Barnstaple school plans centenary year

THE Park Community School will be celebrating its 100th birthday next year and planning is already is under way to mark the occasion. In fact, the foundation stone for the new Barnstaple Grammar Schools, as it was then known, was laid a century ago this m

THE Park Community School will be celebrating its 100th birthday next year and planning is already is under way to mark the occasion.

In fact, the foundation stone for the new Barnstaple Grammar Schools, as it was then known, was laid a century ago this month on August 11, 1909 by Sir C Thomas Dyke Acland Bart, Chairman of the Devon Education Committee.

"I felt it important to view the foundation stone on the very day during the summer break, exactly 100 years on from that ceremony," said Park head teacher David Atton.

"We have plans to celebrate the 100th birthday next year, including the publication of a book recording a social history of the town viewed through the eyes of the school as times changed and the century unfolded. The author is old boy Trevor Hill, who was a pupil at the Grammar School in the 1960s.


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It is hoped as many ex-pupils and their families as possible will join with the school for its centenary celebrations and to see the book, which is packed with photographs bound to evoke a memory or two.

"The town leaders were very forward thinking in establishing the school as the first council built secondary school in Devon - and for an equal number of boys and girls."

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That did not mean they could mix, however! The building was designed to operate as two separate schools and there was a six foot six inch thick wall dividing the two playgrounds!

The first headmaster, Henry Abel, was paid �400 a year while girls' headmistress Anne Jenkins received only �250.

Planning for the new school had begun in 1903, with various sites considered before "a site at the top of Newport, being the present football field and the two fields adjoining," which provided 13 acres of land "beautifully situated between the end of Ladies Mile and the Bishop Tawton Road" purchased in 1904 from Mr Chichester of Hall for �4,100.

The overall cost of the project was �14,000 (about �800,000 in today's terms) and it was officially opened for business by Earl Fortescue, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, at 3.30pm on Thursday, September 8, 1910.

A new boys' Grammar School was added to the site in 1940 and additional building through the years, especially in recent times, has seen the school grow to house more than 1,400 pupils. The move to co-education in 1964 led to a mixed school with one headteacher, becoming a comprehensive school in 1972.

"We are extremely respectful of that heritage and how each generation re-interprets it to remain forward thinking whilst still building upon the best of tradition," said Mr Atton.

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