John C. K. Balfry, C.Eng., F.I.Mech.E. (1892-1896)

I used the Ferry Bridge daily to and from School. The Rev. T.W. Beckett and Mr. Jeffcott, the Second Master, had each a few boarders. The former lived in the School House, the latter in Branston Road.

Mr  W.T. Jeffcott, B.A. (London), was second master. He taught French and also Greek to boys who intended to take Holy Orders. His classroom was “D” and his desk on the right-hand side of the doorway. Woe betide any boy who had the temerity to cross his platform in order to make a quicker exit. Beckoning the boy with a finger he would say: “You know what the Old Book says, don’t you? — Put off thy shoes . . . you know the rest. Well remember that platform is for me to use, and me alone. Understand?” — Yes, Sir.

Mr. James Mills’s classroom was “A”, where he drove into hard skulls the elements of Mathematics with dramatic energy. When sitting at his desk, he was apt to scratch — hence his nickname “Nitty”. A story is told of his absentmindedness. He went to London to sit for an examination and on arrival he simply could not remember the name of the hotel where he was to stay. It is said that he was apprehended by the police for wandering about and so spent the night in a Police Station. He often walked along curbstones of footpaths, and collided with lamp-posts which knocked off his felt hat. This very lovable man took Holy Orders in later life. The writer can speak from experience of the soundness of his teaching of Maths.



W.A. Balfry (1897-1901)

When I entered the School in 1897, entry to the school premises was through a side entrance in Bond Street, into the school playground, in the centre of which stood the “giant stride” which was in constant and regular use by the pupils. Cricket, and Association Football were played on a field in the Branston Road, behind the present Rugby football ground, Peel Croft, which was formerly the home ground of Burton United Association Football Club.

There were also bathing sheds in a side stream of the River Trent, access to which was obtained from the Ferry Bridge.

The Headmaster, who had his desk in the main hall, did not encourage games or sports, but brought the school to a high degree of efficiency in academic successes. Among the pupils who attained an exceptionally high degree of success in the Cambridge Senior Local Examinations were the brothers F. and A. Slator, and Frame, (whose Christian name escapes me at the moment) who obtained honours in no less than eight subjects, and all of whom had their achievements recorded on the Honours Board at the end of the Main Hall.

The school day in my time commenced and ended with prayers. Before the hymns and prayers at the close of school, each of the form-masters handed to the Headmaster a list of the boys who were re¬quired to stay after normal school hours, as punishment for bad work in homework or in class — usually the result of carelessness or idleness. I am afraid my name used to appear very frequently on these lists, and I recollect that on two occasions I was escorted to the Head¬master’s private study where I was obliged to submit to corporal punishment for my sins! The only person allowed to administer this was the Headmaster, and the instrument of torture was a substantial cane of about an inch diameter. Four strokes of this across the palm of each hand, and four across the back of the thighs well laid on by a sturdy Head were not quickly forgotten.

The Annual Prize-giving was held at the Town Hall, and was presided over by Lord Burton, who was, I suppose, Head of the School Governors and who treated the boys to a sumptuous feast which was highly appreciated. The prizes were always books, those for success in the Cambridge Local Examinations being chosen by the winner, whilst those that were awarded for success in school examinations were handsome dark green leather bound volumes, with the School coat-of-arms embossed in gilt on the front cover.

There was no school uniform except for the school cap, which was a pork-pie, or pill-box shape, with a postage stamp badge showing the school crest sewn on the side, and worn on the back of the head.

Although classes had considerably more than the thirty boys which today is considered to be the maximum number a form-master can control, discipline was always well-maintained, and there were never any instances of unruly behaviour.

Masters and their nicknames as I recall (c. 1895-1900) were:

Headmaster: Rev. T.W. Beckett – ‘Spongy’

Assistant Masters:
W.T. Jeffcott – ‘Piggy’
H.T. Walker – ‘H.T.’
W.H. Walker – ‘Blue Blood’
J.W. Mackie – ‘Black Devil’
J. Mills – ‘Nitty’
Stevenson – ‘Tommy’
Stevens – ‘Bullseyes’


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