Sports....and those who played them


Sport have long been a part of life at Sinjuns, indeed the first mention of sport at Sinjuns is to be found in the School Magazine for 1 March 1892, where there is a reference to an attempt to re-establish the School Cricket Club on a somewhat firmer basis.

This page contains an overview of the various sports enjoyed, (or avoided), at Sinjuns over the years, this being extracted from the excellent book by Frank T. Smallwood, MA, FA, "A History Of Sir Walter St. John's School Battersea, 1700 - 1986".

As always, we are looking for more photographs and personal histories to add to this page, so if you have any that you would like to share with fellow Sinjun's please e-mail them to us, along with a description and we will put them up for all to enjoy.

For more information on how to purchase the book"A History Of Sir Walter St. John's School Battersea, 1700 - 1986" please click on the link.

As previously stated the first mention of sport at Sinjuns is to be found in the School Magazine for 1 March 1892, where there is a reference to an attempt to re- establish the School Cricket Club on a somewhat firmer basis. School cricket had apparently not been flourishing for some years previously, owing partly to the fact that the boys of the school were drawn from a very wide area. The first recorded Captain of the Cricket Club was EPA. West, in 1892, and the first recorded match against Malden College, at New Malden in the same year.

One of the first sports to be developed at Sinjuns was swimming, in which Professor C. Newman (swimming instructors were invariably known as professors') of the Battersea Baths gave the boys instruction in 1892. A code of rules for the Swimming Club was drawn up in that year, including one forbidding the playing of tricks on other bathers and insisting that all swimmers wear drawers 'which can be bought with badge from Mr Newman at the Baths, price eight pence'. In 1962 the School Gala saw the first water-polo match since 1914 - but against a team from Battersea Grammar School rather than the Old Boys' Team as had been the case forty-eight years earlier. It also saw the setting of ten new School records including a Long Plunge of 53ft

Football started in 1892, and the first recorded match, against Highfield School, resulted in victory. During that first season 22 matches were played, and our opponents soon included Battersea Grammar School, Battersea Polytechnic, and Emanuel School. The first football match between the School and the Old Boys was played in 1911, and resulted in a draw (1-1).

In the School Magazine of 1892 we read the announcement that the Athletics Sports will be held in the meadows of Femside, Wandsworth Common, close to Wandsworth Common Station (Fernside Road still marks the spot) by kind permission of J.F. Gingel, Esq. The entrance fee was two-pence for each race and there were three events for Old Boys. In 1912 the first of four Master v Boys Relay races was held; the Masters won the first two, the fourth was a dead heat.

In the 1920s a sustained effort was made to make the Sports more worthy of the word athletic, so they added picturesque events - such as the Sack race, the Potato race, and the Tug-of-war went; along with handicaps and prizes - even the prize for the neatest costume. In 1930, the 880 yards and the cross-country races were added to the programme, and the Obstacle race eliminated.

It was in 1906 that the Rugby Fives Court was built in the playground. The project had the support and encouragement of Rev. H. Wesley Dennis, Principal of St. John's College, Battersea, himself an Old Boy of Merchant Taylors' School, where the game had for a long time been very popular. It caught on rapidly at Sinjuns, and in after years the School was to win a reputation at Rugby Fives.

When, in 1932, a large increase was taking place in the number and variety of School societies, a deputation of boys, some of whom had already been doing some sparring after School under the watchful eye of the PT Master, S.W. Broadbent, asked him to become the 'patron' of a boxing club. Eight oz gloves and some 6 oz gloves for the smaller fry were purchased, and a local shop-blind maker supplied ropes and made up a canvas large enough for a 14-foot ring.

Photograph of Sammy Broadbent with the school boxers in 1952 or so. Submitted by Terry Potter (1948 - 1953). The names of some of the faces are: Alan Winstanley, Noble, Benn, Griffiths......."Weren't we skinny then comments Terry!"

Hockey has never been a Sinjun game, but it must be placed on record that in 1956, for the second time, an eleven composed of members of the Sixth Form gained a victory in a hockey match over a team from Mayfield School, Putney. It is to be hoped that the boys behaved with all due courtesy and gentility towards their fair opponents.

Tennis had been played sporadically at the School since the 1920s, but in 1957 under the guidance of Mr E.A. Catherall a club was started, singles and doubles tournaments instituted, and matches played against outside teams.

1918 was a memorable year in the history of sport at Sinjuns, for it was in that year that the purchase of the School Field was completed, affording the School facilities for Football and Cricket such as it had never before enjoyed.

In 1935, following the practice adopted in most schools, the Sections were renamed 'House', and a Games Master was appointed to each House. Thanks to the generosity of former School Captains, a cup was presented to the School, to be awarded annually to the House gaining most points in the various athletic and academic activities.

In the 1960s and 1970s the number of sports available to students was widened very considerably and the School Magazine records that inter-school basketball was instituted in 1965, golf, archery, canoeing and squash in 1966 and ice skating in 1967. Canoe slalom-racing was added to the curriculum in 1969.