Wednesday 7th November 2012

Colouring In

This map is the work of W. Kentish of 'Form IV, Watford Endowed School'. It is one of nine that he drew in his marbled covered exercise book with great dexterity and care. The outline and lettering of each is done in pen and ink, and then painted with watercolour. Occasionally he allows himself a little embellishment, such as in his ornate titles, but otherwise he toes a quite strict cartographic line, though, occasionally  his geography can run a little adrift - oddly, for example, he fails to put Watford on his map of England. Never mind, he is generally awarded consistently high marks - 20 out of (presumably) 20 for nearly all his work; all except for North America that is uncharacteristically bare of detail. The explanation lies in the margin; young Kentish is marked ‘Absent’.

None of the maps are dated and clues to do so are few and far between. Ironically, however, it is the same map of North America that perhaps provides the best evidence. There is no Oklahoma; the 46th State of the Union was not created till 1907. Utah, the 45th (created in 1896) is present. This tallies with the only other pointer, that is, the history of the school itself. Watford Endowed School came into being in the early 1880s. Specifically, it opened in April 1884. In 1903, subsequent to the Education Act of the previous year, it changed its name (and status) to Watford Grammar School. Therefore, given the aforementioned evidence of Utah, they probably belong to the late 1880s.

What is more difficult to determine is W. Kentish’s age when he did this work. The Endowed School opened with a roll of 200 boys aged from 7 to 16. Form IV? These are not the work of an eleven year old – so, presumably, there was some sort of reclassification of those entering secondary education. My guess therefore is he was about 15 or 16 when he took up this mapping pen and brushes.

Nowadays, I note, pupils at Watford Grammar, ‘are taught in … three dedicated Geography classrooms. Each has a data projector as well as conventional OHP, TV and video facilities. Two classrooms share a mini-network of 16 wireless laptops that are very popular and heavily used by the whole department’.

W. Kentish could not possibly have imagined such a fantastically remote thing. It was off his map. Equally and oppositely, I wonder if today’s students may boggle a just little at his skill and draughtsmanship?

Kentish's maps are as follows: Asia, IndiaChina, Africa, North America, South America, Turkey in Asia, England, Scotland and Ireland.

P.S. Thanks to the Archivist at Watford Grammar School for Boys, I am now able to add the following details: William Davenport Kentish was born 14 April 1870. He entered Watford Endowed School aged 14 years 11 months in Form III, and left the following July  in 1886 aged 16 years 3 months in Class IV. He died in 1935 and is buried in Church Road Cemetery, Old Windsor, Berkshire.

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Ant Cross

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