Trent College 1930s-1940

An older post from an older blog, which I have updated slightly twice:

Dad was at Trent College, apparently, between the ages of 13 and 18. There he learned to play hockey, as he recalled, pinching his older sister Pam’s hockey stick. He would play hockey until at least the age of 45 (I recall him playing at Harrison Park, probably in the late spring of 1968 or even later) and I gather that he was on trial, at least, for Nottinghamshire Colts. He liked Trent because they did not just insist on sport, he told me, as they had a spinney and encouraged other outdoor pursuits.

Although Trent College was in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, it was near the Nottinghamshire border. The school had been founded in 1868 for the sons (only) of middle class families, which describes his own background. I looked at the College website on 20 December 2006 [since when much has disappeared, for some reason], and lifted and edited this excerpt:

In 1892, the Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. (established by Francis Wright’s surviving family) took over as Trustees of Trent College and remained its Directors until November 1966 when the School became Trent College Ltd.

In 1901, Rev G.J.S. ‘Daddy’ Warner joined Trent College as Chaplain and later, Second Master. His was an immensely important contribution to the School, spanning 64 years.

1914 saw the outbreak of the First World War. Of the 531 Old Tridents who served their country, 94 were killed; it was a matter of great sadness for the School.

Tucker was succeeded in 1927 by Headmaster Geoffrey Bell. Trent was about to face the Great Depression, which meant that Bell was restricted in the developments he could carry out at the School. However, during Bell’s Headmastership, the Warner Library was opened (1929) as well as the Cricket Pavilion (1933). Bell was held in high regard by the boys at Trent and was seen as a forward-thinking man, even though the School’s finances were less progressive.

Bell also oversaw Trent’s great unbeaten rugby 1st XI sides of 1932-33 and 1933-34, which included the now-famous Prince Obolensky, who went on to play for Oxford and England and is still remembered as one of the country’s finest rugby players.

Bell left Trent in 1936 for a new Headmastership at Highgate and was succeeded by Ford Ikin, who reported being appalled by the dilapidated state of the buildings that greeted him on his arrival at Trent.

Ikin immediately set about persuading the governors to spend money on sanitation, new beds and decoration, as well as removing the gas lighting that had been criticised in an inspection in 1929. The School was dramatically improved and filled to its capacity.

However, another crisis loomed. Weymouth College, also owned by the Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. was in financial crisis. Ikin received a letter from the Chairman of the Governing Body advising that none of the Masters’ salaries could be paid at the end of the Michaelmas term. He was then advised that both Trent and Weymouth Colleges would have to close as the bank could no longer support their £20,000 overdraft.

As the Headmaster of a modernised school with a full roll, Ikin persuaded the Governors to allow him to contact B G Catterns, a former pupil and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Catterns encouraged the bank to give Trent a year to sort out its difficulties. The decision was made to close Weymouth College and concentrate on Trent. The immediate crisis was over and Trent was saved.

Despite the losses of World War Two, these were happier years for Trent. ‘Daddy’ Warner continued to be a central figure, held in affection by everyone who knew him.

Dad told me little else about the school, itself, its dilapidation, or the financial crisis (he was probably unaware of this). He did say that when he arrived he was the smallest boy in the class (or the school??), until another boy, even smaller, came along. They got his name wrong and he was known as “The Class Bongey”. I would have been appalled by this, but he seemed quite amused. He also recalled, wryly, being beaten for smoking, apparently from almost the time that he arrived there. If this had managed to deter him from smoking, he might have lived many years after 1986.

One other recollection is that when he was going off to the school for the first time, his father simply said “be a good scout”, and that was it.

I thought of emailing the College’s Trent Association, to see if there was anyone who recalled Dad, but decided against it in the end.

A trawl through British Newspaper Archive revealed four entries about Dad at Trent. One was a performance of a “French satire” , Jules Romains’ Dr Knock, on Friday 16 December 1938, presumably the “end of term play”. He appeared in this play, described in the Derby Daily Telegraph as “a satirical comedy on medical methods in France”. It was a 1923 play by Romains (1885-1972), whose French title was Knock ou le Triomphe de la medicine; the adaptation in the English language was Dr Knock, performed first in 1932.  The second entry was on 17 March 1939, the final hockey match of the season, in which he played against the “Old Tridents”. Rain fell continuously, the Yorkshire Post recorded, but Dad scored all three goals, in a match drawn 3-3. He is not mentioned in coverage of hockey later in 1939, oddly.

Two more entries relate to 1939. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 5 April reported that he came third in a Mile Race against Repton College. He was still at Trent College on 23 January 1940 (results were then reported in Birmingham Daily Post), when he passed the December School Certificate Examination. He had, he told me, failed one paper earlier (presumably Summer 1939) and had to sit the whole examination again. This accords with his later statement that his father let him stay on until he was 18, after which, I suspect, he joined the RAF.

More pieces in the jigsaw!

Thursday, December 21, 2006, postscript 26 July 2014 and further work 25 December 2016 and 25 March 2017


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