There it is: Winder, one of the most imposing peaks across all the Howgill Fells. Whenever I visit my brother, a teacher at Sedbergh School, we make a habit of climbing it. Up you march, through grass kept short by wild horses and paths kept alive by other walkers, until you round back on yourself and see the entire town of Sedbergh contained within in the valley below. The school. The houses. The shops. The lives and cluttered history that make a community what it is.
Now two current Sedbergh pupils, Ben King and George Head, have done the literary equivalent of climbing up and looking down. In a collection of interviews with Old Sedbergians, they map the peaks and troughs of life at this hardy school. And so we have Lord Bingham describing one of his fags, "who was a very big boy who later played [rugby] for England." And a former matron, Brenda Crines, looking back on the introduction of girls, "…it really took off, and I think possibly they have been the saviour of the school." There are plenty more people, memories and anecdotes, besides.
This is, in many respects, a niche enterprise – although the niche is probably larger than you think. Current and Old Sedbergians will, of course, find much to savour in this book. But so, too, will anyone with a fascination for English public schools and their history over the past century. Above all, though, Sedbergh School: A Boarding Life stands as vivid testament to what can be achieved with a computer, a dictaphone and a hefty shot of schoolboy ingenuity. A charming volume.