Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 149,729         Comments: 714

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

714 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Gavin / Gedvin on 19th September 2016  

Hi James
Thanks for coming in and supporting me! Yes, we competed against other independent public schools and that was my experience, too! Which school did you attend?

Comments by Rob on 13th September 2016  

Hi Jono, Sounds like you went to a good school and I bet you boys looked forward to the inter house competitions in the gym, being able to show off barechested in front of the girls. I'm sure girls today would relish the opportunity of being allowed in the gym to watch the boys working up a sweat stripped to just a pair of PE shorts, but unfortunately times have changed.

Comments by Jono on 11th September 2016  

Hi Rob, We never had mixed PE, though the girls would stand and look through the door windows which were reinforced glass. They always were allowed into the gym to watch inter house competitions. I'm sure that girls today wouldn't mind watching the boys exercise barechested for PE.

Comments by Rob on 1st September 2016  

Jono, Thanks for the explanation. Glad you enjoyed being stripped down for normal PE and having the girls see you barechested. Did you have mixed PE lessons? Can't understand those boys being embarrassed about having hairy chests, I would have thought it made them feel more macho in front of the girls.

Comments by Jono on 31st August 2016  

Hi Rob,

We always knew in advance, the reason being is the majority lived a good distance from the school. My parents lived 35 miles from it. No service buses went that far, just 2 trips daily so long journey in and even longer at night. It hasn't changed much today either and yes our council tax bill is the same as if we had all the services people expect. No teacher wanted to have responsibility of having to get people home on their hands.

Comments by Rob on 30th August 2016  

Jono, what was the point of dragging you out of a lesson to the detriment of your education and of your classmates to have to go and strip to the waist,( presumably you mean to shorts and trainers) and be sent out on a run or made to work out. You must have been expecting it otherwise how would you have had your kit to change into? If they gave you, as you call it, PE punishment, why wasn't it done after school?

Comments by Jono on 28th August 2016  

Hi Dave,

The school's official kit was:

Pair of White and pair of black shorts.
White vest
School football / rugby top ( yellow )
trainers any kind I think if I remember hi tec " squash " and Dunlop " tennis " were the most popular choice of footwear.

I didn't know anyone when starting at the school, just moved into area when the school year started. One boy had an older sister a couple of years above who told him what he could expect.

Our teacher made it absolutely clear that we would strip down as soon as were in the gym. Our PE lessons were either indoors or out but we stayed barechested regardless of the weather or temperature.

The football/rugby tops were worn infrequently, if it was decided it was warm enough then it was shirts vs skins...this happened more often than not.

Cross Country runs were always done barechested unless it was an inter house competition then one class would wear vests to distinguish teams.

Inter house fitness and basketball competitions were always done with everyone barechested.

You may have wondered why we needed to have a pair of black shorts and a pair of white shorts. Well at the very start, we were given a number... 1s would wear white shorts and 2s would wear black shorts.
Then with us all barechested, you could easily pick out the teams.

PE punishments were swift. It was not unusual for lessons to be interupted and the "victim" taken from the classroom. You quickly found yourself stripped down to the waist and out on the yard before either being given a run or a full fitness session regardless of the weather or temperature. If it rained / snowed then it was your tough luck. I was lucky and had 4 such punishments.... but they were all during the winter months.

Being a mixed school gave the girls plenty of opportunity to see all of us stripped down. They certainly approved seeing us barechested and we did too. One thing that didn't affect me was the issue of chest hair. A few lads thought they'd be exempt from stripping down having a hairy chest...our teacher merely shrugged his shoulders and made the strip anyway.

Comments by James on 25th August 2016  

I think it was standard practice in my school for boys to wear a jockstrap especially age 14 onwards, so Gavin is quite right. Secondly, I seem to remember when we competed against otherschools, the boys wearing jockstraps, too. As for the ridiculous comment about jockstraps being unhygenic .. What tosh! They were washed!!

Comments by Ian on 24th August 2016  

In reply to Dave
I do not think that there was any reaction by us lads having to do PE shirtless. It is just how it was.
I knew about it two ways.
1 My elder brother attended the same school and I knew that topless and no pants was the way it was
2 When my father attended an evening meeting for new parents the PE teacher explained it was shorts no pants, tops or socks. We only did PE indoors all team games were outside and we wore any t shirt and co loured sashes.

In reply to Robs comments, if there was additional flesh showing we did not seem bothered. As you say we would all be naked together in the showers afterwards.

It does seem that there is more inhibition these days and my son at High school wears a uniform house polo shirt, shorts with pants and tracky bottoms(winter) No showers are provided.

Mind you talking with him it is not PE as we know it. I do not think they work up a sweat.

Are there any high schools that still have their own swimming pools or provide swimming lessons. If so what has to be worn. Is there a choice between speedo type trunks or swimming shorts?

Comments by Rob on 23rd August 2016  

Dominic, I entirely agree. Like the majority of boys for decades,we had to wear just shorts with no pants or anything else for pe and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of freedom and fresh air. So we might have shown some additional flesh in the gym, but we were all naked when we were in the showers afterwards, anyway.

Comments by Dave on 23rd August 2016  

Hi Jono!What was the reaction of your classmates having to do PE shirtless. How did you get to know it? Was it in a uniform list or the teacher told it to you himself? Was there any reason given to you having to do PE shirtless? How did you play team games if you were all barechested?

As you've written you left school at 1993 sot it seems shirtless PE kit tradition lasted much more longer than I thougt.It was contiuned into the 90's. I wonder when and why it became not being a practice anymore.

Comments by Dave on 23rd August 2016  

Ian,what was the reaction of your classmates having to do PE shirtless. How did you get to know it? Was it in a uniform list or the teacher told it to you himself? Was there any reason given to you having to do PE shirtless? How did you play team games if you were all barechested?

Comments by Dominic on 22nd August 2016  

Ian - like you we were never told about athletic supports or felt the need for anything like that. At our first p.e. lesson, when we were told we would wear only a pair of shorts for p.e. with nothing underneath, it was mentioned that it was good for us to have plenty of fresh air in that area and it made sense both for hygiene and comfort. I can't help thinking an athletic support would be uncomfortable and unhygienic and I'm very glad we weren't made to wear them.

Comments by Ian on 22nd August 2016  

Re athletic supports, we were not told about or advised by the teachers of pe to wear them. Never gave a thought abouth them.

Comments by Gedvin on 22nd August 2016  

Hi Ian

Really surprised the older boys didn't wear athletic supports! Why on earth not?
Best wishes Gavin

Comments by Andrea on 21st August 2016 

In reply to Tim, I think mum's priority was to make sure that school clothes weren't so short or tight that they would prompt a letter home from school. Maybe it was slightly different at a boys school, but our teachers were quite strict about that sort of thing.

From what I recall, in a lot of cases, I did get two years out of a lot of my school clothes and where that wasn't possible (as with my first year blouses and PE tops), they were kept as spares for my younger sister.

Comments by Ian on 21st August 2016  

Hi Dave
I attended secondary school (all boys) 1961 to 1966 Indoors pe was the white shorts previously mentioned, no pants as was the norm it seems for that era. No top and plimsolls no socks.
Outdoors was winter football same shorts any t shirt( very few had football club shirts still no pants and football boots and socks. summer was simplified cricket quite soft balls white shorts again no pants and depending on temperature a vest or t shirt was optional.

Gedvin. In response to your comments at secondary school, we were never told about athletic supports and never wore them in any year..
In my junior school boys & girls did pe together and in our case all boys wore grey uniform shorts adn so for pe we simply took off our shirts and did the pe in shorts and vest. The girls however, removed their skirts (girls did not wear trousers then) and did the lesson with us in their underwear and vest. In this day and age this would be considered discrimination and either boys would have do the lesson the same as girls in pants or the girls would were shorts.
Furthermore, in the summer, pe was held outside in the playground which was by a busy road open to the publics view.. This would not happen now.

Finally, I have not known boys in Junior schools not wearing pants for pe, and being inspected. How was the inspection carried out and was in front of the girls?

Comments by Dave on 20th August 2016  

Hi Ian!

When did you go to school? Was it in England? Were you allowed to wear shirts for indoor or outdoor PE?

Comments by Ian on 19th August 2016  

Frank I wore grey shorts at secondary school until about the age of 14 (all boys school) My shorts were quite short and as far as I remember, not many shops sold shorts to cater for the older boy and they tended to be sized for younger lads. With briefs underneath they could become uncomfortable by the end of the day.

I wore long gray socks which were itchy, and for pe tight thin white shorts made of nylon and of of course no pants, which left little to the imagination, especially if we had a cross country run and it rained.

Later on more loose fitting white shorts became available, but then, with no pants there was the problem of support as we got older and depending on the exercises being carried out there could be some additional flesh on show.

However it was all part of school life and we just got on with it.

Comments by Gedvin on 19th August 2016  

My school required senior school boys to wear an 'athletic support' as stipulated in the school clothing requirements. So that would have meant any boy aged between 13 and 19. The regulation was never strictly policed, but wearing anything else but a jockstrap was frowned upon and over zealous prefects made you change if you were caught without one. When I was in the junior school we were not allowed to wear any underclothing under our shorts. This was definitely policed!

Comments by James on 19th August 2016  

Frank, I remember those knee stockings that were worn with the school uniform, usually in the winter to keep our legs warm.Usually boys went into long trousers at 14 or during the winter months and then back into shorts when it became warmer.
For me it was never an issue whether I should wear long trousers or shorts,it was considered mandatory and short trousers were replaced with more shorts as I grew older.
Yes,they were very cold items of clothing to wear in the winter, but I simply grew accustomed to wearing them and my parents indulged themselves in this practice till I left school.

Comments by Frank on 18th August 2016  

Like several other posters here have recounted, I was kept in shorts till I was 14, including secondary school uniform.
In vain I begged my mother to buy me long trousers for school, she just ignored my request.
Admittedly those uniform grey school shorts were knee length or just below the knee, and with near knee length socks. Anyone remember those woollen grey socks as part of school uniform?
Also from what I remember I think most boys at my school wore shorts anyway as part of uniform in the first few years of secondary school. This was in the 60s.

In contrast to the school uniform shorts our white PE shorts were really short and of thin material.

Comments by John on 18th August 2016  

Rob,Tim,Ian, I agree the shorter style of shorts look considerably smarter and more practicable in warm weather.
When boys were promoted to wearing long trousers usually at the age of thirteen, I was made to wear shorts up to year 11.
Usually the brief style of short trousers could be bought'off the peg', but they could be shortened to my mother's desired requirement.So that the correct length was achieved my shorts could be no longer than than when standing straight the hem of the shorts could be no longer than when standing straight the shorts could reach down to the tip of my fingers with my arms stretched downwards.
They were worn for winter and summer and could be very chill wearing them in cold weather.

Comments by Rob on 17th August 2016  

Since I retired, shorts are certainly my normal everyday summer wear usually from April till September, sometimes earlier till later. However, like Ian, I prefer the shorter type above the knee and agree that it is difficult to purchase the right length in a tailored design. I am fortunate that my wife is a dab hand with the sewing machine and can shorten them for me; that is often all you can do. I think that long baggy shorts below the knee or combat shorts look scruffy and apart from that I like to get my thighs tanned.

Comments by Tim on 17th August 2016  

A good number of years back I discovered the 'Kiwi'range by 'Craghopper'- which I liked but which were a little too long - the answer was to take them to a little Chinese seamstress who shortened them by some 3 1/2". I've done this with several pairs over the years, although it may not work with cargo shorts. Sadly the 'Kiwi' range, as I knew it, doesn't seem to be available now.
End of advert

Comments by Ian on 16th August 2016  

In response to Tim re shorter shorts. This is one of my main gripes about fashion today. It is difficult to purchase shorter shorts especially a tailored design. The majority seem to be long baggy shorts below the knee or combat shorts.

I prefer the shorter type.

Comments by John on 16th August 2016  

Tim, I agree that short shorts have gone returned to the fashion of the seventies and eighties and were worn all the year round.
They were not compulsory at school,but my parents decided to keep me in shorts permanently.

Comments by Tim on 15th August 2016  

@ Andrea - I can't honestly remember being made to try on the previous years clothes to see if they fitted - they just seemed to come. Perhaps the mothers of little girls had different 'priorities' than the mothers of little boys! (Bless 'Em All!. And ... as an only child I was spared shared bathwater.

As Rob says - communal showers came as an initial shock - but we just got on with it - there was no choice. Something I've noticed with warmer summers is that many youths & boys seem to be happier with shorter shorts on both the games field & street, and that shorts are almost becoming 'default' summer wear for men.

Comments by Rob on 15th August 2016  

My maternal grandmother had rickets as a child even earlier than the 1920's, and my mum was keen to ensure that I got out in the summer sunshine and when I was about 7 years I remember she asked me if I wanted to take my shirt off, which I did, plus my vest. After that I often used to enjoy running around in just shorts. So, when I went to grammar school I had no problem about being shirtless in PE, although after being used to just a weekly bath at home,having to take up to three communal showers a week, an innovation in itself, and nude in front of the other boys, still came as an initial shock , but which I soon overcame. My mum continued to ensure that when I was outdoors in the summer until I left school,I always wore shorts and made sure I got the sun to my body. I have continued this, passing this on to my two sons, to ensure that we all benefit from taking in Vitamin D, something which many youngsters today don't seem to be able to do.

Comments by Andrea on 9th August 2016 

As I remember it most of my school uniform started out as roomy and ending up tight and a little short! I always knew the school holidays were drawing to a close when mum made me try on last years uniform and PE kit to check what would do for another year and what needed to be replaced. I recall that a growth spurt over the summer between my first and second years necessitated a shopping trip not only for new blouses and PE shirts, but a different type of underwear too!

With regard to the weekly bath, when we were primary school age my sister and I used to argue about who's turn it was to have first use of the water!

Comments by Tim on 9th August 2016  

In reply to Dominic - my father suffered from Rickets in the 1920s.
In response to the comments about shirtless gym & games, showers, etc., - I think the very great majority of boys (& girls?) just accepted all of it as part of the process of growing up. Until the mid to late 50s you all knew that you'd probably be doing National Service anyway. There might have been an initial 'shock of the new' but that was all. (Whether the quality of the gym teaching was all that good I don't know and its too far back to discuss)

Comments by Dominic on 8th August 2016  

I remember my p.e. shorts lasted quite a few years too. Things got a bit cramped inside with bulges becoming more obvious but no-one seemed to care.
As for the comments about personal hygiene, Tim - you are so right. I remember in the 60s having a weekly bath at home and clothes were not changed nearly as frequently. Rickets had, I think, disappeared by then but I hear it is coming back as children are not allowed out in the sun without being covered up with excessive clothing or large amounts of sun block. Times change but not always for the better, perhaps.

Comments by Tim on 5th August 2016  

Just a couple of thoughts:
Rob says 'as far as our shorts were concerned,I don't think many of us grew out of them, they just got shorter and the gap between the waistband and our navels got wider'. - I completely agree - I think my first pair of (secondary) school gym shorts lasted about five years.

The whole think about topless gym/ no underpants makes sense to me if you look at the state of public health in the 20s & 30s when it was pretty poor. There was a definite 'outdoor movement' at that time and I don't think anyone would have thought much about boys doing gym & ganes topless. When coupled with the fact that lack of Vitamin D causes rickets exposure to the sun makes sense. Also in those days, for many, it was the 'weekly bath' rather than the 'daily shower' and clothes weren't changed as often as they are now so, to me, not exercising in sweaty clothes makes sense.

Comments by Rob on 1st August 2016  

The PE kit list which parents were given included a T-shirt, so we all brought one to the fist lesson. We were all sat on the floor in the gym and the master told us that when we got changed we must always take everything off, including pants and socks, and come back into the gym wearing just shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls. So the T-shirts were never worn for PE. However,as far as our shorts were concerned,I don't think many of us grew out of them, they just got shorter and the gap between the waistband and our navels got wider. We used to be barefoot outside for athletics, and no-one ever commented about being shirtless in the gym or outdoors, especially cross country runs. I agree that boys need to wear minimum kit when involved in vigorous exercises,as we were made to do, and built up a really hot sweat,making us feel really great and looking forward to getting in the hot showers afterwards.

Comments by Dominic on 31st July 2016  

Dave - I was at my all boys Grammar School in the 60s - I don't know if there was a directive but we were always bare-chested for p.e. and games - barefoot as well but that might not have been as common. I think it might just have been about common sense, practicality and avoiding the need for unnecessary kit.
Simon - you are right about running barefoot not being as harsh as it sounds. I was glad we ran cross country barefoot as the course usually included some quite muddy bits and the thought of having to get plimsolls clean and dry again afterwards did not appeal. Feet did harden very quickly and I was never aware of any problems with having to run barefoot.

Comments by Jono on 31st July 2016  

Hi Dave, I left school in 1993 and barechested PE, cross country runs included, were the norm for us. I remember our first PE session. After changing we went straight to the gym and after a minute or so the teacher told us all to strip down and from then until leaving school at 18, all PE and Games sessions were done barechested.

I think at this stage it was the school's choice but our teacher being an ex army PTI, I guess it was inevitable. I know we all had our own personal thoughts but I preferred being barechested. As for cost, well it saved my mum having to buy a proper PE shirt that you'd grow out of anyway.

Comments by Simon on 31st July 2016  


It was just tradition - boys just needed to wear the minimum amount of kit to exercise in, no need for a shirt or socks.

Thus, shorts only inside, plus plimsolls outside (and sometimes barefoot, which isn't as harsh as it sounds, feet soon harden up).

Using runs as a punishment also had advantages, it imposes a physical punishmnet on a boy, is fairly long in duration, witnessed by other boys while the boy is undergoing punishment and keeps boys fit.

Certainly my boarding school had a hierarchy of punishments, from starting with lines, then detention, then some kind of physical exercise, then caning. Even canings started as a couple of strokes with a thin cane on trousers/briefs in private, and increased in intensity up to 6 (sometimes more) hard strokes with a much heavier cane on shorts (or even stripped) in publlic

Comments by Dave on 30th July 2016  

Rob, yes I didn't know that boys had to be barechested for outdoor runs. I live in middle-Europe. In primary school we had to wear vests even outdoors and in secondary school we wore T-shirts. We played shirts vs skins at basketball matches for examples.
Reading the posts it seems for me that in the 60's (and earlier from about the 40's?) shirtless PE kit was a standard for boys at schools in Western-Europe. I wonder what was the reason to introduce it to almost every schools. Was it a central recommendation?

Comments by Simon on 28th July 2016  

It was a small/medium boarding school in the West Midlands that has since joined with another one.

The early morning runs were normal for the time, and nothing unusual. Having prefects look after punishment runs or detentions, again was normal; most schools where this happened had a system where the prefects could cane a boy, or more often report them to a teacher for a caning - we had the later.

Most prefects were fine, one or two misused their power. In this situation they were going to get you caned, it was just a case of what excuse they used - typical things were being late turning up, or being cheeky, or "not trying". We just had to accept that we were going to be made to report to a teacher, wearing only our shorts and get 6 strokes of the cane.

Comments by Gedvin on 27th July 2016  

Simon .. Which boarding school did you attend?

Comments by Rob on 27th July 2016  

Dave! it sounds as though you were amazed to watch the video and to realise what boys had to wear when they were sent out on a run at that time.But that was how it was when I was at an all boys grammar school from 1955-61. Public schools were also notorious for sending boys out for an early morning daily run all year round in just shorts and plimsolls followed when they got back by cold showers. Prince Charles was famously sent to Gordonstoun and hated it! I was about to post my comments when up popped Simon to add further confirmation. It certainly sounded a sadistic regime at his school, even before mentioning the cold showers!

Comments by Simon on 25th July 2016  

From Dave's comment earlier

Well I think its a morning run at a boarding school

This ties in eactly with what happened at my boarding school in the early 60's.

We were a boys only school, and every morning we had to complete a 2 mile run in the school gronds/local woods/fields. Kit was shorts and plimsolls, always stripped to the waist, even in the middle of winter.

Punishment runs were also given, these took place after school, and were looked after by prefects. 2 laps of the morning route, making 4 miles in all - same kit, shorts, plimsolls, no shirt or socks. Once or twice we were made to run barefoot as well by the more sadistic of the prefects. If they chose to, they could report a boy for being late or slow changing, dirty kit, not trying or any other reason they thought of - nearly always this resulted in being made to report to the gym and being caned in just your pe shorts.

Our indoor pe kit was shorts only, as was normal at the time.

And I haven't even mentioned the cold showers!

Comments by Andrea on 23rd July 2016 

Hi Dan,

It was quite a culture shock having to shower after PE when we first started at secondary school. At primary school we just changed in our classroom and always kept our underwear on, so being naked in front of classmates and the teacher was rather daunting at first.

Comments by Rob on 22nd July 2016  

Dan, I don't remember anyone making any comment about the showers; they may have had their private thoughts but as you said, we just got on with it.

Our school was on the ourskirts of town and we ran across the playing fields and past half a dozen houses and across the road and we were then into woodland and out on to hills. We enjoyed being in just shorts and feeling the fresh air on our bodies,eagerly looking forward to getting in the showers.

Comments by Dave on 21st July 2016  

"Although we didn't run bare chested in freezing winter weather,when we were sent out on a run, usually between April and October,we wore just shorts with nothing on underneath and plimsolls with no socks, which was our normal kit in the gym."

Hi Rob!

I think in the video from abuot 1:05 we can see a run that you describe. Well I think its a morning run at a boarding school but I think boys (and girls in the first minute of the video) are in their usual PE kit.
This is an archive film of a life in a boarding school.

Comments by Dan on 21st July 2016  

Hi Andrea, I suppose what you describe was the standard PE uniform for girls in most schools.
As for compulsary showers, how did you girls feel about it, were you comfortable with it?
I know that for us boys some were very uncomfortable being naked in front of other boys and teachers in the shower. Some were extremely shy and modest and must have been torture for them, but we just got along with it having no other choice.

Rob, were any of the boys annoyed about the communal showers?
Also, were you made to run through town streets in just shorts or just cross country?

Comments by Rob on 20th July 2016  

Although we didn't run bare chested in freezing winter weather,when we were sent out on a run, usually between April and October,we wore just shorts with nothing on underneath and plimsolls with no socks, which was our normal kit in the gym. We had two gym periods a week and also a double games period outside when we played football in the winter and wore shorts,no underpants, football shirt and boots and socks.In the summer most of us played cricket.After every session of PE and football it was compulsory to go naked in the communal showers.

Comments by Andrea on 19th July 2016 

In reply to Dan, we had compulsory showers at our Secondary school in the 1970s.

I suppose you could say that we had the opposite of a no underpants rule - our indoor PE kit was gym knickers without shorts or a skirt over them.

Bras were allowed under the white polo shirts that comprised the top half of our PE kit.

Comments by Dan on 19th July 2016  

I can't imagine doing cross country runs bare chested in freezing Winter weather. But it seems from many posts here that this was the case in many schools.
The only PE we did at my secondary school was a one or two hour session in the gym twice a week, and even for that we wore white T-shirts and shorts.
The no-underpants rule also seems to have been common in many schools, though not at my school. I guess it did not apply to girls in most schools either, if any. But we did have showers after PE.
I wonder how many here had compulsary showers after PE.

Comments by Keith on 18th July 2016 

Reading some of the earlier posts took me back to my schooldays and PE, very strict on dress code, no underpants rule and if caught would have to remove said underpants in full view of the other boys and then at the end of the lesson have 3 across the bottom with a plimsoll.PE vests were worn only outdoors, on cross country out of sight of the school we removed them until we came close to school again. I recently joined a gym and signed up for the men only days and had the induction where I did a treadmill test and had to be bare chested because I was wired up, I was told as I put on my sports shirt afterwards that nobody bothers with them on workouts here, so that took me back to school gym sessions.