Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Uppingham-by-the-Sea: How to move a school lock, stock and barrel ...

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 ...
Uppingham School

...  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 16thwhen 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.

Meticulous labelling

... 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.
Schoolboys 1890s

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

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Francene Stanley said...

This is a wonderful story about our past. What a massive undertaking. Those were the days when someone could take charge and get things done. Keep up the good work of sharing history.

Amanda Heitler said...

An astonishing story in so many ways. I could see it unrolling before me. Thank you.

Bob Scotney said...

Hilary. Rutland is my home county. Uppingham School was a big sporting rival for us at Stamford School. I never heard of this history of Uppingham School - absolutely fascinating. I'd love to know where you dug up all this information.
It's worthy of publication -- have you any plans for this?

Nick Wilford said...

What an interesting story, and you told it very entertainingly. So how long did it take for the typhoid to die down?

Suze said...

“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.”

I liked this very much.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Francene - yes Rev'd Thring was obviously a doer, as well as being a learned man. His leadership stands out ..

@ Amanda - delighted you enjoyed this part ...

@ Bob - yes I seem to remember that - I shall reveal all on Friday when I post the next part ...

@ Nick - delighted you enjoyed my telling of it ..

It looks like once they'd worked out cleanliness was a necessity it faded away .. but it is of the salmonella type ...

However in the latter half of the 1800s - the 'plague' was a great worry and London began building crematoriums out of London to take the dead bodies ... they could plan the sewage system, but the numbers of dead were grossly underestimated - probably because of population rise. So by the 20th century the outbreaks were slowing as a greater understanding of the medical implications became clear.

I wrote post here about the Necropolis Line .. I titled it the Journey of Life and Death:

@ Suze - yes I thought that paragraph was great .. not mine! but certainly explained the situation to an ABC ...

Many thanks - delighted to read you all enjoyed this - cheers Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

You always come up with the most interesting, and unusual stories. It's amazing what they had to go through. I look forward to hearing more about Uppingham School! Julie

Lynn said...

That is quite a story! Absolutely astonishing. said...

Heavens that is a story and a half! LOL! Goodness.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

It's amazing how much ... and how fast ... things can be accomplished when the right people set their minds to it. Nowadays, such a thing could never occur that quickly. There'd have to be a long list of inspectors and licenses and whatnot to deal with. Great post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie .. many thanks I just love learning about interesting things - and thankfully you all seem to enjoy the posts too!

@ Lynn - yes I thought so when I read about it ..

@ Madeleine - it beggars belief thinking about it .. doesn't it!

@ Susan - I know .. inspectors, contracts of buildings, contracts with employees, Unions, licenses et al .. you've certainly raised the most obvious obstacles to achieving something like this today .. thank you.

Many thanks Julie, Lynn, Madeleine and Susan .. cheers Hilary

Laura Eno said...

What an incredible task! Nothing like that could be accomplished on such short notice today.
I love that photo of Borth, too. It looks like such a lovely place to settle down and write in.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

This is an amazing story. In the realm of time, this was just yesterday. Oh my how things have changed.

Great job.


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

What a fascinating story, Hilary. Thank you for sharing. Where do you learn all of this stuff! Best to your mum.

Susan Scheid said...

This is quite a story. I look forward to the next installment!

Misha Gerrick said...

Wow that is impressive! Just goes to show you that nothing's impossible if you put your mind to it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Laura .. you are so right - all the bureaucracy that would be set in motion .. let alone the fact the school would have been shut away in Uppingham probably in the first place -no escape allowed!

@ Teresa - almost fits one of your Grim Tales?! That realm of time - we forget it's really not that long ago is it ..

@ Joylene - keep my eyes and ears open .. I think that's the trick.

@ Susan - it certainly must have been some undertaking ..

@ Misha - lovely to see you - thinking back .. it sounds like an army on the move from the old days - yet the masters were not ex army apparently - long term educators.

Glad you're all enjoying this story .. good to know - cheers Hilary

Amanda Heitler said...

Hilary - awardage for you over at my place if you would care to accept :)

Juliet said...

what a fascinating story - and how inspiring!

MorningAJ said...

What an amazing tale! I had no idea about it, even though I'm a regular visitor to Uppingham and Oakham (Rutland being our neighbour county).

Thank you for the glimpse of a kind of past that will never be recovered.

Sara said...

This is an amazing story. How the Headmaster managed to get this done is like describing building a bridge...amazing!

It's also a testament to the teachers and students/parents? trust in this man that so many followed his quest to relocate and escape the illness. Who would think of moving a whole school? Wow. I enjoyed this story very much:~)

Sherry Ellis said...

Fascinating story! I really enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how people accomplished such undertakings when there was no electricity and horse and buggies were the main mode of transporation. That, and feet.

M. Reka said...

An amazing story in so many ways, Hilary. Your posts are really inspiring!


Arlee Bird said...

Quite the logistical wonder. I guess they had no unions to interfere either.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Janet Johnson said...

Wow. I can only imagine moving a whole school like that. Utterly amazing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amanda .. many thanks for the award!

@ Juliet - glad you enjoyed the post - it is really inspiring isn't it.

@ Morning AJ - I know it's in your neck of the woods .. hope you enjoy tomorrow's instalment.

This past is relatively so recent isn't it .. but one that will never be recovered.

@ Sara - how right you are .. just like building a bridge, I guess ..

Yes - I hadn't noted that part about the testament of the teachers, students, parents .. it is extraordinary .. that trust isn't it. So pleased to see you and that you enjoyed the story ..

@ Sherry - good to see you here .. thank you.

@ Stephen - you're right so much was accomplished in those days .. especially without electricity and only horse and buggies, and the new railways - well required here .. and as you say 'feet'!!

@ Marinela - it is a great story - so pleased you can be inspired by my posts ..

@ Lee - good to see you .. absolutely no unions or interference .. lets get on with it - and DO .. which they did ..

@ Janet - thank you .. incredibly amazing isn't it ..

Thanks so much everyone, so lovely to have your comments .. cheers Hilary

Unknown said...

Wow, what a story and an ordeal for all. I can't wait until you tell us more.

Jo said...

Somewhat behind the fair, but a fascinating story, I had never heard it before either. Mind you I kind of envy those boys, what a lovely spot to have your school.

Jannie Funster said...

Yes, it IS amazing what can be accomplished with many hands working.

Jim's brother used to live in Aberystwith!! There are many letters from years ago addressed from there.

And gladly, typhoid behind us now.


Blond Duck said...

It sounds like a school out of stories!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Clarissa - I think the masters had the brunt of the work - still no complaining in those days .. glad you enjoyed it.

@ Jo - when I heard about it - it amazed me ... yes I have some friends who have a caravan site at Borth .. so their kids love it.

@ Jannie - this was many many hands making (light) work .. jolly hard work. How interesting for you to have those connections with Aberystwith .. I'm glad you've still got the letters.

As you say thankfully typhoid seems fairly controllable now - there are still about 5 cases in one million in developed countries per year.

@ Blond Duck.. stories galore here - waiting to be untapped, I so agree.

Thank you so much Clarissa, Jo, Jannie and Blond Duck .. cheers Hilary

Julie Flanders said...

Your blogs are the best history lessons I've ever read. You have such a gift for making the past come to life. Loved reading Uppingham and the pics are fantastic as always.

Davina said...

Hilary, this looks like such a rustic countryside. I love the tone of your writing here and how you led us through the story from point A to point B. Makes me realize how much is going around me even today, that someday will also be a part of history.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - that's so kind of you - and I'm delighted you enjoyed the post so much ..

@ Davina - well .. that is part 1 of the story line .. and it is and was very rural ..

You're right we forget we are part of history to others right now - our funny ways will be recorded for posterity!!

Cheers Julie and Davina - have lovely weekends .. Hilary

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is a fascinating story, Hilary. Hard to imagine the amount of work involved to get this job done and get the students back to their studies.

Patsy said...

Gosh - when you research you do it thoroughly!

What an interesting story. Can't begin to imagine how those boys must have felt.

klahanie said...

Hey Hilary,
Fascinating and such an upheaval would create future challenges for those involved.
I'm very familiar with that part of Wales.
Have a peaceful weekend and who knows, we might even note that strange glowing orb in the sky.
Cheers, Gary

Nick Wilford said...

I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award. It's well deserved. Details at my blog! :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary,

A truly amazing story! Thank you for sharing.

Susan :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patricia .. it is fascinating isn't it - but in those days everyone put their back into work and just got on with everything .. and achieved their goal - boys studying as a school again.

@ Patsy - many thanks .. this was relatively easy, just had to make it into a post format.

The boys 135 years ago were used to being out and about - as they were together, as too the masters - so they felt 'at home'.

@ Gary - yes I realised you knew that part of the world quite well .. and so much upheaval as you say. What bliss to see that golden orb - it's sort of looking hopeful!

@ Nick - many thanks indeed ..

@ Susan - glad you enjoyed it ..

Thanks so much for visiting - have happy weekends .. cheers Hilary

MunirGhiasuddin said...

The Adder looks very scary. I hope that none of the kids were attacked by it while they were studying them. It is very interesting to know about different methods of teaching in different places.
Thanks and cheers !

Rosalind Adam said...

Although we live not that far from Uppingham I knew nothing about this. How fascinating.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir - many thanks for visiting .. it was normality 135 years ago .. plenty of adders and other reptiles to find!

@ Ros - you'll look at Uppingham in a new light now - won't you!

Cheers Munir and Ros .. good to see you - Hilary