Mexborough Grammar School
Mexborough and District Secondary School, to give it its original name, owed its existence in part to the Education Act of 1902. This act came into operation in April 1904 and it commanded every County Council to take charge of all education and to provide higher education where required.
The first of the staff to be appointed was the Headmaster, this being Mr. Thomas Wilson Ireland M.A. (Cantab.) who was a late scholar of Sidney Sussex College. He had first class honours in Natural Science acquired in 1893 and had been Senior Science Master of Hymers College in Hull from 1893 to 1904. He was officially appointed Headmaster at the inauguration of the school in October 1904, when it had just forty, pupils and did not retire from the school until 1931.
This appointment was followed shortly afterwards, in fact in the same year, by that of the Senior Mistress Jane Elizabeth Crowther who had a French Honours L.L.A. (St. Andrew's), and Diplome Superieur (Caen); and again she remained for many years, and did not retire from the school until 1943.
As was the custom in those years the school commenced business prior to the construction of the school buildings, and lessons took place in a number of rented room over the years between the commencement of the school and the construction of purpose - built premises. These consisted of the Public Hall, more recently known as the Civic Hall, which must have been after 26th. May 1906 as it was not opened until then, and was used by the school as its main school hall. I presume it must have been quite chaotic at times to have tried to teach here as it was also used for public functions and at one time was used as a primitive cinema. The building which had been The Montagu Cottage Hospital was another which was used. This stood between Oriental Chambers, Bank St., and the Fly Over.
Waddington's Rooms was another, but in this case it does not tell us whether these e the Auction Rooms owned by this person or the rooms used for public functions and balls, these being situated where the Royal Electric Theatre, Bank St.,
now stands. The Primitive Methodist Chapel Schoolrooms is the last place, and these were situated where the South Yorkshire Times Offices on Doicliffe Rd., are now to be found.
Eighteen months after lessons commenced plans began to construct the school, and the first things to be set up, was a Chairman and Board of Governors. Ald.
Watson, the person responsible for the building of so many schools in our town, was voted in as Chairman. As this school was not just for the children of Mexborough but for the district as a whole, there were twenty Governors, fifteen from the local authorities the new school was to serve, (Swinton, Dodsworth, Mexborough, Kilnhurst, Wath, Brampton, Bolton - On - Dearne, Thurnscoe, Frinckley, Barnburgh, High Melton, Denaby, and Conisbrough). There were also four representatives from the Country Council, and one from Sheffield University.
The first thing the Chairman and Board had to decide upon was a location for the school, and at first four were considered, these being at Rawmarsh, Swinton, Mexborough, and Wath. Rawmarsh was disregarded because of the works, and Swinton because the site proposed, which was close to the Mexborough/Swinton boundary, was too small and bordered on three sides by railways. This left two possibilities, Wath and Mexborough. Wath offered a fresh green field site with plenty of room for expansion and playing fields but it lacked an adequate public transport system. So, as Mexborough was geographically central, was served by a good railway system and bus service, and had a few sites to choose from (as it seemed at first), this town was decided upon.
In July 1905 a meeting was held to ascertain where in Mexborough the new school was to be built. It had to be close to the centre of town and all transport amenities but away from industry, and a site north of the main roads at first was thought suitable. This was later reduced to an area close to Hampden Road and at last to a site owned by the Lord of the Manor, Mr. Montagu. The main problem with this area of Mexborough was that it had been affected by subsidence brought about by mining for minerals (it does not state whether this was coal or sandstone) and it was 1906 before this was resolved.
Once a definite site had been settled a design had to be chosen and the Chairman and Board went to view many schools and colleges, some of these being at Scarborough, Thoresby, Leeds, and Bradford, as well as the old college of the Headmaster, Mr. Ireland, which was Hymers College in Hull. At first they thought that a school with central hall, having twelve classrooms going off accommodating twenty - five pupils each, would be adequate, and this is what was planned.
A competition was held to discover the best design, and at last J.E. Knight of Chapel St., Rotherham was chosen and his plans were put to the Board of Education in 1907. Tenders were then put out for builders and Mr. G. Smith of Mexborough was chosen to construct the new school with Wades of Wath doing the Joinery, Plumbing, and Ironwork. It was left to the following year for a decision to made as to what type of lighting and heating was to be installed.
By the end of 1909 the school was nearly completed, and by January 1910 it was
finished. On the 18th. January 1910 it was unofficially opened and 168 pupils filed through its doors.
The facade was neo - Georgian and the majority of the school was built using red brick with grey stone facing. The boys' entrance was to the right of the main doors with the girls' to the left, with the toilets at the extreme edges with storage for bicycles. The main doors opened onto a large central hall with platform. To the left and right of the entrance there were four offices. these being for the use of the Headmaster. Deputy, secretary and administration. To the left was the girls' cloakroom and to the right an additional classroom and the boys' cloakrooms. The central hall had three classroom to the left plus a small room for the matron: to the right were just two classrooms, each with a door opening onto the hall. Looking up, there was a balcony, on the right of which were two classrooms, two flights of stairs led up to this balcony with a classroom at the head of each. Outside above the main doors there was a balcony on which was a flag pole which flew the Union Jack at all times. To the back of the stone balcony was a huge window, and on the inside, to each side of this window,were additional classrooms To each side of these were the common rooms for the staff, male to the left and female to the right. Behind the hall were two wings. To the right were the library and art rooms, and to the left the domestic studies rooms, 2 science labs, and lecture room. In the middle, directly behind the hall were the kitchens and the dining hall which provided school meals (which was unusual for this time but was essential owing to the amount of children travelling long distances to get to the school). Above these were more classrooms, science labs, and another art room. Towards the back of the school was the gym. Also when the school was first opened there were manual instruction rooms in the basement and a wood store. The school covered three and a half acres and had four asphalt tennis courts, and ornamental gardens, but at first no adequate playing field in the immediate vicinity.
The official opening of Mexborough and District Secondary School, College Road, Mexborough took place on the afternoon of Thursday 3rd. February 1910.
The Architect, Mr. J.E. Knight, presented Mr. E. Tolbot J.P. C.C. with a beautiful ornamental golden key with which he opened the building and passed through the main doors into the hall where the 168 pupils had been seated. The girls, for this special occasion, had been asked to wear pure white. There were 350 spectators inside and these were seated on the perimeter of the central hall and crowded the gallery two deep. Prayers were said and the National Anthem and Hymns sung by the children. Then at 2:30p.m. the platform was filled with dignitaries and the speeches began led by the Chairman Ald. J.H. Watson J.P
Here I will stop and try in my next newsletter to inform you as to what it was like to be educated at Mexborough and District Secondary School in those very early years at the beginning of this century.
Information obtained from:-
A History of Mexborough School 1900 - 1944 by J.E. Walton.
The Mexborough And Swinton Times. 5th. February 1910.
Changes to Our Programme and Additional
Tuesday 26th. May. Historical Tour of Mexborough by J.R. Ashby and J. Raybould. Meet outside the Imperial Club/Elizabeth House at the bottom of Mexborough By - Pass at 7:15p.m. Price £1.
Sunday 28th. June. Visit to Cresswell Craggs and Caves. We are to meet at "The New Masons' Arms at 9:30a.m. addmision is £4 and the tour will take three hours.
Tuesday 28th. July. Visit to the Mansion House at Doncaster. Meet at "The New Masons' Arms" at 6:45p.m. Price £2 50
A £1 deposit is needed to secure your place on the above visits.
13th. June. Burghley House and Stamford. We are to leave the New
Mason's Arms at 8a.m. and the price will be £13.
18th. July. Nunnington Hall and Eden Camp. We will leave the New Masons' Arms at 8:45a.m. and the price will be £12.50. With the exception of National trust members who will be charged £9 50.
12th. Sept. York. We are to leave the New Masons Arms, at 9a.m. The price is £10 60 adults, £10 10 O.A.P.'s, and £8 75 children. This is to include a tour of the Jorvic Centre.
A deposit of £5 per person is needed to secure a seat.
Weekend Break to Portsmouth 2nd. - 4th. October 1998
This year our weekend break will be taken in and around Portsmouth. We are to leave "The New Masons' Arms" at 8a.m. on Friday 2nd. Oct. and a break will be taken part of the way down when we will have a historical tour, this may be at Winchester. On Saturday we are to be taken to Fishbourne Roman Palace near Chichester with the afternoon spent at Southsea. Then on Sunday we are to go to Portsmouth Naval Docks where we will be able to see H.M.S. Victory, the Mary Rose, and H.M.S. Warrior which is a Victorian Battleship. We will then return on the night of Sunday 4th. Oct. The price will include (to date) free entry to Portsmouth Naval Docks, accommodation, and coach transport. It does not include entry to the Roman Palace as this is National Trust property the approx admission price will be £3 80.. Accommodation will be Bed, Breakfast, Evening Meal and the price will be £85 plus a supplement of £8 for single rooms.
Please see Kate Davies, our new Chairperson, as soon as possible to secure a place as this appears to be a very popular venue. At deposit of £10 per person is needed.
Recent Publications Acquired By The Society
"Yorkshire History Quarterly" August 1997. This issue consists of "Who Followed The Fish To Scarborough Fare?" by Margaret Gerrish, "Requiem For A Bus Station" by Bill Lang, The Chapel Bazaar" by D. Colin Dews, "The Rilston And Hetton Cotton Mills" by Gladys Lawson, "Historical Falthwaite And The Enigmatic Stones" by Sam Sykes, "They're Off: The Story Of Doncaster's St. Ledger" by Peter J. Gray, and "Dialect As History" by Arnold Kellet. The latter two topics I found of particular interest to our society.
"Yorkshire History Quarterly" November 1997. This issue consists of:-"Who Followed The Fish to Scarborough Fare (part two)" by Margaret Gerrish, The Sedbergh Turnpike Trust" by Joyce Scobie, "Read Holiday And Lunnclough Hall" by David Griffiths, "Historic Falthwaithe And The Enigmatic Stones (part two)" by Sam Sykes, "Women Of Tadcaster" by Jean Hardy, Mortality In Seventeenth Century Bradford" by Peter Tankard, and "Monasteries And Ports In North East Yorkshire" by Bryan Waites.
Some of the above mentioned articles in both magazines I found particularly useful, such as "Monasteries And Ports In North East Yorkshire", and both items on "Who Followed The Fish To Scarborough Fare" (fare in this case meaning a fishing ground). These articles taught me, how even in the middle ages, smoked and salted herrings, cod and other fish were transported inland to areas such as ours which were controlled by monasteries, ours at this time being Monk Bretton with its subsidiary Abbey at Whitby.
Industrial South Yorkshire in Pictures by Paul Walters & Giles Brearley This consists of 55 photographs of Mexborough alone and, although the title states that it is industrial South Yorkshire, and found many which I would consider otherwise, I found it a useful book to any student of local history