Although founded in the sixteenth century, Uppingham was one of the least-successful public schools in the first half of the nineteenth century. This began to change with the appointment of Edward Thring as headmaster in 1853. A close friend of Hardwicke’s father, Thring was also Hardwicke’s godfather. In 1855, Hardwicke’s father sent his eldest son, Willingham, to Uppingham when pupil numbers were less than fifty.

Hardwicke joined Uppingham in October 1862. For his first two years he shared a study with Willingham until the latter left in 1864. According to a friend he was ‘extremely little till about 16 and very odd-looking’. He eventually gained an Open Scholarship in 1865, having been unsuccessful at his first attempt two years earlier. Hardwicke’s prowess lay mainly in the sporting side rather than academic subjects. He played for the school XV in 1868 and 1869, and also the Cricket First Eleven in 1870. He always took part in the athletics competitions.

Although Hardwicke does not appear to have excelled in any academic subjects, he did gain prizes for public reading and his poetry compositions. Interested in science, he studied botany in the Sixth Form and was an amateur taxidermist, his study being noted for its smell during hot weather when he was stuffing various small animals.

A few of Hardwicke’s poems, written during his last fifteen months at Uppingham, have survived. They include the first sonnet he ever wrote, ‘Sonnet to Chatterton’, dated August 1869.

Without doubt Thring was a major influence on Hardwicke’s schooldays. He was an inspirational and innovative teacher, and his guidance left Hardwicke with unstinting admiration and reverence for the headmaster. Thring believed that the mastery of language was essential for any schoolboy’s development. The best way of achieving this was to be taught the classics. However it was not sufficient to have mastery in reading and writing only, but also to be able to read aloud, and this he insisted on his pupils doing. Hardwicke’s noted gift as a public speaker in later life stemmed from these actions of Thring.

Hardwicke’s love of nature had been evident since a young boy but it was Thring who showed him that whilst the Bible was the word of God, nature was the living and visible manifestation of God’s gift to mankind. It was Thring who also introduced Hardwicke to the Lake District when he invited him to stay during school holidays at Ben Place, near Grasmere. And it was through Thring that Hardwicke developed a life-long passion for Wordsworth. On their visits to Ben Place, Thring and Hardwicke visited sites associated with Wordsworth, discussed his poetry and how it reflected God’s living presence in the world.

Balliol College, Oxford

Hardwicke entered Balliol College, Oxford, in October 1870, to study Classics. He joined the rowing and athletics clubs and took part in the Fresher’s events in both sports, including the “Morrisons Fours”. Hardwicke, however, doubted that he had the physique to be a rower: ‘But I don’t think I shall ever make an oar. I am so round-shouldered’. In athletics, the high jump, long jump and flat races were his speciality, although one commentator for the Oxford Times noted that Rawnsley ran ‘in about the ugliest and worst form ever seen at Marston’.

His parents, however, were somewhat concerned about Hardwicke as a student, both in terms of his choice of subject to study and his lack of prudent management of money. This latter concern was to be a worry for them over the following few years.

If Hardwicke was fortunate in having gone to Uppingham and come under the influence of Thring, he was doubly fortunate in the friends, both fellow students, tutors and other academics, with whom he came into contact with at Balliol. Foremost amongst these was John Ruskin. A renowned art critic and social reformer, Ruskin had been appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford in 1869.

Ruskin was a controversial character. In March 1874, whilst at Oxford, he initiated the Hinksey Road Diggers Project, which involved students and staff building a new road to the village of Ferry Hinksey. Not only would the village inhabitants be helped but the students themselves would see how physical activity could be used for productive and pleasurable means. The proposal ‘caused an uproar in Oxford, and there was an immediate and vehement response in the national press’. It says a lot about Ruskin’s magnetic personality that he convinced between 40-60 undergraduates to get involved in the scheme over the following 12 months, including Hardwicke and many of his Balliol colleagues.

Towards the end of his time at Oxford, Hardwicke gave more concern to his parents over his indecisiveness about a future career. After two years of study he gained a Third Class in Classical Moderations and then switched his attention to the Natural Sciences. He thought about becoming a missionary, then a doctor, before finally deciding, much to the relief of his parents, to read for Holy Orders. He left Balliol in December 1874 after gaining a Class III in Natural Sciences.

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