Chosen by Joyce Sleight, researcher
Some years ago I attended a talk on the work of WSRO at Worthing Library given by a member of the Searchroom staff. In the informal chat that followed I mentioned that as a history teacher and librarian at Steyning Grammar School I had charge of some of the school archive. He then told me that WSRO had just acquired the papers of Doone, Mileham & Haddock (formerly Messrs Nye and Donne), an old-established firm of solicitors who had recently closed their Steyning office. Somewhere in the collection he had seen an old school admissions register.
When I later visited West Sussex Record Office, I asked to see the Nye & Donne papers the response was ‘Which box did you want to see?’. There were six of them, very large archive boxes, and all uncatalogued.
I said I would start with the first, and offered to list them as I went along. Although the solicitors’ papers mainly consist of deeds and probate copies of wills relating to Steyning, the old admissions register had somehow ended up amongst the boxes. When, months later, I finally found schoolmaster George Airey’s 1840-1876 register almost at the bottom of Box 6 it was a ‘Eureka!’ moment when I had to stop myself from shattering the sepulchral silence of the Search Room!
The register includes the date, name, residence and age of those admitted to the school between 1840-1876. However, in addition there is also a list of those who boarded at the school between 1840-1877. This list was compiled by Frank Duke, a former pupil at the school, and provides extra information about pupils’ family background, and in some cases, future career. Interesting entrants include the ‘Sons of Lord Aukland, Bishop of Bath and Wells’, ‘Sons of farmers (in a big way)’, and the unltimate schoolboy compliment of ‘Good cricketer’.