Schooling in Halliwell

Three happenings in Halliwell were recently reported in the Bolton Evening News and I feel we should record these for the benefit of future local historians. Oxford Grove C.P. School and Halliwell Library have closed. A new school has been built in Shepherd Cross Street on the playing field opposite Cellini Street. On the opening day, Monday 4th September 2000, pupils walked in procession from the old to the new school led by the Smithills School Brass Band. A new state of the art computerised library will be housed in the new school to serve the public and the school. It will also continue the present ‘house-bound’ readers service. The old library has served the public of Halliwell well for 90 years. It seems destined to become a community centre. Hopefully the building, one of the finest in Halliwell, will be preserved, particularly the beautiful stained glass on each side of the entrance.

A third project reported called ‘Sure Start’ is a scheme to help young children and families in Halliwell from before birth until four years old. It is a partnership managed by the Council, N.H.S. and voluntary groups to provide accessible and affordable childcare services for teenage parents with support for special needs children. The centre for this scheme is the site of the old Oxford Grove School and building work could start soon. How much, if any, of the old school will be re-used is not clear, maybe it will become another community centre.

I have been to look, from the outside, at the new school. It is a single storey brick building with entrance and car parks, not very imposing, in Shepherd Cross Street. The best view is from Hatfield Road, corner of Victoria Grove; it is a long building in orange coloured brick with bands of darker brick and brown roof tiles. Sitting on top of a grass bank above the playing field it gives a pleasing impression. I have tried to convey this in the sketch. The notice board outside the school describes it as Oxford Grove Primary School, Community Rooms and Crèche, Halliwell Library.

Having looked at the new school, I thought it may be of interest to look at some of the history of Halliwell’s Schools. In the Halliwell Township Books 1640 – 1762 the school is mentioned at Mr Dickens house, near Halliwell Hall now Halliwell Heights on Church Road, opposite Harper’s Lane. The Township bought the building in 1724. Education was not free but poor children were paid for from the Sacrament Money. The Jubilee School replaced this school in 1811 at the Church Road/Captain’s Clough junction. It was built to cater for 400 pupils, now it is St. Peter’s Parish Centre. I do not know if it was used as a day school until Church Road Council School was built in 1910 to cater for 800 children.

Various legislation and Education Acts have been introduced since the early years of the 19th century to control the employment and education of juveniles. In 1870 elementary schools to teach the 3 R’s were set up in areas where school provision was inadequate. Boards were set up to manage these schools which were the first local authority run schools. They supplemented the voluntary privately endowed schools i.e. mainly church schools. In 1876 it was established that all children should receive elementary education and in 1880 school attendance up to the age of 10 became compulsory. If too few attendances were made a child had to stay on until they were 13 years of age.

Elementary education became free in 1891 and school-leaving age was raised to 14 in 1918. In 1982 Halliwell had 6 church schools, St. Luke’s, St. Matthews, St. Paul’s and St. Thomas’s were C of E, St. Joseph’s R.C. and Halliwell Road Wesleyan. Council schools were at Brownlow Fold and Gaskell Street. Only two church schools remain those being St. Thomas’s and St. Joseph’s. St Luke’s seems to have disappeared in 1905 when Oxford Grove council school was opened, now it too has been replaced. St Paul’s schools, lower 1847, upper 1856 were built by John Horrocks Ainsworth. The buildings are still with us, they ceased to be used as day schools in 1924 when children were transferred to Wolfenden Street, Church Road or Gaskell Street schools, except that they were used for a period during WWII.

Wolfenden Street opened in 1912/13 to cater for some 900 children, no doubt it took some of the 700 or so children from the Halliwell Road Wesleyan School when that closed. St Thomas’s

is still with us; the school was opened in 1879 some four years after the church. In 1935 a new infants school was built in the schoolyard facing Grove Street. It opened on the 22nd February 1936 and the old school was re-opened as a junior school for children 5 to 11 years. Older children had to move, girls to Wolfenden Street and boys to Brownlow Fold. Brownlow Fold, which was built in 1891 for 1160 scholars has, along with Gaskell Street, been long gone. Wolfenden Street seems to have been used for a number of years now as an adult education or community centre.

Two schools not previously mentioned are the small school at Collier’s Row which was built by the Ainsworth’s over the years 1841 to 1900. It could accommodate 125 children; nowadays it is used as a private house. St Peter’s School, opposite the entrance to Smithills Hall has replaced it. The other, a council school, was Whitecroft Road opened in 1932 and complete with a swimming bath. This was demolished probably 15 years ago and houses now occupy the site. A large school, Smithills School, probably caters for the children who went to the many council schools and church schools we used to have.

Schools used to seem to be with us for ever, but in recent years they appear and disappear with amazing rapidity. Maybe it’s a question of supply and demand, falling birth-rates etc and maybe it is sensible to get rid of anything that is no longer needed. As they say ‘times change’.

By H Jones