Time to put the clock back!
This was the title of the open weekend at the old Bluecoat School premises on Mansfield Road organised by the Bluecoat Building Millennium group. Funnily enough it was actually the weekend we put the clocks forward!
As a former pupil at the Bluecoat School on the Aspley Lane site I had always been intrigued by the building on Mansfield Road and what it was like. I knew of several people who were at Bluecoat when it was at that site, including my great grandfather who was there in the 1870s. So this seemed like the opportunity I had been waiting for.
The event had come about after a press news item in 1999 had generated interest from a number of ex-Bluecoat pupils and also groups involved with the formation of the International Community Centre. The focus of the weekend was to raise funds to get the clock back into working order so that it is a focal point for the local community and people entering the city centre.
Mansfield Road was not the first site for the Bluecoat School. The school was founded in 1706 by Timothy Fenton, Rector of St Peter’s. On May 1st 1707 the school opened in St Mary’s Gate. In 1723 it moved site to High Pavement. In 1853 it was on the move again to the Mansfield Road site and then to Aspley Lane in 1967 where the school is currently.
There was a collection of school photos dating from 1886 and lots of other interesting memorabilia. An ex pupil from the school showed me around the building - very little has been changed - just the odd additional wall added etc. The headmaster’s house was also attached to the building and we explored some of the rooms as well as the gardens. We bumped into a couple of ladies who had attended the school in the 1960s and had had to do their last year at the Aspley Lane site which they didn’t like! They showed me the “girls’” playground - in those days the girls and boys were segregated at break and lunch times. They also told me about the rigorous exam and interview with school governors that pupils had to go through to be accepted into the school. I was then shown the high wall that was used by the boys for the initiation of new boys. New pupils (wearing shorts as part of the uniform) were lowered down the wall by older pupils and at the bottom would be met by a group of boys armed with weapons (such as shoes etc.) waiting to hit the new boy on their legs - the new boys would live in dread of this event knowing it would happen to them at some point during their first week at the school! I used to think life was pretty strict when I attended the school in the 1970s but realised from talking to the ex pupils that the regime was a lot stricter when they were at school.
On leaving the site I had a look through the Visitors’ Book and saw that I was the only person who had visited from my generation -1 had hoped I might have bumped into people I knew when I was at school. However it was a very interesting visit and I was grateful to the ex-pupils who talked to me about their memories, making me feel I had really experienced a little of what life was like as a pupil there.