced that Her Majesty the Queen died at 6:30 This evening. 
Rev R. Percival Brown, 8:30pm, Jan 22nd 1901

[This represents extraordinary fast transmission if information, given that Queen Victoria died on the Isle of Wight, and that Warwick School only gained a telephone in 1903.]

Notice.  I wish to remind boys that the desks in the Classrooms are for books and are not intended to be used as larders for jam or birds’ eggs.  Anything of that nature found in the desks in future will be confiscated. 
Rev W. T. Keeling, May 25th 1903


Notice.  I wish to draw the attention of the School & especially of day boys to the following regulations which are necessary for the welfare of the School & are to be strictly obeyed:
1.All members of the School must wear black and white straw hats with the School ribbon, or the School cap with badge.
2.Bowlers and cloth caps without the School badge are absolutely prohibited.
3.Football and Cricket Colours may wear white straw hats with blue and white ribbon.
4.Prefects wear white straw hats with the School ribbon – the only alternative to which is a silk hat.
I rely on the Prefects to help in carrying out these Regulations & to report offenders. 
Rev W. T. Keeling, March 21st 1904

Notice.  Weather permitting there will be the usual picnic at Stoneleigh Deer Park tomorrow, by the kind permission of Lord Leigh.  All boys who wish to join should give in their names, and Day boys must come to my sitting room at 12:45 today.  I wish to remind boys that by the “Wild Birds Protection Act” the taking of young birds or of eggs is prohibited.  Preparation this evening should be for Friday’s lessons. 
R. Davies, 20th May 1906

G. N. Frykman
April 2020