Success with the Herring Bowl

Recently, we’ve been working through the photos kept at North Primary School collected as part of the centenary project in 1994.   Many of these photos are of the various sports teams – football, netball, athletics – swimmers and country dancers, and show the many successes of North Street School in the 1920s and 1930s. 

The photo on the left really caught our eye, so much so that we decided to use it to promote our open day on Saturday 11 May.  

When we’ve been working with our year five researchers we’ve been using the National Archive‘s LACE technique to help analyse our sources: Look, Ask, Conclude, ExpandResearching this photo was a chance for us to practise this technique with a real mystery.

On our first investigation of the photo we were able to identify a girls sports team, wearing numbered bibs suggesting a sport such as athletics rather than netball.  The girls are holding a trophy with a number of winners shields, but we couldn’t see the inscription on the cup clearly enough to work out when it was or what it was for.  The hair cuts and clothes looked 1920s/1930s, but who the adult couple were in the car was totally unknown. 

We did recognise the car as an Austin 7 which set us off researching models and car registrations as a way of dating the photo.  The two letter UY registration gave us a date range of March 1927 to May 1931, but of course this is only the earliest possible date the photo could have been taken, not the date of the photo itself.

We turned to what we knew.  The centenary work compiled a book of memories from former teachers and pupils, and a search through from 1927 to 1939 revealed many successes that resulted in presentations of trophies, shields, cups and certificates.  Which one was in the photo?  In 1928 “two children obtained 1st place, one Boys for Sword Dancing , and one Girls under 15” in country dancing and the girls went on to win a 1st class certificate at the finals in Chelmsford.  In 1929 the boys won a cup at the Carnival for morris dancing, in 1932 the boys team won a football league trophy, and in 1937 won the Championship Shield at the Town School Swimming competition.  We found photos of these teams with their various prizes but none were the same size and shape as the trophy the girls are holding in the car.

We had a feeling this was an athletics team and Mrs Peggy Everitt had shared her memories of competing, between 1922 and 1931, in high jump, long jump and relay.  Mr Donald Wilby, at school from 1928 to 1935, had captained the boys team for their win in the inter-schools annual athletics event held at Land Lane.  Donald was presented with the Herring Bowl trophy by Colchester Mayor, Councillor Arthur Cross, giving us a date of 1934/1935.

A quick google search didn’t reveal the Herring Bowl but it did show us a picture of a very similar trophy and we felt we were onto something.  At this point we concluded that the photo was probably taken at some time between 1931 and 1935 and that it was possibly the Herring Bowl for athletics.

Last week, while scanning some more photos we came across the picture on the left and immediately spotted the bowl.  This time we could zoom in and read the inscription: Herring Bowl.  Curiously this photo is dated 1932, a date when we have no mention of an athletics win.  It shows a boys and girls team, headmaster Captain Twyman and other teachers, with a display of objects including the Herring Bowl, a box brownie camera, bucket and spade, book and brief case. 

We know that Captain Twyman retired from North in 1932.  Could this be his leaving photo surrounded by mementoes of the years or maybe his leaving gifts?  As one mystery is solved, another presents itself.