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In 2006 Trent College in Long Eaton celebrated the 140th anniversary since its foundation in the town. A special celebration took place to mark the historic occasion. Hundreds of former pupils and their families, parents of current pupils, parents of children who attend the Elms Junior School as well as staff past and present attended the event which was organised by the Trent Association. The evening included a supper in the school's historic dining hall and a presentation by school historian and Trent teacher, Toby Leadbetter in the fully restored chapel.
Trent College has seen many illustrious students pass through its doors over the years. These include: Prince Alex Obelensky (Rugby player) Albert Ball (Flying Ace and WWI hero) Thai Prime Ministers Seni and Kukrit Pramoj, Rex Alston (sports broadcaster) Sir James Steel (industrialist) and actor Michael Maloney.
Trent College, based on Derby Road, was founded in 1866 by Francis Wright - Chairman of the Midland branch of the Clerical and Lay Association, which had initially planned to create a number of similar colleges around the Midlands. But in the end only Trent was founded in the region. Mr Wright had also been High Sheriff of Nottingham in 1842. He was still actively involved with Trent College until his death in 1873.
Founding Directors included Mr Wright, of Osmaston Manor, William Thomas Cox, of Spondon Hall, Roland Smith MP for Duffield and Lord Vernon of Sudbury. The Seventh Duke of Devonshire, the Bishops of Lichfield and Lincoln, Earls Howe, Manvers, Spencer, Lichfield and Harrowby as well as other families in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire who shared the same educational philosophy became the school's first patrons.
Following an extensive building programme, the school took its first contingent of 53 boys in 1868 - two years after the foundation stone had been laid by the Duke of Devonshire. By 1870, the number of boys had increased to 250, and the opening of the Victorian Chapel in 1875 - one of the school's founding principles had been to combat the pro-Catholic Oxford Movement - led to a further increase in boys.
In 1892, Trent College was taken over by The Evangelical College and School Company, established by Francis Wrights surviving family, which remained its directors until 1966, when the school became Trent College Ltd.
Scholarships were established and the school was advertised abroad but this was a time of crisis for the School as its roll sank below 50. The Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. were losing money and the School faced the very real possibility of closure. At the same time, an uneasy relationship existed between the Directors and the School’s current Headmaster at the time, The Rev. W H Isaacs, whose headmastership ended in 1895.
Headmaster Rev John Savile Tucker’s ‘reign’ began at a time of impending disaster for the college. He was known as a hard, austere man who did not seek popularity, was often feared but was equally respected, and he certainly turned around the fortunes of the School. It was Tucker who introduced new ideas such as a house system, rugby, hockey and cricket and he quickly brought the school roll up to 200 pupils.
In 1901, Rev G.J.S. ‘Daddy’ Warner joined Trent College as Chaplain and later, Second Master. His was an immensely important contribution to the School, spanning 64 years. 1914 saw the outbreak of the First World War. Of the 531 Old Tridents who served their country, 94 were killed, including Ace Pilot Albert Ball who was the first pilot to be awarded the VC in the Royal Flying Corps. It was a matter of great sadness for the school.
In 1922 the school was ravaged by fire which spread quickly because of the large quantity of dry wood within the structure, leaving three dormitories, the dining hall, part of the Prep School and classrooms gutted. Although no-one was killed in the blaze, for safety reasons the juniors were moved out to Bramcote Hall to make way for the seniors while the gutted main building began to be restored. The Long Eaton Advertiser at the time reported that the fire damage amounted to between £50,000 and £60,000.
Tucker was succeeded in 1927 by Headmaster Geoffrey Bell. Trent was about to face the Great Depression, which meant that Bell was restricted in the developments he could carry out at the school. However, during Bell’s Headmastership, the Warner Library was opened (1929) as well as the Cricket Pavilion (1933). Bell was held in high regard by the boys at Trent and was seen as a forward-thinking man, even though the school’s finances were less progressive.
Bell also oversaw Trent’s great unbeaten rugby 1st XI sides of 1932-33 and 1933-34, which included the now-famous Prince Obolensky, who went on to play for Oxford and England and is still remembered as one of the country’s finest rugby players. Bell left Trent in 1936 for a new Headmastership at Highgate and was succeeded by Ford Ikin, who reported being appalled by the dilapidated state of the buildings that greeted him on his arrival at Trent.
Ikin immediately set about persuading the governors to spend money on sanitation, new beds and decoration, as well as removing the gas lighting that had been criticised in an inspection in 1929. The school was dramatically improved and filled to its capacity.
However, another crisis loomed. Weymouth College, also owned by the Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. was in financial crisis. Ikin received a letter from the Chairman of the Governing Body advising that none of the Masters’ salaries could be paid at the end of the Michaelmas term. He was then advised that both Trent and Weymouth Colleges would have to close as the bank could no longer support their £20,000 overdraft. The decision was made to close Weymouth College and concentrate on Trent. The immediate crisis was over and Trent was saved.
Despite the losses of World War Two, these were happier years for Trent. ‘Daddy’ Warner continued to be a central figure, held in affection by everyone who knew him. The Governors, including B G Catterns, gave considerable support to the school and Ikin oversaw key building projects including Wortley House (1947), the Ikin Baths and the May Hall (named after Governor, Kenneth May).
Ikin's later years were dogged by ill health, but before he retired in 1968 he and the governors had opened Trent's doors to allow day boys in 1967 and also opened the Junior School in 1968, when Tony Maltby took over the reigns as Headmaster.
Maltby’s reign as Headmaster saw a period of rejuvenation at Trent. He arrived at the school at a time when its closure was a possibility once again but instead he managed to revive its fortunes beyond anyone’s expectations.
One of his first tasks was to oversee the integration of day boys into the school. He lowered the entry age to 11 and over the next five years, the school numbers rose from 185 to over 400 pupils. As a result, Wortley House was expanded and new buildings were purchased to accommodate the Juniors. The Science Block was completed in 1971, leaving the Kelvin for conversion to a specialised English and Modern Languages facility, including the Melton Theatre Workshop. A sixth form club was also started at this time.
Many members were shocked and felt uncomfortable about the speed that changes were being implemented by Maltby. He began to move the school away from its old traditions and looked to the future, introducing female appointments in the late 1970s and replacing the Masters’ Common Room ‘clubby’ ethos with a more brisk and business-like approach.
Maltby’s programme of expansion continued throughout his tenure. In 1975, Sixth Form girls were admitted to Trent and the school roll hit a new high in the 1980s at 630. Numbers continued to grow due to the Assisted Places Government Scheme, which also benefited Trent with a rise in academic results from 1984 onwards.
To accommodate the growing number of pupils, Maltby continued to develop the school. The John Sketchley Sports Hall was completed in 1979; Blake House was built in 1981, as was the new Art and Design block; the May Hall was extended to contain the Music Department and the building of a new Biology Centre was begun. Maltby retired in 1988, but he left behind him a totally different school to the one he had inherited 20 years earlier.
Jonathan Lee became Headmaster and his first priority was to consider new strategies to enable Trent College to meet the challenges that the next decade would bring for independent education. Lee saw that boarding could go into sharp decline, so he introduced the idea of Flexible Boarding, which allowed boarders to go home after games on Saturday as long as they attended a Chapel Service, which was usually held on a Sunday evening.
Over the 1990 summer holidays, the Headmaster instructed all the members of staff to write a paper, entitled ‘Co-education – its place at Trent’. Lee found that 90% of his staff wanted the school to move to co-education at all ages. As a result, in September 1992 girls aged 11+ and 13+ were allowed into Trent.
More recent developments include the founding of The Elms, Trent College's junior school in 1998, when a large hotel on neighbouring Elm Avenue was purchased by the school. Nine months later, ‘The Elms’ Junior School was opened under Anne Beardsley’s headship. Places at the school were almost immediately over-subscribed, and in 2002, the Upper Elms was opened, which doubled the number of available places.
2004 saw the extension and refurbishment of the John Sketchley Sports Hall, as well as the opening of the refurbished Catterns’ Pitch. The Trent Association was also launched earlier in this year. Trent’s roll in 2005/2006 stood at about 759 senior pupils and 325 junior pupils. In 2005 a bungalow was also purchased on Elm Avenue and was turned into a special unit for the youngest nursery age pupils. In September 2006, Gill Dixon, the ninth - and first female head of Trent College took over, following the retirement of Jonathan Lee.
A book about the history of Trent College, entitled ‘A Celebration of Trent College 1866-2002’ by F.W.B. Leadbetter is now available from the Trent Association website: www.trentassociation.net/trent_history.htm