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Ashbourne: Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, The Green Road - 1909-64


Ashbourne's new Grammar School, replacing the Elizabethan Old School on Church Street, was opened by the Duke of Devonshire on Monday 23 August 1909. It was Wakes week in Ashbourne and the streets were decorated with flags, banners and lines of bunting so the atmosphere was as if were a public holiday. A procession through the town was formed at the Old School at midday and included the Duke, members of the Old Trust, the school's governing body, the Headmaster (Mr. Butcher) and Assistant Masters, past pupils, Councillors, members of the County's Education Committee as well as members of the public. The only down side was that rain fell heavily throughout the day[1].

A silver key inscribed "Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Ashbourne, August 23, 1909" was presented to the Duke to unlock the door and then declare the new school open[1]. This key was returned to the school by the grandson of the earlier Duke on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Green Road site and used to be presented to the school captain each year (the role alternated between boy and girl) but today is given to the both head boy and head girl.

The new buildings on what was then Wirksworth Road were designed by Mr. E. M. Longsdon, F.S.I., M.R.S.I., of Bakewell whilst the builder was Mr. W. Thorley of Norbury. A Manchester firm, Messrs. Saunders and Taylor, were responsible for the school's heating and ventilation. There was space for about 180 scholars, though the premises could accommodate around 20 more pupils if necessary. Girls were admitted for the first time in the school's history and in 1912 there were 95 pupils[2].


It is difficult to be sure, but the top image probably dates from just after the First World War as the building looks slightly more weathered than a new build would be. The grass was also quite long. A weather station was to the left of the main school building.
This enlargement shows two field guns displayed on what were raised gravel covered borders along the front of the school.
The headmaster's car is in the middle, at the bottom of the steps up to the main entrance.
Virginia creeper, a large and vigorous deciduous climber with wonderful autumn colour, can be seen against the walls in a couple of
places, but the plants were immature.


The Edwardian structure was faced with gritstone wallstone from the Black Rocks Quarries at Cromford and had a long, imposing frontage looking towards the south east and downwards to the road. We first notice the central tower and then the two detached blocks, one at each end, which housed cloakrooms on the ground floor with a cookery room for girls on the first floor of the right hand block and a "manual instruction room" above the boys' cloakrooms on the left. There were also rooms on the ground floor, overlooking the front drive, that were used by the sixth form in the 1950s but seemed to fall out of use in the early 1960s.

The blocks were joined to the main building by a wall with an archway in it, providing entrances for the pupils into the main building via the back doors. This outside area, which could be bitterly cold in the winter, was where bottles of milk were available in the mid-morning break when the web mistress was a pupil. Indeed, until the trees grew this was a very exposed site in the winter months.

On the ground floor were rooms for the governing body, the clerk, the headmaster, assistant masters and mistresses and a classroom for the juniors with two other classrooms turned into a temporary gymnasium when the school opened. The great hall (55 feet by 27 feet) was lit by large windows[1].


1935. The field guns were still displayed outside the school.
Virginia creeper had started to grow up the facade, softening the somewhat austere design.
The tennis courts were in use, too. There were three courts by this time, two hard courts also
used for netball in the 1950s and a grass court on a lawn lower down (behind the shrubs).


At first floor level, off a corridor that ran almost the whole length of the building, were three classrooms and a physical and biological laboratory, a geography or lecture room. At the other end an art room had been built; it was said to be perhaps the finest in the country. The art room was lit by an immense north window and the windows on the southern side were fitted with blinds. This was a feature considered to be good in art studios in general as the light from the north was softer. There were two stairways up to the first floor and even in the 1960s one was for boys and the other for girls, apart from when pupils went up to the upper rooms in the tower.

The drives were also single sex, with the girls and female staff using the longer tree lined drive to the right of the main gates whilst the boys and male staff members walked up the steeper drive on the left past their beloved fives court. It was in almost constant use when the boys weren't attending lessons. The top image shows a narrow boys' drive covered with compressed stone chippings, possibly local limestone, which was widely used as a road surface before the first war. It was replaced by tarmac, less dusty in the summer and less sludgy in the winter. The aerial view below indicates that both drives and the flat area immediately in front of the school had been tarmacadamed.


Aerial view. Probably post war, as the virginia creeper has reached the top of the building
and the trees lining the two drives - boys to the left, girls to the right - are more mature.
The self-clinging creeper's autumn colour has always been a glorious site.
There is, as yet, no canteen next to the woodwork room / boy's cloakroom building on the left.


Ashbourne craftsmen made many of the fittings for the new school. Messrs. W. Smith and Son were responsible for the laboratory and other fittings, using special designs by the architect; Mr. Locker made the chairs; desks and other fittings were made by Messrs. P. Birch and Sons; the ironmongery was supplied by Mr. W. Barnes. The strongroom had a door supplied by Messrs. Chatwood Patent Safe and Lock Co. The school's entrance gates were supplied by the Wolverhampton firm of Hames Gibbon and made at their St. John's works.


The school in 1955.
There is a tent on the far left and behind it is the school's canteen, then in a prefab.


The staff included five graduates in 1911. Both boys and girls were taken from 8 years of age and there was a preparatory class from five years old[3].The prep department was small and its pupils were taught in the very top room of the central tower. In the 1920s Miss Maskery was in charge of this and she may have been from the outset as she was on the staff in 1911[4]. She helped at the sports day that summer. It was held on the school field and Hull house won the championship for the third year in a row. The range of events was interesting as the sports included athletics, shooting, cricket and tennis[5].

Members of staff in 1912 were: William James Butcher (headmaster); Arthur E. Ottaway, William A Wood, Robert Essex who were assistant masters; Miss Mabel Duckitt and Miss Olive Jenkins were assistant mistresse; Miss Margaret Maskery, preparatory mistress (already mentioned)[2]. An advertisement in 1919 listed the staff as: Mr. R. C. Legge (Headmaster), Miss Jean Burn (Senior Mistress), Mr. Cranston Bell, Mr. Pearson, Mr. Hyslop, Mr. Locker, Miss E.G. Kidwell, Miss L. A. Beckett, Mr. D. W. Barrow, Miss M. Bramley, Miss Maskery and Miss "A. N. Other"[6]. Ten years later the staff included Miss Watson (matron), Miss Burn, Miss Edwards, Miss Butler, Miss Welsh, Mrs. Beckett and Messrs T. A. L. Phillips (housemaster), Cranston Bell, H. P. Pearson, H. Conrad and H. J. Mears[7].

By 1928 the number of pupils in the main school had increased significantly to around 220[8]. It was still catering for children aged 8 to 18 in 1939 under the headship of Major Charles Ball[9].

The school began to change after the 1944 Education Act was passed; the act introduced both free education for all and the 11+ examination as secondary schools were divided into three categories - grammar, secondary modern and technical.

The first major structural additions to the school, apart from two prefab classrooms, were in the early 1960s when laboratories and additional cloakroom facilities (that were both better and warmer) were built, joined to the main block by a corridor running the length of the hall. The bike sheds that were to the left of the main gate have gone, the tennis courts seem to be car parks and there are numerous modern buildings surrounding the original school today.



The Elizabethan was a booklet produced annually about the school and its pupils, containing articles, short stories, poems and artwork as well as listing sporting achievements and examination successes. The 1964 edition bade farewell to "Dickie" Mears, the senior master and a popular and gifted teacher of mathematics who retired after 42 years service to the school.


Ashbourne is mentioned in the following on-site transcripts:

Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811, Parishes A, which has more about the town.
The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868. Ashbourne is mentioned briefly in two sections, though not the school.
The Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire - Charters, Documents & Deeds : Places A - B, mentions Ashbourne

1. "Grammar School, Ashbourne". [No publisher] No.16082-34. Printed in England. Unused.
2. [Grammar School, Ashbourne] Valentine's Post Card No.G.2546. This is a Real Postcard. Unused but first registered in 1935.
3. "Grammar School, Ashbourne". Aero Pictorial Ltd., 137 Regent Street, London, W.1. Copyright Air Photograph No.P7139 Unused. [bought in 1964, but clearly taken well before then].
4. "Grammar School, Ashbourne". Valentine & Sons, Ltd., Dundee and London No.K9764. Bought in Sep 1958 but first registered in 1955. Sent by web mistress to sister.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] There were several reports of the opening ceremony including:
i. Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 24 August 1909. Duke of Devonshire at Ashbourne. New Grammar School Opened.
ii. Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 27 August 1909. Opening of the New Grammar School. On another page was Queen Elizabeth's Grammar Sshool, Ashbourn. The New Buildings Opened by the Duke of Devonshire.

[2] Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1912.

[3] Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 13 January 1911. One of a series af adverts for the school. Term began on 21st Jan.

[4] The 1911 census shows Margaret Ann Maskery (1784-1946) living on Clifton Road with her mother and sister. Her occupation was given as Assistant Mistress In Secondary School. By 1939 she had retired and had moved to The Green Road with her sister Edith.

[5] Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 28 July 1911. Ashbourne Grammar School Sports.

[6] Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 12 September 1919. "Miss A. N. Other" could have been a staff member who did not wish to be named or, and more probably, this name was inserted for a female teacher who had not yet been appointed.

[7] Derby Daily Telegraph, 29 May 1929. Funeral of Richard Legge, headmaster.

[8] Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1928.

[9] Derby Daily Telegraph, 28 January 1939.

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