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Honours Boards

Lewes County Grammar School for Boys 1930 - 1969

Rescued and Photographed by John Etherton

Digitally restored by Maurice Hobden

Y ou will probably remember that there were various trophies, shields, cups and other items mounted behind the stage in the Assembly Hall at LCGS. Among them were several boards recording the names and university awards won by former pupils at the school. These followed a common tradition in public schools and grammar schools that began in the late nineteenth century when talented pupils won scholarships. These scholarships usually had a significant monetary value that would allow talented boys to go to university from families who would not otherwise have been able to afford such expenditure. In Victorian times a scholarship worth £50 would have paid for all fees and living expenses for the talented son of a poor country parson.

The tradition of honour boards at LCGSB was started by Mr Bradshaw, who was our first headmaster when the school opened in 1930. He had been lucky enough to go to Oxford University after the Great War and he was keen to build up the school as a centre of academic excellence and send his best pupils to the best universities. But it took some time to raise the scholastic level of staff and pupils to such a level. It was not until 1938 that he established the first "Academic Honours" board when three very talented pupils obtained entrance to Cambridge.

Even during the war the tradition was carried on and boys were still going to Oxford, Cambridge, London and Bristol even though the courses were often shortened to two years and most contained an element of military training. These were officer material with brains. There were many other ex-pupils who were sent to the universities during the war as commissioned officers on special courses but these are not mentioned.

What was not foreseen after the war was the rapid increase in the number of pupils seeking univesity places and the expansion of red-brick and plate-glass universities in the 1960s. There was no corresponding increase in the number or value of foundation scholarships but many more state scholarships and county scholarships were awarded. It became more and more difficult to decide who was worthy of a mention on the boards. To have confined it to Oxford and Cambridge would have been elitest - where was the line to be drawn?

By the end of Bradshaw's incumbency in 1960 the boards were filling up rapidly and something would have to be done. Judging by the entries in the 1954 to 1965 period it would seem as though the entries are almost all for Oxford or Cambridge awards. Creme de la creme de la creme! Could this somewhat arbitrary elitest criterion be justified when equally talented pupils with perhaps less glowing testimonials were ignored?

During the Fanner years there was a steady increase in the number of state scholarships to the point where even the modestly talented could be expected to win one. Would there have to be even more of these boards? They were big, heavy and their upkeep was not cheap. Wall space was at a premium. The whole concept of honour boards began to look unsustainable and unjustifiable.

After 1969 when the grammar school no longer existed there were still diehard "grammarians" who carried on the traditions and so the boards continued with the criterion for inclusion even harder to define. Names contiued to be added until 1979. They were, we believe, moved into the new assembly hall and remained there for some years. When the Priory School finally became a comprehensive school for 11 to 16 year-olds they simply did not fit into the new ethos. The old guard had retired and the practice was discontiued. It was realised that the concept did not fit into the scale of values appropriate for most children of that age - they had other role models.

When these changes in secondary education for the Lewes area came about the boards were taken down. It was at this point that it was realised that they had some historical value but no home could be found. We believe they were then stored in a barn, under less than ideal conditions, for many years pending a decision on their eventual fate. Recently they were offered to another school in the west country to be restored and recycled for some similar purpose.

Thankfully they were photographed, before being given away, by John Etherton and with the aid of some digital restoration you can now see them here on the OLO website.