A Brief History of Glossop Grammar School.

The original of this article is on both sides of a sheet of foolscap (found amongst my Father's effects when he died), typed and then duplicated on a Banda or similar machine. It bears no author's name but was presumably written by a member of the staff of the school. The article was obviously published in the summer term of 1965 when the Grammar School, West End School and Castle School were preparing to merge to become Glossop Comprehensive School.

The School was opened on 24th September 1901 in buildings given to the Borough by Lord Howard of Glossop. It was essentially a technical school, to give training in science, art and craft to children who had left the elementary schools and were aiming at the better positions in local industry. But the opening of the School was quickly followed by the Education Act of 1902 which gave the County Councils the duty of setting up secondary schools for general education, and so as it grew the School turned almost immediately into what we would recognise as a grammar school, though the name was not used officially until after the First World War.

R. H. Dickinson, the first headmaster, stamped it clearly with his own personality. He was a disciplinarian of ruthless energy with a clear idea of the school he wanted. The emphasis was on Science, but English and Modern Languages were there from the start, and only one really new subject has been added since 1909 (Biology in 1950). By 1909, 26 out of 98 pupils were over 16, County Scholarships to the Universities were being regularly won, and the School was attracting some attention as one of the most successful of the new secondary schools.

As the School grew, its buildings became ludicrously inadequate. In 1904 the inspectors remarked that there was no room for expansion - 58 pupils were enough. By 1918 there were 178 in the same building. In 1919 two huts were built on what had been the tennis lawn. By 1927 there were over 250 pupils and the answer was another small hut. It is not surprising that the School did not expand much more until the 1939-45 War, when another hut was added. By 1959 there were 420 pupils in the same collection of buildings. Some of the problems of overcrowding were solved by evicting the quite separate School of Art which occupied three rooms, some by renting (for 1/-d a year) a playing field in Lord St. from Lord Howard, some by using the Victoria Hall for "drill" (no noise allowed) and for Art, and by borrowing the Church hall in Fitzalan St. Some of the problems were never solved, and the buildings remained a serious restriction on the growth of the School from 1905 to 1959.

It was always very much a Glossop School. The one pupil from Russia in 1909 and the two from Persia in 1959 were exceptions. A hand≠ful came from Cheshire, occasionally and a few from Hayfield, but 90% usually from within the Borough, The fees, at first £5 a year and later £10 10s, were more than the average Glossop working man could easily find, especially after 1921 when the collapse of cotton seems almost to have been the collapse of Glossop. So it was not surprising that the School drew a large proportion of its pupils from middle class homes - 35 out of 58 in 1904. But though the School was born in a class conscious age, this was also the age of the "educational ladder", and scholarships were available for 39 of the 58 in 1904 and for about 130 of 266 in 1936.

The School really changed surprisingly little until 1959. The Staff changed slowly. Mr. Chambers 1906-37, Mr. Hodgett 1907-48, Mr. Holt 1910-52, Miss Newton 1906-45, Mr. Casey 1919-53, Mr. Brown 1920-57 were all enduring pillars of tradition and atmosphere. Some old pupils like Mr. Hall came back to teach here, but most members of Staff have come from outside Glossop bringing with them new ideas which have slowly modified the character of the School. We have already noticed that the subjects of the curriculum have hardly varied. Some have increased in importance like Domestic Science which had its first full time teacher (Miss Cuthbert) In 1944, P.E. in 1950 and Music in 1952.

Similarly the changes of Headmaster were important but not revolution≠ary. Mr. Chambers, 1928-1937 was more gentle and scholarly than Mr. Dickinson, 1901-1928, but equally meticulous and energetic, Mr. Lord (1937-60) had the same respect for hard work, the same careful eye for every detail, and the same firmness in command.

The most important change since 1902 came during Mr. Lordís reign with the Education Act of 1944. Fees were abolished. Before then pupils came because they or their parents wanted it. Afterwards they came because the "11+" in its wisdom had sent them. Numbers increased and included an increased minority for whom the delight of a new Grammar School cap soon wore off, and who never came to agree with Mr. Lord that "True knowledge is a discovery and a joy". The 1944 Act also took ownership of the School away from the Borough and gave it to the County. This was not as important as it seems, as the County had always been represented on the Governing Body, and, paying as early as 1909 as much as one third of the Schoolís expenses,had always been influential. Also the Governors continued, after 1944 as before, to be local people, under the chairmanship from 1930-1955 of Alderman J. D. Doyle, a leading figure both in Glossop and on the County Council.

Many other changes have of course taken place. The post-1918 expansion led to the division of the School into its present four houses in 1921. The 1939-45 War brought organised School dinners. Under Mr. Lord the School Plays became more ambitious and more successful. The careful but not always successful rules to separate the boys from the girls were gradually relaxed. Written work inexorably became much more untidy. But on the whole a pupil of the Dickinson era would have recognised the School of the fifties.

1959 is a turning point. At last a proper building was provided. Almost immediately afterwards in 1960 came the last change of Headmaster. At the same time the Sixth Form was increasing in size, and Britain was importing the American ideal of the teenager. In the new buildings more freedom is possible. There is more scope for societies, It has been found possible to offer different choices of course and a wider Sixth Form Course. Streaming by ability has virtually disappeared. The musical life of the School has expanded notably. There have been frequent excursions and School journeys since post-war affluence made this possible but in recent years they have been more frequent than ever.

Glossop is no longer the autonomous and almost isolated community that it was in 1901, The Twentieth Century has linked it ever more clearly with wider communities. This has meant that the School has lost slowly some of the local flavour. To-day over 40% of the pupilsí parents work outside the Borough. The School has itself helped in this process, by drawing off a steady stream of the most ambitious and intelligent young Glossopians and sending them off to work all over Britain and the world. It has also widened the horizons of perhaps 1,500 young people who have left the Grammar. School but stayed to work in Glossop.

For 64 years the School has offered a widening range of opportunity to a growing number of people. At the end of this term it will officially cease to exist. This decision was taken in Matlock, and not, like the decision of 1901, in Glossop. Perhaps this is why it has caused surprisingly little argument, no objections, for instance, being lodged during the statutory period of notice. It looks as if Glossop agrees with the conviction of the County Council that the widening opportunities can be made even more widely available in the new School.




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Last updated: 9 February 2021