24 September 2016

Willowgarth

Entrance to Willowgarth on Thursday
Willowgarth is a lovely name. It makes one think of Mother Nature - perhaps a stroll by a leafy riverside or through a sunlit bower in a verdant wood. But Willowgarth was in fact the name given to a secondary school on the edge of Grimethorpe - a collection of functional concrete blocks that for fifty years served children of secondary school age from the pit villages of Brierley and Grimethorpe itself. The name was misleading.

Of course lots of things happen within the precincts of any secondary school. There are tears and laughter, comings and goings, sports days and concerts. Examinations to sit and lesson changeover bells that ring endlessly - defining the passing days. Children grow up in their secondary schools. They make friends and enemies as well as memories as their teachers grow old or depart via the promotional ladder.

The two secondary schools that I attended in East Yorkshire are still standing. I could easily go back there to stroll around the corridors of my youth but for former Willowgarth High School students that would now be impossible. The entire school was razed to the ground in 2012. All that's left is a driveway, a pile of rubble and a pair of rusting goalposts.

I felt rather sad to observe the desolate scene through security fencing on Thursday afternoon. I thought of all the interactions that must have happened at Willowgarth through the years. It must have been a tough place to teach in. All those children from mining families. All that poverty. But I think there would have been a lot of fun too.

Back home scouring the internet, I found the following Willowgarth pictures that speak evocatively of a lost school and perhaps of a lost world too...

My own picture - at the top of this post was taken from this
entrance to the school premises,  I was standing next to that
old blue pit wheel - now partly  hidden behind a security fence.

16 comments:

  1. My grammar school was the smallest in Liverpool with 630 pupils and yet, compared with Willowgarth, it must have been huge. I am one of the group of people who left school and, for the most part, erased it from my memory. My mother (who had gone to the same prep school and to the sister school of my grammar school) on the other hand looked upon her schooldays as the best of her (pretty hard but happy) life.

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    1. At its last OFSTED inspection, Willowgarth catered for 717 pupils but it had a bigger capacity - up to 950. I find it hard to understand how that group of people you mention could ever erase such important years from their minds. And I am not thinking about schooling so much as the whole process of adolescence in which schooling plays a big part.

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  2. YP the group may just be me. I loathed school. I suppose if I thought about it I loathed adolescence too. I suffered from a (fortunately not terminal in my case) lung disease and was often sent out of class because of my coughing. It's a complicated story but part of the complete lack of understanding of any sort of disability which was prelevant in those days.

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    1. Now I can better appreciate why you would want to blank out that time. Thanks for explaining Graham.

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  3. there are many stories from the abandoned schools. In the west here, the rural population has had a major drop. Many villages and towns have disappeared. People return to an abandoned site.

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    1. Well I didn't know that about the Canadian west but now I think about it - more mechanisation and efficiency in agriculture - it makes sense.

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  4. The primary school and the high school I attended in Gympie way back before the Last Supper are both still standing...as am I!

    (Well, actually, I am sitting as I type this...but you know what I mean)!

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    1. It's like that Elton John song..."I'm still standing after all this time..." At your old school in Gympie, I guess there's now a cookery classroom called "The Lee George Wing" in honour of one of the school's most prominent former pupils.

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    2. There was a "cookery wing" when I went to High School...and in those days it was called "Home Science"...and it was one of the subjects I took; it also included sewing.

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    3. I thought "Home Science" was about making mind-bending drugs in your kitchen or experimenting with one of those chemistry sets that some children used to receive at Christmastime.

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  5. The building of my primary school is still standing and in good condition but abandoned. Only a few years before they closed that school the buildung was completely renovated, idiotic!

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    1. I bet good money had been spent on Willowgarth not long before they demolished it.

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  6. Pictures of a bygone age YP - always an element of sadness in them even if the pupils have moved on to something better.

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    1. Sentimentality and nostalgia are big ingredients in human DNA.

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  7. Oh, those photographs - the teachers, what a mixed bag and all smiling for the camera. I would like to know what happened to the girls in what looks like the sixties basketball (netball?) team.

    Alphie

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    1. Certainly netball Alphie. Some of those girls would have become coal miners' wives, witnessing the painful end of Britain's coal mining industry. They're probably grandmothers now, vaguely remembering those happy years at Willowgarth.

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