1868 - 1962

Page updated 30th March,2019

The photograph shows Mr W H Cass with Charlie Cass in 1949.
Mr Cass senior was 81 and Charlie 51.

William Henry Cass, Charlie's father was born in 1868; he died on 14 July,1962. The Cass family home was Rydal House, 11 Avenue Road, Scarborough when Charlie was born and during his school years.

To us boys, Mr Cass senior was a rather remote figure who we called Wilf - though this nickname seems to have changed to Jasper later on in the life of the school.


Many of us have a vivid memory of Charlie’s father; a small, quite man, playing the hymns at morning assembly then rarely seen for the rest of the day. He was 94 when he died yet he was already 58 when Charlie opened Norwood in 1936.

Wilf was born into an age that so different to the days of Norwood let alone to today. Since 1787 England had transported convicts to Australia as punishment for crime and it was in 1868, the year that Wilf was born, that the last shipment of convicts from England landed in Australia and in that same year, in the general election of December, the Conservatives were defeated and Gladstone, leader of the Liberal Party, became Prime Minister.

In 1859, only nine years before Wilf was born, Charles Darwin had published his book commonly known as The Origin of Species.

Wilf was one year old the Suez Canal was opened and in that same year, 1869, the clipper Cutty Sark was launched in Glasgow. Within a few years the annual race began to bring home the first of the new season's tea from China. And Wilf was nine when Thomas Edison shouted “Mary had a little lamb” into a machine he had built and this was the first time anyone had ever recorded and reproduced a sound. (History is being rewritten now that more knowledge is accessed and other names are being credited with the invention).

In 1876 Sir William Thompson (later Lord Kelvin) exhibited Bell's telephone to the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Glasgow. He described it as "the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph" and in 1877 the Post Office, brought to this country the first pair of practical telephones seen in Great Britain. In the United States, the Mayor of one large city forecast that, one day in the future, every city would have a telephone. (How many mobile ‘phones have you thrown away or donated to charity?).

Scarborough would have been a very busy town in Wilf’s boyhood; trams and carts would have crowded the streets and the railway station would have been a hectic terminus from the line to York let alone all the local lines to Whitby and so on. And the horses and carriages, of course. In the 1881 Census, Wilf’s father was described as an Ostler at the Crown Yard Hotel but it was not until the 1880s that Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz in Germany began, separately, to manufacture cars commercially.

Music became Wilf’s career though we do not know what precipitated this choice. He married Ruth Charlotte Prudames in 1892 20 and moved into 11 Avenue Road in Scarborough, a short distance from the Crown Yard Hotel. Ruth was a talented musician so their common interest may have brought them together.

Their first, and apparently only child, “Charlie” was born on Saturday, 16 April,1898 at 3 Westbourne Park 1, Scarborough, just a short walk away from Avenue Road; this address is a crescent off the Seamer Road and may have been a Nursing Home or perhaps that of a relative.

The 1901 Census records Wilf as a “Teacher of Music Violin” and that the household employed two servants, so life appears to have been rosy; a bouncy baby Gordon William George, a new King on the Throne, an Empire that seemed to cover most of the globe, a railway system connecting virtually every village and town in the land, a few of these new-fangled automobiles and telephones around, a postal delivery system second to none. And some foreigners on the continent building such a large number of war ships.

The Times of 23 August,1902, includes an article, Five Children Drowned near Filey, Yorkshire (Article CS68086551)
The article says that "Mr Cass, of Scarborough, a violinist, who was cycling with his wife on Hummanby-road, heard a woman calling for help." It goes on to relate how Mr cass, and also his wife, waded out into sea, waist deep, but were unable to rescue the five children. Wilf would have been 34 at the time (and his son Charlie, 3). "It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr Cass, who cannot swim, regained the beach."

1911 CENSUS, 2nd April

The 1911 Census records three occupants on the night of 2nd April,1911, at 11 Avenue Road, Scarborough, the home of Ruth and William. These are:

        William Henry Cass, age 43, Married, with one child living, Teacher of Music, Violin
        Mary Jane Cornish (or Cammish), "Wife's mother", age 72, Widow
        Dinah Elizabeth Hartly, visitor, age 70. may be Ruth's mother Mary Jane Cornish (nee Prudames)

Neither Charlie nor his mother are listed but this could simply be that they were staying elsewhere on the night of the Census. A search for their whereabouts at an alternative address have not given any results so they might have been out of the country.

Ruth's father, William, had died in 1981 so her mother, then 52, may have remarried.
1911 Census
(Pressing Control and + together will enlarge the screen image to view this Census in detail)

Charlie was sent to Miss Beckwith’s Preparatory School and then to Scarborough College and, had the First World War not intervened, he would have pursued a career in Engineering. It is on record that Wilf was a tutor or music master at Ampleforth College for 25 years and also at Scarborough College, two prestigious schools. There are several mentions of Wilf in the Scarborough College magazine, The Scardeburgian playing at the Concert at the time of the annual Speech day Prize Giving up to at least 1926.

He was one of the first students to obtain the LRAM and ARCM diplomas. He became a tutor, and at one stage in his early career taught members of the Royal family. His orbituary in the Harrogate Herald said that,

“It was for his work with orchestras, that he was best known, however. He was a founder of the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra, which at one time had 60 players. Later he was leader of the Harrogate Orchestra, under its noted conductor, Julian Clifford , and he held similar appointments at Hastings and Buxton. He could play four instruments, the piano, violin, viola, and violoncello”

On 24 May 1917 Charlie signed his application to join an Officer Cadet Unit of the Royal Flying Corps and this was coutersigned by his father.


A postcard sent to William Cass, at "Avenue Road, Scarborough", on 24 July,1929, reads,

"I am afraid I shall not get home for a Quartet practise this week. It is so doubtful that I am sending you word. It entirely depends upon how long it takes at the dentist! Perhaps we could have
a meeting next week? I am so sorry. Shall get home by Saturday evening. With Kind Regards Yours Sincerely, A. A. Dale"

(The postcard is a tinted view of Ripon Cathedral and produced by Francis Frith of Reigate - a very common view card of the day)

The postcard sent from A.A.Dale of 3 Victoria Road, Harrogate, was sent to the family address in Avenue Road, Scarborough. When writing this I was taken aback to realise that Wilf was already age 61 in 1929, that Charlie had been a teacher at Clifton School, Harrogate, for six years and it would be another seven years before he left to start up on his own!

Ken Gardner, an old-boy of Scarborough College, writing in February,2002, said W H Cass taught Music at that school sometime between 1929 and 1936. This is interesting: Charlie started his tutorial work with two pupils and then Norwood College in 1936 so Charlie's father presumably left Scarborough College in that year to accompany his son to Harrogate. He also said that in 1909, Charlie was a Monitor and gained the School Certificate with a Distinction in Music. Mr Gardner added,

"During that period, for a time, W H Cass, ARCM, LRAM, was a music master - probably a relative of G W G Cass".

Like his wife, Mr Cass senior played an important part in the running Norwood, giving Music lessons and taking part in the Morning Assembly and Prayers.


The Harrogate Herald obituary notice on 18 July,1962, read:

"CASS - July 14th, at Norwood College, Leeds Road., aged 94 years, William Henry, beloved husband of the late Ruth Charlotte Cass and father of Gordon W G Cass. Service was held at St Mark's Church on Tuesday, July 17th, 1962, followed by interment at Stonefall Cemetery."

Photographs of his grave are included on the page entitled After Norwood

The Herald continued:

"Mr W H Cass, Scholar and Musician, Dies Aged 94.

A noted scholar and musician, who had a long association with symphony orchestras in the North, Mr William Henry Cass, died at his home, Norwood College, Harrogate, on Saturday, aged 94.

He was the father of the headmaster of Norwood, Mr G G Cass, and had taken an active part in teaching music at the College.

A native of Scarborough, Mr W H Cass showed an early talent for music, and was one of the first students to obtain the LRAM and ARCM diplomas. He became a tutor, and at one stage in his early career taught members of the Royal family. He was a tutor at Ampleforth College for 25 years.

It was for his work with orchestras, that he was best known, however. He was a founder of the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra, which at one time had 60 players. Later he was leader of the Harrogate Orchestra, under its noted conductor, Julian Clifford, and he held similar appointments at Hastings and Buxton.

He could play four instruments, the piano, violin, viola, and violoncello.

He returned to Harrogate in 1941, becoming music instructor at Norwood College. A funeral service at St Mark's Church, Harrogate, yesterday, was followed by interment at Stonefall".

In September,1962, the publication, The Musical Times, established in 1844, included an orbituary as follows:
"William Henry Cass, conductor, violinist and teacher, died in Scarborough on July 14, aged 94. In earlier years he founded the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra, and held notable positions with the Harrogate, Hastings, and Buxton Municipal Orchestras - now but names in the history and making of British music. He taught at Ampleforth College, and later at Norwood College, Harrogate, founded by his son WG Cass in 1935. He had a special knowledge and fondness for the virtuoso violinist-composers of the 19th century, Paganini, Spohr, Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski."
The error was corrected the following month, October:
"William Henry Cass died in Harrogate on July 14, not in Scarborough as inadvertently stated last month."

The record of his Will is as follows:

CASS William Henry of Norwood College 5 Leeds Road Harrogate died 14 July 1962 Probate York 24 October to Gordon William George Cass headmaster. Effects Ł778.

(FRC refs:
Birth 4Q/1868 Scarborough 9d 306
Death 3Q/1962 Claro 2c 65)

Ampleforth College is in
North Yorkshire, mid-way
between Pickering and Thirsk

Photograph provided by courtesy
of Father Leo Chamberlain,
Headmaster, Ampleforth.

ARCM Associate of the Royal College of Music
LRAM Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music [London]

press here to read about Mrs Cass


1. source: Application for Admission to Officer Cadet Unit

20. source: England & Wales, Civil Registration Index: 1837 - 1983.
District, Scarborough: Vol 9d: page 566, September Quarter,1892

25. source: 1891 National Census, RG12 39, Scarborough South, District 18
Folio 9, Page 11 Household sch no.56

48. source: 1851 National Census, HO107/2368 Scarborough, District 1e,
Folio 252, Page 8, Household sch no. 34

49. source: 1861 National Census, RG9/3619 Scarborough, District 15,
Folio 41, Page 26, Household sch no. 112

50. source: 1891 National Census, RG12/1238, St Ives, District 2,
Folio 13A, Page 4, Household sch no. 24

104. source: The Musical Times, Vol. 103, No. 1435 (Sep., 1962) p.630
and Vol.103, No.1436 (oct,1962), p705

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