In the year 1875 ... when boy was still alive, the school thrived under an enlightened headmaster, The Reverend Edward Thring, whose innovative changes were later adopted in other English public schools ...
... a deadly ‘gift’ arrived via the sewage, which set off a sequence of events, probably never experienced by an institution before or afterwards. The school isolated itself from the town, school lane was closed – to no avail – the epidemic was there to stay .... typhoid ravaged the town.
|School Lane, Uppingham|
In 1584, Uppingham School was founded with a hospital, or almshouse, and through the centuries had grown in stature and in its early adoption of interesting studies – ie a school play performed in 1794; cricket matches from 1815, the establishment of ‘prefects’, a music department ...
Edward Thring, headmaster from 1853 – 1887, is credited with transforming this small, high-quality local grammar school into a large, well-known public school with 330 pupils in the 1870s.
|See Red! = Rutland|
(due west - two inlets .. the
lower is the Dovey Estuary)
But the greatest threat to this school was that dreaded epidemic spreading around England in the latter half of the 1800s ... as populations grew, service utilities were relatively unknown, and more importantly - our knowledge abilities were still limited – and thus there was no escaping its deadly throes.
The reason why was unknown ... the Reverend, an original thinker and writer, was put to his greatest test in that winter of 1875 – 1876. What to do ...... escape ....
|Aberystwyth - Dovey Estuary|
to the North
The plan was set ... but escape where to ... three areas near the Welsh coast were chosen, an assistant sallied forth in a freezing winter to vet the choices ...
On Monday 13th March, the Headmaster left Uppingham for a final decision ... a deep snow on the ground made the departure from home seem the more cheerless.
Borth, a coastal village, appeared to meet the brief – however nothing was left to chance .... how many beds could the hotel hold, which other houses could be purloined as school houses ... exploration for a “cricket-ground” was conducted nearby ...
|Rutland in winter|
... by March 16th – when in this day and age would that happen?! – a contract was signed for the tenancy of the hotel until 21st July, with power to renew: wise headmaster.
Details were included ... board, accordingly to a specified diet, light and fire; laundry service; house-servants at the school-hotel.
Ten days later, March 27th, a chartered goods train, of eighteen trucks, pulled up at Borth station to be unloaded of its 300 bedsteads, with bedding, et al. These were to be distributed in some dozen different houses and the hotel.
The Welshmen engaged were anxious to be doing .... but understanding imperfectly the speech of their employers ... Babel began. Amidst the animated roar of contradictory exhortations ... confusion reigned.
|Cambrian Welsh Coast Line - just north of Borth|
Leading became the order of the day – that eliminates the need for explanation – the headmaster practised what he taught .. and lead by example.
The new acquaintances watched the scene with a shocked surprise ... that authorities should share in the manual labour ...
... but their feelings at last determined to admiration. “Why Sirs,” they exclaimed, “you get it done as if you were used to move every three weeks.”
But needs must .... so much to be done, so few days to do it in – no-one was exempt – all hands on deck at porterage, carpentry, shifting furniture, stitching curtains, or jointing together bedsteads.
|Victorian carpenters working on boats|
Meanwhile around the town – workmen were transforming the scene from town to gown. Insufficient workmen were available – the Headmaster set off for Aberystwith, about 7 miles away, and returned with craftsmen in tow.
Break-rooms, a billiard-room , music practice, boys’ studies and other spaces were appropriately allocated, trestle tables and benches were made for 300 diners; “sick-room” accommodation and a ‘fever hospital’ were needed to be found ...
Outside the stables were converted into the school carpentery, the coach-house into a gymnasium, construction of the essential wooden school-room was started – measuring 83feet x 20 feet neatly fitting within the hotel’s garden enclosure.
... furnishings came next – distribution of tables, benches, bookshelves, minimum furniture for the needs of masters and their families; the tiny minutiae of detail was not excluded ... everything was labelled – nothing left to chance.
The Potteries were telegraphed for a large consignment of bed-room ware ... insufficient (only half that requested) had been provided ... more were required for this ‘gentle English school’!
|Wash basin and pitcher set|
... these elementary needs ‘of the colony’ were fulfilled, but the advanced wants were not neglected: cricket had to be provided ... the big roller from Uppingham was mounted on a North-Western railway truck ...
... it took the Welsh workers a long struggle to land it, but once again on terra firma the roller worked with a will and achieved wonders, reducing a piece of raw meadow land in a few weeks’ space to a cricket-field which left little to be desired.
|Epsom and Ewell Cricket Club's big roller 1880s|
In summary as described by a participant: “It was like shaking the alphabet in a bag, and bringing out the letters into words and sentences; such as the sense of absolute confusion turned into intelligent shape.”
The afternoon of April 4th arrived – Borth station was full of spectators from the village and from the main town Aberystwith, curious to watch the entry of the boys – the invaders!
There was no time for sentiment ... the boys went for tea; luggage was dispatched, received at the hotel door and distributed to the various billets. It was done.
And the boys – how did they feel? Disgorged onto the Welsh coast away from middle England ... I have not set the scene have I --- Uppingham, Rutlandshire is about as central a position as you could can get in England – Uppingham-by-the-Sea was due west on the wild Welsh coast.
Homesick almost certainly, school-sick for the comfort of their school in middle England – yet proud they were a part of this honourable venture.
|Borth village and coastline|
Now they could explore – scramble up the headlands, ramble along the coastal margins, check out the town, greet new arrivals from two further trains – the midnight hour approached ... the special train completed the muster.
All but three pupils followed the school into exile ... what an unanimous adhesion of the school and its leaders: 290 attendees, 30 masters and their families ... eager for the school to continue in its endeavours ... even on that far west coast of Wales ...
The narrative continues .... of a year by the sea for Uppingham School
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