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…