Headmaster’s log book
This fascinating log book was donated to us in 2016 and belonged to Ethelbert Arthur Clement Golding. Mr Golding was the headmaster at the National School in St Mary’s Church Rooms from 1888 until it closed in 1912, when he became headmaster of Germain Street School (now Thomas Harding Junior School). Having served a total of 40 years Mr Golding was the first headmaster in Chesham that commanded sincere affection and regard from both colleagues and students alike.
His log book, spanning 15 years from March 1891 to December 1906, is a compelling snapshot of school life in the late Victorian period at the National School. Entries include reports from the inspectors – who routinely commended him, several outbreaks of scarlet fever (when the school closed for a month!), absences, punishments, pupil achievements, visits from the squire, comments on teachers, pupil-teacher training, and also noted holidays and times of national importance.
As the log period covered the death of Queen Victoria, in 1901 a rather poignant entry acknowledges this. On Feb 4th the day she was interred he wrote: “Half holiday in the afternoon on the occasion of a memorial service, in the parish church, to her late Majesty the Queen Victoria. The announcement of the holiday was received in silence by the boys: Have taken this opportunity to give the boys an address on the excellent example of the queen’s life.”
Another illuminating and somewhat amusing entry on pupil absences following the school holiday on August 31st 1903 reads: (252) “Opened school: attendance not good. Scarlet fever, blackberrying, harvesting. Boys not yet returned from seaside, and some indifference on parents’ part during change of authority- no one seems responsible- are among the causes.” I’m not sure many of those excuses would go down well now!
Mr Golding died in 1928. He was so well respected a plaque was made in his honour and hung at the Germain Street School. A former pupil of his helped to describe him on it as a “True Friend, an ideal master” and “a just and generous Christian gentleman.”
– Jaz Churcher