Wigan Grammar School
The Third School


The Third School

After 150 years a new school was essential, and this was erected on the present site in 1879, a large and picturesque building , but only comprising a spacious Headmaster’s house, a hall, five big classrooms (obviously intended for several classes in each) and some cellars. The cost was met by various charities and also swallowed up nearly the whole of the endowment, so that, when the Rev. G. C. Chambres started his 35 years as Headmaster in 1891, the School was again in the ‘dark days.’ There were just over 100 boys, 35 of whom were free scholars, and the School depended on the small fees of the 75 others together with the now tiny endowment. No wonder Mr. Chambres had to make payments out of his own pocket and in 1894 had to ask if he might let the Headmaster’s house.

Two of the rooms were converted into very elementary laboratories in 1896, and two of the cellars were adapted, to some extent, as a workshop and gymnasium. All the same the numbers declined in the early years of the 20 th century to about 70, yet the School continued to show an astonishing sequence of successes of Old Boys at the universities, in the professions and in other walks of life.


REV. G C Chambres

In 1902 the Education Bill became law, which , for the first time , set up local Education Committees with power to levy rates for secondary education. Negotiations between the Governors and the Education Committee about financial help were completed in 1905, and the School’s financial position was at last assured. As a result, in the next three or four years the number of boys doubled, two new laboratories were built in a corner of the playground, the Headmaster’s house was converted into classrooms (except for a small part occupied by Mr. Perry, the caretaker), Mr J.W.Jones, who had such an influence on the future of the School, was appointed second master, the Debating Society (the School’s oldest society) started, the first School Magazine appeared, the School Scout Troop, one of the first in the country, was formed, the first School Trophy, the O’Donahue Cup for Athletics, was presented by an ex-Mayor, and the original school song was composed by a former Chairman of the Education Committee, Mr. H. Brierley.

In 1921 there were nearly 300 boys (10 only in the sixth form) and six wooden huts were erected in the playground – temporary accommodation for 200 boys, which lasted for 15 years! The increasing cost of the School brought about fresh negotiations with the Education Committee and under a new scheme the School was transferred entirely to the responsibility of the Corporation in 1923.

Mr. J. M. Moir succeeded Mr. Chambres in 1926 and laid the foundations of the modern school. The number of boys increased to 500, with 30 doing advanced work. Greek was reintroduced into the timetable , the School Magazine appeared again regularly after a lapse of ten years, six Houses were formed and named after school benefactors, a School Captain and Prefects were appointed, Speech Days with a distinguished guest were held annually, the first holiday camps and continental trips were organised, rugby football became a school game, and an annual concert version of Gilbert and Sullivan was given in the Queen’s Hall.


Demolition of The Third School

Under Mr. S. W. Whitehouse, who became Headmaster in 1931, German and Biology were introduced, ‘sets’ appeared for the first time, the numbers in the sixth form rose to over 70, the Fives Court, one of the finest in the country, a gift from Colonel Eckersley, was opened in 1935 and proved so popular that boys had to queue for a game from 8 a.m. onwards on Saturdays and holidays, the Mesnes Playing Field was laid out, the first event being the Masters’ Match in 1937, school games, school athletics and school scouts reached new heights of achievement, and the astonishingly successful Variety Entertainments attracted crowded audiences in the years before the war.



I regard myself as having been the ‘Headmaster of the Transition.’ When I was appointed to take charge of the School, I was shewn the plan which had been drawn up for the enlargement of the School premises and for the enclosing and laying-out of the then very rough piece of ground known as the Mesnes. As to the School building itself, the idea was to retain as much as possible of the Waterhouse building, keeping, of course, the School Hall, which was certainly a beautifully proportioned central feature of the School, even if acoustically it was not perfect. Part of the back wall of the Hall was to have been taken away and a stage built out, and the new buildings were to have conformed architecturally with the old.

These suggested extensions were not effected, for the country entered upon some lean years and the money could not be afforded. Then it had to be decided whether the sentimental value of the School Hall was worth the extra £5,000 involved in that particular scheme beyond the cost of an entirely new building. The Board of Education’s inclination won the day, and, after many delays, a new building on modern lines, designed by the same skilled architect, Mr A.K. Munby, who had drawn up the previous plans, was put in hand. For a period of two-and-a-half years the School was being rebuilt on the same site. I have never ceased to wonder that the boys in the Huts, who had to contend with the noise of concrete-mixing machines immediately outside, made any progress with their studies. It does speak very highly for the technical skill of the Staff that the academic studies of the School were maintained at a satisfactory level during this very difficult period. At one time we were without laboratories. For a whole year I had to annex for the use of my Secretary and myself the P.T. Instructor’s room off the Gymnasium, as I had to carry on the School from somewhere! For a year we could have only half the School in assembly at a time – in the Gymnasium – while the other half were having Prayers in Form Rooms, but eventually the new buildings were complete, and the good old Grammar School was in its fourth home.