Huyton’s Forgotten School and Landing Ground

Written by Rob O’Brien

On leaving his post as senior English Master at Liverpool College in 1926, a position he had occupied for the previous five years, Hubert Desramaux Butler set his sights on opening a school of his own. Hubert was born at Farnworth, near Bolton on 9th March 1899, the third son of a Church of England clergyman. Educated initially at Rossall School, he later gained a B.A. Honours degree in English at Oxford University.

The school H.D. Butler envisaged (of which he became both headmaster and owner), was to be unlike the normal preparatory school of its time. He was a man of vision, a modernist, with many unique ideas that he incorporated within his new venture.

Huyton Hill Boys’ Preparatory School began in a small way, comprising just a handful of pupils in a large semi-detached villa at the extreme end of Victoria Road, Huyton. As pupil numbers increased, the adjoining villa was bought to accommodate them and later a third property was added. The popularity of the school was such that by 1939 there were 53 pupils of whom 27 were boarders.

Ranging in age from five to fifteen years, the pupils at Huyton Hill received not just a rounded academic education but they were involved in decision making and encouraged to develop a sense of individual responsibility. On Saturday mornings, boys took part in collective work not only around the school grounds, but also carrying out half an hour’s work for the local community. In turn, the boys learnt about the use of tools by accompanying the school handyman when repairs were necessary on the premises. In the garden area of the school, pupils had the use of a swimming pool, a small boating pool and a large summer house which they had helped to construct.

1926 Huyton Hey Trust Plan

Huyton Hey Trust Plan 1926

(Ref: KA23/P/P1- Knowsley Archives)

Apart from purchasing the school buildings, Mr Butler had also bought the land adjoining the school which comprised an area of some thirty acres. Part of this land was used as a recreational area and the rest eventually used as a landing ground for aeroplanes. Once more the headmaster’s ability to plan ahead was in evidence. The school landing ground opened on 1st July 1932, an event reported in the local press:

Evening Express – 1st July 1932

© Liverpool Evening Express
(The Master of Sempill shows boys of Huyton Hill School, Liverpool, how to start an aeroplane after opening the school aerodrome today)

Liverpool Daily Post – 2nd July 1932

© Liverpool Daily Post
(Headmaster H.D. Butler with Colonel, the Master of Sempill addressing the boys of Huyton Hill School, Liverpool, yesterday, after opening the school aerodrome)

Later that month as the summer holidays approached, one of the pupils was picked up from the school by a parent in a light aircraft. Huyton Hill was the first school in the country to have its own landing ground!

Prescot Reporter – 29th July 1932

To enable pilots to confirm the airfield’s location, yet again pupils were involved. They helped to construct a series of markers on the landing ground itself. Concrete letters depicting ’H H’ and measuring thirty-feet in size were set into the earth in the middle of the landing ground together with a second concrete marker stating HUYTON HILL in ten-foot letters, which was set into the corner of the landing ground in order to show incoming aircraft the line of approach.

A 1930s postcard below shows the scene: the landing ground and completed concrete markers, with the school buildings shown in the background:

Huyton Hill School and landing ground, Huyton

© Aero Pictorial Ltd, London

By the start of the Second World War, Huyton Hill Boys’ School had left Huyton for new premises in the Lake District, firstly at Newby Bridge, then in 1942 a further move to Pull Wood House, beside Lake Windermere near Ambleside. Similarly, most of the pupils at Liverpool College for Girls, Huyton, also moved to the Lake District for safety reasons following bombing raids on the Liverpool docks area; inevitably, some bombs did fall within the Huyton district.

After the war, the girls’ school pupils returned to Huyton College (it had been renamed in 1945), but Huyton Hill Boys’ Preparatory School remained operational in the Lake District until its closure in 1969.

Huyton Hill School – Lake District

© Aerofilms Ltd, London

Postscript: The Master of Sempill (who officially opened the landing ground at Huyton in 1932), had previously been investigated by the authorities for alleged national security breaches but that’s another story…

 

 

Family History Help Desk Dates 2020

Every month throughout the year, Knowsley Archives offers a series of Family History Help Desks in libraries across the borough. They’re ideal if you are new to family history research, or are trying to find your way through the maze of information and resources: expert advice and guidance is available to help you on your way.

If you would like help with your family history research, staff at the ARK – Knowsley Archives’ base in The Kirkby Centre– are available to help during our normal opening hours, but the Family History Help Desks are an opportunity to get support at a time and location that may be more convenient for you.

Sessions are free of charge and they are run on a drop-in basis. We will do our best to answer your questions on the day, but more complicated queries may need to be followed up after your visit or require an additional appointment.

Women and children packing the potato crop, Kirkby

Packing the potato crop, Kirkby c.1910

The dates for 2020 are as follows:

PRESCOT LIBRARY

Tuesday 10.00 -1.00

STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY

Tuesday        2.00-5.00

KIRKBY LIBRARY

Thursday 10.00-1.00

HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Friday        2.00-5.00

HUYTON LIBRARY

Saturday 10.00-1.00

14th January 14th January 16th January 17th January 18th January
11th February 11th February 13th February 14th February 15th February
10th March 10th March 12th March 13th March 14th March
14th April 14th April 16th April 17th April 18th April
12th May 12th May 14th May 15th May 16th May
9th June 9th June 11th June 12th June 13th June
7th July 7th July 9th July 10th July 11th July
4th August 4th August 6th August 7th August 8th August
1st September 1st September 3rd September 4th September 5th September
6th October 6th October 8th October 9th October 10th October
3rd November 3rd November 5th November 6th November 7th November
1st  December 1st  December 3rd  December 4th December 5th December

Aspirations and Accreditations

What a year 2017 was!

The ARK started the year in a very purposeful manner, closing its doors to personal visitors so that all of the collections could be inspected for condition, packaging and location during the 2 week stock take. It was the first time that we had undertaken such a task, which, although a full-on experience, was one that we found incredibly useful as it gave us a greater insight into the condition and status of the collections, so much so that the process will be repeated in 2018 (put 22nd January-2nd February in your diary…)

At the same time, the ARK loaned exhibition material to the Council of Christians and Jews in Liverpool, which was shown at Liverpool Cathedral to mark Holocaust Day. This opened up the information gathered as part of our HLF supported Huyton Camps project to yet another diverse audience who were able to connect with the experiences of internees.

February was a busy time, which saw a team effort result in the local history reference stock held at Huyton Library being transferred to the ARK, where these books are now safely stored for posterity (and researchers to study!). We also opened our doors to staff from Knowsley’s branch libraries, who were given an insight into the workings of the archive service and a chance to see some of the wonderful treasures in the collections.

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects have made great progress during 2017. The retro-conversion of the paper-based catalogue to Calm, an online, accessible database and the community engagement projects both gained momentum, aided by our magnificent volunteers, who regularly and generously give their time and expertise to support the ARK.

D517-072

Children from St Anne’s Catholic Primary School

Children from St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Huyton worked incredibly hard, researching the history and impact of the railways in Huyton. The result was a stunning documentary which is both informative and entertaining. Watch it here, if you haven’t already:

Meanwhile, our borough-wide music project, ‘Rock the ARK’, got off the ground with some eye-catching exhibitions in our library spaces and an invitation to vote for your favourite Knowsley related pop song. It was an impressive roll call of Knowsley talent, with T’Pau, The La’s, Black, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and more besides in the running for the top slot. Who won? Well, we’ll find that out later…

The ARK hosted many visits from students, school pupils and local societies over the course of the year, providing an introduction to the ARK, research sessions and interactive explorations to enable people to access the collections and interpret that information in an appropriate manner. We also went out on road, visiting groups in their own spaces – for example, we helped Beavers, Cubs and Scouts in Prescot to achieve their Local Interest badge, entertained Halewood U3A with our 1990 Pop-up Slide Show (which recreated an original local history talk delivered by the former Principal Reference Librarian, the late Mr. T. W. Scragg) and evoked musical memories at Stockbridge Library’s reminiscence coffee morning. In another first for us, we were delighted to be invited to present a talk on the ‘Highlights from the Prescot Archives’ to the 13th Annual Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts.

Kirkby College Reunion 31.8.17

Former students of the Malayan College return to Kirkby, August 2017

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects continued to grow throughout the year. Links with the Alumni of Kirkby’s Malayan Teachers’ Training College, which operated on the site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory hostel in Kirkby Fields from 1952–1962, culminated in an emotional return of some 38 of the former students, many of them now octogenarians, to the site of the College to unveil a commemorative plaque which describes the history of the site. This visit, on 30th – 31st August, coincided with the 60th anniversary of the announcement of Merdeka (independence) for Malaya (now Malaysia). Old friendships were rekindled and new associations forged in what was a most inspiring and uplifting experience for the Alumni, local residents, ARK staff and volunteers. The legacy of this project is clear: links between residents and former students and their families have been created, and the ARK is now recognised as the official repository for material relating to the MTTC and the Alumni Association, underlining the international importance of the collections, which will continue to be a focal point for researchers of the College in the future. Watch the events unfold in this short film:

Malayan Christmas Card, 1954

A beautiful Malaysian Christmas card design from the Margaret Whitaker collection, described in December’s Challenge article

August saw The Challenge newspaper publish the first of a monthly series of articles submitted by the ARK which explore different aspects of the collections. So far, we’ve covered diverse topics such as the Malayan Teachers’ Training College, Knowsley’s sporting legacy, tales of mystery and celebrating Christmas. The January issue is due out now – look out for our article on sales and shopping in Knowsley, explored through the prism of the archive collections.

The big headline for 2017, however, has to be the ARK’s attainment of Accreditation from The National Archives, which was announced in November.

The Archive Accreditation Scheme is a national award Accredited Archive Service logowhich is only given to archive services after a rigorous inspection process which closely examines all aspects of service delivery, from policies and procedures and conservation work through to customer service, access to the collections and community engagement. Happily, the ARK was awarded full accreditation status, giving our communities that quality assurance that the archives are being managed, cared for and made available to the very highest standards.

20171124_092317

Getting ready to show Erich Kirste’s moving account of life as a POW in Huyton

November was also time to join in with the national campaign, Explore Your Archive. We ran an open day and 2 film show sessions, which featured the short films created through our HLF supported projects – Erich Kirste’s moving recollections of life as a WWII Prisoner of War in Huyton, ‘Chuffed to Bits’ which explores the impact of the railways on Huyton and Roby through the eyes of pupils from St Anne’ Catholic Primary School and ‘The Malayan Connection’ which celebrates the return of the former students of the Malayan Teachers’ Training College to Kirkby.

Our HLF supported projects continue into the 3rd year of the programme, with more exciting opportunities for our communities to get involved in activities around sport (our sporting heritage project, ‘This Sporting Life’, is about to kick off…) and education (‘History Detectives’ will create local history materials for use in schools) plus our music project, ‘Rock the ARK’ will be finalised (by the way – the La’s won the public vote).

The collections will be much easier to search and be much more visible as we go live with the catalogue – keep a look out for details of the launch of Calmview, which will allow researchers to explore collections online.

So: 2017 was definitely a landmark year for the ARK – but there’s so much more to come in 2018!

It’s all about the analogue…

During our recent stock take, we uncovered a forgotten slide show presentation mounted in a carousel. After a quick inspection, we realised that we also had a script, dated 1990, filed away in a cabinet which just might offer information on the slides. Indeed, the script described, in great detail, the listed buildings and conservation areas of Knowsley as they were in 1990, compiled by T.W. Scragg. Tom was for many years the Library Service’s greatly respected Principal Reference Librarian, who during his career had taken a great interest in local history and was something of an expert in the field.

 

PT92

This view of Market Place, Prescot in 1809 is from a painting presented by F W Halsall Esq. and is one of the slides in the presentation

Fortunately, Mr Scragg had left a complete list of the slides alongside the script and we found, to our great delight, that the images matched perfectly – to a point. The carousel was full, but according to the printed material, there were still a further 11 slides, representing the townships of Tarbock and Halewood, missing from the sequence. What to do? There are many slides in the archive, a number of which are unlisted. In time, we will catalogue all of the slides, but in that moment, it seemed to be an almost insurmountable task to identify and retrieve the missing images.

So began the process of reviewing the collection, starting with a box of miscellaneous items curiously entitled ‘Somebody’s Holiday Snaps.’ Within the box was a folder of obviously library focused material and a small slide box which was unlabelled, but contained individual slides bearing Library Service reference numbers. Could these be the missing slides from Mr Scragg’s tour of Knowsley? An inspection of the slides revealed that they were indeed the elusive 11, and we promptly set about reuniting the collection.

CR11

Not all of the listed sites in Knowsley are buildings: the Stocks at Cronton, pictured in 1906, are Grade II listed and feature in the presentation

It is fascinating to compare the properties singled out for consideration 27 years ago with Historic England’s National Heritage List for England, the current register of nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England. In Knowsley, there are some 121 listed buildings and monuments, ranging from the Grade II listed Dovecote – known locally as the Pigeon House – on Whitefield Drive in Kirkby and the grand family seat of the Earls of Derby, Knowsley Hall (Grade 2*) to the only Grade I building in the borough, the Church of St Mary on Church Street, Prescot. To break the numbers down, there is 1 Grade I building (St Mary’s, Prescot); 4 Grade II* (Church of St Michael, Huyton; St Chad’s Church, Kirkby; St Mary’s Church, Knowsley and Knowsley Hall) and the remaining 116 listed at Grade II. Some of the buildings noted by Mr Scragg have since been demolished or re-purposed whereas others, such as St Chad’s, have seen their heritage status enhanced. The presentation gives us an opportunity to reflect on how the borough’s building stock has evolved through the intervening years and how our historic buildings add value to our understanding of the past and offer a real,tangible link to our heritage.

KB216

Another image from the slide show: the Norman font, St Chad’s Church, Kirkby

So: we aim to recreate the presentation in the ARK to share with local historians, using the original script, slides and slide projector, as part of Local History Month. The 1990 Pop-Up Slide Show will take place on Wednesday 19th April 2017, starting at 10:30am until 12:30pm. The session will run for up to 2 hours, with light refreshments available and an opportunity to discuss comparisons with today’s landscape and to explore original archive materials.

The event is free of charge, but as space is limited in the ARK search room, you can avoid disappointment by booking a place in advance. Contact the ARK, 1st Floor, The Kirkby Centre, Norwich Way, Kirkby L32 8XYon 0151 443 4291 or email infoheritage@knowsley.gov.uk.

 

Calling St. Gregory’s School for Girls, Kirkby…

Earlier this year, we were very fortunate to receive an interesting donation which recalled the work of Miss Mary Thomas, the former Head of the House Craft Department at St. Gregory’s Roman Catholic Comprehensive School for Girls in Kirkby. Born in 1925, she was a dedicated teacher and later, founder in 1987 of the older peoples’ charity, Dark Horse Venture. She spent many years at St. Gregory’s and this collection recalls her work there.

Invitation to attend the 'A Right Handful' exhibition, 1979

Invitation to attend the ‘A Right Handful’ exhibition, 1979

After gaining her teaching qualification, Miss Thomas began her career at the Bovington Secondary Modern School in Dorset, followed by a spell in Tunbridge Wells and then a stint at a rural school in Sussex. St. Gregory’s Girls’ School opened in September 1958 on the same site as St. Laurence’s School, which had previously opened as a mixed establishment for boys and girls in the newly developed town of Kirkby in 1956. The two came together in 1963, when Miss Thomas was offered and accepted the post of Head of the Housecraft Department at St. Gregory’s, where she was responsible for 12 housecraft rooms, 6 needlework rooms and a team of 14 teaching staff. She introduced ‘Mothercraft’ as a taught subject, educating the pupils in all aspects of parenthood, from conception within marriage to all aspects of caring for a child – often using the girls’ baby brothers and sisters to demonstrate the practical skills required. An exhibition – ‘A Right Handful’ – organised by Miss Thomas at the Kirkby Civic Buildings (now the Kirkby Centre, home of The ARK) celebrated the International Year of the Child, 1979 and highlighted the students’ achievements.

Volunteering with Meals on Wheels

Year Four pupils volunteering with the W.R.V.S. Meals on Wheels Service

Miss Thomas also made sure that the pupils were involved in their own community. She organised the Fourth Year girls in volunteering with the W.R.V.S. Meals on Wheels Service in Kirkby, helping to deliver hot meals to older people and also fundraising for the cause: it was reported that the students raised £33.00 and purchased a large aluminium food container and dishes which were presented to the W.R.V.S. by Miss Thomas and a group of pupils.

She eventually retired from  the school in 1983, but not before she had established a vibrant, forward thinking department which prepared the students for real life. Many will remember her saying: ‘If you want to make something of yourself you can. Take command of your life.’

The collection of materials looks at her time teaching at the school, including a scrapbook, colour and black and white photographs and negatives, newspaper cuttings and examples of posters for a child care exhibition involving pupils from St. Gregory’s as part of the Year of the ChilMary Thomas collection, Kirkbyd in 1979. Miss Thomas has also deposited a copy of her autobiography, ‘So there you are…’ published through the Small Wonders Community Programme. Thanks are due to Mike Ravey, who deposited the collection on behalf of Miss Thomas.

We are currently holding an an exhibition of items from the collection which can be viewed at Kirkby Library during normal opening hours – and with Mike’s assistance, we’ll be hosting an open afternoon for ex-pupils which will be attended by Miss Thomas herself. This will take place on Thursday 9th June 2016 – do get in touch if you’d like more information.

From the front line…

There are many ways in which volunteers can get involved in activity in the ARK , whether it be through our HLF supported community projects or in a more behind-the-scenes role. Today, our longest-serving volunteer, Mark, gives us an insight into the invaluable work that he does in indexing volumes from the news cuttings collection. So, in his words…

Greetings and salutations! It’s your friendly neighbourhood Mark again with another post from the front lines. Today I’m going to tell you about what I do in greater detail.

It starts with a considerable book filled with newspaper clippings from years beMarkARKfore many of your parents were even born. I’m currently working on articles from 1951. I give each article a thorough examination, reading it
and re-reading it. Once that is done, I set about summarising it. It’s harder than it sounds. Trust me.

You wouldn’t believe the articles I’ve come across in my journey through 70 years of Knowsley history. There’s one I found from all the way back in 1949, detailing local rebuilding going on after the war. I’ve seen the early days of Knowsley Council, the rise and fall of the planned pavilion; I’ve even seen the early career of a future Prime Minister. Which PM? How’s about Harold Wilson?

There’s one ‘article’ (well, as series of articles would be more astute) in particular that really sticks out in my mind; a series of articles called ‘Municipal matters’ written by a man called Chris Perry. They’re not 100% focused on a single item, rather covering local council activities. I’ve never seen such a sarcastic, witty reporter.

And that’s what I do, roughly. Oh, sure, there’s a lot more I could talk about, but I could go on for ages about the things I’ve found. that would be, as the saying goes, ‘another article’!

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

It’s that time of year again: the leaves on the trees have turned autumnal gold, red and brown and the clocks have turned back, giving us a delicious extra hour to spend, whether it be a golden hour of additional sleep or time to get involved in leisure activities. Here at The ARK, our thoughts have turned to Explore Your Archive and we are busy making plans for some exciting events and activities which will take place throughout November.

The Explore Your Archive campaign is led by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association. This national  campaign gears up in mid-November, with archives from different sectors across the UK and Ireland taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users. The campaign aims to encourage people to take a closer look at their local archives and to discover the treasures that reveal the stories, facts, places and people that are at the heart of our communities.

The ARK events are all free to attend and kick off on Tuesday 10th November with our ever-popular Family History Help Desk drop-in sessions. Find us at Prescot Library, 10:00am – 1:00pm and later at Stockbridge Village Library between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. The ARK, Kirkby Library will be the venue for the session on Thursday 11th November, between 10:00am and 1:00pm and on Friday 13th November we’ll be offering genealogical help and advice at Halewood Library between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. The final Help Desk of the month will be at Huyton Library on Saturday 14th November between 10:00am and 1:00pm.

The ARK holds a number of fascinating oral history interviews made during the 1970s, featuring local politicians as well as ordinary people who recorded their recollections of times gone by. This year, supported by HLF, we have been able to develop the collection through the Talking Kirkby project undertaken by Kirkby U3A, when local residents shared their memories of Kirkby in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s with members of the U3A. On Monday 16th November, we’ll be showcasing the audio collections, old and new, in The ARK through Sounding Out the Past. Sessions will run from 10:00am – 12:00pm and 2:00pm – 4:00pm. There’ll even be an opportunity for you to record your own memories!

Tuesday 17th November is Explore Your Archive Day, with an afternoon of exploration and information about how the archive ticks. From 1:00pm – 2:00pm and then from 3:00pm – 4:00pm, the cry is Your Archive Needs You! You will have the opportunity to find out how you can get involved in our HLF projects as a volunteer. Nestled in between these sessions, there will be a short presentation and Tour of The ARK – giving you a behind the scenes glimpse of how the archive works and a rare opportunity to view close up some of our most precious treasures.

Explore Your Archive has given us a wonderful opportunity to work with the Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative and MATE Productions to engage local primary school children in an exciting initiative which will bring the archive alive through drama and interactive learning. Pupils from Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, Prescot will be joining us on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th November for A Morning (or Afternoon!) in the Archive, when they will discover the rich history of their home town.

Friday 20th November brings the focus back to The ARK and a spot of refection with the TV Time Travellers.  Join us from 2:00pm – 3:30pm for a single showing of 3 of our most popular local history films: Kirkby: Portrait of a Town; Knowsley Today and Bridge Over the Bluebell. There’ll also be a chance to chat to our HLF Project Co-ordinators about volunteer opportunities.

So: there’s lot’s happening this November, and all of our public events are free to attend – so go on: Explore Your Archive!

Just call us on 0151 443 4291 or email infoheritage@knowsley.gov.uk for more information or to book a place. We look forward to meeting you!

A seasonal image from the archive... A Kirkby farmer using a horse drawn plough to prepare for another year's crop [n.d. circa 1930]

A seasonal image from the archive… A Kirkby farmer using a horse drawn plough to prepare for another year’s crop
[n.d. circa 1930]