Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 134,298         Comments: 630

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

630 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Andrea on 22nd April 2015 

Hi Barbara,
For us the big difference in PE was between Primary School and Secondary School. At Primary both girls and boys used to wear a T shirt and shorts or a skirt, but we used to all have to change in the same room (except for a few girls who had developed early).

At Secondary School (all girls) indoor PE was in Gym Knickers and a Polo Shirt, but we all had to shower afterwards (there hadn't been any showers at Primary.

The summer between first and second year at Secondary isn't one I remember fondly. For one thing, because girls and boys now went to separate schools, I didn't feel as much of the 'gang' as I had previously. This wasn't helped by the physical changes that were becoming evident. Going topless was out of the question and even with a T shirt on my 'bumps were becoming an issue. If I wore a bra the outline was noticeable, wearing a vest was quite warm and wearing just a T shirt some movement was evident. Some of the time I wore one of my old (flat) bikini tops which at least tended to flatten things down.

Did you find it hard to adjust too?


Comments by Dave on 22nd April 2015  

Like Pete it never bothered me about being bare-chested.
I can well remember doing PE outdoors in snow while being stripped to the waist.

Comments by Barbara on 21st April 2015  

I went on a caravan holiday the summer between the 1st and 2nd year and spent nearly the whole week topless.
You were treated alot different at the Secondary school in the 2nd year,I had to wear tee shirt and knickers even inside,for P E, when it was all girls, right from the start of the year, in the first year the same teacher let me do P E nude inside.

Comments by Barbara on 20th April 2015  


When we came home from school I often played out with two boys,we used to ride our bikes round the street and across the field if the weather was good I was usually topless even when the boys kept their tops on.
I usually played out barefoot I hardly ever wore shoes, so my feet were very tough.
I did a cross country run which involved running round the streets in the first year at the secondary school topless and barefoot , when I got back to school the teacher was told me off for not wearing enough, she hadnt seen me go , all I had on was a pair of white knickers.


Comments by Andrea on 20th April 2015 


Thanks for the clarification.

When I was Primary School age I was always a bit of a tomboy. I had short hair and in evenings and weekends used to wear jeans or shorts rather than skirts or dresses. Although mum didn't really approve, when I was out of her sight, if the boys went topless so did I (from a distance I looked like a boy anyway).

I started to develop during the winter of my first year at Secondary School. Mum actually bought my first bra for my 12th birthday (in May), but I hated it so much that I refused to wear it at first!
I had a bit of a growth spurt during the summer holidays, so when I went back to school at the start of the second year I was wearing a bra.

Did you ever go topless outside school (until you developed) or was it only for school PE?

We could go barefoot for indoor PE (which I did), but had to wear canvas hockey boots or black 'pumps' outdoors.


We used to

Comments by Barbara on 19th April 2015  


Yes all the girls were expected to wear tee shirt and knickers for the 2nd year. I loved being topless and really was quite jealous of the boys who were always topless. After a couple of months I started to develop so would have to cover up anyway.
I remained barefoot for P E both indoors and out right until I left school.

Comments by Andrea on 19th April 2015 

Unlike Barbara we never did PE topless at either Primary or Secondary school, but in the summer I would sometimes join the boys in taking my T shirt and vest off to have a splash about in our local stream or when we were making 'dens' on some waste ground.

The last summer I was able to do this was a few months after my 11th birthday. I was still flat-chested when I started at secondary school, but by the following summer I had to make sure I was wearing a swimsuit top if I wanted to take my T-shirt off. This was the end of my carefree Tomboy days and I started to wear a bra at the beginning of my second year at Secondary school.


Did all the girls have to wear a shirt for PE rom your second year onwards, whether they had started to 'develop' or not?

Comments by Pete on 19th April 2015  

It certainly never bothered me about being topless and barefoot.
In fact I started being stripped to the waist and barefoot almost from the time I started primary school until I left school at nearly nineteen.

Comments by Barbara on 18th April 2015  

I cant see why all you boys were so bothered about being topless and barefoot I'm a girl and up untill I was 12 ,the end of the 1st year at the secondary school did P E outside topless and barefoot( I was flat chested) and for girls only P E inside after bringing a note from my mum was allowed to do it nude.

Comments by Roy on 15th April 2015  

I was at school in the 1960s and always did PE stripped to the waist whatever the conditions and usually barefoot as well.
We coped with it.We had to.
But I can't imagine today's youths coping with being stripped to the waist at all times

Comments by Chris on 12th April 2015  

All credit to your generation George. I was at school in the late 80s and on one occasion I had to do cross country bare-chested - it was freezing! I can't imagine what it must have been like to run without a shirt every single time, let alone in bare feet! You're right, I don't think boys could cope with that today.

Comments by George on 9th April 2015  

Looking back through the comments here I can see that my experience was typical of boys who were at school in the 60s. We did cross country running mainly in the winter and always barefoot and stripped to the waist just as other p.e. activities. We didn't think we were particularly hard done by - it was just the way things were done then and we quite enjoyed it most of the time.

I don't suppose boys could cope with that these days but times were different then. When I started at Grammar School we had no central heating at home and I remember scraping ice off the inside of my bedroom window in winter!

Comments by Andrea on 8th March 2015 

The era I'm talking about (1970s) was well before sports bras were invented!

Obviously I've never tried on a jockstrap, although I washed my ex-husbands plenty of times and bought my son his first one (with a 'box') when he first started playing cricket.

Comments by James on 4th March 2015  

Seemed to dry as far as I remember. The lockers were metal with ventilation slots so I suppose that helped, but I know what you mean about putting wet things on.
I can't say I have tried a bra, let along a sports one, so I can't comment on that!

Comments by Andrea on 3rd March 2015 

Your comment that you found wearing a jockstrap very comfortable and that it stayed in place without adjustment certainly contrasts with my early memories of supportive underwear. The first time I tried wearing a bra it felt like it was cutting me in half and I seemed to be forever having to pull the straps up! I guess it was because it was so different from just wearing a vest as I had up to then.

For several months after mum bought me one I left it in my drawer, but eventually running around in PE without one became too uncomfortable (and noticeable)!

You mentioned that you used to was your jockstrap in the shower and keep it in your locker. Did it dry properly? One of my pet hates is if I have to put on a still damp swimming costume!

Comments by James on 26th February 2015  

I don't think it was so much that they had an open back.It was more that they were designed to do just one job and support what was at the front.
Really they were very comfortable because they did just that and there was no spare material to flap around and get into places where it shouldn't. They allowed total freedom of moving around and stayed in place without adjustment.
I do remember the first time wearing under shorts outdoors and being somehow more conscious of the wind whistling around than I had been with only shorts for some reason. Probably because you just expected underware of any sort to stop that.

Comments by Andrea on 18th February 2015 

With regard to the comments by James, I can recall our teacher having a conversation with some of girls about it perhaps being time they started to wear appropriate supportive underwear (or a different kind) for PE lessons!

Going to an all girls school and not having any brothers or a sporty father, the first time I came across a jockstrap was when my ex's appeared in the washing basket when we were first married. It did seem a strange looking thing! Does anyone know why they're designed the way they are, with the open back etc?

Comments by James on 5th February 2015  

( I am just copying my comments across from a different photo as it is relevant here as well !)
I attended an all boys grammar school in the midlands in the mid 60's. I well remember the scenes set in these comments.
We had to wear the almost transparent white nylon shorts and we were ordered not to wear underpants. Shirts and skins was the norm for any activity in the gym. Showers were compulsory and we had to go into the communal shower naked.
We were lucky enough to have a pool and it was quite common after a PE session in the gym to have a shower, put our shorts back on and then go into the pool. The shorts went almost totally transparent but we just seemed to assume that's the way it was and not take any notice.
The first time I can remember this being a problem for any of us was one friend who was obviously an early developer started to have problems with hanging out of his shorts. He was embarrassed and of course the rest of us made a huge joke of it, not thinking it would become a problem for us in time!
I remember one day at the beginning of the lesson, the PE teacher sat us down in the changing rooms and talked to us about growing up and that if we felt uncomfortable in just our shorts, we should get jockstraps like the older boys, and in any case we would need them if we were going to play rugby. He had them on sale at school if we wanted to buy them.
Few of us knew what a jockstrap was but as the changing rooms were a shortcut to one part of the school we started to notice older boys getting changed and worked out what they were. Those with older brothers also knew already.
From then on, they started to appear at changing time and, of course they were plainly visible through the almost transparent shorts, especially when we went on to swimming after pe. Often the waistband showed above and the leg straps showed below but, to us, that was a sign of being one of the older boys.
Coming from a family with no older brothers, I had never talked about such things with my parents and they were not at all sporty. I couldn't imagine asking them to get to buy me a jockstrap so I summoned the courage to go and buy one at school. I just remember feeling like one of the big boys and never worried about it showing through the shorts. Like a lot of the others we washed them in the showers and kept them in our lockers.
I was never over sporty so didn't get onto the major teams but we did have to do "cross country running" which took us through the woods but also along public roads. An interesting sight for some passers by, I expect, on a wet day when things had gone particularly transparent!

Comments by Bob on 21st January 2015  

In response to the question, I meant in the vicinity of the school buildings and grounds, so away from the general public.

The gym was raised with full length windows. When the sun shone from behind while we were running on the spot, for example, our shorts especially white nylon were somewhat revealing. I recall some of my fellows staring and pointing at my shorts while I was jogging.

Showers, which were open with no privacy, were compulsory after PE or Games. Teachers normally supervised from a point between the changing rooms and the showers in order to ensure the rules were obeyed. I sometimes used to try and keep my shorts on and dash in out of the showers without taking them off. I remember once being spotted, and having to run back naked after handing my shorts over to the teacher.

Comments by Julian on 21st January 2015  

Like Andy while at junior school I used to see secondary school boys doing cross-country runs stripped to the waist and barefoot and thought how tough they looked.
I actually looked forward to doing it myself.
Again it was a different story being stripped to the waist and barefoot in cold icy conditions.
But I did enjoy being stripped to the waist and barefoot during the Summer terms.

Comments by Bill on 19th January 2015  

Bob, do you mean that the boys caught wearing underpants were made to strip in public, since you mention that they could be seen by anyone in the vicinity?

Also, how common were compulsary showers under the supervision of teachers after PE?

Comments by Andy on 18th January 2015  

One of the senior schools in my home town had a cross country course that involved running past my junior school.

Irrespective of the weather all the boys always ran stripped to the waist, and most of the classes everyone has bare feet as well. At 10 I thought how tough this looked and how grown up.

It wasn't until I was actually at the school and was made to do cross country on a freezing day stripped down to just a pair of shorts that I changed my mind !

Comments by Ben on 17th January 2015  

We too wore thin white cotton shorts with nothing underneath for indoor gym and for cross country but I don't remember them becoming translucent. We were barefoot and bare chested for cross country like so many others and you didn't dare argue with a teacher. I don't think any-one was too bothered as far as I can remember - this was in the 60s.

Comments by Bob on 9th January 2015  

When I was at an all Boys Grammar School we were not allowed to wear anything under our PE or outdoor games shorts. I found this highly embarrassing, as the thin white cotton or nylon shorts were rather short and translucent in sunny or damp conditions, and I hated being seen like this, especially by the public when out cross-country running.

There were random kit inspections by teachers, who would be sent to check boys were not wearing underpants or vests. Any offenders would have to strip naked and remove them before replacing their shorts and continuing their PE lesson or cross-country run. This humiliating process was found highly entertaining by anyone in the vicinity, I recall.

Comments by Nigel on 31st December 2014  

I remember that when my parents received the Uniform List for secondary school the PE uniform made no mention of vest.
My next door neighbour was in the third year and so I asked him if there was a mistake.
He said No and you did PE bare chested and so it was.
Some boys who had come from different junior schools already did PE shirtless but for me it took some getting used to although I eventually quite enjoyed do PE stripped to the waist.

Comments by Andy on 23rd November 2014  

I went to school in the 70's had PE teacher who was very strict on what you could wear. Indoor was normal Shorts only barefeet was compulsory. Don't rememeber having to cross country shirtless but if you forget your footwear it was barefeet no choice.

Comments by Pete on 22nd November 2014  

Andy is quite right.
I remember that although our school uniform list showed a vest for PE as soon as we had our first lesson the master in charge made it quite clear that boys in his class did PE stripped to the waist and barefoot.
Again as Andy says it was no point in complaining as you still had to do PE stripped to the waist and would receive at least six strokes of the cane afterwards.

Comments by Andy on 20th November 2014  

At grammar school in the early 60's we wore just shorts for indoor pe throughout the school.

In year 1 we wore shorts, vests and plimsolls for xc, although a few boys ran in less. At the start of the second year we had a new teacher for games. When we changed for xc he told us all to strip to just our shorts as boys in his class ran with bare feet and stripped to the waist. It was a freezing cold day but in spite of this we just did as we were told and soon 30 odd shivering 12 year olds were lined up outside all with bare backs/chests and nothing on their feet ready to be sent off on a 4 mile run.

It was pointless saying anything or even refusing as we would have still be made to do the run and would just have received some additional punishment like being given 6 strokes of the cane when we got back.

Comments by Philip on 11th November 2014  

Grammar Schools had pupils up to the age of 18 and a higher proportion of sixth formers than any other secondary schools. I can well imagine the boys in the photo were pupils at a grammar school.

I agree that the photo looks somewhat posed - they really don't look as though they are coming back from a run. They might have been told to wear tops especially for the photo - would account for the variety, perhaps.

Comments by Ollie on 8th November 2014  

Was this the school that was known locally as "The Old Boys School, or was there another one in Clitheroe called that?

Comments by Bill on 7th November 2014  

I also think that the boys look too old to be of grammar school, or even secondary school, age, as the photo description suggests.
They look more like being college age students, if they are students at all.
From the lads in the photo they seem to be some kind of athletic team rather than a normal class of students.

Comments by Tim on 20th October 2014  

I agree that they look clean, but if you look at the gates, they've opened inwards which makes me think that they are turning into a yard!

Is this a posed shot, methinks?

Comments by Nicholas on 19th October 2014  

I agree too - this does not look much like a team - different colour shoes and shorts and a wide array of tops.
I had only been at primary school for a year in 1959 but by the time I got to Grammar School it seemed to have been normal to run barefoot and shirtless. We only wore a pair of white shorts and, although I was not in a team, we all looked alike apart from the amount of mud we wore when we got back. If you slipped over in a particularly muddy part your shorts were not white when you returned.

Comments by Pete on 15th October 2014  

I too agree with Stuart.
We did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot and usually returned covered in mud.

Comments by Stefan on 12th October 2014  

I agree with Stuart - it looks to me as if those boys are setting off rather than returning from a run. When I was at school (mid 1980s) you usually finished cross country with your legs spattered in mud, at least up to the knee. If you didn't spend too long in the shower - as most boys didn't - you'd often go home with mud caked to your legs.
Thankfully, unlike at Stuart's school, we did wear running shoes rather than having to go barefoot, and the uniform for cross country included vests as well. However, there was scope for confusion as we did gym lessons in just shorts and bare chest and sometimes boys would mistakenly turn up for cross country with no vest. Unless someone had a spare by chance, that could mean a chilly 40 minutes or so... and even less fun if you were the only boy running barechested!

Comments by Stuart on 9th October 2014  

The boys in the photo look far too clean and tidy to be coming back from a cross country run. When I was at grammar school in the 60s we usually came back with at least a little mud on our feet and legs, often a lot. As with many others who have commented we ran barefoot and shirtless - it was just the way things were done in those days.

Comments by Mike on 3rd September 2014  

Like Brian I always was stripped to the waist and barefoot for PE etc.
After a few weeks we got used to being bare chested whatever the conditions.

Comments by Brian on 31st August 2014  

My experience was the same as Peter's - we wore just white shorts, ours were cotton, for PE and cross country. After the first couple of weeks no-one seemed bothered by running barefoot and shirtless. Once we knew the route it was good to get out away from the teacher!

Comments by Jon on 21st July 2014  

I was like Josh with the difference that we did have to do outdoor gym and cross-country stripped to the waist throughout the year.

Comments by Josh on 20th July 2014  

I was definitely one of those lads Peter referred to when I started at secondary school. At my primary school PE was always done in a T-shirt and shorts (any colour you wanted) and I assumed it would be the same in secondary school. It was a shock when the uniform list arrived and listed 'white shorts, gym socks and plimsolls' for boys with no mention of a top of any kind. I still thought it might be a mistake until I asked my next door neighbour, who went to the same school but was a year older. To my horror he confirmed the accuracy of the uniform list and told me I would not only have to be bare-chested in the gym but also for outdoor PE like cross country. To my relief that turned out to be an exaggeration - we were permitted to wear football shirts for cross country in the winter, then in summer we had to take them off. However, I felt queasy the first time I got changed for PE and it took me a while before I got used to to being bare-chested in public. In a way I think it helped that there were boys even less comfortable with stripping down to shorts than I was but of course they had to deal with it too.

Comments by Peter on 19th July 2014  

At my old secondary school the normal PE kit was just white shorts. So we were always stripped to the waist and barefoot both indoors and for cross-country.
I had doe PE bare-chested at primary school so it was no big deal but some lads were mortified at having to bare their chests but they had to get used to it!!!

Comments by Will on 9th July 2014 

Interesting thread. I went to a catholic all boys school in Newcastle in the early 80's from the age of 13-18. Our kit consisted of trainers, white socks, white shorts and a long sleeve house shirt which depended on what house you were in in terms of the colour. This was worn for all outdoor PE including cross country. we had what was called games done outside and PE Indoors,. Full Kit was always worn outdoors but for indoor pe, the house shirt was not allowed,it was compulsory to go topless and barefoot. I remember some of the fat kids being mortified. For me it was never a big deal, you just took your shirt off and thought nothing of it, though I guess as I shared a room at home with two brothers, I was relaxed about showing my body off as lads did not wear any pjs to bed back in those days so going topless in the gym was no big dealto me. What was really strange was when we went into 6th form. We were told that shirts were optional in 6th form and the strange thing was that me and all my mates continued to go topless. By that stage most of us had developed good masculine chests, I had a hairy chest which I rememeber thinking was so damn manly, and enjoyed showing it off. Although beingmade to do pe in mimimal clothing back then as 13 year old kids, I don't think it was a bad thing as it made us proud of our bodies and into the men we are today. Certainly made me much more comfortable about taking my shirt off when I was a young man

Comments by Roy on 30th June 2014  

I agree with Tim about the fabrics used for PE gear in the sixties.
Our PE shorts were white lightweight with football shorts being dark and of a heavier material as were our football shirts.
For PE both indoors and outside we were stripped to the waist.

Comments by Tim on 6th June 2014  

Interesting comments from John on the new styles of footwear - I'm starting to see them in the gym, too.

Fabrics have changed completely over the years as well. At Grammar school in the early 60s our gym shorts were white cotton - in quite a lightweight fabic, whilst our football (& cross-country) shorts seemed to be a much heavier weight (black) cotton - almost a twill. Tops for football were a cotton rugby style shirt; for gym most of us wore cotton T-shirts. The much shorter cotton & nylon shorts of the 70s and later hadn't made an appearance. The manufacturers would have been people like Gymphlex & Bukta, or whoever the local outfitters would have been buying off at the time.

Comments by John Lavender on 26th May 2014

To Tim, Re: Shirtless and Barefoot Running.
Yes Tim, Barefoot/Minimalist/'Natural' Running is definitely on the rise. I work in specialist Retail at Northern Runner in Newcastle and we sell a Lot of Natural Running Shoes, much more than even One Year ago. we also have a Chi/Natural Running Practitioner who organises Masterclasses Locally in Newcastle and uses our Shop as a Focal Point for them.
Shirtless Running.
I run Shirtless when I can and as much as I can, although I always carry a Breathable Top or a Singlet in my Bumbag with me. Even if it is raining I still find topless/shirtless, whatever you want to call it, more comfortable as there is No Clothing to stick to your Upper Body or get sweaty in warm, or wet and heavy in rainy, weather.

Comments by Tim on 25th May 2014  

Worth commenting that bare-foot running is coming back. Living opposite a large piece of common land, I saw a young guy running stripped to the waist and bare-foot, on a not particularly nice day last week.

Comments by Josh on 17th May 2014  

This was especially true if you had to go barefoot on cross-country outside the school grounds.
There didn't seem to be much bother about being bare-chested wherever it happened.

Comments by mark on 30th April 2014  

i remember boys being more concerned by being bare foot rather than being bare chested

Comments by Pete on 29th April 2014  

I think that most lads would have no problem with having to be stripped to the waist and would probably quite enjoy it.

Comments by mark on 26th April 2014  

I vividly remember my first day at comprehensive school as if it was yesterday. I was terrified of starting at the big school. On our very first day there we had a PE lesson and we obviously didn't have our kit. Boy and girls did PE separately at our new school. There were pupils from quite a few middle schools. We had always done PE in just our underpants but I knew that not all schools were like this.
The gym master was a small man and carried a large plimsoll(slipper)He took us to the changing rooms and said that we would play shirt and skins games.Half the class would do it in just their underpants and the other half would do it in their pants and school shirt. There were gasps from many pupils who had never done PE stripped down to underwear. So we quickly stripped down. The top half of the alphabet did it in just underpants and the other half in pants and shirt. I was a B so it was just in pants. Some boys did not want to go bare foot and ran into the gym in their socks. They were told in no uncertain terms to take them off. One boy was almost in tears as he took them off in front of us all. Another boy was very overweight and had kept his shirt on. The master went through us all one by one asking our names. This boy was a C and was told to take his shirt of. He started to cry and got a whack of the slipper and told to "grow up"
Many boys were extremely uncomfortable at being so exposed.I never quite understood why so many got upset at being bare foot. I imagine they must have gone bare foot at home at some point. Or maybe they always wore carpet slippers.
I remember when we did gym after this that we had to take a communal shower after. None of us liked it. Anyone just running through the shower was made to stand at the entrance naked and then take a cold shower, he also go a good whack on his bare behind.
Looking back i now realise that our gym masters had all been in the war. Consequently they were damaged goods. I had a few friends who told me that family memebers who had been in the war had come back very different people. Most had become very sadistic without realising it.
I have to say that some of our teachers were psychotic and incredibly strict. They simply should never have been allowed near children.