by Bob Dobson (Pupil No 5723 1952-57)


Accrington accelerates

A whirlwind had hit Accrington. He kicked the school into action. He shook it by the scruff of its neck. He brought progress. We have Dr Edkins to thank for so many things. He was truly a giant in educational terms. Calling himself Doctor immediately raised the profile of the school. He set about things with a new broom. He introduced a house system to instil competition - Willows (royal blue), Rhyddings (blue), Coppice (yellow), Clayton (green) and School (red). The house colours were used as a background on the school cap or bonnet worn by pupils to indicate where their loyalties lay. A member of Coppice House wrote ‘We are the house, the others are mere huts’ and another sang ‘Clayton is the greatest, grandest and most magnificent house’ before remarking on  ‘Weeping Willowsites’. In much later years, School house was to disappear.

Fifty former pupils lust their lives in the Great War. The Old Students Association was inactive during this Period until it was revived by Edkins, who had by now also given the school its colours - red and black - and started a sixth form divided into A (Arts) and S (Science) classes.

Perhaps Edkins’ greatest gift to the 26 year old school came about without any prior publicity in the Accrington Observer and Times, nor in the corporation committee minutes. He worked behind the scenes with the result that the Minister of Education wrote to the Mayor of Accrington to say that the school should henceforth be called ‘Accrington Grammar School’. Edkins had again raised the school’s profile and status. It now ranked alongside Clitheroe, Burnley and Blackburn in the First Division. Those pupils in 1921 must have been bursting with pride as they walked along Blackburn Road.

And there’s more

A Speech Prize or Special Day was held in December 1921, the first for many years. Pupils and parents were addressed by Mr Bailey of Lancashire County Council Education Committee, who asked the head for a day’s holiday, ‘a request which Dr Edkins could not refuse’. That same momentous year, an ‘annus mirabilis’ for the school, saw the very first Sports Day which lasted until 6.3Opm because of the 34 competitive events. E.J. Riley & Co had given a shield for the best sporting house and the Kenyon and Pilkington families, particularly, gave generously in the form of scholarships. Henry Parkinson was also a ‘friend and well-wisher’ who put his hand in his pocket. His benevolence to the school and the town cannot be over-stated. He is perhaps best known for his endowment of Oak Hill Park with its Parkinson Memorial Rock Garden , but one of his pioneering activities had been to teach technical education to Accrington mill workers from 1881 onwards. He taught cotton spinning and related subjects to workers from Howard and Bullough which resulted in the  subsequent establishment of their Technical School.

The school magazine, The Acorn, was now restarted as The Accringtonian with a new cover at a cost of one shilling for the first 32 page issue. Edkins did not write in it but his influence could still be felt. He made an appeal through the editor for photographs of the 50 lads and lasses who had lost their lives in the war to end all wars. Today’s headmasters can teach him nothing.

The school was inspected by His Majesty’s Inspector in December 1922. The report stated there were 623 pupils, each paying £6 13 6d per year for tuition from 25 regular and 4 occasional members of staff. The number of pupils had increased from the 262 pupils at the inspection ten years earlier to 418 in 1917 and 557 in 1920. The Inspector commented that ‘the most serious feature is the low average leaving age and the short length of school life’. A second staircase was built and the lavatory accommodation extended. Ten years later the Inspector returned to find 626 pupils (335 boys and 291 girls) and a sixth form of 50. The average leaving age had increased along with the duration of school life. The Inspector also found other improvements to praise. ‘A sports field and pavilion have been acquired’. The conclusion this time was that the school was:

thoroughly efficient, directed wisely with freshness of outlook, and possessed of a vigorous spirit and a highly developed sense of corporate life.

The Accringtonian

Let us look at some of these magazines.

In No 4 (November 1922) someone declared that ‘The House of Clayton is now a Mansion, and the “Hut” has been demolished’. By now, boy pupils were going to the town’s new swimming baths every Monday and French and Spanish were being taught. The school had a football team of which to be proud.

No 5 (April 1923) reported eighteen boys making a trip to France in the summer holidays. An inter-house tennis competition had been started.

By now, we have noticed that in the magazines, and undoubtedly in school, the Christian names of girl pupils were used, but boys were referred to by their surnames.

In No 8 (December 1924) we learn that The Wireless Club, a forerunner of today’s Computer Club, had been started.

In No 9 (June 1925) reference is made to The School Song, written by Walter Hilton and set to music by Mr Shaw, who had recently left to become headmaster of the new Central School, Oswaldtwistle. There was now a chess club, a sixth form society and a library of sorts. Those leaving school were asked to bequeath a book or a memento of his/her chequered career at the grammar school.

No 10 (January 1926) tells us that school had started a week later than usual because of internal painting - something which did not happen frequently, then as now! The new intake did not become first forms; for some unknown reason they entered 3A, B, C or D. The higher forms were numbered 4, Lower 5, 5 and 6. There was also a ‘Remove’ form in which Latin and Spanish were taught to make provision for late entrants. The Scientific Society heard a lecture from Driver, a sixth-former, on ‘the component parts of a wireless set’. It was agreed that the school would benefit from having a wireless set.

In issue No 11 young Leslie Ranson writes on the 1926 General Strike, which had inconvenienced staff and pupils travelling from outlying districts whose transport arrangements  had been disrupted; he later became Mayor of Accrington.

In issue No 15 (December 1928), D. Catlow penned this acrostic:

A is for Accrington, where we must swat,

C is for Cramming, the poor scholar’s lot;

C is for Chemmy., with formulas great,

R is for Reasoning put in one’s pate.

I Independence we learn every day,

N is for Needlework taught by Miss K;

G are the Games which we play with a zest,

T is for Trig., which is rather a pest.

O is the Order in form which we gain,

N are the Noughts which we sometimes obtain.


G is for Geomy., Geog. and Gym.,

R are the Ratios, horrid and grim;

A is for Algy, which gives me a pain,

M are the Maths, taught to strengthen one’s brain.

M are the Masters and Mistresses, too.

A is Arithmetic, taught by a few:

R are the rest, who are quite a nice crew.


S is the System on which the School’s run,

C is the Care with which all this is done;

H is the homework, which is our great bane,

O is the Object we wish to attain.

O are the Obstacles we must make fall,

L stands for Labours, which conquer them all.

Pages (1) (2) (3) (4)


back to top