Exhibition (Peter Chester)
The exhibition started life in 1992, the three hundred year anniversary of the death of Sir William Turner in 1692. When I became Head of History at Sir William Turner’s Sixth Form College, I inherited a fragmentary collection of documents, letters, photographs and ledgers of various sorts, some of considerable antiquity. In arranging this “archive”, I found numerous items were useful in my history teaching at the time.
To mark the anniversary in 1992 however we decided that we would take a more systematic look at what we had, and do some further research. I was given much encouragement and support from the Foundation Governors and colleagues, and students, one of whom, Janet Wells, who did some particularly detailed work piecing together the threads from the Victorian period, for example. As is often the case once it was known we were doing some research, other people became interested and more pieces of evidence appeared and were added to the collection.
The resultant exhibition, mounted in September 1992, set out to tell the story of Sir William Turner and his Schools from the 17th century through to the then present day. It used many of the historical items as illustrations, and did arouse some local interest.
The Sixth Form College at that time was located in a separate building in Redcar, but one of the consequences of the establishment of Redcar & Cleveland College has been the move to our current location in Corporation Road. To mark that move, and to give that part of the College a special identity, particularly one that reflected its past, it was decided to establish the semi-permanent exhibition we are to open in June 2001.
The exhibition will put on display items from the archive, and provide an outline commentary on the history of the school, particularly that of the grammar school for boys, generally known as “Coatham School’, established in 1868. The materials from the archive have already provided inspiration for our current generation of students, as illustrated by the murals and collages which adorn the staircases of the Sir William Turner Centre. These were completed as part of a project by Art students currently in College, and indeed I am indebted to colleagues in the Art department for their work and advice on the setting up of the exhibition.
It is hoped that the exhibition will attract attention to Sir William Turner once more, and thence to the College, and may prove attractive to visitors who have connections and interest in Sir William Turner. Once seen, I have every expectation that more documents, memorabilia and stories will emerge and thus fill out our collective history.
There is bound to be nostalgia for the school days of the past, and clearly the grammar school of the mid-20th century was an impressive school of its type. That said, the original charitable intentions of Sir William Turner did cast a very broad net, and the Sixth Form College, and Redcar & Cleveland College, which serves the entire local community, are in some ways closer to that wider vision. However, by celebrating our past in this exhibition, we hope we will be sharing values and aspirations with all who care to look.
Alongside the exhibition, the College is pleased to announce the establishment of the Ron Hall Gallery. One-time Mayor of Redcar, later Alderman, Ron Hall was a man of long and distinguished service to his town, and to his country. He was always interested in the Schools and Colleges of Redcar and served as Chairman of Governors on a number, not least of which was Sir William Turner’s Grammar school, and later the Sixth Form College. The spa
By the entrance is the Bronze War Memorial, listing the 102 Old Boys of the School who lost their lives of the Two World Wars. In that same area you may care to notice the foundation stone and school bell of the 1868 Victorian building, a School Crest set into the wall, and the newly-created floor design derived from the Victorian school.
As you progress into the building, you will see two portraits of Sir William Turner, and the first of the commissioned murals. The architect’s drawings of the 1868 building are also on display. There is also a line drawing of the Turner Estate illustrating what the area looked like in the 18th century.
The murals on the ground floor, and which adorn the staircases, were produced by students in our Art department. Based on images of material in the archive, and presenting different themes, the collages were produced using the latest techniques of computer graphics.
The first group of photographs come from the early days of the boys’ grammar school founded in 1868, and they represent the Victorian and Edwardian period. The first Head, John Davey is there, as is his successor, Arthur Pryce, sitting with his Staff, in a photograph from 1903. The 1868 building, located on Coatham Road, is shown in photograph and line drawing.
We have few photographs of pupils from this time but the best is the “1884” group, take in the first year of Arthur Pryce’s headship. Research, cross referencing the names with registers of the time, has suggested that the date should be 1885, but whatever the date the school is in clear view. The Football team picture is undated, but the Cricket team is from 1904$ The copy of the school rules, however, gives a glimpse far back into the original school set up in 1709.
Along the landing, we move into the inter-war years, when the school became recognised as a public school. Long photographs of 1921 and 1929 are there, along with a collection of pictures of the school facilities as prepared for prospective parents. There are many sports pictures from this time, with Rugby and Cricket being the major ones. The headmaster Canon Littler can be seen with the School Prefects as well as with the boarders in the garden of Red Barns, their residence, acquired in 1920. A new School Hall was added in 1931, latterly surviving as Coatham Memorial Hall. In the European crisis which threatened war in 1938, temporarily resolved at Munich, the boys’ service to the town was acknowledged by a commemorative scroll.
In the post-war period the school grew in size as it became a County grammar school. The collection of long photographs will no doubt gain your attention. Team photographs are plentiful in the archive, there being a selection here from the 1950s. The Headmaster from 1941-53 was R.W.G. Willis, seen here with the School Prefects in 1951
In 1951 the School, working with the girls of Saltburn High School, staged a pageant on the History of the Turners and the schools, to commemorate the Festival of Britain. The exhibition has a page from a large illustrated manuscript produced at the time. The art work was done by a long-serving member of staff George Siddaway.
The large open space at the top of the stairs is the Ron Hall Gallery.
The items set out along the landing here take us from the 1960s’ grammar school through to the days of Sir William Turners Sixth Form College. New buildings, opened in 1963, opened on Corporation Road prompted the cartoon, and size of the school is reflected in the 1966 photograph. Red Barns continued to flourish, as did the sports activities. However, alongside that, the school was noted for a wide range of extra-curricular activity, represented here by scouting, and the orchestra, which on this occasion, in 1965, was combined with players from Cleveland Grammar School for girls.
S.G.Barker was the headmaster from 1953 to 1975, and went on to become the first Principal of the Sixth
Form College. On his retirement in 1977 he was succeeded by M.J. Wardell, who in turn was succeeded by
A.G.B.Old, the last principal of a “Sir William Turner’s” college or school.
Given the transient nature of student life in a sixth-form college it was perhaps not so easy to establish it as a place of traditions, as it was in the grammar school, but some things continued. Sport, for example, was popular with many, academic success was the major intention, at least, of most, and given that the College reduced in size to c.400 students, it perhaps returned to some of the values of community, where everyone was known to one another, that no doubt characterised some of the earlier incarnations of Sir William Turner’s School. Evidence, in an historical sense, is less forthcoming from this period in the exhibition, which is perhaps best represented by the photographs of some of the students who passed through its doors.
Design of the exhibition
The Foundation Governors commissioned the project, with Tony Allison and Sylvia Hall playing a major role in supervising and directing its creation. Paul Little, a former student of the College, now a professional designer, provided the basic overall concept as well as important detail features such as the floor designs. Much appreciated technical advice and help relating to the displays was given by John McEwan, Cohn Cook and Mike Boland, of the College’s Art Department. The historical content of the exhibition is the responsibility of Peter Chester. The promotion of the Official Opening along with the production of Publicity literature and other related materials is the responsibility of the Colleges Marketing Department, additional thanks go out to Premises and Site Services.