Tag Archives: Croydon Minster

Cyril Frederick Johnston (9 May 1884 – 30 March 1950)

This is the sixth in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919, Johnston rang the seventh bell at Putney.  He is also listed on the Surrey Association roll of honour as a Croydon ringer.

A head and shoulders photo of a man with a large moustache wearing military uniform. He is standing just inside the left hand end of an arch over a church doorway.

Cyril Frederick Johnston taken from the photo of the band which rang at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is back, second from left in the full photo)

Johnston probably needs the least introduction of all the members of the original band. He was born on 9 May 1884, the son of Arthur Anderson Johnston, partner in what was then the firm of Gillett, Bland & Johnston.  Arthur was the nephew of Arthur Anderson MP who founded P&O, and Arthur worked for P&O until the death of his uncle, when he bought into the then firm of Gillett and Bland.  Prior to his joining the firm had been involved only in clockmaking, but following the death of Bland in 1884, bell founding was added, initially purely for clock bells.

Cyril was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon (where he rose to colour sergeant in the school’s cadet corps), and then joined his father in the firm in 1902.  He was then formally apprenticed to his father for four years until 1907, when he became a partner.  By that time he had already been making initial experiments with tuning bells, and was increasingly involved in promoting projects of recasting or augmenting rings.  On the night of the 1911 census he was staying in Wimborne Minster, presumably in connection with the recasting, rehanging and augmentation of the ring there that year.

Following the outbreak of war he seems to have initially tried for a commission in the Motor Transport section of the Army Service Corps.  By the time he was actually gazetted to the Horse Transport section on 26 September 1914 he had already joined the 1st Public Schools’ Battalion (later to become 18th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers) as a private on 3 September – all ranks of these battalions had been pupils at public schools.  He was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in the same battalion on 27 October.  The four Public Schools Battalions trained around Epsom. On 2 June 1915 Johnston was promoted to lieutenant, on 26 June the battalion was formed into 98th Brigade with the other three Public Schools Battalions.  In July Johnston began to have health issues, and began to have extended periods of leave, this meant he did not go overseas with the battalion in November 1915, and was transferred to 28th Battalion, one of two reserve battalions for the Public Schools’ Battalions.

Three-quarter length photo portray of a moustached man in military uniform.  The cap and collar badges are the flaming grenade of the Royal Fusiliers

Johnston photographed as a Royal Fusiliers officer © IWM (HU 116434)

Eventually he was diagnosed with a hernia, which he blamed on ringing a 2 ton bell in 1913, he was operated on by the famous abdominal surgeon Sir Arbuthnot Lane on 13 December 1915.  Although the operation was a success, the amount of time he had spent on leave meant that he was required to relinquish his commission on 2 March 1916.  However, his recovery continued, and on 18 May 1916 he was recommissioned, now in the (socially) elite Grenadier Guards.  He joined the 3rd Battalion in France on 26 September 1916.  On 22 October his father died suddenly after playing golf at Mitcham Common.  He was granted leave to return home for the inquest and funeral but had returned to the front by the time of a Surrey Association meeting at Streatham in mid-November.

Johnston & Gillett had begun contributing to the war effort quite quickly, initially making ammunition boxes.  Their existing strengths in brass founding and making clocks were soon turned to the manufacture of artillery fuzes.  At some point after the death of Arthur Johnston, it was decided that Cyril could make a greater contribution to the war effort by leaving front line service as a subaltern, and being released to the Ministry of Munitions to return home and run the foundry’s war work.  Initially he remained a serving officer, receiving army pay and allowances, but in early 1918 he was one of a number of officers who were actually working in other roles to be demobilised (to save the army money).  The final formal relinquishment of this second commission did not come until 7 February 1921.

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Stone panel with many names ordered by year and then alphabetically

Cecil Herbert Schooling (18 October 1884 – 21 June 1917†)

The Revd Cecil Herbert Schooling (see also Lives profile) does not actually appear on the original Surrey Association roll, but he is listed on the Central Council roll as a member of the Cambridge University Guild, and from 1910 had been senior curate at Croydon Parish Church. He was the youngest of four children of Frederick Schooling and Lily Alphonsine Maria (nee Symondson).

Frederick and Lily married at St Stephen’s, Shepherd’s Bush, on 6 September 1879. Frederick was a 28-year-old clerk, the son of Charles Schooling a (commercial?) traveller, and living at 12 Eardley Crescent (close to West Brompton station). Lily was 23, the daughter of Francis Symondson (clerk), living at 33 Devonport Road, Shepherd’s Bush (very close to the church). From Frederick’s obituary we know he had been working for Prudential Insurance since 1867 (when he was 16).

Their first child, Margaret Lily, was born on 9 June 1880 and baptised at St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, on 4 July. Frederick’s occupation is again recorded as clerk and the family were living at 15 Paris Villas, Wakehurst Road. The family of three were recorded at the same address in the 1881 census, Frederick now recorded as a Life Assurance Clerk. They also had one servant, Charlotte Langridge (14). Margaret was followed by Lionel Frederick Schooling, born 3 February 1882, baptised 5 March 1882 at St Mark’s. Frederick was now recorded as an assurance clerk and the family were living at 45 Wakehurst Road. Next was Eric Charles Schooling, born 27 June 1883, baptised 5 August 1883 at St Mark’s. Frederick was again recorded as a life assurance clerk and the family were still living at 45 Wakehurst Road.

Cecil Herbert born 18 October 1884 and baptised on 21 November 1884 at St Michael’s, Battersea. Frederick was now an actuary and the family were still living at 45 Wakehurst Road, so it’s not clear why they had changed church.

By the 1891 Census the family had moved to 257 Lavender Hill, Battersea. Frederick was now listed as an actuary, holding the Fellowship of the Society of Actuaries (he held this from 1886). Lionel and Eric were both at home, while Margaret was at a girl’s school in Shaftesbury Road, Hammersmith (the present Ravenscourt Park Station opened as Shaftesbury Road, so the school was presumably somewhere nearby). The family now employed two servants, Sarah Wyatt (29) a general servant, and Mary A T Fay (18) a nurse domestic.

In 1892 Frederick Schooling was appointed Prudential’s Company Actuary, a highly responsible post ensuring that premiums were set at the correct level to enable the company to meet all its likely liabilities.

Cecil made his way to Tonbridge School in September 1897, following Lionel who had gone there from 1895. Both were in Judde House. Cecil was still there by the time of the 1901 Census, by which time Eric was at Sandhurst where he was a Gentleman Cadet, training to be a regular army officer. The family home was now at Inversnaid, Bromley. The only family members there in 1901 were Fredrick and Lionel (now a stockbroker’s clerk), Lily and Margaret do not seem to appear at all so may have been out of the country. The family now had three servants: cook Annie McDonough (42, from Ireland), parlourmaid Ruth Nye (19, from Sussex) and house maid Ellen M Westley (26, from Chackmore, Berkshire).

Cecil left Tonbridge School aged 17 at Christmas 1901. He then spent almost two years in Germany, unfortunately it’s not clear what he did there, or exactly where he was. He went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge in October 1903 to read theology. In July 1904 he headed to Norway for Spitsbergen, the North Cape and the Fjords on the Ophir, travelling with his parents and sister. He graduated with his BA in 1906 and proceeded to Wells Theological College to study for ordination.  It was presumably while at Cambridge that he learned to ring and joined the University Guild. He was ordained deacon in Wakefield Cathedral by the Bishop of Wakefield on 21 December 1907 and became a curate at the cathedral, living at 16, St John’s Square. He was priested on 20 December 1908, again in Wakefield Cathedral.

Meanwhile Eric had been commissioned in to the Warwickshire Regiment, and in 1910 Eric married Edith McTaggart Gordon Paton at Radford Semele, Warwickshire. Cecil assisted the local vicar at the service on 7 April. On 27 November (Advent Sunday) Cecil took up a new role as senior curate in Croydon. He took charge of the mission church of St Edmund’s (originally known as Pitlake Mission) on Cornwall Road, though no doubt would also have taken services at the parish church (now Croydon Minster). At the 1911 census Cecil was living at 118 Waddon New Road, Croydon.

Eric was mobilised with his regiment on the outbreak of war in 1914, and was killed at Gheluvelt on 31 October 1914. Although clergy were exempt from conscription, many young clergy felt they had to serve in some way (and Cecil had been a member of the OTC at Tonbridge), and on 16 November 1916 Cecil was interviewed by the Chaplain General with a view to becoming an army chaplain. By this time he was living at 2 Courtney Road, Croydon. His interview was successful with the Chaplain General noting (among other things), that Cecil preached extempore (without notes). Cecil was commissioned on 5 December 1916. Lionel (who had previously served in a volunteer battalion) was also commissioned as a recruiting officer in Kent.

Initially he was attached to a casualty clearing station, I haven’t been able to establish which. In about April 1917 he was attached to 122 Infantry Brigade, this brigade included battalions of The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) and East Surrey Regiments, with several men from Bromley and Croydon. On 20 June he was with elements of the brigade in Dickesbusch (Dikkebus) when shells started to fall. He left his billet to warn the men to take cover, but was caught by shell fragments. Reportedly he gave no hint that he had been wounded, simply stopping a passing lorry, and being taken to a field ambulance a couple of miles away. He died of his wounds on 21 June, at 10 Casualty Clearing Station, Remy Siding, and was buried in Lijssenthoek Cemetery, the second largest CWGC cemetery in Belgium, used by several medical units situated nearby. He was posthumously mentioned in despatched in December 1917. His death went unmentioned in the Brigade HQ war diary, and only one of the infantry battalions, 15 Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, mentions it in passing.

After the war his parents were instrumental in paying for a war memorial chapel in Bromley Parish Church. Sadly this was destroyed by German bombing in the Second World War. He is also commemorated on the main Bromely war memorial, a roll of honour at Croydon Minster, the war memorials at Pembroke College and Tonbridge School and the ringers’ roll of honour.

Schooling is a very hard name to search for, as you often find articles about schooling, rather than the particular individual. The only mentions of the surname in the Ringing World are Prudential adverts including the name of Frederick Schooling, and one mention when the roll of honour was being compiled trying to establish a particular tower for him. It appears no-one responded as, like most of the Cambridge University Guild men, no tower is listed on the roll as it exists today.

Croydon, St John the Baptist (Croydon Minster)

Just two ringers are listed on the original roll for St John’s, Croydon (Croydon Minster). E Elliott has so far resisted identification – there are around 70 possible candidates in the 1911 census. Rather easier to resolve was the identity of C F Johnston. Cyril Frederick Johnston was one of the great personalities of ringing in the first half of the twentieth century. The family firm of Gillett & Johnston whose bell foundry and clock factory was in Croydon had started off making church clocks, and this led naturally into first clock bells and then church bells more generally. It was Cyril who was fascinated by the idea of harmonic tuning of the bells, suggested by Canon Simpson and first put into practice by Taylor’s of Loughborough. After rather complicated war service with one of the Public Schools’ Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, and then the Grenadier Guards, Cyril was released from the army following the death of his father in 1917 to work under the Ministry of Munitions at the family firm. Peacetime clock manufacture had turned to wartime production of fuzes for shells. After the war he proved to be a flamboyant salesman, and won many prestigious contracts, expanding into the manufacture of bells for carillons, particularly in the US. He was perhaps a little too relaxed about the fundamentals of business and the firm eventually ran into financial problems and he lost control after having to get external investment. On one of his various trips to the US he fathered a child by an American nurse. She was Jill Johnston, who became a radical lesbian feminist, but also wrote an interesting account of Cyril’s life, and how she came to terms with his abandonment of her mother. The book is well worth a read, England’s Child: The Carrillon and the Casting of Big Bells.

Not listed on the original Surrey roll, but to be found on the Central Council roll of honour, listed as a member of the Cambridge University Guild, is the Reverend Cecil Herbert Schooling. He became curate at St John’s in 1910 and joined up as a chaplain. He is recorded on the church war memorial, but it is not clear if he ever did ring there. However, it seems right his name should also be connected with the ringers of Croydon.