This week’s Secret Library Heritage Blog article has been written by Local and Family History’s Josh Flint and will be the first in a new series. This new series will be on treasures from the Local and Family History collection about Armley. This first Armley treasure is the 50th Jubilee of the West Leeds Girls; High School.
The West Leeds Girls’ High School Jubilee, 1907 – 1957, magazine is a great example of the variety of items that we have on Armley in our Collection. This magazine celebrates the first fifty years of the school while also having interesting memories from former and current staff and students. This is a great resource when trying to research the history of education in Leeds during the early 20th Century or just wanting to reminisce about your family’s school days. This blog will examine this magazine and see how the School was constructed and changed throughout its first fifty years.
One of the exciting treasures of this magazine is on the opening page, where there are twenty three signatures of former staff and students from the High School. Unfortunately, we do not know if this magazine was owned by a teacher or student but I like to imagine a leaving student asking their friends and teachers to sign this Jubilee magazine just before the end of the school year, just as leaving students ask fellow students to sign their school shirt’s today.. Let us know if you recognise any of these signatures.
Though only 64 pages this pamphlet has an incredible amount of information about the history of the West Leeds Girls’ High School, such as the names of the head teachers, how many students attended the school and how the school has changed in its first fifty years. This amount of information is invaluable and is normally very hard to find. I particularly appreciate that it is listed how many students attended the school under each head teacher. This type of information is often impossible to find outside of detailed school records.
The magazine goes into great detail about the Head Teachers and Councillors that have had a great influence on the school. The Chairman of the Education Committee, Alderman F. Kinder performed the opening ceremony and it was stated that the West Leeds High School was ‘Situated in a healthy position, constructed according to most modern principals, having excellent accommodation and equipment.’ Director of Education Dr Graham at a Celebratory Dinner 21 years later explained how he, some members of the Council and Architect, West Leeds man Mr Broadbent, that they visited schools on the continent and used this research to design the West Leeds High School when they returned. The School building was so highly regarded that it was visited by over eighty architects from around the country, when they were researching for their own designs. At the Opening Ceremony Alderman Kinder stated that his favourite criticism of the building was that the school was too magnificent and not fit for purpose.
The West Leeds High School was effectively two separate schools when it first opened as it housed both boys and girls but kept them completely separate. This is why it was called the West Leeds Girls’ High School even though boys went to the same building. The first Head Mistress Miss Janet A. C. Anderson with Miss A. Dixon being the Senior Mistress. The magazine describes Miss Anderson and Miss A. Dixon as gifted and striking personality’s and credits them for creating a special atmosphere that allowed the students to flourish. Miss Anderson had many accomplishments during her tenure as Head Mistress but her one of her most important actions, in 1921, was to create the Loans Training Fund, which allowed students to take training in chosen careers before they left school. This training would have been too expensive for many of the students without this fund. The detail of Miss Anderson’s tenure as Head Mistress in this magazine is quite incredible.
Finally moving to the modern day, which for this magazine was 1957, there are four special student and staff photographs to commemorate the fifty year of the school. These photographs include The Form Prefects for Summer Term 1957, Captains and Vice Captains of House Teams and Houses, The Sixth Form with Teachers Miss Menzies, Miss Guest and Miss Pickard and a Staff Picture in 1957. This magazine does a excellent job of preserving and contextualising the past while commemorating the present. these ‘current’ photographs show how the school has changed and stayed the same in the past fifty years.
This short article has attempted to show how impressive this West Leeds Girls’ High School magazine is. This fantastic magazine and other Armley items are available in the Local and Family History Departments Collection. If you have any memories of the West Leeds Girls’ High School then let us know.