Mr N. L. Clapton, Headmaster


D. H. B. Andrews, I. H. Jones, P. K. Everitt, D. A. Charles, D. M. J. Fenton, J. B. Brown, J. Hazel, F. A. J. Dunn,
R. B. Bradshaw, Mr. S. V. Carter, The Headmaster, G. M. MacBeth (Head Prefect), D. W. Keighley.

Mr. N. L. Clapton, M.A., Headmaster

(KES Magazine, Dec 1950)

Mr. N. L. Clapton

(KES Magazine, Autumn 1965)

Mr. Clapton became Headmaster of this school in November 1950 in succession to Dr. A. W. Barton who had been appointed as Headmaster of the City of London School. Mr. Clapton, like his predecessors, had had a distinguished academic career. He was a Scholar of Hertford College, Oxford, and obtained a double first in Mathematics. He was successively Senior Mathematics master at Watford Grammar School and at Glasgow Academy, and was Headmaster of Boteler Grammar School, Warrington, for ten years before coming here.

Mr. Clapton's appointment coincided with the gradual improvement in the economic prosperity of the country after the long continued effects of the War. Building extensions were soon on the way. The increased accommodation provided much improved facilities for science and technical subjects, and in 1953 a magnificent Library was opened, presented by the Royal Grammar School Trust.

The gradual return to the staff of masters who had been away on war service, and the appointment of new masters who had seen active service, had been important developments in the life of the School. Although the highly successful Junior School had regrettably been closed down shortly before Mr. Clapton's arrival, yet the main school still continued for some years to have within it a great number of these boys whose intense loyalty and devotion to the School were of inestimable value to it.

NLC 1953

Under Mr. Clapton the curriculum was broadened in many ways. In all the departments of the academic life of the School, there grew increased opportunities which were seized with enthusiasm. The Economics department increased greatly in size; in addition to the classical languages of Greek and Latin, the modern languages taught were French, German and Spanish, to which was later added Russian; the sciences were fully represented by biology, chemistry and physics; geology joined the geography department, statistics appeared in the mathematics courses, and technical drawing in the handicraft department.

The choices open to boys for games were much increased; in addition to the established cricket, soccer, swimming and cross-country, there gradually grew up rugger, hockey, tennis (on our own courts) and badminton. The installation in 1950 of the school organ and then the provision of musical instruments were important steps towards the creation of the present highly developed musical life in the School with its large choir and orchestra. School societies increased in number so that few of the normal interests and hobbies of schoolboys remained uncatered for. The dynamic vigour of the School has always been astonishing. At dinner times and on every night of the week scores of boys stay behind for voluntary activities; the entirely voluntary madrigal group, choir and orchestra practices, all taken after school, involve about two hundred and thirty boys per week.

The continued growth and activities in the School led once more to congestion and it was unfortunate that highly desirable further extensions planned for a few years ago were abandoned. These would have led to still further improvements in the scope and life of the School which Mr. Clapton had in mind.

Mr. Clapton showed soon after his arrival that he was no great respecter of traditions if they appeared to him to be empty formalities or seemed to have little value beyond mere ceremonial. He never courted publicity or popularity or sought to ingratiate himself with the press, the politicians, the public or even with the parents. What he thought right, he said and did, and he never left anyone in doubt as to his meaning.

His methods of strict but fair discipline have always commanded respect, and have been a major factor in the smooth running of the school. Only those with a wide experience themselves could realise how finely efficient was his administration. He had a passion for detail, for neatness and tidiness in organisation and hated indecision and vagueness. A hard worker himself he expected it from others; slackness was anathema to him. No trouble was to great for him; he devoted all his leisure and his holidays to school work and the School was his life.

He had the extraordinary and at times disconcerting ability of knowing everything that was happening at any time anywhere in the School. No boy could try anything on or hope to get away with it, without Mr. Clapton finding out in a most uncanny way. He had a phenomenal memory and possessed a mental dossier of everyone. Whilst he never thought that boys even of this school were only a little lower than the angels, and spoke some very trenchant words to those boys who incurred his displeasure, he never really held their peccadillos against them. His testimonials to boys were the result of careful thought and were models of fairness. He never used unnecessarily flowery language and didn't call geese swans; consequently his reports to employers and to the universities became well-known for their accuracy and reliability. A good report from N.L.C. meant something.

Under Mr. Clapton the School maintained and enhanced its national reputation for academic success. In the face of increasing competition, the School has conspicuously retained its position as the leading maintained grammar school in the country. To this fact more than anything else has been due the recruitment to the staff of men of scholarship, integrity, vision and loyalty. Sheffield has indeed been fortunate in having had a school of such high purpose and achievement, and N.L.C.'s departure marks the end of a distinguished and distinctive era. Although he had taken no public part in the educational controversies of recent years, he had very strong views on these matters and was deeply grieved and wounded when this school became involved.

Mr. Clapton hated ceremonial, pomp and fuss, and was acutely embarrassed by anything other than hard facts and figures. It would be remiss however, not to mention his unfailing kindness to all who had personal or family illness, trouble or distress. To the malingerer he was a scourge, to the feckless he was unsympathetic, but to the genuine sufferer he was kindness itself. During his fifteen years with us he had himself borne many grievous sorrows, worries and disappointments, and in the last two years he had suffered much from illness.

We hope that the recent signs of improvement in his health will be maintained and that he will soon regain that strength and vigour which we shall always associate with him. His increased leisure will afford him the longed for opportunity of once again enjoying his favourite recreation of moorland walking.

At the end of last term, presentations were made to Mr. Clapton by the School and by the Staff, and with them went our sincere best wishes for a long and happy retirement.


Mr. N. L. Clapton

(KES Magazine, Spring 1967)

WE deeply regret to have to report the death, in Sheffield on January 24th, of our late Headmaster, Mr. N. L. Clapton. The School was represented at his funeral by the Headmaster, Mr. Jackson, members of the staff, and a large number of senior boys. We are grateful to Mr. Jackson for allowing us to print the text of the following tribute, delivered by him at School assembly on January 25th:-

Mr. Clapton took up his appointment as Headmaster of this School on 1st November, 1950 and retired on 31st August, 1965. He had a distinguished University career as a Scholar of Hertford College, Oxford, and was successively Senior Mathematics Master at Watford Grammar School and Glasgow Academy. Early in the war, he was appointed first Headmaster of Boteler Grammar School, Warrington and remained there until he came to Sheffield.

We did not know him as a teacher, but, by coincidence, I also began my teaching career at Watford and I know with what respect and affection he is remembered as a gifted teacher of Mathematics.

NLC 1954

It is not easy to speak of Mr. Clapton. Very few of us can remember him as a really fit man. He broke a leg in an accident in his home at the end of the Whit Holiday in 1958 and never recovered full vigour. Very few of us can remember him as a happy family man and we tend to think of him only as a rather lonely widower. Very few indeed knew all the difficulties and misfortune of his personal life over the past ten years or so. Those who did cannot but marvel at his resilience and at the lack of interference with his professional life.

We know that as a young man he was an enthusiastic climber and fell-walker. He had an almost fanatic affection for animals and their welfare. His main recreation in later life was to take his dog into the Derbyshire countryside. He was a wide reader, with a fondness for ghost stories. He took a close interest in the choice of books for the Library; looked at them all, and read many.

A full appreciation of his work as Headmaster here appeared in the School Magazine for the Autumn Term, 1965. I commend a re-reading to you. I wish now to speak but briefly of those qualities which distinguished his tenure.

He had a clear aim-that every boy entering the School should use his talents to the utmost. Academic distinction should be pursued, but not to the detriment of the development of the whole personality. Widening of academic opportunities was accompanied by a corresponding growth in games, in crafts, in societies.

As an administrator, he was reliable and conscientious to excess. His personal attention to detail had to be experienced to be believed. He loathed procrastination and hypocrisy. He was a man of decision, for whom the needs of the School, as he saw them, transcended all other considerations. He sought neither publicity nor popularity nor praise.

He had a wide knowledge, great powers of analysis, an encyclopaedic memory. These gifts combined with a sound judgment to make a man of wisdom.

It was less clear to the casual acquaintance that Mr. Clapton was also a man of great fairness and deep sympathy, with a strong sense of humour. He had a reputation for the accuracy and fairness of his testimonials. I can now disclose that when he had occasion to write one for a boy who had crossed his path repeatedly, he would ask me to scrutinise the draft to ensure that it was fair to the boy concerned. It always was. He spared no pains to help those in need: not least, those who had done little to help themselves. He was sometimes aloof and not easy to approach. But once this was done, anyone (be he master, boy or parent) who had a genuine problem was assured of a sympathetic and patient hearing and of wise and understanding counsel.

Today we express our gratitude for Mr. Clapton's life and work, especially in the unstinted service which he gave for nearly fifteen years to this School. We acknowledge our undoubted debt to him. Aware that he sacrificed himself to our School, we send our deep sympathy to his daughter, his son and his grand-children in their more personal loss.

KES Magazine Entries

Winter 56/57, School Notes

"SOME, at least, of the School were aware of the heavy burden of anxiety borne by the Headmaster and his family during the protracted illness of his wife. Her death, on October 19th [1956], the day after Speech Day, came at the end of a School jubilee year which can have for him only sorrowful associations. We should like to reaffirm here the sincere sympathy of the School, Staff, and Old Edwardians."

Summer 59, School Notes

"THE closing Assembly of the Summer Term had some unusual and saddening features. We were without a Headmaster—and it must have been the greatest of his regrets that he was prevented, by the accident [a broken leg] which has kept him immobile at his home for many weeks, from voicing his own and the School's farewells to Mr. Carter, Mr. Claypole, and five other leaving masters. We extend our sympathy to the Headmaster in his exasperating and painful misfortune, and also our appreciation of the indomitable tenacity with which he has maintained, from a distance, his usual unfaltering helmsmanship."

Biographical Details

Biographical Details [Source: Hertford College, Oxford]

  1. Nathaniel L Clapton, born 1 September 1903, was the only son of Nathaniel Clapton, ironmonger's manager, of St Dunstan's Crescent, Worcester.
  2. He previously attended the Royal Grammar School, Worcester.
  3. He came to Hertford College, Oxford, as a Scholar and matriculated in October 1921.
  4. At Oxford, he gained first class honours in Mathematical Moderations in 1923 and in the Final Honour School of Mathematics in 1925.
  5. He graduated BA on 17 December 1925 and MA on 18 November 1933.

The Claptons of Worcester (1881 census)

Dwelling: 32 Sidbury
Census Place: Worcester St Peter, Worcester, England
Source: FHL Film 1341699     PRO Ref RG11    Piece 2918    Folio 31    Page 7
Nathaniel CLAPTON M 37 [b 1844] M Worcester, England
  Rel: Head    
  Occ: Confectioner    
Catherine L. CLAPTON M 28 F Worcester, England
  Rel: Wife    
Mary CLAPTON U 4 F Worcester, England
  Rel: Dau    
Catherine CLAPTON   2 F Worcester, England
  Rel: Dau    
Nathaniel CLAPTON   1 M Worcester, England
  Rel: Son    
Edwarrd C. HODGES   15 M Red Marley, Gloucester, England
  Rel: Apprentice    
  Occ: Confectioner    
Ralph STANTON U 19 M Norton, Worcester, England
  Rel: Assistant    
  Occ: Baker    
William WALL U 17 M Ombersley, Worcester, England
  Rel: Assistant    
  Occ: Baker    
Harriett GILES OR ORILES U 16 F Worcester, Worcester, England
  Rel: Servant    
  Occ: Nurse Girl    
Pricilla MOORFIELD   41 F Worcester, England
  Rel: Servant    
  Occ: General Servant Domestic    

Earlier Claptons of Worcester


NLC's ancestry.

His great-grandfather (also Nathaniel) married Caroline Clarke at Claines, Worcester on 21 December 1835.

They had a son Nathanael (sic) who was baptised in the parish of St Peter, Worcester, on 30 October 1842, but who died on 12 April 1843. Their second son Nathaniel (NLC's grandfather) was baptised at St Peters on 27 October 1844.

I could not find great-grandfather Nathaniel's baptism entry, but his wife Caroline Clarke was evidently baptised at Kempsey, Worcester on 8 November 1812.

Clapton Family Tree