The Tudor (Blue Coat) Uniform at Chethamís Hospital School, Manchester

Recollections by Alex Williams

I joined Chets in 1950 at the age of ten, and soon became accustomed to wearing the Blue Coat uniform on Sundays and other special occasions. The heavy dark blue coat was designed to keep out the cold. It was fastened across the chest by a vertical row of brass buttons which we polished to a bright shine on Saturday evenings. In addition to the brass buttons we wore a leather belt with a brass buckle, and black shoes which of course also had to be polished and which were likewise fastened by a brass buckle and strap. Underneath the Blue Coat we wore our normal short school trousers and bright warm yellow stockings It was not quite Ďboot campí but was indeed somewhat military!

 

Itís the special occasions that stick in my mind now over 60 years later. It was inspirational to be playing the violin in the school orchestra, especially when the baton of Gerald Littlewood, our Music Master, gave way to that of a senior violinist from Manchesterís Hallť Orchestra, and yet more so when the maestro himself, Sir John Barbirolli, who was chief conductor of the Halle arrived with Lady Barbirolli in tow to conduct us for our final rehearsal before a concert in the Free Trade Hall. We gave it everything we had and all played so much better for Sir John than we would ever have done for Mr Littlewood.

 

Music was an important part of life at Chethamís even then. Our school orchestra regularly entered the annual Alderley Edge Music Festival though we did not always win. Boys from Chets also formed the two choirs at Manchester Cathedral, just over the road from School. I well remember singing Handelís Messiah in the Cathedral Ė and my legs shaking when I was first called upon to read the lesson in a service there Ė a passage from the Bible.

The other very special occasion for which the whole school was dressed up in our blue coat attire was the visit and inspection by retired Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein. We paraded on our school playground, the courtyard of the ancient buildings of Chethamís Hospital School and Library and wondered at this little man in his army uniform and beret and how he had chased Hitlerís troops under General Rommel, the Desert Fox, across North Africa thereby winning the Second World War!

Of course, Chethamís Hospital was founded by Humphrey Chetham in 1653, so the uniform we wore would probably have been common at that time. I donít believe the present Chethamís School still uses this Tudor dress.