The idea of establishing a boys' school in York for the sons of Friends (Quakers) came from William Tuke (1732-1822).
Tuke first raised the idea in 1818 as a solution to the growing numbers of children who were not eligible for Ackworth School, near Pontefract. In 1822 premises on Lawrence Street were leased from the Retreat (the Hospital run by the Quaker committee) and the school opened in early 1823.
The school was run as a private concern until January 1829, when John Ford took over as 'Superintendent of the Establishment' and a Quarterly Meeting committee was appointed to run the school. It then became known as Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting Boys' School, and this remained the official name of the school until 1915 despite the move to new premises at 20 Bootham in 1846.
Developments in late Victorian England
Boys whose parents were not members of the Society of Friends were admitted for the first time in 1891. In 1899 the school suffered a serious fire which devastated the premises used for teaching. Three years later the official reopening included a new Library building named after John Bright, one of the first scholars at Lawrence Street.
Although Bootham did not set out to cultivate a progressive image, it offered a 'whole school' approach distinctly in advance of the education offered by more prestigious nineteenth century public schools, where there had been a transition from 'godliness and classical learning' to 'manliness and games'.
In the late nineteenth century many of the Rowntree family sons were educated at Bootham, one of them, Arthur Rowntree, becoming Headmaster (1899-1927). As many as 45 Rowntrees attended Bootham over the years.
Twentieth Century Change
During the twentieth century the School took its share of the upheavals of the time. Many Old Scholars served in the wars, some in the Friends Ambulance Unit, and some were conscientious objectors. In 1939 the School was evacuated briefly to Ampleforth College, while the buildings at Bootham were prepared for conversion into a hospital.
In the post-war period the School has grown in size and stature. In 1983, it adopted a coeducational system and admitted girls. In 1997, Ebor School, a Junior School, was acquired. In 2002 this moved to a purpose built school and became known as Bootham Junior School. Although Bootham is a complete part of the mainstream independent system today, nevertheless it retains its founding Quaker principles, which include the pursuit of learning through science, progressive and reforming ideas, a respect for the individual, creativity and independent thought, and a responsible social conscience.
Science and Natural History
Quaker teachers were often trained at the Flounders Institute at Ackworth and sometimes took a London external degree while teaching. Many had a keen interest in Natural History which was enthusiastically shared by the pupils and led to a serious interest in science at the school which went on to produce a number of distinguished scientists in many areas.
The scientific interest was in keeping with the intellectual developments in the city of York which in 1822 had formed the Philosophical Society; instrument making and glass manufacturing were also important in the city.
In 1850 Bootham became one of the first schools to have its own observatory. Quakers stressed the importance of a constructive use of leisure time. Many boys produced impressive essays and classified collections. Some, such as Silvanus P.Thompson (Bootham 1858-67) became eminent in their field - he was a professor of physics and president of many learned societies.
Bootham School, by Edwin Moore, an art teacher at the school (1835-91)
Lawrence Street buildings, by E. Moore
Main entrance of the school in Bootham (on the left) showing Bootham Bar and the Minster in the distance
On the bringing of gas lighting to Bootham in 1850, by Daniel Doncaster (1846-51)
Monte Rosa from the Gorner Grat, from "My Continental Tour in 1860" by Thomas Whitwell (1847-53), written in 1863 from "An Old Scholar"
Title page, dating from 1860-61. The quotation is from a popular Romantic female poet, Felicia Hemans
Bootham School Register. Compiled under the direction of a committee of O.Y.S.A., 1914, with revised eds. 1935, 1971, 2011.
JS Rowntree, Friends' Boys' School, York a Sketch of its History 1829-1878 (1879)
FE Pollard Bootham School 1823-1923 (JM Dent and Sons, 1926)
SK Brown Bootham School York 1823-1973 (author, 1973)
The archive is broadly divided into the following areas:
Records of the school and its pupils; annual reports, prospectuses, school buildings, financial records, material on special events, art, science, activities, scrapbooks, etc. 1823-present; records of Bootham Old Scholars Association, including registers, 1879-present; photographic, video and audio-visual materials.
The Bootham School Register gives a comprehensive list of Old Scholars, and contains some 4,500 names. The school's history and the archive are underpinned by three journals/magazines:
Natural History Journal (1834-1902). Founded in 1834 by John Ford, the school's Natural History Society is thought to be the oldest society of its kind in Britain.
Observer Magazine (1856-1963) features hand-written illustrated essays on a range of subjects by scholars.
Bootham Magazine (1902- ) provides an account of the school throughout the twentieth century, including memoirs from the two world wars, essays on contemporary events, the development of the school buildings, and activities of the various clubs and societies.
The Archivist, Jenny Orwin, is on maternity leave from August 2016. We are providing a limited enquiry service. Please contact email@example.com or 01904 623261 in the first instance if you have an enquiry or would like to donate an item to the archive.
In 1923 The Queen's aunt made an impromptu visit to Bootham School's summer camp – here's a fascinating piece about her visit which included being rowed across the River Ouse by Bootham students.