Index  (i)  (ii)  (iii)  (iv)  (v)  Preface.  (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  (6)  (7)  (8)  (9)  (10)  (11)  (12)  (13)  (14)  (15)  (16)  (17)  (18)  (19)  (20)  (21) 

CHAPTER 14.

1906 The Year of Crisis.

A few weeks before the death of old Philip Sewell, Mr Buxton had got together an enlarged committee to help the school which was about 400 overspent. The first meeting was attended by Frank Barclay, Jack Gurney, Eustace Gurney and Margaret Sewell; her brother Ted acted as secretary and Louis Buxton took the chair. The immediate task was to meet the deficit, then to make provision for the future. Louis had already had a word with other members of the Buxton family and they together with Frank Barclay and the Gurneys, agreed to do what was necessary.

There were local problems with the farm and neighbouring land which they had always used rent-free. To assist over these matters Major H.S.Marsham of Rippon Hall agreed to join the committee. His estate was adjacent to the school. The Rector of Marsham, Mr Wathen, also accepted an invitation to join; he already did a great deal for the school. The Red House had recently been licensed to take 90 boys and the accounts indicated that the running costs would be covered if the proper fee was received for any number over 80; however there were only 65 boys at this time.

Margaret Sewell undertook the task of getting the numbers up by writing to those local authorities which seemed most likely to need places. She had recently retired from her work as Warden of the Women's University Settlement at Southwark and knew the London Boroughs. In some other large cities Margaret was also known, as a visiting lecturer in Social Science and for her book " Conditions of Effectual Work among the Poor". It took her the next four years to get the Red House up to 90 boys. She came to live at Dudwick Cottage to be within walking distance of the school. Most of her letters were written there and many of the carbon copies have been preserved. Her brother, Ted, planned to move into Dudwick House and was able to do so when the tenant Mrs Hastings Parker died at the age of 90.

Clare House, Catton, which had been the Sewell house for the past thirty years, passed to the city of Norwich and became the Blyth Grammar School for Girls. The field below the house is now a park; it was presented to the City by the family in memory of their father. A plaque at the lower corner of the park records this; near the plaque is a fine triangular horse trough in memory of his sister Anna Sewell. The old road from Buxton to Norwich passes that way. There is also a very beautiful window in memory of Philip Sewell in Christ Church, New Catton. This was presented by members of the congregation and unveiled by the Bishop of Norwich.

The Red House staff felt they had been through a crisis, but it was not a catastrophe because the new committee had saved the school. Enquiries had even been made to see if the Norfolk County Council would take over the place but they had refused. This had been a most worrying and strenuous time for Louis Buxton who had organised the financial rescue operation; Alfred Babington thought he looked tired when he rode over to see him and did not get off his horse. Then tragedy struck; Mr Buxton died very suddenly at Bolwick, at the early age of 60.

Major Henry Marsham, who was a Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk and a JP took over as Chairman. The number of boys was just beginning to increase when the school was hit by a bad outbreak of scarlet fever; the intake had to be stopped. This was bad enough for the finances but then came the extra wages for a trained nurse followed by a very large bill from the doctor. Just when the epidemic was over a boy arrived with measles; this lad had been away at his first job, on licence to a Cromer Hotel. When the rash developed the hotel sent him back to Buxton in their cab. Perhaps it is not surprising in the circumstances, that Babington sent him straight back to the hotel with an extra blanket. The hotel said that he had gone off his head and developed a religious mania; he was put in an asylum. When the Red House heard about this they sent Babington to get the boy out, which he did. The lad made a full recovery.

These troubled times were too much for some of the older staff; the tailor and the shoemaker left; then Allen, the excellent instructor and cabinet maker, resigned after being refused a salary rise. The school doctor was asked to reduce his very big bill but refused, so a replacement was appointed. This was Dr Wright who was interested in the work of the school and eventually became a manager. He agreed that his fee would be 5/- a visit and half this amount if there was more than one case. He was to be both medical adviser and adviser on physical development. Every one of the staff had made representations about their salaries. These are given below, for interest;-

Red House Salaries, 1906 (All with rent-free accommodation and rations)
  Governor and wife who was matron                125 per annum
  Schoolmaster and wife who was schoolmistress     103    "
  Farm bailiff                                     35    "
  Cook/baker                                       45    "
  Shoemaker                                        45    "
  Tailor                                           41    "
  Workshop Instructor (no accommodation)          112    "
  Servant and Charwoman                             9    "
N.B. The farm bailiff was told that his salary of 35 a year was equivalent to 68 when his bonus and house with food was taken into consideration. He got free eggs and agreed to stay.