Memories of Fredrick William Ackrill

Below, Frederick William Ackrill's granddaughter, Jill, shares memories her grandfather. During his life, in the first half of the 20th century, Frederick was Headmaster at two Reading schools along the Oxford Road: Oxford Road School and Battle School.

Memories of Fredrick William Ackrill by his granddaughter Jill

Portrait of Fredrick William Ackrill and his school whistle donated to the Reading Museum collection (REDMG:2019.17.1&2)

'Frederick William Ackrill was born November 20th 1876, and died October 1956. He trained at Malvern Training College and was a mathematics teacher. When he first came to Reading he worked as a class teacher at Newtown School. He later became the youngest Headteacher ever in Reading when he became Headmaster of St Mary's School. He would later be Headmaster of both Oxford Road School and Battle School. As well as his Headmaster roles, Frederick was the Teacher's representative on the Reading Education Committee for 12 years. Frederick retired from teaching in 1938'.

Fred with his first class (Newtown School)

'Fred first lived in lodgings in Watlington Street. He later met his future wife, Jessie Anne Davies, when she was sitting on a sack of potatoes outside her mother’s corner shop in Orts Road. Rhoda Davies, Jessie Anne's mother, had a business side to her character and opened up the shop. Her husband, William, Jessie Anne's father, was a master carpenter. Jessie Anne did some needlework training but lived at home. She used to walk from Orts Road to the Oxford Road to take her father his hot dinner every day, when he worked there.

Jessie Anne's parents, Rhoda and William, met in Devon. William went to Chicago to work on the Town Hall here, and Rhoda followed on a packet steamer with money sewed into her clothes. They got married while in Chicago, had one daughter, but later returned to England'.

Portrait of Jessie Anne, Fred's wife

'Fred and Jessie Anne were married at St John’s Church, Watlington Street (now a Polish Catholic Church) and had lodgings in the Oxford Road area. They later moved to 14 Palmer Park Avenue where their son Vincent was born. Their next home was 49 Green Road where their daughter Nancy (my mother) was born in 1913 and later their son John'.

Portrait of Fredrick William Ackrill

'Fred had a motorbike with sidecar and was the first teacher in Reading to own a car. I remember his dark blue Singer RD 8888 and being taken out for drives in it. He gave up driving after he came down Russell Street to the Oxford Road, probably to turn right, and felt he misjudged the distance of approaching traffic. There was no accident but he accepted the warning and gave up driving and used his bicycle instead'.

Fred on his motorbike with sidecar with daughter Nancy b.1913 in front

'Fred played both the piano and organ. Jessie Anne would tell the tale of Fred playing the organ while she would pump the bellows with a wooden lever. When she got tired and the organ would start to fail, he had to shout out to remind her to keep pumping!'

Fred at a school sports day, presumed to be Battle School

'During WW2 Fred became a Fire Watcher. He also owned a large plot of land round the corner in Whiteknights Road which he used as a kitchen garden, where he grew vegetables, fruit and kept chickens. He liked to visit sales at large houses to buy books and antiques.

He was a lovely grandfather, named ‘Nama’ by me when I was small and the name stuck in the family. I called Jessie ‘Minna’ – ditto. Fred wore a fob watch on a chain and would open it and show me the movement – so when I was little I’d ask to see ‘the moving’. He died in 1956 when I was 12. I found maths difficult and he was coaching me through equations around then. I missed the tuition and never did grasp them properly.'

Jessie Anne and Fred in a friend's garden, in retirement