Bowdon Church School was established by St Mary's Church, Bowdon in 1553 during the reigns of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey and Mary I (If you look at the history of the Tudor monarchs you’ll find out why we list all three!). It was partly funded by one Edward Janny, who was a Manchester merchant, as this extract from his will shows:
"£4 yearly to be payd to a sffyeyent and honest schole mayster to kepe a ffre scole at Bawden to instruct youthe in vertue and lerninge."
The school was rebuilt in the 17th century and then again at the start of the 19th century on the corner of Stamford Road and Richmond Road in the centre of Bowdon opposite The Griffin, where it stood up until 1971.
Its history throughout the nineteenth century can be traced in some detail from its rebuilding by local subscription in 1806; it offers an interesting reflection of contemporary trends in the development of primary education, as well as of facets of local life. The parish school catered for the children of the poor farming community and was financed mainly by subscriptions from wealthier residents, the children paying only a few pence per week.
A publication entitled 'Victorian Schools in Bowdon' by Myra-Kendrick (1996) A BOWDON HISTORY SOCIETY PUBLICATION gives further detail.
'Meantime, throughout the nineteenth century the Church School continued to play its part, and in its development reflected national trends in elementary education. In May 1817 it was affiliated to the voluntary body founded in 1811 and known as the National Society for Promoting Religious Education in accordance with the Principles of the Church of England, after which the parish school became known as the National School. This implied, among other conditions, that (to quote from the terms of union with the National Society) the pupils were to be "instructed in the Holy Scriptures and in the Liturgy and Catechism of the Established Church", the masters and mistresses were to be members of the Church of England and the school was under the supervision of the parochial clergymen.
It was in the 1850s that Bowdon Parish School had its first college-trained teachers, Mr. I.H. Dee from Cheltenham Training Institution and Miss Singleton from Warrington Training School, who both took up their posts in January 1855, he to be in charge of boys and she of girls. Boys and girls were to be taught separately, the boys on the ground floor and the girls above. The master was offered £75 a year salary, with an unfurnished house, gardens and coals; the mistress also had an unfurnished house and coals and £50 per annum. The school's finances appear to have depended on small weekly payments by the scholars and on voluntary contributions by church members. The National Society did not finance the school, although it made a building grant of £100 at the time of the affiliation. The master's house had been built in 1806, adjoining the newly-built school. Where the mistress's house was is not clear, though it may have been on the opposite side to the school on what is now known as Richmond Road. In about 1855 an infants' school was started with 55 children, said to have been held in a small room inadequate for the number of children, possibly in the master's house. Mrs. Phoebe Lumsden, an uncertificated teacher, was in charge. The children moved up to the main school at the age of six-and-a-half. This decade also saw the beginning of state aid for the Parish School. In 1854 at the School Managers' request, H.M. Inspector the Rev. H.R.P. Sandford paid a visit and reported on the building. He found the boys' department rather low in the roof. In 1858 the government Committee of Council for Education made a grant of £162 for "building, enlargement, fixtures or improvements" to Bowdon School, and plans for an entirely new infants' school with a small detached teacher's house, are extant dated 1858. Certainly an infants' school was completed in February 1858 and a new infants' class was started at once, each child paying 6d. a week.
Plans were under discussion to replace the main school building as well, but it was difficult to raise funds and there was long delay. It seems that eventually, probably in the seventies, the old building was extended rather than being replaced. In fact, these extended buildings were in use until 27 their demolition in 1969, when the school was moved to new premises in Grange Road. The infants' school, however, was replaced in 1908/9 by a new building in the Vale. Miss E.H. Spencer was then in charge of the infants.
From 1870, on the passing of the famous Education Act by which it became the duty of the State to see that there was sufficient accommodation to provide elementary education for all children, the Parish School began a new phase in its development, receiving certain state aid in exchange for modification of the timetable so that, by a "conscience clause", it became possible for dissenting parents to withdraw their children from periods of church teaching without impairing their general education. Religious instruction had to be confined to the beginning and end of the school day. Records show the continuing interest of several Bowdon families in the welfare of the Parish School. Local gentlemen served on the committee of management, and many church families subscribed to the building maintenance funds. The Carlisle family of High Lawn took a special interest in the infants' school, visiting the children at work and inviting them every summer to a treat in High Lawn garden. Similarly we read of the concerts given by school children which needed special time to prepare, and were doubtless attended by the school's patrons.'
In preparing for the centenary of the end of World War 1 Mrs Norbury has been trawling the archives based on the commemorative plaque at St. Mary’s. She has found that several of the young men who sadly died in service, are likely to have attended this school, based on their local addresses. If anyone has any knowledge of these young men and/or their families please get in touch.
Frederick Cockcroft - 7 Vale Cottages, Bowdon
John Milner Oliver - High Croft Bowdon
John Arthur (Jack) Ollier - 26 Priory Street
James Blackburn Smith - 16 Primrose Cottages
Samuel Percy Spilsbury - Primrose Cottages
Sydney Warburton - Vale Road
William Henry Hooley - Vicarage Lane
Others likely to have attended this school are:
Alfred Pimlott - Grange Road
Frederick Charles Herrity and John Herrity - 11 Eaton Road
Jamces Cockroft - Vicarage Lane
John Richard Ennion - Vicarage lane
John Haworth Whitworth DSO, MC - Stamford Road Bowdon
Neville Priestner - 12 Hamilton Terrace
Percy Geoffrey Du Val Haworth - Stamford Road
Robert Clare Sutton - Post Office, Stamford Road
This personal account was found on the BBC archive when researching for our Y6 WW2 local history topic
Evacuees: Guernsey to Cheshire by Sheila Murray (Hulme) https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/30/a2051830.shtml
Soon after the fall of France in 1940 the Germans invaded the Channel Islands, the only part of the British Isles to be occupied. The islands had some warning and a lot of children, with their teachers and pregnant women were evacuated by the Navy. One of the schools, children and teachers, were sent to Bowdon and we took in two girls. They stayed with us until the end of the war. Enid was born and bred in Guernsey and her parents were allowed to stay in Guernsey and although suffering privations and hardships, managed to come through all the years of occupation. Rita's parents had moved to Guernsey and they and her elder brother were taken to Germany as slave labourers. Amazingly they survived, although when they came back at the end of the war, they would not talk about what happened to them.
Enid, blonde and plump, and Rita, thin and dark, were about eight years old when they first arrived. Their school was absorbed by the Bowdon Church School where they went every day. The government gave the hostesses an allowance for their evacuees, but it did not fully cover the cost of bringing then up, not to my mother's standards anyway. They were nice girls, we always got on well, and I felt sorry that we did not keep in touch when they left; Enid to go back to Guernsey, Rita to live with relatives in England while her family decided what to do.
In 1969 the old site (close to the present Parish Centre) was cramped and unfit for purpose, so a new plot of land was purchased for £20,800, 'down the hill' on Grange Road, and a new school was built.
This brochure reveal the designs for the new school along with a proposed cost of £60,000, £12,000 of which would come from the parish.
In September 1969 the school opened its doors to the children from the top of the hill in a now legendary ‘walking the books’ procession. Where all of the children who were at the school at the time carried their books down the hill to the new school.
One of our grandfathers remembers the walk from the old school to the new Grange Road building and everything being so new! He particularly remembers the plastic chairs and trays to store all the children's books. He told Mrs Martin that the old school was on the point of falling down and plaster from the decaying Victorian ceiling fell on their heads! Memories also include a sweet shop just over the road from the playground entrance on Richmond Rd which is now a called Media House. Prefabs were also erected as temporary accommodation, later used by the Scouts and these were finally replaced by the new Community Centre.
The parish magazine from August 1971 describes the contrast from the old Victorian buildings to the new build on Grange Road.
"The end of an era. Nobody witnessed it without regret but the mind's eye wandered from the derelict victim of twentieth century vandals standing empty on its cramped site - to the new Bowdon Church School spacious and lovely in her green playing fields in Grange Road - another era."
Designed as an open plan single-storey, school the entrance of the school lead to the Head's office on the left and the small staff room on the right. Moving straight on took the visitor straight into the 'heart' of the building - the school hall. Everyone walked through the school hall several times a day since not only were daily assemblies held each morning for the whole school, along with PE lessons but all school meals were served and eaten in the hall. Four doors led off the hall to the classrooms - Reception, Year 1, Year 2 and the Junior wing.
Large windows on one side of the hall looked out onto the Junior playground - although in 1997 an extension to create a new medical room, hall storage and a much needed corridor to save walking through the Y3 classroom was built, meaning the large windows were significantly reduced.
This was not the only addition to the original building. Over the years a PTA music room was built, only to be acquired as an additional classroom; a new IT suite was added to the back of the school hall; and an additional 3 classroom block added on the field side, to accommodate Y5 and Y6 classes as the school increased from one and a half form entry to two form entry.
In 2014 the demand for places at BCS was high, yet the 1969 building had been showing signs of stress for several years. The building was single glazed, cold in winter and hot in the summer. With a flat roof we often had problems with leaks and buckets in classrooms and corridors after a heavy downpour were a common sight. Several classrooms had staff and children from other classes walking through them every day as the old layout lacked corridors. School council raised problems with the toilets on a regular basis. Staff were frustrated with the constraints of the building, wanting to deliver an exciting curriculum and yet not having the space or facilities to deliver.
The government offered a chance to expand the school to 3 form entry and a grant enabled us to rebuild, with a focus on exciting new teaching spaces, both inside and out!