William White M.A. succeeded Dr. Pattenden as Headmaster of Boston Grammar School in 1887 but he had been second master for seven years and the Doctor considered him to be the best possible choice, "as he understood the school, the town and the trustees and was well aware of the work he was about to undertake. He would rule the boys by love rather than by fear and he would abolish all methods of coercion".
William White was born at Hitchen in Hertfordshire and educated at the City of London School (1861-68) and graduated from Sidney Sussex, Cambridge. He had been assistant master at Marlborough College in Wiltshire from 1876-79 and had a short spell at Manchester Grammar School, before coming to Boston.
He married Emily Cracroft, daughter of Charles Rice, the Boston solicitor, He was the first non-clerical headmaster of Boston Grammar School and his training was primarily as a mathematician, so there was a formidable task to modernise the curriculum, as Dr. Pattenden had been a classics master and had made sure that his young pupils had a sound grounding in Latin and Greek.
In 1898 the Boston School Board was introduced and one consequence was that the number of boys at the Grammar School declined from ninety-five to seventy-five, as there were people in Boston who considered that it was not necessary to send their boys to the Grammar School because a good education was offered by the Board schools.
The school's reputation at the universities continued unabated under White; its record for the number of scholarships won in open competition was a British record for a school of its size.
In the Oxford Local examinations also in his first five years it three times headed the whole list of candidates.
A Board of Education Scheme in 1903 established the BGS Foundation, which took over the running of the school from the charity trustees, who had been responsible for its administration for seventy years. The first chairman of the Foundation was Joseph Cooke, the proprietor of the Boston Guardian, who was twice Mayor [of Boston].
At the 1903 Speech Day, White explained that the Education Department were giving very substantial grants to secondary schools but not where there were no facilities for a practical study of science. The new Scheme establishing the Foundation with the wise assistance of the County Council would lead to the erection of a science block.
The successful tender to build the science block in 1904 was for £1,218 and White was authorised to appoint a science master. In the same year drawing became a compulsory subject and he was empowered to engage a drawing master to be paid not more than £30 a year. In 1905 a music teacher was also engaged: George Herbert Gregory, choirmaster and organist at Boston parish church, who received three pounds per term. Ever since, holders of the 'Stump' post have also held a part-time teaching appointment at Boston Grammar School.
It was announced at the Speech Day in 1910 that Frank Harrison Hill, a barrister, had left £1000 to the Boston Grammar School trustees, "as a token of gratitude to the school in which he received part of his education and to the town in which he was born". Hill had been editor of the 'Daily News' from 1869 to 1886. The paper was founded in 1846 and the first editor was Charles Dickens. When Hill was a pupil at BGS, his parents lived next door to the school: his mother was Betsy, the daughter of Pishey Thompson.
In November 1911 William White was given three months' leave of absence due to illness and he never returned to his post. He died at Skegness in July 1912. He had been a life governor of the London Hospital, a member of the Headmaster's Conference and was on the nomination of the senate of Cambridge University.
His plaque reads:
WILLIAM WHITE OF SIDNEY SUSSEX COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE WAS A MASTER IN THIS SCHOOL FROM 1879 UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 1912, FIRST AS SECOND MASTER AND THEN FOR 25 YEARS AS HEADMASTER. HE DEVOTED TO THE SERVICE OF THE SCHOOL ALL THE ENERGIES OF A STRENUOUS LIFE. THE OLD BOSTONIAN CLUB PLACE THIS TABLET AS A TOKEN OF THEIR GRATITUDE. 1914.