steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

Tom Butler's Schooldays - Part 2: The Arrival

I've been wondering how best to make my selections from this account, but we may as well begin with TRB's appealingly straightforward introduction of his subject, and that nerve-wracking first day at school.

I have been asked to write an account of my recollections of Christ's Hospital. I was there from the age of 7 years 11 months until I become 15 years of age, and I am now 73, but though old, I am able to fulfil the request; for my memory is good and my desire is to write nothing but what is true. ...

On the 2nd May, 1853, I was taken by my father to the Senior School, Christ's Hospital, Newgate Street, London, to be clothed in the Bluecoat dress and pass an educational examination by the head grammar school master, C.H. London, before going to the junior school, Christ's Hospital, Hertford. I put off "towny" clothes, underwent a medical examination, and put on "housy" ones. I put off a bright blue frock, over which, when it was returned home, my mother cried, and I put on a dark blue coat with leaden buttons, white bands, red girdle and yellow stockings. In winter-time a yellow coat called "a yellow" was worn underneath the blue coat, but only the front of the skirt of the yellow was seen. There was no covering for the head, except at the London School, and there it was only for a few minutes at an inspection. The city-arabs could not become reconciled to yellow stockings, and when they saw a bluecoat boy, were accustomed to call out to him, "Have you put your legs into the mustard-pot?"

The new boys, myself included, went, as we were led, from one place to another, until we were seated in a Hertford train. The journey seemed long. We were met by Mr Ludlow, the Steward of the Hertford School, who spoke as roughly to us as if he had known us for years. From Hertford Station we were marched into the Hall of the Foundation. Several of the lads, to whom discipline was new, were at once caned by Mr Hannum, the head Writing Master, who now entered, to superintend. I was in a terrible funk for I had never seen caning before, and I feared that this ogre would fly upon me. It greatly surprised me that he should wear the same kind of clothes as those worn by my father and family friends, silk hat and frock coat, and it occurred to me that possibly these garments might have a civilizing influence over him and at last conquer his savage nature.

We were then lodged in different wards, of which there were nine in the school at Hertford. I was placed in Ward 8, of which Mrs Meredith had charge. Over the door was painted, "No. VIII Ward, Nurse Meredith." There were at the time I entered about forty boys, most of them between seven and nine years old. They were just then having their supper, bread and butter and sky-blue (watered milk) the latter supplied from jacks (wooden pitchers). ...

The boys soon went to bed, and as the day had been a fatiguing one, I fell asleep long before the ringing of the curfew bell and the first cry of the watchman, which institutions were still observed as if they were as necessary as they used to be in former times.


They certainly knew how to put young children at their ease in those days.
Tags: family history, tom butler's schooldays
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