As 2009 draws to a close S. Anselm’s has grown another year older; this year marks 121 years since William Storrs-Fox, the school’s founder, opened his doors to the first ever Anselmian Charles Derwent Pye-Smith. Since 1888 the school has changed dramatically so that now in the early 21st century it would be all but unrecognisable to Pye-Smith and his peers. Much of what we take for granted as being ‘old’ wouldn’t have even have been built: The Old Gym and the Science block did not exist until decades after the early Anselmians had left, let alone the newer developments of the Library and even later the Sports Hall and Indoor Pool.
Over the years thousands of children have passed through these hallowed portals and it would be nice to think that something of each one of them is to be found somewhere within our schools records. Our aim as an Archive is to find those sources and preserve them for future Anselmians to come.
Beginning in January 2009 all the schools surviving documentation prior to 2000 was collected and stored in a central location under the rather grandiose title ‘School Archive’, which rather misleads the reader into thinking of some dusty and forgotten room of antiquity and ancient wooden furniture. The reality is somewhat different: after ‘annexing’ (or perhaps more appropriately, invading) a section of the Science Resource Area the archives began life as just a few shelves and storage containers with a couple of workspaces in a fairly modern environment. Technology is being combined with traditional cataloguing wherever possible – the Archive’s Team have now digitised many of the documents that are already becoming too fragile to be handled regularly and have as a result compiled a definitive list of every pupil who attended the school in its first fifty years. There is now a computer specifically designated for viewing archival documents and hopefully its database of scanned records and documents will grow substantially over the coming months and years.
As has already been implied, the Archive project is something that is a long term venture within school, and will never be complete as long as S. Anselm’s remains to be a place of learning. Eventually it is hoped that the archive can be used by both pupils at the school and old Anselmians wishing to reminisce on times past: we are well on the way to this and hopefully within the next couple of years want to see all our efforts come to fruition.
The first stage of the archive involved sorting, cataloguing and scanning documents but the archive team, made up of senior pupils, quickly diversified and developed this into their own personalised research into varied and specialised areas of interest. Many fascinating forgotten gems have been unearthed, including a piece of creative writing from 1907 detailing a pupils interpretation of life 100 years in the future (needless to say things were a little different than what they actually turned out like!), a poem entitled ‘The Song of S. Anselm’s’ recording school life in the early 1900’s, and Donald Storrs-Fox’s (the son of S. Anselm’s founder) first hand account of his escape from a Prisoner of War camp in WWI.