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Bootham School, York: A Quaker School in Wartime

Zeppelins brought the realities of war to the children and staff of Bootham School

Residents of the elegant Georgian buildings in York's affluent Bootham area first caught news of the war when shouts awoke them at 1am on the morning of 5 August 1914. This disruption marked the beginning of four long, difficult years for the staff and pupils of the local, Quaker-run, Bootham School.

The school’s headmaster was Arthur Rowntree and the experiences of his family and the schoolboys were charted in a diary by his wife Ellen.

Like many suitable locations across the country, buildings were rapidly requisitioned and adapted when the outbreak of war was announced. Schools in York anticipated the needs of the country and adapted classrooms into hospital wards.

Ellen describes in her diary how the sports fields were turned into potato fields and students were sent out to labour on farms, filling the spaces left by those who had enlisted.

Despite the distance from the conflict, a series of Zeppelin raids in 1916 brought to homes in York a taste of the shelling that troops in the trenches were experiencing in France and Belgium. However, some of the school’s most creative and brave were over in France helping the war effort as part of the Friends Ambulance Unit, although many never returned.

Location: Bootham School, 49-57 Bootham, York YO30 7BU
Image courtesy of Bootham School
Presented by Jonathan Cowap
Historyworks production for BBC Radio

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