Old School on brink of
IT is a sad fact that once an old building has seen its best years and begins to creak a little at the seams, it is far more economical to close it down and demolish it rather than spend money on using sticking plaster and a little T.L.C.
The Black Country is unfortunately losing its long standing character with the destruction of so many old buildings, but there are people ready to fight for the cause to try and save these unwilling victims despite having the odds stacked against them.
Barry Hodgson, Blue Plaques Secretary with the Wolverhampton Civic & Historical Society, is a long term believer in trying to save buildings that add character to an area and a firm opponent of sanitising neighbourhoods in the way of progress. Here is what he has to say about the most recent locally Grade II building that is under threat:
“Old School stands on the Dudley Road in Blakenhall where it has served a useful purpose, once as a school and latterly as the headquarters of the Blakenhall Action Community Forum, for 145 years. My own organisation, the Wolverhampton Civic & Historical Society meet at the Old School on a regular basis and have done for many years, as have 30 or so other groups. Effective from November 2 all the groups concerned have been given 28 days to quit the premises and we would like to try and reverse the decision.”
Under the 1870 Education Act, the Wolverhampton School Board commissioned the construction of six schools and the Dudley Road School was the second board school in Wolverhampton, opening in 1873. This is why the building plays such an important part in Wolverhampton’s educational history. Wolverhampton was one of the first boroughs to adopt the provisions of the 1870 Education Act with the town council being particularly concerned that educational standards in England were falling behind their commercial competitors of the time, Germany and the USA. The Dudley Road Boys’ School became Dudley Road Senior Mixed School in 1931, with many of the new students coming from Dudley Road, All Saints’ and St Luke’s schools. The Senior Mixed School closed in 1938 and the Dudley Road Girls’ School opened at the same time.
The whole site was finally closed as an eductional facility in 1986 and reopened as a community centre run by Wolverhampton MBC in 1990. The Old School was locally listed in 2001 and has since been under the management of the BACF.
The building has more or less retained its Victorian features, although work carried out in the 1880s removed an annexe at the front which was replaced with a new upper storey added to the left wing to match the original right wing.
A blue plaque was erected on the school wall in 2000 to commemorate one of the school’s most famous sons, Ernest F. G. Cox. Born in 1883 Ernest Frank Guelph Cox was educated at the Old School between 1890 and 1897 and became an electrical and mechanical engineer and ironically a marine salvage expert, despite his roots being firmly planted in landlocked Wolverhampton. Between 1924 and 1931 his Cox and Danks Shipbreaking Co. successfully raised 35 ships of the German fleet that had been scuttled at Gutter Sound, Scapa Flow, in 1919. He eventually sold his business to the Alloa Shipbreaking Company. Ernest died in 1959 aged 76. It is therefore a fact, scratch the surface of any old building and its history will come to the fore and that is why Barry Hodgson is so vehemently opposed to the closure of the Old School:
“Local historian Billy Howe,” Barry told us, “has long argued that too many old buildings have already been demolished in the town. In this case it is the only surving example of a Wolverhampton Board School.” Barry has promised to keep Bugle readers up to date with developments, but in the meantime he urges people to voice their opinion.
Dudley Road School buildings November 1st 2018. (Below) The Old School in 1885
Dudley Road schools