Wolverhampton Chronicle 23 November 1966

School that is rich in history has big plans for the future
Story By Roger Branton

The head boy of the Royal Wolverhampton School, Robert Dodd, and the headmaster, Mr. P.G.C. Howard, discuss the new plans for the future development of the school.
more pictures

Since 1854, the Royal School, has been playing an important part in the education and social life of the town of Wolverhampton.

It owes its origins to John Lees, of Wolverhampton. When a Cholera epidemic orphaned thousands in the Wolverhampton area, around 1850, he opened an asylum for the surviving children.

Three years later, for £6,500, the Wolverhampton Orphan Asylum, admitting boys and girls was built. It opened in 1854. At the turn of the century Queen Victoria gave permission for the prefix "Royal", and thus the "Royal Orphanage of Wolverhampton" came into being.

King George VI permitted the charity, which, after all, had the welfare of Orphans as its prime concern, to be re-styled "The Royal Wolverhampton School".

This title stuck, though the school itself never ceased to change. Even now its heading for one of its most spectacular changes that will lift it into even higher regard on both a local and national basis.

The Governors have launched an appeal to pay for new buildings and improvements. The programme will take seven years and will cost £100,000. Of this £25,000 can be found by the school authorities, leaving a balance of £75,000 to come from the public, old pupils, and it is hoped, from local industry.

The Royal can pay back, so to speak, with the brains and talents of the young men that it is currently teaching.

Details of the new buildings include in the first phase a new dining hall and kitchen, a science block, and playing fields. This will take care of £100,000.

Phase two, will call for £50,000. This will pay for a VI Form Area Complex and changing room and lavatory facilities.

Appeals made to former pupils, will surely not fall upon deaf ears. This week the Wolverhmapton Chronicle visits the Royal School to learn something of its history, and to tell something of the story that lies behind this appeal to help the school keep its high position in the present world of education.

When the proposed changes are brought about, they will hardly seem more revolutionary than more recent changes. Old Royals wonder at what remains of the Long Dorm. Once holding close on 80 boys, the 60 plus yards dormitory has been turned into classrooms. For punishment in the old days you had to count the floorboards in the Long Dorm.

This is where, according to schoolboy legend, the ghost of John Lees walks on Founder's Day. I'm told there are two other ghosts, a boy and a cat, though the tale should be treated like all other ghost stories.

The demolition involved in the new proposals will mean goodbye to a lot of old nooks and crannies, and several forbidden short-cuts. Inevitably there are secret routes for getting in and out of the school. These are in the best traditions of any school. Old Royals will be disappointed to learn that at least one bolt hole is going. Having been shown the others in confidence, I can't reveal where the surviving routes are.

At the Royal School pupils still talk about "going up" and "down". With the school built on a hill - the highest point eastward from Wolverhampton until you get to the Urals they say - overlooking the Shropshire hills, every journey is up or down. A friend is never "at" the football pitch. He's "down" the football pitch. Nor is anyone ever in the drawing office, he's "up" the drawing office.

A place where every Old Royal must have taken bumps and knocks is in the playground. This has hardly changed from the days when the school was founded. You can still get at least four games of football, two of cricket, and the inevitable fights going on at the same time.

Those thoroughly familiar with the school may be tickled to learn that the archway by the French room acts as a goal for at least two football games at once!

Once teaching boys and girls, the Royal School now only admits girls to the junior school, sited on the opposite side of Penn Road. It would not be over-sentimental to recall, however, the old days when Romeos and Juliets used to send each other notes via the school employees.

But dwelling too long on the "good old days" is never too healthy. The future of the school looms just as large to the bulk of its present pupils as it does to any members of the Board of Governors. Indeed, the Royal engenders more than pride in its pupils. There is a positive affection for the place for those who are living and learning there.

This is why the common Rooms and studies are a-buzz with schemes for the pupils themselves to help. Suggestions I have heard vary from a very sound idea of collecting and selling waste paper to a hair-raising plan for kidnapping prominent personalities and holding them to ransom! The idea may sound ridiculous to adults, but the schoolboys of the Royal are leaving no stone unturned.

A school revue is being considered to raise funds. An old vehicle to be renovated and auctioned is also high on the list. Pupils who take jobs during the summer to make money are being approached to see if they would like to pay a percentage of it towards the appeal fund.

This then is something of the history and background of the Royal School. The appeal is not a despairing call for survival. The Royal is a long way from desperation.

Even if the money were not forthcoming, the Royal would survive and continue to do its valuable work. But, as ever, the Royal School wishes to do even better. There could be no better motive. No safer investment in the future of this town, or the country as a whole.