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Clark's History

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Clark's History
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1950's Prospectus
This note was prepared in 1980 to record
100 years of the College

 One hundred years ago the state of education was very different from what it is today. The London County Council or Greater London Council did not exist and there was no Department of Education and Science to control the state of education as we have today.

The old Board school system was carried on in only a half-hearted manner and small private schools were the order of the day, with many of the upper class being educated in their own homes.

George E. Clark was born in Windsor in 1860 of a middle class family and was himself educated privately at home. He first qualified as a Bank Clerk and later gained entry to the Civil Service. As a young man of 19 he came to London and found that to obtain promotion in the Civil Service it was necessary to pass examinations but that there were no schools or institutions where he could receive instruction. However, by his own efforts he was successful and coached his younger brother for similar examinations.

At the very young age of 20, George Clark started evening classes and very quickly established himself as a very able teacher. Young men and women came from all over London to attend his classes and he rapidly built up a reputation for himself. He decided in 1880 to find suitable premises, give up the Civil Service and devote himself full time to teaching. So began Clark’s College on 18th September 1880. Young George Clark was to devote the rest of his life to the supervision of the work of the College that still proudly bears his name today. He was an inspired teacher and his methods achieved excellent results. It is recorded that upon hearing of his first major success, he expressed his satisfaction in typical manner with a quotation from Shakespeare which he knew as well as his bible. That quotation 'The end crowns all' from Troilus & Cressida, became in its Latin form 'Finis Opus Coronat', the motto and inspiration of many generations of Clark’s College pupils.

The news of his success quickly spread and other candidates from further afield sought his help and so began the first Correspondence Courses. The earliest recorded First Place gained by a student in open competition was that of William Murphy who came top from 1,200 candidates in an examination in 1885.

Success followed success and George Clark took it all in his stride. So rapidly did the number of pupils grow that by 1886 larger premises had to be found. Also, in 1890 Mr. Clark was asked to establish classes at the Goldsmith Institute in New Cross and continued to direct these classes for the next ten years.

His great ambition was to see all the vacancies offered in the 'Open' Civil Service Examinations gained by his students; a seemingly impossible task. In those days the government positions were offered in open examinations to boys and girls of varying age groups and often there were hundreds of candidates for only a handful of vacancies. Nevertheless, the 'impossible' was achieved on two occasions. Clark’s College students won all the positions offered in 1894 and again in 1910, a feat which has never been achieved by any other college.

It would be tiresome to go on giving lists of achievements but one or two may be of interest. At the Business Exhibition at Olympia in 1907, Clark’s College students gained the Typewriting Championship of the World. In 1909 the Evening News undertook to present 100 Scholarships to pupils and paid the biggest fee ever received by an educational establishment in the shape of a cheque for over £2,000, a considerable sum in those days.

George Clark was satisfied with the first quarter century of the College, but felt that what was being achieved for the older student could be done for younger pupils and so set up what was then called a Modern School to deal with pupils from 11 years of age and much effort was given to such subjects as Handwriting, Arithmetic, English Composition, Spelling and, in addition, such subjects as French, Physics and Chemistry were also being taught; this was quite revolutionary in the early 1900's.

A clip from the Exam Register of 1909 states that 2,903 Certificates of the RSA and LCC were gained by Clark’s College students. This was more than those gained by all other establishments who entered candidates added together.

We have in the Administrative Offices an oil painting of the Founder presented to him at Prize Giving in 1912.

When war broke out in 1914, Mr. Clark was not daunted and organised special classes to train girls to fill positions vacated by men who had joined the Service. Later, classes were organized for disabled soldiers and special classes were set up to teach Braille to those who had lost their sight. This tradition remains to the present with the Founder’s granddaughter still teaching Braille several afternoons per week. During the war, Mr. Clark became Honorary Director of Training at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton and at other government training establishments at Richmond and Brighton. All this additional work began to tell on the Founder and even his boundless energy began to fail. It was therefore necessary to have his only son, Ernest G.V. Clark, join him from his studies at Oxford to help with the general running of the College.

George Clark had the honour of being made a Freeman of the City of London in 1916 and the College Classes were honoured by a visit from His Majesty King George V and Queen Mary.

The enormous strain of the war years had told heavily on the health of George Clark but his death on All Saints Day 1919 came as a great shock to all who knew him. In the later years of his life he had lived in London Lane and was buried in the Old Bromley Cemetery at the top of Bromley Hill.

Control of the College now rested mainly on the shoulders of his only son, Ernest G.V. Clark, who was not only University trained and a certificated teacher but had been carefully groomed by his father to carry on the work of the College.

In January 1922, the following announcement appeared in the paper –

A prize of £1,000 in cash will be awarded to the student who does the best work and achieves the highest record of success.

£1,000 was a lot of money, and was finally divided between M. Bryning, E.F.J. Lambert and R.D. Whitwell.

In 1930, a special scholarship was organized in conjunction with the Daily News to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the College – scholarships to the value of £5,000 were awarded.

The school made excellent progress and has an impressive list of academic success during this period but again war intervened. Much work was carried on by correspondence and an evacuation centre was established and, for a time, the Local Authorities decided that no more than four pupils could assemble in a school building at any one time and a rota of students was organised so that all could attend periodically and maintain progress. We are happy to report that there were no casualties among either staff or students but incendiary bombs were, to say the least, a nuisance and a rota of staff for fire watching was necessary.

It is surprising in view of all the difficulties with which staff and pupils had to contend, that any real progress in education was possible during those years, and yet although some took longer to reach proficiency and pass examinations, the high standard of the work of the College continued. Also, as in the 1914-1918 period, a great deal of voluntary work was done. Funds were collected and a complete mobile canteen for serving hot drinks and meals to the troops was presented to the YMCA.

After the war Mrs. E.G.V. Clark organized a fund to supply Guide Dogs for the Blind and we have many letters of appreciation from men and women who were assisted by these specially trained dogs.

Since the end of the war there has been a continual increase in the demand for Grammar School Education and Secretarial Training.

At the time, Mr. E.G.V. Clark was joined by Raymond C. Smith (grandson of the Founder) and Derek H. Thomas (husband of the Founder’s granddaughter) as Joint Principals to assist him in the day to day work of the College.

In 1962 a new extension was built to the school premises allowing for additional classrooms, laboratory, etc. In 1971 Mr. C.C. Moss, who had been Headmaster for 35 years, died suddenly and Mr. C.L. Winchester, who had joined the College Staff in 1947, was appointed to succeed.

Since the 1944 Education Act, much of the college work has been towards University of London General Certificate of Education and in this connection, along with the work for the Royal Society of Arts and the London Chamber of Commerce. The College has continued to produce annually most satisfactory results. For example, in recent years the College has had either 1st or 2nd places in the United Kingdom in subjects ranging from Shorthand through Typewriting, English Language, Arithmetic, Mathematics, French and General Science, against National Competition.

As so from the days of 1880 to the present day, Clark’s College, inspired first by George, E. Clark, then by his son and now to grandson and great grandson, the college has been growing, improving and adapting to modern conditions. Following an inspection of the School in 1978 the Headmaster was elected to membership of the Independent Schools Association (incorporated by Charter in 1884). Membership of this Association is confined to the Headmasters of Schools in which prescribed conditions of efficiency are fulfilled and which reach satisfactory standards of physical welfare as well as academic education.


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