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The following articles were extracted from the Eccles & Patricroft Journal 29th August 1973

Farewell Eccles Grammar!

Eccles Grammar School will lose its identity next month after 62 proud years as the town’s principal secondary school.

Instead of being an independent unit, it will combine with Ellesmere Park Secondary School to become Ellesmere Park High School.

It is believed to stand on the site of Monton Grange, which was inhabited by monks when the religious life of Eccles was conducted from Whalley Abbey, near Blackburn.

It was the first secondary school built by Lancashire County Council after the 1902 Education Act; the foundation stone was laid by county education committee chairman, County Ald. Sir Henry Fleming Herbert, in 1910, and the first intake of about 95 pupils, most of whom were over 12, arrived on Sept. 18, 1911.

Two of the earliest pupils were Mr. R. H. Lowe and Mr. Arthur Rainford, the heads of Lewis Street and Ambrose Barlow Schools respectively.

The first head was Mr. T. I. Cowlishaw, known as "Tic", from Salford Secondary School and he was supported by seven members of staff. A graduate was paid £200 per annum in gold and pupils by tram from Worsley and Patricroft.

Very few pupils stayed until the fifth form and far fewer for the sixth form. Mr Cowlishaw was head from 1911 until 1937.

By 1920, there were 420 pupils, boys and girls, and in 1921 the cost of running the school was £21 per pupil. By 1960 this figure had risen to £85.

In 1921, a corrugated iron hut was built as a gym, and in 1929 a pavilion was put up at the playing fields. In 1931, the sum allowed for library books was £10 per year. In 1933 a series of camping trips on the Continent began, with Mr Percy Holt, and in 1936 an extension with four new classrooms, a gym and a library was opened by Lord Derby. Mrs Maud Lumb was one of the best-known governors at this time.

Mr. Cowlishaw retired in 1937 as plans were being discussed for a girls’ grammar school to be built on land where Swinton Town Hall now stands. Eccles Secondary School was to be for boys only. But this plan was stopped by the war and by the rapid growth of Swinton and Worsley, which showed the need for a new school - Wardley Grammar.

The new head was Mr. H. H. Fairweather, aged 34. When he arrived six of the school’s 396 pupils were in the sixth form, but by 1960 this figure was 80 and by 1970 160.

When the war started, Mr. Fairweather was called up and Mr John Gunter, the chemistry master, stayed on over retirement age as acting head. More than 500 pupils served, and 38 were killed in action. Five gained DFCs, and one MC, GM, OBE and MBE were won. Two boys joined as privates and became lieutenant-colonels.

Each Christmas, those serving were sent a parcel from the school.

One of the war’s side-effects was, perhaps, the beginnings of Eccles Musical Society, which grew from the use of Frank Pollitt’s gramophone during firewatching at the school.

In 1944, the school changed its name from Eccles Secondary School (the initials of which had given old boys the title of Old Essians) to Eccles Grammar School, and fees were abolished.

A £1,000 war memorial fund was started in1945 to help scholars start careers, and it ran out in 1971, 25 years later.

By 1947, there were 500 pupils, and in 1958 Wardley Grammar School opened with 680 places and relieved the pressure on space considerably.

But by 1961, the governors at Eccles were urging the authorities to build another school; they said the classrooms were small, the labs totally inadequate, practical rooms in short supply, gym too small, changing rooms cramped, playing fields overplayed, hall inconvenient as regards position, size and shape and toilets in the playground unsatisfactory.

Mr Fairweather retired in 1964, and Mr. Keith McEwan took over. He left in December 1971, to prepare the way for Eccles College, of which he had been appointed principal, and in September last year the college took all the sixth-form pupils from both Eccles and Wardley Grammar Schools.

Meanwhile, Mr Harry Miller was acting head of Eccles Grammar School for the first two terms of 1972, and in September, Mr J. R. Munks became acting head. He will stay at the building when the new term starts in September, but the overall head of Ellesmere Park High School will be Mr. V. D. Boothman, himself an old boy of Eccles Secondary School.

Other figures of note who served on the staff were Miss Petford (1915-46, history), Mr. Arthur Hollis (1914-48, craftsman), Miss Sadie Ingham (1917-42, senior mistress), Miss Baker (1934-65, senior mistress), Mr. Alec Pearson, Mr. Foster Smith and Mr. John Ball.

No old boys appear to have achieved national fame… but three have become town clerks: Oswald Jones, who was Town Clerk of Eccles; Gerald Chappell, still at Bebington, and Ken Benhem, in Rhodesia.

Clergy include the Rev. A. C. Sharples of Hope Church, the Rev. J. H. Manson, of Didsbury, and the Rev. F. R. Cooke of Flixton.

Doctors include J. Price of Eccles, W. Kerns of Walkden and E. V. Hulse of the "blue babies team". Norman Hoy is a dentist.

University men include Prof. J. Hargreaves and George Smith, and the architects are represented by Sir Hubert Bennett and Emile Scherrer. Mr J. Cox was the last editor of the Boys’ Own Paper.

Mr. Fairweather is now in retirement in Stratford on Avon. Aged 70, he is treasurer of a local parochial church council, does a lot of gardening, and plays up to 18 holes of golf a day.

He told the journal the Mr. Cowlishaw established a great tradition for "maths and work, work and maths", at the school. " He was a quiet man who was devoted to maths and the school - perhaps too mathematical."

When he arrived at the school the tradition was for staff to stay, but by the time he left the general thing was movement among the staff. "Everyone was trying to get a jump up," he said. "This was because of the salary structure."

In 1910 it had been the fashion to build school halls in the centres of schools, but by the end of the war ideas had changed. "It was very convenient and very inconvenient," he said.

His nickname was Harry among the pupils.

He paid tribute to Mr. A. Stodart Reid, who was chairman of the governors for about 32 years. "He would never go on holiday without going to the school first to see if everything was all right - but he never interfered."

County Ald. Mrs. Mary Kemball, the sister of Mr Stodart Reid, has been associated with the school for many years.

"Mr. Cowlishaw was steeped in maths," she said. "He was a man people did not know extremely well, a man apart in a way. Perhaps that’s why his organisation was so good."

She commented that the school speech days had started in the school hall, but that as the school grew so the venue changed - to Eccles Town Hall, to the New Princes cinema, to the Ellesmere cinema, to the Free Trade Hall, and finally back to the school last year.

She said that several thousand pounds had been raised by pupils for the Sunshine homes for blind babies, and she remembers getting Mr. Duncan Watson, vice-chairman of the RNIB and a solicitor with the Treasury, despite being blind, to speak at one speech day.

The craft teacher, Mr. Hollis, was "very popular and very resourceful. He would mend anything - he’d just say ‘Leave it to me’."

Mrs. Olive Gunter, now a widow, lives near County Ald. Mrs. Kemball in Monton Green. She taught "history and odds and ends" as Miss Gray from 1922 to 1934, when she left to marry Mr. John Gunter, who also taught at the school.

He was a widower with six sons. Mrs. Gunter recalls that members of staff always called each other "Miss Smith" or "Smith", but never used Christian names.

"We didn’t realise it was formal," she said. "I never called Miss Petford Ida, although I knew her for years. We never thought it strange. When Miss Baker arrived we called her Baker."

Staff was Paid in Gold

Mr. William Shercliff retired on April 27, 1951 after 38 years’ teaching at the school. Originally from Burton-on-Trent, he now lives at 29 Clinton Road, Barnstaple, Devon. Mr Shercliff, aged 82 writes:

Eccles Secondary School opened in 1911 and I joined the staff in November 1912 as a raw recruit more or less straight from college. I therefore did serve with the original staff and was welcomed and very much helped by its members.

I am writing to offer a few remarks about various extra-curricular activities in which we were engaged.

I also recall that my starting salary was £130 per annum, that is just £2.10s per week. However in those distant days a newspaper cost 1d., an ounce of tobacco 5d. and railway fares a penny a mile. We were also paid in gold sovereigns.

One of my early recollections is of the younger men going out at morning break and playing football in the yard with the boys. We also shared their slides in the winter.

Another early event was a summer camp at Abergele in 1914 where we took both boys and girls. This was certainly unusual at that time. While there the news came of Sarajevo and the war clouds gathered.

Curiously the last camp I went to was in 1937 when P. G. Holt and I took a party of boys to the International Camping Club Rally at Weisbaden. It was easily obvious to us that the war clouds were again approaching.

I was indebted to my early colleagues for various introductions to activities which have since been a good part of my leisure life. The headmaster, T. I. Cowlishaw took me rock climbing in Derbyshire and on Tryfan.

J. H. Gunter, a great personal friend, and I think the wisest and most understanding master the school ever had, introduced me to walking in the lake District. Then you took a train to Windermere and walked all the rest of the holiday.

He and Foster Smith introduced me to hockey by way of mixed matches at school. Later, after the war, we three became founder members of Worsley Hockey Team, in which we were joined at times by various pupils and old boys.

Foster also gave me valuable help in my earlier efforts at photography.

I am indebted to a succession of ladies on the staff who so often produced school plays. I remember especially a famous Historical Pageant which involved pretty well the whole staff as well as many mothers who produced the wonderful costumes.

The Manual Department was always much more than a place for lessons, and Arthur Hollis and his successor, Tom hill kindly allowed me to get a good training in "Do it yourself" jobs using their tools and profiting from their experience.

Our interests were in woodwork, stage scenery, mechanics and lighting as well as radio sets and motor car maintenance in the period when you could work on you engine without being a contortionist.

I am also grateful to F. H. Pollitt and J. S. Owen for stimulating my interest in classical music and the gramophone.

I am still delighted with the annual letters I get from Miss B. A. Baker, Bill Evans and Pen Williams with news about ESS and Chethams. I also had several happy years at the latter school at the interesting time when it was just becoming a grammar school.

Of the 4,00 pupils I must have met in my 38 years at ESS and EGS I can say I have made many friends. I particularly enjoyed the conversations we had in the common room with the young men from the forces who dropped in so frequently to tell us their experiences.

I have a special affection for the red brick building which overlooked my home in Grange Drive. It was built to last. I hope it will serve some useful purpose in the future.

Ah yes… they remember it well

One of the most distinguished old boys is Sir Hubert Bennett, formerly of Folly Lane Swinton, who was the youngest of four brothers. He was knighted in 1970 for his work as architect with the Greater London Authority, and he is now chief architect for Star Holdings (GB) Ltd. And lives near Guilford. He is 63, and was at the school in the early 1920s.

One of his brothers started Bennetts the furnishers on Monton Green.

Sir Hubert told the Journal: "There was an excellent staff, but I enjoyed Mr. Hollis’s classes best of all. Craft was the only subject I came top in except art. Actually it was called "manual". Mr. Hollis ran his room like a military academy - everything was spick and span."

He recalled the time he and his brother Norman between them won the 120 yards hurdles, the 100 yards sprint, the high jump and the long jump at the school sports and he also remembered that his class was headed by about five girls, especially the brilliant Miss Kersop.

"Girls seemed to be older by about a year in age and ability," he said. "It probably was annoying, but it was a good incentive. We boys were mostly little fellows."

He was in trouble once because he forgot to get his father to sign his homework. Discovering this on the way to school he persuaded a friend to fake the signature - but the plot was uncovered by Mr. Pollitt.

"It was explained to me that one didn’t do that sort of thing."

Another time three of the boys formed a "consortium" to do their homework together in the Carnegie library, but that was discovered when they got the same wrong answers.

"I was in Manchester in my car about 18 months ago and I looked up the old school. The caretaker was just locking up and he showed me around. A lot hadn’t changed at all - but it didn’t look as well kept up. Too many children probably, and not enough money.

" My reaction was ‘Oh this won’t do’ - but maybe I got spoilt with being used to ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) standards. Their schools are beautifully decorated and maintained."

He remembers fellow architect Emile Scherrer, who still has a flat in Eccles and who retired last year. He was the best boy singer the school had, he said.

He also recalls Sydney Greenwood, who died of heart failure six months ago at a conference. He was chief architect for 25 years at Laing Construction Company.


Miss Peggy Brookes, of Burlington Road, Monton, was also at the school in the Twenties. She remembers acting scenes from the time of Tutankhamun for the school historical pageant, which was such a success that it was put on in the Town Hall.

She said the fees were about two guineas a term with scholarship pupils forming perhaps a quarter of the total.

If pupils were caught breaking rules they had to stand in a "defaulters’ line facing the rest of the school at assembly." It was awful, because people you knew tried to make you laugh." There was also a conduct book in which black marks were put. If you had three you saw the head.

The sports field then was off Pine Grove opposite Monton Cricket Club. "It was very slopey. When it was wet it was dreadful - especially if you were playing hockey at the bottom." The land was sold for building in about 1929.


Mr. Bill Watts was at the school from 1945-53. Married with three children, he lives in Cavendish Road and is data processing manager of University Computing Company’s Eccles branch.

He said he saw quite a change during his time at the school. At first there was no money - textbooks were pre-war, equipment was poor, and the staff all old. But things improved towards the end of his stay.

There was "far more discipline than nowadays", with the cane and the strap being "fairly prevalent" on the bottom. But he enjoyed the co-educational atmosphere, which he said was very relaxed.


Mr Eddie Bromley, who was at the school from 1950-58, is now head of the third year at Alfred Turner Secondary School, Irlam. A bachelor, he lives in School Lane, Irlam, and his parents had a photography shop in Lewis Street Patricroft.

He said he remembered having to write lines such as: Throw your cap on the floor and kick your parents’ money about.

When he first arrived the school struck him as being very austere. He remembers that smoking was carried out in the usual sites - the outside lavatories and the bicycle sheds. In 1961 he was one of those who tries unsuccessfully to revive the Old Essians’ Association.

Mrs. Muriel Butcher, of Colchester, Essex, formerly Muriel Davies, like her brother, Mr O. D. Davies, a former borough councillor, was at the school in the early Thirties.

Mrs. Butcher says her memories of the school have faded somewhat after 40 years, but, as is usually the case, individual teachers remain in the memory and she recalls the late Mr. Pearson, who, she says, was a very fine master in every way. She also remembers Miss Petford because "she was always very sweet."

During her time at the school, Mrs. Butcher distinguished herself in athletics, winning the junior championship in 1930 and receiving a silver and gold medal. The following year, she lost the title of Regina by one point.

Twenty years later, Mrs. Ann Normansell, then Ann Blears, was at the school. She is now on the far side of the Atlantic, living in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, and teaching chemistry, but distance has not dimmed her memories of the school in the Fifties.

She recalls the highlights of the end of term festivities, with the "resident comedians" of the Scout troop giving their version of the "Goon Show" with such sketches as the "Ascent of Everest" and How to Make Bricks out of Eleanor Chapman’s Parkin", a reflection on the cooking ability of a classmate.

Mr. Alec Pearson, she remembers, wore a rose with a lapel-sized container of water in his coat every day in summer. After the last class of the day, he would ceremonially present the rose to the youngest girl in the class - then to the next youngest each day as the season went on - while the water was thrown over whichever luckless boy did not duck quickly enough.

There was Mrs. Sainter (née Butcher) who could read Shakespeare beautifully; Miss "Nancy" Yorston, reputed to have a different outfit for every day of the school year.

Mrs. Normansell remembers Mrs. Niddrie, who organised the girls’ trips abroad.

"I went to Switzerland, France and Italy under her leadership and she gave the impression of being able to speak every language there was - I think she actually spoke six," writes Mrs. Normansell.

"Mrs. Niddrie was memorable for her pace. She always strode along as if in a great hurry and never just walked.

Another pupil of the school in the Fifties was artist Mark Hall, now a partner in the Manchester studio which produces such television cartoons as "The Magic Ball", commercial cartoons and puppet films.

With his brother and sister Bryan and Maureen, who are twins, he attended the grammar school and he remembers that among his schoolmates were Mike James, "Scotty" Bryce Fulton, Billy Watts, Peter Carton, Gordon Dixon, Elgar Howarth, who went on to fame in the musical world, and Tony Simpson, better known as Tony Warren, the creator of "Coronation Street."

Mr. Hall’s talents lay in quite another direction to Mrs Normansell’s, and he remembers that successive physics and chemistry teachers asked him to leave their classes to "go and paint something".

Although he failed "O" level art, and was firmly told; "Sky, lad, is blue, not orange", he was admitted to Manchester Regional College of Art, largely because the then principal, the late Mr. John Holmes, thought orange skies were exciting.

"Incredibly I passed "O" level geography", he recalls, saying this was due to Mr. Wharfe’s formula SUNWACD, for remembering the rivers of Yorkshire, which is burned forever in his memory.

The Vicar of St. John’s, Flixton, The Rev. F. R. Cooke, was at the school from 1947-53 and became head boy. He is currently on an exchange visit in Canada. He writes:

"Impressions of the school still fill the mind. John Ball, our senior chemistry master ambling along the balcony with hands deep in the side pockets of his lab. Coat, his weight eased back, in characteristic genial manner, preparing to dole out, in the sanctum of the laboratory, the mystery of the molecules and the wisdom of a lifetime.

"In my last year how well I remember sitting for a Cambridge scholarship in the room of the headmistress, Miss Baker, and feeling, as she fussed to make sure that everything was in order and I was fully at ease, that she would have taken the papers for me had she been allowed.

"Maybe the time has come for the school to die, as education in this country enters a new stage.

"But if what Eccles Grammar School stood for in education dies then something very valuable will have died in England."

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