School’s many moves and name changes

The Girls' High School Blackpool in 1925
The Girls' High School Blackpool in 1925
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HERE are contrasting views of Lytham Road, South Shore, close to Waterloo Road.

The first, dating from 1925, is the definitive image of The Girls’ High School, which was soon to become Arnold High School for Girls.

Today, 87 years on, a characterless car park and bland-looking health centre occupy the site.

Education historian Kenneth Shenton explains: “The school was originally in a building on Abingdon Street during the latter years of the 19th century.

“However, the creation of a new Post Office forced the school to move first to Springfield Road, then because of the building of the Baptist Tabernacle, to settle permanently in South Shore.

“Here, it eventually occupied these large houses on Lytham Road, opposite Rawcliffe Street and the old Lido Pool.

“At the rear was the main schoolroom, known as Big School, together with a playground backing on to the railway line. Playing fields were at the end of nearby Hampton Road.

“By the mid-1920s the school, run by Miss Josephine Smallpage and her sister, totalled more than 100 pupils, including boarders.

“To the surprise of everyone, in March 1929, in a move destined to totally outfox his major rivals, Arnold School’s headmaster Frank Trusswell Pennington purchased the school, immediately renaming his acquisition Arnold High School for Girls.

“To replace Miss Smallpage as headmistress, Pennington chose Miss Amy Catherine Moore (right), then senior mistress of St James and the Abbey School, Malvern.

“Under her astute guidance, while the new school quickly flourished, both the buildings and cramped site urgently needed major investment and development.With Arnold unable to provide the substantial capital required, in 1949, it handed the school over to Blackpool Council.

“Two years later, work began on Bispham Road for the first school to be built in the resort since the Second World War.

“Costing £160,000, the new school was officially opened in March 1954, by the Princess Royal.

“Miss Moore retired five years later, in 1959, after 30 years’ devoted service to what she once modestly labelled, her ‘educational experiment’.

“Later, merging with Claremont Secondary Modern School, it first became Arnold Claremont, then Greenlands High School before embracing a new direction as Bispham High School.

“Happily for many, controversial plans to merge with neighbouring Warbreck High School were recently abandoned.”

Kenneth adds: “Among those girls successfully making the transition from Lytham Road to Bispham were a group destined to remain lifelong friends.

“They include distinguished educationalist Professor Margaret Maden, former Blackpool Football Club chairman Vicky Oyston, local teacher Vivien Ivell and Dame Sandra Burslem, former vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University and High Sheriff of Manchester.

“Every year, they unfailingly meet up in all manner of exotic locations to take in the local culture.

“Their 2010 venue was Edinburgh amid its unique summer festival, and this year who knows where they will go?

“Like many others, they have never forgotten the example set by one rather remarkable lady, Amy Catherine Moore.”