Chapter XI

Mr. Matthews' Headmastership.



IN 1884 Dr. Henderson became Dean of Carlisle, and the Charity Commissioners (to whom their former powers had been re-transferred) thought that this would be a good time to propound a scheme, and sent Mr. Stanton to Leeds to confer with the Committee.

He found at the School 248 boys, of whom 165 had not reached their 15th year; 84 were sons of professional men, 4 boarders, 23 foreigners, 2 “free admissions,” and c.40 scholars. The staff consisted of the Headmaster, 11 regular, and 5 visiting masters. The gross income in 1882 was £3728.18s.0d., of which £2553.9s.10d. came from rents and £1174.18s.2d. from dividends. There was also £2824.17s.0d. from fees. On the other hand, largely owing to the building of the laboratory, there was a debt of over £3000. Of the land much had now been advantageously sold and the proceeds invested.

IN 1885 the scheme was issued. Its most noteworthy provisions were these:

(a) The Governing Body to consist of

8 representative Governors, appointed 1 by the vicar and churchwardens of the Parish Church, 3 by the Town Council, 2 by the School Board, 1 by the Yorkshire College, 1 by the Victoria University.

6 co-opted Governors. All the existing members of the Committee were to remain at first, but vacancies not to be filled till the number was reduced to 6; subsequent members were to be co-opted by the whole Board.

(b) The Headmaster to receive £200 and a capitation fee of £3-£6.

(c) The Headmaster to appoint and dismiss the assistant masters and (with the Governors' approval) to fix their salaries.

(d) Fees to be £10-£20 per annum, all special privileges being abolished. Boarders to pay not more than £50 in a hostel or £60 in a master's house.

(e) Ages of boys, 10-19.

(f) The religious instruction to be “according to the principles of the Christian faith.”

(g) The School to be examined annually by external examiners.

(h) The exhibitions to be tenable also at the Victoria University.

(i) £500 per annum to be devoted to the education of girls.

THE COMMITTEE found these proposals not more acceptable than those of 1871. If representative Governors were to be appointed they urged that the magistrates, Queen's College, Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, might be represented. They maintained that to get a good man the fixed stipend of the Headmaster should be £500. They claimed the right to fix the salaries of the assistant masters themselves. They thought it unfair that Leeds boys should pay the same fees as foreigners. They wanted the minimum age to be 8, and that the religious instruction should be “according to the principles of the Church of England,” with a conscience clause for nonconformists. They did not think that the younger boys should be examined by external examiners, and they urged that the grants for exhibitions and for girls should depend on the state of their funds. Tentative suggestions too were made as to a pension scheme for assistant masters, and the power to divide an exhibition into two.

On some points an agreement was come to, but on the most important ones no compromise seemed possible, and “the matter remained in suspense.”

While the negotiations were still going on the new Headmaster entered upon office. Dr. Henderson remained till the end of the school year, but on 4 April 1884 the Committee elected the Rev. John Henry Dudley Matthews, M.A., Head of the Modern School at Wellington College. He had been educated at Rugby and University College, Oxford, and obtained a first-class in classical Moderations in 1864, and a third-class in Litt. Hum. in 1866. He was now 40 years old. According to the advertisement he was to receive a quarter of the capitation fees, which during the last 5 years had averaged £720 per annum: in 1894 this was raised to a third.

MR. MATTHEWS came to Leeds at a critical time, as the numbers were again beginning to fall. Fresh schools were being established with lower fees and newer buildings. The Yorkshire College had preparatory classes for students who in age and attainments differed little from schoolboys. The animosity referred to above was becoming more pronounced, and there was a good deal of wild talk about the narrowness and inutility of the School curriculum. The last of these points alone fell directly within the Headmaster's province, and it was hoped that his experience would enable him to develop the study of modern subjects without detriment to the old traditions of the School.

Little by little Mr. Matthews did a good deal in this way.

The teaching of modern languages was taken entirely out of the hands of foreigners—French in 1889, German in I894* [*The long connection of Mr. Stuhlmann, the German master, with the School was commemorated by the attachment of his name to the German Prize in 1894.] So far as French was concerned this had been done by Mr. Barry, but under Dr. Henderson much of the teaching had been done by a visiting master, and with German this had always been the case. The change was good, for the Englishmen kept better order, and understood better the difficulties found by English boys. A correct accent was secured by the appointment of masters who had studied abroad. Gradually too, except in the Sixth Form, German became alternative with Greek.

The science teaching also was extended, and the number of boys learning it—and these were by no means exclusively “modern” boys—considerably increased.

THESE CHANGES enabled the Modern Division to be dispensed with. In the Calendar of 1887 it is combined with the Special Class, but in 1890 the latter only is mentioned. The middle Forms were divided into classical and modern sides, according as the boys learnt Greek or German; this division first appears in the Calendar of 1890. In the upper Forms the bulk of the boys were “classical” (for many “modern” boys left early to go into business); but facilities were given for those who wished to continue their “modern” education, and of these a growing number availed themselves.

Steps too were taken to enlarge the scope of the education given in the School. Singing ceased to be an extra in 1884. A carpenter's shop was started c.1890 in the basement of the Headmaster's house: the present building was erected c.1892. The classes for drill and gymnastics seem to have stopped c.1872, but in 1894 part of the lower schoolroom—the present cloak room—was again fitted up as a gymnasium, the cost being defrayed by a bazaar which produced £79.2s.1d. The Committee indeed had planned the construction of both a gymnasium and a swimming bath on the site of the Fives Courts—the former was to cost £1649.17s.0d. and the latter £3251.10s.6d.—but the Charity Commissioners, though they approved of the gymnasium, were not willing to give their sanction to the bath, and the scheme had been dropped. The classes now started were voluntary and held out of school hours, but in 1898 drill became part of the regular work in the bottom Forms.

Book-keeping and Shorthand are first found as part of the “course of study” in the Calendar of 1886, but a prize for Book-keeping was given in 1885.

Attempts also were made to widen the intellectual interests of the boys.

An annual General Knowledge paper was instituted. The “Headmaster's prizes” for encouraging the reading of English literature among the younger boys are first mentioned in 1890, and in 1900 a Junior Library was started. In 1893 the Botany prize first appears in the Calendar. The Sixth Form Literary Society began—or was reconstituted—in 1889, and the Natural History Society in 1892.

It is worth notice that in 1886 the words “according to the principles of the Church of England” cease to appear as a description of the religious instruction given in the School. The instruction indeed now was entirely Biblical, and the Catechism and the Prayer-Book had ceased to be taught.

A GOOD MANY changes were made also in matters of organization and routine.

The school hours were altered. The 5 minutes “grace” at the beginning of school was abolished, and on half-holidays work went on till 12-30. On the other hand, a 10 minutes' “break” was introduced in the middle of the morning. Instead too of the half-holiday on November 5th, a Monday was given as a mid-term holiday in the Michaelmas term.

To the morning prayers were now added a psalm, a hymn, and a prayer commemorating the benefactors of the School. Afternoon school ended with prayers said by the masters in their classrooms: these gradually fell into disuse and were discontinued in 1902.

One of the punishments for culprits had been detention after morning school. This was dropped, partly as ineffective, for the same names were constantly recurring, partly because it was too freely used for every kind of offence. Detention (after afternoon school) was revived in 1914.

Terminal reports are first mentioned in the Calendar of 1877, but it is almost inconceivable that they were not in use long before. Now midterm reports were introduced: they appear first in the Calendar of 1890. The original object was to call attention to boys who were doing badly, and, in the upper Forms at any rate, they were at first sent only to the parents of “slackers.” In some Forms, too, the old habit of giving “weekly orders,” was revived, and the Calendar of 1897 calls the attention of parents to these.

Care was also taken that the home work should be proportionate to the capacity of the boys. The Calendar of 1897 stated that in the lower Forms it should take 1-1½ hours, in the middle 1½-2, in the upper 2-3, and requested that the Headmaster should be informed if any boy repeatedly worked more or less than the appointed time.

In the examinations considerable changes were made. In 1885 that of the Sixth Form was transferred to the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board. The result was satisfactory—9 boys passed with 8 “distinctions”—and since that date (except in 1902, when the School was being reorganized) the examination of that Form had been conducted by the Board. For the rest of the School special examiners continued to be appointed: from 1897 to 1901 the examiners for some of the Forms below the Sixth were appointed by the Oxford and Cambridge Board, and in 1903 and 1904 by the Victoria University.

In 1907 an experiment, interesting but not on the whole satisfactory, was tried in combination with Bristol Grammar School, the masters in one school examining the corresponding Forms in the other. Since 1907 the examination of all the Forms below the Sixth has been done by the staff.

GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS were sometimes—and in many cases unjustly—accused of misconduct in the streets, and it was thought well that they should have some mark to distinguish them from those of other schools. In Mr. Barry's time they wore “mortar-boards,” but the custom soon died out. In the Calendars of 1875 and 1876 we find that “by order of the Trustees all Boys attending the School are required to wear either a Black Felt or a White Straw Hat with a Black and Purple Ribbon if in the Sixth Class, and with a Black and Scarlet one if in any other.” This custom also fell into disuse, and in 1884 boys wore any head-dress they pleased, except that certain types were tabooed.

There were indeed at that time no special colours of the School. The xi wore blue and black, the xv red and white. That blue and yellow were the colours in the School arms was, I believe, first suggested by the present writer in the “Leodiensian” of 1885. In any case they were adopted by Mr. Matthews as the School colours, and a cap was introduced with narrow yellow stripes on a blue ground and in front a metal shield with the arms on it—when these arms were adopted and with what right I have not been able to discover. The cap, however, was promptly copied by other schools, and the design was altered in 1905. Till 1902 the wearing of it was optional. With a straw hat a blue and yellow ribbon is worn, but a black one was allowed till 1909.

FORMERLY BOYS had to purchase books, pens, paper, etc., for themselves—the books from shops, the stationery from stationers or from the School. Mr. Matthews arranged that a representative of one of the booksellers in the town should attend at the School to provide all that was needed.

Improvements were made in the buildings and surroundings of the School. Shrubs and trees were planted in the playground, and seats provided for spectators. The classrooms and staircase were brightened up with pictures. The tablet with the time-honoured inscription was transferred from the old Library. The placing of the clock in the tower in 1889 may seem a small thing but it was a great blessing to the School; its value would have been still greater if two other faces had been added and the dial had been white with the hands black. It cost c.£165.

IN SPITE HOWEVER of the changes that were made, the good reports of examiners, and the “very creditable” list of honours, the numbers continued to fall. From time to time the Commissioners pressed their scheme upon the Committee, but the negotiations led to nothing, until in 1894 the Royal Commission on Secondary Education was appointed.

In connection with this an investigation was made into the charities of Leeds, and the result was the Charities Report of 1896. From this we learn that the finances of the School were now in a good state. It still possessed property in

Marsh Lane, worth £3285.0s.0d.
The Calls and Call Lane £35,675.0s.0d.
Vicar Lane £14,740.0s.0d.
Concord Street £2370.0s.0d.

The School itself was valued at £20,857.10s.0d., and the Governors held also in stocks and mortgages £32,886.8s.0d., as well as the endowments of prizes and exhibitions amounting to £2145.18s.1d. The total assets were set down at £111,959.16s.1d.

The income for 1895 was stated to be

From Rents £2908.17s.6d.
  Dividends, etc.  £1092.11s.0d.
  School Fees £1551.5s.0d.
  Exhibition and Scholarship Fund under
the scheme of 1878
  Bank Interest, etc. £33.16s.4d.
  Total  £6076.16s.6d.

The expenditure was

On  Management of Estates and Repairs £757.5s.1d.
  Exhibitioners and Scholars £825.6s.8d.
  Expenses connected with the School £3602.13s.1d.
  Total  £5185.4s.10d.

The School expenses included

Salaries - Headmaster £1017.1s.7d.
Salaries - Assistant Masters £1937.19s.8d.
Examination £65.17s.9d.
Prizes £47.1s.4d.
Care of Buildings £106.10s.0d.
Repairs £147.1s.8d.
Rates, Taxes, etc. £106.15s.8d.
Coals £41.9s.9d.
Printing, Stationery, etc. £28.0s.5d.
Grant for Playground £45.0s.0d.
Grant for Library £30.0s.0d.

There were at this time 9 assistant masters and 2 visiting masters. The number of boys was 161, most of whom came at the age of 12 or 13, and c.70 per cent. were under 15. c.37 per cent. were sons of professional men, and c.16 per cent. came from elementary schools, mainly with scholarships. There were 35 scholars. Other boys paid £10.10s. per annum, and the only extra was 15s. for carpentry. There were no boarders. Foreigners are not mentioned (nor do foreigners' fees appear in the Calendar after 1891).

THE CAUSES OF the decline in numbers form the main subject of the report, published in 1895, of the Assistant Commissioner who investigated the state of secondary education in the West Riding. They may be summarized thus:

1. The constitution of the Governing Body.

“The Governors do not contain among their number men who sit there as representatives of any of the public bodies of the town; and though they are men of standing and good position yet this fact alone tends to prevent the School keeping in close touch with the inhabitants of the town. There must always also be a tendency in a body of Governors, who have the power to fill vacancies in their number by co-option, to become too much representatives of one or two narrow interests, and it is consequently a common complaint that the Governors of this institution represent merely Church and conservative interests, and though this impression may be quite unfounded yet it is almost inevitable in the case of a body of this kind . . . While it is true there is now no religious difficulty (the sons of Nonconformist ministers attending the School) there was a time when it was exclusively a Church of England School, and there seems to be still an impression in the town that it is a place meant for, as they crudely put it, 'parsons' sons.”

In laying stress on this the Commissioner, I believe, was right—the School was undoubtedly being treated as a pawn in the party game and had thus become the target for unkindly criticism and often undeserved censure—but if he had fully understood the state of feeling in Leeds I think he would have attached less value to mere “impressions” and “complaints,” and might have emphasized much more strongly the points telling in favour of the School. For more than 250 years the Committee had been its Governors, and throughout the whole of its history I have not found a single case in which it was even alleged that they had managed it otherwise than with honour and honesty, and that they were now using their high position for personal or party ends there is not a scrap of evidence to show. Within the School it made not the slightest difference whether a boy attended Church or Chapel, whether his parents were Liberals or Conservatives. The masters themselves were not all of the same way of thinking, and of persecution or proselytism there was not a trace.

2. The buildings.

“The buildings are of a somewhat ornate character but not well designed or particularly suited for school purposes. We find here one of those long rooms meant for holding two or three classes at once which still linger in Grammar Schools, though rapidly dying out from the modern elementary schools. This is so very inconvenient a plan that it is remarkable it should ever have been adopted.”

The laboratory is specially criticized as small and inconveniently planned.

This point is much more emphasized in the Charities Report. The site is described as excellent, but the buildings are said to “fall very far short of the modern standard of requirements,” and are criticized severely as to lighting, heating, acoustic properties, etc. As a matter of fact with the “hopper” windows—so beloved by church architects—it was impossible to ventilate the rooms properly. In summer they were stifling, in winter draughty, and the heating apparatus was so inadequate that it was often necessary to light all the gas burners to raise the temperature of the Upper Schoolroom to even 50°. The interior was dingy and unattractive, and it is little wonder that parents preferred to send their sons to schools where healthier and more comfortable conditions prevailed.

3. The curriculum.

“There can be no doubt that as a mere matter of business the devotion of a good deal of the school time to science pays at present in Yorkshire, and that if the modern side of the School devoted more time to science and less to languages, while the classical side was left as it is, the School would be more popular with Yorkshire parents.”

The Commissioner was himself a “science man,” but I am inclined to think he was right.

4. The lack of co-ordination among the educational institutions in Leeds.

“There is no recognized method for passing on to the Grammar School from the other secondary schools those boys who show any special aptitude for classics, nor is there any recognized system for drawing from the elementary schools and passing into the school best suited to them those boys who wish to continue their education. Each school is competing with the others with its own system of scholarships to obtain the pick of the elementary schools. ... It is I think distinctly unfortunate that boys who show a special bent for higher scholarship and would be likely to distinguish themselves at Oxford or Cambridge should not pass on to the Grammar School.”

He stated too that a great deal of the work done at the Yorkshire College was in direct competition with the fifth and sixth forms of a good Grammar School.

In this, too, I think the Commissioner was right, though his words might seem to imply that he would limit the School to boys learning classics in order to go to Oxford and Cambridge; but this, however, would be inconsistent with other passages in his report.

5. The teaching.

“I was not much impressed by the discipline of the School. The boys struck me as being inattentive and the masters sleepy, while there was a general want of smartness and briskness about the way in which the classes were conducted. I find this impression confirmed on inquiry outside, the impression being that the teaching is wanting in vigour.”

How far these strictures were deserved it is not easy for one who was implicated in them to discuss; but as they were openly published and still remain on record, it is only just that the opposite side of the case also should, in some degree be presented.

The Commissioner was of course entitled to his own opinion, and to perform his duty properly he was bound to state what he thought as to the teaching in the School, but that opinion ought to have been based on thorough inspection and trustworthy information. Of inspection, as we now understand the word, there was nothing. The Commissioner was in the School for little more than an hour, and most of that time was spent in the Headmaster's study and in the laboratory. He did not, I believe, hear a single lesson in classics or mathematics or modern languages or English subjects. Some of the masters he never saw at all, and with only two or three did he exchange a passing word. Many of the boys never set eyes upon him. Trustworthy information, on the other hand, as to the merits of a teacher is very hard to get, and outside opinion is apt to be biassed by personal considerations.

Moreover there is positive evidence that the teaching was better than his remarks would lead one to infer. The reports of the examiners appointed by the Oxford and Cambridge Board, were distinctly favourable, and in some cases brilliant. The list of scholarships won, especially considering the diminished number of the boys, was (to quote the words of the Charities Report) “very creditable,” and the honours gained were not only in classics. The list of 1885-1886 still stands as the “record” of the School. Between 1889 and 1894 Leeds boys won at the older universities 16 scholarships and exhibitions and 5 first-classes, 2 scholarships at the Yorkshire College, and 49 certificates (with 29 “distinctions”) of the Oxford and Cambridge Board. The Commissioner himself said—“in mathematics and classics the School seems to do well”—and in science he stated that the master was hampered by the conditions under which he worked. Under the circumstances the masters, who without any possibility of defence or redress found themselves charged with professional incompetence, not unnaturally thought that they had been unfairly treated.

The general conclusion of the report was that the Grammar School had been “allowed to drift into a backwater apart from the main current of educational progress,” but that if the reforms suggested were carried out “it might yet have within its doors 300 or even 500 boys . . . and must remain through its traditions and through its scholarships the institution in Leeds into which all boys should be drawn whose ultimate career would take them to Oxford or Cambridge.”

WITH THIS REPORT added to the already serious decline in numbers it was obviously necessary for the Committee to take decided action, and so during the next 10 years we get a series of changes comparable only in importance with those which began in 1815 and 1854.

Their first measure was to come to terms with the Charity Commissioners, and on 19 May 1898 a scheme for the management of the School was at last passed. The main points in it were as follows:

(a) The Governors were constituted as proposed in 1885. The representative ones were to hold office for 5 years, the co-opted ultimately for 8. There were to be at least 2 meetings every year, and a Governor vacated his seat who omitted to attend for 2 successive years. The quorum for a meeting was to be 5.

(b) Religious opinions were to have nothing to do with the qualifications of either Governors or masters.

(c) The lands were vested in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands, and the stock in the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds, but the management of the property was left to the Governors. The accounts were to be open to public inspection. £7000 in 3 per cent. stock was set aside for repairs or improvements of the School.

(d) The Headmaster was to be a graduate of some university in the United Kingdom, but need no longer be in Holy Orders. He was to be appointed after advertisement, and might be dismissed without cause assigned on 6 months' notice—or for urgent cause at once. He was to receive £200 per annum, and a capitation fee of £3-£5, and to live in an assigned residence in which no one except his own family might dwell unless with the Governors' leave. He was not to hold any benefice having the cure of souls, or undertake any employment interfering with his duties. A pension fund might be established for him.

(e) As to the management of the School, the Governors were to prescribe the subjects of instruction and their relative prominence, and to make arrangements as to sanitary matters, terms, vacations, holidays, fees, and the number of boarders and of assistant masters, and to fix the amount for maintaining the latter, and for “plant and apparatus,” but on all these points they were to consult the Headmaster. The Headmaster was to have control over the internal organization and discipline of the School, including the power of expelling or suspending boys (though in such cases, he was to report the matter at once to the Governors). He was to have also the power of appointing the assistant masters and dismissing them at pleasure, and (subject to the approval of the Governors) of determining how the sums allotted for the staff and plant should be used.

(f) The School was to be open to all boys of good character and sufficient health, residing with parents, guardians, or near relatives, or in a hostel, or a master's house. Boys born or residing in Leeds were to have the preference if there should not be room for all. No boy under 8 was to be admitted, and no boy might remain beyond the end of the August or December after he was 19. No one was to be admitted who could not pass an examination in at least reading, writing from dictation, the first 4 rules of arithmetic, and the multiplication table.

(g) The fees for all boys alike were to be—for tuition £10-£20: for boarding not more than £50 in a hostel, or £60 in a master's house.

(h) The curriculum was to include religious instruction “in accordance with the principles of the Christian Faith” (but exemption might be claimed from attendance at prayers, worship, or religious instruction), Latin, Greek, at least one modern European language, history, geography, English grammar, composition and literature, arithmetic, mathematics, science (including the teaching of chemistry and physics by experiment), reading, writing, drawing, drill, vocal music.

(i) The School was to be examined annually by external examiners approved of by the Governors. The Headmaster also was to make a yearly report on the condition and progress of the School, and on any special occurrence in the year, and might also mention the names of any boys who in his opinion were worthy of reward or distinction having regard both to proficiency and conduct.

(j) Scholarships—called “Leeds Scholarships”—were to be awarded according to the scheme of 1878, but half the junior scholarships were to be given to boys under 11, and with regard to the close scholarships, “reading, writing and arithmetic in the highest standard” was substituted for “the examination in the sixth standard.”

(k) The 4 School exhibitions—now called “Foundation exhibitions”—were to be tenable at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham or Victoria Universities by boys who had been in the School for not less than 4 years. The Poor's Estate exhibition—now called the “Leeds exhibition”—might be split into two of £25 each and was to be held by a boy who had been 3 years at the Grammar School and not less than 3 consecutive years at some Public Elementary School or Schools in Leeds.

(l) The scholarships and exhibitions were to be awarded after examination by external examiners, and might be withheld for unsatisfactory conduct, or for pecuniary reasons, or if there was no fit candidate, and might be forfeited for misconduct or idleness. The Governors might vary the number, value and tenure of the Leeds scholarships and exhibitions, throw them open in default of qualified candidates, and use any surplus money in maintaining supernumerary scholarships or exhibitions. No boy might hold more than one scholarship or exhibition at the same time.

(m) £12,000 was—with the interest on it—to be set aside for the education of girls.

On all the main points then the Commissioners got what they wanted—a body of Governors composed as they wished, the School declared undenominational, the Headmaster made mainly dependent on the capitation fees, a substantial sum allotted to girls, and the removal of practically all privileges for special classes of boys.

THE SCHEME MARKS a definite epoch in the history of the School. It brought the Governors into touch with the other educational authorities in the town, and henceforth there could be no justification even for the “impression” that the School was being run in the interests of any party, religious or political. Inside the School, however, the passing of it was unnoticed by either masters or boys, and the religious teaching—of “political” teaching there was of course none-—went on exactly as before. What was more important for the fortunes of the School was that in the town too it excited little notice, and obviously time would be needed before its effect was felt.

Meanwhile the new Governors set to work on a second and equally necessary measure of reform — the rebuilding of the School. In 1899 a temporary structure to serve as an art room and an additional laboratory was opened, and great alterations were planned, but the plans had hardly got beyond a preliminary stage when Mr. Matthews accepted the rectory of Purley, near Reading, and left Leeds at Easter, 1902, receiving a pension of £400. He retained, however a lively interest in the welfare of the School, and from 1906 to his death (20 Dec. 1914), presented annually a prize for an English poem.


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Postscript Assistant Masters since 1854

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