Using our Heritage to Shape the Future

Comprehensive History

The Gower Heritage and Enterprise group would like to thank all the local residents who have put hundreds of hours into compiling what we think is the most comprehensive history of this iconic local building available. We would especially like to thank Mr Ray Davies for ‘memories of the Gower‘ and Mr Ken Lewis who’s complete works can be found here – History Of The Gower by Mr Ken Lewis and makes up a large amount of the history below.

 

A History of The Gower

The building, formerly known as ‘The board school’, is situated to the west side of Gower Street, St. Georges, and was built on land parcel no. 384, Originally of 1.337 acres, prior the road widening.

The site was steeply elevated, and it would have been necessary to excavate approximately 3250 cubic yards of sub-soil from the southern section, as the building is lower than the road level at the Albion street end.

Gower Street was owned at the that time, by the Lilleshall Company, as a toll road until 1901 when it became the responsibility of Oakengates U.D.C.

IMG_5940          701984_10153518734848435_1879499804283308582_o

 

The foundation stone of the building was laid on the 25th April 1873 by T.E. Horton, Esq.  It is assumed that he was Thomas Ellwood Horton, Principal manager of The Lilleshall Company’s New Yard Works (from 1865-1903) The architect was Joseph Fogerty, Esq. (1831-1899) and the building contractors were J. Millington and Son; They were listed in the Kelly’s directory of 1879 as Rowland and John Millington, Builders of Oakengates.

The building is of ornate Victorian design, and would have been a lengthy contract for the family firm of builders.

The structure is of lofty single storey construction, with a central two storey section comprising of the main entrance and living accommodation, being approximately 200ft in length and 20ft wide.

It is widely believed that it was built as a hospital for the Lilleshall Company’s employees, but research has not confirmed that it was ever used for this purpose.

It seems unlikely that a building of this size and structure was built purely for The Lilleshall Company’s employees. Later, however after much deliberation the company did build their own much smaller cottage hospital in Albion street with the proviso that the new building should costs must not exceed £650. The new building opened in 1902 and closed in 1928.

Records show that the late ‘school board’ purchased the ‘hospital schools’  in 1879 for £2,400 which included the land, and also took a lease out on the primitive Methodist school in Wrockwardine Wood suggesting it may have been a school prior to 1879

At first floor level , centrally between the two ‘snow-drop’ windows a (now covered) inscriptions reads – ” Schools of the Wrockwardine Wood Board 1879″

Records show that this was Wrockwardine Wood school – not St. Georges, in fact two schools in one building.

Kelly’s directory for 1885 records that a school board, consisting of five members, was formed in 1875, when J. Leak of Shifnal was clerk to the board, and William Elson was the attendance officer.


1885 Board Hospital Schools (Girls and Infants)

  • Miss A Woodhall – Mistress
  • Miss Jane A. Ellis – Infants Mistress

Board, Former principal Methodist school (Boys)

  • Thomas J. Barlow

 

By 1901 The public elementary schools local committee was six members, including:-

  • J. W. Littlewood – Correspondent and attendance officer
  • Thomas Wildsmith – Correspondent and attendance officer

1901 Hospitals schools, Gower street (Girls and infants) for 99 girls and 136 infants

  • Miss Platt – Mistress
  • Miss Dunkey – Infants Mistress

Former primitive Methodist school for 172 boys

  • William Moss – Master

 The story that the Lilleshall company built the property as a hospital for it’s miners, but found it to large and built a smaller one, makes good journalism but recently discovered legal documents sheds a different light on the matter.

The document dated 24/06/1879 is a conveyance in the form of a sale of the land and the buildings, adequately described by the owner, Granville George, to the Wrockwardine Wood (Salop) board.

The building was reported to have been ‘intended as a hospital’, but converted for use as a school; the document confirms that it was sold to the school board for the sum of £2,400 just a few years after completion.

Although the document does not reveal the cost of construction, the sale value of the property seems low when compared with St. Georges national school, built at a cost of £5,000 in 1861.

The Wrockwardine Wood (Salop) School board’s ownership seemed to be of a transient measure, as the document refers to ‘for the time being’  and the 1901 Kelly’s directory refers to ‘The late school board’.

Recently, it has been possible to take a closer look at the construction and dimensions of the building, and at the time is was apparent had been extended by about 30 ft at both North end and South end.

The alterations were carried out early in the buildings history, as the 1880 (Revised 1901) Ordnance survey sheet No. 36 shows the building at its present  north to south dimensions.

A document dated 9th April 1895, In the form of a contract has recently come to light, whereby The Lilleshall Company agreed to initially fund the building alterations, forwarding the cost of £400 and 10 shillings to the school board following completion, being due on the 30th August 1895.

IMG_1275IMG_1276

For the following 80 years, It was known locally as “The board School”, and a few photographs of that era have survived, including a ‘souvenir portrait’ from 1935 of approximately 100 pupils. The photograph was in commemoration of the silver jubilee of the King and Queen.


Gower Street Schools

  • 1879      Opened as ‘Wrockwardine Wood girls & infants board school
  • 1895      Building extended, now for 140 girls and 185 infants
  • 1927      Renamed ‘Gower Street Girls & Infants School’
  • 1933      Senior girls left (For secondary school) and junior boys admitted
  • 1933      Renamed ‘Wrockwardine Wood Junior mixed and Infant Council School’
  • 1936      The school had places for 256 pupils but only 111 pupils
  • 1941      Pupils joined from Donnington
  • 1952      72 Pupils
  • 1957      36 Pupils
  • 1961      70 Pupils
  • 1961      Closed as a school

For the boys, it seems that short trousers, long socks and lace-up boots were the order of the day.

240520161033


A later photograph taken during the years of the second world war, shows a class of about 25 girl pupils, including 2 evacuees and 3 members of staff.

Scan_20151124 (3)

Back Centre, Staff – Evelyn Whitingham, Alice Onions and Miss Jones

Back Row – Christine Roberts, Clarice Elkes, Sheila Lewis, Jean Talbot, Greta Lewis, Jean Chantry, Joyce Smith, Gwen Gwiliam, Sheila Myra Brown, Jean Meeson, Sybil Leyland, Betty Bradshaw, Vera ?, Hilda Bradshaw

Middle Row – Edna Bradshaw, Pauline Beddows, Unknown Evacuee, Sylvia Lane, Betty Hugh, Lillian Bolas, Kathleen Meeson, Mary Turner

Front Row – Elaine ?, Unknown Evacuee, Annette Toze, Dorothy Ryder

Interestingly, the photograph shows some of the ornate ironwork and railings which adorned the front area of the school at that time. The photograph also shows the large height or temperature gauge, having an advertisement for ‘Stephens Ink’.

                                                                               Railings       5382610942_d8f045339c_b


Many memories and artefacts have survived from the era when the building served as a youth centre (You can find some of these memories here)

When the building ceased to be run as a school by the former Shropshire education committee, in the early 1960’s, it became a youth club, firstly operated by Shropshire county council, and then by Telford and Wrekin council.

The building closed as a youth centre in about 2005, and has since fallen into disrepair, and was due to be demolished and the site redeveloped with the building of 16 new homes.

A deed of covenant was in place to protect the building for the community, this was annulled in 2008 by Telford & Wrekin council. The condition of the building had also deteriorated in the long period it was empty. An article published in The Shropshire Star dated 21/11/2013 regarding the sale of the site can be found here

                                                                 Housing trust 1   12471339_1673284866285007_8313598034346917055_o

However in 2014 it was saved for the community and granted Grade 2 listing by English heritage thanks to local resident Steve Goodchild. The full Grade 2 listing can be found here.

A video of the condition of the inside of the building filmed in 2013 on the day of the first internal community clean up


16/06/2016 – The Gower Heritage & Enterprise group is granted charitable status and is renamed Gower Heritage & Enterprise Foundation. More information of the registration can be found here.