Week 8, 23rd-27th Nov

I began the week by continuing working through John’s letters to his parents (Lilian and Herbert Pendlebury) from St George’s School in Broadstairs, Kent, which he attended until February 1917. I then catalogued letters sent to John’s parents from Beaudesert Park, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire (May 1917 – Mar 1918), before moving on to his letters from Winchester College.

Letter sent from Henley in Arden illustrations
Letter to Herbert Pendlebury, from Beaudesert Park school (24 Mar 1918). Includes illustrations of Theseus killing the Minotaur and Hannibal drinking poison. Copyright: the British School at Athens

John usually sent letters home from school at least once a week, mainly written on Sundays and to his mother. There are occasional letters to Herbert Pendlebury, though mostly reporting on academic progress. The letters written to Lilian reveal a lot about John’s life at school, interactions with other pupils, and extra curricula activities. He was not shy of informing his mother about his misbehaving….

…only to find there was more excitement down at Commoner Gate so we went there in pyjamas and danced and sang Domum and heard speeches and cheered and were told to say “good night” by History Bill…which only made us sing Domum all through again. By the time we got really into bed it was 11 and there were morning lines the next morning.”


Letter to Lilian Pendlebury from John, sent from Winchester College. John mentions books by Henry Rider Haggard and uses Winchester College terminology. Copyright: British School at Athens

Last week I found myself browsing a list of books by Henry Rider Haggard, as the letters reveal that John was a big fan of these adventure stories. He often asked for these books from his parents, and discussed reading them or lending them to friends.

I have also been puzzling over terminology that was used at Winchester College, and that John used liberally in his letters home from the school. Winchester College was founded by William of Wykeham (Bishop of Winchester and former Chancellor of England) in the 14th century and has been educating boys continuously since then.

Chapel at Winchester College. Photograph by Andrew Powers (2005), Wikimedia Commons.

I have been finding ‘Winchester College : a brief history & guide’, Winchester College’s website and the Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang useful for deciphering John’s letters from Winchester. Terms used include “cuse”, “sweats”, “Pots” and “Hatch Thoke”.

“Cuse” = the weekly order of the pupils’ marks in each division of the school. The term is used in sentences such as “I was 2nd in cuse”.

“Sweats” = chores carried out by pupils.  Synonymous with the public school system of fagging.

“Pots”= house football (and possibly other sports) leagues.

“Hatch Thoke” = Founders commemoration day (holiday).

This week I will continue cataloguing John’s letters to his parents from Winchester College (there are over 100 of these), and then hopefully progress to some later letters by the end of the week.