City Grammar - Memories - David Rhodes



Springfield Infants   1943 - 1944
Broomhill Infants   1944 - 1945
Nether Green Junior   1945 - 1949
CITY GRAMMAR  1949 - 1954

My first connections with City Grammar both pre date my time there.


Broomhill School had been damaged by incendiary bombs and was not in use when the time came for me to start school and so my first year was spent at Springfield.
Broomhill was subsequently partly repaired and re-opened at which point I transferred there. The newly appointed caretaker was a Mrs RUDD who had a son Harvey who was a playmate. Although I did not know the full story at the time, I believe that Mrs RUDD and her husband, Harvey’s father were caretakers at City Grammar until the father was killed on active service in the war. The very young Harvey lived in the City Grammar caretakers flat until the Education Authority appointed his mother to the less onerous job at Broomhill.

We went on together to Nether Green at around the age of seven and continued to be pals and during school holidays, we played in the Broomhill School playground and I was often in the schoolhouse.
At eleven plus I went on to City Grammar whilst Harvey was allocated to Greystones.
After one year, as part of a routine re-evaluation, Harvey RUDD was transferred into form 2S at City Grammar and until 1954 remained a pupil at City Grammar. Many of the serving staff had known his father, mother and Harvey. There may have been a memorial plaque to his father in the school?

Our first teacher at Nether Green was Kathleen PITCHFORD who was an old girl of the City Grammar. She may have been one of the final products of The Pupil Teacher Centre although I do not know this for certain. She taught general subjects but had a keen interest in games and introduced us to shinty and rounders.
Around 1951-2 Kathleen PITCHFORD was seconded to the City Grammar mostly teaching girls Physical Education and remained on the staff for a couple of years before returning to Nether Green. She was popular and known to many of the staff as a former pupil. Because her duties were mostly with the girls, I had little contact with her except for the mixed dancing lessons at the YWCA and occasional mixed hockey and netball sessions.

CITY GRAMMAR 1949 - 1950

I took the scholarship ( 11 plus ) in 1949 and had an unfortunate experience with the results. Arriving at school one day most of my class had letters telling them they had passed and to which schools they had been allocated. The system seems to have been rather cruel as those who had not succeeded were not notified until about a week later. At school the situation was seen as no letter = failed. Around noon my mother arrived clutching my letter which had been delivered to the wrong address!
My grandmother gave us an old white five-pound note and off we went armed with the list of requirements to the Sheffield & Ecclesall Coop at the bottom of the Moor. The fiver took care of everything and I was ready for school. The photo shows the new uniform including the Kaffir-Sheaf house lapel badge.

We gathered in the Chemistry Lecture room, which had a large capacity, taking the entire years four-form entry. After some kind of induction talk our names were called out and we were allocated to classes. I was in the first batch –
Form 1P and we were led off by our new form teacher ( Registration ) Miss FOSTER to our form room. This was on the ground floor corridor - second one in and looking on to the playground. We were introduced to the mysteries of the fortnightly timetable and leant to keep a sharp eye out for the  A or B week indicator signs displayed in the corridors.
The only subject that Miss FOSTER taught us was Religious Education but I remember her expressing views from time to time on other matters.
My classmates from that first year are shown on the 1951 photograph of form 2P although, being absent in hospital at the end of the first year, I missed the year end tests, and was placed in form 2Q with a different set of pupils for the remainder of my schooling. Later as some subjects were streamed I would be with former pupils from 1P for specific lessons.

The pupil I remember best from the 1P form ( Photo 2P  1951 ) is
Kenny WRIGHT who was also at Nether Green. He was an excellent scholar. On leaving school at 16 he worked in the Town Hall – City Treasurers Department. By chance in 1956 we both attended the pre National Service Medical Board on the same day. John ALMOND and John NAYLOR and Sylvia KITSON may also be on the Nether Green photo.

I studied Handicraft (Mr DRAKE ) for two terms only in year one.
Miss Wastnidge certainly taught me in my first and her final year but what?

The Headmaster in my first year was Mr NORTHEAST who was always known as “WINDY” and I remember him as a well liked and respected figure, who ran the school with a light touch. He retired at the end of my first year.

The senior mistress was Miss SILK who seemed to be mostly involved with the sixth form and rarely came into our sphere.

Sir Peter MIDDLETON currently Chairman of Barclays and former Permanent Secretary at the Treasury was a pupil at this time but I do not remember him.

CITY GRAMMAR 1950 - 1951

The new Head was R H DAVIES who was head for the rest of my stay. He was younger and more formal and was initially perhaps somewhat resented for wanting to make changes and probably for not being a Yorkshireman! One of his changes was to morning assembly. The practice had been for the school to assemble informally and when the bell sounded for the Head to stand, silence would fall and the proceedings would start. The new regime had the whole school standing to attention before the head and senior staff processed from the back of the hall to take their places on the platform. He caused a stir by inviting a countess to present the prizes at speech day. This was way outside the norm! On speech day and other important occasions the staff would wear their University gowns and the colours were quite dazzling.

My classmates from year two are shown on the 1951 photograph 2Q although my memory of names is sketchy.

No 31  is  LAYCOCK Miss our Form Teacher ( Registration ). Information on the web site suggests she was close to retirement, although I do not think that I had any awareness of that at the time. She also taught us Geography.
The photographs from 1951 suggest that the uniform code was observed by Girls but not nearly so much by Boys? Also my memory is that teachers wore gowns on a daily basis although the 1951 Staff photo is gown less?

We were the only co-educational Grammar School and opinions differed as to whether that was a good or bad thing. Also we were the Grammar School which drew pupils most widely from all areas of the city. Both greatly enriched the experience.

Our 2Q form room was on the lower corridor - first one in overlooking the boys playground. Very occasionally there would be scuffles in the playground.
Given present day conditions there was never any tension between supporters of United or Wednesday who often attended both sets of matches together. The football hero in the early fifties was Derek Dooley and the school was stunned  when news of his injury and amputation filtered through during a school day.
Andrews stationers just round the corner was a haunt and sometimes would be put out of bounds as a result of daredevil petty pilfering.
In this year a scuffle in the classroom opposite resulted in a boy throwing a punch which missed. The fist went through a windowpane and a good deal of blood resulted. The prefect on duty, Roy HATTERSLEY, (later a politician – Leader of Sheffield Council – Member of Parliament – Cabinet Minister – Deputy Leader of the Labour Party), dealt with the situation and called members of staff who gave first aid and got the boy to hospital.

By this time I came to school by bicycle. These were kept down a flight of steps in Orchard Lane where those who were late for assembly used to hide out hoping to avoid checks by prefects which would have resulted in detention.
Detention was from 4 to 4.45pm in the Physics Lecture Room. Although I was rarely detained ; probably for being late, I recall the duty teacher Bob ETCHELLS getting amusement from going round the pupils and having them explain why they were there.
Was there caning? Perhaps the Head only caned, as I have no recollection of it.

We attended the YMCA for gym being escorted across the road by the then famous Town Hall Square policeman P C JUDD and went to Hurlfield by bus for outdoor sports. The sports master at this time was Derek WALKER who later taught History. Bob ETCHELLS who mainly taught English assisted him. The main sport was soccer but we dabbled in cricket, tennis, rugby, hockey, netball, athletics and rounders.

Bob ETCHELLS was a well-liked and respected teacher who taught us English.
On one occasion a pupil was out of order and was called out to the front to be told off face to face. This was such a terrifying experience that the pupil fainted away and had to be caught by ETCHELLS before hitting the floor. It says much for the man that no one ever held this incident against him. He was prominent in sporting circles being connected with the Parkhead Cricket Club and during the 1960s was to be seen sitting in the Directors box for Sheffield United games at Bramall Lane. The grounding he gave in English Grammar was thorough and lasting.

On one occasion a team of old boys played the school at cricket. This was the time of the young tearaway Freddie Trueman and appealing was fairly ferocious with schoolboys as ever copying their heroes. Imagine the surprise when an old boy fresh from university turned to the umpire and in “cut glass – non Yorkshire tones” quietly asked “How was that umpire?”

From 1951 it is surprising that no record has emerged of the school outing to the Festival of Britain site on the South Bank in London. Some hundreds of staff and pupils travelled by specially chartered steam train from Victoria station to Kings Cross, on a long days outing. Many photographs must have been taken and surely some must survive. At that time, rebuilding of Sheffield from war damage was far from complete and there were no escalators in the city. I remember that, having been in London during wartime, I was one of the few pupils who had been on an escalator before.

The school play The Merry Wives of Windsor ran for three nights and was an outstanding success – produced by Mr BAILEY. He obviously was very talented and well supported by others. The productions were amazingly ambitious.
Regrettably, I never was taught by Mr BAILEY, but I think it would have been very interesting. Falstaff was played by sixth former, Peter IVES, who was superb. The photo of Prefects 1951 shows that he was larger than life and hardly looked like a schoolboy. The second performance contained an unplanned dramatic incident when Falstaff hiding behind a tree had to shake with fear. This was a little overdone and the tree came crashing down. After surprised laughter and a short pause for the tree to be replaced the play went triumphantly on.

Apart from productions already on the web site vague memories survive of possibly an earlier production 1950? of the Benjamin Britten work for schools “Lets make an Opera” and did the Britten work “Noyes Fludde” also get an outing.

School productions were in the evenings. Did we pay and how were they funded? My parents did not attend and unlike today they rarely visited the school.

By this time I mercifully ceased to study Art with Miss JOHNSON – my being entirely without talent in that area she probably was relieved.

This year my good result in Biology and Botany ( 83% in the year end exam – teacher Miss HUTCHINSON ) resulted in my being placed in the A stream for Science in the Third Year with the perverse result that I never studied either subject again as from then on it was Physics and Chemistry only as individual subjects.

In this year I took up Latin with Mr PARSONS and first came into contact with his older star pupil Robert MULVEY a scholar of Latin & Greek who also had dramatic talents displayed in school productions. He seemed born to be a professor and it would be interesting to know how his life developed.

For the third form our Form Teacher ( Registration ) was Roger COLE and we were based in the Geography Lecture room. Roger COLE also taught us geography.

Roger COLE was a very interesting teacher being relatively young and adventurous. Before the days of package holidays he had been to Oberamagau & the Austrian Tyrol, Italy, Norway, Iceland as well as the near continent, and he showed colour slides of his travels. He left the school around 1955 being one of a few teachers who accompanied R H DAVIES south to take up new appointments at a new mega-comprehensive in Barnet-Enfield.

For Physics our teacher was Mr BOUSFIELD who was firm and fair and also gave a very good grounding. There never was much doubt that we were going to pass the exams. He ran the school photography club. Around 1955 he joined R H DAVIES in a new appointment in the south.

The Physics laboratory technician was a young man Desmond TESTER who transferred later to Sheffield University and demonstrated for the Nobel physicist Professor Sir George Porter. They presented a significant series of televised lectures on television. Later Sir George became President of the Royal Institution and presented the Royal Institution Christmas Children’s Lectures on television with Desmond TESTER staging spectacular experimental demonstrations.

In Chemistry our teacher was Mr CALLISTER and although this was a no hope subject for me I remember him as a good and interesting teacher and person. We occasionally would also have lessons with Mr HUM.

The Laboratory Technician for Chemistry was the long serving Tom TOWNSEND and even after leaving school I had friendly dealings with him during my employment in the Education Office. On one occasion I dropped a large glass carboy in the school but he made no complaint, cleared up and somehow replaced it without anyone else knowing.

We attended King Edward School baths for swimming and as this was the first activity of the day we made our own way there. My swimming certificate dates from this time.

Betty THOROLD taught us English and was always a lively person and teacher who played a full part in the life of the school. Mr MCPHERSON joined the staff around 1953/4 to teach Physics. He was youthful and lively also and later they were to marry. I remember meeting them together at a reunion at Greystones Ballroom around the end of the 1950s.

The sports day at Niagara Sports ground saw me running in the quarter mile but finishing nowhere. The man in charge of the starting gun was Edgar PARSONS.

CITY GRAMMAR 1952 – 53

In the fourth form we were based in the Music Room looking out by the entrance, with Mr TAYLOR as form teacher ( Registration. )

This was immediately opposite the side of the Grand Hotel. When Sir Winston Churchill gave a speech in Sheffield he followed his usual regime of sleeping in late and on that morning no bells were rung and we were instructed to move about quietly all morning. Sometimes we would see well-known people coming and going at the hotel. I had a particularly good sighting of the Beverley Sisters.

Mr TAYLOR was the music master. Although I came from a non-musical background and never studied Music, we did have a limited number of lessons devoted to music appreciation, with 78rpm records played on a gramophone, and somehow from these I acquired a lifelong love of and interest in music. The staff at nearby Wilson Peck where we made regular visits to the record audition booths appreciated and encouraged our interest in music, whilst realising that we were time-wasters, being able to make few purchases due to lack of funds.

We attended educational concerts given by the Halle Orchestra in the City Hall. Other pupils came by bus but we merely crossed the road. The Halle were unusual at the time for having a lady timpanist. The orchestra was conducted by Laurence Percival dressed in black coat and striped trousers in Captain Mainwaring bank manager style. Once or twice I could afford to go to the evening concert when Sir John Barbirolli conducted. Briefly I was a member of the school choir until I was found out being out of tune. The choir, which practised after school in the Chemistry Lecture Room, seemed very large. This is borne out by the photograph.

Three outstanding musical talents amongst the pupils remain in the memory. Rowena RAMSELL is mentioned in connection with school productions and was a very able cellist and she had a brother who played the violin.

ENID HARTLE however was the star turn. From early on she had a stupendous singing voice as well as being generally talented. She figured in a number of school productions and at choral concerts sang amazing solo items in front of an audience of many hundreds. She subsequently was at the Guildhall School of Music where she was a prize winner for both opera and lieder singing. She has given numerous performances at Glyndebourne, Kent Opera, Netherlands Opera, Wexford Opera Festival and many others. In addition she has given regularly concert performances including with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. On recordings she has worked Sir Georg Solti, Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge. Her performances are featured on a number of complete recordings of operas both on disc and on video. She is now coaching young singers.

For the Coronation the boys of the city were presented with commemorative penknives which were generally considered to be of poor quality and unworthy. Very few lasted long so any remaining probably have a rarity value.

By the fifth year we had finally made it to the upper corridor, first room in, outward facing. Form teacher ( Registration) was Mr Charles CURTIS. He also taught us Mathematics. He had been given us as a special challenge in view of the fact that for the previous two years our Mathematics had been a disaster zone mostly due to a certain teacher losing control. Calmly telling us that we were to forget all that had gone before he explained that we would use the available time between September and the examination the next summer to redo the entire syllabus.

At this point I had a rare interview with R H DAVIES who agreed to my giving up Latin to devote more time to the Mathematics recovery effort.

Latin had been a struggle but Edgar PARSONS was a very interesting teacher and person. He lived a middle class somewhat bohemian existence in a period property in Clarkehouse Road almost opposite King Edwards School. As I lived not too far away I would see him sometimes off duty and for a reason I cannot remember, once I was inside his house which was filled with books. In dress too he was unusual, often wearing check shirts ant raffish ties. He was a man for the great outdoors, addicted to rambling and hiking. He walked to school always with a rucksack. Even after the school moved to Stradbroke I would see him cycling to school despite the very steep gradients between his home and the school.

The school song is shown as, music by TAYLOR and words by GOODFELLOW, but I am certain that the Latin words were by PARSONS.

We left Hurlfield playing fields when building work started after which the journey was made to Ringinglow.

At this time Miss COLE had succeeded Miss SILK as Senior Mistress.

My strongest subject History benefited from having Alan GOODFELLOW as my teacher. We had a good rapport and he was an excellent and talented teacher and person. We left the school at the same time in July 1954 he having been promoted to the Headship at Wisewood.

We sat the General Certificate of Education, the entire year sitting at individual desks set out specially in the school hall at the top of the building. When I had started in 1949 pupils were still taking the Schools Certificate and matriculating.

Mr Charles CURTIS performed a miraculous rescue for us in mathematics. He must have been extremely proud and relieved.


After leaving school I returned in the summer holiday on the appointed day to see the General Certificate of Education results which were posted on a notice board in the upper corridor. It happened that Mr Charles CURTIS was present and wished me well. I had obtained six passes which teachers considered very similar to success in the previous schools certificate regime. He informed me that I had achieved 70% in the vital mathematics exam. The fact that my score at the end of year four had been just 11% speaks volumes for the quality of his teaching.

As I recall attending a ceremony at which the actual Certificates were presented, I imagine that we must have returned specially for the occasion.

In 1954 the number of pupils staying on and aiming for university was very much lower than today. We had toured various work places in the run up to leaving. These included the major steelworks and other factories together with the gasworks and the mining college. Most of the places visited no longer exist which illustrates the difficulty of careers advice.

My first job was just next door in the Education office and my duties occasionally took me back into City Grammar. I also was involved with the arrangements for the opening of the new school at Hurlfield on the very spot where we had played football.

In 1956 I left Sheffield on joining the Royal Air Force. In 1958 I purchased the “old school tie & scarf” from W Hobson & Son Ltd and also attended a reunion at the Greystones ballroom. At this I had a long and candid talk with Alan GOODFELLOW which confirmed my view of him as a man of great wisdom and quality.

Later in the 1960s I worked at the Halifax Building Society in Surrey Street where I would see and chat with Charles CURTIS who was a customer. The irony of my now advising him on financial matters was a source of some amusement.
I had served in the R.A.F. as a statistician and later obtained a Certificate in Economic Statistics from the Institute of Statisticians. After a thirty-year career with the Halifax I retired early from being Regional Manager – Greater London.
Elected councillor, I chaired the London Borough of Harrow Finance Committee. Along the way I served as President of Northfields – Ealing Rotary Club, and became a Freeman and Liveryman of the City of London.

It seems quite unlikely that life would have turned out so well without that vital pass in Mathematics.

I wonder, did I ever thank Mr Curtis adequately for his contribution?

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