The photos have been collected and digitised by the members of Darwen Heritage Centre.
In 1894 Darwen Higher Grade School was opened in Union Street, Darwen which became Darwen Secondary School in 1908.
After the First World War there were many changes to the system of education – the school leaving age was raised to 14 and the school became known as the Darwen Grammar School in 1929
Pupils were decanted from the Darwen Grammar School in Union Street down to the Blackburn Road site. There were 304 pupils from what is now known as years 7-11 and 28 pupils in the sixth form. It was a fee paying school charged to parents and carers – £2 10s 0d per term but 111 places were awarded for children who could not afford the fees. There was a widespread industrial depression in the late 1930’s and Darwen lost 150 families to other parts of the country such as the Midlands and the South. 33 promising pupils had left the school to move with their families.
Of the move the headmaster said ‘both studies and relaxations had benefitted enormously from the beautiful surroundings, and pupils had already begun to claim the school and the furniture as a treasure entrusted to them.’
The local people, the school staff and the pupils were very proud of the simple Georgian style building with a roof of Westmorland green slates. There were 8 classrooms, a sixth form room, an art room, manual instruction and metal work room, domestic science room, physics and chemistry laboratories, a science lecture room and a biology classroom. There was a gymnasium with showers, cloakrooms for girls and boys, a dining room with attached kitchens, a library and an assembly hall with a stage and a gallery. There were cycle sheds behind the school and a caretaker’s cottage at the entrance to the school
The aim of the school was to provide ‘ a sound and liberal education and to train future citizens both in character and intellect’. Instruction was given in scripture, English, Geography, History, Latin, French, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Art, Woodwork for boys, Domestic Science for girls, class singing and physical education. It was tradition for all pupils to take one science and either art or woodwork depending on gender. In addition to the narrower school curriculum other activities were encouraged such as dancing, swimming, camping, games, reading and the production of plays. Stationery was provided for the pupils but they had to buy their own textbooks. All pupils had to have a medical inspection periodically. Photographs show there was a strict uniform of a pinafore dress for the young ladies and a blazer and trousers or shorts for the boys. However, this could not be enforced when the school opened due to wartime conditions and the rationing of clothes.
Examination success in the year of opening was worthy of merit. Of 107 pupils who had taken the School Certificate examination in the last 3 years, 75 had passed
“As it grew the smoke-begrimed buildings in Union Street became too small… And when county finances permitted, the present buildings were erected in Blackburn Road, near the borough boundary. To these the school moved in September 1938 to enjoy among the other advantages, comparative quiet, where adjacent playing fields saved the tedious journey to Sett End”
From a brochure from the School’s 50th Birthday in 1946
In 1972 under the reorganisation of the education system across the country Darwen Grammar School became Darwen Vale High School
In December 2014 the school converted to Academy status and joined the Aldridge education multi academy trust.