Charles Winder (Boys’ Division Staff, 1964-1999)
Charles read English at Downing College, Cambridge, and trained as a teacher at London University. From 1961 to 1964 he taught at Elliott School, Putney, and joined the staff of Bolton School in 1964. In 1967 he became Senior English Master and, late in his career, Director of Studies (Arts). In 1988 a Goldsmiths’ Company Scholarship enabled him to travel in Europe for six months with the agreement of the Governors. Retiring from teaching in 1999, he became Liaison Officer between School and Old Boltonians and for 2009-10 was elected President of the Association. He is the joint author of Bolton Boys in Focus.
Below you can read a brief interview with Charles, followed by his memories of his time at Bolton School, taken from The Best of Both Worlds.
In which Division and what subject did you teach at Bolton School?
I taught English and Drama in the Boys’ Division; also General Studies, Games and RE.
What extra-curricular or other activities did you take part in as a teacher at Bolton School?
I was involved in a variety of activities: Cricket, Fell walking, Drama, Stratford Camp, Debating, Magazine editing to name but a few.
What did you enjoy most about your role here?
The classroom at all levels, the growth of language and understanding in reading, talking, writing, listening, close discussion in the Sixth Form.
What would you say is your fondest memory of your time here?
The exchange of ideas in the classroom and in the staff common room, and in groups such as Literary and Debating and Current Affairs.
How would you describe the “typical” Bolton School boy/girl in three words?
Ambitious, energetic, resourceful.
What do you think is the most important thing that a Bolton School education gives to its pupils?
Participation in a wide range of intellectual, outdoor and social activities.
What do you think sets Bolton School apart from other schools?
Being independent, the School, the Heads and the Governors can make their own decisions. The old pupils have a strong, supportive and continuing interest in the School, expressed in various ways, including for example the football, regional and local gatherings, correspondence and contributions to The Bugle .
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
I joined the teaching staff when there were many free places, expressing Lord Leverhulme’s intention. I support the campaign to widen access to the School’s intellectual and social traditions.
Some of Charles’ memories of School, taken from The Best of Both Worlds:
September 1964. Room B12. Form VA3. They were a boisterous group and had I been asked who would become a knight of the realm I should have thought it an improbable challenge. Amongst the many intricacies of that first morning the question was not put. As a new English teacher, as well as form-master, I was asked to spell ‘ophthalmic’ and got it wrong. Later the same boy asked me to distinguish between ‘mistrust’ and ‘distrust’ which I attempted with reservations to his satisfaction. This was the kind of examination you might expect in that setting with its bare walls, blackboard, ink wells in the corridor and heavy desks whose lids could shut with a satisfying crash. The room looked across the levels to a horizon crowded with chimney stacks. From the opposite wing, just completed, you saw Chorley New Road, terraces to the north and, out of sight, the moors. This was Worktown of Mass Observation, published in the ‘thirties and exhibited in Bolton Museum. Between the moorland and the mills was the cradle for the school William Lever had planned long before. It would belong to Bolton yet always look beyond.
The design of the Great Hall, where we had to assemble for morning prayer, was an expression of Lever’s faith. Long accustomed to the stage, the Headmaster, leonine in presence, spoke in commanding tones. On Fridays we met for evening prayer, abandoned in the ‘sixties, a simple and serious service where everyone sang more eagerly because the weekend was next. The most memorable gathering of all is recorded in The Boltonian, when , some years after the Great War, the retired Headmaster returned to unveil the Memorial Window, speaking of the many boys he knew whose lives had been lost. Here in concerts and festivals, voices, instruments and architecture blend and soar; Shakespeare’s plays were presented on a proscenium stage and later made more flexible use of the floor space for a smaller audience. The Tillotson Lecture is nearly always delivered here and amongst the most absorbing speakers are Old Boltonians who find themselves leading where once they were led. At one recent lecture a question was sent by text from the audience and the School was able to show itself comfortable in the modern world. New building has created new opportunities in the arts, in sport and in technology, everywhere iPads and new systems are in use, the advantages to teaching staff are great. Banda sheets, tape recorders and hired films are superseded, though nothing replaces the kick of a freshly minted banda which would throw a class into ecstasy.
Led by my predecessor, the English Department allowed freedom to staff in the use of all resources, new and old. For an early series of lessons with VA3 in B12 I read aloud from my own copy of Erewhon (Nowhere), a nineteenth century satire and travel story. The work which followed was good but I never used the book again simply because, given that freedom, other materials continually recommend themselves. This was part of the pattern. I remember an energetic discussion years later with a class of similar age about some surrealist paintings. Again, I never repeated the lesson which seemed right for that very resourceful and argumentative group at that time. As a department we summarised our activity as reading, thinking, talking and writing, whilst acknowledging our shared academic interests. There were particular strengths in poetry, fiction and drama and work was sometimes shared with other departments, particularly art. All this spread beyond the classroom into the libraries, where we had skilful professional help, and into the theatre. Several colleagues had great skill in directing plays and I was grateful to them. My own responsibilities were the Literary and Debating Society and, for a long period, The Boltonian, which, always an important historical resource, has developed its present form under the direction of successive editors. Some of these activities depended on our relations with the Girls’ Division for their success. In the ‘seventies there were important developments. A joint General Studies course for the sixth forms was launched; already teaching was shared in some subjects; the entrance exam became a joint enterprise. After discussions, for which teaching staff, heads and governors met together, Bolton School claimed independence.
It now operates pretty well without the assistance of the Minister and the Civil Service. Where else would you supervise an examination in Ancient Greek taken by the School’s sixth form mathematicians? Where else could you begin to learn Old English and the runic alphabet? In many ways the School is much as it was and the generosity of parents and old pupils has ensured that my own early classes have their counterparts today, from diverse backgrounds and well-prepared in a variety of primary schools. For them the building of the Riley centre has made a different kind of sixth form possible. It is a rare school that can preserve the advantages of single sex education and of co-education. Lever’s original plan is as complete as it reasonably can be. Sometimes in a vacant mood I imagine myself leading a sixth form academic group or a junior drama class, enacting a Greek myth, a Bible story, a scene from Shakespeare, or I hear myself explaining rather drily how a language can mean nothing without its organising principles, its grammar. If I had the choice again, I would pick Bolton School.