Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 697,862         Comments: 2,546

Burnley Grammar School

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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

2546 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Bill on 30th April 2015  

Sam and Dave, was it the same for both boys and girls, and were they examined separately?
When you say staff, was it teachers or office staff, and were there any female staff supervising the boys while you stood all naked waiting for the exam?

Comments by Sam on 29th April 2015  

We were supervised by staff at all times and it was in both primary and secondary school.
In addition we had to hold our arms at our sides as many boys tried to hide their bits as much as they could.

Comments by Dave on 28th April 2015  

Yes Bill we were supervised by staff and it was at both primary and secondary schools.

Comments by Bill on 27th April 2015  

To Dave and Sam, when you say that you had to line up completely naked outside the examination room, were you supervised by teachers or school staff?
Was this in primary or secondary school?

Comments by Ian on 27th April 2015  

At my Scottish school in the 60's, one of the doctors wanted his boys to be in PE shorts (the other boys could wear trousers and underpants for the other doctors). I forgot mine so a strict prefect ordered me to strip naked. After he'd come and gone to the doctor and other places, I was given the medical. The doctor then took out a Lochgelly tawse from his bag and gave me six strokes.
Later that day, I was summoned by our toughest PE teacher to a punishment training session along with several other boys who had crossed the doctor and prefect. Both were in attendance to witness the session and indeed the doctor suggested ways of making it harder. He then praised my master's belting skills as among the best he'd seen.

Comments by Dave on 25th April 2015  

Like Sam we did have a medical at the beginning of each school year and we had to line up outside the M.I. room naked.
We were then called in individually for the exam including examining our genitalia.
Again I do recall hearing of a few boys being advised to be circumcised as a result.

Comments by Richard on 23rd April 2015  

We had medical exams very like the ones Sam described, where everyone had to line up bare-chested. I also never understand why I had to take my shirt off just to have my eyes tested! For the rest of the exam you went through to the doctor's room and stripped to your briefs or boxers, then as and when necessary you'd be instructed to pull them down.

Comments by Tom on 23rd April 2015  

Sam you were lucky.
When we had our annual medical we had to line up outside the M.I. room stark naked until called in.
Again why we had to be naked to have our eyes and ears tested was beyond me although in a perverse way it made some sense to be naked to have our penises and testicles inspected!

Comments by Sam on 22nd April 2015  

When we had medicals(usually once a year)we had to line up outside the M.I. room stripped to the waist until called in individually.
Why we had to be bare-chested to have our eyes and ears tested I shall never know although it was obviously necessary for other parts.
Although done privately the most embarrassing part was having to drop our shorts for examination of our penises and testicles.

Comments by James on 19th April 2015  

In reply to Bryan,it was a minor operation done under local anaeshetic was I was six years old.
I understand there are many reasons for this procedure :- religious,a necessary reason to prevent too tight a foreskin,hygiene and simply aesthetic reasons.
It certainly wasn't common practice at my school and boys are naturally inquisitive and were quite intrigued, as I was the odd one out.

Comments by Roy on 17th April 2015  

I've no idea why it was as it was but I first noticed other boys being circumcised when starting secondary school i.e. about 11 years old.

Comments by Bryan on 16th April 2015  

To Roy, as you have shared that with us do you know why , and how old were you?

Comments by Roy on 15th April 2015  

When I was at school in the sixties nearly all the boys were circumcised myself included.

Comments by Bryan on 12th April 2015  

Although people say "ouch" when referring to the circumcision of boys, I presume if they had reached puberty it was carried out under a general anaesthetic. Is this correct?

Comments by Speedy on 11th April 2015  

Interesting Bill`s comment re circumcision sometimes resulting as a consequence of school medical examinations.

In the context of communal naked showering at the end of school PE and games lessons (also naked swimming) one obvious (in the case of boys) distinction or difference that was there to be noticed was that some (normally the minority) were in fact circumcised (in the US though they were/are usually the majority).

When I was a boy there were three operations or medical procedures that it was fashionable to perform on boys (often contentiously on account of them not necessarily being medically necessary).These were tonsillectomy,"adenoids",and circumcision (the only one of these that I myself succumbed to was circumcision).

I have read that in the aforementioned shower and swimming situations circumcised boys (in the UK context) were made fun of or were objects of curiosity on account of being "different".Whilst I don`t doubt that this did indeed sometimes happen I have to say that as far as I am concerned personally (and posters may have had a different experience) I have never ever come across anything like this.

Since the BGS photo isn`t too far removed from the time when I was a boy and grammar schools being essentially middle class institutions (circumcision traditionally being favoured by the middle and upper classes) it is perhaps a fair bet that a sizeable minority of the boys pictured would have undergone at least one of the operations or procedures mentioned previously (including circumcision).

Comments by Bill on 9th April 2015  

To Andrea. I remember a few boys being recommended for circumcision because of a tight foreskin. Ouch!

Comments by Andrea on 7th April 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Yes I imagine that having your nan there would have been embarrassing - I certainly wouldn't have wanted my dad there for mine!

Does anyone recall the doctors finding anything that needed treatment during the tests on their classmates - I certainly can't?

Comments by Bryan on 5th April 2015  

With regards to school medical examinations, I only became worried when, I was about 15. It was an all boys school & the medicals had been held over a few days. The boys who had attended earlier in the week were telling us about how at the end of the check up they had to drop trousers and pants for the cough & drop and foreskin check. My problem was that parents had received letters inviting them to attend(but there was no mention of the intimate part of the check up.) So far no parents had attended and it those days it would be mostly mothers available as they tended to stay at home & dad worked had attended and I was concerned because I lived with my nan and I was horrified that she would feel she needed to come along and if she did she would see my bits.
Luckily, I managed to persuade her that as I was 15 I was old enough to go alone & there was no need for her to attend and she didn't. Just as well because, what the other boys had said would happen was true, and we stood there all our glory showing but at least we were seen individually whereas some boys tried to convince us we had to stand in a line. But it was a female doctor. Who introduced the final part of the exam with "drop your trousers & pants & don't be silly I've seen it so many times before.

Comments by Bill on 5th April 2015  

To John from Ireland. What was it about your medical inspections which you hated so much?
I only remember one medical inspection in late primary school at about age 10. We had no privacy, it was done in groups in the presence of our female class teachers.

For others who had medical inspections at school, was there any privacy or was it done in front of others?
I know of some schools who required parents or some school staff to be present during the medical exams.

Comments by Simon on 4th April 2015  

I remember school medicals very well. We had them every year. I was examined in my underpants, and at the end had to drop them, whilst foreskin was checked, and the good old "cough" test. Latterly I had my rectum inspected, but thankfully nothing was inserted. Embarrassing at the time.

Comments by Andrea on 29th March 2015  andretwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I can remember having a couple of school medicals during my time at secondary school in the 1970s.These took place in the school medical room with our school nurse and a visiting doctor.

The first one was during my first year at Secondary School when I was about 11 and a half.
I can remember having to strip down to my vest and knickers and having my height and weight checked by the school nurse. She also checked my hands for warts and feet for verrucas. The doctor then asked me to lift my vest to so he could check my heart and lungs with the stereoscope.

The second medical was when I was about 15. In many ways it was similar to the first, except that by that time I was wearing a bra. I had to unhook it and partially remove it so the doctor could do a quick visual examination of my breasts. I didn't have to remove my knickers, but the nurse did have a quick peek down there and ask if my periods were regular.

We also had visits from time to time by 'Nitty Nora as well as the dreaded BCG injections.

Comments by John on 22nd March 2015  

Whilst not from the UK but Ireland this brings me back to my school days. We had to do PE bare chested all through the year and since it was boarding school we had an annual medical inspection which most of us hated.

Comments by Pete on 22nd March 2015  

We had school medical exams right the way from primary school until leaving at eighteen, I think they were every year but certainly at least every two years. At primary school it was in a room with a doctor and a nurse. There was a screen down the middle of the room and on one side you undressed down to underpants and saw the nurse and then when ready and the lad before you had gone went round the screen to the doctor, I can't remember exactly what happened but underpants were certainly down and testicles felt.

At grammar school it was referred to as a medical inspection and they took place in the gym. We went in class by class and lined up. We were told to undress and I can remember the first time we were told that any 'little boys' in the class could keep their underpants on but men should take them off. By that time we were used to taking off underpants for PE and having communal showers at the end and as no one wanted to be seen as a 'little boy' underpants came off. The doctor was an old navy doctor who was brusque and stood no nonsense. We had to line up and he moved his way along the line checking one part of each body at a time so ears, mouths and so on. Testicles were last and everyone had to take a turn to cough. In the last couple of years we also had to bend over and be checked internally by a rough and probing finger.

Comments by James on 19th March 2015  

I am fairly certain we did have physical exams by a travelling school doctor in our secondary (grammar) school. Individually in an office, if I remember correctly, with a queue formed outside the door.
Can't really remember what they checked!
We certainly were checked by the "nit-nurse" in primary school but I am not sure if that carried on into secondary school.

Comments by Allen Williams on 19th March 2015  gerald.williams23@gmail.com 

In response to Curious, I am not aware of physical examinations taking place in any British secondary schools: we certainly did not have them. They did take place in our primary school - individually in the staff room, by a doctor working for the County Council. A member of staff was present although parents could attend if they wanted to. They hardly ever did.

Comments by Mark on 8th March 2015  

I lately watched this documentary on the British Royal Marines and I was surprised to learn that recruits actually have to sleep naked. No boxer shorts or socks allowed and definitely no pyjamas,from 10:20 onward:

Comments by Curious on 7th March 2015  

What were your school's physical exams like?
Where they done in groups or in privacy?
Were there chaperones, like parents or teachers, present?

Comments by H James on 7th March 2015  

I was born in 1946 and raised in central Illinois in the US, so that is my experience.

Our schools did not have pools. We did have PE every day in grades 7-12. We had to wear shorts. and t-shirts. Boys often divided up into teams of "skins" (no shirt) and "shirts." We thought nothing of it and never questioned it.

We learned to swim at the YMCA. In those days Y's were either all men or YWCA's which were all female. Suits were simply NOT allowed in the pool. You had to shower and go through a short hall with access to the pool. This hall had nozzles in the base of the walls to wash your feet and between your legs. Then you went through a final foot bath.

All swimming and lessons were nude. The life guards were mostly high school and college boys and they too wore no suits. Your first day you might have had a little apprehension, but it went away quickly. A pool filled with 30 naked boys of all ages and their dads was considered totally normal.

Some of my fondest memories are of one of our parents dropping a car load of us boys off at the Y on Saturday morning with nothing more than a towel and a dollar for lunch and snacks. We would stay the better part of the day in the pool or gym after our swim lesson.

I can also mention that in school, we were REQUIRED to take a full shower after every PE class. If you got caught skipping your shower you got detention. In those days boys learned to relax in the the presence of other naked boys of all shapes and sizes and thought little of it. You were only really in a rush if you had already dawdled and had to get to class.

Our fathers and other male family members had mostly served in the military during World War II so they fully accepted communal male nudity.

Also, many families had moved from farms in to the city for jobs after the war. My grandparents lived on a small farm in southern Illinois. The cousins, uncles and dads ALWAYS swam in the pond or creek nude. If you had suggested you were going to spend money on clothes to get wet they would have thought you addled. Now the schools don't require communal showering or nude swimming. The result is boys taking "selfies" of their bodies and posting them on the internet.

I think we were more accepting of not only our own bodies but those of others before they merged the Y's and became slightly hysterical bout body parts.

One last note. I have several friends who were raised the same time in Chicago and attended both Catholic and/or public schools. Large schools that had indoor pools. They have all confirmed that nude swimming for males was NOT a matter of choice. No suits, period unless you were on the seim team and in a competiton.

Comments by Old Fogey on 7th March 2015  

With reference to Curious and his questions about compulsory nude swimming, research I have done suggests that this practice was at one time almost universal, gradually becoming less frequent from the 1960's, and disappearing completely only in the early 1980's, but by then it was very rare indeed.

Winston Churchill records in his autobiography that he and all other boys swam naked at Harrow. At Bedford School nude swimming was compulsory up to the early 1960's but had ended by the time I went there in the 1970's, although I myself saw an old copy of the swimming pool rules which stated that the wearing of swimming trunks was a privilege restricted to sixth formers.

I have friends who are a few years younger than me who swam naked at their respective schools: Newcastle Royal Grammar and Berkhamstead, though both told me the practice was discontinued during their time there. One of them left Berkhamstead in about 1986 and it seems that compulsory nude swimming persisted into the early 1980's, which is unusually late. I think at Berkhamstead it was compulsory for boys of all ages but at Newcastle, as at Bedford in an earlier period, it was only compulsory for junior boys.

I have a friend who attended a Blue Coat school (I think Cheshunt or somewhere like that) who said nude swimming was compulsory for all boys of all ages, but he was there in the 1950's. He told me that no-one thought there was anything odd or unusual about it, and he cannot remember anyone being teased, or being in any way embarrassed; but this was not the experience of my friends in the 1970's and 1980's, for by then they were conscious that they were participating in an archaic tradition.

Manchester Royal Grammar had compulsory nude swimming to quite a late period as well - I think into the early 1980's - so it may have been the last school to abandon what was, 100 years ago, a near universal practice. Summerhill is I think a special case, being an ultra trendy alternative sort of school where nude swimming was (and technically still is) optional, never compulsory, and also mixed - a very different type of place to all the others I have mentioned.

Comments by Tt on 5th March 2015  

Military school in Asia



Comments by Matthew on 28th February 2015  

To "Curious", I did not attend such a school but here is a named reference to a school where it was practiced.


Comments by Curious on 28th February 2015  

Edward and Matthew, can you name the schools which you were in which had this practice?
I don't think this would be a problem since it was so long ago and thousands of pupils must have gone to those schools.
When did this practice stop, if it did?
Can you produce some document or verification from your school or its website, or any other school official website, to confirm that this was the rule at the time?

Another poster gave a link to the old pupils site of the school he went to where he claims that both boys and girls swam nude together as normal. There is all mention of every trivial thing that happened there in their days by these old pupils, but none mention anything about nude swimming.

So if it was so widespread as some claim why is there no verifiable mention of it anywhere, at least that I know of?

Comments by Matthew on 28th February 2015  

To 'Curious". I would suspect that in the case of schools where naked swimming was the practice, maybe the uniform lists didn't mention trunks. It is also quite possible that new intake pupils were aware of what to expect from having friends or family already at the school.

Comments by Curious on 28th February 2015  

Matthew,doing PE in only shorts is one thing, but made to swim nude as school rules is quite another.

Are there any documents which show in the school rules that boys must swim in the nude?

Such rules would obviously be public, since parents and prospective parents would have to be notified about it, among the other rules concerning uniform and others, and thus nothing secret about it.

Comments by Edward on 28th February 2015  

In reply to 'curious' concerning nude swimming which was mandatory. As Matthew said, if a boy defiantly wore trunks, he would be ridiculed by his classmates, as I was, and so I joined the others naked, as vehemently instructed by the PE master. One did as one was told in the 1950's. I would have been disciplined had I not complied. Everyone just had to get on with it, like it or not.

Comments by Matthew on 26th February 2015  

To "Curious", the lack of newspaper articles is no doubt due to the fact that the practice was fairly widespread and those who were subjected to it had to just accept it.
If any boy got his parents to insist that he had to wear trunks and the school agreed to it, that boy would have been ridiculed by his peers. In my school, PE was done wearing only shorts. I remember that a boy wore a vest one day and it appeared that his parents had insisted that he should wear one. He was subjected to such an amount of mockery that he soon ditched the vest.

Comments by Michael on 25th February 2015  

In my school gym every piece of apparatus seemed specifically designed to offer the maximum degree of hazard. I was terrified of climbing those ropes and having to risk breaking my neck somersaulting over the vaulting horse, yet I had to do it.

The teacher was a humourless bully, and any hesitation in following his commands, or failure to perform to his expectations, was painfully punished.

Adding in the perishing cold of the place and our scant clothing, the school gym was nothing more than a torture chamber so far as I was concerned. The dank changing rooms and communal, often freezing showers afterwards, contributed the final touch of misery.

Years of this experience three times a week, put me off any kind of sport in later life.

Comments by Curious on 25th February 2015  

Are there any pictures or reliable newspaper articles which show the evidence of nude swimming in British schools?
The only evidence I have seen from reliable newspaper articles, though without any pictures, are about Manchester Grammar school and Summerhill, which was a unique liberal school.
There are many such accounts on blogs and forums, where one can say what they like, so not that much reliable.

If this practice of nude swimming in schools was so widespread, as many claim here, why are there no reliable articles or mention of it during that time?

Comments by James on 19th February 2015  

Another memory from that picture......the climbing ropes.
For the first few sessions on the gym I was terrified of the ropes. Everyone else seemed to be able to climb them, I couldn't get more than a foot off the ground! We had to do circuits of the equipment....I couldn't do the ropes.
One day when, for some reason there were very few of us in the gym and little pressure, I decided to give it my best shot. Suddenly I got the knack, up I went to the top and then froze. They had to send helpers up the wall bars to coax me down! I never managed it again.

Comments by Bill on 14th February 2015  

"Surely there is no nude swimming in schools these days."

Matthew, I am also curious about this, though seems unlikely.
But mandatory group showers still seem to be a rule in some schools.

About Rick's post, I find it plausible that some schools had mandatory nude swimming, but I never heard of mandatory chastity belts for boys in schools that he mentions. He must have gone to a very special school if that was the case.

Comments by James on 14th February 2015  

I doubt it very much, or there would be a lot of court cases etc.
I certainly remember the woollen trunks at the sea side in my earlier years.
Starting off ok when dry but uncontrollably droopy when wet.

Comments by Bryan on 13th February 2015  

Matthew I agree with your last comments,implausible.

Edawrd, interesting reference to woollen swimming trunks. I remember them all itchy & scratchy. On summer holidays I used to be envious of boys I saw wearing the synthetic material trunks and was so happy when woollen ones were no longer available and I got a pair of "speedo type" tunks, which in turn seem to have gone out of fashion with youngsters opting for board shorts that cling to the legs.

Surely there is no nude swimming in schools these days.

Comments by Matthew on 8th February 2015  

My comment "Implausible" posted on 7th February, referred to Rick's posting.

Comments by Edward on 8th February 2015  

Following upon my earlier comments about swimming at school. In the early 1950's, I attended a devoutly Christian boy's school in southern England.

At assembly, the Headmaster,an ex Naval officer, announced 'No one will wear bathing suits this term', which created much murmuring amongst the boys. I was appalled, since the first swim session was only two weeks away. In fact, I was extremely apprehensive. Needless to say, this bombshell was not greeted with much enthusiasm, and most boys said that they would continue to wear woollen trunks.

The swimming class soon came around and I perversely resolved to keep my trunks on, whilst all the other 15 or so boys in the class capitulated. Obviously, I was the one soon noticed by the supervising master, before I had even entered the water. He shouted at me to take my trunks off, and reluctantly I had to remove them. I was now unashamedly nude, along with my fellow classmates. Trunks would never be worn again by any boy for normal school swim classes.

On that first day of this new swimming regime, I walked to the footbath, then back to wait dutifully in line, to be told when and where to enter the pool. It felt strange, wearing nothing at all, and decidely airy, with the whole class displaying their bareness. No place for shyness here. It was not on the agenda.

I entered the water. Since I was unable to swim, I stayed at the shallow end. My lack of ability soon became evident, and subsequently, I was put in a swimming class of three. One afternoon, myself, and the other two non swimmers went to the indoor pool, where the instructor was waiting, wearing swimming shorts. We boys stripped at the poolside, and stood there in our birthday suits, rather self consciously. I was the first to be directed to balance precariously, face down, upon a wooden contraption, in order to practice breast strokes. This was humiliating, since I was trying to protect myself, whilst unavoidably exposing my backside. The other two boys laughed at my predicament. Soon it would be their turn. Later, I put on a harness of sorts, which was to be supported by the instructor, and having started at the deep end, I somehow managed to swim to the other end. I have been able to swim, albeit poorly, ever since. The regular swim sessions were followed by showering in open stalls.

Even after many such swims, it still seemed odd, I suppose that I eventually became used to it, and I rather enjoyed the feeling of freedom it gave. No excused would have been contemplated anyway.

It seems that the practice of naked swimming was quite widespread in boy's private schools in the 1950's. Why this was so, I do not know ?

Comments by Matthew on 7th February 2015  


Comments by rick on 6th February 2015  rockisland244@gmail.com 

i was sent to an exclusive boys boarding school where there were only 3 years 14-16 with only 12 boys in each year.
the new years intake the 14 yr olds had to assemble in the canteen and strip naked and put our folded clothes in front of us.we were taken 3 at a time into an adjoining room which was set up like a hospital room with 3 beds and 3 nurses present.we each had to lie on a bed where a nurse would shave our pubes off. we were then each fitted with a chastity device,these were taken off once a week for cleaning and any new shaving.
we were told that our parents had agreed to this,and we found this to be true,because when we went home at holiday times we were sent home with them on and being told that a key had been posted home to our parents.
it was humiliating being controlled like this,both at school and at home.

Comments by Matthew on 6th February 2015  

PE stripped to the waist, naked swimming, communal showers, brutal punishments - there is ample evidence on this site that some if not all of these formed part of our experience in school days. However, I find Bob's account implausible.

Comments by Bryan on 5th February 2015  

Having read the many comments re PE and shorts, it is apparent that generally there was a uniformity expected about pe kit in most schools. Furthermore, I expect most schools had a unifrom and strictly enforced it. But did any school go as far as mine whereby,boys were told "not to wear" the string type singlets that were fashionable in the 60s/70s because they were visible underneath our white shirts. No mention was made of course about wearing string briefs because they obviously were not visible.

Was this type of underwear generally worn?

Comments by Bob on 5th February 2015  

I went to a Northern School in the 60's. Early on in my secondary shool days I remember one unpleasant day for me.
One day due to emergency repairs being required, all our year's three classes had to be sent out of the building.
We were sent across the road to a neighbouring secondary school. The gym (or hall?) had no windows that could be looked through from outside. Of course many of the boys had no PE kit with them as they were not expecting this event.
We were told that in this school it was the norm for boys to do PE naked. Perhaps this was true, I do not know. On this day we were to be combined with pupils from the other school, so there was a large number of us. I saw with alarm that some of the more extrovert boys from our school had dashed naked across the street to the school opposite. Reluctantly, a group of us went and joined them as instructed wearing just our PE shorts. On entering the hall I was horrified to be told that we were to take off our shorts and leave them in a neat pile by the door, which we did. We were informed that this was to make everyone appear the same, regardless of wether they had the correct kit or not. I recall there was an hour or two of excercises, mostly sitting or lying on the hard wooden floor, and sometimes dashing about the hall, still naked. When we were eventually allowed back into our own building, we had to sort through the pile of white PE shorts to find our own pair before returning over the road. I do not think activity happened more than once or twice, thankfully.

Comments by James on 5th February 2015  

Yes. Cold house was the norm.
My parents managed to rent a house with two sitting rooms when i was about one year old when they left their first flat which was over a shop.
They had no money to furnish the front room and it stayed completely empty for a number of years. Every Sunday their two arm chairs, a small square table and the mains table radio were moved into that room and after Sunday lunch and we spent the afternoon and evening in there. After I went to bed, the furniture and the "wirless" were moved back to the back room and we spent the rest of the week there.
This was still going on when I was about seven and they got their first tv. That was moved into the front room on Sundays but they had managed to buy a there piece suite by then.
We had a coal fire in one room only (front room on Sundays!) and the paraffin heater in the hall. It had to heat the hall, stairs bathroom and three bedrooms! Ice on the windows and no loft insulation. My bedside table was a wooden orange crate.
One memorable event was the purchase of a single bar electric fire which went on the landing on really cold nights and in the bathroom with a long taped-up flex and a big two-pin plug (!!!!) on bath night to stop the icicles forming!
(I know this belongs in the house and home section, but previous comments here brought it all to mind. I might copy it across.)