Bolton School Senior Boys

Quincentenary Assembly Celebrates School’s History

Pupils in Years 7 to 9 were joined by Old Boys, Governors, former Headmaster Mervyn Brooker and the families of two previous Heads for a special celebration of the School’s 500 years of history. The Anniversary Assembly looked back at three key moments in the School’s past.

Musical interludes set the scene for the historical period before three pupils came forward to speak about each time. They gave context by talking first about the nation and the town of Bolton, before finally speaking about the School at the time in question and the specific importance of the year. The Assembly coincided with the unveiling of the new Headmasters’ Board, which lists the names of all known Headmasters from the 16th Century to date, and a display of Chairmen of Governors. Therefore the history was also interspersed with recollections of four former Headmasters from the last century.

Following a brief introduction and welcome from the current Headmaster, Mr Britton, the Anniversary Assembly began with a long-standing Bolton School tradition: the singing of ‘Jerusalem’.

1516 was the first focus point for the assembly, as this date marks the earliest origins of the school. Ben Sykes transported the hall back to the 16th Century with his performance of ‘Fantasia’ by Anthony Holborne on the guitar. Pupils then talked about Henry VIII and the world of the 16th Century, the small settlement of Bolton and what remains from this period, and about Bolton Grammar School for Boys, the school that would later become the Boys’ Division as it exists today. In 1516, the widower John Barton became a friar. In his will he granted a sum of money to pay for Nicholas, a clerk, to teach grammar at Bolton School, then “a going concern”. This is the first written record of the School’s existence.

Daniel Anderson’s recorder performance of ‘Malle Symen’ by Jacob Van Eyck moved the assembly forward to 1644 and the re-endowment of the school. The first Civil War was in its third year, and the town of Bolton played an important role in this conflict as a Parliamentarian outpost surrounded by Royalist landowners. Amidst this turmoil, Robert Lever re-endowed Bolton School: a much-needed infusion, as the chaos surrounding the Civil War and some mismanagement had left it weak, with few students, poor buildings and too little income to support the teachers. Robert resolved to give a gift in his will to his native county, and in doing so he re-founded the school. The school set out to have better academic standing and to grow, and evidence of the success of this venture can be seen in the further gift of the Chained Library by James Lever in 1694.

‘My Funny Valentine’ by Rodgers and Hart, played by Niall Woodward on piano, opened the section about the current Foundation. A group of boys spoke about the final key period in the School’s history: 1915. The nation was at the time gripped by the First World War, which had not turned out to be over by Christmas as predicted, and the town of Bolton, then at its most prosperous with mills dominating the landscape and several modern features of the town already in existence. It was into this climate that, on 1 April 1915, following five years of planning and discussion with the heads of Bolton Grammar School for Boys and Bolton High School for Girls, the Bolton School Foundation with its two Divisions came into existence through the philanthropy of William Hesketh Lever, who later became 1st Viscount Leverhulme. The School’s new site on Chorley New Road was selected as this was the new and developing area of town.

Throughout the assembly, the four most recent Headmasters were remembered, in honour of the unveiling of the new board listing the Roll of Headmasters.

A current pupil read recollections of Mr Poskitt, the Headmaster from 1933 to 1966. These included the words of Bernard Harrison, a member of staff, who noted that he had “a dream, an ambitious and lively vision of how he wanted his school to grow and the kind of boys he would like it to turn out into the world”. There were also Alumni memories of Mr Poskitt and Old Boy Sir Ian McKellen’s recollection of the “enlightened and liberal public school ethic” that he brought to the School.

Mr McMillan offered his personal memories of Mr Baggley, who was Headmaster from 1966 to 1982. These included two amusing tales from his schooldays: one involving a Sixth Form prank that attracted Mr Baggley’s attention, and the other the Headmaster’s unexpected arrival at Cautley, then the School’s outdoor pursuits centre, to inspect the pointing in an unusual manner. He concluded by saying that Mr Baggley certainly left an impression.

Some fond recollections of Mr Wright, Headmaster between 1983 and 2002, were given by Mr Teasdale. He said that Mr Wright “seemed to know and care about every boy – an astonishing achievement in a school of our size.” He spoke of the enthusiastic introduction to Bunsen burners Mr Wright gave his class, and how the respected and compassionate Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books took on the form of his headmaster in real life. He also mentioned the advice given by Mr Wright in his final assembly, and the spontaneous standing ovation he received in return.

The School Captain, Chris Pantelides, finally offered a summary of Mr Brooker’s time as Headmaster from 2003 to 2008. He talked about Mr Brooker’s passion for sport, his concern for the boys above all, the birth of the Psychology department, and the lifting and swift reinforcement of the snowball-throwing ban. Chris ended by saying, “Mostly, though, it is for his commitment, openness and fairness that he is remembered, and as someone who strived for equal prospects for all his students.”

Pupils and guests concluded the assembly by raising their voices to sing the school song, ‘Forty Years On’. This was the first time in fifty years that it was sung by the current student body, and the Boys’ Division intends to rekindle the tradition.

A second Anniversary Assembly was held the following morning for the whole school, to allow all Boys’ Division pupils to join in the anniversary celebrations.


The full Anniversary Assembly can be viewed in three parts by clicking the following links, or by pressing the play button below:


Photograph Beside Roll of Headmasters Board

Left to right: Celia Freeborn (née Baggley), current Headmaster Philip Britton, Rachel Baggley, Old Boy Malcolm Howe, Martin Baggley, Former Headmaster Mervyn Brooker, Chairman of Governors Michael Griffiths, Paul Freeborn, Elizabeth Poskitt



Headmaster Philip Britton with guests at the unveiling of the new Roll of Headmasters board

Headmaster Philip Britton with guests at the unveiling of the new Roll of Headmasters board

Current pupils talked about the history of the school

Current pupils talked about the history of the school

Musical performances evoked different historic periods

Musical performances evoked different historic periods