Lincoln Christ's Hospital School

Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
Educating in Lincoln since 1090

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From the Garton Archive:

Item of Interest No 36: Olive Beet

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Olive Beet

The Garton Archive is receiving increasing numbers of requests for information about former pupils of the four schools which combined in 1974 to form Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. This is due in no small part to the growing popularity of the social networking sites. We have also received many additional photographs, documents and other material relating to the history of one or other of the four schools.

I have recently received a visit from Joan Panton, who was a pupil at LHS from 1958 to 1964, and who very generously donated a precious family album to the Garton Archive, kept by her aunt, Olive Beet, both before and during her own career at LHS, as the dates in the album reveal.

Olive Beet, pictured above, was a pupil at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School (LHS), and lived at Norton House, St Catherines, Lincoln. The house was later demolished and replaced by Young’s Garage, which was on the site for many years, until it was destroyed by fire. Olive was born in 1906, and would have been 18 when the photograph was taken in 1924. The Admissions Register revealed that Olive was the daughter of a storekeeper, and was formerly a pupil at Glenfield House, a private secondary school in Lincoln. She entered the ‘Middle Remove’ form at LHS on 7th May 1918, leaving in 1922 to undertake ‘home duties. Olive’s sister, Dora, who was two years younger, also entered LHS in May 1918.

I recognise the style of the album, because my own mother kept a similar one during her upbringing in Rochdale, Lancashire. Olive’s album is made up of pages in different pastel shades of blue, pink, yellow green and white, and each page contains a piece of verse or doggerel, written in the handwriting style of the time, or a piece of artwork in different media. Each entry is signed, and many of the names or initials are recognisable as members of staff or pupils of LHS. Joan Panton has used her detective skills to match some of the more elusive signatures with members of the School, aided by the admission registers held in the Garton Archive.

Personal albums of the time were kept as extended autograph albums in which family and friends were typically asked to write a few lines, or to draw a picture if they were blessed with some artistic skills.

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Olive (right) and her sister, Dora in 1924. Anyone for tennis?

There are far too many delightful entries in Olive’s album for them all to be included in this article, but the following is my own selection. It was the custom for the owner of the album to include her own entry, and the charming picture below is one of Olive’s own drawings on the theme ‘Music hath charms’.

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The album was kept during and after the Great War, and the double spread below, dated1919, is perhaps the most interesting of those entries which refer to the war.

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The written passage on the left may or may not be an original contribution, but it certainly betrays a somewhat pessimistic view of humanity! The ‘Baby Whippet’ tank on the right is of local topical interest, of course, as we await the arrival of the model of the Lincoln tank, to be displayed on the roundabout at the head of Tritton Road.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail about the Baby Whippet, and readers are referred to the many interesting articles on the Internet for more details. Suffice it to say that the tank was designed in Lincoln by William Tritton, who believed that a lighter and faster machine than his earlier designs, ‘Little Willie’ and ‘Mother’ was required to exploit the gaps in enemy lines made by the heavier tanks. The Whippet’ was built at Fosters of Lincoln, and was the first tank to be built with a separate turret displaying the classic silhouette characteristic of subsequent and present day tanks.

Another common feature of albums of the time, kept almost exclusively by girls or young women, was a wish expressed for the owner’s future health and happiness, often expressed in terms of ‘finding the right man’. The following example, dated 1915, is typical of that style.

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There are many examples in Olive’s album of entries which are transcripts of a well-known poem, usually chosen to provide a cryptic message to the album’s owner. The poem below is Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Cow’. The entry by ‘M E K’ on the right is perhaps one with which we can all identify, having been asked on the spur of the moment to place an entry in an album. It’s an easy ‘get-out clause’, although a rather pathetic attempt at humour!

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In addition to poems written by recognised poets, there are some attempts made by those who might be described as ‘aspirant’ poets. I have chosen the example below not only because it seems to be one of the better attempts in Olive’s album, but also because of its artistic handwriting so typical of the period.

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The entry on the left above might well have been based on George Bernard Shaw’s famous aphorism from his preface to Pygmalion, written in 1916, ‘It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him’. Clearly the apostrophe ‘s’ was also a challenge in those days!

My next choice features wild flowers, another regular subject for albums of that period. The one below is a painting, of course, but pressed wild flowers were also popular choices.

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One of the more interesting and thought-provoking entries is signed by D M Griffith in 1920, and is reproduced below. Records in the Garton Archive show that Miss Dorothy May Griffith, a graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge, taught French and German at LHS from 1914 to 1920.

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For those of you struggling to translate the French, La Rochefoucauld is suggesting that the perfect value is to do without witnesses what you would be capable of doing in front of the whole world. A wise maxim indeed for a teacher to present to a young pupil!

More controversially, the album’s contents reveal how social attitudes of what is acceptable have changed over the years. There are several examples of what might be construed as ‘non PC’, including sexist comments, and one poem which would be  regarded as extremely offensive today.

And finally, I looked expectantly at the last page in the album, and my prediction was correct. There, in the centre of the page to discourage any further entries, was the anticipated final words, ‘By hook or by crook, I’ll be last in this book’!

And that seems an appropriate way of ending this tribute to a former pupil of LHS, and of celebrating the long-lost charming pastime of keeping a personal album.

Peter Harrod

Assistant Archivist for the pre-1974 Archives at LCHS