College of St George Archives Blog

College of St George Archives

A genealogical enquiry

August 15th, 2014

The investigation of family history is popular among the users of St George’s Chapel Archives; we often receive enquiries from people who believe they have an ancestor buried here, or who know that some past member of their family held one of the roles within the Chapel – Canon, Lay Clerk or Virger, for example. It is always a great pleasure to help people to find out a little more about their own personal history. However, we recently discovered a letter containing an enquiry about family history with a very different motivation.

On 11th December 1935, the rector of Great Haseley, Reverend P.H. Bown wrote to St George’s Chapter Clerk, Lewis Stainton, with an urgent request [SGC XVII.57.19]. A Dr Benary had written to Reverend Bown from Germany, begging him to procure “with all possible speed” baptismal certificates for members of his family. These documents were so urgently necessary to Dr Benary “to enable him to satisfy the German authorities that he has no Jewish blood in his veins”.

Specifically, Dr Benary was looking for the baptismal certificates of his great-grandfather, William Birkett, a former rector of Great Haseley, his son Henry Augustus (Benary’s grandfather) and each of their wives.

Reverend Bown knew that William Birkett had come to Great Haseley as curate-in-charge in 1832 and become rector in 1846. He wrote to the Chapter Clerk on the chance that there might have been some information in the records at Windsor on Birkett’s wife and on her origins that help Dr Benary to prove his own background.

At the time that William Birkett was rector of Great Haseley, the parish was one of the livings of St George’s Chapel and to this day the Chapel Archives holds records relating to the transfer of land ownership and the appointment of incumbents in many of its former livings. However, Mr Stainton, the Chapter Clerk, was able only to confirm the date of Reverend Birkett’s appointment by Vote of Chapter as rector of Haseley; no information relating to Mrs Birkett could be found.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

The Pilgrims’ Corner

July 18th, 2014

As many who have visited St George’s Chapel will know, at the far end of the south quire aisle is a spy-hole that looks down from the ceiling into the Chapel. It is a sizeable hole, bored right through the stone, and coming out on the other side at floor level in the first-floor room of the Schorn Tower. From it, if you were to squat down and peer through, you would have a good view of the tourists making their way down the aisle and of the tomb of King Henry VI.

This has been assumed to be its purpose: Nikolaus Pevsner describes the feature in his architectural guide to Berkshire, saying of it, “This is presumably connected with the years of the cult of Henry VI and control over pilgrims.” Spy-holes in other churches and chapels have been used as security-measures and as Henry VI’s tomb was surrounded by his heraldic achievements and relics and a money box for the pilgrims’ donations, it seems probable that the Canons of Windsor would have wanted to keep a close eye on it.

Pevsner’s hypothesis, however, cannot quite be correct. Construction of the present Chapel, complete with spy-hole, began in 1475 under the instruction of Henry VI’s long-term enemy (and, by some, alleged murderer) Edward IV. During this time Henry VI remained buried a short distance away at Chertsey Abbey, where he had been quietly and unobtrusively interred following his death in 1471. In later years the cult of the “saintly king” grew and his body and relics were eventually moved to Windsor, where they were visited and venerated by many thousands of devoted pilgrims, but this was not until the reign of Richard III.

The relics of Henry VI, however, were not the first to bring pilgrims flocking to that corner of St George’s Chapel. This year marks the seven hundredth anniversary of the death of Master John Schorn, a vicar from the near-by parish of North Marston. Like Henry VI, he was never officially recognised as a saint by the church, but was venerated and treated like one by many people in England. During a drought Schorn had struck the ground with his staff, bringing forth a spring of water, which was later discovered to have healing properties. He was particularly famed for having trapped the devil inside a boot. The boot would be produced during sermons and he would allow glimpses of the devil to his parishioners, presumably to further encourage their good behaviour.

After Schorn’s death his shrine in the church at North Marston became a popular site for pilgrims who believed that visits to his shrine would grant them healing and answers to prayer. This, however, was not to be his final resting place as in 1478, as building work on the quire and quire aisles of St George’s Chapel was completed, Edward IV arranged for Schorn’s relics to be transferred to Windsor, to the site at the far east end of the south quire aisle that is now occupied by the Lincoln Chapel. Schorn’s presence gave his name to the tower that stands above this corner of the Chapel and at the base of which the spy-hole is found.

The transfer of relics was authorised by a papal bull of Pope Sixtus IV, and is believed to have been arranged to increase the revenue of the Chapel, which was necessary following the king’s great expenditure on building works. In support of this theory, the St George’s Chapel Archives holds a fifteenth century bill, “for makynge off iij. hoops for a [money] box for Maister John Shorn” and “iiij loks to the said box with the keys and with the hed of the box and the key hols keuered with iiij plates”, for which the Dean and Canons paid twenty three shillings [SCG XI.D.28]. The money box would have collected the donations of grateful pilgrims.

Offerings made by the many pilgrims who came to pray before these shrines would have amounted to a significant sum, not to mention that the relics themselves were priceless and the Dean and Canons would surely have wanted to protect them. The spy-hole would therefore have been an invaluable vantage point from which to monitor the pilgrims’ progress and behaviour.

Today, only Henry VI’s tomb remains of the early pilgrim sites in the south-east corner of St George’s Chapel. Another early relic once held at St George’s, the Cross Gneth, is represented only by a decorative roof boss and although John Schorn’s remains presumably still rest there, the space was reconstructed as the tomb of Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The spy-hole itself, of course, is also still in place, looking down over Henry VI and providing a talking point for the tourists and stewards in the south quire aisle.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

A broken promise?

June 13th, 2014

In the 1520s, a disgruntled courtier named Sir Richard Weston, brought a case against the Dean and Canons before the Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. His supplication to Cardinal Wolsey survives amongst the records of Chancery at The National Archives [TNA C 1/594/5]. Weston appealed to the Lord Chancellor to summon the Dean and Canons before the Court of Chancery to receive a judgement in equity since he had been unable to find a remedy in the common law.

Sir Richard Weston, who had been appointed lieutenant of Windsor castle and forest in 1508 and keeper of the swans on the Thames in 1517, complained to Wolsey that the past Dean, John Veysey [Dean of Windsor, 1515-1519], and the Canons of Windsor had accepted his suit “to have the office of the feren stewardship” of the College of St George, with its profits and fees, after the death of Sir Thomas Lovell. However, now that Sir Thomas Lovell had died, the present Dean and Canons were refusing to honour the promise. The supplication is undated, but must date from between 1524, when Lovell died, and 1529, the year of Wolsey’s fall.

The “feren stewardship” was presumably the office of High Steward of the College of St George, which seems to have been created in the late 15th or early 16th century in order to secure influential patronage at the Royal Court. The office holder was rewarded with a quarterly fee and some opportunity for profit and Weston’s anxiety to secure it suggests that it was a lucrative position. However, a Chapter record indicates that the Marquess of Exeter, who was appointed Constable of Windsor Castle in 1525, was chosen to replace Sir Thomas Lovell in 1526. Sir Richard Weston’s suit was clearly unsuccessful. However, he went on to become Treasurer of Calais in 1525 and sub-Treasurer of the Exchequer in 1528. He died in 1541.

Clare Rider, Archivist and Chapter Librarian

On the reading habits of canons

May 9th, 2014

It is perhaps to be expected that the majority of the books that make up the Chapter Library of the College of St George should be serious texts, concerning the great academic and theological issues of their respective times.

More surprising to most people, in this collection of books belonging to a religious community, are the fictional tales and romantic novels. One such is the twelve-volume edition of seventeenth-century novel Cléopatre by Gautier de Costes de la Calprenede. Its author was a Frenchman, known for his sentimental, adventurous, pseudo-historical romances that were immensely popular – apparently even with the Canons of Windsor!

As a young man, Calprenede moved to Paris and entered the regiment of the guards. It is rumoured that he had such a humorous manner that when he was on duty at the palace he would tell stories so funny that the ladies of the court and even the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting would neglect their duties in order to come and listen to him.

Cléopatre, which was first published in 1648, tells the story of Cleopatra’s alleged daughter by Mark Anthony. It was nearly never finished because of arguments between Calprenede and his publishers. However, Calprenede fell in love with a rich young widow, Lyée Madeleine, Dame de Saint-Jean-de-Livet and Coudray, who was a great admirer of his novels. She agreed to marry him but only on the condition that he, in turn, agreed to finish Cléopatre. They were married in 1648 and the obligation to finish the novel became one of the articles of the marriage contract. As with many of Calprenede’s other novels, it found immediate favour and continued to be popular to the end of the 18th century.

The novel also seems to have proved popular in the here and now; almost all of its twelve volumes have been adopted as part of the Archives and Chapter Library’s Adopt a Book scheme. Doubtless in appreciation of the interesting story behind it, more than half of these have been in celebration of marriages or significant wedding anniversaries, but there are also some in memory of old friends and one chosen simply “because books are priceless”.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

Removing the banner of James II

April 22nd, 2014

The documents that are kept in the St George’s Chapel Archives arrive here from a huge variety of sources, both internal and external to the College of St George, and for a huge variety of reasons. In the case of the order given and signed by William of Orange for removing the Garter banner and achievements of the former King James II from St George’s Chapel [SGC M.1142], a copy found its way into the Archives almost by chance.

In 1984 a series of letters were written between the Windsor Castle Librarian and the Dean of Windsor and an academic living in New York. These letters are now kept in the Archives with a photocopy of the document they discuss. In August 1984 the Procedure for Removing the Banner of the Sovereign had been “recently acquired” by the American academic who sent a photocopy of it to the Windsor Castle Library, enquiring if it was of any interest to them, given that it referred to the “Chapel Royall of Windsor”. The librarian passed this on to the Rt. Revd. Michael Mann, then Dean of Windsor, who acknowledged that the document was of some interest to the College of St George because of its connection with the Order of the Garter. The final letter in this series is an offer to sell the document to St George’s for $1250 (then approximately £1000). Scribbled at the foot of this is a handwritten note: “Archivist, Is it worth it? MAM” and as no more is known of the fate of this record than that it is not held in the St George’s Chapel Archives, we can only assume that the archivist’s answer was “No.”

While perhaps not worth an expenditure of £1000, the document in question is quite significant. It represents actions taken at an unusual juncture in the history of the British Monarchy. That is, following the overthrow of King James II by his son-in-law and eventual successor, William of Orange, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The actions taken by William, a confirmed Protestant, were prompted by English nobles who feared that James II had been going to found a new Roman Catholic dynasty in England. The document is dated 18th April 1689, two months after James II was declared to have abdicated the throne by his attempt to flee the country and only one week after William and James’s daughter, Mary, were crowned joint monarchs at Westminster Abbey. It is signed at the top “William R” (the R stands for Rex, the Latin word for king) and gives orders that “the Banner and other Atcheivements of King James the second late Sovereigne of the Most Noble Order of the Garter are to be taken downe and Ours placed in there Room”. At this date, James II was living in exile in France. According to Peter Begent’s work on the Order of the Garter, he continued to act as Sovereign, or head, of the Garter while over there and even created a number of supposed Garter Knights at his court in St Germain-en-Laye.

However, this document clearly demonstrates that although James II was never officially degraded from the Order, his position was considered terminated from the time that Parliament declared he was no longer king. The “Atcheivements” referred to in this order would have been the helmet, crest, mantling and sword that were set up above the Sovereign’s stall for King James II along with his banner. It is usual for these achievements to be taken down following the death of a Knight of the Garter, as they then cease to be a member of the Order, but in this case the action was taken more than a decade before James II’s death in 1701. The position of Sovereign of the Garter was then surrendered to William of Orange, as were all of the symbols of kingship of England.

It is not known to us what became of the original document after 1984, though it probably now forms part of a private collection. The photocopy has been kept here because it is in itself a useful document from which information can be gained that provides insight into events at a period of change and turmoil in British royal and political history.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

When Samuel met Catherine

January 23rd, 2014

Samuel Pepys, as we know from the pages of his diary, had an eye for attractive young ladies, and was not averse to recording his amorous adventures in London, albeit in coded language.  Perhaps his most strange one to one encounter was with a French queen consort of England, who was also one of the medieval ladies of the Garter.  Impossible?  On the face of it, yes, but as we shall see, it really did happen.  But first, a resume of the life of the lady in question: Catherine of Valois.

Catherine was born at a Parisian royal palace on 27 October 1401.  She was the youngest daughter of Charles VI of France (1368-1422) and his consort Isabella of Bavaria (c.1370-1435).  When she was still a child there was talk of marrying her off to the English King Henry IV’s son, Prince Henry, but the king died, in 1413, before any serious bargaining could begin.  Henry V, however, had his eyes on France in more ways than one; he invaded in 1415 and won a stunning victory against the odds at Agincourt in October.  Shakespeare’s play portrays Henry’s subsequent amorous wooing of Catherine, and theirs seems to have been a genuine love match.  However their wedding did not take place until 2 June 1420 (probably in Troyes Cathedral), nearly five years after Agincourt.  Owing to Henry’s military commitments in France, their “honeymoon” was mainly spent at a succession of sieges.

On 23 February 1421, Catherine was crowned queen consort in Westminster Abbey, and on 6 December 1421 gave birth to Prince Henry (later King Henry VI) at Windsor.  Sadly, her time as queen consort was to be brief.  In August 1422, Henry V fell ill with dysentery, and died short of his thirty-sixth birthday.  Catherine was not quite twenty-one, so would be expected to find another husband.  Surprisingly perhaps (at least to those in court circles), she fell for a young Welsh squire named Owen Tudor (c.1400-1461).  Sometime between 1428 and 1432 she married him, though doubts have been cast on the marriage’s legality.  Yet it was to be a match of huge dynastic importance.  Edmund Tudor, one of their three sons, was to marry Margaret Beaufort, and their son Henry of Richmond was destined to become king in 1485.

Like her first husband, Catherine only lived to be thirty-five.  She passed away at Bermondsey Abbey on 3 January 1437 shortly after childbirth, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  So she did not live to see her adopted country torn apart by dynastic warfare.  Owen, her second husband, was to be executed by the Yorkists in 1461, and of course her only son Henry VI was murdered in 1471 after a troubled life and reign.

And so to Catherine’s posthumous “fame”.  It seems her body was embalmed before interment, and sometime in the reign of Henry VII her coffin lid was accidentally raised, revealing her intact corpse.  As a result, between the 16th and 18th centuries, she was often put on display for visitors to the abbey. Only in Queen Victoria’s reign were Catherine’s remains properly re-interred.  On Shrove Tuesday 1669, Samuel Pepys, curious about so many things, went along to the Abbey to see the embalmed Catherine.  And as he records in his diary, this is how he paid his respects:

…I to the Abbey went, and by favour did see the body of Queen Catherine of Valois, and had the upper part of the body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it I did kiss a Queen: and this my birthday and I thirty-six years old and I did kiss a Queen.

The display of a body in this way as a tourist attraction seems utterly foreign to our culture, and we may be repelled or shocked by Samuel Pepys’s physical “intimacy” with Catherine’s embalmed corpse.  But then again he was living in an urban society in which early or sudden death was an everyday reality (it was only four years after the great plague of London).  So perhaps we can excuse his fascination with a beautiful medieval princess and queen who passed from the earth in the prime of her life.

Simon Harrison  (Archives volunteer)

St George’s School and the wider world

December 20th, 2013

Reports on political and social unrest in England and the British Empire in the early decades of the 20th century may be found the St George’s school magazines.  Some of the writers demonstrate attitudes which would be unlikely to appear today. Old Boy J.S. W. Dean writes in 1908 that he hopes to return to England to play in the Old Boys’ cricket match, but if these “conspirators in petticoats” [suffragettes] are not brought to their senses, England may be too dangerous a place for him to think of returning; however if the present government doubles the police he may apply for leave.  Another Old Boy, at Oxford, comments that he has “been subjected to the tyrannical onslaught of militant suffragettes and of those who, failing to qualify for the old age pension and dissatisfied with the scheme newly introduced, could cross the Channel and try to qualify for a pension in the land of our friendly neighbour”.

School life in the Easter Term 1912 was affected by national unrest.  On March 13th 1912, the Windsor Castle State Apartments and St George’s Chapel were closed because of possible a suffragette raid.  The following Sunday , March 17th, was observed as a special day of intercession on account of the prevailing labour unrest and in the same period a voice trial of choristers had to be postponed because of difficult railway connections caused by the coal strike.

The school was little affected by the General Strike of 1926.  One boy was unable to travel from Scotland, but all food came in as usual and the boys formed a defence corps and started daily drills.

In 1930, Old Boy K. F. Roberts writes from Rawalpindi that so far, in spite of many dangers about, it is mainly a Muslim Community.  On the day of Gandhi’s arrest several thousand Hindus assembled in a bazaar were being incited to violence when a loud exhaust sound from a passing lorry caused them to flee.  Roberts jokes that he intends to have made some rattles resembling machine gunfire which will be used in future to save ammunition.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

St George’s School during World War I

November 27th, 2013

Windsor Castle was declared a fortress area at the start of the war, so the school had to relinquish the key to the Hundred Steps which were closed for the duration.  After Evensong, instead of the usual prayers, special intercessions were made for the King, for his soldiers and sailors, for the wounded and for the restoration of the peace.  Boys began to contribute to Princess Mary’s fund for Christmas presents for the troops at the Front.  In the Christmas Term magazine it was reported that the 5000 men billeted at Windsor drilled every morning in the Home Park. In the following Spring Term a Volunteer Training Corps was formed at the school.  In the Summer Term the boys went to see the King review 1800 troops in the Great Park.  The removal from the Chapel in May of the banners of 8 enemy Knights of the Garter met with the comment “It is a great relief to find that these Germanic emblems no longer hang in the Choir of St George’s Chapel”.
From this point lists of old boys serving in the war and of those killed, injured or POWs were made.  Old boys begin to write of life at the Front and of the fighting.  In the Easter 1916 magazine, J F B Northcott reports the arrest of a man wearing the uniform of a British Officer: ”he was spying for Germany to aid Zeppelins in finding their bearings and he will be shot”.  E H Cox writes of the gallantry of Harold Cox who had led an attack, initially successful , in taking and holding for a day, a line of German trenches, but was  outnumbered and only 60 of his 650 men survived.  An enemy shell had exploded near where Harold and 3 other officers were sheltering; he was badly wounded and no more was heard of him.
In the Spring Term of 1917 the boys had begun to create an allotment, planting mainly potatoes.  A year later the Corps was revived at the School.  The following year food rationing was apparently having no ill effects; there was less meat, but thanks to beans, lentils, potatoes and bacon, the quantity and digestibility of the food was good.
As teachers were enlisted, the number of forms was reduced to 4.  By 1918, with the school porter, Mr. Such, having been called up for munitions work, the servant problem became difficult and boys had to turn their hand to unaccustomed work.  A weekly rota was set up for waiting and clearing up and boys frequently made their own beds!
On hearing the news of the Armistice, on November 11th, 1918, the boys stopped work, the flag of St George was run up the flagpole, flags were bought and displayed and the “Home” and “New Room” were decorated.  On the following evening there was a fancy dress dance with refreshments followed by fireworks.
During the Summer Term of 1919 a memorial service was held in the Chapel for the 18 old boys who had lost their lives in the war.  The Dean spoke of the loyalty and devotion to duty acquired while a boy is at school which help to carry him honourably throughout his career.  Subsequently a memorial service was held each year on November 11th.  Two years later, in 1921, a memorial stained glass window commemorating old boys who had lost their lives in World War I was installed above the North Door of the Chapel and was dedicated by the Dean.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

Isabella: capricious child and Garter Lady

October 30th, 2013

As we know, the Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, remained an exclusive male preserve until the late 20th century.  However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, there were more than seventy ladies who were granted Garter robes and so have come to be known as Ladies of the Garter.  Most were either daughters or wives of Garter knights, and in some cases both.  The last of the medieval ladies to be so honoured was Elizabeth Tudor (died 1495), daughter of Henry VII.  After her death, no more Garter ladies appear in the records until the 20th century, when Queen Alexandra was declared a Lady of the Order by special statute in 1901.

One of the earliest Garter ladies was Isabella, eldest daughter of Edward III (1312-77) and Philippa of Hainault (c.1310-1369).  She was born at Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire, on 16 June 1332, the second of the ten surviving children of the royal couple.   Isabella was to be her parents’ favourite child and they spoilt her accordingly.  As a baby, she slept in a gilded cradle lined with taffeta and covered with a fur blanket.  Her gowns were made of imported Italian silk embroidered with jewels.   She and her siblings had a whole retinue of servants to attend to all their needs – a personal chaplain, musicians, grooms, clerks, butlers and cooks.  Isabella was later lavished with lands and money.  Such over-indulgence led her to become capricious and extravagant.

To complicate matters, Isabella became a pawn in the dynastic marriage game, going through several failed marriage proposals.  When she was aged just three, her father tried to arrange a marriage for her with Pedro of Castile, the heir to the Castilian throne.  Doubtless he had diplomatic gain in mind, but the negotiations came to nothing.  In 1351, when she was nineteen, Isabella was due to sail to Gascony to marry a Frenchman, but just before the departure time, she changed her mind and the marriage was called off.  Edward III does not appear to have been angry with his favourite daughter though.  Some years later he granted her an annuity of 1000 marks, and in 1359, lent her a further 1000 marks to redeem jewels she had pawned.

Dark-haired and dark-eyed, though of a sallow complexion, Isabella entered her thirties without a husband, which was unusual for a royal princess at this time.  Then she fell in love with a French nobleman, Enguerrand de Coucy (c.1340-1397), who was seven years her junior.  They were married at Windsor on 27 July 1365, and went on to have two daughters, Philippa and Mary (also known as Marie).  Enguerrand, who had formerly been a hostage of the English, was now very much in royal favour, and was created a Knight of the Garter and Earl of Bedford in 1366.  Isabella herself was granted Garter robes in 1376, 1377 and 1377.

As a Frenchman, Enguerrand was conscious of his conflicting national loyalties, and seems to have spent much time away from Isabella, engaged in fighting in Italy and France.  Towards the end of her life, Isabella was living in England with her younger daughter Philippa (who later married the Earl of Oxford).  She died sometime before 4 May 1379, aged forty-six, and was buried in the Greyfriars Church, Newgate, in London.

Simon Harrison  (Archives volunteer)

W G Edwards, Old Boy of St George’s School

October 5th, 2013

Among the many famous Old Boys of St George’s School, Windsor Castle, W. G Edwards should hold a special place.  At school in the 1890s, he was a distinguished chorister.  On his death aged 93 his obituary in the school magazine states that throughout his life he displayed a fanatical devotion to the school, never losing an opportunity to visit the school and enthralling boys and staff with his lectures and anecdotes.  He was also the best Old Boy correspondent, writing lively and informative letters about his life and work running a large farm in Africa.

In 1910 he went to Kenya, then known as British East Africa, and worked as an administrative officer, but in the following year he began to farm and, in a letter in the magazine, he writes of the customs of the Wataveta people at Taveta, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.  He served in East Africa in the First World War and in 1916 he writes of patrolling the railway running from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, in deep bush country and of German attempts to bomb the railway.  In the same year, now a battalion signalling officer, he reports that his battalion had survived a sustained shelling attack and having pushed back the enemy, had laid 7½ miles of telephone wire.  By 1917 he was a Captain, with temporary command of a Company.  Shortly afterwards he describes two battles in which he was involved against German forces and, just after the end of the war, the trials of a march through German East Africa where crop failure had led to famine, lions were a danger and his party was unlucky in shooting meat.  He was awarded the M.C. and left the Army as a Major.

By 1922 W. G. Edwards had returned to his farm on which he had 594 beasts; while he employed a number of native workers he writes to say he is looking for more pupils – an early example of work experience.  He was to guide many prospective young farmers.  Nine years later he writes of camping out on his new farm at Rumunati.  Some of the lions kill to eat, others for pleasure.  There was dissension between WGE’s Masai herdboys and his Turkhana and on his suggestion that differences be settled by fists, one Turkana went “gugger”,  leaping high in the air and shrieking before collapsing.  WGE’s Masai and Tunkana all fear for their lives and those of  their children as the new herdboy is a witchdoctor. By 1934 WGE writes of having 100 breeding cows; he can still pay some of the wages in kind, for, as he notes, the “natives ….still pay for their wives in cattle”.

In 1935 WGE visited the school, travelling from Nairobi by plane.  He addressed the boys recommending air travel on long distance journeys and spoke of his many adventures with lions and other wild animals in East Africa.

WGE had founded the Old Boys Club several years earlier and by 1935 it had over 160 members.  Old Boys attended the annual service to commemorate those who had given their lives in the Great War.  An Old Boys’ Tea came to be held at the school’s annual Sports Day, also a cricket match against the school.   At the Old Boys’ Feast in 1937 the boys consumed 2 pies each 1½ feet long, a 1 foot long sausage and 35 bottles of ginger beer; the Feast was followed by a concert given by the Old Boys.  In the same year it was decided that masters, as well as former pupils, were eligible to join the Club and in January 1939 there was an Old Boys’ weekend at the school.

During World War II, WGE showed kindness and hospitality to many in the armed forces in Kenya and the UK.  In his last letter for the school magazine in 1953 he writes that he is well guarded by four spearmen, two by day armed with rifles, and two by night armed with shotguns and that he feels the government are now getting on top of the situation. W. G. Edwards died in 1977.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer