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Treasures of Bolton School Revealed

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bolton School Archivist Eric Fairweather, supported by Philip Britton, Headmaster of the Boys’ Division, lead a gathering of parents and friends of the School in an evening perusing the historical treasures of Bolton School.

The focus of the evening was Lord Leverhulme and his seminal involvement with the foundation of Bolton School (Girls’ Division and Boys’ Division) in 1915. The evening began in the Boys’ Senior Library with a viewing of the signature of William Hesketh Lever, who in later years was to become Lord Leverhulme, which registered him as a governor of Bolton Grammar School in 1898. At the same time he agreed to help the school by putting up £5,000 to help fund the purchase of land for playing fields on part of what is now The Levels. Lever’s financial assistance to the school continued in many guises, including the provision of a swimming pool and the funding of scholarships. In 1899 he bought the freehold at Westbourne and offered it to the governors of the school, and he also financed the necessary building alterations.  

In 1913, he gave a generous joint endowment to the Bolton Grammar School for Boys and the High School for Girls on condition that the two should be equal partners known as Bolton School (Boys' and Girls' Divisions). On 1 April 1915, the Bolton School Foundation formally came into existence. He envisaged completely rebuilding the Bolton Grammar School, with one wing for boys and one for girls, who would be taught separately. War delayed the construction with work on the Chorley New Road building not commencing until 1924. 

When he re-endowed the School in 1915, Lever’s vision was of a central quadrangle based on Oxford colleges and this was finally realised in September of last year when the Riley Sixth Form Centre opened and linked the two divisions via glass walkways. Interestingly, he had envisaged a chapel joining the two schools but work on this was never undertaken as building work was interrupted by two world wars. 

The School is now focussed on increasing its bursary provision in order to realise an another integral part of Lever’s vision that an education for all is offered whatever their financial means.

Other important historial artefacts were also exhibited including the School Chest, the Headmaster’s Chair and the Chained Library which was gifted to the School in 1694 by “Mr James Leaver, Citison of London” with its collection of 97 books, 56 of which are actually chained into the library. The collection belongs to a time when books were precious and rare and includes a signed copy of Ainsworth’s Latin Dictionary. Ainsworth, a former pupil and teacher at the School, compiled his dictionary in 1736 and this was the standard Latin dictionary until Victorian times. 

The event whetted the appetite of those present in the build up to the School's 2015 celebration of 100 years on the current site and 2016 celebration of 500 years of education in Bolton.

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Eric Fairweather, Archivist and Philip Britton, Head, examine Lever

Eric Fairweather, Archivist and Philip Britton, Head, examine Lever's signature in the Governors' Album

Lever's signature is bottom right

The Headmaster's Chair and School Chest were also discussed