Two brothers (and one more?)

Originally published in Gazette 293 (Summer 2008)

One of the many pleasures of working in the archive is that you never know what the post will bring. In February a photocopy arrived from Ms Susan Archer of an account by her great grandfather Frederick Mills of his early life, including his time at CLS, which she had recently acquired. Here is an extract:
 
Born in Trinidad of English parents (my father Henry James Mills and my mother née Elizabeth Ann Rix) like most creole children I was sent at an early age to England to be educated. A short period was passed in a Dame’s School (in the [early] part of the last [century] this being the only medium for the education of quite young children [)], this school was at Thetford in Norfolk and was conducted by a lady of education, although adversity had brought her low in the world’s opinion. Thanks to her care I was grounded in the fundamental rudiments of the English language. This I found useful to me, when I was taken to London and entered on the roll of Scholars of the City of London School.
 
That school was under the Headmastership of the Rev. Dr Mortimer, one of the purest and most distinguished classics of his day. In his Tripos year at Oxford he was bracketted as First with the then Earl of Derby and one other. I entered the school as a very youthful juvenile, clad as was the custom of those days in a short frock costume and an exceedingly large white collar. I remember well taking my place as the new boy and consequently the last of the class and of the School, then numbering some 7 hundred [recte 450 when he arrived, 600 when he left].

I need not detail how I passed through the curriculum of the school – subject of course to all the vicissitudes of school life and the stirring incidents that marked those days – notably the terribly severe outbreak of cholera in London which decimated many a home; the Chartists’ Processions and Riots which culminated in the school being temporarily closed and the boys one day sent home in small detachments under the charge and care of a stalwart retired soldier.

I ultimately left the school third in the 1st [recte 6th] Class, having passed through every class both in the English and Classical divisions. Here I would bear record to the wise foresight of my valued Head Master, who made it a “sine qua non” that every scholar should be well grounded in the rudiments of English education before he passed to the study of the Classics. By these means the pupils of those days at the City of London School were carefully taught Geography, Writing, Arithmetic and Elocution and by the same prepared to grasp the more severe culture of the Dead Languages.
 
It has been my lot since I left School to mix with all classes and amidst these with men of the deepest culture, not only in England, but also on the Continent. I have never found the educational discipline, imbibed at the “City of London” to fail me and have often thanked my worthy “Head” of those days for the care which he bestowed on each individual boy. In the years which followed my school life there were the usual ‘ups and downs’ – probably more of the latter for somehow Fortune hitherto has withheld her smiles.
 
Naturally I checked the records, and there he is: “Frederick Losh Mills, son of Henry James Mills of Port of Spain, Trinidad. Entered Autumn 1844, left Summer 1852”. He also had a brother at the school, about whom there is much more information: “William Woodward Mills, entered Autumn 1844, left Summer 1850. Holder of the Times Scholarship (at the school). Wadham College Oxford B.A. 1854; assistant master North London Collegiate School 1854-55; 3rd Master Islington Grammar School 1855-68; Priest 1858 (various curacies listed); Rector of Aylmerton from 1872; Diocesan Inspector of Schools 1884; Rural Dean of Repps (Norfolk) 1887-1914”. In the large ledgers we have, containing the school account for each boy, we find for Frederick and William “Son of Mrs Elizabeth Mills, Windsor Terrace, City Road”, with the address crossed out and replaced by “Mr Sims, 83 Bishopsgate St Without”, who was presumably paying the bills on her behalf.
 
Next came an offer from an Old Citizen, the Revd Geoffrey Breed (1935-42): would we be interested in some items he had found in bookshops some years before, including some early prize books? The answer of course was ‘yes’, particularly as the inscription in one of the books was “German Class/ July Examination 1846/ Prize/ to/ William Mills/ C.A.Feiling/ Master” So after 160 years the Mills brothers were clearly our claiming attention.
 
There are two matching prize books, handsomely bound in blue leather and embossed in gold on the front with ‘City of London School/ PRIZE BOOK’ beneath an image of the front of the Milk Street school – something which I have not found elsewhere; they cost 7/6 plus 8/- for binding. The books contain four works by  de la Motte Fouqué, set in gothic type but printed in London in 1845. Both are inscribed (one as above, the other similarly to ‘W.Mills’). So what did William do to deserve these? Luckily we still have the reports of the distinguished scholars who were engaged to examine the state of the school in 1846 (long before public exams and league tables). The German examiner was Dr Bernays, Professor of German at King’s College, London. He starts:
 
Gentlemen
I am glad to have it again in my power to report favourably on the state of the German class in your excellent school. The plan adopted by Mr Feiling is the only one which can never fail, viz: that of laying a solid foundation.
 
He continues at some length, approving of Mr Feiling’s methods and organisation of the class into three divisions, and ends
 
To particularise a few names, I beg to mention
Of the first division [five names];
Of the second: Mills, Potter, Theobald (who began but a short time before easter) & Vines;
Of the third; [four names].
Hoping I may always be able to report thus favourably whenever you may honour me with the office of an examiner in your school,
I have the honour to remain, Gentlemen,
Your most obedient and humble servant
Adolphus Bernays Ph.Dr.
 
Was this German prize a flash in the pan for William? And was Fred also in the running? The answers are in the handwritten Arrangements for the Annual Distribution of Prizes notebooks which we have from 1840 to 1860 – these contain much more detail than the printed programmes (for example, in 1844 Dr Bernays received £3-3-0 for his labours, and there was expenditure of £13-4-0 on wine and £2-6-0on buns and biscuits). The Mills brothers have an impressive record. Fred “passed through the curriculum of the school” as a successful all-rounder, taking a prize every year: 1845 Writing Prize, 1846 English, 1847 Arithmetic, 1848 General Proficiency, 1849 Classical, 1850 extra prize for Classical Proficiency, 1851 Classical Proficiency, 1852 Classical Proficiency. After his 1846 prize William continued to excel in German: in 1849 he got Sir George Carroll’s Medal for Proficiency in German (inscribed “Dem verdienst seine Krone Wilhelm Woodward Mills 1849”), and in 1850 he took the top German prize and was awarded The Times Scholarship, worth £30 per year and tenable until taking a degree at the University of Oxford or Cambridge. 
 
Finally, in 1846 there is a mystery. Pasted into the prize notebook is a letter, the only one in all these books. It is to Dr Mortimer from Henry Manly, who served as Writing Master for at least 35 years from 1837 (having walked from Somerset to apply for the post):
 
Sepr.17th 1846
 
My Dear Sir
John Mills of the 4th Class has the prize for Book-keeping awarded to him, which he did not receive at the distribution; through some mistake the book was not ordered. May I beg as a favour that he may have it given to him now. I should be very sorry to disappoint him as he worked very hard to get it, and his general good conduct is deserving of reward.
I am, dear Sir,
Yours truly,
H.Manly
 
The record notebook that Mills won this prize (his classmate J.R.Seeley took the Classical and French prizes that year). But who was this John Mills? The only possible candidate is John Alfred Mills (no relation to Fred and William), but the school register and account ledger agree that he came to the school in January 1847, too late for this prize. So perhaps Fred and William had an elder brother who somehow slipped through the school’s administrative net? We shall probably never know.
 
With all this assembled Susan Archer came in to see the books and documents, bringing with her the original manuscript, which she has now very kindly donated to the archive.