Soham Grammarians : from the School History


from the History of Soham Grammar School (Browning, revised Abbott 1972) which unless otherwise specified is the source of images.Visitors able to provide photographs or illustrations to enhance this text should please contact the editor.

[ Whilst Soham Grammarians grew up with the pre-1971 pre-decimal money system, younger and overseas visitors to the website may find it useful to note that the pound () was made up of 240 pennies (d) and that 12d = 1 shilling (s), so there were 20 shillings in a pound. For example, 13-5-6, or 13 5s 6d was thirteen pounds five shillings and sixpence (13.275). 5/- was another way of writing five shillings (0.25). A crown was 5/- and half a crown was 2s 6d or 0-2-6 ]

About half way through Mr Mould's Headmastership (1885-1914) in 1902, a most notable step was made for from August 1st of this year the School was in receipt of Grants under the Board of Education's Regulations for Secondary Schools (Division B). By whatever name the School was known, it is quite clear that, as far as the Board was concerned, this was a recognised Public Secondary School for Boys. The Scheme of Management was still that of 1878 with its subsequent variations in 1888, 1899 and 1901.

By 1904 the Headmaster had 5 assistant teachers, 2 of them visiting, and there were 40 day scholars and 22 boarders, 2 of whom came from London. Under the terms of the 1878 scheme none of the boys was over 16 years of age, although four had passed their fifteenth birthday: 15 boys were 10 years or under.

The tuition fees for boys under 10 had risen to 4 10s 0d per annum and for boys over 10 to 6 per annum: boarders were still paying 30 per annum maintenance fees with the appropriate tuition fee, in addition. It seems that sometime in 1903 or 1904 a Prefect system was established and the first four according to the Soham Grammarian, Vol 1 No 3 dated April 1904 were: R Day, CH Edmunds, H Horsley and AP Lang. Almost certainly this was the first attempt to produce a School Magazine and it must have commenced in 1903, probably at the end of the Summer Term. Unfortunately no school badge or motto is displayed and we cannot tell whether either was officially in use at the time.

A deficit was shown on the year's accounts of 430 although it was expected that this would be reduced to 290 with the aid of Board of Education and Cambridgeshire County Council Grants. It is recorded that the Headmaster supplemented the low salaries of the assistants out of his own pocket. Despite a new laboratory and workshop, the buildings were now in a poor state of repair and teaching accommodation though fairly normal for those days must have been inadequate, to say the least.

The main room was divided in two by a partition and two assistants were at work in each of these two divisions. The boarding accommodation was no better: "the smaller room in the School House which has barely space for two boys, is used for three and two boys sleep in one bed, a very objectionable arrangement".

First priority was to be given to enlarging the School accommodation and not the Boarding House, as the supply of boarders depended largely on the personal influence of the Headmaster. The success of the School at this time was entirely due to Mr Mould, who showed remarkable energy and ability in attracting the boys to the School. He was entirely devoted to the work of the School and his own hours were very heavy, teaching the whole School day, taking an active part in the boys' games and having also the management of the Boarding House, "If the work were not a pleasure to him, it would be much too heavy."

A little Latin was taught and some French as the 1878 scheme required, but the Inspectors were inclined to doubt their value at a School of this kind. Fortunate as we are to-day, we must feel deep sympathy for the Chemistry master who was without the blow pipe with bellows that the subject apparently required. In History some assistance was given by the Headmaster's son, Mr Bertram Mould, during his vacations from Cambridge University. The Examinations taken were the Cambridge Local and those of the Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Society, the Incorporated Law Society and the Preliminary Medical Examination: how many and with what success is not recorded.

An exhaustive and constructive criticism was offered of the whole organisation, curriculum and administration: a suggestion was made that the Boarders be accommodated in a hired house, thus giving more teaching space and encouraging greater numbers: the introduction of girls was even suggested and Mr Austin Keen, the then Director of Education for Cambridgeshire, seems to have favoured this idea. The summing up of the HMI, report of 1904 stated that "notwithstanding the very serious insufficiency of the premises, both for boarders and day boys, the school is carried on with success."

An outstanding event of this period seems to have been the celebration on February 29th 1904 of Mr Mould's Leap Year Birthday. A Concert was given in the Conservative Hall, with speeches and presentation of an address and various presents. The Reverend JC Rust alluded to the fact that owing to the combined efforts of Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory, Mr. Mould had not had a birthday for eight years. Mr Austin Keen proceeded to read this Illuminated Address:

"We, the undersigned on behalf of the past and present members of the School, tender our heartiest congratulations to WH Mould, Esq, Head Master of the Soham Grammar School, Cambs, on the celebration of his Leap Year Birthday and request his acceptance of this address, a roll top desk, a chair and purse of 12 guineas as a token of esteem and affection for his long and self-denying efforts on behalf of the pupils under his charge."

Mr R Jarrold, a member of the School from 1902-1910, recalls this Birthday and Mr Mould's remarks on the occasion: it was something like his 16th birthday and "he pointed out that no-one now living would ever wait 8 years for a birthday again: even the year 2000 will be a leap year". Of the concert that followed a detailed account is given, but this seems as penetrating a criticism as any: "The Pianoforte Solo by J Cullin was well executed, but its effect is not increased by the swaying of the performer's head." Perhaps this was occasioned by the subject, for the title was "March of the Marionettes."

On August 20 1909 the Board of Education ordered that a new Scheme be established to regulate Soham Moor Endowed School. It is a little difficult to understand the retention of this name: not only was the title generally used, "the Grammar School", but more to the point, the Report issued by the Board's own Inspectors on the occasion of their visit on June 16th and 17th, 1904 was described "Report of the First Inspection of Soham Grammar School, Cambridgeshire". However, in future the name of the foundation, which now passed under the Board of Education, was to be the Soham Grammar School.

The Governing Body was to consist of 13 Governors, 9 Representative Governors appointed for 3 years, 5 by the Cambridgeshire County Council 2 by Soham Parish Council, 2 by Master and Fellows of Pembroke Hall. 4 Cooptative Governors were to be appointed by resolution for 5 years, and additional governors when and as required.

The school was to be a day school and if the Governors should think fit a boarding school maintained in the present or other buildings. In fact the School remained here (the Old Hempland) until 1926. The Headmaster was to be a graduate or possess some acceptable qualification as Mr. Mould, undoubtedly, did: his general and particular jurisdiction over School arrangements and curriculum was carefully defined. Although the upper forms were to be examined once at least in every two years by some external, probably a University, body, the lower forms were to undergo the ordeal of an internal exam once in each year.

The School was open to boys of "good character and sufficient health", preference being given to sons of inhabitants of Soham. Although the lower limit of 7 years was retained the upper limit was raised to 18 years. An entrance examination had to be passed and on the result of this total a partial exemption was allowed from tuition fees (6 per annum) of a yearly aggregate of not less than 40. Those so exempted could be called Foundation Scholars.

Special maintenance allowances could be awarded up to 10 each per annum. Leaving Exhibitions of 200 maximum in one or several instalments were tenable to Universities, Training Colleges or Technical and professional institutions. The Governors could modify any of these arrangements, if they wished to establish a preparatory department.

A comprehensive set of Management Rules restated what had been incorporated in the previous Scheme, including the proviso that any money arising from sale of timber or from mines and minerals should be treated as capital. Alas! the last sale of timber was in 1820 and no record exists of the discovery of a Bonanza on the School Moor Estates.

A full Inspection, the second, was held in October 1910, but just before their next, in March 1915, Mr Mould retired (in Sept. 1914), after almost thirty years of devoted and invaluable service to the School. He had seen it through the difficult period when its secondary status was granted and had to be justified: he had seen its passage from the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners to that of the Board of Education. Every report and account is eloquent of the extraordinary capacity and industry that he applied to all activities of school life.

It is a remarkable fact that, soon after his retirement, boarders had virtually disappeared as a feature of school organisation, one alone remaining. An innovation of tremendous significance came in 1909: Mr Mould was the first Headmaster to have boys from the Isle of Ely and, in recognition of the importance of this new departure, two further Governors (for the Isle of Ely County Council) were appointed to the Governing Body. Even when he retired from the Grammar School, Mr Mould could not leave the profession he loved: Mrs Ivy L Hughes of Felixstowe recalls that he started, in 1915, the Soham High School for Girls. "This had its beginning in part of his own house, next door to the Grammar School. I shall always remember his way of helping us with spelling - Spelling Bees - long before they became popular on the radio."

The New Headmaster, Mr C Harvey Jacobs, BSc (Victoria) was assisted by three regular teachers and one part-time. Like Mr Mould he contributed towards the cost of hiring a playing field for the boys, an undesirable state of affairs which obtained for some time. A third Inspection of the School was held 16th and 17th March, 1915 and these figures came from the Report. The number of boys, 68 in 1911, had now fallen to 55, only one of them a boarder: 18 came from the Isle of Ely and 31 from Soham, the remainder from the County and from Suffolk.

The bulk of these were in the 12-14 years age groups and the wide variations in ages of boys composing the forms can be seen from this list:

Average Age 8.2 11.9 12.9 13.6 15.2
No. 5 7 16 16 11

It was becoming increasingly obvious that the premises were neither large enough nor suitable, particularly if the rural side was to be developed. The accommodation still consisted, in the main, of the one large room divided unequally by a partition with a laboratory often used as a classroom over the manual workshop. For a few months, some of the rooms in Mr Mould's house were rented for a music room and for a staff room.

The first form was really a sort of prep. class and was taken with Form II whose average age was three years greater - a very unsatisfactory arrangement. French was in a parlous state and Latin had almost disappeared, being taught out of School hours and hardly part, therefore, of the curriculum.

However, in view of the later development of the School, it is most interesting to know that an attempt, tentative though it was, was being made to give the curriculum on its scientific side, a distinctive rural bias. It was doubtful, however, if the laboratory accommodation would prove large enough for the experiments that needed to be done. Further it is distressing to learn that "it was impossible to take barometer readings as the school does not possess a barometer!" Two pieces of garden about 1/5 acre in extent were available and simple experiments were carried on.

The School organ had ceased to be of any use and it is not surprising, therefore, that this comment was made on music: "The effect of the worn-out school organ was excruciating and entirely destructive of any music that might be made to its accompaniment," and conclusively, "it ought not to be used at all."

There was a voluntary Games Club, not very well supported, though in season 1911-1912 the School Soccer XI carried off the championship of the Ely and District Boys' Football League.

A fair comment scorns to be that, while some improvement had been effected in the standard of work, there was room for the considerable advance in most subjects. The allied problems of accommodation, equipment and finance, certainly demanded immediate attention and a solution was, in fact, being discussed at what was a period of transition in the School's history and development.

There was also a Magazine, the "Soham Grammarian" New Series, and Vol. 1 No. 2 was published in July 1912, so presumably this had been restarted in this school year 1911-1912. The cover bears the inspiring legend, which was probably the School's temporary motto:
"Most he earns who best learns".

Note: In Rules for Payment June 1910 it is stated: "the title of Foundation Scholar shall be reserved for Free Scholars who have been reported by the H.M. and Examiners as shewing exceptionally good proficiency." They could be elected at any time.

ELY STANDARD 10th July 1914 p8
with thank to Chris Jakes SG65,
Cambridgeshire Collection



After having occupied the position of headmaster of the Soham Grammar School for a period of close on thirty years, which would seem a lifetime to some, Mr WH Mould is vacating this important and responsible office at the end of the present month.

It would be almost impossible, in the limited space at our disposal, to give anything like a full account of the splendid work which has been accomplished by the popular head of the school during his long connection with it, but the building as it stands today can truly be described as a monument to his abilities and painstaking perseverance.

Those who can remember the institution as it was when Mr Mould first became acquainted with it and compare it with the present commodious premises might indeed marvel at the change which has taken place.

The growth of the school can largely be attributed to the influence and popularity of Mr Mould, who has every reason to be proud of his educational achievements. He has left no stone unturned to give the scholars the best education that was possible for them to receive, and the value of his labours, so rich in their results, have been recognised over and over again. On almost every occasion that has presented itself one governor or another has borne eloquent testimony in public to the capable and efficient services rendered by Mr Mould, who in his retirement, can take with him the liveliest recollections of the many happy years he has spent at the school, with the knowledge, precious to all headmasters, that the majority of those who have passed through his hands are now occupying important, and, in many cases, responsible positions in the world.

His past pupils are scattered over the two hemispheres. They are to be found in Western Australia, New Zealand, America and the States, and most of them still take delight in corresponding with their one-time headmaster. The numerous presents and testimonials Mr Mould has received on the occasion of his leap-year birthdays speak volumes for the affection and esteem in which he is held by teachers and pupils alike.

It was in the year 1885 that Mr Mould succeeded Mr Le Maitre as headmaster of the Soham Grammar School, and at the date of his election there were only twelve pupils. Soon, however, the numbers rose until they reached fifty. Later the members went up to sixty, seventy and over eighty, and for the past few years there have not been less than sixty scholars. Pupils followed Mr Mould from Suffolk, where he held his only other appointment in the scholastic profession after leaving College, and they have continued to come from that County. It is interesting to record that he has several times educated boys whose fathers were his pupils before he came to Soham.

In an interesting chat with our representative, Mr Mould gave some interesting particulars of the school as it used to be. On his appointment the desks and apparatus were quite primitive, the ground in front of the building was a bare playground, and there was a public path leading from the front gates to the People’s Hall. There were no baths in the house, and when boarders and masters wished to indulge in this invaluable acquisition to a school, water had to be carried up to the dormitory. After a time a temporary bath room was made near the scullery out of a discarded coal-shed.

There was no Conservative Hall at that time, and for the Christmas entertainment a platform had to be built at the same time as instruction was being given. On some occasions masters were up until 2 am in order to have the school ready for the next day. Tables had to be placed in the school for meals, and the accommodation for the masters was totally inadequate. One master, in fact, made a “study” in the school roof, to which he obtained ingress by a system of pulleys.

The disadvantages under which the staff laboured were numerous, as can be imagined from the above description, but in a large measure owing to the efforts of Mr Mould, many improvements and reforms have been introduced, and today the school possesses a splendid recreation ground, and other indispensable conveniences.

It may not be generally known that before the present headmaster’s appointment no pupil had ever passed the University of Cambridge Local Examinations, but since then a large number have been successful, both in the Junior and Senior Divisions, the highest honours having been secured. It has been said that the capability of a schoolmaster may fairly be gauged by the amount of respect he contrives to inspire in those who are under his care, and certainly the keynote of Mr Mould’s popularity is the deep interest he takes in the scholars, both from an educational and from a personal standpoint.

It can truthfully be said that his motto has always been “I lead where others drive,” and it may surprise many of our readers to know that no corporal punishment has been administered during the whole of his headmastership. When a scholar required a cane once for use in a comedy which was to be staged we understand that one had to be purchased. The headmaster’s tact has always stood him in good stead.

Reference has been made to the Cambridge Local Examinations, and perhaps it would not be out of place here just to mention a few of the successes. In 1910 one pupil won 1st class honours, with four distinctions, and another, though deaf, obtained 2nd class honours, with four distinctions. Even as recently as 1912 one pupil secured 2nd class honours with distinctions in English Grammar, Literature, and Drawing; while in the last mentioned subject a Soham Grammar School boy won first place in a list of several thousand candidates. Another took 3rd class honours, with distinction in shorthand, at the early age of 12.

Pupils have also been successful in the examinations held by the Incorporated Law, Civil Service, and Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. Perhaps the highest honour that has fallen to the school was that of a pupil who some time ago was elected on the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society. Mr Mould’s greatest ambition has been to see some of his pupils at the University, and his ambition, we are pleased to say, has been realised. A Soham boy, after having passed Cambridge Local Examinations, Junior Division in 2nd Class Honours at the early age of 13, was successful in the following year in the Senior Division. He was then prepared for a Major Scholarship, offered by the County Council of the annual value of 30 for three years. This he obtained. And eventually went to Cambridge University, where he secured a 1st class in the Natural Science Tripos. It is interesting to add that his brother is a pupil at the present time, and is being coached for the University of London Matriculation examination.

Mr Mould, who has travelled in many countries, has been a good all-round athlete in his time, having played for the County Cricket Club. There is perhaps no more popular resident in Soham, and when the local history of the past fifty years comes to be written his educational work will no doubt receive that prominence which it deserves. No one regrets his retirement from the headmastership of the school more than the staff and scholars. The Governors, too, will be sorry to lose one who has been such a true and faithful servant, who has made the school what it is today.

Mr Mould is resigning on his own initiative, and his future career cannot be determined on account of the continued illness of Mrs. Mould, whose health and condition have given cause for considerable anxiety. We are sure our numerous readers will join with us in wishing her a speedy recovery.

Soham Grammar School, we may add, was founded in 1686, and reconstituted in 1877.

from The Independent Press & Chronicle, Friday, December 15, 1961
source: Helen Smith EHS, sister of Edward Smith SG56

A letter received from Mr TF Teversham of Sawston with reference to the previous week’s article on Soham in which it was stated that “in 1909 the School recovered its old name of Soham Grammar School and subsequently was taken over by the Local Education Authority”.

Mr Teversham adds that he has the following literature in his possession:

  1. A seven-page booklet entitled “Opening of Laboratory and Workshop at Soham Grammar School, September 19th, 1902” etc. He says: "It was part of my work as Agricultural Science Master to stock the new laboratory with apparatus, chemicals, etc.”

  2. Printed programmes of events at the annual School Sports in July 1902, and July 1903 e.g.:
    Soham Grammar School Cambridgeshire, Annual Athletic Sports, Monday, July 27th 1903 at 2pm on the Town Cricket and Tennis Ground.”

    There were no less than 70 donors of prizes, a really valuable collection, including silver watches (2), several other watches, gold medal, silver medal (gold centre), several clocks, gold scarf pin, gold collar and front studs, gold cuff links, cricket bats (3), cricket balls, pads, shoes, trousers, football, silver serviette ring, barometer, gold chain, silver chain etc. etc.
    Fifty-four prizes in all for 62 competitors, among them three Leader boys from Newmarket, including Harvey (Jackie) Leader, one of the boarders.

  3. The first issue, Vol 1, No.1 of “The Soham Grammarian”, May 1903. 14 pp, W Hart, printer, Soham.

“The School records appear to be deficient for the period 1902-1903,” Mr Teversham adds. “In 1926, when I needed confirmation of my service there, no records were to be found at the Education Office in Cambridge.”

last updated 9 Mar 2011