Willaston School

Willaston School
The above building, Willaston School, is situated off London Road, in what is now Nantwich. It shouldn’t be confused with Willaston Board School (established in 1875) on Crewe Road, Willaston.

Willaston School has had many uses over the years. It started as a small public school (and was referred to as Willaston College by the locals) from 1900 until 1937.  It was built under the provisions of the will of Philip Barker, gent of ‘The Grove’ , Willaston, Nantwich, dated 1894.

Philip Barker was the last of a family of tanners, and left money to set up a school to educate the sons of impoverished Unitarian ministers. He lived at The Grove, which is adjacent to the school :

The Grove

The Grove was built in 1837:

The Grove - Built in 1837

and became the headmaster’s house after the school was built.

The foundation stone of the school was laid by Sir John T Brunner (the liberal M.P. for Northwich) in 1899:

Foundation stone

The school wasopened for pupils in September 1900, and enrolled 22 boys.

Entrance to Willaston School

In 1909 a prep school was formed to take pre-school boys and this was built in the outer quadrangle.

Ten old boys, and one master, died as a result of the First World War.

War memorial at Willaston School, Nantwich

In 1924 a fine memorial chapel was built to commemorate who died in the Great War:

Inside the Memorial Hall

Below is a picture of the Frank Skelton window in the chapel:

Frank Skelton window

Frank Skelton was in the Royal Flying Corps, and died on the 21/10/1917 in the war.  His parents, William and Fanny Skelton, of Adare, Roundhay, Leeds paid for this window in memory of their son.

At the same time swimming baths were built:

Philip Hirsch Swimming Baths at Willaston School, Nantwich

These were the private gift of Harry and Edith Hirsch, of Weetwood Grove, Leeds in memory of their son, Captain David Philip Hirsch – who died on 23/04/1917 and was awarded a posthumous VC (see here).

Lack of funding resulted in the school closing in July 1937.

In 1939 the school was purchased and became St Joseph’s Industrial School, part of a Roman Catholic Foundation based in Manchester – who established a rehabilitation school for boys from South Lancashire and North Cheshire. It was one of the first Approved Schools for “boys who were found wandering and without proper guardianship”

In 1987, it became Elim Bible College, which became Regents Theological College in 1996.

In 2010, 90 students from Reaseheath College were accommodated there.

Willaston & District History Group have written a book on Willaston School:

Willaston School Book

with contributions by local historian Andrew Lamberton, which is available in Nantwich Bookshop.

There’s an open day at Willaston School at 11am – 3pm on Saturday 17th October 2015, where there will be book signings and old photos on display, and fund raising for Macmillan. This could be a good chance to have a look inside.

Bill Pearson \ Nantwich History

Bill Pearson’s Home Page

13 thoughts on “Willaston School”

  1. Dear Mr Pearson,
    As archivist of the Rugby Fives Association, I am very interested in the fact that Willaston School had two covered fives courts, recorded in Paton’s list of Schools in c. 1911. Do you have any record of these courts being in use, and if so, for how long? I imagine they were taken down when the school closed in 1937, if not before. Are there any photos of them?
    Thank you for any information you can provide.
    Kind regards,
    David Barnes.
    Tel: 0118 971 2647.

    1. David,
      In reply to your request we do have some information about the fives courts.
      This is mainly from the copies of the school mag, of which we have copies covering the first 11 years from 1900 to 1911. There are copies covering the other years up to 1937 I think at Manchester College Oxford.
      They also have an extensive collection of lantern slides but sadly none of the courts themselves. There are 2 which I will send to you if I can have your Email address.
      The gymnasium building still stands but I think the fives courts have been removed.

  2. I am researching the life of Francis James Hanby, an Old Bradfordian who died 30th June 1916 near Loos, serving with the 12th Battalion Sussex Regiment.
    In 1911 he was a schoolmaster at Willaston School. I wonder whether there is a photo of him in the school’s archives as we do not have one at Bradford Grammar School.

    1. Yes we do have a photo of him but only as one of many on a school photograph.
      We also have a little written about by some ex-pupils which may be of interest.
      If you let me have your Email address I will forward these to you.
      He is featured in the book that we recently published about the school.

      1. Since this Andrew and Nick have exchanged email addresses and Andrew has supplied Nick with more photos and information to go in a revised version of Francis James Hanby’s biography.

    2. I have a copy of The Willaston School Chronicle of July 1916. In this there is an article written by Mr Hanby about his experiences in the trenches dated June 7th 1916. There is also a photo of him in that chronicle.
      Mr Hanby was engaged to my great aunt Miss Constance King.

  3. My grandfather, Norman Ebbutt, was at the school somewhere between 1900 and 1908. Are there any records of him?

  4. Hi
    Found this very interesting content….thank you.
    My family lived in Nantwich 1975 – 80
    My father was deputy principal at St Joseph’s . At that time it was a Community Care Home for children. It was funded by Cheshire County Council , I believe? We moved to Sussex when my father gained a promotion to principal of another establishment. When we first arrived in Nantwich , we actually lived in The Grove. This was for a couple of years until a staff house became available on London Road ….directly across from the driveway access to The Grove ( I believe the driveway is no longer there due to building work )
    I loved my time as a teenager living in Nantwich. Still have my best friend living nearby in Willaston….although, I now live in Devon.
    Best Wishes

    1. Hi David
      What was your Father’s name?
      I was at st Joseph’s during that period so I will most probably remember him

  5. Yes Sheila,
    He attended the school from 1905 to 1909. The school were immensely proud of him when he was expelled from Germany as the Times Correspondent in 1934 after standing up to Hitler. You should be as well!
    We also have some photos including a rather nice one of him playing the cello in the string quartet in the gym in 1907.

  6. Hi Bill

    I wonder if you have any records relating to Henry Laung Jones, who was an assistant master at the school in 1901 when he was 24? He was my maternal great-grandmother’s second husband (but no relation to me) and was known in the family as “Teacher Jones”.

    Kind regards,

    1. I have a picture of the staff. My grandfather taught woodwork there and I have picture of him. My grand parents lived in the large house opposite the entrance of the school. I have pictures of the matron with my grandmother in her garden. The house used to be the Durham Heifer that was an inn where horses on the stage coach were changed.

      1. Thanks for your comments Len, I would be interested to see your photos.

        Andrew Lamberton told me the story about how a Nazi bomber, flying back from a raid (I think in Liverpool) dropped the remaining bombs in this area. One landed on where a man that sound like your grandfather was growing pumpkins. A pumpkin flew up in the air, crashed through a window and landed on a bed!

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