Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 712,122         Comments: 2,598

Burnley Grammar School

Image scaled down from 800px to 740px wide. Click the image to view the original.

There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2598 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Bradley on 30th October 2016  

Andrew, our pool was not in an enclosed area and the pool was visible from one of the other school buildings, so you can understand why it would not have been appropriate to not wear trunks.
Our school did prioritise sports and we did get tired after lessons.

Toby, I find it surprising that a teacher would tell students to not wear a shirt during PE lessons, especially at all times in the year. What was the reason given for this rule? It seems pretty unnecessary to me. At my school, I only remember taking shirts off in PE lessons during the summer, only when it was too warm or for certain occasions; it was very rare.

Lewis, speedos are more popular now than before. For competitive swimming, they are much better than other swimming trunks because they are more streamlined and can improve swimming times by quite a lot. I myself wear them for competitions and galas as they really do help your swimming time.

Comments by John on 30th October 2016  

Lewis,although I was still wearing shorts at 14, I would have considered it far too old to be still wearing shorts.
I had to wear shorts 24/7 and they were quite comfortable to wear,albeit they were of an absurd brevity,hence they were referred to as'short shorts'.

Comments by Lewis on 30th October 2016  

John I was in the same situation as you. Although most boys in secondary school wore long trousers, my parents considered me too short for longs and consequently I was wearing shorts until about late 13's or 14. The upshot of this was that not many shops sold grey shorts for older boys and so the one s I had were quite tight and uncomfortable. Without being too indelicate this caused my underpants to cause me discomfort.

Furthermore it was not very pleasant in winter. Short shorts and long woollen socks. What a great day when I was finally allowed to wear longs!

Comments by John on 30th October 2016  

Lewis,'short shorts'were not only worn for sporting activities,but were worn for school uniform for first and second years and then were optional.
My parents didn't consider age a credible reason for promoting me to wearing long trousers, so I continued to wear short till I left school.
I never felt grown up wearing short shorts and they could be a bit chilly in the winter.

Comments by Toby on 30th October 2016  

Bradley, being stripped to the waist for PE and Games started just a couple of days at school. For our first PE lesson we'd changed into our kit, which was a vest, shorts and trainers and taken out onto the field. The teacher made it crystal clear that irrespective of the time of year, indoors or out, or the weather we would be stripped down and then picked a lad at ramdom and made him drop his vest facing the class. Seconds later we were all barechested.

At the school I attended we were made to work hard during PE and during double PE it wasn't unusual for lads to sweat. This was the norm for me from being a 9 year old through to 18 and leaving after A levels.

Comments by Peter on 29th October 2016  

Bradley, just as showering came as a shock to you, if you had been a pupil at the time of most posters on this site and your school had a policy of swimming without trunks, you would have got used to it - there would have been no option. At that time, school rules were not questioned. Doing PE stripped to the waist was a shock to me and, although I hated it, I just had to get used to it.

Comments by Lewis on 29th October 2016  

It is quite often that fashion goes round in circles and I wonder if short football shorts will make a comeback. I suppose if one of the premier football teams had short shorts as their kit they would become the "must have" accessory.

Also i wonder if swimming trunks like "speedos" will make a return as a fashion item because I think a lot of men including youngsters abroad wear them.

Comments by Rob on 29th October 2016  

Andrew, Sorry about that, but welcome to the site.

Comments by Andrew on 28th October 2016  

Rob, it appears you mistook me for another Andrew on this webpage. The post I made about my nephew's school was e first post I made on this webpage.

Comments by Rob on 28th October 2016  

Andrew, how would those boys in your nephew's swimming class have coped with the experience you described with the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy three day events?

Comments by Andrew on 27th October 2016  

Looking at Bradley's posts, it's clear how soft a society we've become and our education system is directly responsible for this. In my nephews school where he teaches, boys are allowed to wear full body wetsuits for swimming- absolutely idiotic. Looks like Bradley's school at least wasn't too soft and leftist. Bradley, a few questions: was your swimming pool in an enclosed, private area? If so, why were trunks worn? Was proper sport played in your school and did students get a proper workout?

Comments by Bradley on 27th October 2016  

Mason and Earl, sorry I couldn't as wear your questions earlier.

Mason, I remember being slightly shocked when first starting school and being told that we had to shower after lessons. However, it's something everyone got used to. the teachers aren't actually allowed to enter the shower room but they can usually tell if someone hasn't showered if they smell of chlorine from the pool water.

Earl, we showered without trunks because trunks stop certain parts of the body from being washed. The teacher never forced anyone to take off their trunks but he made it clear that trunks weren't allowed in the showers and were to be taken off outside the shower room after swimming.

Peter, thanks for your response. I still don't think I would see any reason to swim without trunks if we had them. Even in an enclosed, all-male environment, I don't see why trunks shouldn't be worn if we had them available. These days, nude swimming would very much be against the law.

Comments by Rob on 26th October 2016  

Bradley, thanks for your reply and hope you are finding this site interesting for your studies.I too went to an all boys grammar school, but in the late fifties when life was still austere and there was little money for building swimming pools.The emphasis was on teaching us to develop physically and keeping fit.This was achieved with two lessons a week in the gym when we had to strip off completely and wear just shorts and plimsolls and were made to work hard until we were running with sweat and ready to get in the showers. Sometimes we would be sent out on a cross country run, still in the same kit and in the summer we would do athletics similarly attired.We also played football during a double period each week when we additionally wore football shirts with heavy leather football boots and long woollen socks.Needless to say, showers were obligatory after all these activities.In the summer we played the more gentlemanly sport of cricket and wore white trousers and shirts.

Comments by Peter on 25th October 2016  

To Bradley.
Thank you for coming back. I can see why, in the circumstances, swimming without trunks would not, in your case, have been appropriate and for the sake of modesty, they were necessary. However, in an all-male environment which was not visible from outside the pool area, you might have felt differently. Perhaps those who did swim without trunks could comment on how they felt.

Comments by Gavin on 25th October 2016  


A useful piece of history for you here!
I went to a boarding school late 60s early 70s and in the junior school (10-13 ) and prep school (7-10) all swimming was withouthout trunks. At first we were a bit unsure but after the first or second swims ... We never batted an eyelid ... Suppose that makes it a healthy exercise in itself. Only when we reached the senior school were trunks allowed and of course that became then became a compulsory norm.

Best wishes

Comments by Earl on 25th October 2016  

At my nephew's school he said they actually shower with trunks. I'm curious why your school still adopts the no-trunks showering rule? Do teachers actually make sure that everyone showers without trunks? And was sport taken seriously at your school or was it just seen as an extra? These days schools don't seem to priories physical wellbeing as well as mental wellbeing.

Comments by Danny on 25th October 2016  

John, when you say that "the swimming pool where we swam nude had vast windows and viewing areas where people could watch", were they school staff or people from outside?

That must really have been daunting as opposed to indoor showers, as you rightly say.
What ages were the boys, assuming it was only boys who had to swim nude in front of viewrs?
Was it a public or private school?

Comments by Bradley on 25th October 2016  

Peter, I just find it surprising that schools could force students to swim without anything on. I just wouldn't find it comfortable. For showers of course you have to be not wearing anything in order to clean yourself properly but I don't see why trunks shouldn't be worn for swimming. Also, the swimming pool is located behind the humanities department building at my school so people walking down the corridors would be able to see- another reason for wearing trunks. The changing room and shower room are not visible from outside.

Rob, yes I am studying social and educational history as one of my units. The school I went to was a grammar school which had a special emphasis on sport. Since the school bought a pool the teachers made sure we got the maximum value from it! In addition to swimming, we also had athletics, the occasional gymnastics and ,of course, football. I wore a t shirt, shorts and trainers. I enjoyed pretty much every sport I did and always looked forward to PE lessons! Showers were taken after swimming and football practice.

Comments by Rob on 24th October 2016  

Bradley, good to have someone who only left school three years ago.Are you studying social history because a lot has changed in education over recent years? You were very lucky to have a pool at your school and PE staff who were dedicated to ensure that all pupils were able to swim properly before they left. It sounds as though it could only have been a private school and it would be interesting to know what form your physical education took in addition to swimming. Also what kit you had to wear in the gym and outside and what sports you took part in.In addition to showers after swimming lessons, were you also obliged to take them after PE and games and were they communal? Whatever you did or however you did it, did you find it enjoyable?

Comments by Tim on 24th October 2016  

Bradley - nice to get the opinions of younger people.
Strange though it may seem nude bathing was once pretty much the norm (and there are still places where you can do it - The Ponds on Hampstead Heath, I believe) and so it would have been acceptable in schools. I suppose that, since fifty odd years back, there wasn't the 'pressure' of TV, 'social media', etc., people just took it as 'part of life'. I find it very difficult to believe that there was anything 'un-natural'in it.

Styles change - in the pool at the gym this afternoon I was with a guy who has a teenager would (& did) wear gym/footy shorts that were very short - now his swimming shorts come to below his knees. (Although I have noticed a tendancy to revert to shorter gym & swimming shorts this summer).


Comments by Rob on 24th October 2016  

Peter,I assume that when you were at school you always swam without wearing trunks. Bradley was simply expressing his surprise that nude swimming was common at one time, but mentioned that he had to shower naked after swimming lessons, which is perfectly normal, and that he had no problem with that.The vast majority of us used to have to do PE in nothing but a pair of shorts followed by a naked communal shower without any problem but that was no reason to suggest that we should have done PE in the gym without shorts.

Comments by Mason on 24th October 2016  

Bradley, was it ever embarrassing to shower or did everyone just accept it? What happened if you didn't shower?

Comments by John on 24th October 2016  

Peter,it could be daunting swimming without swimming trunks,unlike the changing area and showers where there was some privacy the swimming pool where we swam nude had vast windows and viewing areas where people could watch.

Comments by Peter on 24th October 2016  

To Bradley. If you had no problem taking your trunks off, showering and moving around after your swimming lesson, why would it have been a problem not to put them on in the first place and do the lesson without them?

Comments by Bradley on 22nd October 2016  

I left school three years ago and cannot believe how nude swimming was ever allowed to take place during those days! Unbelievable. Our school (boys) was very lucky to have a swimming pool and the PE department definitely made sure that we could all swim well by the time we left school. Of course, swimming took place in swimming trunks but after-swim showers were compulsory and done nude, which we had no problem with.

Cool site by the way, I'm a history student at university currently.

Comments by Andrea on 16th October 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

When my son was about 12 I had to buy him a pouch jockstrap and protective cup so he could play cricket for his school team. He didn't wear one for other sports though.

When you acquired your jockstrap during your first year at boarding school, was it because you had started to feel uncomfortable without one, or as a sort of 'rite of passage' as your classmates had started to wear them?

Comments by Gavin on 12th October 2016  

Hi Fred
Your experience is remarkably similar to mine. Which boarding school did you attend? I don't think there was anything else on the market other than Litesome in my day. It was either one with a pouch (for cricket) and one without for all other sporting activities. Nowadays one is spoilt for choice and my boys I am glad to say follow their dad and wear a jockstrap for all the sport they do.

Comments by Andy on 11th October 2016  

Hi Keith,
Was it a mixed school or boys only?
Were there any female teachers or students ever present during your nude swimming sessions?
I had friends in the 60s who went to a boardinf school which had similar arrangements like the ones you mentioned, that is junior boys up to about 12 was mandatory nude for swimming sessions. After that age swimsuits were optional.
I also remember them saying that their swimming instructor in their first years was a woman.
Can you describe under what circumstances your swimming sessions were carried out?

Comments by Fred on 11th October 2016  

I attended an all boys boarding school in the late sixties/early seventies, starting aged 13 and the gym shown here was almost identical. The lads shown here look a little younger than that. We too wore just shorts for p/e. However, by the end of our first year practically all of us had acquired a jockstrap which was worn for all physical activity. There was no rule concerning underwear for sport or p/e and it certainly was not policed, it was up to us to choose. There was one master however who insisted that jocks were worn in his rugby group, but that was about it. Jockstraps were not on the kit list but were readily available in the small sports shop in the school thereby avoiding any problem one might have with having to ask Mum or Dad to get one for you. As Malcolm noted below, they were made by Litesome and were known to us a jockstraps. I am not aware that any other brand was available at that time.
We also had nude showers after all sport activity, I don`t remember that anyone had a problem with that, it was quite normal for us, trunks were worn for swimming.
My two sons did a lot of sport at school, I haven`t a clue what they used for underwear, I never thought to ask.

Comments by Keith on 10th October 2016  

Ben said that he had not heard of nude swimming at some schools until he read about it on the internet. I attended a state grammar school, not a private school, in Kent in the second half of the 1950s. Naked swimming periods were mandatory for the first three years until the year we arrived when it became optional. Quite a lot of boys still chose to swim naked, about a third of our class and everyone in one of the other two classes. Up till that year trunks were also optional from year four right up till sixth from level and I understand from my older brother that many boys, so used to and enjoying nudity, continued to swim naked throughout their school career. Seems very strange nowadays to have a naked lesson at school either as compulsory or as an option which many chose.
I well remember one boy still choosing to swim naked at the inter-house competition at the end of our first year and that was in front of the whole school of several hundred and the staff! No one batted an eyelid.
Then a new headmaster arrived and it all changed. Trunks were now mandatory.

Comments by Andrea on 10th October 2016  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Thankfully there weren't too many pranks in my PE lessons and as it was an all girls Secondary, we didn't have mixed PE lessons to worry about
The showers were by no means always warm though!

Comments by Gavin on 10th October 2016  

In my school having your shorts yanked down was also quite a common feature ... you just had to hope it never lead on to a full de-bagging!

Comments by John on 9th October 2016  

Bob,I think we all hated the no under pants rule as it could leave you very vulnerable and potentially exposed,especially when wearing short shorts.
I experienced the same tricks,especially having the shorts yanked down.

Comments by Jono on 9th October 2016  

John, you were lucky to wear a vest outdoors in winter...we didn't.

Comments by Bob on 9th October 2016  

I hated the no underpants rule in PE and games, because it made me vulnerable to being tormented in the gym by my classmates. Some of them thought it was fun to run up and slap or kick your sensitive parts, which were barely concealed by the thin white PE shorts. Or they would often yank down your shorts when you were not expecting it, exposing everything, to cause maximum embarrasment.

Comments by John on 7th October 2016  

Calvin/Rob,I agree it was"double standards"where we had to share the gym or vacate it and brave the cold wearing short shorts and vest.
My kit offered very little protection from the cold and yes,it was usually a cold shower.

Comments by Calvin on 7th October 2016  

Similar to James I attended a mixed school and remember the double standards, humiliation and bitter cold in winter that caused lads to shed a tear!
James, you mentioned it was a mixed school. Did the girls have to go outside or, like in my school, only the boys?

We lads also had to endure a shower block that was semi open to the elements and water that was Luke warm occasionally but usually cold. The ladies had individual cubicle showers with variable water temperature!

Comments by Rob on 7th October 2016  

Sid,I had no problem wearing just shorts with nothing underneath for PE as it was an all boys school, but I was concerned about John's comments that at his school he frequently had mixed PE lessons and the boys were embarrassed wearing short shorts without pants with girls in the gym. I appreciate that you had a very strict regime at your school but you know how some of the boys felt about having to line up nude before swimming lessons in front of female teachers or being supervised in the showers.Even by age of 13 some boys are going through puberty so naturally it was embarrassing for them.

Comments by Mike on 7th October 2016  

We could go commando or wear a jock. Depended on the activity - and mostly our choice. Personally, I'd rather go free - but I do like jocks - prefer them to traditional underwear, as do my boys. We wear swimmers - so narrow waist and leg bands. But we also go commando.

Comments by James 2 on 6th October 2016  

They were certainly known as jockstraps in our school.
Once you got used to the unexpected draughts they were much more comfortable than underpants and no excess material. Support where you needed it and freedom in all other ways.
Still use them regularly now.

Comments by Giles on 6th October 2016  

James our shorts were very short but as i say it was all boys school. We just had to "get on with it". Outdoors we were allowed a t shirt no uniform set. However some boys wore white nylon shorts which were just becoming available and if we were caught in the rain it left nothing to the imagination.
After a while they returned to wearing dark coloured or cotton white shorts.

Comments by James on 6th October 2016  

Chris,we were not allowed to wear a shirt or vest during mixed indoor sessions,but we were allowed to for outdoor sporting activities outside.The emphasis was meant to toughen us up and wearing minimal clothing with brief shorts in cold weather could achieve this,however I've remember boys crying when we were sent out in bitterly cold weather.
We were aged 11 to 16 and never allowed to wear track suits.

Comments by Rob on 6th October 2016  

Giles, that was how it was precisely, but I didn't like doing those handstands and having to hold a boys legs up against my shoulder.Fortunately we had to do it very rarely,almost as though it was on the teachers tick list.
Otherwise,I really enjoyed PE lessons wearing just shorts
and being worked hard so that we built up a sweat and looked forward to the showers afterwards. Like you, though,I don't know how lads today would cope, but it would do a lot of them good.

Comments by Sid on 6th October 2016  

Rob, there were many customs way back in our time where "schools wouldn't get away with it today". The one you mentioned would be the least of them. We had mandated nude swim classes at our prep school. Showers were compulsary after every PE lesson, sometimes wiith female teachers supervising. Not to mention that spankings and corporal punishment were part of daily school life. So PE in just short shorts was probably the least concern.

Comments by Chris on 6th October 2016  

James, were you allowed to wear a shirt or vest in mixed sessions? What about when it was cold? What about outdoor sessions? How old were you at this time?

Comments by James on 5th October 2016  

Giles,I attended a mixed school where boys and girls attended.
For some some obscure reason boys were never allowed to wear anything under their shorts and the fashion was for boys to wear extremely brief shorts.
I found it mortifying to be dressed in just shorts for my sporting activities in front of girls.

Comments by Rob on 5th October 2016  

John, I'm astonished that you had no screen. Even if you were in separate groups at opposite ends of the gym and not actually boys and girls mixed, I don't know how the girls kept their eyes off you boys. To say that some boys were shy wearing those short shorts with nothing underneath must have been an understatement; it was grossly indecent! On the other hand, therefore, as with everything else, most boys must have got used to it and even boosted their self confidence. One things certain, your school wouldn't get away with it today.

Comments by John on 4th October 2016  

Rob,it was totally mixed with no screen to divide boys from girls.
Shorts were very short and some boys were shy when wearing them without underwear.

Comments by Giles on 4th October 2016  

Like you John, I went to an all boys school and I recall that during certain exercises it was impossible not to show parts of the anatomy and also see other lads as well. This was often the case if you were hanging on wall bars or dangling from ropes with the other lads standing underneath. Handstands were also another example when you were supporting a partner with his legs on your shoulders whilst he was upside down. You could not help but see down the legs of his shorts.
However, like you we got used to it especially as we were naked together in the showers.
Would lads cope with that situation these days?

Comments by Rob on 3rd October 2016  

John, I only remember one occasion when'something dropped out'but fortunately we were still in the school grounds; it was a wonder,however, it didn't happen more often. How mixed were those indoor PE lessons; was it really mixed girls and boys together or was there a screen between you? I went to an all boys school and it was impossible not to show everything when we did all sorts of exercises and used various pieces of equipment in the gym. We got used to it and no-one bothered and we were naked in the showers anyway. If you wore shorts and nothing else like us but in close mixed company with the girls I would say that it would have been a lot more embarrassing for everyone. No doubt you would have got some lads with other ideas.