Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

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Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 220,810
Item #: 1602
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

Comment by: Andy on 20th November 2014 at 14:52

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.

Comment by: Philip on 11th November 2014 at 23:38

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.

Comment by: Ollie on 8th November 2014 at 10:10

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

Comment by: Bill on 7th November 2014 at 12:41

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.

Comment by: Tim on 20th October 2014 at 19:52

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?

Comment by: Nicholas on 19th October 2014 at 22:30

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.

Comment by: Pete on 15th October 2014 at 14:59

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

Comment by: Stefan on 12th October 2014 at 18:01

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!

Comment by: Stuart on 9th October 2014 at 00:01

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.

Comment by: Mike on 3rd September 2014 at 07:43

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.

Comment by: Brian on 31st August 2014 at 23:38

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!

Comment by: Jon on 21st July 2014 at 17:09

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.

Comment by: Josh on 20th July 2014 at 18:18

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.

Comment by: Peter on 19th July 2014 at 07:40

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!!!

Comment by: Will on 9th July 2014 at 23:50

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

Comment by: Roy on 30th June 2014 at 18:15

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.

Comment by: Tim on 6th June 2014 at 11:57

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.

Comment by: John Lavender on 26th May 2014 at 17:58

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.

Comment by: Tim on 25th May 2014 at 09:18

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.

Comment by: Josh on 17th May 2014 at 13:03

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.

Comment by: mark on 30th April 2014 at 21:51

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

Comment by: Pete on 29th April 2014 at 18:37

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

Comment by: mark on 26th April 2014 at 10:10

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.

Comment by: Maltamon on 25th April 2014 at 21:22

It is time that we allowed pupils the decency to wear what they want in Physical education classes. We live in a mult-ethnic pluralistic society and we should take into account the needs of muslim, homosexual, transgender and modest school children.

There are too many schools that allow teachers the right to veto the wearing of tracksuits.

Boys PE kit

Red embroidered polo shirt
Black embroidered shorts
Red embroidered socks with two black stripes
Black/Red reversible rugby top
Training shoes (non marking soles)
Black embroidered tracksuit bottoms are OPTIONAL items and can be worn at the teachers discretion.

Tracksuits may be worn over P.E. kit at the discretion of the teacher in cold weather.

For Indoor P.E. they will need:-

BOYS - a pair of shorts, white T-shirt and black pumps.

GIRLS - a leotard or shorts, white T-shirt and black pumps. Muslim girls must remove head scarves for the teaching of P.E.

N.B. Not only is it Kirklees Policy that children do indoor P.E. in bare feet but it is educationally advisable. Muslim girls must also remove head scarves for PE. This is for health and safety reasons. At teachers’ discretion pumps may be kept on.


Performing Arts in Year 9 is taught for one period per week to all pupils in mixed ability groups. School PE kit is required with bare feet.

Despite the passage of the Human Rights Act 1999 and the Equalities Act 2010 there is still open discrimination against boys.

Additional for Movement
Girls: Black leotard
Boys: White shorts
No jewellery is permitted during PE lessons

Too many schools require an intrusive "change of underwear" policy.

A towel and change of underwear must be brought to your P.E. lessons.

(Boxer shorts must not be worn during PE lessons; tighter fitting underpants or an athletic support are necessary.)

A towel for use after taking a shower, and changes of underwear and socks are essential. All games and PE kit should be taken home after use for washing. Pupils should be reminded to bring it to school on the appropriate days and should not, of course, wear their day clothes for PE.

Pupils should not be forced to shower but their are still school colleges and academies that require this.

A towel is required as pupils are expected to shower

There are also academies that force male students to remove underwear and put on swimming trunks under shorts.

PE Kit – Outdoor

Coombe Dean navy and gold rugby shirt
Navy shorts
Swim trunks (under shorts)
Gold long Coombe Dean socks
Black soccer/rugby boots (with safety studs)
Coombe Dean blue fleece
Optional tracksuit bottoms

It is time we protected all school children against cruel inhuman and degrading treatment. Lets prevent what happened to us in the Jimmy Saville era of the 1970's and 1980's from happening to kids today. End state sanctioned child abuse in UK schools.

Comment by: mark on 25th April 2014 at 00:06

I started school in 1967. PE kit at infant and middle school was simple. We didnt have a kit. Boys did it in just their underpants and girls did it in pants and vest. We all changed in the classroom and files down long corridors to the school hall in our underwear. At comp boys and girls did PE separately. Our indoor kit was just a pair of white shorts. We were barefoot and bare chested. Outdoor sports varied. We played football cricket or did cross country. If we forgot our football boots or running shoes then we were made to run around the grass fields bare foot. If we brought the wrong kit then we got PE detention that was done in just shorts. We were never allowed to wear underpants in any PE activity at comp. Showers were mandatory and we had to spend five minutes in the shower as a minimum.
I remember the gym master running the cross country with us and he carried a green flash slipper which he applied liberally to our backsides if he thought we were slacking.

Comment by: Martin on 16th April 2014 at 08:25

Had a really good chuckle at this picture "The team Captain leading the Cross-Country team to victory against St Botolphs" It really is like an illustration from Boys Own Paper! I can almost hear the caption being read by a thin guy with a pipe and moustache and a plumy BBC accent. :-)
Sorry for being flippant, but it really is such a great photo and is so evocative of a long gone era! Wonder if they are all still around, they will be in their mid 70's now I guess?

Comment by: Nigel on 9th April 2014 at 12:15

When I was at secondary school in the 1960's all boys had to do PE stripped to the waist both in the gym and outdoors. This also included cross-country runs.
We were also barefoot in the gym and like Stewart we also had to do cross-country barefoot.
The only time we wore footwear was for football and there some boys also stripped to the waist for that.

Comment by: Stewart on 7th April 2014 at 16:05

I went to an English grammar school in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it was compulsory for both boys and girls to run cross country events barefoot.
In fact all P.E. for both sexes had to be done barefoot, indoors and out. The only time footwear was allowed was for rugby in the winter.

Comment by: Dominic on 16th March 2014 at 11:31

I attended an all boys school in the 1980s and I can't remember anyone ever doing cross-country barefoot. If you forgot your running shoes what usually happened was you were told to join one of the other classes doing PE in the gym, or sometimes swimming instead.
However, it wasn't unusual for boys to do cross-country barechested - sometimes by choice, but more often when we had a House run. There were two Houses at the school and we had inter-House competitions in most sports. About three or four times each term, cross-country would be designated as a House run, with every runner scoring points towards the House total. The easiest way to tell which boys were running for which House was to have teams of vests and skins, so when we got to the changing room the teacher would announce 'House run, House X in vests, House Y in skins'. You never knew beforehand there was a House run or which team you'd be in, it was just decided there and then. Not surprisingly, most boys preferred to run barechested in summer, but of course it was pot luck.

Comment by: Thomas on 14th March 2014 at 14:00

As far as shirtless cross country runs are concerned, it is certainly very rare these days if it happens at all. However, there are plenty of videos on youtube that show young teen boys training for cross country barechested, oftentimes alongside girls who are clad in just sports bras.

When I was on my school's cross county team not that long ago, it was not too different either. When I started out I used to run in a t-shirt and shorts, but as I spent more time training with my team mates some of the girls kept encouraging me to lose the shirt altogether, which I eventually did. I suppose whenever a new boy joined up, they had some sort of competition to see how quickly they could get his shirt off!

The teacher certainly never raised an eyebrow at most of the boys going barechested (or the girls wearing what might have been considered scandalous back in the day). To be fair, we usually trained in pretty hot and humid weather. For actual competitions though, a singlet/vest was the minimum attire.