Last updated: 31 July 09 – a far from complete history.
The Assembly Hall pre-1960 stage installation
Taken from a 1930s prospectus (exact date unknown) when the staff list was:
Mr C H S Kipping, MA (Cantab), FCS
Mr P R Hatcher, BSc (Bristol), FRGS (Second Master)
Mr F Coatham, BA (Durham)
Mr H Coombes, BA (Cantab)
Mr P J Cutler, BSc (London)
Mr J F Ede, MA (Cantab)
Mr S D Mangan, BA (Oxon)
Mr W J Russell, BA (London)
Mr F L G Smith, BA (Oxon)
Mr A B Turner, MA, BSc (Bristol)
Art: Mr E J Scrivener
Physical Training: Sergeant S Allerston
Chemical Laboratory (which became the woodwork room in the early 60s)
Taken from the same prospectus as the above assembly hall photograph.
Notice CSK lurking against the wall, between the windows on the left. Who is the chemistry master in the foreground?
Digging trenches on the field in 1939
Do you recognise anyone on this photograph? Do you have any others from this era, especially about War-time WBHS?
Map of the school area in 1901
Wood Green Lodge (Councillor Pritchard’s house in the early 20s) formed the heart of the school until 1961.
The history of the school between 1924 and 1945, as published in 1945, with rare photographs of the buildings developments over that period. This was published in a booklet the size of an exercise book, with the same front cover as the exercise books I remember in the 60s.
More articles in the final edition of Woden
Making way for the 1961 extensions
The demolition of the Headmaster’s House (formerly Elwell’s House) in August 1957 made way for the new extensions in 1961:
The 1961 Extensions
The Wednesbury and Darlaston Times printed this article and photographs on 5 August 1961:
When pupils of the Wednesbury Boys’ High School return after the summer holidays, they will move into a school which has been improved to the tune of £80,000 worth of new extensions.
Mostly the new buildings will cater for the boy with the scientific bent, but there are also amenities for theboy interested in printing, pottery and woodwork. The extensions will mean that the school can once again become a single unit, for during the building operations the lower five forms have had to accept temporary accommodation at the Hydes Road Secondary Modern School.
Mr J A Barrow, Deputy Divisional Education Officer for South East Staffordshire, said that the improvements were undertaken because the school was below the standard set by the Ministry of Education and was urgently in need of more classroom space and other amenities.
To bring the school up to standard, a scheme was started in 1959 which provides for four new laboratories, a woodwork room, a library and dining and kitchen facilities. It will mean that the 360 boys are less cramped, and that the school can become a two-form entry grammar school which was not possible before. Every September the school will be able to accommodate its full quota of 60 boys.
Mr E C Witcombe, headmaster, welcomed the completion of the buildings as an obvious asset to the school. “It will benefit not only the acadmeic boy, but the technical boy as well,” he said.
Previously the school has had to make do with 15 classrooms. Now they have 19. The meals would no longer have to be brought in from outside and a good library was a necessity.
Press: School re-opens after major alterations
Previously considered to be 35 per cent below standard in accommodation and other facilities, Wednesbury High School has now been modified and brought into line with Ministry of Education requirements.
At an official dedication and opening service held at the school yesterday (Thursday), the Bishop of Lichfield (Dr A S Reeve) addressed parents, pupils and members of staff at the culmination of 18 months work to complete the new wing.
The alterations involved the demolition of an old house on the site, and the alteration of the wing to accommodate five classrooms, a changing room, a physics laboratory, a chemistry laboratory, and a library. While this was being carried out, five classes were accommodated at the Wodensborough Secondary School nearby.
Mr H K Simcox, the divisional education officer, said that the conversion of the existing building had cost approximately £67,000, and had brought the school well up to the required standard. The headmaster, Mr E C Witcombe, explained that this would give the necessary accommodation for a two-form entry school. “We already have 368 pupils in the school, and 68 of those are sixth formers,” he said
Press: Boys’ High School £67,000 extensions dedicated
Wednesbury Boys’ High School’s new £67,000 extension was dedicated by the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr A S Reeve, at a ceremony in the School Hall on Thursday.
The building programme took 18 months to complete. The whole school has been modernised, and several new features added. The extension, which now covers about two-thirds of the whole building, includes five new classrooms, physics and chemistry labs, a woodwork room, arts and crafts room , and a changing room.
For a year, five of the High School’s classes had to be housed in Wodensborough schools, but they have now returned to occupy the new extension.
The headmaster, Mr E C Witcombe, welcomed many visitors, including the Rev P H Husbands, the Rev E H Tutt, the Rev W Guy – who read the lesson, Supt I R Cogbill, and Mr H K Simcox, the Education Officer for South East Staffordshire.
After the dedication, the Bishop told the 370 boys that the opening of the extension did not necessarily have to include a religious service – the dedication was performed because the people responsible for the school knew that it was necessary to teach the boys how to use it.
“A Christian school endeavours to give Christian guidance, and to challenge the boys to face up to it,” he said. “To fail to do this is to fail in one of the school’s most important duties. A school professing to be Christian must warn the boys that they could be spoiled by evil – and teach them to stand firmly for what they know to be right. One of the ideals of the present day seemed to be to make the largest sum of money possible for the shortest hours of work. I am bound to say that there are some people about with too much leisure time,” the Bishop declared. “Hard work never killed anyone. In order to fulfill its proper purpose, a school must show the boys the way to the future – to see what service they can be to the community, not what they can get out of the community.”
There was far too much of the “I’m going to look after myself and I don’t care about anyone else” attitude – but this led only to loneliness, frustration and disappointment.
He added, “The school must say to the boys that they cannot follow the correct attitude alone – given half the chance, we all become dreadfully selfish – but must rely on the strength of God.”
Extract from History of Wednesbury by J.F.Ede (formerly Senior History Master)
“In 1918 Staffordshire County Council opened a secondary school at Bilston for girls in Bilston, Darlaston, Willenhall , Tipton and Wednesbury. There was already some provision for boys since they could gain entry to the endowed grammar schools at Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley. The area served by these schools and the fact that secondary, unlike elementary, education was not free meant that opportunities for the brighter children were very restricted. In 1924 the County Council opened a grammar school for boys to serve the same area as their girls’ school at Bilston. They failed however to provide the same standard of accommodation at Wednesbury Boys’ High School, which began in Wood Green House formerly the residence of Albert Pritchard. The house was supplemented by modern accommodation as the school grew, extensions being made in 1926 and 1932. In the course of further extensions 1960-61 the house has been demolished. The school has has 360 Pupils and has sent students to almost every English University.”
|1924||School opened in Wood Green House, formerly the residence of Albert Pritchard|
|1926||Wood Green House extended.|
|1961||Original house demolished, and new labs block opened|
|Sept 1968||WBHS joined with Wood Green Secondary Modern School, to become Wood Green Bilateral School. Mr Edgar Witcombe remained Headmaster, while the Head of Wood Green became head of Wodensborough. At the same time the girls of Wednesbury Girls’ High School joined our Sixth Form.|
|Sept 1969||Wood Green High School formed|
|April 1970||The first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta – The Mikado – performed to piano (Mr Michael Lowe) and organ (David Perry) accompaniment, conducted by Mr David Willey. More details, photographs and press-cuttings are available here.|
Prior to Edgar Witcombe’s appointment, the four houses were named after local towns: Wednesbury, Darlaston, Willenhall and Bilston. Why, I wonder? Did their members have to originate from these towns? Mr Ede’s account above hints at one possible reason.
A F Parsons writes, “1939-1944: The number of houses was five, viz Wednesbury, Tipton, Darlaston, Willenhall and Woodgreen. You had to live within these areas in order to represent your house in any sporting events. Competition was very keen.”
In the late 50’s the house names – which lasted until the school’s demise (when they briefly became called rather unimaginatively by the colours of the old houses) – were changed to
- Lodge (red)
- Manor (blue)
- Oakeswell (yellow)
- Wood Green (green)
Trevor Reece elaborates on the 1955 houses: “The houses in 1955 were indeed Wednesbury, Wood Green, Willenhall, Darlaston and Tipton. Boys were placed in the house where they lived. The exception was Tipton. Tipton had everyone who came from somewhere other than Wednesbury, Wood Green, Willenhall and Darlaston. In my time Tipton had boys from Bilston, Wolverhampton, Pelsall, Walsall Wood, Aldridge and Wednesfield. There might well have been someone from Tipton but if there was I cannot remember them.”