Whitcliffe Mount Foundation Building

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Whitcliffe Mount Foundation Building

Spen Valley Civic Society fought unsuccessfully to save the historic Whitcliffe Mount Foundation Building in Cleckheaton. It was demolished in 2018 despite public opposition and offers from developers to convert it into apartments.

The history of Whitcliffe Mount School is told in “Whitcliffe Mount School” by by Alfred L. Mowat, published in 1957 by John Siddall Ltd, Spenborough Press, Cleckheaton to mark the 50th anniversary of the school.A copy of this book is held in a locked cabinet in the reference section of Cleckheaton Library.

Whitcliffe Mount School arose from two sources: a flourishing local Technical Institute in Cleckheaton, and the 1902 Education Act, which provided for secondary education across the country. The education authority at that time was the West Riding County Council based in Wakefield. It decided that Spen Valley should have one secondary school: at Heckmondwike. That school was duly built and in time became Heckmondwike Grammar School.Cleckheaton councillors and employers were furious that Cleckheaton could not have its own secondary school. Due to the number of diverse and highly skilled industries which flourished in Cleckheaton, well-educated young people were vital to its future economic success. Five men, dubbed the “Cleckheaton Conspirators”, were instrumental in pushing forwards plans for a school. They were John G Mowat, George Whiteley, J Walter Wadsworth, Reginald M Grylls and Will H Clough. These people’s families have played significant roles in Cleckheaton’s history. For example, the Mowat family later built Cleckheaton Library in 1930 and donated it to the people of Cleckheaton. Walter Wadsworth’s son Edward became an internationally famous Vorticist artist and invented a way to paint battleships to camouflage them. Reginald Grylls maintained his interest in local education and a middle school at Hightown was named after him.

Faced with the refusal of the County Council to provide a school, these five men decided that they and Cleckheaton residents would go it alone and provide one themselves. A charitable Trust was formed which enabled the Technical Institute to pool its resources with the new school venture.The public were invited to subscribe money and raised 3,447 pounds, 11 shillings and 6 pence, which together with Cleckheaton Council and other benefactors’ contributions met the cost of the school, which was 19,621 pounds, 17 shillings, and 4 pence.

A competition was held to design the new school, won by notable architect William Henry Thorp F.R.I.B.A. of Phoenix Chambers, Leeds. Several of his other buildings in Leeds are Listed Grade II. Two plots of land were purchased at Whitcliffe, on the outskirts of Cleckheaton, to create sufficient space for the buildings and for sports fields. One part of the site was bought from the Low Moor Company Ltd. Investigations showed that several coal seams lay underneath it, including one called the Shetcliffe seam, which was being mined by the Low Moor Company. The rights to this coal were negotiated, in order to ensure that the new school building would not be undermined. Local builders Robinson & Crowther were contracted to construct the building. The first sod was cut on 31st March 1909, and the Foundation stone was laid on 5th June 1909, when a time capsule was buried underneath it. The clock and its clock tower were a gift from Mr Walter Wadsworth, Chair of the Governors. The new school opened its doors to 95 pupils and 10 staff on 15th September 1910, as Cleckheaton Secondary and Technical School. A sixth form was added in 1913, and in 1928 it became Whitcliffe Mount Grammar School.

Thus Cleckheaton’s Whitcliffe Mount School is unique as being the only state school founded by the will of the people and not arising from the direct policy of a responsible Education Authority. Having invested personally in its creation, local people have been very proud of the school, especially the original Foundation Building. If one looks at the list of people who gave money, many names are of families whose descendants still live in Cleckheaton and surrounding villages. Many of the donors’ children and grandchildren became students. Lists of staff members and pupils show that many teachers sent their own children to the school.

From the very start, the founders and Governors wanted the school to be a community, expressed by the first Headmaster as follows: “This School is foremost a society of staff and pupils, wherein a corporate life has to be developed, implying individual and mutual responsibilities of character and behaviour, of work and achievements. If pupils are turned out clean in thought and speech, with a sincere love of character and effort...with a power of skilful work...and a determination to serve as intelligent citizens, the school will achieve what I believe was the cherished aim of those who laboured to establish it.”

As a Grammar School, Whitcliffe Mount had an excellent reputation, both academically, and in sport. William Henry Thorp’s fine Yorkshire stone building, known as the Foundation Building, was added to in the 1960’s. In 1973 the school became comprehensive. A Sports Centre was added, which was a valuable resource for Cleckheaton residents, in addition to the school’s pupils. More recently the school lost its sixth form, was briefly a Business and Enterprise College and is now a co-ed High School catering for 11-16 year olds.

In 2014 some local people became aware that Kirklees Council was planning to be part of a multi-million pound Private Finance Initiative (PFI) involving five Local Authorities in Yorkshire, to replace Secondary School buildings. Kirklees Council’s partners in the PFI were the Education Funding Agency (a privatised agency “arm” of the Department for Education), and construction company Laing O’Rourke Ltd. Plans were submitted and on 26th March 2015 Kirklees Strategic Planning Committee gave consent to erect a new building and demolish the Sports Centre and the existing school buildings, including the Foundation Building. Despite local protests the sports centre was closed and demolished. The replacement school building was erected and opened its doors to pupils in September 2017. Laing O’Rourke agreed to demolish the Foundation Building in return for the value of its materials. Sadly, the Council and the Trustees did not consider any alternative use for the Foundation building, despite it being physically possible to go ahead with the new school without demolishing the Foundation building. A fine well-proportioned and symmetrical stone building, paid for by local people became a grass verge in 2018.

On 27th October 1944 Reginald M Grylls wrote a letter published in the Spenborough Guardian which included the following details about his involvement in the school’s creation.

“The provision of the School was the outcome of a local enthusiasm which has never been surpassed in the history of the district. Whilst writing this letter I am sitting in the same chair, in the same room that I was sitting in thirty-seven years ago when Mr J Wadsworth offered to me as Chairman of Cleckheaton Council, the first £1,000 towards the fund to provide the school. I was requested to appeal to the general public for subscriptions and the response was very gratifying – large sums and small sums came in. In addition to the subscriptions, a substantial portion of the School building was provided as a gift by Lucy Lady Mowat and her sister in memory of their father, the late Mr Alfred Law. It will be further known by the public that considerable Scholarship Endowments have been provided by generous benefactors to enable the pupils of the School to go forward to Universities and other places of higher learning. During the last thirty-six years, hundreds of children from the district have consequently been enabled to get the highest educational advantages”.

Fascinating Information About Donors

The names below are taken from the four-page Appendix E in Alfred Mowat’s 1957 book about the school. The name is followed by the amount in pounds, shillings and pennies which each person donated. They include many individuals who were influential in Cleckheaton and the Spen Valley. How many of them do you recognise? Do you know if descendants still live locally? Do you know if any relatives of the donors attended Whitcliffe Mount School? Spen Valley Civic Society would love to hear from you via www.svcs.org.uk




R J W Wadsworth

Mr Fred Wadsworth

Mr Henry Wadsworth

333. 6. 08

333. 6. 08

333. 6. 08

This family established large textile business at Broomfield Mills, Moorbottom Cleckheaton. All that’s left is the fine arched gateway opposite St Luke’s church.




Mr Alfred Law

Mr Joseph Law

Mr Samuel Law




The Laws had a large card clothing company at Moorend Mills Cleckheaton.


Sir John G Mowat


The Mowats gave Cleckheaton its Library and donated their house Kenmore to the Leonard Cheshire charity, as a residential home for people with disabilities.


Messrs Critchley Sharp and Tetlow Ltd



Messrs Charles Hirst & Son


Company at Moorend.


Mr B H Goldthorp



P & C Garnett Ltd



Messrs Lund Bros



George Anderton & Son Ltd


Spinning company: mill on Bradford Rd Cleckheaton is now Westex Carpets. George Anderton founded Cleckheaton’s Technical Institute in the 19th Century


W Atkinson & Son Ltd



Mr Joseph Briggs



Mr Henry Ellison


Owner of Yorkshire Tar Chemical works


Mr John Henry Field



William Sugden & Sons Ltd


Founders of Double Two shirt manufacturers in Cleckheaton, now based in Wakefield


Messrs Robinson & Crowther Ltd


Builders who apparently built the school and were based at Syke Fold Cleckheaton


Messrs Cadman Grylls & Cadman


Cleckheaton Solicitors of whom founder R M Grylls was a partner. Cadmans solicitors still operating at Churchhill House Northgate Cleckheaton


Mr George Whiteley


One of the founders of the school, scrap metal merchant and local philanthropist


Messrs Clough & Crabtree



Mr F W Birkett


Originally an electrician, founded FW Birketts engineering company, now at Spen Lane Cleckheaton


Mr Robert Thornton


Had a wire drawing business


Mr Harry Asquith


Owned a printing business in building where Tozer’s Insurance now is, Bradford Rd Cleckheaton


Mr John W Siddall


Owned a printing business on Hardcastle St, which went into liquidation in 2008. Name still on the building.


Mr John Wesley Hillard


Founded Lion Stores, corner of Northgate & Hardcastle St Cleckheaton in 1865, as a young man with a £50 loan. As Hillards the business grew to 60 supermarkets in its heyday. It was bought out by Tesco in the 1980’s


Mr Walter Sharp


Owner of the Pygmalion Gents Outfitters at junction of Market St and Bradford Rd Cleckheaton. His son Granville Sharp became a Lib Dem MP.



Mr James Burnhill

Messrs J Burnhill Ltd

Mr Joseph Burnhill




One of the Burnhill family, whose animal feed company was in mills on Serpentine Road Cleckheaton. The company moved when Tesco bought the site, to Middleton Business Park, Cartwright St Rawfolds, between Cleckheaton and Heckmondwike, and are still a flourishing business.

Second donation in March 1908

Donation in March 1908


Mr George Wright


Owned the garage on Bradford Rd Cleckheaton, a Ford dealer. Moved to Moorside where it still exists.


Messrs H Cooper & Co


Owner of garage by Cleckheaton bus station, now a kitchen & bathroom showroom.


Mr John Walker


A chemist.


Mr J E Sugden


A printer in Cleckheaton


Mr Fred Yates

10 0

A poultry-keeper


Mr Andrew Oade

Mr James Oade



James ran a record/music shop in Cleckheaton and Andrew Oade had a bike shop


Mr F Jolliffe


A scrap metal merchant, on Bradford Rd Cleckheaton


Messrs W Bennett & W H Sharp


Coal Merchants and Hauliers based in Cleckheaton Railway Goods Yard Tofts Rd.

39 to 56

Mr F Blackburn

Mr Charles Gomersall

Mr J A Haley

Mr Tom North

Messrs Stanley Busher

Mr Arthur Brooke

Mr George Cook

Mr Thomas Smith

Mr John Mason

Mr William Watson

Mr Harry Johnson

Mr Fred Wood

Mr Arthur Howarth

Mr Adam Newell

Mr Oscar Middleton

Mr Yates Balmforth

Mr Joseph Townsend

Each gave 1 shilling

Pupils and Donors: any connections? The dates below are taken from achievements, either during pupils’ schooldays, or as they finished school.

Pupil Date at School

Pupil Name

Donor name

Amount donated


Jessie Cooper

Mr F Cooper

1 guinea


Lucy Kathleen Hirst

Charles Hirst Ltd



Arthur Barker

Fred Barker

Mr Edgar Barker

£210 shillings


Nora Mallinson

Mr H Mallinson

1 guinea


Harry Waddington

Mr Henry Waddington

1 guinea


J Birkett (athletics)

Mr F W Birkett

5 guineas


M Birkett

Mr F W Birkett

5 guineas





Margaret Burnhill

Peter Burnhill

Madeleine Burnhill

Annette Burnhill

Mr James Burnhill

Messrs J Burnhill

Mr Joseph Burnhill



10 shillings 6 pence


Kathleen Bentley

Mr Pearson Bentley Mr Herbert Bentley


2 guineas



Graham Clough

Audrey Clough

Messrs Clough & Crabtree

Mr S Clough

10 guineas

1 guinea


C Margaret Watson

Mr William Watson

1 shilling


Malcolm T Brooke

Mr Arthur Brooke

1 shilling


Joyce Morton

Mr Alfred Morton

10 shillings 6 pence


Ruth Blackburn

Messrs A Blackburn & Co

Mr Henry Blackburn

Mr F Blackburn


1 guinea

1 shilling


John Firth

Mr Richard Firth

1 guinea



June Barraclough

Peter Barraclough

Mr F Barraclough

1 shilling


Philip Siddall

Mr John Siddall

2 guineas

What became of these graduates of Whitcliffe Mount School? Can anyone tell us how their lives & careers developed?

Year left the School




John Jagger

Jessie Cooper

Scholarship to Leeds University, gained a First Class degree in Civil Engineering.

Holloway College, London University


Nora Mallinson

Richard Bull

Girton College Cambridge

Leeds University


Alice Umpleby

Royal College of Art London


Muriel Hardill

Girton College Cambridge


Janet Clayborn

Reading University


Margaret Fox

Bingley College


Barbara Hardill

Isabel Clayborn

Horticultural College


Diana M H Grylls

Bedford College, London University


Margaret Burnhill

Yorkshire College of Housecraft


Barbara Fox

Peter Burnhill

Gypsy Hill College

Leeds School of Art


Marguerite Ellison

Homerton College


M Madeleine Burnhill

Manchester University


Cissie Leadbeater

Marjorie Sowden

Tommy Priestley
Patricia Womersley

Donald Bryan

John Horsman

Bradford College

Ripon College

Leeds University

Birmingham University

Manchester University

London University


June Barraclough

David Holmes

Joan Preston

Somerville, Oxford University

Oxford University

Queen Mary’s College London University


Philip Siddall

Konrad Eisig

Henry Liley

B.Sc. London University, Electrical Engineering

B.A. London University, English 1st class

M.B.E. Architecture Diploma, Leeds University


John Worley

Brian Coleman

B.Sc Durham University, Agriculture

B.A. Leeds University, Theology


Dr Cyril Woodcock

Sheila Parker

Dorothy Pratt

Diploma in Clinical Pathology

B.A. Manchester, French & German 1st class

Diploma Educational Psychology, Manchester


David Allen

Annie Kellett

Anne Harrison

B.Sc.Leeds University Civil Engineering 1st class

Lycee Victor Duray Paris

National Dairy Diploma Preston Agricultural College


Margaret Umpleby

Graham Clough

James Pearson

Betty Halstead

Barbara Peel

East Hampstead College

M.Sc. Metallurgy, Leeds University

Diploma Edinburgh Uni, Medical Radio Therapy

M.B. Ch.B. Leeds University

M.B. Ch.B. Leeds University


Jeffrey Hird

Peter Barraclough

Nolene Shaw

Margaret Gingell

Leeds School of Architecture

Batley Art School

Batley Art School. Became a primary school teacher and Head Teacher, Minister of the Nook Independent Chapel in Cleckheaton.

B.A. Bristol University French 1st class


Philip Tordoff

John Butterfield

Geoffrey Lill

Organ Scholarship Downing College Cambridge. Philip became the organist at Halifax Minster.

Gonville & Gaius Cambridge

B.Sc. Leeds University Physics


John Archer

Eric Dyson

Malcolm Kirk

Bernard Bellwood

Robert Swires

Scholarship to Sheffield University

Ph.D. London University


B.A. Leeds Carnegie, Diploma in P.E.

M.B. Ch.B. Leeds University


1.The first Headmaster was Mr Joshua Holden who had a first class M.A.in Chemistry from Oxford University. He taught Scripture, French, Arithmetic, Algebra and Trigonometry.

2.Miss Frances Daft, was the second teacher appointed to the school. She had a B.A. in Classics from London University. Miss Daft taught English, Geography, History and Needlework. She later recalled that she had to go an evening sewing class in Bradford the night before Needlework, in order to be one step ahead of the pupils! Miss Daft taught at the school until 1918.

3.The third teacher appointed was Mr Herbert Clayborn B. Sc London University, who joined Whitcliffe Mount from Crewe County Secondary School, a mathematics and physics specialist. He encouraged pupils to pursue interests and talents besides their formal lessons, for example a photography club and the Debating Class, in which an early pupil Ida Bolton made her first public speech in favour of women’s suffrage in a debate on “Votes for Women”. Mr Clayborn became the school’s second Head Teacher in 1914 and its longest-serving one, retiring in 1931. A residential road in Cleckheaton bears his name (Clayborn View).

4.Two teachers were killed fighting in the First World War. Mr Thomas Vause had an M.A. from Cambridge, and joined the school in 1914 to teach History, Geography and P.E. He was killed in 1916. Mr Evan Williams joined at the same time. He had a B.Sc. from Liverpool, and taught Chemistry and Maths. He was killed in 1918.

5.Percy Gingell B.A. was appointed in 1925, and he taught English and Latin.

6.At the time of its 50th birthday, Whitcliffe Mount School’s Headteacher was Albert Morton, who joined the school in 1947.

7.Miss Iris Holt taught English, History and French from 1947 until her retirement.

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