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Bolton School: A Tradition of Philanthropy

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Founders and Benefactors assemblies are now embedded in the Bolton School Boys’ Division calendar after being introduced during the 100/500 year celebrations in 2015-16 and offer a chance to reflect on the school’s history. Leading this year’s assembly, Headmaster Mr Philip Britton told how it was on this very day, 7 May in 1925, that Lord Leverhulme, who re-endowed the School in 1915 when he united it with the Bolton High School for Girls to become Bolton School (Girls’ and Boys’ Divisions), had died in his London home of pneumonia. The Headmaster also recalled how Bolton Grammar School (a forerunner of the Boys’ Division) is first mentioned as a going concern in 1516 and how it was first endowed during the English Civil War by Robert Lever. All the School’s benefactors believed that education can be transformative and life-changing. It is a tradition that still holds true today as Bolton School stands in the top 10 schools in the country in terms of the size of its bursary fund and with one in five Senior School pupils receiving financial assistance to pay their fees. 

The School Captain and his deputies gave short presentations which oriented the whole school audience in the Bolton and Britain of 1516. Henry VIII was on the throne and happily married to his first wife, ‘Utopia’ by Thomas More was recently published and an early version of ‘The Post’ was in place which was to become the Royal Mail. The town of Bolton comprised of only a few hundred people – less than the number of boys sat in the Great Hall for the assembly. Bolton was a market town with a few landmarks that can still be recognised today such as the Parish Church, Ye Olde Man and Scythe pub, Smithills Hall, Turton Tower and Rivington Tithe Bar.  On the outskirts of town, an agricultural society was beginning to develop in the hills. 

Captain Matthew Schaffel told of how the School was beginning to take shape at that time. John Barton made a request in his Will for educational provision to be provided in Bolton (July 1516) and this is the earliest record of Bolton Grammar School. He also told of how, in 1644, the local Lever family had made money as cloth magnates and how they had re-invested it in the town through endowing Bolton School. 

Mr Britton noted that for Y13 this would be their last full assembly before taking leave of absence to revise for their A levels and that many had been at the school since Y3. He reminded them, in the words of retiring Chairman of Governors Michael Griffiths, to go out into the world and “to try to make a difference for good and make each place a tiny bit better than when you arrived.” 

The Headmaster also told of how, in the early 1900s, Headmaster Lipscomb had adopted the school song 'Forty Years On' from Harrow. An early example of brand alignment mused the current Head?  Mr Britton had brought the School Song ‘back to life’ in 2016 and remarked that in another 3 years’ time, through regular airings, it will be embedded in each boy’s mind as they leave school. The boys sang this and a rousing version of Jerusalem before organist Mr Pain played Boellmann Toccata as the boys headed off to morning classes.

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