West Leeds High memories: old school houses


In his second article on the history of the old West Leeds High School, Old Boy Glenn Broadbent takes a look at the different school houses.

west leeds high school crest

The school badge shows the houses of the school. There are statues of those named in City Square.

The House System was introduced to the school in 1925 by the new Head, Thomas Curzon.

The names chosen were all former prominent Leeds citizens.

The chosen symbols and colours were quartered and combined with the Owl from the Leeds coat of arms into the school colours, along with the motto “Non Sibi Sed Ludo“.

west leeds high school inter-house trophy
The inter house shield now on display at West Leeds Rugby Union Club, Blue Hill Lane, along with many other items of memorabilia.

School houses were:

De Lacy

1086: William the Conqueror gave 150 manors, including Leeds, to one of his most loyal supporters, Ilbert de Lacy.

For the next 250 years, Ilbert de Lacy and his descendants ruled over some 500 square miles of Yorkshire from Pontefract Castle.

Ilbert’s grandson, Henry, was responsible for perhaps the single most important event in the growth of Leeds during medieval times.

Henry de Lacy had become benefactor to the Cistercian monks at Fountains Abbey, and he had promised them land for the building of a “daughter” abbey to Fountains. But the site, at Barnoldswick, near Skipton, was on high ground and not the riverside location the monks preferred.

Henry’s second choice was a wooded valley beside the River Aire three miles north west of Leeds village.

Kirkstall Abbey was a Cistercian foundation and, like Rievaulx and Fountains, became the major land owner in its area developing industries like iron forging but more importantly wool making. Kirkstall Abbey owned around 5,000  sheep.


1733: Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was born in Birstall. He was minister of Mill Hill Chapel from 1767 to 1773.

On 1 August, 1774, he made the discovery for which he is best remembered a gas he called dephlogisticated air (based on the phlogiston theory that combustion was essentially the process of losing a hypothetical substance known as phlogiston), better known as oxygen.

He remained a supporter of the phlogiston theory all his life. His advanced views in support of the French Revolution led to the sacking of his house by an angry mob and his emigration to America.


1798 Dr Walter Farquhar Hook was born in London. After attending Winchester & Oxford he became a parson. In 1837 he was invited to become Vicar of Leeds. Dr Hook soon began to apply his energies to the education of the poor in Leeds.

Dr Hook was keen for all children to receive a basic education and asserted that it was the duty of the church to see that children were educated.

The idea that all townspeople should contribute to the education of the children caused much conflict between the vicar and many people.

In 1858 Leeds Town Hall was opened by Queen Victoria. It was Dr Hook who led the procession. Twenty thousand members of friendly societies lined the route of the procession and it was Dr Hook whom they asked to present their address.


1830: Richard Oastler, himself born in slums which occupied Quarry Hill in Georgian times, mounted a campaign to end the slavery of children in factories and mills by writing a series of letters to the Leeds Mercury.

In these letters Oastler described the appalling conditions in which children as young as seven were forced to work.

The letters and the efforts of others like Oastler led to the Shaftesbury’s Factories Act of 1833, which ended the employment of children under nine, restricted working the hours of children under 13 to 48 hours a week and set up a government inspectorate.


  1. I think Richard Oastler is buried against the church wall in Kirkstall. I saw a gravestone there a long time ago.

  2. Of the statues in
    City Square, only two are of the school’s houses – Hook and Priestly. The other statues are of Watt and Harrison.


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