One of Halifax’s best loved schools, Princess Mary’s, has just been demolished to allow for the expansion of Calderdale College.
The new Halifax High School for Girls at Craven Lodge, between Hopwood Lane and Parkinson Lane, opened in September 1931. Fees were £5 5s (£5.25)per term, although some scholarships were available. The school was designed to accommodate 348 girls.
The prospectus read: “The minimum age of admission is eight but a girl may enter shortly before if she will attain the age of eight during her first term in the school. Children below eight years of age are received in the preparatory department, which is housed in a separate building.
“Every candidate for admission is required to pass an entrance examination. Application for admission should be made by the parent or guardian on a form which may be obtained from the headmistress’s secretary.”
“All classrooms face due south and the school as a whole has been designed on open air principles, each room being provided with sliding and pivoted windows so that the full advantage of air and sunlight can be obtained.”
It had been back in Nov-ember 1876, largely through the initiative of the Halifax branch of the Yorkshire Ladies’ Council of Education, that a company known as the Halifax High School for Girls was registered.
Its purpose was to provide “a sound and superior education for young children and girls, at a moderate expense, upon a scriptural but unsectarian basis, such education to be as sound and thorough as that which boys now rec-eive in the grammar schools of the highest class.”
The school opened in January 1877 at Savile Hall (now the Boulevard Health Centre), in Savile Park Road, with Miss Smythe as the first headmistress.
In September 1877 Miss Laura Robinson succeeded her; she was described as “one of the most original women, one of the most alive personalities Halifax has ever had”.
One nursery scholar who later became well known was Naomi Royde Smith (1875-1964), a prolific novelist who became the first female literary editor (for Saturday Westminster Gazette), promoting the work of several rising literary stars, such as Rupert Brooke, D H Lawrence and Graham Greene.
In 1927 the Halifax High School for Girls celebrated its golden jubilee at Savile Hall. Accommodation there was inadequate and for some years premises in the old Bluecoat School in Harrison Road and elsewhere had been used as well.
In the 1920s the Halifax Education Committee planned a new girls’ senior school, merging the high school with Halifax Girls’ Secondary School, which also operated in scattered and inadequate buildings.
In 1921 the Craven Lodge estate had been bought from the Whitaker family and for some years thereafter the house also temporarily accommodated part of the girls’ secondary school. In July 1931, just before the opening of the new school, Craven Lodge was demolished.
The foundation stone of the new school was laid in June 1930 by Elizabeth Campbell Clay, widow of Alderman Howard Clay, a former Mayor of Halifax who had been active on Halifax Educational Committee.
The new building, constructed around two quadrangles, was praised for its design and practicality.
The official opening was performed by Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, daughter of King George V; she gave her consent to the school bearing her name.
Had the opening taken place just a few months later, the school might well have been named The Princess Royal School, for that was her title from late 1931.
The Princess Mary School survived until 1987, in that year being merged with Highlands School, Illingworth, to become part of a mixed-sex school. The combined enterpise was renamed the North Halifax High School, later North Halifax Grammar.
The last girls-only intake at Princess Mary’s was in 1985 and the first mixed intake year was 1986. The mixed students of the first year were based at the Princess Mary building for the first year before moving to the Highlands premises at Illingworth – with the older girls – in 1987.
Thereafter the PM building was used as extra teaching accommodation for Calderdale College.
Many women educated there have fond memories of Princess Mary’s, although some are perhaps less appreciative. It was a fine building, and it is a shame that it had to be lost in the expansion of Calderdale College.
But what do we know of the building on the site of which the school was built? Craven Lodge had been erected in the early 19th century for Dr Robert Paley, an eminent Halifax physician, brother-in-law of William Priestley, who founded the Halifax Choral Society.
Craven Lodge survived for 112 years. In that time it was the home of various well-known local families, the Turneys, the Emmets, the Cleggs and finally of Alderman Thomas Whitaker, of the brewery family.
One relic survived at Princess Mary’s from the Craven Lodge grounds: a fountain and rockery, which were incorporated in the centre of one of the new school’s quadrangles in 1931.
And until just a few years ago the original Craven Lodge gatehouse survived at the corner of Parkinson Lane and Francis Street. In 1931 this was enlarged and converted into the entrance lodge for the new school.
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