The Old Centre.            Written in 1933

We wish to express our thanks and appreciation to Mr. L. C. Dudley who has consented to write an account of the earlier history and development of the Centre.  It was thought desirable, at this parting of the ways that some permanent record should be made of our not inglorious past.  This history will be continued in our next issue.

There is a striking difference between the Centre of 1933 and the Centre of 1899, when the new Holly Street Building was opened.  Now, with nearly 700 students, we occupy buildings in Holly Street, Carver Street, Townhead Street, and part of the Edgar Allen Institute:  then, with about 500 all activities were concentrated in Holly Street.  This was possible because the junior students only spent half of each day at Centre, spending the other half in practical training in elementary schools.

At the time of the opening of the new Centre, Mr. A. J. Arnold was principal, and Miss Paddison, Mr. Batey and Mr. Head were on the staff.

The students served a four year apprenticeship, and at the end of each year had to pass a Government examination:  at the end of their pupil teachership, they sat for the Queen's Scholarship examination, on the result of which the training colleges selected their students.  The results of this examination were published in two lists, one for boys and one for girls, and all the fourth year P.T.'s in the country were placed in order of merit.  It was therefore the aim of every ambitious student to get a high place on the Scholarship list.  When the 1900 list was published there was great rejoicing at the Centre, for one of our boys, W. W. S. Legge, was No. 1 in all England, and eight other boys and girls were placed in the first hundred.

The next year the system was altered, and instead of being placed in order of merit, the students were grouped in small divisions.  In 1902 the first division of the first class of girls contained 19 names, and of these no fewer than four were from the Sheffield P.T.C.

It was during these years that the first class was formed with a view to taking the London Matriculation Examination.  This was a searching examination, only a third of those who took it usually being successful.  In 1903 our first matriculation class took the examination and 21 passed out of 22.

As pupil teachers had to spend so much of their time teaching in the schools, and had to pursue their studies under this heavy handicap, there was very little time or opportunity for "those humanising agencies, social and recreative, which make a school the happiest place on earth."  A centre Excursion in the summer - and a Christmas Party, were the only occasions when staff and students met except in the class room.  The boys at one time got a little cricket on a Saturday afternoon, the Education Committee granting them permission to play on a piece of rough ground on which later a school was to be built.

In 1903 a tennis club was formed for the girls of the Matriculation class, two courts being hired at Darnall for an evening each week.

In the following year the Holly Guild, our old students' society was formed.  From its commencement one of its objects was to build up a fund from which students might receive help, where necessary, to pay college expenses.  During its existence 200 students have been assisted, and £4,000 has been lent and repaid.

At different periods the Holly Guild has run a Football Club, a Hockey Club, a Rambling Club, etc.  At one time the Football Club enjoyed a considerable reputation as one of the best clubs in the Sheffield Amateur League, and at another period the Hockey Club was a long time one of two best ladies' teams in the district.

In 1905 for the first time students of the Centre were presented for the Intermediate Examination of the London University and two were successful.  From that year onwards boys and girls regularly took the Intermediate Examination of London and Sheffield until a few years ago, when the Higher School Certificate was substituted.

It was in this year that we first had the use of the playing fields at High Storrs.  In the preceding year the Committee had granted permission for all students to have a half day of each week for recreation.  For the first few months the only form of recreation was to take organised walks.  It was then that many of us first learned of the beauties that are to be found on every side of Sheffield.  With the acquisition of the playing field, Cricket, Football, Tennis, Hockey and Gardening were added to our activities, although for many years arrangements were still made for those who preferred to take country walks on Wednesday afternoons.  A Sports Club was formed, and during the first year the total expenditure was about £30.  (In 1931-32 it was £275).

In the following year the Centre broke new ground in sending students abroad to take a Vacation Course at a continental university.  This experiment created wide-spread interest, and enquiries were received from many parts of the country as to the methods adopted and the advantages gained.

A party of thirteen girls went across to Paris and after a short stay there went on to Dijon where they spent a month.  This was made possible by the generosity of the Education Committee who made a grant of £5 towards the expenses of each member of the party.

The following year a party of boys went to Besancon, and a party of girls to Nancy, and from that time onwards parties went out each year to some university centre in either France or Switzerland.  In 1914 a party of girls was already settled in Nancy, very near the German frontier.  War seeming inevitable, they were hurried away, to or three days before it began.  They reached Paris without much difficulty, but here they had to stay about three weeks before arrangements could be made to get them safely home.  The boys, who were in Switzerland, were also unable, owing to transport difficulties, to get back to England for some time.

December 1907 is an important date in Centre history, for it was then that the first issue of the "holly Leaf" appeared.  For three or four years prior to this a magazine had been appearing at regular intervals in manuscript form, and this had whetted the appetite of the students for a more permanent and dignified record.

It is interesting to note that Percy H. Reaney, the first of a distinguished line of editors, has published several works since then, amongst them being;  "A Country History of Essex," "Practice in English," and "Paulatim," a first Latin book.

About this time a great change took place in the Pupil Teacher system.  Instead of a four year apprenticeship, boys and girls attended a secondary school, and at the age of sixteen became P.T.'s for two years, spending half of each day at the centre and half in the elementary Schools.  In consequence of this change, the numbers if the centre were considerably diminished.  The students came to us from the secondary schools in the district, and at the end of their apprenticeship gained admission into Training College by passing the Preliminary Examination for the certificate, or the Matriculation of the Joint Board or London.

Evidence of the academic success of the Centre during this period is furnished from the fact that during the ten years, 1911-20, no less than 134 of our former students gained degrees at Sheffield, London, Manchester and Birmingham Universities.  Of six open scholarships at the Sheffield University for which our students were eligible, they gained five in 1912, and in the next five years, of eight they gained five, four, five, two four, respectively.

It was during this period that our hockey club had a remarkable record.  In 1913-14 the first eleven played 16 marches, won 16, scored 112 goals against 10, the second eleven played 16, won 15, drew 1 and scored 106 against 8.  During the seasons 1912-16 the first eleven played 57 matches, won 50, drew 6, and lost 1, scoring 314 goals against 42, and the second eleven won 40 and drew 6 of the 51 they played.  And be it remembered that at this time the first eleven played the first teams of the University, the Training College, Leopold and Holly Guild.

In 1915 there was a further change at the Centre.  To augment the supply of teachers, in addition to the pupils who came from secondary schools at the age of sixteen, boys and girls were taken from the elementary schools at the age of fourteen, and formed probationers' classes.  They proved a very valuable addition to the centre, and after an intensive course of two years, they took their places with the entrants from the secondary schools, and worthily held their own.

In the later years of the war the senior classes were almost denuded of boys, as many of them had to join the army before the normal end of their school course.  We were regularly visited by boys in Khaki, but were at frequent intervals saddened to hear of one and another who had paid his last visit, and was now to be enrolled in the list of those who had lost their lives.

Immediately after the Armistice, many of the boys returned to finish their course, and as they had not yet been discharged from the army.

At the end of the spring term of 1919, Mr. A. J. Arnold resigned his post.  He had been principal of the centre for twenty years, and had guided it through its many vicissitudes with considerable success.

A year later Mr. Joseph Batey was appointed to be his successor, and again the Centre saw a great transformation.  At Easter there were 220 pupils in the School, most of them ranging from sixteen to eighteen years of age;  at Whitsuntide over 300 new pupils from eleven to fifteen years old were admitted, and the staff was doubled in size.  The building in Holly Street was, of course, quite inadequate to accommodate the new-comers, and Carver Street schools were taken over.  At this time we ceased to receive pupils from the Central Secondary and other schools, and had the training of the boys and girls from the commencement of their secondary school career.

The following year 200 more were added to our numbers.  Amongst them was a class of older students who had not been able, owing to the war and other circumstances, to take the ordinary course to qualify as teachers.  Some of them had been in the army and in other occupations, and they now came to the Centre to gain the necessary qualifications.  This increase in numbers again made necessary additions to the staff, and the accommodation was again extended by adding the Townhead Street laboratories to our premises.

Under the new conditions the Centre still maintained its tradition of good work, and many of the boys and girls gained distinction at the University and the training colleges.

About this time the Annual Sports day was again introduced after a lapse of many years, and the Centre Speech Day and Prize Distribution became a regular annual event.

Various societies were started at intervals, and a Historical Association, a Literary and Debating Society, a Choral Society, a Dramatics Society, a Science Society, a Latin Society and a branch of the League of Nations Union now give the students opportunities to express themselves and to extend their interest beyond the ordinary school curriculum.

In 1923 we gave up the use of Carver Street and classes were transferred to Arundel Street.  After a few years we returned again to Carver Street.

For some time the need of students who had qualified for admission to college had been so great that the funds of the Holly Guild were altogether inadequate to meet them, so it was decided that Centre should have a bazaar to raise money for this purpose.  Mr. Batey threw himself into this effort with his characteristic energy and enthusiasm, and he was loyally supported by students and staff and former students.  1926 was a year of feverish energy in making preparations for the event, and the result surpassed the most sanguine expectations, for no less a sum than £1,000 was raised, and the Benevolent Fund placed in a position to meet all cases of real need.

In 1931 the Centre suffered a very serious blow in the death of the principal, Mr. Batey.  His health had not been good for some time, but his boundless enthusiasm kept him at his post when he ought to have been at home conserving his energy.  He had been at the head of the Centre during its reconstruction, and his extraordinary powers of organisation had found a way through what at times seemed almost insuperable difficulties.  The impress of his personality on the School remains still, and will remain for years to come.

In the summer the present principal, Mr. Alfred Meetham, was appointed.  He had been a student in the Centre, and later for many years Science Master, and all rejoiced that so happy a choice had been made.

At Easter of this year our occupancy of the playing fields at High Storrs came to an end.  We were very sorry to leave our beautiful sports ground, where so much time and labour had been spent, and where we had passed to many happy hours.  A new ground was provided for us at Hurlfield Road.

The opening of the new school at High Storrs left the former premises of the Central Secondary Boys' School vacant, and so the Education Committee decided to transfer the Centre to this building until such time as it can see its way to build us the new School which is promised.  It was with great regret that many of us said "Farewell" to Holly Street, but we are already feeling the great advantage of all being housed in one building.

L. C. Dudley