Chronicles From The Archives

19th Century Photograph album suggests new date for the opening of Lupton House

A fine 19th Century photograph album has recently been donated to the Sedbergh School archive. The album, created by Houston Rooke (L 1884–87) includes fascinating images of the newly developed classrooms and boarding houses. The mature trees and elegant planting that now grace the School site are nowhere to be seen and the new buildings sit starkly within the rolling landscape.

Rooke Cover

The album cover shows a view of Sedbergh taken from Frostrow with the Howgill Fells behind. The scene is embellished with the School coat of arms, and the motto of the time ‘Sedberghian nactus es nanc exorna’ which has been translated by our departing and much-loved Classics master as ‘You have won your place at Sedbergh; now play your part in making it great.’

Rooke Lupton House 1884

This donation is particularly important as it includes the earliest known photograph of Lupton House from 1884 (above). The previously held date of the opening of Lupton House was 1885 when it was believed the School first leased the property. This album includes a photograph dated 1884 showing just five boys. Was the photograph dated wrongly or did the house have a ‘soft opening’ a term earlier than previously thought? As the termly photographs are meticulously dated by Rooke it seems likely that the house in fact opened in 1884. The Lupton photographs included in the album feature ‘Miss Tower’ sitting alongside ‘Mr Tower’. This gives rise to further questions. Perhaps Mr Tower had a sister who lived with him and helped keep house for the boys.

Rooke Album Paperchase

The above image of masters preparing to mark the course for the ‘Paperchase’ gives insight to the early days of the Wilson Run. Masters set off from the steps of Lupton House shortly before the pupils. They carried sacks filled with small slips of paper and cut a hole in the bottom corner of the sack as they departed. The tiny pieces of paper fell out of the sacks as the masters ran and left a trail, in the manner of gingerbread fairy tale trails, for pupils to follow. It is fair to say that the staff involved with the modern race would be horrified by this scale of casual littering.

Screenshot 2021 07 05 At 09.19.06

As well as photographs the album contains five small sketches of Sedbergh scenes. These include a humorous sketch of the swimming pool with boys diving and being pushed into the pool in addition to sketches of more formal external scenes of School buildings and local views.

Houston Rooke who compiled the album was an active sportsman while at Sedbergh, turning his hand to many of the pursuits on offer. He played on the first team for both cricket and rugby as well as representing his, admittedly small, house in both sports. He reached the final of the 1886 School diving competition and won 1st prize on the 1887 sports day for both ‘Throwing the Cricket Ball’ and the 120 yard hurdles. He was an active member of the games committee and contributed to organising the games programme at School. Rooke grew up in Rampisham, Dorchester, the son of a clergyman. After leaving school he travelled to Tasmania and worked his way up from farm labourer to owner.

The photograph album was spotted for sale (in Tasmania!) by former Sedbergh staff member Peter Akins (Hart House tutor 2001 -2003) who kindly purchased it for the archive. Peter worked in the History Department at Sedbergh prior to entering the US Navy. After a tour in Iraq and a stint at The Pentagon Peter has returned to teaching and now delights the pupils of Choate Rosemary Hall, Massachusetts, with his historical knowledge. Thank-you Peter for gifting this fabulous album to the archive.

Katy de la Rivière
School Archivist