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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Godalming, Surrey
A selection of photographs and postcards of a Surrey country town
Charterhouse School Armoury, 1915

"The present Armoury, completed in 1915, is a very fine building, standing at one end of Lessington, and the first portion of a range of buildings, such as a drill hall and music rooms, which will continue some day right across Lessington up to Girdlestoneites ground". This was written in 1919, by which time the school grounds had almost doubled in area[1].

The distinctive Armoury building stands on ground overlooking Hurtmore Road; the grass around it is tarmac today and beside it is a private entrance road into the grounds which has recently been reopened and widened. It has been suggested that the building was placed some distance from the main school "for safety reasons" although this information was not included in the main histories of the school. If true this would have been an interesting decision. Whilst the Armoury wasn't drawn on the 1916 1:2,500 OS map of Godalming there were houses near its location and, as already stated, in 1919 the school intended to include more buildings close by.

There had been a number of Armouries in the school grounds before this one was built. A. H. Tod, the master who faithfully recorded so much about the school's early years, tells us that the corps had about 60 members in 1873. They had twelve Snider rifles and "the only shooting was at glass bottles in a back yard in the Pepperharow [sic] Road". The following year a team of 11 boys, including Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, competed for the Ashburton Shield at Wimbledon, making 77 hits and 77 misses, yet they were not quite the bottom team. They were fifth the following year so had clearly improved[1] and the school team eventually won the trophy on a number of occasions.

The corps "migrated" in 1891. Until then it had been housed in a tiny room in the cloisters but its new home contained "enough room for 166 uniform lockers, 130 rifle racks, and all sorts of stores, and it is large enough for squad drill". At the time Tod thought it an excellent place and an orderly room[1], but the new Armoury was then built.

Over the years the old members of the cadet corps had gone on to either take up commissions in voluntary battalions or to join the regular Army and in the first World War 3,000 of the school's former pupils enlisted[2]. The families of the school's employees were also affected by the conflict. For example, William Hackman of 5, Catteshall-lane was a former soldier; he had been employed at the Armoury at Charterhouse for over 30 years. In 1916 his son Arthur died whilst serving in the Army in Mesopotamia[3].

This postcard was sent by a young and enthusiastic pupil called Frazer to a friend, Wilfred Ellison[4]. "Thank you so much for your card. This is our School Armoury. We had a Field Day a few days ago with Sandhurst. It was fun".

Frazer did not mention the field gun standing on a small plinth beside the building. This three-inch seven-pounder gun had been given to the school by Baden-Powell in 1907 as a Mafeking memento. The gift followed a request from the then headmaster for a piece of ordnance. It dates from 1873, and had seen a great deal of service. The gun has been presented by the British South Africa Company to General Baden-Powell before he gave it to the school[5].

[Charterhouse School, The Armoury] No publisher. A Photographic postcard. Posted at Godalming on 18 Mar 1916.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] "Charterhouse". A. H. Tod, M.A. (2nd Ed., Revised) (1919) Handbook to the Great Public Schools. London : George Bell and Sons Portugal St. Lincoln's Inn W.C. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell & Co New York : The MacMillan Co Bombay : A. H. Wheeler & Co.

[2] "The Times", 20 Jun, 1927.

[3] "West Sussex Gazette", 03 August 1916. William Hackman was described as an armourer in the 1901 and 1881 census, although he was shown as a gardener in 1891.

[4] Wilfred would have been about 16 years old as he was 12 in 1911.

[5] The gift, the type of gun and its history were all noted in a number of contemporary publications including "Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper", 17 November 1907 (Career of a Gun) and the "Sheffield Evening Telegraph" 24 August 1907 (A Mafeking Memento).
Lloyd's stated that it first saw service in the Kaffir wars of 1872; was used later in the Matabele wars of 1893-1896, and in the Boer war it formed part of the Mafeking relief column's equipment. The date varies slightly between 1873 and 1875. Since then there has been some confusion about the gun's size and provenance. It has recently been repainted and is now housed in the Armoury, according to the school's website.

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