Tracing the history of Percy Jackson Grammar School in Doncaster

Percy Jackson Grammar School head teacher, Chas  Elliott, 1945 to 1966
Percy Jackson Grammar School head teacher, Chas Elliott, 1945 to 1966

The Percy Jackson Grammar School in Woodlands was opened in October 1939 and it ran as a state grammar school until 1968.

This year will see its 80th Anniversary and former pupils are proposing a reunion to mark the event on the October 5.

The school’s ‘founding father’ was Ald J W ‘Jimmy’ Lane JP (1877-1969), alderman of the West Riding and a check weighman at Brodsworth coliery.  The School was named after Alderman Sir Percy Jackson, a very active proponent of education on the West Riding County Council in the 1920s and 1930s.

Designed as a co-educational state grammar school, it was housed in modern Art Deco style premises which “opened for instruction” on October 9 1939 just a few weeks after the start of World War II. The two-storey building was designed to accommodate 540 pupils and was constructed of steel framing, bearing concrete floors and flat roofs.  The total cost of the site, buildings and equipment was approximately £62,000.

Pupils brought their gas masks to school and, after the air raid shelters were hurriedly built, they practised evacuation drill.  The air raid shelters were not removed until about 1984. The school was not officially opened until October 23, 1943, some four years later.

The first year’s intake of pupils was only 85, many being transferred from other schools in the area.  Of these, 62 joined the first form and the others the 2nd and 3rd forms. Not until five years later was the planned capacity reached and then in 1948 four prefab classrooms were added. In 1954 the new ‘science block’ was opened with new laboratories, domestic science rooms and four extra classrooms.  The final school population levelled out at around 900 – almost double the original plan.

In its 29 years, the school saw just three head teachers: Mr Ronald ‘Pop’ Field from 1939 to 1945, Mr Cecil ‘Chas’ Elliott from 1945 to 1966 and Mr F John Atherfold from 1966 who oversaw in 1968 the conversion to the comprehensive Adwick School – later North Doncaster Technology College and now the Outwood Academy at Adwick.

Percy Jackson’s quickly established itself as a vital part of the community, educating children to GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels and competing with other schools in various sports. In 1950 it provided the largest squad (five athletes) for the Yorkshire County team competing in the All England Schools Athletics Championship.  In a cricket match against Hemsworth Grammar in 1952 one of our boys bowled out Geoffrey Boycott for a duck. Scorecard entry: “Boycott G  0 : bowled Yeomans D”.

1950 entrant Roy Cromack, a keen cyclist at school, was a member of the England cycling squad at the Olympic Games in Mexico, 1968.  In 1969 he set the British record for the men’s 24 hour race at 507 miles – a record which stood unbroken for 25 years.  In the same year our 1951 joiner, Christine Moody (now Minto) set a new women’s 24 hour record of 427 miles.

Throughout its life Percy’s supplied educated and able personnel for every kind of business and profession: technicians and scientists, teachers and academics, secretaries and accountants, directors of companies local, national and international.  The alumni include Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS), TV producers and writers (e.g. Coronation Street), radiation and medical specialists, senior lawyers, a champion angler, a poetry publisher, a brass band adjudicator, an RAF commanding officer and a brigadier in the Royal Army Dental Corps, a knighthood for services to education, a director of EMI Records, HM Principal Inspector of Engineering in Mines etc etc. The list goes on: not to mention many national honours and awards.

Percy’s was unusual for its time in teaching German as the first foreign language and school exchanges to Germany were undertaken in 1953 and 1954, which led to many lifetime Anglo-German friendships. Indeed, since 1949 organised travel in the UK as well as abroad was an important extra-curricular feature.

The original Art Deco school premises were demolished in 2013, despite protest from former pupils and local residents.  To be fair, the ‘final’ survey showed in particular that the reinforced concrete floors were way beyond redemption. Fortunately, full photographic and video records have been made of the old buildings – and of the process of demolition. If you were a pupil at Percy Jackson’s between 1939 and 1968 and are interested in attending a reunion, the local contact is Dave Etchell, mobile 07486 922608 or contact microucksoft@outlook.com email