George Howson (1900-1919)
Remembered as the great reforming headmaster who transformed Gresham’s from provincial grammar to progressive public School.
Yorkshire born, the senior science master at Uppingham, one of the oldest of the 140 candidates applying for the post in 1900, had been encouraged by the promise of new buildings and modern facilities.
Howson was not interested in coaching boys to pass public exams, but did seek and win Oxbridge scholarships for the brightest. His curriculum was designed to appeal to all, and included science, music and drama. Debates and lectures helped broaden still further the enlightened, liberal culture where games were not allowed to dominate.
A system of honour was introduced in which boys were expected to develop self-discipline and promise not to swear, smoke or behave indecently. Beneath his blunt, forthright exterior, Howson had a deep affection and concern for his pupils. Many kept in touch with him while serving in the armed forces and would visit when on leave. The loss of 110+ pupils in World War I wounded him greatly. He became ill towards its end and died on 7th January 1919. A friend wrote, “The war killed him as straightly and surely as if he had fallen at the front. He spent himself in grief.”