Stramongate School Magazine Digitisation Project
At Quaker Tapestry we are continuing with a project to fully digitise the objects in our collection. This will help us to quickly identify stored objects and keep track of their condition. In addition, it will allow the public to gain a better insight into items that aren’t always on display. Conservation Volunteer, Francesca, is currently digitising the Stramongate School Magazine from the early 1920s. This provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the students, just after the end of the First World War, as well as into the life experiences of the school’s alumni.
Stramongate School in Kendal, Cumbria was founded in 1698 by The Society of Friends, making it the oldest school in the town. Although it has closed for periods in its history, it has always returned in some form. Currently, it is a primary school. John Dalton, the founder of atomic theory and ‘father of modern chemistry’, taught there (1781-1793). In 1882, the future Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, was born there while his father presided as Headmaster. He would go on to be Chief Assistant at Greenwich Observatory and Professor of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge.
The lively atmosphere of the school is conveyed through its pages…
Now and then, a play appears, with a full cast list accompanying it. In the Christmas play of 1922, according to the January 1923 edition, the quality of acting was much bolstered by a visit to the ‘Benson Shakespearian Company’ earlier in the term. Despite being ‘rather hotly debated’, the ‘choice of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ – finally preferred to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – was amply justified’ on this occasion, wrote the reporter. The ‘large audience of Old Boys, parents and friends of the School’ filed into Stramongate Hall to watch the pupils. Such anecdotes give us an idea of how central the school was in the life of the local community.
Of course, with ample access to both the The Lakes and The Dales, there are many sporting activities and trips. Football matches seemed frequent and very popular and to a lesser extent, so was cricket. In the summer months, the pupils engaged in cycling, including a larger ‘Cycle Tour of 1923’. Scouting was a year-round activity (see photo)
At times, there are more alarming headings, including ‘Rescue from Drowning. Wigan Golfer’s Gallantry’ in which ‘Mr William Alexander’, an Old Stramongate boy, emerged the hero of the day. Indeed, the Old Boys are a constant feature of the school magazine, even well before the alumni magazine, The Old Stramonian came out in the 1970s and 80s. The Old Girls, however, crop up rather less. The Old Boys, at least, were well travelled, sending back editorials to the magazine, detailing their foreign exploits. These include a trip to the Niagra Falls in America, a visit to the Kaiteur Falls in Guyana and a tour of the Austrian Alps. Closer to home, they went brass-rubbing in English Churches and detailed walking trips up at Glenridding.
Works of creative writing and poetry often feature, with interesting short stories like ‘A Devonshire Ghost Story’. Poems such as ‘To Charles I’ (see photo) also appear. There are some curious pieces like ‘Dreams – In Fragments’, where the author appears to simply document five of their random, fragmented dreams. ‘Fifty Years Ago’ is part-obituary, part mini-memoir. An Old Boy remembers the Head Master, Henry Thompson, from 1868, through an amusing anecdote involving a broken window. In ‘The Simple Life’ a Lancashire-based Stramonian boy effectively paints an evocative visual image of his home, where the ‘Frecklton pool trickles into the Ribble mouth’.