A Brief History

There is a tradition that Solihull School| dates from the reign of Richard II (1377-1399), but the first known record of a School in Solihull was in 1560, when the chantry revenues which had formerly maintained the Chapels of St. Mary and St. Katherine in the Parish Church of St Alphege were diverted for the payment of a schoolmaster's stipend.  The Charity Estate had been built up from gifts dating back to Richard II's reign and the School could have been in existence prior to that date, but with no evidence of that being the case its foundation is generally accepted to have been 1560.

It is believed that the site of the School was where Malvern House is currently situated - the corner of New Road and Park Road, just 100 yards from St. Alphege Church and overlooking Malvern Park.  It was to remain there until 1882.  As has been stated elsewhere the records whilst the School was under management of the Feoffees are very sparse.

1615 - The School House was either built or rebuilt.   The Parish Bailiff's accounts show - "XVIIli. XVIIs. IXd. (£22.90) towarde the repaire of the church, and the scholemaster's wages; and more paid towarde the building of the scolehous XXVli. XIs. Id." (£25.55).

1735 - Samuel Johnson's application for the post of Headmaster was rejected by the Feoffees.  In a letter to Mr. Gilbert Walmsley, Diocesan Registrar of Lichfield, Thomas Greswold stated that the Feoffees - "all agree that he is an excellent scholar, and upon that account deserves much better than to be a Schoolmaster of Solihull.  But then he has a caracter of beinga very haughty, ill-natured gent. and yt he has such a way of distorting his fface (wh though he cannot help) ye gentn think it may affect some young ladds; for these two reasons he is not approved on, ye late master Mr Crompton's huffing the feoffes beingstil in their memory!"

At some point between 1751 and 1760 the School was completely rebuilt - "the feoffees had been put to great expense in taking down and rebuilding the ffree school in the parish of Solihull".

Malvern House 1830

The Grammar School (now Malvern House) drawn in about 1830 by John Burton, a boarder in the early 19th century

1879 The title of the managers of the Grammar School was changed from Feoffees to Governors. Most of the revenues of the old Charity Estate, which had accumulated over the centuries, were now devoted to education. Recognising that, if the School was to move forward with the times, new premises would be necessary to cope with the expected rise in the number of pupils, which at this time seems to have been a mere 33, the Governors took the decision to build a new school on the Tanhouse Close site, where it stands today. Mr Chatwin was chosen as architect and the cost was not to exceed £4,222. At the same time they appointed Dr. Robert Wilson| Headmaster, “ a man of outstanding character and personality.” (Salary £150 p.a. School Fees £9 p.a.)

1882 The new school was opened. The old premises, which became known as Malvern House, were leased to a private individual. The new school began to flourish (80 pupils in 1884).

1887 A gymnasium|, in more recent times to be converted to Art Room / Changing Rooms / Drama Studio, was built behind the main buildings at a cost of £300, half of which was donated by Dr. Wilson.

1890 The first laboratory was built by Messrs. Bragg Bros. at a cost of £291, but exactly where is not clear. The School was now full at 100 boys.

School c1900

School House 1907 1902 Mrs Wilson laid the Foundation Stone| (still visible) of the new laboratories|.

1906 A pavilion| is built on the north boundary of Bigside Cricket.

1908 The end of Dr. Wilson’s very productive headmastership, without his achieving his ambition to see the provision of a swimming bath.  The arrival of Dr. A.J. Cooper, the new Headmaster.

1909 A new wing was added to School House but the location is not identified. Judging by the slight difference in the texture of the brickwork, it is probably the three floors to the north of the old Refectory. Total cost - £3,537, including a grant from the County Council, which was now represented on the Governing Body.

1910 An engineering workshop was provided but, again, its location is not clear.

1913 Solihull Grammar School became Solihull School – the decision of Dr. Cooper. 150 pupils on the roll.

1920-27 The headmastership of Mr. W.F. Bushell||, the first layman to be appointed to the post, to whose vision the present School owes a great deal, particularly for the land surrounding the buildings. When he arrived the Governors owned 10/12 acres, when he left to become Headmaster of Michaelhouse School, Natal this had risen to 40 acres, 18 of which he had purchased himself and later sold, for the purchase price, to the Governors, who had earlier been reluctant to acquire it.

1923 Gaywood was opened to house junior boarders in the reoccupied Malvern House| which was also used as the Junior School.  Mr. Bushell also recommended the purchase of Bradford House| with its adjoining land to rear.

1924 Mr. Bushell personally secured a lease on Hampton Lane fields from a farmer, who, it is said, was well-disposed towards him, but not to the governors. No man has been more responsible for such valuable additions to the school except, perhaps, over the past 40 years or so, Mr. George Hill, to whose acumen and financial expertise on the Governing Body many of the first class facilities of today’s school are due. The O.S.A. also are indebted to Mr. Bushell, who founded the Old Boys Club in 1921.

1927-1947 The headmastership of Mr. A.R. Thompson|.  When he arrived there were 300 boys in the School, 16 assistant masters and the fees were 21 guineas. An era of modern building additions began.

Cricket Bigside 1931 |1930 The Swimming Bath| – unheated and open to the elements, but the fulfilment of Dr. Wilson’s dream.

On the photo to the left of Bigside Cricket taken in 1931 the wooden fence that used to surround the swimming pool can be seen.  (Click on photo to enlarge)

1931 The Thompson Building| – the old Big School block – and the West wing of what was to be the Great Quadrangle, designed by Mr Hayward and built by Sapcote Ltd. The old School Hall| became the Dining Hall|.   The N|ew |Gymnasium| made its appearance, built, rumour has it, of coffin-board off-cuts! The Old Gymnasium| was divided into two floors, Art| above and Changing Rooms below. As a result of the changes, senior boarders were given the use of Room 2 in School House, daringly equipped with tennis table and the School wireless set!

1934 A new Library was installed in what is now the Conference Room.

1935 The pavilion was enlarged.

1936 The East (Junior School) wing of the Great Quadrangle was added and surplus soil dumped near the Pavilion with the spoil from the Swimming Pool to form the infamous Mound. Between the E block and Bigside Cricket a woodwork shop and part of a new science school appeared.

1939 Malvern House| was sold for £2375. Numbers had increased to 502.

1944 Butler Education Act. Three options were open to the School

  • State Grammar school
  • Direct Grant Status
  • Independence

Ellen Wilkinson, The Minister of Education, rejected the Governors’ application for the Direct Grant.

1946 The School became independent, but 15 free places per year (increased to 36 in 1953 – a considerable benefit to the School since it represented 30% of the fee income) were reserved by the L.E.A. Mr. Thompson resigned, feeling that a fresh approach would be required in the changed circumstances. There were now 547 pupils.

1947-62 The Headmastership of Brig. H.B. Hitchens|, who saw the need to develop the School’s facilities for the coming era.

1949-50 The Field of Mars was laid down and Bigside Cricket levelled.

School 1950

1950-51 Kineton House |was opened for boarders and the Preparatory Form (Miss Thompson). Construction of the Memorial Building|, containing the Geography School, (D block) began. The Quadrangle at the time was described in the Shenstonian as “a cross between a paddy-field and a ground-nut patch” A filter plant was installed in the Swimming Pool. Cycle sheds were built to accommodate 485 cycles (Today fewer than 10 pupils cycle, but 60 drive to School).

1952-53 The Memorial Building completed. The Library was moved from School House to the present Headmaster’s Wing. The Masters’ Lawn| was created on the site of hutted classrooms, burned down, if I remember correctly, by the ratcatchers. Broomfields was re-named Bushell Fields.

1953-54 New Tuckshop|, now a maintenance hut, was designed and fitted out by George Paine, groundsman and cricket professional and run by Mrs. Paine, was well patronised by ravenous customers|.

1954-55 The Pro-Chapel was built on Top Fields, partly by ‘voluntary’ labour under the direction of the Rev Charles Sellars, but completed by professionals.

1956-57 First Music School was created at the rear of Bradford House.

1957-58 The Old Refectory| was divided into two floors. The addition to the Science School of VIth Form Chemistry, Physics and Biology Laboratories was made possible by a contribution from the Industrial Fund for Scientific Education. A new workshop, later known as The Fort|, was built near the Pro-Chapel.

1958-59 The Mountain Cottage| was opened – the gift of the Fricke family in memory of their son, David.

1959-60 The Chapel of St Katherine and St. Mary| was dedicated on 26th June 1960 to mark the Quatercentenary of the School. Architect - Mr. Neville White, O.S. Cost- £50,000, raised by an Appeal.

1960-61 Library extension|Visit by the Duchess of Kent| on 27th October.

1961-62 Visit of Her Majesty the Queen|. During this year the Inspectors of Schools reported, “This is a very good school …..a model of variety, flexibility and opportunity”.

1963-73 The Headmastership of Mr. B.H. McGowan|. 870 on the roll.

1964-65 New Lower School| class rooms were added to the NE corner of the Great Quadrangle. The Headmaster’s House| was built in School Lane. A new Cricket scoreboard was provided by Geoff Stubbings| and the Parents’ Association. Heating was installed in the Swimming Pool.

1965-66 The title of the Foundation was changed from Solihull United Charities to Solihull School. During this year the open cloisters| were glazed|, warmly welcomed by teachers and taught.

1966-67 The purchase of land at Copt Heath provided much needed extra space for games, particularly on Saturday afternoons, when all age groups above the Shell forms were engaged. At this time School House ceased to exist as a separate entity owing to the decline in boarders’ numbers to 82. The School roll exceeded 900 for the first time.

1967-68 Pressure on accommodation led to the construction of the four classrooms of L Block in the Old Quadrangle.

1969-70 The first two floors of the K Block| were completed, providing a new refectory and kitchens on the ground floor with Geography rooms and a Language Laboratory|, which was later dismantled when it was found to be electrically unreliable and inadequate to cater for the needs of a large department.

1970-71 The Swimming Pool| acquired a much-needed roof, the gift of the Parents’ Association, for the first time making all-the-year round swimming possible. New laboratories were built to provide for the demands of the Nuffield Science Course.

1972-73 The new Music School| at the rear of Bradford House catered for the needs of the Music Department, which had grown impressively since 1957, under David Turnbull’s direction.

1973-82 The Headmastership of Mr. Giles Slaughter|. 967 on the roll.

1973-74 Building work was undertaken in order to accommodate VIth Form girls who entered the School in September 1973, to be greeted by the new Headmaster.  The VIth Form Centre was opened in the premises made vacant by the removal of the Refectory to the K Block.

1974-75 The capacious Sports Hall| was raised on the hallowed ground where the Bigside tennis courts were once located - a loss no doubt regretted by those who had enjoyed playing on their superb surfaces. But where else could the Sports Hall have been conveniently located? The School began progressively to lose the 36 free places reserved by the L.E.A. Scholarships and bursaries were funded by the Foundation.

1975-76 The end of the 6 day week.

1977-78 Extension to the Fort for Engineering teaching. – an indication of the Governors’ intention to keep abreast of the developments in Technology teaching.

1978-79 2nd XI Cricket pavilion – the gift of the Parents’ Association.  The main pavilion| is further extended - the 1935 extension can also be seen on this photo.

1982-83 Closure of Kineton House| and the end of full-time boarding. Extension of VIth Form facilities in School House to include a Library.

School 1983

1983-96 The Headmastership of Mr. Alan Lee|.  There were now 883 day pupils and 26 boarders.

1985-96 Second floor added to K Block| to house the Modern Languages Department.

1986-87 The new Craft, Design and Technology Centre| was opened in March by Sir John Egan, Chairman of Jaguar plc.

1987-88 The new Squash Courts, made possible by the generosity of Gordon Wilcox, O.S. and sometime Governor. The Boarding House closed.

1988-89 The reconstruction of School House to provide extended accommodation for the Sixth Form on the first two floors and a new Art School on the second floor.  The Headmaster's Wing| was also renovated and extended to include a proper reception area and additional office space.

1989-90 The Art School| was converted into a Drama studio and L Block became the Computer Centre.

1991-92 The New Junior School| - the rebuilding and significant extension of the Old Junior School|, making it practically self-contained. Opened by Sir Adrian Cadbury.

1994-95 New Physics laboratory.

1995-96 The New Biology Block|, opened by Dr. Mary Archer| in September 1996.

1996-2001 The Headmastership of Mr. Patrick Derham|. 968 pupils.

1998-99 The Gordon Wilcox Astroturf| was laid on Lower Bushell Fields – a contrast with the boggy area of former years.

2001-05 The Headmastership of Mr. John Claughton|.

Bushell Hall 2002 The Bushell Hall| and new Kent Library| (a triumphant conversion of the old Big School) were opened by the Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands.

2003 The new Alan Lee Pavilion| was opened on 28th September. It replaces the former wooden structure, built in 1906 at a cost of £212 4s 6d, which, although picturesque, had outlived its time, having been in use for 97 years – a remarkable return for money! Numbers on the roll - 969.

School 2004

2004 The new Outdoor Pursuits Building| was opened to replace the dilapidated CCF huts.

2005-10 The Headmastership of Mr. Phil Griffiths|.

2005 Saw the opening of the George Hill Building| in September.  The building provides fifteen teaching rooms for a variety of subjects.  There is also a large multi-purpose teaching room and a social area.

School Photo 2010

2009  The David Turnbull Music School| was opened.   Costing £3 million it has a recital room, ensemble room, 10 practice rooms, specialist rooms for rock music and percussion, individual teaching rooms for the music staff, 3 classrooms and a recording studio.   The building was named after David Turnbull, a former Director of Music, who created the wide and firm base of good music at the School.

David Turnbull Music School.1

2010 The Headmastership of Mr David Lloyd| begins.   Numbers on the Roll - 1005.

2012 Situated in the Leonard Stevens Building , formerly the Old Music School, along with the new OSA Office, the Denis Tomlin Archive Room| was opened on 4th May 2012.

2013 The Development and Alumni Relations Office| was set up, also situated in the Leonard Stevens Building.  In October 2013 plans were announced to build a new Sixth Form Centre (artist's impression below) on the site of the old timber clad gymnasium that burnt down a couple of years earlier.  The opening date is scheduled for September 2015.

Sixth Form Centre

The demands of the constantly developing curriculum and the expectations of parents and their children have been met over the years, whenever the resources of the Foundation (not the fees) have permitted, by far-sighted Governors and Headmasters.   Now the School can face the future with confidence. But still, as it must, the determination to enhance the School’s facilities continues and further development is always around the corner.


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