Saturday, February 27th, 1897, will live long in the memory of all who participated in the now famous march to Stourton. There was no match on the day and the Masters kindly offered to conduct a small party to Stourton. Ultimately, this included nearly all the boarders with a small contingent from Frome and Shepton Mallet, while the rear was brought up by a commissariat department under Deacon's superintendence.
Starting rather late in the day for so long a walk, about thirty boys marshalled themselves under the command of the Masters and negotiated at a good pace the first few miles of the journey, not neglecting, however, to note some remarkable early butterflies (including a small tortoise-shell and a brimstone), while the botanical section appeared, by their enthusiasm, to make several important discoveries. The steep ascent was taken rather more leisurely and a much needed halt was called at the Tower, which was thoroughly inspected. It is triangular in plan, with a circular turret at each angle, is built of brick and was erected in memory of King Alfred. Over the door is a statue of the monarch with the following inscription:- "Alfred the Great AD 879, on this summit erected his standard against danish invaders. To him we owe the origins of juries, The establishment of a militia, The creation of a Naval force. Alfred the light of a benighted age, was a philosopher and a christian, the father of his people and the founder of the English monarchy and liberty". While seated on a springing turf, an account of the Tower and its surroundings was read aloud. From the summit a glorious view was obtained, the day being splendidly fine, and a panorama of parts of three counties was spread out below. A powerful glass enabled the party to see Bruton nestling in the valley below Creech, while beyond this Glastonbury Tor stood out boldly. In another direction Cadbury Camp was seen and in yet another the environs of Frome were visible. Some interesting experiments on falling bodies contributed no doubt to add an interest to the Physics lessons of the schoolroom.
Passing through Six-wells Bottom, Peter's Pump was noted, and fair visions of early spring daffodils broke ever and anon the tangled brushwood on the left, while on the right, swans and wild-ducks claimed the attention of another section of the party. The lovely forest-trees, although too early in the year to be viewed in all their beauty, served to arouse a wish to repeat the visit at a later date. The "Obelisk" at the top of the hill next claimed the attention and the united erudition of the party was successfully applied to the translation of the long latin inscription.
The "Mansion" was unfortunately closed, but through the windows were caught glimpses of the interior and of the pictures, and the attention of all was called to the exterior architecture, several good elevations of the front being sketched.
Arrived at the village, a pleasant surprise awaited the party in the shape of a substantial tea at the Inn, which was very refreshing and enabled it to continue the sight-seeing with the pangs of hunger appeased.
The village and the old church were seen by some of the more energetic members, and then the party proceeded to inspect the grounds. These alone would amply repay the long walk and it is impossible to do justice to them in words. Near the entrance was the old "Bristol Cross" happily saved from the vandals of the previous century. Next came "Flora's Temple" from the steps of which is a most exquisite view of the lake and its surrounding hills adorned with temples, was commanded. A devious path around the lake past to the wishing well, led to the "Summer House" which many thought would be admirably adapted to "Private Study", and then to "The Grotto".
It was now growing dark and a very weird effect was produced b the dim light of the tapers falling on the marble Neptune and the beautiful sleeping nymph. There was now just time to visit the Patntheon, where was pointed out a famous statue from Pompeii. It was too dark to distinguish the beauties of the interior, but insted the sense of sound was gratfified by the rendering of the school Devotional Chorus "Hear, Mighty Lord" by the whole party. The surroundings, added to the dim light, were in keeping with the music and imagination was carried back to the religious services of the ancient. Time did not permit of a longer stay, and the gardens with their magnificent specimens of foreign growth, including splendid conifers, rhododendrons etc, had to be regretfully left behind.
The great feat of the day was the march back. Forming ranks outside the gardens, the party marched back to Bruton practically without falling-out, halting for a few minutes to rest the feet of the younger members. It was disheartening to the leaders to lose the way but the rank-and-file nobly struck up a brighter chorus and marched back until the right turning was reached. The whole journey was enlivened by songs and choruses. Arrived at school, cheers were given for the leaders and the party retired to a well earned rest.
Note: The hearty thanks of the Head Master and boys are hereby tendered to Sir Henry Hoare for kind permission readily granted to visit Stourton.