West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Years in Focus 1953





The new premises of The King’s School, Pontefract, which have been so much needed for several years past, have now been completed, and on Thursday afternoon were formally opened by the Rt. Hon. Sir F. Stanley Jackson, G.C.I.E., until recently Governor of Bengal.

Sir Stanley urged the need for education if we of this country were successfully to compete with our rivals, and said that the changing conditions of today should be borne in mind in relation to the school curriculum.

It was originally intended that the ceremony should take place on the lawn outside the School. But owing to the damp and the apparent probability of rain the ceremony was transferred to the School Assembly Hall.  The accommodation was taxed to capacity by parents and friends, and the boys had to listen from the corridors and the kitchen.

The Chairman of the Governors (Mr. H.L. Lyon, J.P.) presided, and was accompanied on the platform by, besides Sir Stanley Jackson, Sir James Hinchliffe (Chairman of the County Council), Mr. J.C. McGrath (Clerk to the County Council), Mr. G.R. Hemingway (vice-Chairman of the Governors), the Mayor (Cr. W. Wordsworth), the Bishop of Pontefract (Ven. C.R. Hone), Rev A.G. Utton, M.A., B.D. (Wesleyan Minister at Pontefract), Ald W. Barber, J.P., C.C., Cr. E. Cobb, Ald. P. Wilson, Mr. T.H. Elliot, Cr. T.J. Brooks, M.B.E., J.P., C.C., Cr. A.J. Page, C.C., Cr. H. Bentley, J.P. (Knottingley), Cr. J.P. Picken (Hemsworth), Mr. R.B. Walker, J.P., Mr. W. Bentley, the Vicar of Pontefract (Rev. C.C.T. Nasters), the Vicar of All Saints’ (Rev. A.G. Shipley), Mr. S.B. Bagley, J.P., Cr. T.J. Sides, J.P. (Governors), Major C.G. Lyon, Mr. J.M. Curtois, J.P., Cr. G. Sainter, and others; with the Headmaster (Mr. E.B. Forrest) and the Clerk to the Governors (Mr. H. Holmes); and others.

The proceedings commenced with prayer by Rev. A.G. Utter, after which the Chairman formally called upon Sir James Hinchliffe to hand over the premises to the care of the Governors.


Sir James, who had a hearty reception, said that as the West Riding was 100 miles from north to south and 60 miles from east to west, it was not possible – nor was it desirable – for the County Council themselves to manage schools, and for that reason they used local government. It was with every confidence that the County Council handed over the management of those premises to the Governors. Sir James, touching upon the history of the King’s School from its beginning in the 12th century through many vicissitudes to the time that it was re-opened in 1890 with 22 pupils, said that its growth like that of other secondary schools in the county, dated from the moment that the County Council established County Minor scholarships. No county in England had been so liberal in this matter as the West Riding, who took the view that as no child was responsible for its birth or for the circumstances of its parents, as far as possible they would endeavour to neutralise inequality of circumstances by equality of opportunity of education (applause). The result had been that last year 2,700 children obtained County Minor scholarships. This year, however, owing to financial stringency the County Council had been compelled to reduce that number by about 300, and he was not sure if existing financial conditions continued or grew worse that the County Council would not find themselves compelled to reduce that number still more, reluctant as they were to do so.

There was another problem which was causing the County Council great concern, and that was to find suitable employment for the 3,000 pupils leaving their secondary schools each year. A few of that number, the more brilliant, went forward to universities, a certain percentage entered the teaching profession, and a good many others sought to become clerks or typists. The offices of this country were becoming mechanised, however, and the demand for clerks was declining, and the great difficulty, therefore, was as to what the authorities were going to do to find useful and lucrative employment for those pupils. They had already considered the position, and at two or three schools which were suitable they had extended the curriculum to include education in practical subjects so as to widen the boys’ opportunities subsequently to find employment (hear, hear).

We were, Sir James continued, living in a paradoxical age. The universities and research associations of the country – and indeed, of every civilised country – were making discoveries and inventions to lighten the labour of man. When America mechanised her agriculture one man did the work of six, and in this country our unit of production was now 25 per cent greater than before the war. We were displacing human labour and so adding to the unemployment of the country. The great problem was what were we going to do about the unemployment question. Were we simply going to leave it untouched or were we going to use our brains to solve the problem by a better distribution of labour? If however, working hours were shortened the problem which would then be created was whether the people would know how to use their increased leisure time properly and with profit.


In his judgement, the Prince of Wales gave a great lead to the country when he said that every person in the land should do something to help each other. He was once introduced to an American who remarked that in his country the salary attached to such a position as his would be about 20,000 dollars a year, and this man was astounded when he told him that he had more than that every year. He had the satisfaction of having tried to serve his day and generation, and to that there was no dollar equivalent.

If everyone followed the advice of the Prince or, in accordance with the principles of the Boy Scout movement, performed a kindness every day, the country would be revolutionised, and would become an outstanding example to the rest of the world as to how people should spend their leisure.

Sir James continued that today there also existed a serious financial problem and it might be that the country would have to take further steps to curtail expenditure on social services, the Government having set up a committee to inquire how far this could be done. The debts of local authorities were now considerably over £1,000 millions, and every time those authorities borrowed more the burden became harder for the people to bear. In some districts the interest and sinking fund alone in respect of past loans were as much as 5/- in the £ on the rates. They must be careful to cut their costs according to their cloth, though the public might rest assured that the County Council intended to fulfil their obligations both to the State and individuals, and would try to administer the social services in spite of these cuts. This did not mean that they would not have to reduce expenditure. They in Pontefract had been fortunate to obtain such a fine new school, for the County Council were now considering building wooden schools in the future. That was not because of any lack of sympathy or that they wished to curtail opportunities to children, but simply because they must spend only the money which they had and not continually be borrowing and mounting up debts for future generations to bear.

He had great pleasure in handing the School over to the management of the Governors, feeling that they would do everything they could for the higher education of the children of the ancient Borough of Pontefract (applause)

The Chairman here mentioned that Mr. R. M. Grylls (chairman of the West Riding Higher Education Committee), Sir Percy Jackson, and Mr. Hallam (director of education) had each found it impossible to attend the ceremony.


Mr. Lyon reminded his hearers that when the School was re-opened in 1890 he was the first boy on the roll – (a fact which he has mentioned at other School meetings), and he pointed out that he still retained that honour, for although the School had been removed from its old premises in Back Northgate to those fine new buildings, it was not just a new County Council secondary school, but still the old King’s School (applause). He was also proud of the fact that he was the first old boy of the School to become one of its Governors, whilst he found further pride in the fact that he was the first chairman of the newly-constituted Board of Governors of the new School. He added that on that occasion he felt more like a new boy who was receiving a first prize at the hands of Sir James Hinchliffe (laughter and applause)

Mr. Lyon continued that the Governors appreciated very much the way in which the County Council had worked with them and helped them in their ambitious task of building a new school and for everything which the County authority had done for them – including paying for the School (laughter). He could assure the County Council that the governing body would always regard it as their duty to see that the School was run efficiently and economically and that the same excellent traditions which had always prevailed in the past would be maintained. The Chairman continued “We are not only proud of these new buildings but proud of their contents - and I do not mean just the furniture and equipment (laughter). I mean the splendid lot of boys and the excellent staff of masters, one of whom, Mr. G.J. Norton, has been with us for 28 or 30 years (applause). Last, but not least, we are proud of our able, efficient and energetic headmaster, Mr. E.B. Forrest. We are deeply grateful to him for the very careful work which he has done and all the detail which he has gone through in arranging for the opening of this School this afternoon. I also want to congratulate him on the way in which he moved the School from the old premises to the new without a hitch. To have done that in two days in the middle of a term was a great achievement. The Governors gladly accept their responsibility.” Mr. Lyon added that they now had four old boys of the School on the Board of Governors, and on that platform that afternoon they had no fewer than five ex-Mayors of the Borough.


Mr. Lyon next introduced Sir Stanley Jackson, and said that when the Governors began to consider whome they should ask to open the new premises they decided in the first place that they would like a Yorkshireman and a sportsman. He felt that if they had hunted the County from end to end they could not have found a better example of a Yorkshire sportsman than Sir Stanley Jackson (applause). Sir Stanley, who won the toss five times in succession in Test Matches against the Australians, was in his day one of the best cricketers in Yorkshire, from which it followed that he was one of the best in England, and consequently one of the best in the world (laughter and applause). Perhaps if there was one thing which Sit Stanley would appreciate more than the new buildings it would be the splendid and spacious playing fields fronting them. On behalf of the Governors he asked Sir Stanley to accept a silver key as a memento of his having declared the School open.

Sir Stanley had a very cordial reception, and in returning thanks humorously suggested that in extending their invitation to him the Governors perhaps thought that after his five years “holiday” in Bengal he was looking round for something to do and might appreciate the novelty of opening a new school (laughter). Whether or not they were right about that, however, it was true that as a Yorkshireman he was always ready to come back home to Yorkshire to do anything that Yorkshire wanted him to do (hear, hear). At times Yorkshiremen had reason to be proud of Yorkshire, and at other times Yorkshire had reason to be proud of Yorkshiremen. What he had in mind at the moment, he said, was that only a few days ago Verity performed the feat of taking ten wickets for his country for ten runs and Holmes and Sutcliffe followed him on an extremely difficult wicket to get the necessary runs for victory. Verity’s performance was one of the most brilliant of which he had ever heard (applause).


Sir Stanley continued that he was glad to renew his acquaintance with this district and Pontefract. It was a long time ago that he was previously in Pontefract but the fact was – although it would be news to many people – that once upon a time he nearly accepted an invitation to contest Pontefract at a Parliamentary election. After consideration, however (laughter), and receiving advice as to his possible prospects (laughter), he remembered the adage that discretion was sometimes the better part of valour, and desisted (laughter).

Becoming more serious, Sir Stanley congratulated all those responsible for the erection of those fine premises – those who had made the decision to build them and those who had built them. They had made an extremely good job of the work and had every reason to be proud of them. He felt a good deal of sympathy with Sir James Hinchliffe when he reminded the audience that schools cost a lot of money to build and that there was a shortage of money, but after all, if full advantage were taken of those schools by the generations of today and of the years ahead, who would say that the money had not been well spent?

Expenditure on education was very heavy in this country and there were people who thought that in these times it was almost too much for the country to bear, but it was his belief that at the same time we must remember that in these days of severe competition, no nation could possibly allow its educational facilities to fall behind if it were to hold its own in a world better equipped and better instructed. Time was, and not long ago, that we did fall behind in educational equipment in this country, but we had now caught up again, and he thought that we must try to maintain that position.


He did not pose as an educational expert, but he had the privilege of being a governor of his old school of Harrow, and of being asked again to sit on that board now that he had returned to England from India, and he therefore was appreciative of the responsibilities which the King’s School Board had to carry. He sometimes wondered, he continued, whether in this world of great change we studied closely enough the changing conditions in relation to the curriculum so as to help us to meet these changes. They did not do so in India. Though the present methods adopted in most schools here were wise and correct and were fine exercises for the brain, he felt that they would be of more value if they were more practical, and he was very interested to see that in Leeds, a school purely for commercial purposes had been opened. A large number of boys of the King’s School were doubtless destined for commercial life, though some of them might go forward into Empire service. If he might venture a word of advice to the latter it was that they should try to master one, and perhaps two, foreign languages. They should learn French, and if possible, Spanish, “and I was nearly going to add American”, he added (laughter). What he meant was that they must be capable of dealing with their customers on their own ground and of assimilating themselves to their particular methods. Apart from these in particular, however, knowledge of another language was also of enormous advantage to anyone going out into the world in any class of business, whilst it was also a matter of great self-satisfaction.

On his return from India, he was very interested in the change which had taken place in England in five years. “Everything”, he said, “seems to be moving much quicker – including your money if you happen to have any” (laughter), and we appeared to be living in an age of sensationalism, which to him sometimes appeared to have been deliberately developed because it paid to develop it. It was an age when there was so much to see, hear and touch, that there was bound to be some effect on the minds of the young, and therefore there was all the greater need that children should acquire at school the power of discerning true values. If real knowledge, then, were to be obtained they must delve a great deal deeper than the mere headlines which so many of them were content to read as news of the day.


Coming towards the end of his speech, Sir Stanley said that he had read with interest how the King’s School had always played an important part in the life of Pontefract, and he felt that now that they had come to those new premises with increased accommodation, they had been raised to a position of real importance amongst the schools of this country. When he visited a school like that he could not forget the responsibilities of the headmaster and the staff, for so much depended upon them. It had been said that man must be the architect of his own fortune, but at the same time his architectural success must depend upon the training which he received at school. We were passing through severe times, and this country and the Empire today called for men who were equal in wisdom and courage to those who fashioned our fortunes in the past, and who helped us to build up the greatest Empire in the world. Those men were now boys in our schools, some of them perhaps at The King’s School. Some might perhaps one day become great, and then he hoped that they would remember the lines which he himself could not forget: -

“As some well-remembered name grows great we glow with pride,
To think that in our boyhood days we struggled by his side.”

He trusted that good fortune would attend their efforts, that the good objects for which the School had stood so long would be continued, and that the School would produce men who were true to the traditions of The King’s School and who would prove themselves to be worthy citizens of England and the Empire (applause).


An appreciation of the presence of Sir Stanley Jackson was expressed by Mr. Walker, who said that they were highly honoured by having such a distinguished public man to serve them in that way. After years of heavy responsibility in a great province of India – the responsibility of which in these turbulent times people did not quite realise – Sir Stanley might well have been forgiven if he had said “Now that I am back in England let me have a bit of rest and quiet.” But he had put that natural feeling aside. Sir Stanley followed a long line of famous Englishmen from the time of Warren Hastings, who if the nation so required, were always ready to take up the services of the State and the community. Referring to Sir Stanley’s prowess as a cricketer, Mr. Walker said that cricket was not simply a pastime. It was an attitude to life and a standard of conduct so that if any man or a King’s School boy acted dishonourably, perhaps the severest admonition of him was to say, ”Well, you know it is not cricket” (applause). In the case of Sir Stanley, the fine traditions of the cricket field had passed with him into the higher realms of world politics upon which he had been engaged (applause).

Cr. Sides, seconding the resolution, said that it was most gracious of Sir Stanley to devote the afternoon to Pontefract. They were all deeply thankful that the would-be Indian assassin was thwarted in his attack on Sir Stanley. Speaking of the feat of Verity, referred to by Sir Stanley, Cr. Sides said that even the great Rhodes had never taken ten wickets in one innings. He once managed nine, but the tenth was taken by the Hon. (as he was then) F.S. Jackson, who promptly apologised to Rhodes (laughter) Concluding, he expressed the hope that Sir Jackson would live for many years to devote his magnificent services to the benefit of the country (applause)

The boys of the school here gave three lusty cheers for Sir Stanley, who in response said that it had been a real pleasure to him to be present. When he had attended similar functions in India he had always asked some favour to mark the occasion, knowing that they dared not refuse it (laughter), and to mark this occasion he intended to ask something similar, though he did not know whether it would be granted (laughter). He asked that the boys be given “a reasonable holiday, say about a week, or a fortnight” (applause from the boys and laughter)


The Chairman was thanked for his services on the motion of Mr. Hemingway, who remarked that although he had been vice-chairman of the Board of Governors for some years, he had not had a heavy task. The position of chairman was by no means a sinecure, but it had been admirably filled by Mr. Lyon, whose ambition throughout had been to remove the School from its old premises – which as they knew, were surrounded by the cemetery, destructor, and workhouse (laughter) – to something much more fitting. He had thus accomplished what he had set out to do some 12 years ago, and it was to his credit more than anyone else’s that they now had new buildings. It was a happy coincidence that they had with them “F.S.” Jackson, who came of a family, which for many years had represented the commercial, social, administrative, and political life of Leeds. Associated with him they had their Chairman, whose name was similarly known throughout Pontefract and district, and whom he hoped would continue to be the head of the school for many years to come (applause).

Ald. Barber, seconding, mentioned that he was on that platform as a representative of the “Queens School” – the school where all the pupils were princesses being taught so that they might properly become queens of their own lives, in the same way that those boys would each become king of his own life and character.

In reply, the Chairman said that he had occupied that position for 13 years, and he would be happy to continue in it so long as the Governors desired him to do so.

The ceremony closed with a blessing by the Bishop and the united singing of the National Anthem, after which the visitors availed themselves of the opportunity of inspecting the premises.

King's School - Summary of History

The above account, reproduced from the Pontefract Advertiser 16th July 1932 was kindly loaned to us by Mr. John O.E. Holmes.


Site constructed and maintained by Michael Norfolk
This website is Copyright © 2005-2013 [www.pontefractus.co.uk] All Rights Reserved