Leonard Ellisdon (1885-1968): Education & Schooling – Writing Lives

Leonard Ellisdon (1885-1968): Education & Schooling


“At first I was very unhappy, after so many private schools”

Surprisingly for a working class writer the author I have chosen; had been, after much consideration from his parents about the firm discipline needed for their son, my author, and had been “trundled” into school after school.  The private school Ellisdon attending in 1890 is not the kind of school we associate with private schools today. His school was a small independent school ran individually by a lady. Ellisdon’s school life had played a part on his life but not necessarily a huge one. He seems to have had a normal school experience, with plenty of punishments, scraps and experiences a young boy should have. The lessons or anything he was taught however is never mentioned, apart from his writing class.

schoolEllisdon attended his first school off name unmentioned; a private one, at the age of five until 1895, however this school did not seem to stand out or make any effect on Ellisdon’s later life, but maybe that is just because of the young age he attended at. Nevertheless throughout the time he was to spend at this next school on his timeline, for Ellisdon there was an event to happen that would consequentially affect him for the rest of his life, and not in a positive way. Being left handed at this new school of Ellisdons had resulted in a nightmare. The schoolmaster disapproved and remarked that it was an “affliction second only to the plague”. Obviously his mum did not receive the discipline she had desired for her little boy, as Ellisdon has used his left hand whenever the chance occurred. He was “rumbled” and was struck by the schoolmaster every time he did so, forcing Ellisdon to use his right hand. He required a stammer and stuttered as he spoke from that day forward.

There is no mention of Ellisdon reading any sort of text throughout his autobiography, but in school he could obviously write at an early age for the era he was brought up on. R.K. Webb states that two-thirds of the working class could only read out in public from the first half the nineteenth century, those who could not read were largely from the unskilled working class. Ellisdon could read and write establishing that he attained a good education and help from both parents.(The British Working Class Reader.pg.22).

On the other hand not all Ellisdon’s school times were a miserable one and even some shaped his identity and the man he grew up to become. Being able to box could be an awful handy trait to have whilst being a boy in a school of 350 boys. This is something Ellisdon was able to do, and not being made an easy victim of made his life a lot better than some of the other children.Moving again and again made school life an extremely unhappy place for Ellisdon, but on the contrary his last and final move was to a public school on Lambeth Road where he stayed the longest until the age of 14 until his headmaster died and he procured his first job. He mentions that there were a vast amount of budding comedians and acrobats at the school, which Ellisdon became friends with, including a young boy called George Jackley who became the well-known pantomime comedian and father of Nat Jackley and Aubrey Chaplin who had a younger cousin called Charlie. This young boy was in fact the Charlie Chaplin who starred in many films years later, not that Ellisdon was able to recognise or relate to the star for ages as, on the television to the young boy who used to buy his sandwiches off him at dinner time. Even though Ellisdons memoirs are a selection of funny events throughout his entire life, school times are mentioned as a basis for the rest of his life, with an array of negative and positive consequences. With the impression of an extremely strong willed and inspirational man these events have shaped Ellisdon to be able to conquer any problems he had faced in his lifetime, his stroke being probably the biggest one ever.


Throughout Ellisdon’s memoirs he never describes doing any other sort of school work outside his lesson and school hours. The stories mentioned in Leonard’s life are just short snippets of events that stuck out in his memories. He never mentions seeing his other brother and sisters at school, maybe they did not go. Girls throughout the nineteenth century were told to stay at home and help around the house. Domesticity came first, education last. The boys on the other hand were allowed to get an education, for job purposes. One example is Hannah Mitchell from Derbyshire. In 1871 she was requested to stay and do housework whilst her brothers were allowed to read, ‘My mother honestly thought me lazy because I didn’t like house-work, and held that reading was only a recreation, meant for Sundays.’ (Burnett, p. 135)



Ellisdon also attending Sunday school, which one is unknown. He had a love for church choirs and became a church singer from 1895 to 1939. Not a bad word was said about Sunday school or his time in the choir, it was one thing he looked forward to the most. ‘From the frequency with which they are mentioned in autobiographical writings it is clear they occupied a highly important and generally, highly honoured place in the lives of the working classes. Only rarely is there a critical note.’(Burnett, 136-7)





Webb, R.K. The British Working Class Reader, 1790-1848: Literacy and Social Tension. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955, p. 22

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