Edmund Barker's Prize

The Stokesley Heritage Project offers its very sincere thanks to John Schubert of the state of Victoria in Australia who has generously sent us a genuine Stokesley heirloom in the form of a book published in 1871 and presented as a prize to a pupil of the Preston Grammar School in the same year.

At our request, John has kindly written an account of his part in this incredible story of the book that went halfway round the world and came home over 140 years after it was first presented in our town.

We print it as sent:

In 1871, the annual awards at the Preston School in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, included a 2nd Class Prize for Latin, presented to student E. (Edmund) Barker. The prize was a handsome leather-bound, gold-embossed book for boys entitled In the Wilds of Africa, written by W.H.G. Kingston, and published that same year by T. Nelson and Sons, Paternoster Row, London.
The presentation plate, which featured the school’s latin motto and logo, was signed by the headmaster, Henry Fawcett.
This book was undoubtedly one of many awarded by the school during its history, after being founded as a charity school in 1832 with a bequest from John Preston, a local attorney, and operating as Preston Grammar School until its closure about 1910. The significance of this particular book, however, is that it is, at the time of writing, the only known prize to have survived the years, and has recently returned to Stokesley from the other side of the world!

Jump forward 119 years from 1871 to another private school, this time in the Antipodes. The book was amongst several I purchased at a second-hand book stall at a school fete in November 1990. The school, which my children attended, was Good Shepherd Lutheran Primary School in Croydon Hills, an outer suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The book sat on my bookshelves for 23 years until we were moving house in 2013 and I needed to reduce my library. It was then I noticed the bookplate again, and a quick search on the internet led me to the Stokesley Heritage Project website which I subsequently contacted by email.

My offer to donate the book was answered by Keith Burton of Nunthorpe, a member of the Stokesley Society, whose father-in-law, by co-incidence, was a great-nephew of Henry Fawcett, the fourth headmaster of the Preston School (1864-1903), whose signature is on the bookplate. It has now been discovered that Edmund Barker became a solicitor in the town of Hartlepool; he married, but had no children, and later moved to Madron in Cornwall, where he died in 1911, aged 51 years.

But how did Edmund’s book end up in Australia? Another name written in the book, that of W. Dawe, Trythall, New Mill, provided the clue. Research has shown that less than two miles from Edmund’s Cornwall home was Trythall Farm, New Mill, worked by the Dawe family. One of the sons of this family, William Dawe (born 1902) later emigrated to Australia, married and settled at Wonga Park, a neighbouring suburb to Croydon Hills in Melbourne. William died in 1989, the year before I purchased the book at the Good Shepherd School fete! We can only guess how William acquired Edmund’s book: was it a gift from a man without children of his own? Perhaps it will be possible now to make contact with the Dawe family to let them know the history of the old book, both before, and after, it was in William’s hands.
After a series of delays, the book arrived back in Stokesley from “the wilds” of Australia, late in 2014! After two voyages halfway around the globe, it is pleasing to know that Edmund Barker’s book prize, albeit somewhat battered, is back where it belongs, and will be preserved.

John Schubert, Mitcham, Victoria, Australia
February 2015

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