The evolution of the school can be traced back to the Education Act of 1870, which had radically transformed the pattern of education throughout the country.
There was a demand for secondary education than that provided by the ancient Grammar Schools. With the growth of industry there was an increasing demand for the teaching of new subjects, chiefly of a technical and commercial nature in line with the local economy. There was also a greatly increased demand for teachers in the new Board Schools, and these would of course require secondary education. An increasing number of children were staying at school beyond the normal leaving age of 13 and education had to be encouraged for these children. Such schools became known as Higher Grade Schools from 1880 onwards. It was from such beginnings that the Heckmondwike Higher Grade School was to evolve and it fell into a category described by the Royal Commission (set up in 1895 to examine secondary education) as being a school which taught from the lowest standards upwards, giving a further education of up to four years after the age of 13.
On the 29th January, 1894 the Building Committee of the Heckmondwike School Board decided to build a large mixed school in the High street to accommodate over 900 children. A deputation from the Technical Instruction Committee which carried on classes at the Mechanics’ Institute called upon the Board and urged them to provide rooms within the proposed building which could be used for technical instruction.
They suggested rooms for Art, Physics and Chemistry among others.
The Board unanimously expressed its approval, and it was because of their acceptance of the idea that Heckmondwike benefited by having a Higher Grade School. The Chairman of the Technical Instruction Committee, Mr. Arthur Anderton, subsequently developed close links with the school and one of the first five School Houses was named after him.
Once the decision had been taken to build the School, the Board considered the plans for building and fitting out the School. The architect was A.A. Stott of Bradford and the land was purchased from Sir Francis Powell, also of Bradford. The building was designed to accommodate over 900 scholars. In 1895 tenders were sent out and accepted, and in the following year the School Board applied to the Co-operative Society for a loan of £14,000 for the purpose of building the school. This was granted as were subsequent loans, amounting to between £16,000 and £17,000 in all.
The builders were Thomas Horsfall & Co. and the building followed in design the usual Board School pattern. That is a large hall surrounded by classrooms. This design has been greatly modified over the years but is still clearly visible in the older and original part of the present school in 1998.
The Opening of the School
One of the proudest days in the history of Heckmondwike was the opening of its Secondary School in 1898. The opening of the school took place on the Monday morning of January 17th 1898. A total of 907 pupils assembled in the playground and were led into the main central hall by the School’s first headmaster, Mr. R.S. Cahill .
Mr. Cahill had been appointed by the School Board on the 15th November, 1897. His term of office was to last 26 years. The proceedings of that famous Monday morning took place in the main hall in the presence of the new pupils, the sixteen members of staff, the members of the School Board and a few parents. There followed a series of speeches by the headmaster and most of the members of the school board.
On the Friday evening of that same week, the members of the School Board and friends ran the first ever ball to be held within the school. It was the formal dedication of the assembly hall to public uses.
The Development of the School
From the very start the enthusiasm and commitment of all concerned assured the success of the school. A Scholarship fund was started which was quickly distributing over £200 a year and internal scholarship examinations were held. Other aspects of a flourishing and successful school soon developed and became well established, including games and athletics, with both inter-House and school fixtures. There was the early development of the corporate and family life as soon as 1901 when the Old Boys Association was founded. An Old Boys Day on the closest Saturday to January 17th was established and became one of the most looked forward to events on the school calendar. One of the most impressive and important ceremonies of the school is the annual tribute paid on Remembrance Day to those old scholars who sacrificed the their lives for their fellow countrymen. It was not long before a strong and enthusiastic Old Girls Association was formed and they were not to be outshone by the boys in keeping their connection with the school after leaving.
The early years of the school were characterised by the annual concert which was a great event. Months of hard preparations would take place culminating in the actual performance given to the huge audiences packed close together in the Forster Hall.
Early productions included The Little Mandarin, Princess Zara and Little Snow White. The children were given an interest in music and dancing and funds were raised for prizes, sports and maintenance. Concerts were also given by members of the O.B.A. and O.G.A. in aid of school funds and the Old Scholars Operatic Society was formed in 1912 and began its career with the performance of “The Pirates of Penzance.”
There were annual school excursions which involved the chartering of special trains. Days were spent at York, Liverpool, Whitby, Hull, Chester, Grassington, Burnsall and even to the Houses of Parliament.
The School Sports Day became an important annual event, constantly being updated, Senior and Junior Debating Societies became well established within the School, House Socials, Fancy Dress Balls and the annual Speech Days and Prize Giving were integral and shaped the character of the School.
Many fundraising efforts were made, most of which were devoted to providing prizes, sports and maintenance allowances to children still in attendance at the school. There was an increasing tendancy for boys and girls to stay on longer at school and it was felt that more attention should be given to the provision of opportunities for university education. Scholarships were few in the early days and there were many pupils whose abilities merited such education, yet could not simply afford it. Accordingly in 1909 the Parents’ Scholarship Committee was formed and enthusiastically set about raising the necessary funds for University Scholarships to be awarded to pupils of the school.
It was decided in the following year to hold a School Bazaar, which proved to be a great success and further School Bazaars followed.
The Scholarship Fund was enhanced due to the magnificent gifts to the school by the Rhodes family in establishing the ‘Joseph Rhodes’ and ‘Elizabeth Rhodes’ Scholarships.
French exchanges were established in 1932 with an interchange of students with a school in Peronne which stemmed from a growing interest in foreign languages.
Although the war disrupted communications, they have once again been re-established with great benefits to the pupils involved.
School camps were established during the Midsummer Holidays. At first these camps were mainly recreational giving a different kind of training which only camp life can provide. The Second World War changed the nature of these camps and pupils and teachers gave their services to national work such as forestry and harvesting for the boys and fruit and potato picking for the girls. In addition, during and since the last war, a number of boys have attended camps for pre-service training.
Cadet Corps were also formed in the school. Branches of the Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Corps and the Girls Training Corps were established. A great enthusiasm developed for these during the war and there is no doubt that the instruction and leadership of the staff who trained the boys and girls was of great benefit, especially those who served in the services.
It was on such foundations that the Higher Grade School of Heckmondwike was established. Both the academic ability and the social development of the pupils was catered for from the very start and the schhool became an integral part of the local community.
The Headteachers 1898 – Present
Mr R S Cahill
In the first 50 years of the school there were only two headmasters and that the 50 years was almost equally divided between them. Mr Cahill was appointed as Headmaster in November 1897, some several weeks before the actual opening of the school. In 1924 he decided that the time had come for him to retire from the post in which he had worked so energetically and enthusiastically for 26 years.
His decision was universally regretted, but at the same time all wished him well for his retirement. Mr Cahill carefully and skilfully guided school through its early years and established its reputation in Heckmondwike and the district. He oversaw the founding of the school, which was a very hazardous task but he was well fitted for the job.
Col. H Edwards
Mr Cahill was succeeded in January 1924 by Colonel Edwards, another fortunate
choice, who was to leave his mark on the school in no less a way that his predecessor.
Under the leadership of Colonel Edwards progress continued and the usefulness of the school grew together with the affectionate regard of all.
When Mr Edwards first came to the school there were obvious deficiencies, no library, no gym, poor cloakrooms and staff-rooms and inadequate dining facilities. The energy and persistence of Mr. Edwards had resulted in the school getting all those additions by the time of his retirement in 1948.
He will be remembered above all for his leadership qualities and for the personal interest he took in every pupil in the school. He was always willing to give up his time and help them in any way.
Mr. E.G. Bennett
Mr. E.G. Bennett succeeded Colonel Edwards in April 1948 from the world of administration, which he had entered at the close of a successful career in the Army. He had previously served as a master in one of the oldest Grammar Schools and so came to us as an unusual combination of man of action, administrator and teacher. in this happy blend his strength lay: his endowments were realism, system and sympathy.
Mr. E.J.S. Kyte
The school welcomed its fourth headmaster in November 1952. He was educated at Kings College, London where he obtained an honours degree in physics and later, undertaking radium research at Westminster Hospital, was awarded the degree of M.Sc. During the war he held a commission in the R.A.F., was mentioned in dispatched and was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader. In 1944 he joined the Staff of Headquarters of Bomber Command.
Mr. Kyte proved to be an able successor to Mr. Bennett during the four and a half years he was at our school, his friendly manner and ready wit made him popular with staff and pupils alike.
Mr W.G.K. Ford
Mr Ford had previously been the Second Master at the school and succeeded Mr. Kyte in the summer of 1956.
Mr. Ford was educated at Manchester University where he gained First Class Honours in chemistry and later M.Sc. and a First Class Teachers Diploma.
The school experienced a long period of peaceful progress under the leadership of Mr. Ford.
Mr. T.C. Riddles
Mr Riddles graduated in Mathematics at the University of London where he also obtained his professional training in teaching.
Mr. Riddles brought with him a concern for pupils and established the relaxed friendly atmosphere that is a feature of the school today. He was especially active in tennis and badminton and continued to run the badminton club until his retirement in 1989. Mr Riddles has been a School Governor since 1994.
Mr M.C. Tweedle
Mr J.K.Wilson was appointed acting Head upon Mr Riddles retirement and provided strong and effective leadership during the Autumn term of 1989 as the school made the important transition to Grant Maintained Status. Mr. Tweedle was appointed by the Governing Body during that term and took up the post in the following January.
Mr Tweedle graduated with First Class Honours in Physics from Leeds University in 1975 and following a Post Graduate Certificate in Education went on to teach in Kirklees schools for the next decade.
Eight of those years were at Batley Grammar School as Head of Physics. During his time at Batley he took his Masters Degree in Education and in 1985 moved to Kent to take up a Deputy Headship at St. Olave’s & St. Saviour’s Grammar School for Boys from where he moved to Heckmondwike Grammar School in 1990.
Mr Tweedle retired from the headship in August 2010 following some 20 years of distinguished service, which saw the school grow significantly in numbers. This growth was accompanied by a constant improvement in standards in public examinations leading to the school being judged outstanding by Ofsted, and named by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector as "an outstandingly successful school". Mr Tweedle's vision also brought about transformation of the buildings, including for example new rooms for Art, History, ICT, Music and Performing Arts, a Sixth Form Centre, a Sports Hall, and an all-weather Sports Pitch. In his last year, a magnificent and imposing new building was added, visible from High Street, which contains five new laboratories, an ICT suite, eleven classrooms, together with offices and prep rooms and a new reception area. By way of a tribute, this superb enhancement to the facilities was named the Crellin building, Crellin being a Manx name reflecting Mr Tweedle's Isle of Man heritage, being in fact his mother's maiden name and his own middle name.
Mr Tweedle was instrumental in making sure that the school successfully converted to an Academy following the passing of the Academies Act 2010. Much hard work during the summer holidays of 2010 resulted in the school opening as one of just 32 new Academies on 1st September.
Mr M. I. Cook
Mr Cook was appointed to take over from Mr Tweedle in September 2010. A graduate of Durham University, Mr Cook taught Physics in Hull before spending 21 years at Batley Grammar School, teaching mainly Physics but also IT, Chemistry and Mathematics, ultimately taking the post of deputy head there for five years from 2000 to 2005. He subsequently served as a deputy head at Heckmondwike for five years from 2005, before taking up the headship.
The School Buildings
The original School buildings were first extended in 1931 with the addition of a New Wing. In 1930 Lord Burnham laid the foundation stone of the new building which contained a modern gymnasium with its attached dressing rooms which were a vast improvement for the pupils, who had previously taken their P.E. lessons in the Lesser Hall. A new fine dining room was included and a new handicraft room for woodwork and metal-work. No longer were school dinners to be cooked and eaten in inadequate conditions and no longer were boys to descend for handicraft into the dungeon like basement. The alteration also gave scope for better cloakroom facilities and improved staff rooms. The present School Library was added in 1938 which meant that there was a better opportunity for the full use of books that had been steadily accumulated by the school.
The site has seen a great deal of development since that time, with a plethora of creatively-architectured additions that make efficient use of the relatively small footprint of the site while maintaining the presence of two play areas or "yards", known as the junior yard and the middle yard. In the 1990s the school purchased a useful additional building in Church Street, formerly St James' church hall and now known as "The Annexe".
The New Houses
A new and important permanent arrangement was made in the history of the school in October 1906. This was to be the new system of School Houses. The whole of the pupils in the school were to be divided into FIVE HOUSES; each house containing over forty boys and over forty girls. The purpose of the change was to create a healthy rivalry among the five sections of the scholars, in educational matters, in manners and general behaviour, and in sports. A careful account was to be kept of the record of each house showing what educational honours are gained, and what high places or honourable mention were awarded in the Term Examinations.
The first houses were to be named ac follows, arranged alphabetically: -
The Merging of Houses, 1912
In November, 1912 there was a merging of the School Houses. Anderton House merged with Clarke House following the merger of Priestley with Forster.
Therefore in effect three Houses now existed:
The Clarke-Anderton House which became known as Clarke House.
The Priestley-Forster House which became known as Priestley House.
The Bronte House which remained unchanged.
Overhaul for the House System
A landmark in the history of Heckmondwike Grammar School was made in Septmeber 1994 with the introduction of a new and fourth house. The additional house was necessary du to an increase in pupil numbers following the transition to a four form entry school. The new house was to be called Houldsworth following a competition that had been held in the school earlier in the year.
The patron of the new house was Sir Hubert S.Houldsworth Bt.,Q.C. D.Sc. LLD., one of the most, if not the most distinguished old scholar of HGS. Sir Hubert had a most distinguished academic career, first at HGS and later at Leeds University where he graduated with First Class Honours in 1911. After a few years as a teacher, he returned to Leeds University as a lecturer. He was still on the staff at the university when he was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in 1926.
He never lost his affection for H.G.S. and was ready to serve it in any way, either by words of encouragement or by a fight for its interests. As Pro-Chancellor of Leeds University, he was always ready to help old scholars in their later careers. His essential kindness and good humour never failed in dealings with his fellow men.
He died during the night of January 31st 1956 and soon after was posthumously knighted. His death was a blow to the school but he was remembered with pride for his services to school and his country.