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York places of learning through time
A science lab at Bootham School - perhaps similar to the one where a hapless pupil left snail shells boiling all night in 1899, and burned the school down
THERE are few things teachers like more than when pupils show genuine interest in their studies. But sometimes enthusiasm can go that bit too far...
In 1899, Bootham School was almost totally destroyed by fire.
The cause? A keen pupil who had been boiling snail shells. Sadly, we don’t know why. Maybe a teacher could enlighten us in the school’s natural history lab?. He was summoned by the bell for reading, leaving the snails boiling all night. The poor headmaster, on being told by the fire brigade that his school was a smouldering shell, promptly resigned.
This fascinating little snippet is reported in local historian Paul Chrystal’s latest book, York Places of Learning from which our photo of an early science lab at Bootham School also comes.
York is rightly world famous for its Minster, its medieval streets and walls, its railways, and its chocolate industry, writes Paul in his introduction. But none of these would have been possible without another aspect of the city's heritage. “The city has always been an important seat of learning and culture, from the establishment of Alcuin’s library in the eighth century to the twentieth and twenty-first century development of the two universities,” he writes.
Paul’s book sets out to chart the more recent development of education and places of learning in the city including schools and universities, but also museums, galleries and libraries using old photographs.
The result is a fascinating little book, packed with almost 200 photographs both old and new, which will be a treat for anyone with an interest in local history who grew up or went to school in York.
Did you know, for instance, that after St Peter’s Archbishop Holgate’s School is the oldest school in York? It was founded in 1546 by Robert Holgate, then Archbishop of York, as a grammar school and was financed by capital from Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries (so we have at least one thing to be grateful to the old tyrant for).
It has moved several times down the centuries, of course and our photo today shows a 1950s art class, from the days when the school was in Lord Mayor’s Walk.
Fulford Open Air School was originally opened in Castlegate in 1913 in the same building as York’s Tuberculosis Dispensary but moved the following year to a converted army hut in the grounds of Fulford House, where it became known as the Fulford Road School for Delicate and Partially Sighted Children.
It was part of a movement to halt the development of tuberculosis in children and combined medical care (and, apparently, a belief in the benefits of plenty of fresh air) with teaching. The school closed in 1960 and was demolished in 1964.
And then there was the “Great Exhibition Hall” which was, Paul writes, attached to the rear of the building that was to become the City Art Gallery. The building opened its doors in 1879 for the second Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, inspired by London’s Great Exhibition of 1851.
The York exhibition of 1879 attracted more than half a million visitors. The “Great Exhibition Hall” in our picture was also used as a venue for cock fighting and boxing, Paul notes. It was damaged by bombs during the second world war and demolished in 1942, leaving the art gallery as we have it today.
• York Places of Learning Through Time by Paul Chrystal is published by Amberley, priced £14.99