Penistone Grammar School - PGS History

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Foundation of School, 1392
Of course, to any Penistonian, Penistone Grammar School is as much a part of Penistone's identity as Penistone Church, Penistone marketplace, the Railway Station or the viaduct. Until the school was re-built in recent times, it used the same Clarel coat of arms on the uniform and documents which is still in general use as the Penistone coat of arms.

Much of the earliest history of the school is lost in obscurity, as old paperwork had been lost or illegible but the school can trace its roots all the way back to 1392, during the reign of King Richard II. That was not long after the deadly epidemic of the 'Black Death' (1348 to 1351). Aside from the church, there is not much in Penistone with such a link to ancient times, although the White Hart public house gets close. The school had started in the south aisle of Penistone Church as a chantry school of Our Lady, St Mary.

The Foundation Deed of this ancient school sets out that: 'Thomas Clarel Dominus de Penistone (Lord of the Manor) in 1392 granted to John del Rhodes and others a piece of land at the Kirk Flatt, with licence to grave turf on the moors of Penistone'. This was close to Penistone Church, more or less where the J&B Antiques shop has been. It was defined as (from Latin): 'So much as extends and lies between five stones placed as bounds by the hands of the above-mentioned Thomas Clarel'. It would have have had shops and houses adjacent. John Dransfield's 1892 guide records the charter of foundation.

A Royal inquisition from 1604 (see a text block below) showed that all of the land had belonged to Thomas Clarel, described as 'the absentee landlord of Penistone'. He had drowned in the River Don on 1st May 1442. The 'Free Grammar School' of Penistone (as it was later called) received further bequests in 1443.

After the 'Dissolution of the Chantries' in 1547, the school continued as a free school for the children of Penistone. From Wikipedia, 'One of the most significant effects of the chantries, and the most significant loss resulting from their suppression, was educational, as chantry priests had provided education.' In those days, the teacher was not paid by the state but by local funding raised from property rents, bequests, etc.

Local historian John N Dransfield remarked that it was open to question as to whether the school would have been called a Grammar School from its foundation but that the school was by far the oldest in the district: 'Many years before Barnsley, Sheffield and Huddersfield began to take up the question of education; indeed in 1397, and for many years after, Penistone would probably be a more important and opulent place than either Barnsley, Sheffield, or Huddersfield'. Referring to the many influential families in the area who were mentioned in school records, he goes on to say that: 'Penistone became a great seat of learning'.

Recorded in the West Riding Directory of 1837:
'The Free Grammar School was found, by an inquisition taken in the 1st of James I., to have been endowed from time immemorial, with several messuages, lands, and yearly rent charges. Since then, the school property has been partly-exchanged. It now consists of several houses, and 22A. 2R. 18P. of land, in Penistone; 5A. 1R. 14P. in Denby, and rent charges amounting to £6. 4s. 4d. per annum. The rents of this property, with about £38 received yearly from Samuel Wordsworth's Charity, yield to the master an annual stipend of £110. The school is free to all the sons of parishioners, for English reading, and the classics, but a small charge is made for writing and accounts. The late master, (Mr. Jonathan Wood,) was appointed in 1786, and held the office for about half a century.'

The first school survived until the time of 1702-6, when Mr John Ramsden was master. A commemorative PGS plate produced for the 600th anniversary had text on the rear referring to the school being re-built in 1702 but the PGS Archive refers to the rebuilding of the school being completed in 1716. It is possible that the older school had been built on the site of an even older ale-house, as there was a remark somewhere that artifacts found during the school's demolition were evidential of such a building. It is likely that the later school was built close to the older school. According to Dransfield, there was an inscription on a stone above the door of the school: 'Circiter 1397' which we might presume had been moved from one school to the next.

A new scheme of 1887 for the government of the school under the Endowed Schools Act, established the school as a Secondary School of the Third Grade. The old school building became regarded as 'inadequate to the needs of a school' and it was not helped by its proximity to the livestock market in the street outside.

In 1892 Sheffield Union Banking Company made an offer to buy the old school and a shop for £2,300. At the same time an offer came up for Weirfield House with three or four acres adjoining, for £1,500. Demolition of the old school building commenced on 31st July 1893, after nearly two centuries. In 1956 the school came under the control of the West Riding County Council.

The school motto 'Disce aut discede' ('Learn or leave') survived until the modern pressing need for re-invention as a corporate identity. However, they did retain some elements of the old days. The Fairfield site was sold to Sheffield Union Banking Co. Ltd. and a new school built at Weirfield, on the Huddersfield road4. From the commemorative plate: 'At this time, the school took in boarders, progressing in 1907 to the admittance of girls, so founding one of the earliest mixed schools.'

The latest incarnation of the school (on the site of the former Netherfield Workhouse) makes the current Penistone Grammar School the fourth generation, or fifth if you count the early years inside Penistone Church. By the way, the school's name is still officially, legally and properly called just 'Penistone Grammar School' and nothing more, regardless of what the political animals and BMBC might like to assume.

Further Reading
The 'Everything Explained Today' (PGS page) site is informative, with a list of famous local people.
The PGS-Archive website has the best detail, with a good selection of photographs from the Weirfield school.
See also the History Timelines for various entries.

The Government Commission of 1604
Government enquiries in 1604 (James I reign) and 1677 (Charles II reign) give further evidence of the eminence of Penistone Free Grammar School. This is from the 1604 commission:

'All the Stables, Buildings and Gardens, in the North end of the Towne betwixt St Marie-lane and the Cockpit-lane, and beinge the gift of one Mr. Clarel, of Aldwarke, then Lord of the Towne of Pennystone, as appeareth by certain oulde Dedes thereof had and made (that is to say) First, the Schoolmaster's House and Garden. Also one Shoppe and a Chamber in the occupation of one Thomas Waynewright. Also one Cottage and a Garden in the occupation of Uxor Roides. Also the House wherein Ralph Walker latelie dwelte. And three other decayed Almshouses not certainlie rented. Also one House, one Stable, and one Garden in the occupation of Uxor Bower. Also one House in the occupation of Thomas Wodcock. Also one House in the occupation of James Marsden. Also more Lands in the West end of the towne in Penystone aforesaid (that is to saie) First, one House, one Croft, and one Garden in the occupation of Raulph Roder. Also one House and one Garth in the occupation of Uxor Wordsworth. Also the Roughe field Inge in Penystone, in the Schoolmaster's occupation. Also two Closes in the East Field, in Penystone aforesaid, in the occupation of the said School-master. Also two Doles in the Eastfield aforesaid, in the occupation of Uxor Bower. Also one Dole in the Dobbinge Gapp in Pennystone. Also the Balgreave, in Penystone aforesaid, in the occupation of Edmund Neamont. Also one acre and a half in Redbrome, in Penystone aforesaid. Also the Armit Yeard in Penistone, in the occupation of John Baumforth. Also Land in the Hacking, in the occupation of Gregory Wordsworth. Also, a cottage ...
.. (and on and on, with at least as much text again as the above)'

Notice the variable spellings (Pennystone, Penystone and Penistone for example) and the capitalisation of nouns and compass points. In fact, I always capitalised compass points until recently, having been taught that way at PGS. Also, the 'Oxford Comma' was much employed, as I tend to do.

PGS Schoolmasters
Each date leads to the next one in the list, with no gaps.
The 1392 to 1613 list from 'Everything Explained Today' (PGS page), which has a good list of headmasters and more.
One of its links refers to this website, hopefully without us both repeating any mistakes.
Please note that the 'Abolition of the Chantries Acts' (1545 and 1547) affected the running of the school but did not end its continuance.
The 1613 to 1893 list is from the Stocksbridge history archives, with some additions from the above site.
The 1921 to Present Day list was also from ' Everything Explained Today' (PGS page), corroborated by other sources.

PGS Schoolmasters from c.1392 to 1613
c. 1392 Rev. John Del Rodes Custos of Saint John's Chapel
c. 1433 Rev. John Smyth Chaplain
1450 Rev. William Wordsworth Chantry Priest at St Mary's
1472 Rev. William Walker Chantry Priest at St Mary's
1477 Rev. William Addy Snr Chantry Priest at St Mary's
1534 Rev. William Addy Jnr Chantry Priest at St Mary's
1556 Mr John Hyde, MA (Cantab) St John's College, Cambridge

PGS Schoolmasters from 1613 to 1893
1613 Mr Richard Hey Died 28th May 1630
1630 Mr John Coatehill Died 8th May 1644
1644 Rev George Didsbury BA Clare College, Cambridge
Died 24th April 1666
1666 Mr John Revel BA Christ's College, Cambridge
Resigned 1668
1668 Mr Nathan Staniforth MA (Cantab) Christ's College, Cambridge
Died 24th November 1702
1702 Mr John Ramsden Died 12th March 1726
1726 Rev Jonathan Parkin (or Perkin) Christ's College, Cambridge
Died 3rd May 1751
1751 Rev Francis Haigh, BA Christ's College, Cambridge
Died 15th November 1776
1776 Rev Joseph Horsfall Resigned 1785
1786 Mr Jonathan Wood Died 22nd April 1836
1836 Rev Samuel Sunderland BA Died 18th July 1855
1855 Rev John Wesley Aldom MA Trinity College, Dublin
Resigned 1867
1867 Rev Alfred Steane Appointed but never acted.
1867 Mr George Curtis Price, BA Appointed but declined.
1867 Mr Walter Mooney Hatch, BA New College, Oxford
Appointed but resigned after a short time
1868 Mr Theophilus Jackson Resigned 1884
1884 Mr Othman Blakey Resigned 1885
1885 Mr Harry Hardy Resigned and became assistant in 1888
1888 Mr Lionel Ernest Adams, BA Resigned in 1892
1893 Mr Joseph Woodward Fulford, MA  

PGS Schoolmasters from 1921 to Present Day
1921 Mr Guy Wilfred Morris MA Resigned
1928 Mr Eric Fisher Bowman CBE MA  
1958 Mr Wilfred Burgess Simms MA  
1976 Mr Martin Antony (Tony) Bould BA  
1997 Mr Andrew White  
1999 Mrs Pamela Caunt  
2002 Mrs Glynis Gower Retired
2007 Ms Joanne Higgins BA Resigned
2017 Mr Paul Crook Current

Notes on the Headmasters
From the Penistone Archives (Mr JW Penistone), we discover that, during JW Fulford's time most pupils had been fee-paying boarders wearing 'Elton' jackets and collars, although other pupils were scholarship holders. The school admitted girls for the first time in 1907. Many of the pupils would travel by train and would normally walk past St John's school on Church Street on their long walk to the Grammar School. It looks as though they avoided Wentworth Road at that time. The St Johners had a particular chant "Grammar School bugs and treacle sticks," whatever that may mean, and snowball fights between the two groups would be common in winter.

Mr Fulford's nickname was 'Joey' for reasons unknown. In a Penistone Archive entry, he was described as tall-ish with bent shoulders, wearing a black and white 'peppery' suit, often splashed with red ink, and he had small oval, steel-rimmed glasses. Fulford saw the school through the hard times of the Great War of 1914 - 1918 and continued as headmaster until 1921. Mr Guy Wilfred Morris followed on as head until he resigned in 1928.

In 1928, Eric Fisher Bowman's reign began, to be described by his successor Mr Wilfred Burgess Simms as "Benevolent despotism." You feel as though an exclamation mark is appropriate there. Bowman published: 'An Introduction to Political Science in 1927, with a second edition in 1931 (Amazon). He was also awarded the 'Commander of the Order of the British Empire' (CBE) in the Queen's 1958 Birthday Honours List.

Mr Wilfred Burgess Simms became headmaster in 1959 and reigned supreme for a good 17 years. Simms and his senior masters would typically walk the school grounds wearing academic gowns. In Mr Simms' time, a PGS Speech Day in 1963 'went viral' so to speak, long time before the Internet. The big day was Thursday 12th December 1963 and the whole school was assembled in the Assembly Hall. Mr Simms' special guest was Sir Hugh Green, Director-General of the BBC, as they had known each other. On BBC television, 'That Was The Week That Was' (TW3) had been a hugely popular and ground-breaking satirical show until it was cancelled before Speech Day.

Taking his life in his hands, and with a dry throat, 18-year-old Head Boy Jim Hollingworth nervously rose to his feet to efficiently lambast Sir Hugh on his cancellation of the show. It went down well, with most of them. Sir Hugh chuckled, Mr Simms was somewhat surprised and the fellow students cheered, with careless abandon.

Headlines in the local press soon followed to read something like: '18-year-old Head Boy Publicly Attacks Head of BBC.' The lad's fame lasted little more than the standard fifteen minutes but he was still the hero among his friends.

A Period of Minimal Standards
A Charity Commission report of 1827 referred to complaints about the conduct of Mr Jonathan Wood (1786 to 1836) nearly forty years into his fifty school years. It is possible that he had grown too old to do his job properly and his abilities must have declined considerably. There was no welfare state to fall back on in those days, so people might have stayed in their jobs longer than we might expect in the modern age.

From the Charity Commission report on the matter (Huddersfield Reference Library, far end, LHS):
'The school has always until lately been maintained as a free grammar school ... (etc,).' Standards had seriously declined. Some time after his appointment, an understanding or arrangement was reached between him and the school trustees - 'that he should not be obliged to keep an usher, but should teach all the children freely in reading, writing and accounts; and the school has for some time past been and now subsists as a school for teaching the inferior branches of learning, viz. reading, writing and accounts only.' The further advice was to ensure that his replacement would 'be duly qualified to support the institution as a grammar school.'

The 'New Scheme' of 1887
You can see some doldrums in the list of masters above. It appears that in 1860s - 1870s something had gone badly wrong. This was remedied by a 'New Scheme' in the hope of restoring a classical level of education. In the Penistone Almanack of 1891, Headmaster Lionel Ernest Adams, BA, wrote that the school had been '... entirely re-modelled under the New Scheme approved by Her Majesty in Council, on the 28th November 1887'.

The new course of instruction would include: Latin, Greek, French, German, Mathematics, Natural Science, History, Geography, English Grammar, Composition and Literature, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Drawing, Book-keeping, Singing, Drill, etc.

From the 1891 Almanack we can see that Mr Adams was 'Member of Convocation of the University of London, Exhibitioner in English of the Owens College, Manchester; Honorary Treasurer of the 'Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland' and member of the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union.'

The Convocation closed in 2003; the Yorkshire Naturalists Union (wildlife studies and not what you thought) and the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland (the study of molluscs and their shells, founded in 1876) are both still going in 2019.

It is not clear when 'Penistone Free Grammar School' started to take in fee-paying boarders, although the 'Free' part might have meant bursaries for poor, but promising, boys. Fees for Day Boys in 1891 were: 13s 4d per term (about 66p in modern money), with boys received at half term paying half of the fee. Boarders paid £16 per term, including laundress. Weekly boarders were charged £14 per term. The almanack also mentioned that they hoped to celebrate their 500 years anniversary in 1892 in a 'befitting manner'. I'm sure that they did.

The Fairfield School
School c.1890This picture shows school buildings on the 'Kirk Flatt' site as they were about 1890, not long before they were demolished in 1893. The photographer took this picture for Penistone Almanac from a high viewpoint in the church yard and this is an actual scan of the original (courtesy of The Don Press on Church St). I could not resist colouring in the thumbnail picture.

Dr. Nicholas Saunderson, the celebrated blind professor of mathematics at Cambridge, received his earliest education at this school and famously learnt to read and write from running his fingers over the carvings on nearby Penistone Church gravestones.

The wall just visible on the left edge of the picture is the old cloth hall, now Clark's chemist. The gravestone on the left is still there but the old gateway is now a lichgate. The site was sold to Sheffield Union Banking Co. Ltd and nearby land sold for auction in 1903, including the site of the old cock-fighting pit which was referred to in a Royal Inquisition of 1604.

The Weirfield School
In 1892 the school moved to Weirfield House on the Huddersfield Road site and they took in boarders. That was in the reign of Queen Victoria and in the year when Tchaikovsky composed the 'Nutcracker'. They would have been called 'scholars' in those days. Girls were admitted in 1907 and the stone-built Fulford building was opened in 1911, shown below. The picture on the left below shows Weirfield House as it was in May 2011, with all of its inventive wiring.

Wierfield - 7th May 2011Fulford Fulford

From the 1953 Penistone Almanac:
'A new secondary school - being an extension of the ancient Penistone Grammar School, founded in 1392 - costing £8,000 for the building and £780 for furnishing and equipment, was opened Oct. 28th, 1911, and is recognised by the West Riding Education Authority as a training centre for intending school teachers.'

'At the time of writing there are about 550 pupils at the school. Other proposed extensions to cost £24,000 have been postponed'. That was written in a time of austerity after the end of the Second World War. Food and clothing were still being rationed.

Fulford was called 'A' block in the 1960s. Weirfield House behind it was the original schoolhouse. It was home to various headmasters (as they were always called) and other people but it was later taken over for staff use. It was still used as the centre of school management (according to the PGS website in the 'noughties'). They knew how to make buildings last in those days.

Penistone was still under the West Riding County Council in those times and the WRCC initials could be found all over the school. It was even stencilled under the wooden desks. In 1957, Penistone Grammar School became one of the first in the country to become a 'Neighbourhood Comprehensive School'. In 1974, local governance was radically changed. The old West Riding of Yorkshire was abolished, the new area of South Yorkshire invented and Penistone's fortunes fell under the tender mercy of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC). Our local council was also reduced to having an 'advisory' role with BMBC, with its powers curtailed.

BMBC allowed the school to retain a Sixth Form in 1989 and it became the only 11 – 18 Local Education Authority-maintained school in the Barnsley borough.

The Time Capsule
When demolition of the Fulford Building (aka 'A-Block) finished in April 2014, the last part to go was the main doorway. An unexpected treasure was to be found beneath it by stonemason Jonathan Hunter. It was a Time Capsule, dating from 1911. This was a sealed, transparent glass jar, with tantalising glimpses of documents and newspaper within. Mr Hunter reported his find to Kath Eadon, an administrator at the school and the story was circulated in the school. In fact, this website was told of the 'scoop' and went public before the other outlets could report it.

This caught the local interest in a big way and a special opening ceremony was arranged for Saturday 24th May 2014 in a PGS Lecture Theatre. A packed audience observed the official opening. The atmosphere was described in newspapers as 'electric', with 'Oohs' and 'ahs' from the audience as each item was carefully extracted. The contents were put on display at the school a couple of weeks later.

The contents were: a Yorkshire Post newspaper, a school prospectus, a handwritten note including the names of governors and coins, including a florin and schilling. At the time, the school decided that they would make their own time capsule for discovery in the future. PGS Archive has some details but its Facebook has good photographs of the contents in albums.

Netherfield Building
NetherfieldThis brief history was adapted from Mrs Connolly's Netherfield page on the earlier PGS website:

Netherfields 'Union Workhouse' was originally employed as the monthly Penistone Rural District Council meeting place, whilst the Urban District Council meetings used other council offices. During its twentieth century use as a residential home for old people, the escapees were easily rounded up at bedtime in 'The Bridge' at Bridge End. Incidentally, Bridge End takes its name from Penistone Bridge, over the River Don. The Netherfield buildings have all been demolished now.

The House System
The old house system of around the 1960s used four locally significant names with these associated colours:
Armitage (Yellow), Bosville (Blue), Clarel (Red) and Dransfield (Green), conveniently based on the letters A, B, C and D.

The house system continues to this day but has been extended to five houses:
Saunderson (Yellow), Bowman (Purple), Netherfield (Green), Fulford (Red) and Weirfield (Blue).

These are still current even after the new school was opened in 2011. Unfortunately, the dear old founding father Mr Thomas Clarel was discarded along with five of his footless birds. Tough times indeed.

The Clarel - Penistone Coat of Arms
Our notable local historian, John Ness Dransfield, describes our coat of arms in his great tome 'A History of the Parish of Penistone' (1906), below. A collection of this and other local history books, church pamphlets and Penistone Almanacks can be found in the 'Dransfield Cabinet' in Penistone Library.

Arms of Penistone

The Coat of Arms belonged to Penistone's Lord of the Manor in the fourteenth century, Thomas Clarel, who gave land on Kirk Flatts by Penistone Church to Penistone, for the purpose of building a school. For six hundred years, it was associated with Penistone Grammar School. Since then, two schools have come and gone on land near Penistone Church before it moved to Weirfield in the early 1900s (see Timeline). The 'new' school continued to use the coat of arms until recent times. After the school moved to an adjacent site (opened May 2011), it invented a new logo but retained only one martlet.

The coat-of-arms is a simple affair with six footless birds (martlets) on a red background. A martlet is something like a swift but with a few tufts of feathers in place of feet (see Wikipedia). It has long been used by the Penistone associations, with typical examples being Penistone Agricultural Society, Pengeston Lodge (Penistone Freemasons) and Penistone Footpath Runners. It can be found above the stage of Penistone Town Hall (Paramount Theatre) but is now obscured by the top curtains and on Penistone Town Council chairman's tall chair in the Council Chambers next door to the Town Hall.

Up to around the nineteen-sixties, PGS badges used the 3-2-1 format but it seems that the 2-2-2 versions below might have been more like the original design. The first variant shown here from Penistone Agricultural Society is the same as on the Town Hall plans, with 'Penistone' marked below. The second was the normal PGS style from the 1960s until recently, with the time-honoured PGS motto: 'Disce aut Discede'.

Penistone EmblemClarel Shield Masonic PFR Logo

The Penistone coat of arms can be found in more places than the Town Hall and Penistone Grammar School's history. The third graphic above is the version used by the Pengeston Masonic Lodge and the fourth is used by Penistone Footpath Runners and Athletic Club, founded 1982. Penistone Church Football Club (founded 1906) uses a logo based on the coat of arms, but featuring only three of the martlets along with a sketch image of Penistone Church.

Reminiscences from the 1960s
Wilfred Burgess Simms was headmaster with Mr Humpston as deputy and Mr 'Killer' Cartwright was head of the younger section. Eric Fisher (EF) Bowman was the head before Wilfred Simms. We used to walk down the road to use an upper hall in Netherfield Church for drama lessons with our teacher, Mr. Keith. This arrangement worked well but there was one occasion when we had to be particularly quiet - for a funeral in the church proper. This church later merged with St. Paul's Methodist chapel, which was demolished and replaced by St. Andrews. Netherfield Church was then converted to flats. Visitors to its neglected graveyard are now discouraged by 'Private' signs, although they have a protected right to visit their departed ones.

The school had a small farm across the road on the end of Long Lane, as we all called it then. Rural Studies were always interesting, with Cllr George Punt in charge and as our Form teacher. George was very inventive with his punishments and on one occasion gave a boy the task of clearing the farmyard of slushy snow - with a pitchfork. he always had a way or making punishments 'value added'. I recall having to shine up some garden tools as my particular burden. Another occasion he had someone whitewash the walls as a punishment. Of course, we had him back - we mated his collection of rabbits in entertaining ways. He ended up with all sorts of fancy breeds as a result. The goat on the farm would eat anything and seemed to have a particular taste for hymn books.

The technology of the day would look (and smell) primitive and quaint to modern eyes. 'Banda' was the standard copying machine in schools. A special carbon paper was placed ink-side-up under the ordinary paper of the master sheet to be copied, which was either written or typed upon. This which would leave an inky mirror-image on the underside of the master sheet. With each turn of a handle, the paper was doused in spirit and a roller would impress the ink on to clean sheets that were fed in from a tray, leaving a copy of the original information on each. Each copy would become weaker as the ink on the paper diminished until it was almost gone. One advantage was that different colours could be used and possibly on the same document.

Photocopiers did not come into general use until the 1970s and they were rather poor, with weak contrast and usually some black streaks. PGS had an antique episcope projector with a cast-iron frame. It could project to a screen the teacher's notes in a tray beneath it. A more advanced version was the 'Epi-diascope' which could alternatively project a large glass transparency slide with the turn of a lever.

Sometimes the classes were subjected to film shows made by such as BP, British Railways or Esso, using a clattering old film projector that drowned out any remarks from the teacher or the taught. Those were usually interesting films and a great relief for the harassed teacher. Video had not yet arrived. In fact the first video machines for industrial use were just around the corner in the late 1960s. I had an old Peto-Scott video recorder in the 1970s, which shook the house when in Fast-Forward or Rewind.

PGS 2003 Logo - not clickableNetherfield viewed from near the cop shopAround 1956
PGS 2007

The Bowman building and the Large Hall/Gymnasium opened in 1956. New tennis courts and E Block (an L-shaped prefab 'Terrapin' building) were added across the main road in 1960, next to the playing fields. The buildings were all called by a letter rather than a name in those days. Fulford Building was known as A-Block.

The stable block C-Block near to Weirfield House was reconstructed in 1900 but used as Spurler Jagger's woodwork room in the 60s, with a science room next to it and a physics room upstairs which had strange creatures pickled in bottles of formaldehyde. Spurler was a fine old teacher with a very relaxed manner and a great sense of humour. If he burped, it was "Pardon my excuses." Nothing ever seemed to trouble Mr Jagger and all the lads liked him a lot.

More new buildings arrived in 1968; the Saunderson block and a new Hall and kitchens. Also that year Fulford block had alterations and the conversion of old kitchen and dining rooms. 'E' block was removed in the 1990s. 'Temporary' lasted a long time in those days.

In those days, the initials 'WRCC' adorned objects large and small and probably every desk. Some of the desks in our first year were very old indeed and must have come from a junior school as they were one-piece seats with desks but far too small. They had ink wells but these were not used. Those were the days of West Riding County Council, administered from Wakefield.

In the Local Government Re-organisation of the early 1970s, the West Riding was officially abolished as an administrative region and WRCC went with it. That removed the West Riding from the maps but the name continued in many ways, as it does even now. Educational control was transferred to Barnsley Council. Up to that time, Penistone Urban District Council had been a big local employer overseeing everything from emptying the bins to running the livestock market, the Town Hall (Paramount), street lighting, water supply and building and repairing council houses.

Demolition and New Buildings
Starting in 2009, a major rebuilding programme took place to enlarge the school and introduce the latest facilities as a £35 million state-of-the-art school. It took nearly two years to complete. A downloadable pdf document from the school portal (no longer available) explained the philosophy behind the new school:

'We hope to provide the community with a social hub, to unite the neighbourhood and evoke a sense of local pride'. Also: 'Penistone Grammar ALC will play host to a range of events, in the social, cultural and business sectors'.

In the process, buildings which were put up in the 1960s and 1970s were demolished but the stone-built Fulford Building ('A - Block') and the historic Weirfield House were left standing with boarded-up windows. In the spring of 2012, a 'For Sale' sign went up and news spread of the likely demolition of both buildings to make way for a more lucrative use of the land. Barnsley council had verbally assured Penistone Town Council that this would not happen (reported in 16th April 2012 meeting). But it was not to be.

Local resident Sarah Catterall single-handedly started a campaign to 'Save Fulford' and submitted the building to English heritage for it to be 'listed'. Even Penistone Town Council has words of encouragement and support for her campaign. See the facebook link below to follow this.

Unfortunately, Barnsley Council took no further interest in the building and the developers could not find a use for it. Although an attempt had been made to have Fulford Building 'listed', English Heritage reported that it was not special enough, except for a sentimental attraction to local people and they could not list it. The Clarel Coat of Arms over the main door was planned to be retained as a feature in a new housing development on the site. Weirfield House was also to be retained and used in some way.

The New School Buildings
The new buildings were erected lower down the hill than the old ones but with a boxy, multi-coloured architecture. A new footbridge with rusty martlet motifs was installed near to the 'old' footbridge which was removed in April 2011. The new bridge will probably look good when it is finished (joke).

PGS FoyerI might not like the exterior much but the reception area looks quite good, with a bright and breezy feel. This picture of the foyer area was taken with the kind permission of the receptionist (on the proviso of avoiding children in the picture). There is a small room off the picture to the right which is used for exhibitions, etc. I hope to visit more of the school but any further photographs would be taken with PGS permission and no pupils present.

The school (yes, it is still a school) is fitted out with the latest teaching facilities and well set up with sporting facilities, which include: a floodlit synthetic turf pitch, sports hall, tennis courts, gymnasium/dance studio (for such as zumba, yoga, pilates and circuit training) and a fitness suite with a 'Techno-gym Wellness System'.

You might also expect the school nurse to be called the 'Wellness Person'. The public can pay to use these facilities outside school hours. Classrooms and lecture theatres are available for hire outside school hours. All in all the new PGS has facilities which are a massive improvement on the old school.

This school picture from March 2011 was taken from the Trans-Pennine Trail, just before the old Netherfield buildings were demolished. That's Emley Moor transmitter tower in the background. Since then, the historic stone Netherfield buildings were unceremoniously demolished (like Penistone lock-up in 2010). A wide stairway and suitable landscaping have now completed the new PGS aspect.

War Memorial
The old war memorial plaque from Fulford Building was renovated and re-sited at the new school with an accompanying small ceremony for invited officials. It was to be sited in Penistone Church but strong opinion in the Barnsley Chronicle demonstrated resulted in its reinstatement at the new school, on a grassed area by the entrance to the car park. Most of Penistone Town Council agreed with this and the move went ahead. Now there is an annual Remembrance Service by the memorial, attended by local dignitaries and the public on the Friday preceding Remembrance Sunday

PGS March 2011

Teething Troubles
With such sweeping changes to PGS, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be trouble to begin with. Tempers initially ran high. In the summer of 2011, parents complained about a series of issues concerning PGS, including management style, uniform, discipline issues and the new dress code for older pupils. Everything looked to be going off the rails. Complaints were made that PGS management would not listen to legitimate concerns and a group was formed 'Concerned Parents and Pupils of Penistone Grammar School'. It did not last very long as the variously alleged issues either faded away or were dealt with. None of the complainants ever used the 'ALC' title in their letters to the press or on local radio (which at that time had live interviews about the issues of the day).

Continuing their grumbling, some parents commented in the press about a new school day which had been made earlier than before, at 8.20am to 2.50pm. They said that it conflicted with working day arrangements and might leave schoolies loose on the streets after school. At around the same time, Research on Sleep Patterns of teenagers was topical and concluded that pupils worked better with a much later start to the day. As with the other issues, the matter blew over very quickly. It was likely that some parents found the new times advantageous. To set matters aright, the senior manager robustly defended her new policies when interviewed on local radio, Penistone FM.

Of course, not all remarks were negative and there was some high praise heard for the new facilities. People always notice complaints more than praise, which seems to have a shorter shelf-life. After a few months, things settled down and the issues evaporated as parents and their charges adjusted to the new regime.

The 'Advanced Learning Centre' (ALC) Name - and its Defeat
Facilities at this new £35 million, state-of-the-art school were first opened in May 2011, marking a major milestone in Penistone Grammar School's history. Along with such a major change came the inevitable pressure to re-brand, which so often afflicts businesses these days. In theory, the new facilities would take it beyond its basic utility as a school, with such as: conferencing, a 'well-being' service, gymnasium access and expanded community access.

A proposal emerged from Barnsley Council to dispense with the PGS name and call it: 'Penistone Grammar Advanced Learning Centre' (ALC), in keeping with similar organisations elsewhere in the Barnsley Borough. It was not to be. For the name-change to be legal and binding, unanimous approval from the School Board of Governors was a legal requirement. The meeting was held but agreement was far from unanimous and the old name of Penistone Grammar School was retained as the legal and proper name. The 'ALC' bit could be used as an optional extra but was not the legal name.

Despite this, some BMBC adherents use 'PG-ALC' at every turn, in the hope of it becoming the de-facto name through common usage. This has largely succeeded on local radio (with its council connections) and partly in the press but 'ALC' is not in common use by ordinary people. In any case, saying 'Pee-Gee-Ess', it trips off the tongue much more easily than 'Pee-Gee-Ay-El-Cee' and with the advantage that people know what PGS refers to. From a legal point of view, the school's proper and complete name continues to be simply: 'Penistone Grammar School', as it has for many years before.

'ALC Anonymous'
We might see the 'ALC' appendage as a description of the school's functionality rather than its name. That puts it in the same category as go-faster stripes on a car, to imply better performance, but you would not name the car 'The Go-faster Stripes', you would use the proper name. Also, as we can't be sure how effective the learning process might be, it might be better described as 'Advanced Teaching Centre' - ATC. A humorous connection could then be found with the 'Never Stop Flying' motto, seeing as ATC also stands for 'Air Traffic Control'.

School Motto
The school's ancient Latin motto 'Disce aut Discede' was inscribed on a stone above the doorway of the old Fairfield school. The stone was moved to an equivalent position in the then 'new' Weirfield school, on what we know as the Fulford Building. It had also featured for a long time on various incarnations of the school uniform badge. The motto translates as "Learn or leave". My version is "Get some work done or clear off".

The motto was re-branded in 2003 as 'Learning and Achieving Together.' You might reasonably expect the role of the teachers as more 'learned' than 'learning' but the new motto did not require a classical education to understand it. In 2011 the school controversially changed its motto again to: 'Never Stop Flying', to the puzzlement of many at the time, including local councillors who did not quite get it. Heraldic birds on the Clarel/Penistone Coat of Arms don't have feet and cannot land, so they and the pupils can never stop flying. Boom boom! Give that man a chocolate egg!

The new logo has also lost five of the heraldic birds to be out of step with everyone else's use of the Clarel coat of arms in Penistone, including Penistone Agricultural Society, Pengeston Masonic Lodge and Penistone Footpath Runners and Athletic Club, to name a few. Such is what happens with re-branding. One wonders what will happen next time.

Some Old Info
1992 window2000
Pupils: 1,333 plus 250 in the sixth form (16 y.o. and older).
Call them 'students' if you like but they are still pupils, just as railway 'customers' are still passengers. It is probably better to call them students when they go into education by choice and not by statute.
Number obtaining 5 GCSEs at grades A, B or C: 53%

The PGS website gave about 1600 pupils and said that they accepted 270 pupils in each year (yrs 7 - 11).

The Reunion 1992
The big 600th Anniversary of PGS came along in 1992 and was celebrated with a number of activities under the guidance of headmaster Mr. Bould (whom I mistook for a caretaker). A new window (shown on the right) was installed in Penistone Church in 1992 to celebrate the anniversary.

A big reunion was the main event, grouped into the years when people left school. Mr Bould gave a very fine speech at this hugely enjoyable event. As a spin-off from this, other smaller reunions occurred. People in my year organised a few get-togethers in a local pub and my thanks go to Lynn Harvey (nee Harley). It was a great pleasure to meet up with some old schoolmates whom I had not seen for a very long time. Some of us are talking about having another special re-union for a milestone year that will drop in 2012. I'll let you speculate on what might be special about that year.

Penistone Grammar School
Huddersfield Road
S36 7BX

Tel 762114, 765076, 765077
Fax 370328


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