A great schoolmaster

I have recently read, pretty much in one sitting, The Story of a Great Schoolmaster, by (you guessed) H.G. Wells.

(For those of you thinking I’m sitting a lot on my sabbatical, well, that’s by design. And sometimes I lie down instead, because I know sitting a lot is bad for you.)

Published in 1924, it is the story of F.W. Sanderson, and his role as headmaster at Oundle School, Northamptonshire, which he reformed in the 1890s:

The world is changing so rapidly that it may be well to say a few words about the type of school Sanderson was destined to renovate. Even in the seventies and eighties these smaller ‘classical’ schools had a quaint old-fashioned air amidst the surrounding landscape. They were staffed by the less vigorous men of the university-scholar type; men of the poorer educated classes in origin, not able enough to secure any of the prizes reserved for university successes, and not courageous enough to strike out into the great world on their own account. (p28)

(I know it’s presumptuous of me to mention it, but Wells seems to be sporting a superior attitude here, having himself won some scholarships and prizes in the 1880s, and being courageous enough to strike out on his own as soon as he could during his early years. By 1924, however, he was a successful author of fiction rather than a successful headmaster, so I find his approach here a bit condescending.)

Wells met Sanderson in 1914, when he was looking at Oundle School as a possibility for his own sons George Phillip (“Gip”) and Francis (known as Frank, I assume after H.G.’s brother). According to Wikipedia, Gip did attend Oundle, so I assume Frank did also. Certainly it’s evident that once their father saw what Sanderson had done with the school, he was filled with admiration for his modern views and methods. It was these methods I found most interesting (and also Sanderson’s death, which I’ll get to in a minute).

Sanderson developed what we would today call “active learning”, and group active learning at that. Most of it is described in Chapter III: The Replacement of Competition by Group Work. Having noted that Sanderson believed that boys should be doing active scientific work, and that they were more involved and interested when they did, Wells then shared a mini history of education. He claimed that “there have been three chief phases in the history of educational method in the past five centuries, the phase of compulsion, the phase of competition, and the phase of natural interest” (p46). These aren’t necessarily discrete, but he sees medieval teaching as motivated largely by compulsion, and balancing rote learning with corporal punishment. The second phase was the age of the class-list (that is, the lists of students passing exams — or not). He referred to this era as “slightly more enlightened” (p46):

The school of the rod gave place to the school of the class-list. An aristocracy of leading boys made the pace and the rest of the school found its compensation in games or misbehaviour. (pp46-47)

He noted that during this time the curriculum was Greek, Latin, and formal mathematics, none of which were of any intrinsic interest to a boy. By the end of the 18th century, there was a shift, and attention to subjects that were more interesting. He briefly mentions Pestalozzi and Froebel as pioneers of the third phase. Wells had written an essay on Froebel, which I have been unable to find, to earn the Doreck Prize, so he did know about these things. He had himself been a product of the class-list phase. Both the thrills and sorrows of competition, as he saw it at the Normal School of Science, appear in several of his novels.

Sanderson began his career at Oundle using the old class-list methods, but in mathematics he started to create instead “clusters of boys surrounding an attractive problem” (p48). A “Science Conversazione” developed of small groups of pupils working on a particular problem, at first in their free time. A surprisingly large number of students joined voluntarily, in focus groups of various scientific subjects. Experiments were assigned or developed, and as the “Speech Day” approached, class time was replaced by work time on the projects. The school would look chaotic at such times, but all the pupils were completely engaged in developing solutions to the problems emerging in their work:

Concurrently with this steady replacement of the instructional-exercise system by the group-activity system, the mathematical work became less and less a series of exercises in style and more and more an attack upon problems needing solution in the workshops and laboratories, with the solution as the real incentive to the work. (p52)

What do we call this now? Applied learning, constructivism, cooperative learning, maker spaces, design thinking, flipped classroom, growth mindset, scaffolding — it’s all there in 1898.

Sanderson’s success in science led to his application of the technique to literature and history, doing away with

…the lesson that was a third-rate lecture, the note-taking, the rehearsal of silly opinions about books unread and authors unknown, the horrible annotated editions, the still more horrible text-books of literature

and replacing them with plays, with the boys taking the parts, to teach literature, to bring the pupils “into the most active contact possible with the reality of the work they studied” (p54). For history the school library was the laboratory, with content divided among the groups, who prepared maps and quotations for presentation and argued with each other about historical approaches (pp54-55). (This all sounded so exciting that I began to mourn our old college library, with its many shelves of books that could be physically browsed. Now the books are in a small section, with most of the room taken over by computers. More information? Yes, indeed. A space for enthusiastic searching for information in noisy groups? No.)

Today Oundle School still exists (with boys and girls), and Sanderson is mentioned here as its most famous headmaster. It is now primarily a boarding school, although it has day students, with ages starting as young as 11 years old, although the usual is 13. I’m sure it’s a wonderful school, but I must admit to queasiness at the very idea of having a child that age live at a school. But that is neither here nor there.

I am these days wrestling with the idea of biography as history, and it helps that Wells didn’t mean to just write a biography — his work makes a point about Sanderson:

To tell his story is to reflect upon all the main educational ideas of the last half-century, and to revise our conception of the process and purpose of the modern community in relation to education. (p2)

Sounds like a good idea now as well as then.

I noted in the book a natural sympathy, as there often is between a biographer and his subject. Apparently, like Wells, Sanderson went round on a bicycle, but wasn’t great at outdoor games (Wells was asked to participate on cricket teams, but wouldn’t play even when he agreed to sign up). As a young man, like Wells, Sanderson was slender and serious. And he always went his own way.

Sanderson died in 1922 after completing a lecture where he was introduced by Wells. He suffered a heart attack during the Q&A which followed the talk, and Wells had to go tell his widow. Wells tells the story, and reprints the lecture in its entirety, for the last chapter.

A review of the book from the Journal of Education* claimed that Sanderson being the first subject to stir Wells into writing a biography would make “The Story of a Great Schoolmaster the most famous educational book of the decade, probably of a quarter of a century”. More effusiveness followed: “We have seen no book on education from Solomon, Socrates and Comenius to Edward Eggleston and William Hawley Smith whose every paragraph has a human touch that throbs.” I think that is perhaps overdoing it, but it’s a very good book, especially for those looking to support efforts toward enlivening curriculum.


*The Journal of Education, Vol. 99, No. 18 (2478) (May 1, 1924), p. 499, retrieved via JSTOR 15 Nov 2018.

(Clever readers will notice that I’ve counted this small review as Student Learning Outcome 5: cultural expression as evidence of a historical theme. This is because the book is a literary work, even though it is non-fiction, and such a book is a cultural expression of its time: 1924. It could be used to represent the interest in education, and/or the popularity of Wells’ writings, during that era. It isn’t as popular now, I think, since I purchased at good price what I just realized is a first edition.)



Published — Cram and Criticism: H.G. Wells and Late Victorian Education

My journal article “Cram and Criticism: H.G. Wells and Late Victorian Education” has just been published in the Fall 2018 issue of The Wellsian, the peer-reviewed journal of the H.G. Wells Society in the UK.

My pre-publication paper is here, and further info on The Wellsian (including how to obtain copies and back issues, and to join the society) is here at the society’s website. Citation information:

Lisa M. Lane, “Cram and Criticism: H.G. Wells and Late Victorian Education”, The Wellsian, 40 (2018) pp. 28-42.


Historiography and tracking backward

Some of my research posts are password protected. Students, colleagues, and friends are welcome to email me for the password at lisa@lisahistory.net.

Stumbling upon Wells and killer octopuses

Reading HG Wells has become something of a pasttime. I don’t have any scholarly need to read much of his fiction, and none to read anything after The Time Machine. At least, not for my research. But a few years ago I fell in love with these books, Penguin Little Black Classics:

Of course, it’s easy to fall in love with anything one discovers at Blackwell Bookshop in Oxford. (Side note: I was at Barnes and Noble here buying a book for a child, and somehow the worker wrapping my gift got to talking how she’d also just returned from England, and it turned out we’d both been to Oxford recently, and both been to Blackwell’s. She loved Tolkein, so I asked if she’d eaten at the Eagle and Child and she said no, but she’d found the Turf Tavern. On this trip, I too found the Turf Tavern — it is down a narrow alley and you kind of have to know it’s there — though I didn’t eat there.)

At the time I first found these lovely little books, they cost 66p. They are now £1. I always have one with me, because although I tried reading on my phone (I got through The Island of Dr Moreau but that was it), I don’t like it. And don’t get me started about Kindles and other backlit means of reading for pleasure. Backlit is for work.

So I happened to be carrying HG Wells’ The Sea Raiders in my purse last month, and while waiting at a pub for the West Sussex Records Office in Chichester to reopen after lunch, I read the story.

It was terrifying. I forget, since I’ve mostly been reading Wells’ romances (Ana Veronica, Tono-Bungay, Mr Britling Sees it Through), that his work can be scary. The last time I was this scared was reading The Invisible Man, which isn’t at all surprising.

The Sea Raiders, I thought from the title, would surely be a pirate story. I envisioned scenes of derring-do. But it was a story of nasty tentacled creatures coming up from the deep to kill people, grabbing them off the beach and even taking a whole boat of them, including a child. I finished the story and my lunch, admired the craftsmanship of the story (not so much the lunch), and moved on.

Then today, I was cruising through my Twitter feed looking at Victorian artworks, and came upon this from @longvictorian2 (you can also find it on Wikipedia):

The date is 17 October 1896. If this blog post is correct, Well’s story was published in December 1896. Could it be that Wells’ horror story was based on an actual event?

According to this tour guide, the Illustrated Police News was voted ten years earlier as the worst newspaper in England by readers of the Pall Mall Gazette (another place Wells liked to publish, though I’ve had trouble finding anything in the Gazette files at the British Library). So how accurate this is may be subject to question (or more likely derisive scoffing). But the story appeared. Which may mean that Wells’ reading habits at 30 years old were far from elitist.

[NB: For those who know I’m a serious historian, you might be surprised at my accepting homegrown blog posts and Jack the Ripper tour sites as valid sources. But since we’re talking here about killer octopuses, I don’t have a problem with it. And yes, it’s octopuses, not octopi, since it’s Greek, not Latin.]

On this site

There is nothing more basic to history than the idea that things change. Buildings are torn down to make way for what society needs at the time, or what business decides it needs. In Britain, buildings can be saved by being “listed” as Grade I, II*, or II. Grade I is for places like Buckingham Palace. Listed buildings cannot be torn down or altered without permission, so people often complain when they want to make upgrades on their listed house. The idea goes back to a monument protection act in 1882.

Not all places that are lost were torn down, of course. The Great Fire of London in 1666 did a number on the whole city, destroying many buildings. Commemoration of these places is also part of history. Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire began in a bakery is commemorated on the site:

It’s almost as if the bakers themselves have taken responsibility. Around the corner is Christopher Wren’s enormous monument to the fire, somewhat hidden by modern buildings.


This always strikes me as a monument to the resilience of an extraordinary city. But in the Museum of London is the other part of the monument, a reminder of the ability of humans to blame each other for their differences.


Put up in 1681, it blames Catholics for the fire. Another example of how monuments are interpretive objects, not just memory, as I’ve written before about Confederate monuments in the American Civil War. The British get the idea of putting objectionable history in a museum so people can think about it, not just pass it on their way to work.

In my own research, removed and altered buildings are more of an issue. The University Correspondence College in Cambridge looked like this:

This trip I stopped by Parker’s Piece, which the College overlooked. It was, appropriately, Freshers’ Day on the Piece, with a festival to welcome incoming students to the University of Cambridge. And here, where the UCC used to stand, is the carpark I’d heard about.

Isn’t it lovely, with the cars hidden by white slats? When I mentioned to a Cambridge resident and distance education expert over coffee that it was a shame that one had to tear down such a beautiful building, his remark was, “for those who like that sort of thing”. We agreed it had been a Victorian monstrosity. I just happen to like Victorian monstrosities.

In other places, buildings remain but have been repurposed.

Up on Kilburn Road in London is the site of the old Henley House School. Here J.V. Milne was headmaster, and H.G. Wells was a schoolmaster. But it’s A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, who gets the plaque. And the buildings are now flats.

The old site of the laboratories at South Kensington, where Wells learned biology with T.H. Huxley, has been absorbed into the Victoria and Albert Museum photographic archive and library which, unfortunately, has no photos of the original labs. These might be at what South Ken became, the Imperial College, but that’s a search for another trip. Outside, however, the building remains.

Sometimes historic sites are uncovered in the process of creating new sites. There are several rivers under the streets of London (the Fleet comes to mind). Walbrook River was the water supply for an ancient Roman site which included a temple to Mithras. According to the publicity, it was discovered in the 1960s and reconstructed hastily at a nearby site. I certainly never knew it was there, and I couldn’t find anything on the internet about its existence prior to now.

Michael Bloomberg, creating his European headquarters on the old site, had the temple moved back to near where it had been, and gifted the City with a tourist destination. You can now see the Mithraeum below his building. Extraordinary amounts of money have been spent. It is free, but timed tickets are required, and only 20 or so people are allowed in for a timed visit. The steps down to the temple mark the archaeological eras on the wall. Sound and lighting effects (wonderfully cheap LED lighting effects — I couldn’t have done better in my days as a theatrical lighting designer) make it an “experience”. 600 of the items they excavated are in a case in the waiting area.

Having spent a number of years in the theatre myself, it always intrigues me when history becomes theatre. Sometimes people’s imaginations need to be encouraged in order to engage the past at all, and of course Bloomberg and others employed archaeologists and historians, which is always a good thing. However, I remember being at a conference on visual history in Durham, and hearing a historian who had worked in Stratford-upon-Avon. They were creating Shakespeare’s schoolhouse as a tourist attraction, and had hired historians to verify the details. The trouble is, there is no evidence at all of which school Shakespeare attended, whether the school would still exist, or whether he even attended school there or elsewhere. This has not stopped it from becoming an attraction, refurbished as accurately as possible to the period.

As well as including things that may not have happened, artistic license for history can also leave things out. The Mithraeum, while noting the slaying of a bull as sacred to the proceedings there, does not mention the gay orgies that were an integral part of the religion. I suppose that would be a bit much for the tourists.


Finding HG

One may have thought, for all the tourist things I’ve been doing, that I’m not doing my research. But it’s easy to show I’m working on HG Wells, since he is everywhere. I bought a copy of Christina Alberta’s Father at a second-hand bookshop. I have a copy of The Sea Raiders in my purse. And, of course, there are the plaques:

HG Wells plaque, Chiltern Court, Baker Street

This one is right next to the entrance to the Baker Street tube.

According to The Independent, HG hosted a book club here in a flat, and a lot of other famous people are associated with it as well. Apparently Wells lived here between 1930 and 1936 (not a period I’m studying).

And then, of course, there’s the rabbit hole of information they call the British Library. They have a tendency to be open till 8 pm, making it possible to miss dinner (always a crime in my opinion). Since you cannot bring water or food into the reading rooms, I easily dehydrate since I get too absorbed in my work to leave my table and go outside the area, taking my card to get back in, to get a sip at the drinking fountain or have a meal at the lovely restaurant.

British Library restaurant

I suppose if I dessicate completely, they can just cart me down the road to the British Museum and put me with the mummies.

My task yesterday was to take a peek at a few journals, to see if a periodical research project is viable. But while flipping through one of them, I noticed an item mentioned that in another journal, HG Wells had recently written a piece on text-books. Now, I thought I had all of his pieces on textbooks. I ordered it, meaning I’ll have to return in two days, the day before I leave, just to scan it.

After leaving the reading room (it had been six hours with only one tea break), I went to the News Room, because I couldn’t remember where one could access the British Newspapers Archive. They told me you could access it in all the reading rooms, but theirs was the best, because obviously it was the News room.

You can search the newspaper database online, but unless you pay you cannot access the newspapers. Except at the British Library, where it’s free. And you can print, for 28p per page.

Ah, search terms. “H.G. Wells”. Funny, doesn’t seem like enough came up — only a few dozen items. “H. G. Wells”. What a difference a space makes! And you can limit the search to years: 1880-1899.

Now: “University Correspondence College”. Just the same articles on Briggs’ legal tangle that I saw last time. “Correspondence study”. A few items of interest. “Correspondence college”. A few more. “Samuel J. Tildesley” (I’ve seen him in ads before, for a correspondence college in Edinburgh). Oh! He went bankrupt, even before the ads I’ve seen. The only thing more fun to research than a successful business venture is one that was unsuccessful…


Briggs and a little book

Some of my research posts are password protected. Students, colleagues, and friends are welcome to email me for the password at lisa@lisahistory.net.

Traveling in the online era

The first time I came to England, my mother made reservations by post to let a small flat in Kensington. There were letters, back and forth, on onion skin paper, sent in airmail envelopes with blue and red dashes at the edges and lots of postage. She also sent letters to people there she knew, letting them know we were coming and arranging visits and tea.

Today, I decided that since I was early for my train from Midhurst to London, I’d have time to go to the British Library this afternoon. I paid for my train ticket by sliding my credit card into a machine, a card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee and has a chip so British machines can read it (we don’t have Contactless yet in America, as I explained to a Bus 60 driver). I got on the train, took out my laptop. I prepared to tether my Pixel so I could get a connection, but it wasn’t necessary – free wifi took a minute to connect. I went to the British Library website, logged in with my credentials, discovered that the book I want could be ready in 70 minutes, and made a request to see it today in Humanities Room 1.

I then texted my wonderful friend Jane using my international phone pass. Jane is teaching in London, and we arranged for dinner and late museum tonight.

I interrupt this story for a 20 minute lecture by HG Wells on how communication patterns are bringing the world together in 1931:

And throughout history with the development of roads and more efficient writing, with money as a means of commerce, the development of shipping also, you find the signs of communities increasing. And in the last hundred and fifty years there has been an enormous development in the facilities with which men can get at man. We have passed from the semaphore to the electric telegraph and the wireless. We have passed from the stage coach on the muddy high road to the aeroplane and the swift steamer.

And now we have passed into a world where communication is so fast that I can type a blog post about communication while on a train, put HG Wells himself in it, and have it public in minutes. (I can also ask that readers not be surprised by his voice – contemporaries noted it as “squeaky”, and I have decided — with help from my colleague Simon in Midhurst — that Wells’ speaking voice was not the source of his extraordinary appeal.)

Why the census enumerator crossed the road

Although the location of the house of Horace Byatt has been a mystery to me for some time, I might have seen things a different way by looking at old maps. I think, I really think, I’ve got it!

My visit to the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester had a few goals: find any records of the Midhurst Grammar School that might indicate which house the governors were leasing for Byatt, and look at old maps to see whether the location my students had guessed was a likely house in 1880. (I also hoped to find out about Mrs. Allin, but that’s much harder — it’s not like anyone collected the letters or diary of an ironmonger’s wife.)

While still in Midhurst, I looked across the street (literally) at a pink house that from the road looks like it’s in South Pond — it has the name South Pond Cottage on it. I walked past it on my way to the bus (turns out the closer stop is behind me — I’m so good at that.) The house looks really old. And I wondered: how was that house counted in the Census of 1880? (this is the sort of thing, of course, that people often wonder when looking at houses…)

Then I took one of my very favorite bus rides, from Midhurst to Chichester on Bus 60, the blue and green two-decker (£8 return – this is a wealthy area).

Arriving at the Records Office, I engaged in the usual formalities: leave a deposit for a locker key, fill out forms, present identification that shows my address (so they can chase me back to California if I steal anything), promise not to use pens or bring in liquid, etc. But the Records Office is also a nice place: tea and coffee, nice bathrooms, chocolate bars for sale (yes, this last does prejudice me in their favor, I admit).

I filled out a request slip for each of three items, because they can only bring you three at a time. Unlike the big libraries, you don’t have to wait. You choose a table and note the number on your slips, putting the slips in a clear plastic box. A wonderful quiet gentlemen retrieves the items when you’re not looking and brings them to your table. Then when you’re done, you put your items back on the counter and put more slips in the box.

While waiting for my order of all issues of The Midhurst Magazine and Midhurst Heritage, I looked at the shelves on local studies, finding several books on Midhurst. One was a very old “The Official Guide to Midhurst and District” (1915) with the cover detached and tied with string. It noted the school was reopened in April 1880 under Horace Byatt, but it didn’t say where he stayed in the meantime. There were also some books with old photographs. The magazines having quietly arrived, I looked through them. Many articles were by Bridget Howard, historian for the Midhurst Society. (I did not have to grieve that I’d been too cowardly to contact Ms. Howard – my landlady Sarah had done so on my behalf that morning, and although Ms. Howard was out of town, she was able to tell Sarah that she didn’t know anything about my mystery.)

Midhurst Heritage had a piece on Wells by a Lawrence Price, with nothing I don’t already know. It also had a completely unrelated item about there having been a mill at South Pond. The pond, in fact, is artificially dammed (which actual makes the strenuous efforts to reclaim it for nature kind of interesting). I thought what I always think when someone says “mill”: could it possibly have been a fulling mill? This was the area of my graduate work: medieval fulling mills. I can’t resist one. The magazine said that it was originally a corn mill. Foot fulling had apparently taken place near the stream leading to the river from South Pond (cue the usual shocked remark about fullers using urine — the acid broke down the fabric fibers, just like in Roman times). Apparently fuller’s earth was brought from Cocking, which I’d passed on Bus 60.Then in 1634, the “Lord of the Manor allowed a master clothier from West Lavingham to convert the South (corn) Mill.” There was a fulling mill here! No wonder I love this place. I made a special effort this evening, risking my life standing at the side of the road, to peek over the bridge and see where the weir pours water into the stream from the pond.

You can’t see evidence of old fulling mills really (it’s not like there are giant waterwheels dotting the landscape), so I journeyed back to the 19th century. While waiting for the school’s account books to be brought out, I consulted the head archivist, laying my case before her. I had brought the pages from the census of 1880 (with Wells’ name circled), and a copy of the map I made with the likely houses. She suggested more maps, and introduced me to Katie, who then spent much time pulling out large maps of Midhurst from various times and laying them on a gigantic table.

At first, I looked at these maps to see if they matched mine from 1895, the closest I’d been able to get to 1880 using the digitized Ordnance maps at the National Library of Scotland website. I was looking to see whether the little cluster of buildings on that map, the possible location of census record #89 as determined by me and my students, had been torn down, and therefore could perhaps have been a larger house in 1880. So we looked at maps from 1972 and 1985. The buildings looked different, but that just meant they’d been renovated recently, not that it was a big house in 1880.

But then I started thinking while looking. What if, just what if, that old pink house I saw at the pond were thought of as being located on South Street, rather than Chichester Road? The maps from 1972 and 1985 had the words “Chichester Road” south of the pond. I knew from the fulling mill information that the stream had been there then, which, as Katie noted, is a natural boundary. Now street names in England do change as you go along. The question is where that change took place, or rather where the census enumerator thought it took place. If, just if, the old pink house were on South Street, then the census taker could have crossed the road at the pond/stream bridge, and counted the pink house as record #87.

To the south of the pond, landlady Sarah assured me that those houses on the right side not only weren’t built till 1892, but that they are technically in a different parish: West Lavingham. And indeed, the map Katie brought out from 1874 did not show any houses south of the pond. It would have made logical sense, given the boundary of the pond/stream and the change of parishes, for the census taker to have turned around at the end of the pond.

If the census enumerator did count the pink house on the pond as #87, then record #88 is the big house on the corner (called South Pond House now and then, except in 1985 where for some reason it’s the White House). And #89, house of Horace Byatt and family and servant and a lodger named H.G. Wells, would be the house next to it.

Unlike the bizarre collection of little buildings immediately northward, this house (now 6 South Street) is the perfect size for that many people, and it’s nice enough to have been appropriate for a house leased by the Midhurst Grammar School to shelter its new headmaster while the school and his family’s quarters were being completed. It makes far more sense than the little buildings around the courtyard, even if all the buildings are intact.

It makes the commercial signage visible in the 1906 photo of King Edward’s visit, which I’ve been peering at suspiciously, irrelevant — those little buildings could indeed have been shops.

So after lunch (no document retrieval between 12.30 and 1.30, please) Katie got all the maps out again, plus an older map from 1840, and I looked for the pink house. Was it there before 1880? If so, it was there in 1880, because it was still there in 1897. Yes! It was there.

By this point the record books of the school had magically appeared at Table 17. I looked through the huge tome, the Midhurst Grammar School Cash Book 1877-1902. (I wish I had pictures, but a photo license cost £11 and I’m cheap.) On 25 January 1880, £10 was spent “in aid of allowance for Rent for Masters Residence”. Similar entries noted Byatt’s quarterly stipend, and one very interesting entry noted £5 for “Mr Horice [sic] Byatt for Prizes” after two £2 2d entries for “examination expenses”. Was this the money Wells earned by taking his exams? The entry for February 1883 indicated the examination expenses were for the College of Preceptors, so likely yes. But that rabbit hole had to be set aside for the moment. There was nothing about the location of Byatt’s house, there or in any of the other financial records. But it was worth checking.

Even without such verification, I’m pretty sure that Byatt, family, and Wells stayed at what is now 6 South Street. Nowadays, South Pond Cottage is definitely on Chichester Road (and worth over a million pounds, according to Zoopla, somewhat more than 6 South Street). But if I’m right, 6 South Street deserves a blue plaque to go along with the three Wells plaques in town: on the grammar school (now the South Downs Authority), on where he lodged in 1883 over the sweet shop (now the Olive and Vine), and on the chemist’s shop where he apprenticed (now a dentist’s office). And here it is:



Midhurst 2018

I have arrived in England, specifically to Midhurst to see whether I can solve some mysteries and, of course, enjoy the West Sussex area. Downtown last evening:

This morning I will venture to Chichester to the West Sussex Records office, to take a look at old historical society magazines and fine the photograph of Horace Byatt.

As a reminder, the two Midhurst mysteries are:

  1. Where did Horace Byatt, new Midhurst Grammar School headmaster, live? This was where HG Wells would have lodged with his family while the school was being rebuilt in the first half of 1881. (see here)
  2. Did Mrs Allin, the ironmonger’s wife, know HG and recommend him for an assistant post at the school when he returned in the fall of 1883? (see here)

For the first, I have walked the street again with my old map, and will keep looking at the houses. One biography says it “overlooked South Pond”, though that seems to be possible from several of the two-storey houses on South Street. I am staying across the road, on what is now Chichester Road (but could be seen as further South Street) at Two Rose Cottages with landlady  Sarah, who is being most helpful. We’ve determined it can’t be any of these houses, as they were built after 1890.