School Buildings Over Time: The Lower Close

How The Lower Close has evolved over the years.

The Lower Close was often referred to as the Lower Cricket ground but was also the site of rugby pitches, the athletics track and the Fives Court.  The groundsman in the picture below, is preparing a cricket pitch in the 1890s. The heavy, horse drawn roller is in the background, although the significance of the wooden gate escapes.  Suggestions welcome.


 
In the background is the Headmaster's House and what we know today as the Kitchener building (formerly A Block).  Notably missing are the New Quad and B Block (today's Stinton building).
 
The three boys are from a similar era. We think they were marking and measuring the shot putt for the school Sports Day, which used to be held over two days in the spring term.



Looking across the Close in the early 1960s from in front of the Fives Court, the building in the centre was the gym, the Stinton building quad had still to be completed and the corridors were unglazed. In front of the steps can be seen rudimentary rugby posts and the space beneath the staff room was changing rooms.
Redevelopment of the Stinton building, incorporating the Wardle Library and Donaldson Hall will fill in what was known in the seventies as the New Quad.



The Close was also used for CCF displays on Founders Day in the summer term in the 1970s (below).  The Fives Court and baths are in the background. The Eton Fives Courts were built in 1878, largely paid for by Francis Kitchener, the first Headmaster. Kitchener was a regular player and matches were arranged between House and Town. By 1910 the game had virtually died out, was revived in the 1930s and again in the sixties. The Courts were demolished to make way for new changing rooms.


 
Lower and Upper Closes in 1985. The swimming bath is the rectangular building next to the tennis courts and the Fives Court is the adjacent building with the sloping roof in the space now occupied by changing rooms. The sports hall occupies the space next to the baths.



The view in the aerial photograph changed dramatically in March 2002 with the opening of the artificial surface on the Lower Close. The artificial hockey pitches were opened by Jane Sixsmith OBE, Olympic Bronze Medal winner, on 27 March 2002.



We are very grateful to Graham Jones, former Head of Geography and current volunteer archivist at Newcastle-under-Lyme School, who has put together the content for these features.