Dunstable Grammar School welcomed an A-list royal

Dunstable Grammar School
Dunstable Grammar School

A little crowd, supervised by a police sergeant and constable, gathered in July 1908 outside Dunstable Grammar School to watch the arrival of a distinguished visitor.

The gateway in High Street North, still readily recognisable, is used today as the entrance to the staff car park of Ashton Middle School.

In 1908 it led to the building’s south wing, then the home of the headmaster, Mr L.C.R. Thring. Boys in the photo are wearing Eton collars, part of the grammar school uniform for younger pupils.

The photographer was thoughtful enough to write a brief caption on the front of his print, which (all these years later) has enabled further details to be traced.

Barry Brown, of the Old Dunstablians, has searched through back copies of the school magazine to discover that Prince Francis of Teck, paying his first visit to Dunstable, was here to distribute the prizes at the school’s speech day.

The magazine reported: “His visit caused intense excitement to prevail, and Speech Day was quite the best the school has ever had.”

The prince, whose visit had been arranged by Sir Edgar Sebright, spoke of the pleasantness of school-life and the comfort of things now as compared with past days.

Prince Francis, of a dukedom in Wurtternberg, had become an A-list royal in 1893 when his sister Mary married an heir to the British throne, crowned King George V in 1910.

Previously Prince Francis, known as Frank, had been sent to join the army in India, supposedly to avoid his gambling debts. Today he is mainly remembered for outraging Queen Mary by allegedly bequeathing some of the family jewels to a society beauty.

He had died aged 40 in 1910 from an illness contracted at Balmoral, shortly before his sister’s coronation, and she took steps to ensure that his will was never published.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.