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Monday, 22 September 2014
At the latest Old Boys’ Lunch, Boys’ Division alumni and former members of staff celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the completion of the North Wing of the building. This front wing, which runs along Chorley New Road, was the final piece of the Boys’ Division to be finished.
Old Boys from the Class of 1971 were sent a special invitation to the lunch, to help commemorate the occasion. As 1971 leavers, theirs was the first year group to make full use of the new wing when they entered the Senior School in 1964; they were also the first to see and use the School as a whole for the duration of their Senior School education.
Five alumni answered the call, and were able to share their memories of entering the new building for the first time over the course of the Lunch. Three former teachers, Charles Winder, David Shaw and Howard Northam, also came along to share their memories. Peter Acton, who left the school in 1971, gave a short address about the significance of the North Wing at the end of the lunch. He said, “As my surname begins with the letters ‘AC’, I realised later that I was probably the first boy to be ushered into the new building! I remember there was a smell of newness about it. It seems, looking back, that the whole of my life was set in the first term in the new building.”
The School was re-endowed in 1913 by Sir William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, and the Bolton School Foundation was officially formed in 1915, bringing together the Bolton High School for Girls and Bolton Grammar School for Boys.
Leverhulme always planned for the Schools to share one site and a specially designed new building. There was a delay building work due to the outbreak of the First World War, but this did not prevent Leverhulme from continuing to make plans for the School. In 1917, he arranged an architectural competition for the plan of the new school buildings. This was judged in 1919, with Charles T. Adshead winning first place; Leverhulme was so impressed with his work that he eventually appointed Mr Adshead the architect of the building. However, work only began on the buildings themselves in 1924, after Leverhulme’s death.
The first phase of the build included both Great Hall wings, linked by the Central Arch: forming the centre of the School. The South Wing of the Girls’ Division was also built at this time, and the new Girls' Division buildings were the first to be opened by the 2nd Viscount Leverhulme on the 25th of September 1928. A year later in September 1929, the Boys' Division occupied their Great Hall, but there were no new classrooms for boys at this time.
The Boys' Division South Wing was completed almost three years later, in January 1932, and the Girls’ Division West Wing was opened by Dr. Winifred Cullis in 1934. The East Wing of Boys' Division was partially occupied by December 1956, and fully occupied in 1957. This left only the North Wings of the Boys’ and Girls’ Division to be completed.
This final phase of building work began in 1963, and the Boys' Division North Wing was completed in 1964, fifty years ago this September.
The Girls' Division North Wing was a larger project, as the four-storey West Wing had to be completed before the lower North Wing was added to complete the quadrangle. It was scheduled for completion in 1965 but the Girls actually occupied the premises from January 1966.
Leverhulme’s original plan for the school also included a central, shared Chapel, which was to rest between the two Great Hall Wings and opposite the Central Arch to create a third, central quadrangle. However, due to lack of funding, this was never built. In 2013, work was completed on the School’s new Riley Sixth Form Centre, which sits in the Chapel’s intended space and completes the final link between the Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions, a secular and social interpretation of Leverhulme’s original plan.
The Riley Centre itself celebrates its first anniversary at the same time that the North Wing celebrates its fiftieth.
It was fantastic to see so many Old Boys to return to School to celebrate the half-century since the completion of the Boys’ Division, especially those who were the first Year 7 pupils – then known as Shell 1 and 2 – to take advantage of the School as a whole.
This anniversary marks the beginning of a particularly exciting period in the School’s history, with many special dates on the calendar. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Bolton School will celebrate the Centenary of the formation of the Bolton School Foundation as a result of the School’s re-endowment by Lord Leverhulme, and the Centenary of the 19th Bolton (Bolton School) Scouts. As part of the festivities, the School will also commemorate 500 years of education in Bolton.
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