Bolton School Senior Boys

Local, Special and School Archival Collections

The Library also maintains the Local and Special Collections and the Chained Library; it also has custody of the School's earliest archival records that were formerly kept in the School Chest. The Local Collection contains an interesting body of material relating to the geography and history of Bolton and the Greater Manchester conurbation: this material is housed separately because it is so frequently used for the students' research projects. The Special Collections contain rare or unusual books which the Library uses for its displays and exhibitions. These range from collections of commemorative magazines and newspapers to copies of the celebrated Yellow Book, an early edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary and the Latin dictionary of Robert Ainsworth (1746), the School's most significant scholar of his generation. Some of this material is displayed on the School's own Intranet. We also have a small collection of interesting items relating to the RMS Titanic: Sir Arthur Rostron, Captain of the Carpathia which came to the aid of Titanic's stricken passengers, was a pupil at the school.


The Headmaster's Chair and the School Chest

These two objects (along with the Chained Library which stands opposite) are the most tangible and visible link with the early history of Bolton School. The Headmaster's chair may well be the one to which reference is made in a record made in 1685: "paid to John Sendall for a chair for the headmaster to sit in for the better hearing of his scholars 4s. 6d". It is made of oak and is well constructed. It appears in photographs of the school rooms of the old Grammar School (which stood adjacent to the Parish church). In these pictures an academic gown is sometimes draped across it to conceal the loss of the original right arm!

The School Chest was until quite recently the repository of the School's early records. It is made of wrought iron, lined with wood and was probably intended to hold money. Such chests were once known as "Armada chests": it was thought that the Spanish had brought their gold bullion in them when they attempted to invade England. In fact this chest was probably made in Nuremberg, imported for use as a safe. The documents it used to contain are preserved in the library. They are many and varied, ranging from grants of land beautifully written on parchment to a small scrap of paper recording the amount of wine consumed at a school meeting in May, 1759. Of particular interest is an early inventory of books in the library made in March 1727. Of chief importance is the original letter of James Lever of London, dated December 10, 1681, setting out the "Orders" or statutes for the governance of the school. This includes the thoughtful provision of "20s. Yearly allowed to some poor scholar for brushing the dust off the books, sweeping and keeping all things clean". Interestingly, the use of candles in the school was expressly forbidden.

The library regularly produces displays and exhibitions to draw attention to important historical, literary and social topics. Whenever possible, these draw upon the library's own holdings.


The Chained Library

The earliest items in the School's library are housed in the fine oak almery which stands in the Library Corridor, adjacent to the Senior Library. As a carved inscription running around it attests, this book case was donated to the School in 1694, the gift of Mr James Leaver Citison of London. It contains fifty-six books, the great majority of which retain the chains that were bought for them in 1735 (the School preserves the record of the Governors' decision to authorise this expenditure). The boys are interested in this unusual feature of their school and they complete a small project on it as part of their work in Year 7.

The book of most interest is the three-volume copy of the Acts and Monuments by John Foxe. Commonly (but misleadingly) known as Foxe's "Book of martyrs", the book contains illustrations of people condemned to death during the reign of Queen Mary Tudor. Graphic and disturbing, the hypnotic power of these prints is as strong today as in the sixteenth century.

An exhibition of Foxe's work, entitled "John Foxe and Prophetic History", is staged from time to time to teach the boys more about this fascinating but unhappy period. The School's copy of the book (also the gift of James Lever) was printed in 1684, the ninth edition of the work.

The Chained Library

The Chained Library

The School Chest and Headmasters Chair

The Headmaster's Chair and School Chest

Foxes Book of Martyrs

Foxe's Book of Martyrs