Updated 26 December,2018

Gordon William George Cass, BSc, LLCM, ARCM, FRGS,

"Charlie" to us - Headmaster, Norwood College.

Who was he?

At school, we knew comparatively little about Charlie other than he was in the Royal Flying Corps, his mother came from Filey and his father from Scarborough. But in preparing this web site about Norwood and Charlie's life, a great deal of information came to light from a wide variety of sources. Cutting short his Apprenticeship at Rowntree's, Charlie joined the Army Service Corps then trained as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. He was an accomplished musician, loved railways and passionate about self-discipline, this being reflected in the Norwood motto, Gentilhomme a Jamais Always a Gentleman. One hand "yes", two hands "no", was his motto regarding boys with their hands in their pockets.

Photo shows Charlie in 1949

His career?

In January,1916, Charlie left school, Scarborough College, to start at Rowntree's in York as an engineering apprentice but this was cut short when, in January, 1917, he joined the Army Service Corps and was posted to south London. By the end of 1917 he sent on initial training for the Royal Flying Corps and in September, 1918, he was flying with 79 Squadron, RAF.
After the war, he studied at Manchester University, the Nobel prize-winner, Physicist Lawrence Bragg being one of his tutors, and in 1923 commenced his career as a teacher, at Clifton House School in Harrogate. Then in 1936 he went his own way and this was the beginning of Norwood College.
He was an Associate of the Royal College of Music and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

How old was he?

Charlie was born on 16th April 1898 and so he was 78 when he died on 8 October,1976. His zodiac sign was, therefore, Aries.

Buying the property

Norwood was founded on 8th May 1936 at no.1 Tewit Well Avenue. This house had been well-known in Harrogate when the Grand Duchess George of Russia bought it to connvert it into a hospital for soldiers wounded in the Great War, the First World War. But we boys knew nothing of that.

Kelly's Directory of Harrogate states that the property, no.5 Leeds Rd, was in the name of "Walter Aerni, Principal, Confetta Ltd College" (a school of cookery) from 1936 and in 1937, and "G C Cass" from 1938. Could Walter Aerni be associated with Norwood? Did Charlie buy out Aerni? Perhaps Aerni departed and the property became vacant, providing an opportunity for a teacher to elevate to headmaster? However, we boys appear not to have raised the question of ownership and it would be very interesting to know exactly who contributed to the ownership of the school.

Just what prompted Charlie to establish another school whilst at Clifton is not now known; however, Harrogate was a wealthy town and according to local history studies

"by the end of the nineteenth century Harrogate had a large number of private schools, many of which took boarders. The latter were attracted particularly by the healthy situation of the town, and the demand for day schools increased with the growth in the population and the wealth of the locality. .... There were several smaller schools, mainly for girls, conducted in large private houses." 5 page 399

Why "Norwood" College?

"A series of depots and billets in S.E. London caused the speaker (Charlie Cass) to visit Grove Park, Norwood, Catford, Forest Hill and Sydenham and it was from Upper Norwood that the name of the present Norwood College, Harrogate sprung." Harrogate Literary Club. Minutes of the Meeting held at Norwood College, Monday 31st May 1965.
However, his digs whilst at the Victoria University of Manchester were at a house called ..... Norville.

Latter days

The school had, by the late 1960s/early 70s, dwindling numbers and that, in polite terms, was no longer a viable financial proposition. Ill-health seemed to accelerate the end of the era and I understand that after the closure of Norwood, Charlie moved to The Metropole Hotel, Valley Drive, Harrogate, then into a nursing home, in Harlow Manor Drive. He died a few years afterwards at Scotton Bank Hospital, Knaresborough, and is buried in Stonefall Cemetery, Weatherby Rd, Woodlands, Harrogate, in the same grave as his mother and father.

Charlie's parents

William Henry Cass, and his mother, Ruth Charlotte Prudames, contributed to school activities, particularly in music. The Norwood Prospectus of c1945 says, "This introduces boys to first class Chamber and Orchestral Music by means of radio-gramophone ". (How times have changed).

His nick-name

His nick-name was, of course, "Charlie". But why "Charlie"? He and film star, Charlie Chaplin, shared the same birthday, 16th April, and apparently this was the reason for his nick-name.

His support

Apparently, except in the field of music, the teachers were not highly qualified. They probably reflected the general level in small private schools of the time.


Norwood celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1961. It closed on 24 March,1972.

Charlie died on 8 October,1976. Some of his possessions that old-boys may recall being around in their day went are listed elsewhere in this work.

A chronology of his life is provided, as are family trees of Cass and Prudames.


5. A History of Harrogate & Knaresborough,
by Harrogate WEA Local History Group, 1970

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