We’ve been doing some work on some of our trophies and were intrigued by the ‘Chairman’s Prize 1906’. It has no further inscriptions or names and is not mentioned as being awarded as a prize anywhere in our archives. So the question is, what was it for?

The date of 1906 helps solve the mystery, as Emanuel’s very long-serving Chairman of Governor Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow (1873-1906) died that year. He had been expected, as he usually did, to present the awards at the annual Prize Day ceremony, but was suddenly taken ill and died two days later, aged 84. After his death, during different periods, two of Sir Sydney’s sons later became Governors, Sir William (who inherited his title) and his fourth son David. The family remained strongly connected to the school and supported the First World War Memorial and other prizes well into the late 1930s. The cup was most likely bequeathed to the school after Sir Sydney’s death.

Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow’s statue stands in front of Westminster City School, very close to the original Emanuel Hospital. He was a highly distinguished English philanthropist and liberal politician who is principally remembered for donating Waterlow Park to the public. He started a career in printing before moving into banking, and was a commissioner at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and a juror at the Paris International Exhibition in 1867, for which he was knighted. He spent much of his adult life in both local and later parliamentary politics, a career followed by both his Governor sons. Sir William, who was also Lord Mayor of London (1929-30), was a Governor around the time of his death in 1931 and David was Chairman of the Board between 1915 and 1920 and Liberal MP for Islington North.

Why did Sir Sydney have such a strong connection with Emanuel School? Firstly, he was Lord Mayor of London between 1872 and 1878. During this period there was great upheaval in the educational system and the United Westminster Schools was preparing for the inevitable changes when Emanuel Hospital became Emanuel School and relocated to Wandsworth. He called the first meeting of the new Governing Body which merged three old school foundations and as Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London, it was his historic duty to ensure these institutions were functioned effectively.

Although he was obviously a very busy man, he still found the time to present prizes at numerous sports days, as well as Prize Day events. A second statue of Sir Sydney resides in Highgate, and like the other example in Westminster City School, both figures hold umbrellas.

Tony Jones (Senior Librarian and Archivist)