The Blue Coat School

It began in 1706 as a charity school for fifty poor boys, paid for by subscriptions from local inhabitants. The school was to instruct pupils in religion, reading, writing and arithmetic.

Little seems to be known about the school at this time, or its location. The schoolmaster was William Geast, who was replaced by Samuel James in 1730.

It would be some years before an actual school was built. The report of the Charity Commissioners in 1832, states that in 1726 “no certain settled school house had been erected” and that it was due to the benefactions of Samuel Taylor, that the school was housed in Steppingstone Lane.

In 1726, wealthy local landowner, Samuel Taylor, died and bequeathed ten pieces of land in his will to Samuel and George Bradley, who were to act as trustees and use money from the land to form a school to educate and pay for school uniforms for fifty poor boys. In 1738 land was purchased in Steppingstone Lane and a school was built. There were several other benefactors including a Mr. Ward and a Mr. Cleveland. In later years their names were remembered because the school’s three houses were named after them; Cleveland House, Taylor House and Ward House.

The original school building consisted of two storeys, the lower floor being the classroom, 22 feet long, by 19 feet wide and 11 feet high. The upper floor was the school master’s dwelling house. By the early 19th century the building was suffering badly from mining subsidence and had to be abandoned in about 1812.

At the time, a new school building had recently been built in Fisher Street, behind St. Edmund’s graveyard, where Dudley Bus Station is today. It was built as a Sunday School at the expense of the Blue Coat and Samuel Taylor’s Charity. When the original building had to be abandoned, the school moved to Fisher Street, where a piece of land on the western side of the building was purchased and a new extension was built. The building had two storeys. The lower one was occupied by the Blue Coat School and the upper room was occupied by the Girl’s School of Industry. This had been established in 1755 by John Hodgetts to instruct 30 poor girls in reading, writing, sewing and knitting.

In 1821 an infants’ school opened on the southern side of Stafford Street, on a piece of land between Stafford Street and Steppingstone Street. The charity’s financial situation was very good and both schools rarely had less than 300 pupils between them. In 1825 an adult school was formed in which around 40 men and women attended classes in the infants’ school in the evenings. In 1834 the trustees financed the building of a school at Netherton, which was presented to the parish.

The school is listed in M. Billing’s 1855 Directory and Gazetteer of the County of Worcester, as follows:

The Blue Coat School (Taylor's Charity) is in Fisher Street, and was founded in 1706. Part of the funds are applied towards the support of the Infant School in Stafford Street, whence, at the age of seven years, the children are transferred to this school. It is supported by endowments and the children's payments. Mr. Joseph Williams, Head Master; Mr. Edward Makins, Second Master. Average number of scholars, 200, 100 of whom are clothed.

The Netherton school is listed as follows:

Netherton Church of England School, for boys and girls, is a large brick building, well adapted for the purpose for which it was erected; there is a house adjoining for the master. It is supported by contribution and the children's payments. Average number of scholars; boys, 160; girls, 110. Mr. William Meese, Master; Silvia Meese, Mistress.

A new larger school

The financial condition of the trust had greatly improved thanks to the purchase of 12 acres of land at Netherton in 1735. The trust paid £170 for the land and sold the mineral rights in 1810 for £4,000. This led to the building of a larger school at Dixon’s Green on an unnamed road running between Dixon’s Green Road and Blackacre Road, which later became Bean Road. Mr Joseph Guest provided £2,000 towards the cost, which amounted to £2,343. The school was designed to accommodate 400 boys in two large classrooms, along with a master’s house. The school opened on the 14th September, 1869. The girl’s school remained at Fisher Street and the old boys’ schoolroom was rented to Miss Steedman’s Ragged School, for 20 shillings per year. In 1931 the Bean Road school was extended and reorganised to become a mixed secondary school.

The location of the school in Bean Road.

The mixed secondary school. From an old postcard.

In 1936 a Handicraft and Domestic Science Block was built on the opposite side of the road. There was also a scheme to build a gymnasium and dining hall next to the school, but this was shelved in 1939 at the outbreak of war. After the war, ‘temporary’ huts were built to accommodate extra classes when the school leaving age was increased to 15. In 1950, under the terms of the 1944 Education Act, the school became a secondary modern school, with a voluntary aided status.

The main building in Bean Road.

The Domestic Science and Woodwork Block, erected in 1936.

The school had always attempted to give a free school uniform to as many pupils as possible. The blue uniform originally consisted of a coat and breeches, a shirt, stockings, shoes and a cap. As fashions changed the uniform consisted of a coat, waistcoat and trousers. The girls in the Female School of Industry knitted the boys’ stockings and made the waistcoats and the lining for the trousers. When the school was reorganised in 1932, the issue of free clothing was discontinued. In 1955 a modern school uniform was introduced.

The School staff, March 1956:
Back row left to right: Mrs. J. Aitken, Mr. F. Plant, Miss A. Smith, Miss E. Jones, Mr. J. Bloom, Miss A. Holloway.
Front row, left to right: Mrs. M. Pearson, Mr. S. Wright, Mr. A. W. Delacour (Headmaster), Mrs. E. Taylor, Mr. F. Richards.

Ward House, March 1956.

Cleveland House, March 1956.

Taylor House, March 1956.

In 1970 the school expanded when it took over the buildings of nearby Rosland Secondary School, in Beechwood Road, which had closed earlier that year. Most of the school’s activities were then centred there, but the Bean Road site continued to be used until 1981, when it was sold to make way for a housing development.

The school became a comprehensive school in 1975. In the late 1980s, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council decided to reorganise education in the borough and the school was named in 1988 as one of the schools being considered for closure. The school closed on the 14th July, 1989, with 334 pupils. It was considered to be too small and there was no room for expansion on the site. Younger pupils were transferred to Castle High School to finish their education.

The buildings in Beechwood Road were demolished in 2016 to make way for a new housing development, built around a new road called Blue Coat Drive.

Dudley Grammar School

The school was founded in 1562 when Thomas Watwood of Stafford and Mark Rysemore of London conveyed land, previously part of Our Lady’s Chantry, to the churchwardens of St. Edmund’s Church and the Vicar of Dudley, for the use of a school. A suitable building was erected in St. Edmund’s Churchyard. The Vicar of Dudley hoped to be the Schoolmaster, but the job was given to Richard Baxter, who was described as “one of England’s greatest scholars and saints”.
He was born in Rowton, Shropshire, and ordained on the 23rd December, 1638, receiving a licence to teach and preach by the Bishop of Worcester.

He came to Dudley at the age of 23 where he commenced his ministry and later stated that the people of Dudley were “a poor tractable people lately famous for drunkenness, but commonly more ready to hear the word of god with submission and reformation than most places”.

In 1640 he was transferred to St. Leonard’s Church at Bridgnorth, where his cottage still stands.

At Dudley he composed a school hymn, which continued to be used at the school until the 1960s.

Richard Baxter's cottage in St Leonard's Close, Bridgnorth.

During its lifetime, the school moved several times. In 1787, under the headship of Thomas Jackson, the school was located in the north west corner of Stone Street. Dr. Luke Booker, Vicar of Dudley, became headmaster and hired an assistant. In 1798 the school was at Queen's Cross and had 30 pupils. Luke Booker left in 1806 and was replaced by his assistant. The building suffered from mining subsidence and in 1826 the school moved to Wolverhampton Street in a property rented from Lord Dudley. The school is listed in Pigot & Company's Commercial Directory of 1828, as being in Wolverhampton Street. The headmaster was Proctor Robinson.

The building was too small and so in 1834 the trustees purchased a house in High Street, where the Full Moon pub is today. At the back was a long garden that stretched to King Street. There were several buildings at the rear including one that was alongside King Street. It is clearly labelled on the 1884 Ordnance Survey map as the Grammar School, which is listed in several directories as being located in King Street.

The location of the Grammar School in King Street. Based on the 1884 O.S. map.

Pigot & Company's National and Commercial Directory of 1842 has the following entry:

In M. Billing's 1855 Directory and Gazetteer of the County of Worcester, the listing is as follows:

From the above listing it can be seen that the school building alongside King Street was newly constructed.

The school owned several houses in High Street, Castle Street and Stoney Lane as well as a timber yard near The Horsepool and several plots of land on the north side of Hall Street. In total the school owned about three acres of land.

In 1863, Joseph Guest gave £2,000 to the school to fund a university scholarship. In 1896 land was offered by the Earl of Dudley in St. James's Road. A new school building was built there with accommodation for 160 boys, a gymnasium and a headmaster's house. The new school opened in 1899 with an extended curriculum and a new headmaster, Hugh Watson.

The new school in St. James's Road. From an old postcard.

In Kelly's 1912 Worcestershire Directory the school is listed as follows:
Dudley Grammar School, St. James's Road, founded in 1562, reorganized by the Charity Commissioners in 1879, now a secondary school under the Board of Education; a new building with semi-detached chemical laboratory was opened in July, 1899. Attached to the school is a leaving exhibition of from £30 to £50 a year, tenable at any university in the United Kingdom; a gold medal is also presented annually by the Earl of Dudley. There are now (1912) about 130 boys: the school is controlled by a body of governors; Hugh Watson B.A. University of London, Headmaster; H. M. Fraser B.A. University of London, Second Master. Secretary, Fred Honniball, Town Hall.

In 1910 the newly formed Girls High School occupied a new building, nearby in Priory Road and had many links with the Grammar School. Pupils from both schools regularly carried out drama productions and physics lessons together, and several teachers taught at both schools.

Under the terms of the 1944 Education Act, the Grammar School became a 'controlled' school, run by the local authority. As part of the education modernisation programme in the 1960s, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council unveiled plans in 1966 for the merger of both schools to form a mixed comprehensive school, but nothing was done at the time. In July 1975 Dudley Grammar School closed and finally merged with the Girls High School and Park Secondary School, to form The Dudley School, which opened in September 1975.

The old grammar school building then housed Castle High School, formed in 1989 with the merger of The Dudley School and The Bluecoat School. It became St James Academy in 2017 and is part of the Dudley Academies Trust. It is also a specialist Arts College.

Dudley Girls High School

Education changed dramatically as a result of the 1870 Education Act that made education compulsory for children from five to twelve years of age. In Dudley the Grammar School provided education for boys between the ages of eleven and eighteen, but there was no equivalent school for girls. Several prominent local businessmen founded a suitable school for girls under the name of the Dudley Proprietary School for Girls. A suitable building was purchased on the corner of Wolverhampton Street and Trinity Road and the project quickly got underway. The school opened on the 28th April, 1881 with 24 pupils, who came not only from Dudley itself but also from neighbouring towns in Staffordshire.

Places were in great demand and so larger premises were acquired in St. James’s Road, which were extended in 1896 and 1897 when a kindergarten was added. By 1899 there were 98 pupils which increased to 103 in 1903. In 1904 Dudley Corporation acquired the school and it became the Dudley Municipal High School.

The name was changed to Dudley Girls High School when a new school was built in Priory Road, which was designed by J. Hutchings. The school provided education for girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen and as already mentioned, close ties were formed with nearby Dudley Grammar School.

The buildings in Priory Road. From an old postcard.

In Kelly's 1912 Worcestershire Directory the school is listed as follows:
Dudley High School for Girls, Priory Road; Miss M. E. Burke B.A. London, Principal. The High School for Girls, in Priory Road, is a building of red brick with stone dressings, erected in 1910 at a cost of about £23,000 by the Staffordshire County and the Dudley County Borough Education Authorities; it is controlled by a board of 15 governors, 8 being nominated by the Staffordshire County Council Education Committee, 6 by the Dudley Education Committee, and 1 by Birmingham University; Miss M. E. Burke B.A. London, head mistress; J. M. Wynne, Education office, Dudley, clerk to the governors.

In September 1975 the school merged with the Grammar School and Park Secondary Modern School to form The Dudley School, initially based in the buildings of both the former grammar school and the high school. The Park School buildings were retained for two years as an annexe to The Dudley School.

In September 1989, Dudley School merged with The Blue Coat School to form Castle High School. The school also took in pupils from the Sir Gilbert Claughton School and the Mons Hill School, both of which were facing closure. The building in St James’s Road was expanded in the 1990s and the old high school building was demolished.

Another view of the buildings in Priory Road. Also from an old postcard.

The Sir Gilberty Claughton School opened in 1904 in Blowers Green Road, as the Dudley Upper Standard School. Three years late it became the Higher Elementary School. In 1929 it became the Dudley Intermediate School and in 1957 the Sir Gilbert Claughton Grammar Technical School. The school was extended for the teaching of science and it became a comprehensive school in September 1975. By the mid 1980s student numbers were falling and the school closed in 1990.

Mons Hill School was built off Wrens Hill Road in the early 1960s and called Wren's Nest Secondary School. It opened in April 1965 and became Mons Hill School in the mid 1970s. The school closed in July 1990 and was taken over by Dudley College and later by the Wenlock School, which caters for pupils with special needs.

Mons Hill School was built to cater for children from Wolverhampton Street School in Dudley, which opened in 1880 in an area of dense housing. By the 1960s it was quite dilapidated and closed when Mons Hill School opened. The site was redeveloped as a public car park.

St John’s Primary School

St John’s Primary School in St John’s Road, Kate’s Hill, was built in 1840 along with the neighbouring parish church. Its purpose was to educate the large number of children from the surrounding housing estates that catered for the large number of people moving into the area to work in the expanding industries. The school closed in the mid 1970s when it merged with St. Edmund's Primary School to form St Edmund's and St John's Primary School. The new school was housed in a new building in Hillcrest Road, Kate’s Hill. It is now Beechwood CE Primary School with the main entrance in Beechwood Road.

St. James's School

St. James's School opened in Salop Street, Eve Hill, in 1842. It was designed by William Bourne, who was also the architect of St James’s Church and St. John's Church at Kate's Hill. It consisted of a large room, divided into two halves by a partition that separated the boys from the girls. The main subject was religious education. It was built from public subscriptions and cost nearly £500. Each pupil had to pay two pence every Monday morning, for their weekly tuition.

In M. Billing's 1855 Directory and Gazetteer of the County of Worcester, the listing is as follows:

In 1868 both boys and girls were taught together and the school mistress was made redundant. The interior of the school was later improved when the internal walls were plastered and cloakrooms and heating were added. In 1906 it became an infants school that prepared children to be transferred to Jesson’s Junior School.  

In 1912 the school was refurbished and the weekly charges for education were dropped. During the Second World War, American troops used the building, which reopened as a school after the war. In July 1972 it joined Jesson’s Junior School to form Jesson's Middle School.

The old school closed in 1980 and became a youth centre until it was declared structurally unsound in 1989. Before the year was out, the building was taken down and then rebuilt as an exhibit at the Black Country Living Museum, where it was officially opened in 1992.

The school at the Black Country Living Museum on a snowy day.

An interior view of the school at the museum.

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