Chapter 1. "The Footballing Parson!"

Kenneth Reginald Gunnery Hunt was born on February 24th, 1884 at 28. Warnborough Rd. in the city of Oxford. His father, Robert George Hunt, came from the town of Stanley in the United States, and was the son of the Reverend R. Hunt who was a missionary amongst the Red Indian tribes of the North West States. Although he had spent several years training for a position in the London Stock Exchange, he was ordained into Holy Orders in London in 1876. He had been a priest for eight years by the time Kenneth was born. He had gained an Honours Degree in Humanities at Merton College, Oxford in 1879 and had been a curate at St. Mary's Church, Hornsea Rise, near London between 1879 and 1881. At the time of his son's birth Robert Hunt had been seconded from mainstream Parish life to become the "Distribution Secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society", a position he held until 1893. The family was living in Oxford at the time of Kenneth's birth because Robert had been establishing an administrative base for the Bible Society in the town, which would cover the southern part of the English Midlands. He also took the opportunity whilst in Oxford to convert his Bachelor's Degree to a "Masters".

28 Warnborough Road, Oxford. The birthplace of Kenneth R.G. Hunt in February 1884.
After four years as Vicar of St Matthew's, Islington, Robert moved with his wife Elizabeth, (great grand-daughter of Thomas Scott, who was a founder of the Bible Society); his daughters, (Hilary, Ruth, Gladys and Margaret), and his youngest child, Kenneth, to take up the "living" at St. Mark's Church, Chapel Ash in Wolverhampton. The family had some knowledge and connection with the area, as Robert’s older brother, Joseph William Hunt, was a "general medical practitioner" in the nearby village of Tettenhall.

Kenneth Hunt's baptism on the 29th March, 1884, at the church of St. Peter le Bailey in Oxford, was performed by his maternal grandfather, the Reverend Reginald Gunnery who had been the Vicar of St. Mary's, Hornsea Rise at the time Robert Hunt had been a curate there and whose daughter he had married.

Gunnery would have been a noted figure in Anglican circles at the time, as he had been 'Secretary to the Church of England Educational Society' between 1854 and 1861, the period when the organisation was an important pressure group prior to the advent of the State Educational system. In honour of this cleric, the Hunts included both his forename and surname in their son's naming, so rather strangely Kenneth was to bear 'Reginald' and 'Gunnery' as his middle names.
When Robert Hunt became the Vicar and Surrogate of St. Mark's in Wolverhampton in 1898 the town was reaching a milestone in its evolution as one of the most important manufacturing centres in Britain. Indeed, only four years later the town hosted a famous national exhibition of art and manufacturing in the West Park, which was very close to where the Hunts were living. Set in the then leafy suburbs of Chapel Ash, a prosperous middle class area to the west of the town, the living of St. Mark's seems to have been a relatively valuable one. It was worth £400 p.a., compared with other churches in the town's suburbs, (e.g. St. Matthew's at £320 p.a., and St. Luke's worth a mere £275 per year). 

Robert Hunt M.A.

St. Mark's Church.

It is very likely that Robert's early training in the ways of the Stock Market made him a shrewd and prosperous investor who was able to make the most of his relatively large income.

Further evidence that the Parish was large and prosperous can be gauged from the fact that apart from Hunt senior, two well qualified curates were employed to tend to the St. Mark's Church parishioners' spiritual needs, and St. Mark's had to establish a 'daughter' church in Humber Rd., to serve the western part of the parish. The parish also boasted two schools at the turn of the century; one in Chapel Ash for boys and a corresponding girls and infants' school in Humber Rd., although there is no evidence that Kenneth Hunt attended St. Mark's school. Indeed, his parents were willing to spend part of their income on their son's education at Public schools. When his family moved into the town in 1898, Kenneth Hunt would have been about fourteen years old, and so would have been of the required age to cease legally compulsory education. 

However, unlike the majority of children at this time, his education did not then end, as he was enrolled into Wolverhampton Boys Grammar School, which was a mere half mile from St. Mark's Vicarage. During his time at the Grammar School, Hunt was taught by J. H. Hichens, MA, the Headmaster. Records on Hunt at Queen's College, Oxford, note that Hichens was in Holy Orders, but local sources do not substantiate this. What is interesting is that Hichens was an ex-Queen's man himself and a probable influence on Kenneth Hunt's eventual choice of College. Kenneth Hunt remained at the Grammar School for three years, (1898-1901). With fees set at a not inconsiderable level of £4.10 shillings a term, it was at the Grammar School where Kenneth's sporting prowess was first noticed and developed. Physical Education at the school was organised by a former Non-Commissioned Officer and Boer War veteran from the Staffordshire Regiment by the name of Patey.
Under the title 'Sergeant-Instructor' one might well imagine that Patey's idea of physical exercise would have been all 'bull and square-bashing', and-undoubtedly there would have been elements of this. However while it is worth noting the emphasis the British Army had put on the physical fitness of individuals in the latter years of the nineteenth century, Hunt's involvement in team sports is likely to have been more in the remit of the Public School ethos, evident at the Grammar School. It didn't take long for young Kenneth to make his mark on the sporting scene at the school. Within a few months he had become a member of the football team, and by 1900 held the position of Captain. In his first season in the school team he was described as being "a very promising half, playing with more head than some of his seniors. Kicks and tackles well, and sticks to his man". 

J. H. Hichen M.A.

There can be little doubt that Hunt was developing into what now might be called a 'physical player'.
In those days when the rules of the game were still developing, the use of the 'shoulder charge' was very much a feature of soccer, and Hunt, who was to grow to over six feet in height, was not averse to using the tactic. However, the sportsmanship of the young man was strong and his "energetic and spirited" leadership had a significant effect on the school team. In the Easter term of 1901 the First Eleven won all of their seven matches, completing their season with a 15-0 whitewash of' G.B.H. Greening Esq.'s XI'

Hunt involved himself in other aspects of school life. He was a member of the cricket team, and was a fairly good, although inconsistent, opening batsman. He also acted as an emergency bowler, but only seems to have been used when the more regular bowlers needed a breather. Hunt edited the school magazine in his final year, but showed a great deal of modesty when describing his own part in the school's footballing successes. As well as this, Hunt helped the Masters organise the school sports days and was an accredited member of the Games Committee.

Generally speaking, Kenneth Hunt was not the most dedicated of pupils. His education seems to have been based mainly on classical subjects. Although it is recorded that he won copies of Shakespeare and Longfellow for prowess in Latin when he first entered the school, by the time he took his Senior Exams four years later he merely 'satisfied the examiner'; this being the lowest pass grade possible. Perhaps too much time had been dedicated to the field of sport, and not enough to books!

Shortly after the Christmas of 1902 Kenneth Hunt left Wolverhampton Grammar School and became a boarder at Trent College, in Long Eaton, Derbyshire. It cannot be ascertained why it was decided that Kenneth should not conclude his pre- University education in Wolverhampton, but it is very likely that his parents' and his own choice would have been strongly influenced by the fact that the College was an Anglican foundation.

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