West Leeds High School: old boys enjoy 96th dinner


The Old Boys of West Leeds High School have celebrated their 96th annual dinner, writes Glenn Broadbent.

The speaker this year was comedian Mike Farrell. Old Boys were also entertained by President Steve Parker with his first speech to the dinner reflecting on his time at the school and some hilarious tales of rugby trips.

If you are not an Old Boy have you ever passed by the impressive Old School Lofts and wondered about how this magnificent building came to be in Armley and what stories it could tell?

In this, the first of four articles, we hope to answer some of your questions.

One of the two new schools to be built in Leeds to improve the provision of secondary education after the Balfour Education Act in 1902.

The school opened on 7th September 1907 and the design was based on the stone and brick facade of a school in Switzerland.

Championed by Mr James Graham, the first secretary for education of Leeds, West Leeds High School was built to house 400 boys and 400 girls providing spacious classrooms, laboratories, gymnasium and playing fields.

With the boys in one wing and the girls in another shared rooms were used on a schedule so that no mixing occurred, making two completely separate schools in one building.

The school took pupils from Armley, Bramley, Stanningley, Rodley, Wortley and adjoining districts.

At a cost of £42,000 the school was sometimes referred to as ‘Graham’s White Elephant’ – Dr Graham being the Director of Education at the time. The school took exactly one year to build.

The new secondary schools, like West Leeds High School, although built by the council, charged fees and were mostly attended by children from middle class families who went on to higher education.

Working class children left school at 14.

The school fees were £16 per pupil per year, the cost being split between the government, Leeds ratepayers, and the parents. The parents contribution being 3 Guineas for under tens and 6 Guineas for those over 10.

In an article published in The Yorkshire Post on the opening day it was reported the buildings most striking features were the 80 large electric lamps designed to give maximum light and the buildings low gradient staircases. It also reported there were changing rooms with double baths. There were 42 telephones.

The first year saw just 75 pupils and the second 194.

If you have memories of the school we would love to hear from you.

In the weeks ahead we will report on the Boys, the Masters and the Houses of the School…


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