The Minster School, York: A centenary history 1903-2004

by
02 November 2006

SACRAM Publishing 18.50  (0-9535775-1-1)

This book joins many others that have celebrated school centenaries over thpast decade or so. But this one needed writing more than most. York is one othe few great cathedrals whose choristers do not board: all must live withicommuting distance. This limitation on the available talent has entailerelentless juggling throughout its history between the conflicting demands oschool and society.

Older readers will remember this remarkable institution as the York MinsteSong School, a title abandoned in 1986 in favour of its current, blandeequivalent. The following year, reactionary jaws dropped still further at itbecoming co-educational. For the past decade, girls have also sung in thMinster. Nursery and pre-prep departments were added in 2002. Thus has thschool accommodated late-20th-century mores. Numbers have soared, anchoristers, the school's only pupils until 1955, are now very much in thminority.

It is remarkable that the school should have had only four headmasters in century, brief interregnums apart. The disciplinary methods of the first twooperating with little encouragement from the Minster authorities and very mucin the dame-school tradition, would nowadays probably qualify as abuse.

That changed under Bevan Wardrobe's headship (1967-85). His sense of funallied to tight control, made the school a much happier place. The final 2years saw the  greatest changes, as the musician-educator Richard Shephardeveloped a flourishing, modern business, and kept parents on-side.

John Roden chronicles the earlier years from documents he researched for hieducation thesis of 1964. Thereafter, his method is to quote liberally frofirst-hand testimony and questionnaires. The result is increasingly a patchworquilt, with much repetition and cross-referencing.

So the book induces mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is an engaging readvividly larded with anecdote and photograph. On the other, its lack of aindex, apart from a haphazard chronology, militates against its value as historical record; and its many misprints, especially in the last third, are airritant. Self-publishers should always engage an objective proof-reader aneditor. For all his commendable graft, Roden has exercised his own blue pencitoo sparingly.

Martin Dreyer is the music critic for the York Evening Press.

Available from the publisher at Ebor Cottage, 8 Copmanthorpe GrangeCopmanthorpe, York YO23 3TN, for 18.50 plus 2 p. &

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