Abingdon News No.56

The Abingdon Foundation, Park Road, Abingdon, Oxford OX14 1DE 01235 521563 • Edited by Jane Warne – communications@abingdon.org.uk 01235 849123 • Design – www.petergreenland.com Abingdon News @abingdonschool @ abingdonschool 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the School’s move to Albert Park. Last January’s Abingdon News showed just how far the buildings and grounds have expanded over the years, this January’s gives a glimpse of how far our ways of life have changed. Abingdon School 1870 to 2020 – what a difference the years make! Clothes There was no school uniform until 1930. Originally boys wore their own clothes, except for the Bennett Scholars who wore mortar boards and gowns. A uniform cap, black with cerise cording, was introduced in 1897 otherwise a series of regulations outlined what was and was not permissible: ‘no novelties in any kind of dress may be introduced without leave’; ‘all trousers must be ordinary width’; ‘plus fours must not be worn without written permission from the Headmaster’; ‘no scent or pomade or, except sparingly and occasionally, hair-oil may be used’. Finally, and rather strangely, ‘Pants must be worn by all boys winter and summer unless they get a written leave from the Headmaster’. Electricity was installed throughout the school in 1925. Until then gas was used to light rooms, as well as candles. The latter only under strict control as the rules made clear: ‘Prefects alone are allowed candles. Candles must be used in the covered lanterns supplied by Matron. The only position in which these lanterns may be placed for use at night is on the top of the washstand. Where there is no washstand the lantern must be placed in a position approved by Matron’. Meals At one time, only the boarders ate at school. Until the early 1950s, dayboys either went home for lunch or brought their own. In 1926, the area beneath the Big Schoolroom (now the Staff Common Room) was converted into a dining hall. Not only did boys have to eat what they were given but the rules emphasised how very different mealtimes were from today: ‘At breakfast, dinner and tea the Dining Hall door will be shut two minutes after the entry of a master’; ‘No boy may take or touch anything on the tables till grace has been said’; ‘Boys must remain in their seats during meals …their jam etc will be brought to them by the maids’. Bathing The School got its own swimming pool in 1960. Before that the boys used St Helen’s, and before that the town’s swimming facilities – the river. But views on bathing have changed over the years. In 1891 the master in charge of cricket could state, ‘Without doubt, bathing makes one slack and unequal for an afternoon’s hard work in the cricket field.’ It was believed to affect exam performance too, hence the 1926 rule, ‘Certificate candidates will not bathe in the early morning during the examinations.’ Female Staff Not only do women make up more than a third of today’s teaching staff but Abingdon was the first all-boys public school to appoint a woman as its head. However, for many years Miss Ivy Sheldon-Peach, appointed in 1920 to teach class singing, was the only woman on the staff, and even as late as 1996 there were only eight. Attitudes to women have changed hugely over the years as past Debating Society motions show: February 1907, ‘This house approves of a system of female suffrage’, defeated; March 1958, ‘This house believes a woman’s place is in the home’, carried. And finally … Has illness ever before caused the School to close? Yes, Scarlet Fever more than once in the 19th Century, and influenza for two weeks in 1918. Electricity 1926, the boys are dressed formally but not uniformly Gas mantles can be seen in this 1910 image of the art room Lunch in the Dining Hall in the early 1960s Bathing place on the river in the 1920s Ivy Sheldon Peach @abingdon_school linkedin.com/school/abingdonschool