Student Registers

I had the pleasure of looking through the student registers to find students whose place at the RNCM was paid for by the government, as part of a post-war scheme.

If you look through the student registers, you will find certain students whose ‘responsible person’ is either the Board of Education, War Pensions, Ministry of Labour or Local War Pensions. This means that their place at the RNCM was paid for by the government after WW1.

I found this very interesting as I was unaware that the government had set up a scheme which enabled soldiers who had been a musician prior to the war, to go back to college to continue their studies. It’s also interesting the notice the range of ages of the students, some young and some older than the rest of the students.

In my opinion, I think this was a great way of helping people to try and go back to normal life after the devastation of the war. I also think it would have been a type of escapism for ex-soldiers, as music can be used as a distraction from real-life.

What was also curious was noticing how many terms these students stayed at the RNCM for; some staying for quite a number of terms but the majority staying for less than 10. Upon discussing the reasons for this, we concluded that it was either because these students were struggling with life post-war or because the government could only pay  their tuition fees for a certain number of terms.

It was definitely interesting discovering the number of soldiers, who had been musicians or students at the RNCM prior to the war, who were able to return to playing and learning music through the government scheme.

By Jessica Watson, volunteer.

RMCM.E.2.2. (44)


We’re back! New project, new opportunities.

That’s right! We’re back, this time with a fabulous pot of funds from the generous Heritage Lottery Fund. We’ve a new agenda and new horizons to catch. Let’s see what we’ve got planned.

Our new project developed from the evaluation of the previous one. Whilst of AHRC-funded project, “Making Music in Manchester during WWI” did what the project said it would do, there was definitely more that we could do with it.

Continue reading “We’re back! New project, new opportunities.”

Mysteries and Nuances

Check it out! We’ve been published in the Manchester Region History Review. Inside is a summary article about some themes on the project written by RNCM Archivist, Heather Roberts. Browse the fabulous magazine or skip straight to the middle for our article summarising the mysteries and nuances we have been exploring.

Teaching Children about Brass Bands in Manchester During World War One

Teaching Children about Brass Bands in Manchester During World War One

Dr Stephen Etheridge BANNER


Figure 1. Beswick Prize Band, 1930s. The Band were active from 1894. Permission from Gavin Holman:


On the 1 March, 1917, the School Music Review reported in ‘Manchester Music Notes’ that ‘the brass band was a theme dwelt upon at the sixth concert promoted by the Children’s Concert Society. Councillor Will Melland (an active member of the committee) being the lecturer, and the illustrations were furnished by the Beswick Brass Band.’2 (See Fig.1) An examination of this reporting gives us a glimpse of the nature of brass bands and music education in Manchester in 1917.

The Manchester Children’s Society Concerts

As shown elsewhere on this blog, Henry Baynton-Power (1890-?) was a graduate of the Royal Manchester College of Music, who, in 1909, received the Hallé Memorial Pianofortes Scholarship for first year piano and became a well-known pianist, teacher and occasional composer in Manchester.3 Baynton-Power organised the first concert in 1916. His rationale for the concerts was commented on by the School Music Review, who reported that:

Baynton-Power [felt that] whist the adult population of the district enjoyed exceptional opportunities for hearing really good music, it was strange that so little provision had been made for the younger generation [he] resolved, with the aid of his friend, to form a Children’s Concerts Society. The object […] is to provide a series of concerts planned upon the simplest possible lines; a leading musical idea to be brought out prominently at each concert by illustrations from the great masters, performed by capable exponents.4

At their first meeting the committee agreed they should solicit assistance from orchestras,choirs soloists and other instrumentalists. They agreed that the Lord Mayor of Manchester should be President and that the first winter season should consist of seven fortnightly Saturday concerts held in the Houldsworth Hall.5

The first concert was held on November 18, 1916, and the hall was full of schoolchildren from Manchester and Salford. It is notable that adults could attend and support the concerts by subscribing five shillings for a reserved place in each

concert.6 As with most things musical this concert, and the ones that followed, were rooted in the notion that music was an improving rational recreation, especially for the working class.

Bands in Manchester’s Public Parks: Active Visibility.

The first point that Melland highlights is that Manchester’s Public Parks were where brass bands were active (and highly visible). An examination of Manchester’s newspapers shows no shortage of park concerts from Easter through to October, with Heaton Park, for example, offering cheap railway tickets to the concerts. Melland argued that, ‘the principal reason they had selected the brass band for their subject was that the children had the opportunity of hearing good bands in the public parks, and his object was to enable them to recognise and appreciate the value of the various instruments.’7

Melland’s rhetoric was moving away from an image of brass bands being unruly and rough. A view that had developed amongst hostile commentators from the 1840s onwards.8 Melland was joining an ever-increasing group of observers and educators that wanted the band movement to thrive. As he said of brass musicians in the past, ‘bandsmen were not as honoured as they were today….’9 Although the brass band movement worked hard to counter these accusations of roughness – and the region’s ‘crack’ bands, such as Besses o’ th’ Barn, were significant agents in raising the public image of the band movement – some writers found working-class coarseness an easy cliché to copy. Some felt that bands represented not only disorderly elements of working-class life, but also poor musicianship. In 1867, for example, one author wrote:

Brass bands have become a perfect nuisance of late years; blowing away with all their strength. They are always followed by some immense crowd, composed of an admixture of almost all grades of the lower society – “Tagrag and Bobtail.” The greatest objection to these noisy bands will be found in the demoralizing influence upon the members: practices are generally held in the public-house. The exhaustion in blowing a wind instrument for any length of time in the street naturally leads the members of a band to a beer shop, where they too frequently indulge to excess; eventually becoming worthless members of society, instead of finding their music a source of pleasure to them.10

In spite of this negativity amongst some of the press it was clear that by the First World War brass bands were seen as a positive influence on working-class life. It was this influence that educators wanted to show children. The parks in Manchester were accessible and affordable and gave children the opportunity hear music often.

The Beginnings of Musicology for Children?

What was significant about this lecture was that Melland spent some considerable time explaining the influence of the saxhorn upon the brass band movement. (The invention of the saxhorn was important in developing the brass band as we know it today and an outline of the development of brass instruments can be found on this link.) With the assistance of Beswick Prize Band many of the instruments were demonstrated and explained in detail.11 As the School Music Review reported, ‘he next dwelt on the structure of the instruments, explaining the importance of the mouthpiece and the use of the valves and slides, each instrument, from the soprano cornet to the bass bombardon, being held up in turn so that the youngsters could recognise it by its size and shape.’12 During the afternoon Beswick Prize Band played the following selections: Hymn of Praise (Mendelssohn); Salut D’Amour (Elgar); Les Cloches De Corneville (Planquette); The Mikado (Sullivan) and Songs of England. (No composer cited) This programme mirrored brass band repertoire played by the region’s bands.

In the final analysis, in this lecture, brass bands were deemed respectable enough for children’s education. Bands had moved on  from being an occasionally rough and particularly masculine working-class hobby,  and had grown into a respectable agency that could be utilized in teaching children about music. It was true that brass bands relied upon their own internal and self-replicating methods of instruction – that placed an emphasis on learning from experienced mentors – but Manchester’s Public Parks, together with the bands that played in them, were expressions of music education in a time when music teaching for young children external to the brass band movement was patchy.

Notes and References:

2 ‘Manchester Music Notes’. The School Music Review : a Monthly Periodical Devoted to the Interest of Music in Schools (London / New York: March, 1917)25/298 p. 160

3 Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (1 December, 1909)

4 School Music Review: p. 112.

5 School Music Review, p. 112.

6 School Music Review, p. 112.

7 ‘Manchester Music Notes’, p. 160.

8 This cliché is based in the dichotomy of north and south and hard and soft. See, Stephen Etheridge, ‘Southern Pennine Brass Bands and the Creation of Northern Identity, c. 1840-1914: Musical Constructions of Space, Place and Region’ in, Northern History, Volume 54, March, 2017, pp tbc.

9 ‘Manchester Music Notes’, p. 160

10 Musical Standard, Vol 7, No 175 (7 December, 1867), p. 359.

11 The development of the brass band is too lengthy for this blog. Bands emerged from the 1820s from a mix of woodwind and brass instruments, influenced by military bands, through a number of phases, to, by the 1870s, the standard band instrumentation seen today. Key stages were the invention of the keyed bugle (1820s); the invention of the piston valve (invented no later than 1814 and was developed through 1827-1850). The development of the saxhorn, invented by Adolph Sax in the 1840s and 1850s, was also significant. The saxhorn was later promoted by the Distin Family whose popular concerts showed it to be a melodious instrument. Key texts for the development of brass bands are T. Herbert, ed.The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History (Oxford, 2000); E. Mitroulia, ‘Adolphe Sax’s Brasswind Production With a Focus on Saxhorns and Related Instruments’ (unpub. Ph.D. Thesis, Edinburgh Univ. 2011) and A. Myers, ‘Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands’, in, Herbert, ed. The British Brass Band, pp.155-186.

12 Manchester Music Notes’, p. 160


The effect of the war on the theatre business

As you would expect, the war had a huge impact on the theatre business. Actors and musicians were called up to active duty and some did not make it back. As well as this there was the massive financial impact with the introduction of entertainment tax making it more expensive for those at home to attend the various shows.

Arthur Catterall, the English violinist and R J Forbes, the pianist from Stalybridge were both called up to active duty in July 1917. While neither of them actually left England, Frederick Blamey, the English tenor, served in the air force until the end of the war. Some performers did not return, in June 1917 the actor Charles Bibby was reported missing and in the same month Edwin Batty, a contributor to the Manchester Programme was killed in action. Even those who were lucky enough to return did not always have a career to return to as shown by the Goosen’s family. Eugene Goosens was a conductor who worked in Beccham’s operas, his son Eugene Junior followed in his footsteps. He had 2 other sons, Adolph was a pianist but died from wounds at war in August 1916. His other son Leon was an oboeist but did have to serve and therefore did not share a stage with his father and brother.


As well as the impact of the musicians and actors being called up to active duty, there were many financial burdens for the theatre business as a result of war. The front cover of The Manchester Programme was usually very colourful, printed on good quality card with gold leaf detail added (see featured image). Many times throughout the war the front cover was printed on cheap coloured paper with no added colour or detail (see picture above). While i can not say for certain why this was, a few things have been suggested to me such as the printers strike and limited supplies in wartime. The government introduced an entertainment tax in 1916 which meant that theatres had to make the decision of whether to take this extra cost or pass it onto the customers via tickets prices. The Halle worked at a loss of £558 in that season with the blame being placed on the dark times, as streets were dark, there were petrol shortages and it was a particularly bad winter. Most theatres could not afford to take the extra cost and chose the increase their ticket prices. In Feb 1917, the Palace increased their prices on Saturday nights and during the holidays, they also increased the number of performances to twice nightly to increase revenue. In July 1917 the entertainment tax was rising again which caused protests from the entertainment properties and managers association. They claimed that since the introduction of the tax over 700 places of amusement had closed and that increasing the tax would only lead to more closures and more people out of work and therefore less income tax being paid. They argued that this was counterproductive and depriving the public of entertainment at a time when they needed it the most. The only entertainment venues exempt from the tax were the army theatres set up to entertain the soldiers. With so much financial pressure on regular theatres these came under criticism from the Theatres Alliance. The alliance argued against them being exempt from tax and also from soldiers being allowed to bring a lady friend to these shows. They claimed that they were taking custom from the other theatres as the lady friend would maybe have attended a regular theatre had she not been invited to the army theatre.

Considering the financial burden and decreasing number of musicians and audience members due to the war it is astounding that the theatres remained opened for business and still attracted large audiences during the war period

By Katrina Ingram

A Brass Band Contest at Manchester

A Brass Band Contest at Manchester

Dr Stephen Etheridge

The following page comes from The School Music Review: A Monthly Periodical Devoted to the Interest of Music in Schools, 1 October 1916. Like other London-based music journals the reporting is indicative of a style of writing that was anthropological in nature. In other words the brass bands at Belle Vue  came to represent a highly reportable aspect of the working-class at leisure. From the 1840s onwards brass band contests attracted large numbers of followers. It was in the  venue of Belle Vue where reporters from the metropolis could try and understand a growing working class and the nature of one of their hobbies.

Common themes that emerged were a recognition that the brass band contest was a popular pursuit for working men in the North, a recognition that the audience were enthusiastic, informed and critical of musical performance and an allusion and comparison with sporting events.

In this way, together with other contributing factors such as the fame and success of ‘crack’ bands from the North, an external view of the working class at play was constructed. By the First World War this reporting had reached its height and in spite of  the brass band being a national movement the construction of a clichéd identity of Northern working-class brass bands was complete.

(These themes are explored in greater detail in my forthcoming article, ‘Southern Pennine Brass Bands and the Creation of Northern Identity, ca. 1840-1914: Musical Constructions of Space, Place and Region’, Northern History, February, 2017, pp. 1-18)


Sir Thomas Beecham- enterprising, advertising and drawing large audiences

During the war orchestral music became more popular in Manchester. My research leads me to believe the Sir Thomas Beecham’s efforts in enterprising and advertising is what drew the large audiences to his concerts.

By mid 1917 Sir Thomas Beecham began changing the shape of things at the Halle. He decided that the Halle will not be restricted to Thursday nights and will play on some Saturdays throughout the season and on one Friday. He also announced that as well as the Grand Opera at the end of the season he would also run one over the Christmas period. This shake up of events drew a lot of attention from the Press, as did Beecham’s other enterprising activities. He put a proposal to the council for the building of a new opera house in Manchester, stating he would hold opera seasons over a period of at least 10 years. In December 1917 Beecham took the job as President of the Royal College of Music in Manchester. All of this activity ensured the press attention when Beecham started his new Christmas Opera season with the Halle.

In December 1917 the Manchester Programme published a full page article on Beecham singing his praises. It stated that he had conducted whole operas from memory as his musical memory is phenomenal. It also claimed that his musical knowledge ranged from 16th century to modern day which is unequalled by any other conductor. Quite an accolade! This free advertising continued when his Opera season opened on Boxing Day 1917 with another full page article. This was repeated the following week with the Programme discussing the opera and how well it was being received. It was at this point that Beecham criticised the press, saying that they were the biggest to enemy to musical progress. The columnist in the Manchester Programme disputed these claims saying that Beecham was being less than just, he added that all local critics have been praising Beecham consistently. The Programme then did not report on the opera for the following 3 weeks and even when it did include an article towards the end of the season it was significantly shorter than they had been previously and mainly discussed Irish baritone, Frederick Ranalow.

The press seem to have forgiven him by the time he returned with his second Grand Opera season in May 1918. The Manchester Programme printed a full page article the week before it began and published an article every week of the Opera season discussing how well it was going and highlighting key singers.This was repeated during the Christmas Opera Season in 1918, with articles printed weekly discussing the success of the Halle and included a full page article on Beecham in which he is put on equal footing with Sir Charles Halle and Richter. During the period of July 1917 to December 1918 Sir Thomas Beecham and the Halle orchestra appeared in the Manchester Programme frequently. In fact there were a lot more articles printed on the Halle and other orchestral concerts than there were on musical theatre. Within the numbers for musical theatre i have included operettas and comic operas that had begun to appear towards the end of the war. In the graph below you can see how the number of articles on musical theatre dropped dramatically in this period despite the number of musical plays being performed increasing. This indicates that the popularity of musical theatre had not waned but the Programme had decided to shift its focus towards orchestral music, which could be argued was Beecham’s influence.


Beecham’s popularity in the Manchester Programme continued after the war, with his Grand Opera season in May 1919 receiving weekly articles, including 2 full page spreads. His Christmas opera season that began on Boxing Day 1919 also received weekly articles in the Programme, sometimes printing two articles in the same week and one article being dedicated to Beecham and his greatness. This shows how Beecham increased the visibility of the Halle by ensuring they appeared in the Manchester Programme most weeks. He understood how important advertising was and used it to it’s full potential.

The strength of Beecham’s advertising skills also stretched to the Promenade concerts. In September 1917 Beecham led a 3 week season which was advertised weekly in the Manchester Programme and began with a full page article in which Beecham stated that these concerts were “free and easy” and were aimed at enticing people unacquainted with orchestral music through prejudice or apprehension. In September 1918, Beecham ran a 4 week season of Promenade concerts, again they were advertised and this time received 2 full page articles in the Manchester Programme discussing the success of the orchestra. This gave the Promenade more visibility than they had ever had, at the start if the war they were ran by Michael Balling, also conductor of the Halle yet did not draw the attention of the Programme’s columnists. In fact even adverts for the concerts did not start to appear in the programme until Oct 1915, showing that there had been no form of advertisement before Beecham was in charge.

It wasn’t just in Manchester that orchestral music was increasing in popularity. Between November 1914 and February 1915 the Leeds Orchestral concerts ran. there were reports that the concerts were becoming more popular and the reason was believed to be advertising. So was Beecham following a trend or was he the one to start it? Either way it seemed to work as he managed to keep the Halle thriving during the war period when theatres in general were suffering.

by Katrina Ingram

Gender in Musical Theatre

This post builds on 2 previous blog posts surrounding women on the stage during World War One and Gender in Musical theatre.

In a blog post entitled ‘Gender differences on the stage in 1913’, i discussed how prior to the breakout of war, the theatre was not class specific and that all women were invited to audition, being judged on talent rather than social status. The theatre, however, did not pay women well with most earning next to nothing and with the majority expected to provide their own costumes for the play. Some women excelled in costume making such as Juliette Dika, a Parisian soprano (pictured above in June 1914) who became famous for the dresses that she made for herself. Despite women being badly paid in Musical theatre they were relied upon heavily by theatre companies during the war.

In the 18 months prior to the war women were pictured in 17 of the 41 articles for Musical Theatre in the Manchester Programme, men were pictured in 15 articles and 9 pictures featured both a man and a woman. This is fairly even, however once the war started the number of women appearing in the article’s pictures rose drastically whereas the number of men pictured remained fairly steady as you can see in the graph below.


Towards the end of the war (July 1917-Dec 1918) the number of articles for Musical theatre dipped so all 3 categories dropped below their average. Discounting this period the number of articles featuring men between January 1913 and July 1920 stayed between 15 and 19. Again discounting the period at the end of the war the number of articles featuring both a man and a woman in the picture stayed between 7 and 10. The number of women featured in the articles went from 17 in the pre-war period up to 43 in the first 18 months of the war. This number dipped slightly to 38 in the following 18 months and dropped to 21 in the final 18 months of the war. While the women pictured in the articles dipped in this period just as much as men the number of female featured articles was still not as low as it had been prior to the war. Even after the war the number of women pictured in the articles of the Programme remained higher than the number of men.

Whilst the number of women featured in the article’s pictures rose over the war period, the number of female titled plays decreased. By female titled  i mean having a girls name in the title or the words ‘girl’, ‘mistress’, ‘princess’, ‘she’, ‘her’ etc. In the 18 months prior to the war 56% of the musical plays had female titles with the rest being gender neutral and none being male titled. In the first 18 months of the war these figures changed, with 46% being female titled and 2% being male titled in that one play was called ‘the chocolate soldier’. In the following 18 months the percent of female titled plays remained fairly steady at 43% with male titled plays rising to 5% and the final 18 months of war showed the most dramatic shift with female titled plays dropping to only 25% and male titled plays rising to 14%. In the 18 months after the war, male titled remained fairly steady at 11% but female titled plays again dropped to 16%.


If the articles featured more women due to there being less men then you would expect there to be less pictures of men, however the pictures of men in articles remained steady. If the Manchester Programme used women as a way of advertising, however, it would be because they thought that women were more likely to draw audiences. Why then were the producers and writers of plays titling them in a more gender neutral fashion as the war progressed. Could it be something as simple as them having differing opinions at this time?


by Katrina Ingram


‘I shall vanish into the no-where whence I emerged – my emerging task will be finished and I shall be so overwhelmingly glad to see you again that I shall not care whether I’m forgotten or remembered’ Hope Squire Merrick letter to Frank Merrick 17th October 1917

This blog deals with a teacher at the college during the latter years of the war and it’s a long one, but I find Hope’s story completely absorbing and I hope that you agree with me that Hope should be remembered even if she herself appears not to care.

Hope Squire was born in 1878 in Southport. She studied piano under Dohnanyi, having heard him play Beethoven’s 4th she asked him if he would teach her, and she became his first English pupil. Hope then went on to have a career as a concert pianist and teacher. Although she was not taught composition systematically, she composed about 40 songs, including settings of Newbolt’s Imogen (performed in the College in 1918), and Shelley’s A Widow Bird Sate Mourning. She says in a letter of 15th April 1919, ‘I greatly prefer Shelley to Keats. He seems much more inspired and vivid; I may be wrong but I always get the impression that Shelley felt and Keats thought.’ Works for piano included Variations on Black-eyed Susan and a tone-poem Tom Bowling. In 1911 she married Frank Merrick, also a concert pianist. They moved to Manchester when Frank was appointed a Professor at the Royal Manchester College of Music. They continue as musical equals after their marriage playing concerts together.

‘Mr Frank Merrick and Madame Hope Squire (Mrs Frank Merrick) gave an interesting concert at Bechstein Hall on May 3, at which they both appeared in the capacity of composer. In a group of songs, sung by Mr Gale Gardiner, and in a set of pianoforte variations on ‘Black-eyed Susan’, Madame Hope Squire showed an interesting individuality and freshness of thought. Mr Merrick’s Trio in F sharp minor was played by Madame Hope Squire, Mr Willie Woltmann and Madame Edith Evans.’ (Musical Times, June 1 1912.)

They shared a musical life but they also shared a socially and politically radical life in Manchester. Hope was a member the Women’s Social and Political Union and then after 1907 an active member of the Women’s Freedom League. Frank was also an active supporter of women’s suffrage, carrying banners on marches. They are both vegetarians and they are both anti war.  This was not a problem although the College did ask him in 1914 not to “attempt to influence any of the College students on matters unconnected with their studies”.  But then Frank is called up in December 1916. Although a conscientious objector, he did not refuse the initial call up but only on being ordered to put on a uniform, did he refuse. This lead to his arrest and a court martial. As other conscientious objectors he was imprisoned at Wandsworth Prison and later Wormwood Scrubs. Initially, the College wanted to help Hope and they offer her his job. The Minutes of the Board of December 12th 1916 state, “The Principal announced that Mr Merrick has been called up for Military Service and that it was necessary to make arrangement for the carrying on of his work. Resolved: that Mrs Merrick be invited to act as substitute for her husband during his temporary absence”.  The Council follow the Board’s lead and six days later on 20th December 1916 The Minute Book of the Council records, “Resolved: that Madame Hope Squire be appointed as substitute for Mr Merrick during his temporary absence as recommended by the Board”.

The Council is less sympathetic after Frank’s imprisonment and we read in the minutes of 21st March 1917 that, “Resolved: that the Principal and Staff be reappointed with the exception of Mr Merrick whose case be reconsidered at the next meeting of the Council.” However, Frank’s case is never mentioned again in the official records of the College. Throughout this period at Open Practices and Public Examinations, the students who are taught by Hope have Mr Merrick-Madame Hope Squire given as their teacher. The next mentions of Frank in the official records are in the minutes of Tuesday May 20th 1919 when we learn that “Mr Merrick attendee for first time since internment”.

It was probably Brodsky’s support and admiration for Frank, as we read in Hope’s letters, ‘His admiration for you never wavers’ (29/1/1918), that allowed Frank to return to his position. After Brodsky’s death in 1929, when Mr Forbes, who was very hostile to them both, became Principal, Hope and Frank moved to London where Frank became a professorship at the Royal College of Music. Sadly Hope died not long afterwards in 1936 at the age of 57. Frank remarried but kept all of Hope’s letters and her music where they can be found in their joint papers at Bristol University archive. His musical tribute to Hope was a broadcast on the BBC’s National Programme on Thursday 7th July 1938 called The Music of Hope Squire. The performers are Frank and John Wills (a former student) and a soprano Bettine Young. They perform Hope’s songs: Imogen, A Widow-Bird, When I am dead, my dearest and The Skylark; and her tone poem Tom Bowling (for two pianos).

Although Frank’s imprisonment was torment for both of them, reluctantly I feel that we are very lucky that Frank and Hope did hold so strongly to their political views and that Frank was imprisoned because otherwise we would not have the letters that they wrote to each other between October 1917 and April 1919. Hope comes to life in her letters. She comments on the political situation. In a letter dated Armistice Day she writes, ‘And who am I? Only Hope Merrick, but as long as I – even if I stood alone – stand by my opinion I am “the leak in the dyke” and no-one can truthfully say Great Britain was solid for war.’  Indeed she reports that one MP suggested a bill to to conscript women and retorts that if that ever happens ‘they’ll have to build thousands of new prisons.” She writes about rationing, and even this is related to her musical life, as we learn that she exchanges her sugar ration for seven overtures by Beethoven and Weber for 8 hands. She writes about women’s lives. In one poignant piece she encounters a neighbour Mrs Craven who volunteers with the Red Cross and looks worn out. Hope asks Mrs Craven why she continues with the Red Cross, Mrs Craven’s reply is a powerful summary of the drudgery of her life and why women should be classed as equals:

‘…you don’t know what my life is because your husband is a “sport”. I’ve spent all my life drudging and slaving after the opposite sex – my father wants as much waiting on as a child, my husband is the same, my only child is a boy, – I started life with a better brain than any of my brothers, but I only got half an education – and I’ll stick this R.C work till I drop, becaust it’s my only chance of hobnobbing with a few well educated women, and getting away from the drudgery of home. I don’t mind work but I am so sick of being looked upon as a creature with no brain.’

Hope also writes a great deal about her teaching life and their joint pupils and in my final blog, I’ll write about one of these students as seen through Hope’s words: Edith Hothersall.

Katherine Seddon


The ‘gel’ from Cheshire

Following on from the blog about the young ladies from Cheshire and Lancashire who were the staple of the College until the influx of the ex-servicemen, I’d like to tell the story of one of these young women. Gladys Mary Whittam came from Chester to study piano at the College.  Her father was the manager of a railway and canal company and the family had moved from Preston , where Gladys was born in 1892, to Latchford, Warrington and Blackburn where her sisters were born, then onto Trentham, Staffordshire where they are living at the time of the 1911 census. Gladys enters the college in 1914 just after the outbreak of war at the age of 22 and gives her home address as 36 Hough Green, Chester. She’s no dilettante though and stays for the full 9 terms leaving the college in summer 1917 having achieved her Teacher’s Diploma Class A. She was taught by Lucy Pierce and I like to think that they would have got on well: Lucy was herself a student at the College from Northwich and attended the college with a Cheshire County Scholarship 1902-1905, passing Associate exams in Teaching and Performing with distinction. We know some of the music Gladys played as she performed in Open Practices as well as in the final Public Examination. In the Open Practice of Friday November 12th 1915 she played the 2nd and 3rd movements of Bach’s “Concerto for Two pianos in C major” with Cicely Collins, another student of Lucy Pierce. Two years later in March 1917, Gladys is given a solo place and performs Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau, The Little Shepherd, and Arabesque and later in July at the Annual Public Examination she plays Beethoven’s Variations in C minor.

Gladys obviously wanted to teach and by passing the Associate exam in Teaching, she was fulfilling one of the College’s aims. The 30th Annual Report of 1923 says:

‘The Council are proud of the fact that so many of the past students of the College have won distinction in the musical profession, and reflect with special gratification upon the large body of skillful teachers trained in the College, of whom it may be said without fear of contradiction that they have appreciably raised the standard of musical teaching in the large towns of Lancashire and the North.’

Gladys did just that on her return to Chester. She taught music at the Queen’s School in Chester. The choir from the school takes part in the 1939 Chester Musical Festival ‘directed by Miss G M Whittam ARMCM, LRAM’ singing Lullaby by Walford Davies. In June 1944 at the school’s Open Day there was a programme of music, the singing being conducted by Miss Whittam. Contributions from three choirs of different ages included It was a lover and his lass by Thomas Morley, another Walford Davies’ song These spotted snakes and Where the bee sucks by Arne.

Directing choirs is not just a daytime job for Gladys. In 1939 250 girls from the Girls’ Friendly Society from all over Cheshire attended a celebration at Chester Cathedral. The organist and composer Malcolm Boyle, Organist at the Cathedral and previously Assistant Organist to, (synchronicity at its best here) Walford Davies at St George’s Windsor, was at the organ. The article in the Chester Chronicle states ‘An impressive feature was the singing of a choir of 14 from the Chester branches, led by Miss Whittam.’

Like Edith Fielden, the ex-servicewoman, she does not marry and the last we read about her after 1944, is that she died in 1973 in Chester at the age of 81. Again, if anyone remembers Miss Whittam, please get in touch!

Katherine Seddon