Soham Grammarians : from the School History

A NEW SCHOOL 1916 - Summer 1939

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 ]

The decision to apply for a new scheme whereby the Board of Education should approve that the Local Authority (Cambridgeshire County Council) should take over as Trustees of the Foundation, was dictated by the limited finances which the Governors had at their disposal. These were:

(i) the income from the original endowment, some of which (£25 p.a.) was still payable to the former Master as a pension, some of which helped to maintain Foundation and Free Scholars and part of which had to be devoted to a Maintenance Fund - in all not more than £110;
(ii) the fees paid by boarders and fee payers;
(iii) the Board of Education Grant, about £250;
(iv) the Local Education Authority grant, about £150.

There is an oblique reference to this decision as early as June 1914 in a Report of the Finance Committee of the Governing Body, in which the Chairman, Reverend J. C. Rust, described the financial year ending 31 March 1915 as "a year of transition". More to the point is this item on the agenda of a Governors' Meeting December 5 1914: "To consider a suggestion for transferring the control of the School to the County Council with a letter from the Education Secretary."

This discussion was, apparently, fruitful, for a special Governors' Meeting was summoned (4th June, 1915) to consider this resolution:

"That the Chairman be authorised on behalf of the Governors to sign an application for a new scheme for the government of the School, the effect of which will be to transfer the whole control of the School, including the management of the estates and finance to the Cambridgeshire County Council."

The H.M.I. Report of March 1915 refers to the amicable spirit in which these negotiations between County Council and Governors were being carried on. And in this month the Governors were considering the completion of a form from the Board of Education dealing with the proposed Scheme.

Finally, a scheme dealing with a Secondary School for Boys Provided by Local Education Authority was produced, repealing the 1909 scheme for regulating Soham Grammar School. Bearing date 4th October 1916, its significant provision was that: "In accordance with their expressed willingness to do so the Cambridgeshire County Council should undertake the administration of this Foundation." (Soham Grammar School).

The Board of Education reserved to itself the exclusive rights of Visitor. Certain statutory provisions which must be inserted in any scheme relating to an Endowed School, which this still was, had to be observed: these dealt with the religious opinions of the Governing Body, religious exemptions (on which subject any authority would have good cause to feel nervous after the explosive events and atmosphere at the time of the 1870 Education Act) and the eligibility for masterships of candidates who were not in Holy Orders.

The original endowment now 250 years old and bringing in £130-13-0 was to provide for

i. the payment of William Feather's pension;
ii. exemptions from tuition fees of a yearly aggregate of not less than £40;
iii. maintenance allowances of up to £10 per annum each;
iv. leaving exhibitions tenable for full-time education at Universities or approved institutions;
v. general maintenance, should there be any surplus after the foregoing provisions had been observed.

The authority was permitted to, and in fact did, delegate its powers to the Education Committee, which proceeded to frame a comprehensive scheme of management. This was submitted to the Board of Education and finally approved in a letter dated 13th September 1917. This is a most important scheme, for it is the basis of the Instrument of Government which is in use today, although some of its provisions have lost all force and application since the 1944 Education Act.

The object of the School was to provide secondary Education for boys and a preparatory department for boys and girls. This lasted, it seems, until 1923. A Junior and a Senior curriculum were drawn up, the latter divided into a General and an Agricultural course, boys taking at the Headmaster's advice that one which best suited them for their future occupation.


Holy Scripture
Natural Science
Geography and History
Book Keeping


Natural Science
Elementary Building
Land Surveying
Book Keeping
Manual Instruction and Woodwork
Market Gardening
Fruit Growing
Poultry Keeping
Bee Keeping

Here then was the agricultural bias hinted at in previous H.M.I. Reports.

The Education Committee was to appoint, annually, a special Sub­Committee to manage the School, consisting of 15 Governors:

8 members of the Education Committee including, at least one woman.
2 County Councillors for Soham Division.
2 Nominees of Soham Parish Council, one to be a woman.
1 Nominee of Pembroke College.
2 Nominees of the Isle of Ely Education Committee.

Estimates for running the school were to be submitted by this Sub­Committee to the Education Committee which in turn was to secure through the Finance Committee the approval of the County Council.

The Headmaster's Salary was fixed at £200 per annum with additional capitation payments of between 10/- and £1 per pupil and with the free occupation of the School House.

The age of admission was to be 10 except that the Preparatory Department could take boys and girls of over 5 years, to be taught by a Kindergarten mistress. The upward limit was 18 years and this interesting and necessary addition was made: "parents to agree not to remove children without notice given six weeks before end of term on penalty of paying the fees for the following term". It would have been better still, could some undertaking have been exacted that parents would keep the child at School until 15 or 16, at least. Tuition fees, Free Places excepted, were not more than £6 per annum, £10 in the case of those coming from areas other than Cambridgeshire or any county joining in the management of the school. Boarding fees were to be no more than £60 p.a. It was stated, in 1920, that this was not sufficient to meet expenditure and that the Headmaster was losing about £100 per year on the boarders.

These Regulations could only be altered or abolished by the Cambridgeshire Education Committee.

About this time the cost per head for education boys in the School was £12-3-0 of which £9-12-0 went on salaries. The Cambridge Junior Local was dropped and attention concentrated on the Senior Local Examination. An evening prep. class was organised, according to the Syllabus, and day boys could join the boarders at midday meal for 5/- per week. About 20 boys brought midday lunch and, of course, most of the Soham Boys went home to lunch. The boys played cricket and Association Football was still favoured: some time was given to swimming also. There is evidence that the possibilities, at least, of converting the Grammar School into a Farm School had been examined: it went no further than this.

Mr. Harvey Jacobs, who came in 1914, was succeeded in 1916 by Mr. J. Clement Platt, M.Sc. (Manchester), late Assistant Master at Devonport High School and formerly Senior Assistant and Science Master at Eggar's Grammar School, Alton, Hants. He was only 26 years of age: "though with little experience, he immediately infused a spirit of work which has ever since been maintained."

JC Platt, from a late 1920s School photo

Owing to his energy the School grew rapidly from 55 pupils in 1915-17. Military service and the aftermath of the war depleted the staff, particularly the male staff and Mr. Platt, assisted by four mistresses, had a heavy burden to carry: like Mr. Mould he taught, organised the games completely on his own and ran the Boarding House.

Quite frankly, at first, the standard of work was not high, owing partly to the shortage of trained teachers after the war: the inadequate salaries that the Governors were able to offer did not help. While paying every tribute to the unflagging and practically single-handed struggle of the Headmaster, the Inspectors in 1920 pointed out that, through no fault of his, the future of the School could not appear promising or even assured. The trouble was that the pupils were leaving at an average age very little more than the statutory leaving age for Public Elementary Schools, instead of spending at least 2 years beyond that minimum. The tendency to leave at 15 and, in some cases at 14, would have to be checked so that full benefit could be gained from a secondary school course.

The grants made to the School were from the Board of Education (£494) and from the Local Education Authority (£137-11-8). 49% of the income came from tuition fees and these grants brought in 47%: the remaining 4% was from the [Soham Moor] Endowment. Now, a quarter of the boys came from the Isle of Ely and about 40% from Soham: the system was just beginning, whereby girls from Soham and district attended Ely High School and boys from the Isle attended Soham Grammar School. Unfortunately, each authority charged higher fees for those who came from outside its borders. A move in the right direction was an undertaking signed by parents of scholarship-holders, but this was for three years only.

The Upper School consisted of 2 boys only who worked with the Upper V: the main school consisted of forms UV, V, IVA and IVB and III, while the lower school comprised the Prep. department and Forms I and II, which latter were generally taught together. In fact, the real work seems to have started in Form III.

click on image for a larger version of
The Old Grammar School 1924
Now that numbers had increased, the problem of accommodation was becoming more urgent than ever: normal instruction had to be given in a disused chapel one third of a mile from the school while the Town Institute about 150 yards away housed, temporarily, the Prep. and Lower Forms. There was an immediate call for an assembly room, a much better fitted laboratory, a gymnasium, a new block of offices, lavatories and cloak rooms, more class rooms and more additions to the School House, if boarders were still to be taken.

A policy of reconstruction was, indeed, under consideration but must have been foredoomed, if not to failure, at least to disappointment: the truth was the limits of expansion on the old site had very nearly been reached and not only were more and larger class rooms needed but newer and more convenient ones, too.

A most interesting and valuable commentary on this period of the School's history (1920-1923) is supplied by Mr. Claude Greensmith, who can claim what is probably a record school life of 11 years at the Grammar School. He began in 1917 in the Preparatory Class:

"which was held in what used to be known as the Liberal Club - all had two rooms on the ground floor facing Station Road. We were connected with the 'Big School' by the brick door of the Liberal Club, through a corrugated-roof shed into the playground which was situated around the Head's own Garden: then through the main entrance at the side into the Fourth Form Room. The Prep. had prayers with the rest of the School, all classes being sandwiched in the third and fifth when the partition was opened. Captain of the School at Football and Cricket in 1917 was J. H. Holden, son of the then Assistant Postmaster of Soham and he had a brother who was also Captain about 1919."

"Speech Day was a proper picnic, as both partitions were opened on these occasions and a temporary platform erected at the fourth form end. Mr. Platt who had his desk in the 'Fifth' also had to suffer ignominy and his desk was removed to the School House. Violin lessons were taught by Mr. R. B. Calder (later Headmaster of Mundella School, Nottingham). About 1920 a field gun was given to the School and a tablet in the School in memory of those who fell in 1914-18 unveiled by Mr. E. T. Neathercoat, Past President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and an old Boy of the School."

"Paper chases, hares and hounds and cross country runs were indulged in and the old Recreation Ground was our first playing field. About 1920 we removed to the Weatheralls field at top of Kent's Lane. About 1924 the changeover to Rugger under direction of Mr. Peet, took place."

Mr. Greensmith remembers almost scoring the first try for the School against a Perse 3rd XV.


please click on image for larger version with key

In the next 5 or 6 years, much progress was made in several directions in raising the standard of work and in extending both the school­leaving ago and the time spent at School. This was due in the first place to voluntary action on the part of the parents and later it was supplemented by a regular school life undertaking.

Thus the average school leaving age and the school life figures improved from
1918/19 15.5 and 2.4 respectively, to
1922/3 16.2 and 3.7 and better still
1925/6 16.6 and 4.3.

In 1919/20 school leavers over 16 totalled 24% but in 1925/6, 72%. The numbers had risen to 122, but this was less important than the fact that the boys were staying longer and gaining benefit from the course.

At last, the complete unsuitability of the Old Grammar School was recognised and the first opportunity taken of acquiring a very fine house and grounds at a cost of £4,100 which was adapted and equipped for School purposes for another £3,600. The new premises were at 'Beechurst' (built in 1901 for Mr. C. Morbey; purchased by Cambs. C.C. in 1925.) the present site of the School, a most attractive building with a gravelled drive way which gives a view of the beautiful lawn and shrubbery on the south side. In the early stages, it provided six classrooms, an assembly hall, laboratory and cloakroom with accommodation for the Headmaster and 12 to 13 boarders. In the grounds were a botanical laboratory and a manual workshop but no gymnasium and no art room. It was felt that accommodation was sufficient for up to 160 boys.

Games were played in a field of about seven acres some distance away, but in 1930 a field of 12 acres immediately behind the School was purchased, the old field being sold in 1934.

The removal was completed at the end of October, in the middle of the Autumn Term 1926. This impression of the move is given by Mr. Claude Greensmith:

"The move was accomplished in a most economical manner as we boys did all our own dirty work. I have distinct recollections of carrying two Winchesters of sulphuric acid through the Churchyard and down the alley by the new Recreation Ground to Beechurst over the bridge across the river and down the Moat Drive."

The latter part of this route was later to become very familiar to boys travelling daily from Cambridge by train.

Mr. C. J. Ford recalls that:

"during the move one of the boys slipped and sat in a pool of concentrated sulphuric acid with disastrous results to his trousers but fortunately without too serious consequences to his person. The new environment of the attractive building with its spacious classrooms and well laid out grounds had a marked effect on the character and deportment of its pupils who were justly proud and delighted with their surroundings".

Thus the last links were severed with the old original home of the School and over two and a quarter centuries' occupation of the Hempland ended: but this implied no break in the continuity of the School's history. From now on it went from strength to strength.

Aerial view of Beechurst before the extensions.
[Photo was also in Summer 1953 Soham Grammarian]
(click on image for a larger version)
Although the change over was completed by November 1926 the opening Ceremony and Dedication of the new Buildings, by the Lord Bishop of Ely and the President of the Cambridgeshire Free Church Federation, the Reverend G. Porter Chapple, did not take place until February 22, 1927.

Following a Service which was held in the Assembly Hall, the Chairman of the Governors, Major Alderman Oliver Papworth, V.D., introduced the Right Hon. Lord Eustace Percy, P.C., M.P., President of the Board of Education who declared the buildings officially open.

Cambridgeshire Times report of the event

The resolution of thanks to the President was moved by the Chairman of the County Council, Alderman M. V. J. Webber, J.P., and the Reverend J. C. Rust, M.A., J.P., himself a former Chairman of the Governing Body and an indefatigable worker for the School. The Resolution of Thanks to the Chairman was moved by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese and the Reverend Porter Chapple. An impressive ceremony was concluded by the School Choir singing William Blake's Jerusalem.

On June 21, 1927 the 1916 scheme and the 1917 Cambridgeshire County Council Regulations were amended; the main alteration concerning the Discontinuance of the School on the old premises of the Foundation. These were to be sold under a further order of the Board of Education and the proceeds converted to augmenting the Endowment.

In this year of 122 pupils, 67 were in receipt of free tuition, 42 with Cambridgeshire Free Places, and 22 with Isle of Ely Free Places. Tuition fees were now £9 per annum for Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely and £12 p.a. for other areas, while boarders, now 10 in number paid £60 p.a. Besides the Headmaster there were seven assistant masters, six full­time and 1 part-time.

At this time Mr. L. G. Johnson had been at the school for 5 years and he was now appointed Second Master, a post he retained till his retirement in 1953. Mr. C. J. Ford and Mr. G. L. Hunt, who both arrived in September 1926, had two months in the Old Grammar School before moving on into the new premises at 'Beechurst'. They were joined in 1928 by Mr. R. L. Thomas and in 1929 by Mr. T. L. Riley. These masters, "the Big Five" as they became affectionately known, had a remarkable record of service to the school. Mr. Hunt had at his retirement in 1952, 26 years' service; Mr. Johnson, retiring in 1953, had 31 years, Mr. Thomas had served over 33 years till 1961; Mr. Ford, succeeding Mr. Johnson as Deputy Head, reached 38 years; the same number as Mr. Riley who also became Deputy Head. Though Mr. Ford retired in 1964 and Mr. Riley in 1967 both continued part-time teaching to record totals of 42 years each on the staff of the school.

Mr Platt & some staff (photo not included in the published history)
L-R: 1 - 2 - Mr CJ Ford - Mr JC Platt - 5 - 6 - Mr GL Hunt - Mr RL Thomas
source: Mrs Anne Jarman (née Ford)

The Monthly Pictorial July 1962 [?] carried an article by Arnold Fraser on Soham Grammar School which mentioned among other details that the motto adopted was Vincet qui propositum tenebit which may be freely translated: "The man who sticks to what he set out to do will conquer". We learn that the School "studies not only the needs of the professional classes but also those of the practical boy whose inability to profit by books alone has caused him to be neglected in the past". The article's concluding words are that the Grammar School "is a School to be reckoned with".

Certainly the standard of work had been and was now improving out of all recognition: since 1921 a whole form always took Cambridge School Certificate instead of, as previously, selected candidates only. In three years ending 1927 38 boys were entered and 29 passed, 14 with Honours: several boys had gone to Cambridge (R. Britton, (College unsure) ; H. Dew and R. T. E. Allen, Fitzwilliam House; F. B. Pinion, Downing; C. Gleave, Ridley Hall; later in 1928 C. J. Tabeart, (Fitzwilliam) two to London (V. E. S. Mitchell with an East Suffolk County Council Scholarship of £100 per annum and E. Johnson who went up in October 1927) and several to training Colleges (F. A. Manning, Borough Road Teachers' Training College; C. Palmer and S. H. Murfitt, Goldsmith's; S. H. Porter and W. Cranwell, St. Mark's and St. James) while the first recorded Old Boy at Oxford was R. Cornwell, who entered St. Edmund Hall in October 1928. For a School of its size this was a very fair achievement. Latin was restored to the curriculum and started in the fourth form, while Rural Science, from the arrival of Mr. Hunt, began to appear as a distinctive feature of the course of studies in the School. "Its introduction," said the H.M.I. Report, "seems certain to add to the School's usefulness to the locality and the county as a whole," and this was, indeed, a wise prophecy.

In view of these judgements on the School's care and provision for those less interested or less capable in academic studies, these words from Lord Eustace Percy's address at the Opening Ceremony are particularly interesting.

"The enterprise of developing an education with what is sometimes called a rural bias ... does not mean we are giving definitely vocational and professional training, but it does mean we are definitely trying to make a school like this fulfil a local purpose for the community in which it exists. As this community largely depends upon and is interested in rural pursuits and agriculture, these should be in a school like this training in education adapted to awaken in children abilities for rural pursuits and rural professions."

Significantly the Director of Education for Cambridgeshire, Mr. Henry Morris, awarded C.B.E., at the fourth Annual Dinner of the Old Boys' Society on December 8th, 1926, spoke of "the almost unique nature of the School . . . Apart from its historic tradition it was young and new in the experimental sense and Education at large would be particularly interested in that experiment. He sanguinely hoped that with the increase of numbers its fame as a model rural school of the newer type would be more than local" (the Soham Grammarian, Christmas 1926). The extract from H.M.I. report already quoted, shows that this aspect of the School's work and development attracted fairly wide and varied comment. However the 1930s saw the greater progress made on the more truly academic side: it was not that the rural bias was reduced or neglected but rather that, by comparison with the academic bias which was given greater emphasis, it was proportionately less. Again a report of H.M.I. quoted later shows that this was so, for the Rural Science course has always had a peculiarly individual and important place in the curriculum.

To return once more to the condition of studies in the School, this comment of the Inspectors testifies to the progress made:

"This is a remarkable instance of a Secondary School in a rural area which
has emphatically made good. The school is, indeed, tried by any tests usually
applied, notably successful" and "further, it deserves well of the Authority."

In 1930 Mr. Platt left for another post as Headmaster of Chadderton Grammar School after 14 years of magnificent service to the school. No­one who understands the peculiar difficulties of the school in the period 1916-1930 can doubt that the flourishing state it enjoyed on his departure was largely due to the efforts of the Headmaster. There was the danger that the Grammar School status might be lost and the possibility that it might have been converted to a Central School was not, by any means, remote. In those early years, his tremendous enthusiasm and efficiency, his almost Chatham-like capacity for inspiring his colleagues with loyalty and, above all, for infusing a new spirit into the School rescued it at this critical juncture: it was, thus, assured of a high place among country Grammar Schools with its own peculiar and distinctive contribution to theory and practice.

It must be admitted, however as previously pointed out, that the later tendency has been for the School to develop more along the lines of the normal grammar school, since it was obliged to cater for employers who required a School Certificate as an indication of a boy's educational achievement, while fewer boys entered agricultural and horticultural careers with direct benefit from the Rural Science course.

In this period 1920-1930, the term "Minor Scholar" was replacing "Free Places" and eventually was used officially to describe those boys who reached, in an entrance examination, the standard required to secure exemption from payment of tuition fees. Cambridgeshire Minor Scholars increased in number from 31 to 47 and Isle of Ely Minor Scholars from 22 to 54. Seven boys were sent at the expense of Educational Founda­tions in the Isle of Ely and were called "Foundationers".

It was the practice to allow the entry of boys at the age of 10 or even earlier and they, presumably, would be fee-payers eligible for Minor Scholarships when they were old enough to sit the examination. These few very junior boys comprised a first form, then came Forms II, III, IV, V and Upper V, giving a five year course to the First Public Examination, the Cambridge School Certificate, and above these forms came the Sixth Form, some of whose members took for the Second Public Examination, the Cambridge Higher School Certificate. Major Scholarships of £80 per annum could be awarded on the results of this latter examination, tenable at a University or approved higher institution: these were £50 per annum in the case of boys taking a science and Supplementary Major Scholarship of £25 per annum could be awarded to those, not having passed Higher School Certificate, who proceeded to an approved higher institution. Not unnaturally, in a School of this sort Agricultural Scholarships could be awarded by the Cambridgeshire Education Committee, by the Cambridge University Agricultural Department or by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. Platt was succeeded in 1930 by Mr. B. J. A. Neill, M.A., B.Sc.. (Oxon.), who remained until 1939. By 1938 the numbers had grown to 177, 43% (including 20% from Soham) coming from Cambridgeshire and 55% from the Isle of Ely: this increase was due mainly to the large number of Minor Scholars. In September 1937, thirteen were admitted from the Isle of Ely and thirteen from Cambridgeshire: 92% of all boys in the School were admitted from Public Elementary Schools. This period was not without its crises and in 1933 there was under discussion a Report on the possibility of converting the school into a Senior School for this district: let it be perfectly clear that this arose from no dissatisfaction with the work or the achievements of the School which were, in fact, held in very high esteem. The underlying cause was the extreme difficulty of supplying adequate education in such a scattered area, badly served with public transport.

Within the School itself a problem of organisation was posed by two conditions. First of all, parents, and pupils alike had cause to value the education given at the Grammar School and more boys were staying longer: thus, out of 30 boys leaving the School over the age of fourteen only four were under sixteen. The second was the large number of Minor Scholars admitted who alone, without considering new fee-payers and those promoted who entered below the age of ten, were sufficient to comprise one form. Therefore, two first-year forms, IIA and IIB, were set up with a total of 49 pupils. Thus the problem in the lower school was solved: but sooner or later, if the number of entry was not to be restricted, some solution would be required in the upper school where more boys were staying on and where eventually this first two forms "Bulge" would aggravate the problem of growing numbers. The only solution would have to be a double-stream organisation throughout the School.

The Inspectors report stated that "the distinguishing feature of the School's educational work is the success with which it uses the opportunities of the country environment. The Rural Science course, additional to the normal Secondary School science, gives meaning to the boys' natural interest and observation". However, the fact that not all boys born and brought up in such areas will want to accept rural work was recognised and this explains the development of the School on traditional academic lines.

Although the numbers had increased so greatly the accommodation was unchanged and originally the limit of the School buildings had been thought to be about 160 boys: the decay of the boarding surplus alone helped to tide the school over this problem. Besides additional class­rooms, there was urgent need for a gymnasium, and art room and extra science accommodation: the one laboratory was equipped for Chemistry yet the full range of sciences was taught. Despite limitations imposed on all subjects by lack of space and equipment, H.M.I. Report regarded the standard of attainment in all subjects as good and in science subjects as high. Of 27 candidates for Higher School Certificate over five years, 22 were successful.

Mr. Riley's memory of the period is that:

"the emphasis was on work. The staff were expected to drive their pupils towards School Certificate passes in at least five group subjects, which must be taken all together, a failure in one group meaning that the whole examination must be sat again. Compulsory subjects were English, Mathematics, one other language and one science. Rural Science was offered to fulfil a local need. Passes in 5 subjects including Latin completed matriculation requirements.

Many of the scholarship pupils came from very poor homes and for them examination success was vital both at Certificate and Higher Certificate level. Aims were therefore clear and simple and were to a large extent realised as numbers began to grow. The introduction of Ministry of Agriculture and State Scholarships helped to increase the number going to the universities.

Communications were very poor - no bus services at all. Ely and Littleport were served by train but nearly all other pupils walked or cycled to school. Many cycled up to 10 miles each way in all weathers but there was very little absenteeism."

There was a good supply of library books but this lost much of its value since no separate reference and private study room could be spared to house it. The present School library, an eyrie for the eagle-eyed Late Prefect, was taken over in 1940: the boys are fortunate to have such an attractive room with the delightful outlook over the lawns to the shrubbery.

The corporate life of the School was healthy and among the various societies were the Scout Troop then, as now, in a flourishing state with its Summer Camp, Dramatic Society, Scientific Society, Art Club, Boxing Club and Country Dancing Club. The Magazine was published every term. Games and athletics were firmly based on a system of games afternoons, coaching, and Inter-House competitions: Rugby which had been introduced in 1924 and shared the first two terms of the year with Association Code had completely ousted the latter in 1931. In this as in Cricket, School teams were fielded in fixtures against other Schools: while in Athletics the teams usually fared quite well against bigger and more fortunate Schools in the Fenland Counties' Sports.

These standards were not achieved without a good degree of self-help. Mr. Ford again remembers that:

"despite the fine new school and its magnificent setting, money for the education of the pupils was short and most of the school text-books were bought second hand from Foyle's. Geometry theorems were duplicated for the boys on a primitive jelly-graph. Both cricket and football gear were also second hand, much of it from the groundsman at Fenners.

The solitary school gardener-cum-caretaker had no time to look after the playing-fields and this task fell to the lot of the games master aided by some of the senior boys. Invariably the cricket captain (or vice-captain) had to be a Soham boy as at least two evenings each week had to be spent in cutting the cricket square and outfield by means of a 30 inch motor mower".

Such was the situation of the school in 1939, a year which saw not only the outbreak of the Second World War but also the departure of Soham's headmaster, Mr. B. J. A. Neill.

ELY STANDARD 4th September 1914 p.2


This school will reopen on Monday week, under the recently appointed headmaster, Mr Harvey Jacobs, B.Sc. of Victoria University. Mr Harvey Jacobs was educated at Brewood Grammar School, Staffordshire, and at Owen’s College, Manchester. From 1905 to 1908 he was science master at Probus School, Cornwall; from 1908 to 1911 second master at Nantwich Grammar School; afterwards science master at Ardingley College, Sussex, and Cranleigh School, Surrey. For the last two years he has been senior science and rural science tutor at the Normal College, Bangor. Mr Jacobs is the author of a text book on “Modern Methods in Mathematics”. A good sportsman, he was elected captain of the Bangor City Cricket Club, and his arrival in Soham will therefore be all the more welcomed amongst the many who take delight in this and other sports.

with thanks to Chris Jakes 65, from the Cambridgeshire Collection

ELY STANDARD 22nd September 1916 p.8.


The Michaelmas term of the Soham Grammar School began on Tuesday, under the headmastership of Mr. J. Clement Platt, M.Sc., who arrived in the town last week. Full particulars of the new conditions governing this school, with a brief reference to the sterling qualities of the recently appointed headmaster, have already been given in these columns. Suffice it to say that extensive arrangements have been made in order to give the pupils a sound education on modern lines, the special requirements of each individual pupil being given special attention in the course of study.

with thanks to Chris Jakes 65, from the Cambridgeshire Collection

Soham Grammarian Summer 1951

OLD BOYS DINNER held at the White Lion, Newmarket, Saturday December 16th

The guest of honour was Mr JC Platt, a former headmaster of the School from 1916-1930.
... [Mr Platt said] Coming to Soham in 1916, he was told by a Governor of the school that it would mean the end of his career if he stayed. This, however, was no detriment and with the help of his late wife he brought the school from the verge of extinction to a school which was now one of the finest in England. It was only though the ill-health of his wife in 1930 that he left the district and went to Chadderton, in Lancashire.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1962


Mr Clement J Platt was Head Master of this school at a formative period in the history of the school. He was appointed Head Master in 1916 and when he left in 1930 he had seen the school successfully through the difficult transition period when it was taken over by the Cambridgeshire Education Committee and had been the prime mover in the translation from the cramped premises in the High Street to the lovely surroundings we now enjoy.

Mr Platt was a vigorous inspiring teacher and an enthusiastic leader of men and boys. He left the school after fourteen years' devoted service to become Head Master of Chadderton Grammar School in Lancashire, from which he retired some years before his death.

Mr Platt's link with Soham was never broken for three masters, Mr Ford, Mr Thomas and Mr Riley, who served under him, were still on the Staff of the school when Mr. Platt died in 1959.

It is entirely typical of Mr Platt's affection for the school that he remembered the school in his will in which he bequeathed the sum of £500 to be devoted to prizes in memory of his wife. These prizes became available for the first time in 1961.

After much discussion it was decided that the Platt Memorial Prizes should be awarded for the encouragement of interests and activities not directly associated with classroom teaching:

Two Sixth Form Essay prizes to the value of £5 each - one to a member of the Arts Sixth for an essay on a scientific subject, the other to a scientist for an essay on a humanistic subject.

Two prizes to Scouts, one senior and one junior, to the total value of £5. Prizes to the total value of £5 on the results of a hobbies competition.

Two prizes, to the total value of £5, to the senior and junior boys who go on the most adventurous holiday of the year.

Platt signature courtesy of Fred Eden 44
last updated 9 July 2008: 26 Feb 20