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School CP - May 1994


The Observer, London, 1 May 1994

Cane-makers see bottom fall out of their market

By David Harrison

IT IS a sadistic headmaster's dream. Thousands of canes in willow, chestnut, ash and ebony. Some cheap, some expensive; but all capable of inflicting pain.

They are stacked in neat rows ready for sale in Britain and abroad. In the workshop, the machines whine as yet more are crafted from long pieces of wood.

This is Coopers of Godalming, Britain's oldest and biggest stickmaker, purveyors of walking sticks and umbrellas to the gentry, and of canes to schools all over Britain for 150 years.

Coopers' canes have been used in most of Britain's schools; public and state. It is highly likely that the canes wielded by the former Eton headmaster Anthony Chevenix-Trench [sic] were made in this part of rural Surrey.

Mr Chevenix-Trench's penchant for caning was the subject of fierce debate last week when it emerged that a new book by Eton's vice-provost, Tim Card, claimed that Chevenix-Trench was forced out of his job in 1970 because of his fondness for drink and beating pupils.

It is even possible that Mr Chevenix-Trench's canes were fashioned personally by Stan Thorne, 67, a stickmaker at Coopers for 52 years. In the Fifties and Sixties -- when Chevenix-Trench was making his mark as headmaster of Bradfield in Berkshire and at Eton -- Coopers sold about 6,000 "headmaster's canes" a year.

Stan Thorne with cane Bend over: Stickmaker Stan Thorne, who disapproves of corporal punishment, demonstrates the swish in a Coopers' cane.
Photograph by David Mansell.

Mr Thorne remembers eager heads asking for "dozens" at a time. "Some of them were very enthusiastic. They went through canes like nobody's business."

The "swishy" school canes immortalised by Samuel Quelch, the ferocious stick-wielding master in the Billy Bunter books, were not very durable. Many broke on contact with pupils' backsides, partly because some heads were brutes, but also because, unless the canes were treated, they would dry out and become brittle. A headmaster committed to corporal punishment needed reserves -- the pain of having a boy to cane and nothing to cane him with.

Mr Thorne, retired now but still working for Coopers two days a week, takes no pride in his contribution to decades of schoolboy suffering -- he disagrees with corporal punishment.

The cane, imported from the Far East, was steamed, bent, tied and baked into an instrument of violence. The finished product was sold mainly to schools and to farmers for driving animals.

Mr Thorne's opposition to caning was shared by Anthony Hill-Reid, who owned Coopers from 1967 until 1989 and halted direct sales to schools.

In practice, schools simply bought them from the wholesalers instead.

Coopers sold its last batch of 3,000 canes to wholesalers 18 months ago. It does not plan to make any more. Mr Ward reckons there will be sufficient supplies to keep enthusiasts supplied for at least five years.

The company still receives some strange requests, although it does not know whether they are from headmasters. "We get weird individuals asking for punishment canes," said Mr Ward. "We always refuse. Please don't publish our phone number, it will only encourage them."

Corpun file 1989


The Independent on Sunday, London, 1 May 1994

Corporal punishment

Where to send your child to school if you want them beaten

By Peter Victor

He that spareth the rod hateth his son. Proverbs 13:24.

After a week in which the flogging propensities of a former Eton headmaster engaged letter-writers throughout the land, the Independent on Sunday could find only four public schools that admitted they still use corporal punishment.

Caning pupils is illegal in state schools following a ruling in the European Court in 1982. The Independent Schools Information Service and the majority of school head teachers take the view that corporal punishment has no place in schools.

But Scarisbrick Hall co-ed school -- 515 pupils, £800 a term -- at Ormskirk, Lancashire, confirmed yesterday that it still gave corporal punishment, although rarely and only for "serious misbehaviour".

St James Independent School for Boys -- 336 pupils, £1,380 a term -- in central London said corporal punishment was given only by the headmaster.

No one was available at Hulme Grammar (boys) school -- 856 pupils, £1,070 a term -- in Oldham, Lancashire, to comment yesterday, but its entry in the Equitable Schools Handbook says it uses "very limited corporal punishment".

Rodney School -- 200 pupils, boys and girls, £1470 a term (boarders) -- in Kirklington, Nottinghamshire, held the distinction of being the only school where corporal punishment has been inflicted on girls recently. A spokesman confirmed yesterday that the school retained the right to cane pupils: "But I haven't seen anyone caned and I've been here since last September."

A Department for Education spokesman said pupils on assisted places were exempt from corporal punishment in schools where full fee-paying pupils could be caned: "Any schools which do have corporal punishment have to make it known. There are really very few of them."

Several other schools refused to discuss the matter yesterday, although opponents of corporal punishment believe up to 100 small religious schools of various denominations use corporal punishment.

A map of caning It is not recorded whether Anthony Chenevix-Trench, the former Eton headmaster, quoted Proverbs 13:24 to the boys he flogged, but glowing testimonies from them following allegations that he was a brute and an alcoholic suggest the essence of the quotation sank home.

Chenevix-Trench was Eton's head from 1963 to 1970. Claims that he became too ready with the lash and too fond of the bottle will be published this month in Eton Renewed, an authorised history of the school by Tim Card, its vice-provost. Mr Card writes that staff at the school were embarrassed by Chenevix-Trench's drinking and that he "regarded corporal punishment not as a last resort, but almost as the first". He claims the head was forced to resign eventually and that the matter was hushed up. Chenevix-Trench, who died in 1979, said on his retirement that the "stress and strain on a headmaster have clearly increased."

Old Etonians and pupils of Bradfield College, where Chenevix-Trench also taught, rallied round last week in support of their former teacher. With one voice they spoke of beatings from him that were, somehow, life-enhancing.

Rupert White, an Old Etonian, said he had been beaten "with great courtesy and not very hard".

Martin Marix Evans's beating at Bradfield was a temporary physical discomfort which "left my self-respect not merely intact but enhanced".

David Foot, who held Bradfield's record for the greatest number of floggings in one term, said: "To the few of us who were in a position to form an objective opinion, his canings were not to be feared, at least physically."

Others were not so lucky. Christopher Hourmouzios was flogged vigorously with a strap on his bare backside at Bradfield and recalled that 20 boys received similar treatment from Chenevix-Trench in one afternoon.

And Mr Card's book claims that Chenevix-Trench was aware of the possible ramifications of the thrashings he handed out, remarking once that it was "a good thing the NSPCC does not know anything about it".

Last year the House of Lords voted in favour of caning continuing to be permitted in public schools in England and Wales. And last January, John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, said there was merit in caning being reintroduced into state schools.

Mr Patten, who was beaten by his Jesuit teachers at St Peter's School in Leatherhead, Surrey, said this was because he had failed to remember a mathematical theory. "The possibility of corporal punishment being reintroduced has long gone," he said. "The Government accepted the ruling of the European Court. But I think under certain circumstances it can be very useful."

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