October 2015


Sometimes, life gets a bit bonkers.  This week is my children’s half term.  This time last year we were in Scotland having a few days away.  No such luck this year.  I’ve got too many things to do, and it’s not so much ‘not enough time to do them’ as trouble prioritising.  I have a couple of A-level lectures to finish off, on Henry VII and Charles I, and then there will be handouts and powerpoints to prepare to go with them.  I have to say, I’ve found Charles much more fun than Henry senior and what’s more, working on Charles I has given me an excuse to look at the early Stuart ballads and pamphlets that I’ve avoided up to now. I’ve been enjoying looking at the Early Stuart Libels website.  I found a tune that fits one of the ballads perfectly, so I’ll try to weave that one in somewhere.  It’s been a bit like returning to my roots, in a way, because up until about 5 years ago I’d have described myself as much more interested in the Stuarts than the Tudors, mainly influenced by my own A-level history teacher, Mrs Fuller.  I can vividly remember catching a train to Manchester just before Christmas more than 20 years ago, to go to an A-level study day on the early Stuarts, presumably run by the very same company I’m working for now.  It doesn’t sem possible that I’m now going to be the one standing on the stage as Dr Hyde, talking about Charles I’s character.  The Stuarts might be tricky, but they are undeniably fun!

  This morning I submitted applications for two jobs, neither of them in academe.  One is a temporary teaching position and the other was a job with Lancashire County Council.  I’m not holding my breath.  It’s difficult to find the process of applying for jobs anything other than a rather depressing experience!  This afternoon, I did a bit more work on re-writing my thesis.  This evening, I’m writing a blog post while my children watch ‘Ghostbusters’, having just finished making a pair of bat wings and ears for my youngest to wear to a Halloween party.  Middle child will be out on Saturday evening too (keep your fingers crossed that one of the ghost costumes from previous years still fits), so as my husband will be away, my eldest and I will be sharing chocolate and popcorn on the sofa while I itnroduce him to series 1 of ‘Due South’.  

Yesterday morning I spent writing my Stuarts lecture and then in the afternoon I helped my daughter with a sewing project she’d just decided to launch herself into: “yes mum, I HAVE to do it now”.  At some stage this week I have to sort through all the toys in the children’s bedrooms and get rid of some that are no longer used – not just in time for Christmas, but also in preparation for some work that needs to be done on the house (keep your fingers crossed it’s all done and dusted by Christmas).  On Thursday afternoon I had to drop everything to check the proof for my article for Notes and Queries, which is due out soon.

But while I’ve been doing all that, I haven’t been carrying on with the research for the extra book chapters, nor have I been editing the article on epitaph ballads for Literature Compass.  No matter how much I do, I never feel like I’ve done enough and  there’s always guilt about the pieces I’m not working on.  I am at something of a loss as to how to handle this situation.  I’ve spent several nights in the last few weeks  unable to settle to sleep, not actively worrying but experiencing a vague sensation of panic. I think I’m just going to have to carry on as I am for now, and try to convince myself that I am doing everything I can and what’s more, that what I’m doing actually makes sense.  The A-level lectures have to be the priority because they have a specific deadline.  Job applications jump everything in the queue.  The thesis re-write is handy to break things up when I’m getting tired because it’s a different sort of work that gives my brain a change. It’s important in case an editor decides that they want to see an example of the book, rather than just the proposal.  But very soon the epitaphs article will have to leapfrog that and become the next on the list, as it’s deadline looms at the end of the year.   

I think it’s partly because its different to the PhD.  When I was working on the thesis, everything was a contribution to the same overall aim.  Now, I’ve got lots  of little projects pulling in different directions. I’m grateful that I’ve got so many opportunities.  But I wish I felt a little less overwhelmed. 

At the beginning of October I took up a position as Honorary Researcher in History at Lancaster University.  It’s great, because it means I’ve got an institutional affiliation again, and with it access to databases and a library.  It’s also nice to feel part of an academic community again. The only down side is that with it being honorary, I don’t get paid!  It has meant that I’ve been able to get on with some work that had been on hold over the summer, things like drawing pretty maps of places mentioned in my ballads.  It’s taken me several months, mainly because of access to software, but finally today I’ve got a pretty picture that confirms my suspicion that ballads got everywhere.

I’ve also been asked to do some more A-level lectures, so I’ve been having lots of fun writing about Henry VII and Charles I.  It’s given me a good excuse to look at the Early Stuart Libels website and I’ve found a tune that fits perfectly one of the ballads on the Spanish match, so I’m thinking of including it in my lecture.

This afternoon I received the proof of my article for Notes and Queries on William Elderton’s Ladie Marques, so that was a new experience for me.

‘An extraordinary item of business’. So the Manchester Courier and Lancashire Advertiser described the decision to amalgamate Bolton Grammar School and the High School for Boys in December 1897. It went on to comment that ‘much will be said before it becomes – if ever – an accomplished fact’. Eighteen months later the first issue of school journal, The Boltonian, acknowledged that the magazine came into existence at a ‘crisis point’ in the history of the institution. Despite the furore in the local press, the histories of the several schools that came together to form Bolton School are long and illustrious and over the next school year, Bolton School will be celebrating two notable anniversaries. Not only will it see 500 years since Bolton Grammar School for Boys was recorded as ‘a going concern’ in 1516, but it also marks the centenary of Sir William Hesketh Lever’s ‘munificent endowment’, which allowed the merger of the Grammar School with Bolton High School for Girls on 1 April 1915.

William Hesketh Lever, by William Strang

William Hesketh Lever, by William Strang

Bolton Grammar School was endowed by Robert Lever, who held the manor of Rivington, in 1613. Although much of Lancashire retained traditional religious beliefs in the wake of the Reformation, Bolton had a reputation for radicalism and during the seventeenth century, Bolton Grammar produced several prominent theologians on both sides of the divide between conformity and dissent. These included the dean of Chester, Laurence Fogg; the royalist presbyterian Oliver Heywood; and James Bradshaw, who was imprisoned briefly during the Protestant Monmouth rebellion against James II in 1685. Given Bolton’s industrial heritage, it is perhaps unsurprising that over the years many local entrepreneurs sent their sons to the school. These included the cotton manufacturer and philanthropist, Robert Heywood, and the cotton spinner Sir Thomas Bazley, who became an MP for Manchester in 1858.
The late nineteenth century saw great strides taken in the education of Bolton girls, with the establishment of Bolton Girls’ Day School in 1877. It was one of the earliest public schools for girls and would soon change its name to Bolton High School for Girls before it joined with the grammar school to create Bolton School. A number of the day school’s headmistresses were distinguished by having been among the first female students accepted at Cambridge University. Strong women continued to play a role in the governance of Bolton School, as the appointment of the suffragist Sarah Reddish to the board in 1898 proved. Hearth and Home noted that this was ‘a particularly interesting election because the Board declined to co-opt her when a member resigned… solely on account of her sex: in every other respect she was a most suitable candidate. The locality, however, has shown they definitely desire a woman-member, for she received the very big total of 12,418 votes’.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, The Boltonian turned its thoughts to ‘those of the Old Boys who, in this time of national emergency, have offered themselves to serve their King and Country’. Throughout the war, it ran a Roll of Honour, but a more light-hearted approach also surfaced, as seen in an article from July 1916 which provided a French/English glossary for those receiving letters from the front. Among the humorous translations were ‘Tout de suite (toot sweet).—Immediately, soon. The invariable reply to any such question as “How long is that coffee going to be?” “When are those potatoes coming?” or “When do you next go to the tranchees?”’. Meanwhile, the Girls’ Division magazine offered articles on helping the war effort by working in a Red Cross Hospital or even a bank.

Bolton School Quadrangle, by John Newbould

Bolton School Quadrangle, by John Newbould

Nevertheless, probably the most famous alumnus is now Sir Ian McKellen, who in his final year was school captain, chair of the Geographical Society, and a stand-in speaker for the Student Christian Movement. Another notable Old Boy is the broadcaster Mark Radcliffe, who, during his school days, was a monitor and represented the school in the local UNICEF branch. The Girls’ Division, of course, has been no less successful. Old Girl Ann Taylor, Baroness Taylor of Bolton, was Leader of the House of Commons then government chief whip during Tony Blair’s first premiership, and went on to chair the Intelligence and Security Committee. Other noteworthy alumni include the gardener, author and broadcaster Carol Klein and the novelist Monica Ali, who played Helen of Troy in a 1984 production of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus.
For anyone interested in researching their family’s time at Bolton School, a wealth of information is available on the school website. Particularly useful are the two school ‘Archive’ websites. The first of these is a section of the main school website which includes photographs and reminiscences, whereas the separate digital archive site contains copies of the schools’ journals and newsletters.

This article was written for and first published in The Manchester Genealogist, September 2015.


Dr Jenni Hyde is an independent researcher, a Trustee of the Historical Association
and secretary of the HA’s Bolton Branch, which is based at Bolton School.
She specialises in early modern history and music, but has also written about Bolton’s
local history. In her spare time, she sings a lot and researches her family tree.