Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture, March 1901


DURING the past few years Dulwich has steadily increased her reputation in athletic circles. First place in the competition for the Ashburton Shield and third place in the Public Schools Gymnastic Competition at Aldershot, added to a series of good football seasons, is a record of which the School is justly proud. It points, also, to a satisfactory state of things as regards the athletic training in force at the College; and, as a matter of fact, there are few schools that pay more attention to the cult of the body than Dulwich.

Whatever success has been, or may be gained by Alleynians in the province of gymnastics can be traced without difficulty to the untiring exertions of Mr. W. R. M. Leake, of ’Varsity and International football fame, and Instructor Hawkins. The last-named, besides being a gymnast of the first class, was in his earlier days one of the finest fencers in England, holding the first place with foil and sabre against all-comers at the Agricultural Hall for two years. The gymnasium is open all the week. From four to half-past five on whole-school days, and from three to half-past four on half-holidays it is reserved for the use of the junior classes, a junior in this instance being anyone under the age of fifteen. The gymnasium is a very popular institution, especially during the winter months, when it is always well attended. Gymnasts at Dulwich, as in most other schools, are sharply divided into two sections, the first consisting of those who mean strict business, and are either members of the Six, or intend to be in the near future; the second, dilettantes, who foregather at the gymnasium for the sake of congenial companionship, and because the warmth inside contrasts favourably with the cold outside. There are generally, also, one or two who come to box. There are two classes as a general rule; the senior of the two, presided over by Instructor Hawkins in person, performing prodigies of skill—such as grand circles and the like; the second class, under the care of the assistant-instructor, confining themselves to the laying of foundations for future prowess.

An evening’s gymnastics usually concludes with a quarter-of-an-hour’s dumb-bells.

Boxing classes are held on Mondays and Thursdays, between one and two; fencing classes on Tuesdays and Fridays, at the same time. Neither of these classes is well attended, which is a pity, as there is no better method of cultivating strength and activity. The Boxing Competition, however, which is held shortly before the date fixed for the Aldershot Meeting, is always interesting despite the poor number of entries, and usually produces first rate encounters.

At the end of every Christmas term, an assault-at-arms is held in the Great Hall. The programme is much the same every year. It includes gymnastics, fencing (generally), boxing (always), and sword feats by Instructor Hawkins. The quality of the gymnastics is always very high, though, from the nature of their surroundings, the performers are limited to the horse and the horizontal and parallel bars. Other features of the assault are the bayonet exercises by picked members of the corps, dumb-bell exercises by the first fifteen, and a single-stick mêlée between boarders and day-boys.

It is in training for football that most method and thoroughness is displayed. Every member of the school is obliged to play football unless he can bring a doctor’s certificate to prove that he is physically unfit. Not many do this, the majority playing more or less regularly every Wednesday and Saturday. There are eight games in the senior school, and an equal number in the junior school. Each game contains from thirty to fifty members, and possesses a game-captain, who is a “colour,” usually a member of the first or second fifteen. This official posts the game-list on the notice board, and referees in the actual game. A fine of sixpence is inflicted if a player absents himself without leave from his captain. Besides these half-holiday games each boy is expected to take exercise at least twice during the week. As “taking exercise” is a somewhat flexible term, and may signify anything from a five-mile spin to winding up a watch, it should be explained that exercise at Dulwich means one of three things—either a run of a mile, or a little more, round the grounds, or a visit to the gymnasium, or a spell of “running and passing” up and down one of the football grounds. It has always been a disputed point whether “fives” should or should not be reckoned as exercise, but it is generally not allowed to stand. It is the duty of the captain of each form fifteen—Dulwich possessing only a hundred boarders, the division into forms is more important than the division into houses—to see that the members of his form take their exercises regularly.

This free-and-easy system of training does not, of course, extend to the elect, who may be storing up wind and muscle against a coming struggle with Bedford or Haileybury. For these there is a more rigorous and exacting régime. Lists of names are placed on the notice-boards in the senior block, including not only the first and second fifteens, but also some thirty footballers, who make up the third and fourth teams. There train under the watchful eye of the captain himself. An evening’s training consists usually of running and passing. Occasionally, especially in wet weather, an adjournment is made to the baths, which are boarded over in winter, and dumb-bells take the place of ordinary training. This is more particularly the case in the winter term, when the assault-at-arms draws near.

This systematic training was originated by W. D. Gibbon, now at the Front, who was captain of football from 1897 to 1899. Training, which naturally varies according to the energy and endurance of each successive captain, for the captain leads his men at this as at other times, reached its greatest heights in Gibbon’s time. The spectacle was, indeed, often to be seen of fifty members of various teams performing the goose-step with exemplary patience and skill, in order to increase the muscles used in kicking. This system certainly had its results, for during Gibbon’s captaincy Dulwich beat Bedford for the first time in ten years, and continued to beat them until he left the school.

The cricket of the school is in excellent hands, no less a celebrity than J. Douglas, of Middlesex, doing the coaching. Mr. Douglas is an Old Alleynian himself, and his batting average of 58 still stands as an unbroken record in Dulwich cricket. Cricket practice consists mainly of matches with scratch teams of masters and Old Boys, nets and fielding. The Head Master, Mr. A. H. Gilkes, rarely fails to devote an evening to the training of the first eleven fielding.

Drill at Dulwich is only compulsory in the junior school. Each form drills once a week, and, as an incentive to smartness and keenness a challenge shield is offered as a prize for the winning form in the annual competition, which takes place at the end of the summer term. There is also what is known as punishment drill, which is also confined to the junior school. It is made use of where at other schools the offender would receive lines. Originally consisting of marching for a fixed time, it is now drill in the true sense of the word, and so benefits the drilled physically as much as (or possibly more than) it does morally. For the rest, this branch of physical culture is left to the inclinations of the school. Those who wish to join the rifle corps do so, those who prefer not to, do not. The corps is at present three hundred strong. It is divided into two companies, A company being composed of seniors, B of juniors. Promotion from B to A is, of course, greatly sought after.

Such is the athletic life at Dulwich, and, lest any reader should groan over the increasing tendency of athletics to supplant brain work in modern education, it may be said that this year no less than fifteen scholarships at the Universities fell to the share of Alleynians, of which three were at Balliol. Which would seem to show that even if the corpus of the school is sanum, there is little fear of the mens ceasing to be sana.