Written by Dr Jack Binns
As early as 1890, the Education Annual shows that though it was still not yet 20 years old St Martin’s already compared favourably with the most illustrious boys’ grammar schools in Yorkshire. Of the 48 recognised grammar schools in the country only nine had more than 100 boys on their registers and all of these had catchment areas, such as Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Hull, Middlesbrough and Rotherham, far more populous than Scarborough. St Martin’s had 50 boys drawn mostly from 30,000 residents.
As elsewhere amongst contemporary grammar schools, fees at St Martin’s were determined by the subjects taken. In the so-called Classical department, annual tuition in English, Latin, French, Science and Mathematics cost between 10 and 12 guineas. In the modern department, the fees were six to eight guineas a year. There were extra charges for classes in German and advanced French, for drawing and painting, for music, for drill and for school games. But whereas the additional cost of German was four and a half guineas, drill and games were each only 15 shillings more. Apart from religious instruction, no subject was compulsory. Laundries cost three guineas a year and full board 40 guineas, the latter a fairly standard charge. Pocklington’s boarders paid 40, Coatham’s 40 and Hull’s 50 guineas.
A rich variety of public examinations could be taken at the end of each year set by the Royal Society of Drawing, the College of Preceptors and the universities of Cambridge, Leeds and London for their matriculation. Entry to St Martin’s was at 12; few stayed beyond the age of 15. The national minimum school-leaving age was raised to 12 in 1899.
At 15 most of the boys at St Martin’s left to start work in the Civil Service, the Post Office, the Port of London Authority, Customs and Excise or the merchant navy: these were the most often named employments for leavers.
In 50 years St Martin’s had only four headmasters. The first two, John Wilkes (1872-9) and Arthur Charles Whitley (1879-82), were both Anglican clergymen. Wilkes was curate at St Martin’s and St Mary’s churches, chaplain to Scarborough gaol on Dean Road and had a first class degree in Scripture. Whitley was a Cambridge Classics graduate and by 1879 already an experienced teacher and head. Later, he was headmaster at Sir John Deane’s, Northwich, from 1882 until his death in 1903. However, at Scarborough it was said of him that his right arm was not strong enough for a head teacher.
This criticism could not have been made of his successor, the six-foot-tall, powerfully-built, Thomas Raven (1883-1905), who gave the school its familiar nickname “Smartin’s”. On one occasion, he caned every boy and then sent them all home. Though he had no academic qualifications, he taught the seniors all their subjects from Greek and Chemistry to book-keeping! Presumably, no one dared to question his credentials. He died in 1929 aged 77 and was buried in St Laurence’s graveyard at Scalby.
Finally, Charles Frederick Turnbull was only 28 when he took over from Mr Raven. He was a Classics graduate from University College, Durham. During his 17 years as head at St Martin’s from 1905 until 1922, the register more than doubled in number from 60 to 130 and the staff there from two to seven, who included a part-time music master and art mistress. In 1915, the year when Wheater’s closed, St Martin’s preparatory school for boys under 12 started at 20 Albion Road, but the senior boys remained in the original Ramshill room. By that time it was equipped with laboratory sinks, benches and shelves so that science could be taught there in the modern practical way.
However, the short life of St Martin’s grammar school was running out. The first warning had come in November 1900 when Scarborough School Board opened its purpose-built, higher-grade new school in Westwood. The Municipal or “Muni”, as locals came to call it, had a handsome, spacious building, generously equipped to provide a broad, liberal secondary education and a very well qualified teaching staff.
What it had to offer was far beyond the means of St Martin’s.
In 1921 St Martin’s ceased to be an independent denominational school and passed into the care of the North Riding Education Authority and the responsibility of the county council and its ratepayers. The Anglican church could no longer maintain it. So, after six centuries, the last administrative link between the established church and secondary schooling in Scarborough was finally broken.
Then, in 1922, the 130 boys of St Martin’s moved down Ramshill and across Valley Bridge to join the boys of the Muni and together they became Scarborough Boys’ High School. Mr Turnbull went with them and became the new school’s deputy head.