School was forced to find a new home
WOLVERHAMPTON Grammar School was founded in 1512 and was originally built on St John’s Street in the centre of Wolverhampton, the land now being the site of the Mander Shopping Centre.
However, by the late 19th century, the school had too many students for its facilities. The school could not expand in its central location, as much of the town was already occupied with factories and industry and the high cost of the land prohibited further purchase. After 360 years on its original site, in 1875 the school moved to its current location on Compton Road in what was the western suburbs.
The headmaster at that time, Thomas Beach, and the chairman of governors bought the land for building the new school, a house for the headmaster and five acres of land for playing sport on. Later that year, John Morton donated a strip of land along Merridale Lane, a road running on the eastern boundary of the school. With his contribution to the school, the land given came to be known as Moreton’s Piece.
At this point the school comprised of a large hall, called the Great Hall, and the tower, but in 1897 and known as “Big School” today, and the first science classrooms were built; however the sciences taught were only chemistry and physics, as biology wasn’t taught at Wolverhampton Grammar School until 1957, 60 years after the buildings were first built.
With the science buildings now in place it led to the appointment of the first science master at the school in 1889. Upon this, the headmaster Thomas Beach resigned from his position due to his strong stance against science. This was because of Beach’s classical style of teaching which was arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.
With the 400th anniversary of the school, a new gymnasium was built and was opened in 1915, adjoining the new science building extensions which were built in 1908. Due to the lack of funding the school received while still receiving more students, temporary huts were set up in 1926. These huts were heated by coke stoves; this proved problematic to the school as some students knew how to smoke the huts out which then disrupted the lessons being taught in them. These huts were closed over time and the finally were fully removed in 1969 with the construction of the Music block.
In 1930 the Merridale building was opened, named due to it’s location being near to Merridale Lane. The building contained a library, physics laboratory, art room and a woodwork room. While physics is still being taught in the building today, the other uses for it are now fulfilled by other buildings and now English and Geography are taught in the building.
Further land, used for sports fields, was bought to commemorate the end of the Second World War.
The school gained independence in 1979 and to commemorate the occasion the Jenyns Library was built and opened in 1981. This was named after Sir Stephen Jenyns who funded the construction of the school in 1512. He was a wool merchant from Wolverhampton and became the Lord Mayor of London for the year of the coronation of Henry VIII.
A large extension to the music block was opened in 2005 by Robert Plant. The last buildings to be added to the school were the Viner Arts Gallery and the Hutton Theatre, which were opened in 2008. The Viner Arts Gallery was named after Charles Viner, an art teacher at the school who was head of art from 1942 to 1968. The Hutton Theatre was named after Patrick Hutton, who was the first headmaster of the school after its independence.
A Junior school was opened in 2011, adding the school years 3-6, allowing children to be educated for a total of 11 years at Wolverhampton Grammar School. The Junior school is housed in the Hallmark building which prior to then was used for the language department, which relocated to the old art block.
Six years ago Wolverhampton Grammar School celebrated its quincentenary and with its place in the Black Country assured, staff and pupils look forward to many more years yet to come.
Robert Plant conducting the school orchestra at the opening of the new music block at Wolverhampton Grammar School in 2005
Wolverhampton Grammar School today
Sheep graze in Moreton’s Piece
Wolverhampton Grammar School moved to its present site in 1875