The photo shows the staff of the old Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Cox's Hill, Gainsborough, but the principal point of interest is the man standing on the back row second from the left. He is the artist Karl Salsbury Wood (1888-1958), who taught Art at irregular intervals between the 1930s and 1940s, and who finally left in 1948.
And many thanks to John Buckley for emailing me and not only dating the photo far more accurately but also putting names to almost all the other teachers. John was taught by Wood and was later a friend of his. He tells me that A. J. Hewetson – the headteacher who appears in the photo – retired in 1940, so it's some years earlier than I originally thought. John informs me:
'Back row left to right: Fred Ridley, Karl Wood, H. Priestly, Frank Tolman, ?, ?, H.J. Lane.
'Front Row: E.G.Tarbert, C.E.Pearson, A.J. Hewetson, G.H.Savage, J.T. Hedge.'
Wood was born in Kings Newton, Derbyshire, spent most of his teenage years in Nottingham, and most of his mature years in Gainsborough, where he set up a studio. There, he was noted for his eccentricity, and his bicycle was his hallmark, being the main means by which he traveled the length and breadth of the country obsessively painting about 2000 windmills and windmill remains. For this he is most noted, and his paintings serve as an excellent record to molinologists of the state of these buildings during their 'twilight', as Wood put it.
Wood also painted thousands of other architectural features, and the town of Gainsborough is particularly proud of his record of its lost buildings. Many people still remember him for his kindness and his cultural knowledge as well as his irrepressible eccentricity.
It is a sad reflection on the intolerance of the times that he should have been imprisoned for homosexuality, and subsequently he took flight to join a community of monks at Pluscarden, near Elgin, in Scotland, where he died several years later. For anyone interested in my biography of him – as well as seeing a number of examples of Karl Wood's work – they can find it here.
M. H. Pearson helpfully comments:
'I am the son of C.E.Pearson and I think that the 3rd from the right on the back row of the photograph MAY be my old biology teacher Oscar Gartside Bagnall.* Fred Ridley was my much revered English teacher and most of the other names are familiar to me having either heard of them from my father or been taught by them. When I atended Queen Elizabeth's Grammar school ,Gainsborough, as a pupil it had moved from the Cox's hill site to new buildings on Morton Terrace. These buildings were subsequently incorporated with the Technical College and part of the Girls Grammar School (where I had previously taught myself for 5 years) into the present co-educational grammar school. I was once taken by my mother to meet Karl Wood in his studio and saw him working on some beautiful illuminations for a book. My father made a model theatre and he told me that the scenery backdrops and wings etc. were painted by Karl Wood for him. I believe I still have this theatre somewhere as well as one or two rather insignificant pieces also by Karl Wood.'
* I'm grateful once more to John Buckley for emailing me to inform me that this pre-1940 photo can't show Reginald Oscar Gartside Bagnall (1893–1978) as he came to the school in – perhaps – 1945 or 1946 and taught Physics and Chemistry (Biology not at the time being on the curriculum). This 'delightful eccentric' is fascinating in his own right. Bagnall was particularly interested in human radiations and wrote an important work in its field: The Origin and Properties of the Human Aura (1937). John Buckley tells me that he claimed to be able to tell if a woman was pregnant from the size and shape of her aura.
Humphrey Carpenter's W. H. Auden: A Biography (1981) has a section on Auden's stay at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, which Auden entered in 1915 at the age of eight and remained there for several years. There were some strange assistant masters in the war years, and Bagnall was the strangest. He'd written a play titled 'The Waves', which was probably never published and was a copy of Leopold Davis Lewis's The Bells (1871), made famous by Henry Irving, whose voice Bagnall used to imitate. Morally, Auden thought Bagnall 'all at sea', whatever that might mean, although he remembered him very positively.