The boys behind the Godwin artwork (2) and their inspirational teacher:Henry Earle

Friday 10 May 2024

Front page of the album of artwork that Harry Earle curated

In August 2023 we featured an album of remarkably high quality art work produced by a dozen boys attending Godwin Elementary school, at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries here. We recently published an article providing some background to the school at the time and featuring brief biographies of four of the dozen youg artists (here).

In this, the second of a three part series, we feature aspects of the remarkable career of their teacher Henry Earle, and brief biographies of four more of the boys. The third part of the trilogy will be published in a few week and, in addition to biographies of the final four boys, it will provide a little analysis of their class roots and future life experiences. Unsuprisingly, there is a fairly close correlation between their own future economic success and that of their parents - bearing testimony to a relative lack of social mobility in the latter part of the 19th century and first half of the 20th.

 Henry (Harry) Thomas Earle (1868 – 1951)



Born 23 November, East Grinstead. Baptised 27 Dec 1868, Felbridge, Surrey – son of a clerk who later became a school teacher.

1871 Census

Aged 2. Canterbury

1881 Census

Aged 12. Limehouse. A student

1891 Census

Aged 22. 114 Trumpington Road, Wanstead. Assistant school master, living with his widowed mother and two younger siblings


Married Emma Elizabeth

1901 Census

Aged 32. 97 Ridley Road. School teacher, Married to Emma, aged 30, from Southwold, Suffolk. Three children, aged 7, 5 and 3.

1911 Census

Aged 42. 6 Cranmer Road. Schoolmaster. Wife, Emma Elizabeth – 40. Had 7 children, one died. An aunt from Southwold living with them.

6 Cranmer Road today. Earle's house for at least a decade, facing Godwin school

1921 Census

Aged 52. 6 Cranmer Road. Assistant schoolmaster, employed by West Ham Council. Place of work 95, The Grove, Stratford (HQ of Education Dept). It is not clear whether he still taught at Godwin then, but he continued to live just opposite the school, on Cranmer Road.

Other members of the family, wife Emma Elizabeth (51) and three adult children.

1939 England and Wales Register

Aged 70. Living in Frome, Somerset. Retired schoolmaster, widowed. Member of local APR.


Died 27 September, aged 82, 6, The Broadway, Frome, Somerset. Left £240 to widow, Emma.

Harry Earle at Godwin

It was Harry Earle who compiled the bound folder of the Godwin boys' artwork, produced between 1899 and 1901. We know quite a bit about his time at Godwin, gleaned from the school log. He was there for at least 25 years (from 1887, at the latest until at least 1912).

His first mention in the log was on 17 November 1887 – aged just 19 - when the headmaster noted “Mr Earle was late this morning, having been delayed on the line owning to fog” (a problem he clearly did not encounter a decade or so later, when he moved to within a few yards of the school). In addition to supervising the art tuition, he was an active sportsman, having been given permission by the West Ham School Board to leave school early one day in 1895 (aged 26) , to represent London against Suffolk -presumably at football. (school log - 24 October 1895).

He, or members of his family, suffered from Scarlet Fever in 1907 – which was clearly considered to be very serious , as the school log recorded “Mr Earle returned to duty this morning. Notice received from the  Public Health Department that his house is now free from Scarlet Fever”.

Having enhanced the school and some of its pupils artistic reputaion, his most long-lasting claim to fame seems to have been in the field of music, where he led the school choir to prize winning performances over a number of years in the first decade of the twentieth century at the nationally prestigious Stratford Music Festival (school log – 20 March 1900, 5 and 18 April 1905, 28 March 1906, 14 March 1907, 23 March 1912).

Perhaps his most significant contribution in that arena came in May 1912 – his last mention in the log (aged 43), when he led a party of 50 Godwin choristers to an international music festival in Paris. He and the choir were victorious and highly feted during and after the competition – where they won two first prizes -  as a lengthy report of the event, possibly written by him, showed in the Stratford Express on 29 May of that year.

The 150 West Ham children (including 50 from Godwin, directed by Harry Earle) on the steps
 of Vincennes Town Hall

150 children from three different West Ham schools went to the competition, plus three Godwin teachers – the head (Mr Herbert), Harry Earle, the choirmaster and Mr May, another member of staff. The Stratford Express reported:

“Tuesday was Mr Earle's day, for the choir was due to sing at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre at 8.30. Godwin was the first choir to sing, and made an excellent start …  imagine the joy of Godwin when the judges declared that Godwin Road, West Ham was awarded one of the first prizes. We learned on the boat coming back that a first prize for sight singing also fell to Mr Earle's choir.”

Crowds came out to greet the returning party, when they arrived back in Stratford. The Express, again:

“The Broadway was full of well-wishers, anxious to congratulate Mr Earle, Mr Herbert, Mr May and all who had seen the project through. The choir assembled around the fountain from the steps of which Mr Herbert addressed the crowd… The boys then sang two verses of a hymn and cheers were given. Thus ended this memorable episode in the history of Godwin Road school, satisfactory alike to the teachers, the boys, the parents and well-wishers of the school in Forest Gate.”

Six weeks after the event, the local MP, Baron de Forest, hosted an event at Stratford Town Hall for the winners in the competition.  The Stratford Express reported:

“Each of the choirs received two beautifully framed certificates. The awards were: Godwin Road Boys. gained first prize for glee singing and first prize for sight singing. ... The prizes consisted of gold crown of oak and laurel leaves in the case of  Godwin Boys ... for glee singing. For sight singing Godwin Road ... received silver plaques.”

There are no further publicly-available records of Harry Earle’s considerable contribution to the life of Godwin school.

 The boys 

Frederick Bertram Burdett (1887 – 1940)

(4 images - visit post here, to see them)


Born 11 September, baptised 22 Nov 1887, St Mary, The Virgin, Ilford

1891 Census

Aged 3. 29 Dames Road. Father Samuel, 38, foreman in a match factory, born in Vauxhall


Dames Road c1906

1901 Census

Aged 23. 27 Bective Road. Father, Samuel, 48, a commercial clerk

Tram terminus, Bective Road c1903

1911 Census

Aged 23, 2, The Laurels, George Lane, Woodford. An elementary school teacher with LCC. Living with widowed father, Samuel (58). Awarded B.Sc. London University


20 April. Married to Isabel Barbara Armitage in Leytonstone.


Called up in Woolwich December 1915 and put on reserve. Called to active duty 20 April 1917. He was 6’ tall, living in Woodford. Served as anti-aircraft gunner in the Essex and Suffolk regiment. Promoted to sergeant in Abbey Wood October 1917. Seems to have been on active service in Dover. Discharged to army reserve 9 Feb 1919.

1921 Census

Aged 23. 18 Wyndale Road, Woodford. A schoolmaster with the LCC at Chisenhall Road school, Bethnal Green. Other members of the household: wife, Isabel (who had previously been widowed) aged 50 and her daughter Mary Armitage, aged 21.

1939 England and Wales Register

35 Hurst Road, Buckhurst Hill, a school master


Died 9 July at Isolation hospital, Ilford. Probate 16 Sept: Isabel, wife of 35 Hurst Rd, sole beneficiary £2,272. Buried 11 July 1940, Buckhurst Hill/


Frank Ernest Butler (1887 – 1927)

(2 images - visit post here, to see them)


Born October, Forest Gate. Baptised Emanuel Church, Forest Gate, 27 November 1887

Emmanuel church, c1900

1891 Census

Aged 3. 67 Godwin Road. Father, John, aged 35, a clerk, born Bethnal Green.

1901 Census

Aged 13. 67 Godwin Road. Father a draper’s clerk. He has a sister, Clara, aged 15, a pupil school teacher

1911 Census

Aged 23. 201 Coventry Road, Ilford. Single, a clerk and chartered accountant. Father, a cashier at a wholesale draper. Mother dead

1913 – 1919

Electoral Rolls – Living in first floor furnished flat, belonging to his father, 195 Coventry Road, Ilford. No record of war service, probably on account of a disability - see below.

1921 Census

Aged 33. A visitor to Wotton Hatch, Wotton, Dorking, Surrey – a hotel owned by FR Surrey Public House Trust. Single, an Incorporated accountant, working for Deloitte, Plender, Griffith and Co, Chartered accountants. Worked at 5 London Wall in the City.

1924 – 1927

Electoral Rolls  - Living in Harold Wood.


July, married Winifred Kate Jones in Gravesend.


Died, aged 43 on 10 June, in Gravesend. He was living at 109 Sunnyside Gardens, Upminister and left £1,742 to his wife, Winifred. (his father, John outlived him by a year).

On the page of the artwork book which featured his two paintings, dated 2 February 1901 was accompanying text, which read: "The drawings on this page were executed by Frank Butler aged 12 years, who only has the assistance of one hand, his left".

 Robert Godfrey (1887- ?)

(6 images - visit post here, to see them)


Born 19 March, Forest Gate

1891 Census

Aged 4. 23 Norfolk St, Forest Gate. Father, Robert, 49, a Railway Inspector, born in Halesworth, Suffolk

1901 Census

Aged 14. 25 Norfolk St. A scholar. Father, Robert, 59, Railway Inspector

1911 Census

Aged 24. 12 Farnham Gardens, Mears Lane, Ilford. Single, a railway clerk. Living with widowed, 54 year old mother, Alice Charlotte

1921 Census

No details found

1939 England and Wales Register

29 Pelham Road, Wanstead and Woodford. A widowed railway clerk


Date unknown.

Douglas Charles Manson (1885 – 1964)

(1 images - visit post here, to see it)


Born, 28 November – Forest Gate

1891 Census

Aged 6. 102 Hampton Road.Father, John Sinclair Manson, 55, a master mariner, born Orkney.

Undated photograph of Hampton Road, when Douglas Manson lived there

1901 Census

Aged 16. 102 Hampton Road – still at school. Father, 65, retired master mariner, who died on died 30 September that year.


Married Rosaline Maud (born 15 September 1882), in West Ham

1911 Census

Aged 25. 67 Harpenden Road, Manor Park. Bank clerk


Volunteer, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, until April 1919. Awarded Victory and British war medals. Conduct described as Very Good.

Undated photograph of Douglas Manson from Dale family tree (Ancestry)

1921 Census

Aged 35. 10 Harpenden Road, Wanstead (note change in district designation from Manor Park to Wanstead since previous census). Bank cashier, Barclays Bank, 202 High Street, East Ham. Wife, Rosaline Maud, 37. Plus children Marguerite Rosaline, 10; Douglas John (6) and Doris Marion (3).


Becomes beneficiary of shares in Great Western Railway, following death of his mother, Emily.

1939 England and Wales Register

55 High Street, Wanstead and Woodford, also known as 2 Grove Mansions

Bank cashier. Looks as though he lived above the bank.


Died 1 September. 28 Woodfield Lane, Ashtead, Surrey. Left £678 in his will to wife, Rosaline Maud.

The third and final article on the Godwin artist boys will feature the four remaining pupils, Sadler, Shepherd, Sparling and Spencer, with some analysis on how the circumstances of their birth affected their life chances in a deeply socially immobile country.



No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome comments to all the items featured on this site. However, we reserve the right to omit offensive comments, and edit the length of comments, for reasons of space.