Horbury schools

Going back to mediaeval times, the education of children was the domain of the local clergy. When the Free School of Queen Elizabeth (Wakefield Free Grammar School) was founded in 1591, only a few local children profited from the education it offered. One of the early benefactors of this school was Sarah Savile, a widow, who in 1602 gave "One cottage with all the buildings thereon, erected in Horbury and now or lately in the …occupation of Joan Sunderland and Joan Holdesworthe, widows." Early governors included John Savile of Lupset (1626) and John Issott of Horbury (1649). John Francis Carr J.P. of Carr Lodge was a governor from 1830-1863 and twice acted as Spokesman and Deputy Spokesman. Horbury also had connections with Batley Grammar School, its original endowment included six acres of copyhold land at Horbury. The land had been bought by John Maude of Wakefield, out of £78 given by William Lee of Cambridgeshire and intended to give the school an income of £4 per annum. In 1818 the properties in Horbury were giving an income of £32 5s per annum. During the headship of Rev Langton Samuel Calvert (1878-1908) the school was definitely attended by some Horbury boys who travelled there by train each day.

Town School, Tithe Barn Street, Horbury.

Gaskell School, New Road, Horbury.

 Horbury's first school 

The first school in the town was probably the Town School on Tithe Barn Street. It seems to have existed from at least 1708. A Charity Commissioners Report dated 1827 shows '10 poor children' being taught and that the master's salary was 15 guineas per year with a school house and garden plus the use of a further acre of land. Another report in 1870 showed 54 boys and 59 girls on roll between 4 – 11 years old, paying 3 – 6d per week. It was condemned by the Education Department and closed as a day school in 1886. The building continued to be used by the Sunday School founded in 1786. This was before compulsory education and was "for the instruction of poor children in reading, writing and the rudiments of Christianity." The dual use of the Town School buildings led to them being enlarged in 1789. One of the rules of the Sunday school was "The Sunday scholars shall alternatively attend Divine Service once in the church and once in the Meeting House of Methodists in this town every Sunday." The organisation was first known as 'The Charitable Society of Sunday Masters within the Township of Horbury'. The first writing master and Clerk to the Sunday School was Richard Dewhirst, who earned 1/- per week. Scholars were expected to be in school for 7.45 am and after afternoon service they stayed until 7.00 pm in the summer and until dark in the winter. The original rules were:

The Scholars shall have their hands and faces clean, washed and hair combed.

They shall diligently attend to reading, writing or spelling, as their masters shall think most useful for their learning or employment.

No scholar on any pretence whatsoever shall despise another on account of dress or infirmities or refuse to walk with the partner of his or her lot by size but shall behave in a respective and loving manner.

The first masters in 1786 were:

John Turton, stuff maker John Stringer, stuff maker

Joseph Turton and Joseph Turton (Jnr), spinner

Joshua Sagar, clothier James Harrison, tammy master

John White, joiner

Joshua Roberts, gardener

Joseph Roberts, weaver

Benjamin Stringer, basket maker

Joseph Lockwood

Edward Wilson, weaver

Isaac Turton

Benjamin Spawforth

George Armitage

Joseph Tuton of Hodge Lane

John Hanson

The school was discontinued on 6th June 1891. Probably because by then religious teaching was being done by church and chapel and the 3Rs were being taught by day schools. Education had been compulsory since 1876. 

Dame Schools 

There were probably several Dame Schools in Horbury. One was at Hall Cliffe, run by a Miss Turton, who charged 1d per day. This closed in 1842 when the Gaskell School opened. 

Gaskell School 

The Gaskell School was opened by Daniel Gaskell, first MP for Wakefield from 1832 – 1837 and a member of Wakefield Unitarian Chapel. He devoted much of his life to improving the lot of the less fortunate, in particular the youth of the district. It was an undenominational school, built on one of two large plots of land he had purchased near Carr Lodge, at the junction of Wakefield Road and New Street. It was estimated that the total cost of land, school, outbuildings and furnishings was in the region of £3,000. The first schoolmaster appointed was William Mortimer in 1843. Daniel Gaskell died in 1875 and in his will he left to the trustees of the Westgate Unitarian Chapel, the school, land and £1,000 of London & North Eastern Railway Stock, to repair and maintain the school. These bequests were actually void in law but the Gaskell family were anxious to carry out his wishes, so by a deed made in 1876, his wishes were carried out. Eighteen members of the Chapel and six prominent inhabitants of Horbury became the Trustees of the school.

The school continued for about the next 14 years, until the local education authority insisted on the building being adapted to Government requirements. This proved financially impossible and the school finally closed in 1893. The Charity Commissioners sanctioned the accumulation of the income of the endowment for future improvements and for several years the Trustees were hopeful of being able to reopen. However, this proved impracticable and eventually they reluctantly agreed that as the provision of schools would soon become the responsibility of the county, reopening the Gaskell School could not be justified. For some years there seemed to be a possibility that the County Council might build a new school on the original site but it was eventually decided the site was too small. During the First World War the scheme was kept in abeyance but the income of the Foundation continued to accrue. Finally, in 1923 the school and neighbouring land were sold at auction. The proceeds of the sale were invested and are now part of the assets of the Daniel Gaskell Foundation, which still exists today.

Foundation stone for the Gaskell School.

Location of the Gaskell School near Carr Lodge Park.

Between 1924 and 1944, when the new Education Act came into power, the Foundation was able to provide exhibitions (scholarships) at Ossett Grammar School and Thornes House School. From 1953 there were exhibitions offered for Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and Wakefield Girl's High School, open to Horbury children who had attended Local Authority Schools for at least two years. These were keenly contested. In 1972 there were 46 candidates for one exhibition.

St Peter's School – Horbury St Peter's & Clifton CE (VE) Primary School 

In 1849 the National Society granted £160 towards building St. Peters National School. This was a Church of England school from the outset. It was built on land largely at Fuljambe Close, named after its owner Thomas Fuljambe of Holme Field, Thornes. Horbury yeoman George Rayner was also paid £50 to surrender all rights of way he had over the land plus a parcel of land eight yards wide on the east side. The land was transferred in a conveyance dated the 4th January 1849 to Canon John Sharp, his father Rev. Samuel Sharp, vicar of Wakefield and Rev. Henry Forre, rector of Thornhill and their successors. The school was to be: "For the education of children and adults or children only of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Township or Chapelry of Horbury". The school was to be conducted on the principles of the 'Incorporated National Society for promoting the Education of the Poor in the principles of the Established Church of England'. Due to rising numbers the buildings needed to be extended in 1869 by the building of an Infant School. They were extended further in 1898. The land required for this was given by Major Parker of Carr Lodge. At a formal opening of the latter extension on 17th September 1898, conducted by Canon Sharp, speeches were made by the Dean of St Paul's and Mr. F.B. Lott, H.M. Inspector of Schools. 

On the 1st April 1904, as a result of the 1902 Education Act, the school was transferred to the West Riding County Council, although the Church remained responsible for half an hour religious instruction five mornings a week. Even though the County Council was responsible for paying the teachers' salaries, the Church still paid largely for any building repairs or redecoration. On 1st December 1893 all school fees were abolished but the parents here were asked to pay a penny a week or 3/6 a year as a voluntary subscription. On the 27th August 1951, St. Peter's School ceased to be organised as an all age school and became a Primary and Infant School. The boys' and girls' departments were combined under the headship of Mr. J.C. Douglas. On the 26th March 1955, the infants moved to the new purpose built Clifton Infants' School on Manorfields Estate. In the 1980s St. Peter's School moved to new purpose-built premises on Shepstye Road and in 2010 amalgamated with Clifton Infant School. The school at Shepstye Road was enlarged to accommodate both schools under the new names of Horbury St. Peter's & Clifton CE (VC) Primary School.

One person with a very long association with St. Peter's was Miss M. Coope. A booklet called 'Valete Old School', produced to mark the move to Shepstye Road, recalled a few of her memories. She entered the school in 1908 as a pupil and returned in 1917 as an assistant mistress in the girl's school, under the headship of Miss Louisa Nettleton. At this time the boy's and girl's schools were totally separate, even down to a large wall across the playground. The only joint activity was the Shrove Tuesday Concert. Children moved up through the school according to ability, rather than age, on the 1st April each year. Parents were not encouraged or invited to visit the school, except at Harvest when the classrooms would be decorated for inspection. Miss Coope retired in 1958.

St Peter's School c1976.

School Yard - the old entrance to St Peter's School on Church Street.

Highfields Grammar School

'Highfields' on Highfield Road was the home of George Green, a well-known Horbury figure of the late nineteenth century. From 1956, for over 12 years, the house was used as an independent school, known as Highfield Grammar School, founded as the Wakefield Academy in 1876. On 2ndOctober 1962, the school made page 5 of the Daily Mirror when headmaster Rev. Edward Smithies began an experiment allowing pupils to have a smoking room. He decided to let pupils smoke in the room for half an hour each day – providing they had written permission from their parents! Out of the 110 pupils at this time, apparently only four boys turned up with the relevant paperwork. Rev. Smithies told the paper, "It's like the forbidden fruit. As soon as pupils know they can smoke, they aren't so anxious to do so." He went on to say, "In future I will rigidly enforce the no smoking rule outside the permitted time in the smoking room. It will be 6 strokes of the cane for anyone who is caught." The scheme had the full backing of the school governors. In about 1966 the school moved to Fairfield Hall (the old drill hall) on Station Road, Ossett. Within a couple of years it moved again to the old Spa Street School building, before eventual closure.

St Peter's School, Shepstye Road, Horbury.

The former Highfields School, Highfield Road, Horbury.

Horbury Council School – Horbury Primary School Academy


The Wesleyan Day Schools at School Lane, Horbury and Forge Lane, Horbury Junction combined to form Horbury Council School. The school, in its first incarnation as Horbury New Council School, was officially opened on the 11th June 1913 by County Councillor Joshua Harrop. The first headmaster was Mr Henry A. Halliday, assisted by one male and six female teachers. When it opened there were 355 pupils on role. The two Wesleyan Schools, Horbury Junction and School Lane (which opened in 1871), had been closed the same year, after being taken over by the West Riding County Council after the Education Action of 1902.

Only four months after opening, the Medical Officer of Health Dr. W. Sim Garden visited the school and advised it should close for 10 days owing to an epidemic of diphtheria in the town. Rumours spread as to the cause of the outbreak and it would seem one Councillor Tetley got the blame. He had owned the land on which the school had been built. Some people tried to claim that the diphtheria epidemic was due to him having buried some pigs there that had contracted swine fever. The true location of the pigs' burial came to light as ¼ mile away from any house, in ½ ton of lime and took place under police supervision. The school didn't reopen until the 24th November. The school log book records the school opening on the 2nd February 1914 and closing again the same day due to a further outbreak of the disease. In fact the school was to close several times over the next year due to diphtheria. On the 16th December 1914 the school was instructed to close early for Christmas, diphtheria again being the reason. In October 1915 a further run of school closures was sparked by an influenza epidemic. The children's education resumed properly on the 17th March 1919, after a closure lasting 5 weeks. It wasn't until February 1932 that immunisation against diphtheria began in the town.

The old Wesleyan Day School, School Lane, Horbury.

The location of the Wesleyan School at Forge Lane, Horbury Junction.

The log book also tells us that school milk was first distributed on 30th September 1929. School dinners were first served on 5th October 1942, until then children went home at lunchtime. However, there is an entry for 19th June 1939, saying that an experiment was started to close for lunch at 11.45am in an attempt to reduce the danger from traffic at midday. It must be remembered of course that Northfield Lane was not the main by-pass road it is today – I can't imagine how the traffic levels would compare!

The 27th August 1951 marked a change in the town's schools organisation. From this date the Council School became a Senior School (although the infant department remained) with 424 children on role. This was made up of children from the Council School, St Peter's, Horbury Bridge, Netherton & Middlestown Junior schools. The headteacher was assisted by 13 teachers. From 8th January the school was known as Horbury County Secondary Modern School. Ten years later, on the 7th May 1962 the school began a new life in the purpose-built school on Berry Lane. The juniors returned to their school and it became known as Horbury County Junior School, led by Mr. R. Lindley and Horbury County Infant School, led by Miss Pick. After a fire in 2000 and a £1m upgrade, the Infant and Junior schools amalgamated in 2002 to form Horbury Primary School. At the end of 2016 the school became Horbury Primary Academy.

Postcard view of Horbury Council School c1950. Courtesy of Joe Chappell.

Horbury Primary Academy 2017.

Horbury County Secondary Modern – Horbury Academy

The new secondary school was formerly opened on 30th March 1963 by Christopher Chattaway M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education. The first headteacher was Mr. R. L. Arundale, who had started in 1944 while the school was based at the Council School. 1968 saw two milestones when school milk was available to secondary school pupils for the last time and the dinner ticket system was introduced, when the government decided to allow teachers to cease lunchtime supervision. However, the cafeteria system that many will remember was not introduced until July 1971. In 1966, the first Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) exams were taken, followed in 1971 by the first General Certificate of Education (GCE). 

Horbury Secondary Modern which later became Horbury Comprehensive School.

Another notable headteacher was Mr. R. D. Woodall, whose books on the history of Horbury, 'Some Horbury Yesterdays' in particular, have been an invaluable source of reference. In the early 1970s, after reorganisation of Secondary education in the area, the school became known as Horbury Comprehensive School. This continued until 2009 when a brand new school was completed on the same site. In 2012 the school became an academy and is now known as Horbury Academy and since 2016 has been part of the Accord multi-academy trust, made up of Horbury Academy, Horbury Primary Academy, Middlestown Academy and Ossett Academy & Sixth Form.

Brochure cover for the official opening of Horbury Secondary School.

Click the picture to view the whole brochure.

Horbury Academy 2017. This building replaced the previous one in 2009.


1. 'Some Horbury Yesterdays' by R.D. Woodall
2. 'Proud Village' by R. L. Arundale
3.  www.horburyacademy.com
4. Tony Sargeant


Helen Bickerdike  August 2017