Monday, 20 June 2016

Fit faces: Arthur Gascoyne Robson

The recent visit to Fairlynch by children from St Peter’s School seeking to know more about the Second World War made me wonder  exactly how much memorabilia of the period the Museum has managed to gather.  

We are most grateful to the benefactor who recently enabled Fairlynch to acquire the copy of the ship's badge that I mentioned here. 

So when Budleigh resident Shirley Williams, pictured above, called at the Local History Room to seek out a folder mentioning her grandfather it was a pleasure to find almost immediately the exact page on which he is pictured. 

The Museum always welcomes any help in identifying people in photographs from the past for whom we lack names.

So we now have two names of people in the group of staff from the Beaufoy Institute which was evacuated from Black Prince Road in the London Borough of Lambeth to Budleigh during World War Two. Shirley’s grandfather, Arthur Gascoyne Robson, is standing at the far right of the photo. The other person, sitting in the front row, far right, had already been identified as George Louis Brown

The Beaufoy Institute grew out of the so-called ‘ragged schools’,  free schools that accepted as pupils poor and vagrant children, providing them with basic education to enable them eventually to find work. The Lambeth ‘ragged schools’ were set up in in the mid-19th century, supported by the vinegar distiller Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy. 

The original building was demolished with the development of Waterloo Station, and the schools moved to Black Prince Road becoming known as the Beaufoy Institute.

This fine sculpture by Samuel Nixon was part of the original building of what became the Beaufoy Institute, and was moved to the Black Prince Road site

Image credit for the two above photos: Chris Partridge

Henry Beaufoy, who died in 1851, gave awards and scholarships, including one scholarship in memory of his father which was ‘designed to encourage the study of mathematical science, with an especial reference to its practical application to the use and service of mankind’.

Arthur Gascoyne Robson, Shirley Williams’ grandfather, who died on 21 April 1940, shortly after the Institute’s evacuation to Budleigh Salterton, was one of its most distinguished teachers, remaining on the staff for nearly 30 years.  

He served his apprenticeship in Portsmouth Dockyard, subsequently passing to the drawing office, where he remained until 1909 before his move to the Beaufoy Institute. Here he taught engineering subjects and also acted as Appointments Master.

During World War One he was seconded to munitions work at Goldsmith’s College in London, and on his return to the Institute, resumed classes in Machine Drawing  as well as teaching Applied Mechanics.

He was the author of several textbooks, amongst which his Engineering Workshop Principles and Practice is perhaps the best known. It went into four editions, selling a total of 20,000 copies all over the world.  

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