The Birth of the Old Northamptonians Association
Northampton Town and County School was growing in numbers and popularity at the turn of the 20th century – much like Northampton School for Boys at the turn of the 21st century.
The school was growing too big for Abington Square, so in 1909 an agreement was signed and the School governors sold the premises on Abington Square to the Borough Council and, with the funds accumulated, built a new school on the Billing Road.
On 17th October 1911 Northampton Town and County School was opened for 350 boys, by Dr Butler, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
The School soon settled down to hard work in its new location and before long, new enterprises and activities were being developed.
“In July 1914, the School broke up for the holidays, little expecting the tragedy which was to befall the world within the next few days. Before it assembled again however, the lamps had gone out all over Europe and many Masters and Old Boys were never to see them lit again.” T C Lees
Several masters joined up immediately and during the first year of the war, large numbers of Old Boys also joined the first hundred thousand and before long the ‘Northamptonian’ (school magazine) was recording the departure of prefects and boys.
“When the “Cease Fire” sounded on November 11th 1918, the first Great War came to an end. For those who were left it came as a great release and like the dawn of a new era; but there were many who did not come back and the Roll of Honour contains the names of 94 Old Northamptonians who gave their lives so that others may live.”
“The spirit of comradeship inspired by the war and the flush of enthusiasm which greeted the peace finally brought Old Northamptonians Association into being.”
On 12th July 1919, Mr Reynolds, Headmaster of the School and a keen sportsman, called a meeting of Old Boys in the School Hall, after the cricket match. He spoke to them on the question of forming a Club and of commemorating the part played by Old Northamptonians in the War.
Mr Reynolds was elected President and by December 1920, the Association had a membership of 300 and a concert was held in the School Hall.
In 1927 Mr Alfred Cockerill bequeathed his house opposite the school to the Governors of the Old Grammar School Foundation, for the purpose of a Headmaster’s residence.
Under the same will, the 22 acres adjoining the house were left to another gentlemen with the proviso that, should he desire to sell, the Governors should have the first option.
They bought the land in 1928. The frontage on Ardington Road was sold for building purposes, whilst the rest was leased to the Old Northamptonians Association as a playing field. The house was first used as a Boarding House, then as an extension of the school and finally in 1946 part Headmaster’s House, which was the original intention, and part classrooms.
“An old boys association is a great asset to any school. It is a means by which young men who have left school can come together and maintain those friendships which they formed at school. At the same time, it can also be a strong and inspiring force in the present life of the school and no school can do its work truly unless old boys come together with their encouragement, their support and their visible proof of what their school has done for them.” T C Lees
The Old Northamptonians Association made rapid progress between the two Great Wars. A large number of Old Boys joined and the cricket club and rugby section were officially formed in 1922 and 1923 respectively.
In 1937 the Association took over a new lease for the Billing Road site and, for those who did not play games, opportunities to meet were provided by social functions and the Annual Dinner and Dance.
During the Second World War, buildings were placed on the site of the current clubhouse to serve as storage rooms for the CCF at the school. The playing fields also became a site for a gun battery and the Nissen huts were erected for further storage use. These buildings continued to be used for storage after the war, but some conversions were made to add classroom space for the school.
In the early 1950’s a “new” clubhouse was built and housed the sports section of cricket, rugby, football and tennis together with being the home of many and various social events.
Throughout the 60s and 70s the ONs prospered both on and off the field. Many former pupils returned to play their sport here, and there was always a welcome, both on the sporting and the social front.
The clubhouse was a hive of activity with the keenness and enthusiasm of the members the driving force behind its success.
The political turmoil and upheaval in education in the 70s was to have a major effect on the school and the Old Northamptonians. The School struggled to come to terms with the comprehensive system, and this in turn hurt the playing and social membership base of the club.
To counteract falling numbers, the Association opened its doors to all whilst still retaining the strongest links with the school. As a result, many new members joined who have become life-long supporters of the club and have held many positions of responsibility on various committees.
The recent history has seen the re-birth of mini and junior rugby in the late 80s, junior cricket in the early 90s and junior football soon followed. All these sections are now vibrant and form a hugely important addition to the Association.
The school also moved forward and introduced girls into the sixth form in the mid-nineties and the club extended a warm welcome to all leavers, both recent and long standing, to enjoy the facilities and friendship of the Old Northamptonians.
The Governors agreed a new lease arrangement in 2005 and the two institutions looked forward to a mutually beneficial relationship. Excellent communication between the two parties being an essential ingredient.
The Association is deeply indebted to Sir Humphrey Cripps and The Cripps Foundation for providing the funding to establish this magnificent building we use and care for today.
We are blessed with wonderful playing fields and a fabulous clubhouse, but it is the people that make the Old Northamptonians Association successful. We owe it to those that have gone before us to do our very best to ensure that the intent and desires of Edward Reynolds and the Old Boys of the past are met and we carry on this marvellous tradition of providing sporting and social facilities and opportunities to former students of the school and the people of Northamptonshire.
It is also vital that the Club and its members do their best to continue to help the school thrive. Excellent lines of communication are the bedrock of a mutually beneficial working relationship.
Long may the effort and energy of everyone at the Old Northamptonians help this magnificent club and school continue to prosper.