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Assembly Celebrates Founders and Benefactors

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Headmaster Philip Britton was delighted to welcome a selection of boys into the Great Hall for this year’s Founders’ and Benefactors’ Assembly. He was equally pleased to welcome pupils and Old Boys from around the world via Zoom. The annual event, inaugurated in 2015 in the School’s 500th year, is held on or around the 7th of May, which marks the anniversary of the death of Lord Leverhulme who died in 1925. Leverhulme was the School’s most recent founder and was responsible for bringing the School together as we know it today.

Mr Britton recapped the original foundation of the boys’ grammar school during Henry VIII’s reign, its re-founding during the English Civil War and then the coming together of the Bolton School Foundation during the tumult of the First World War. He focused on the year 1905 when Mr William Hesketh Lever, as he was known then, gave the School a swimming pool, which is now the Arts Centre and the oldest building on the Chorley New Road site. Sixth Form Senior Monitors Jude Ashcroft and Hamzah Chariwala and Vice-Captain Thomas Britton spoke about, respectively, life in Britain, life in the town and life in Bolton School in 1905.

Mr Britton impressed upon the audience that it is important, as a school, to feel that we are part of history. Whilst the school lives and is vibrant in the present and whilst it looks to the future with innovation and ambition, we do still walk in the steps of those that have gone before us, he said, and in doing so we find important lessons and messages for our own lives. The sense of being part of an enduring institution is, he felt, important. He recalled as a boy witnessing a 97 year old woman planting a tree in her garden, knowing that she would not benefit from this but others would. He asserted that drawing on the past, living vibrantly in the present and investing in the future is what the Bolton School education is all about.

The School’s ethos, he said, is timeless and, over the last 18 months, these values, ‘what we care about’, has been transferred into our homes through Zoom. He told how a sense of belonging is important to us all and that, despite the Covid pandemic, there has still been a strong sense of school community.

Mr Britton took the audience back to 1905 and told how Mr Lever was already a wealthy local businessman but was still to become great. Port Sunlight was in the planning and he had yet to go to the Congo, where, as had been discussed in a previous assembly, he tried to do good to people rather than with people. His focus in Bolton was on how he could help pupils living in homes on terraced streets not rich houses. His benefaction was inclusive. It was interesting, the Head thought, that he saw it as being important to build a swimming pool and that our Founder believed in the community and people getting better through education and exercise – the concept of an holistic education which we still adhere to today.

The Head recounted how some Alumni have put their names to School buildings, whilst many, many others have contributed what they can afford to the bursary fund. This, he emphasised, is not the passing on of privilege but former pupils, having benefitted from a Bolton School education in the past, ‘making sure the ladder of social mobility is in good repair’.

Mr Britton drew the assembly to a close by ‘congratulating’ the Y13 boys on sitting through at least 400 of his assemblies and consequently having spent a week of their lives listening to him!

The assembly, which included the singing of the School song ‘Forty Years On’ and ‘Jerusalem’ can be watched via this link and lasts around 30 minutes.

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