Nether Edge Grammar School
by Joan Flett
From EDGE, March 2001
With all the changes taking place in and around Nether Edge Hospital several people have asked about the attractive building on Union Road opposite the Hospital where there is a planning application for six apartments and four houses in the grounds. Quite a few older members remember this as Nether Edge Grammar School and some went to school there.
However, it was built in 1902 as the new offices of the Guardians of the Ecclesall Bierlow (from the Norse byjar-log, meaning “of the town law”) Union Workhouse. The Guardians were the unpaid administrators of the Workhouse assisted by a clerk, who lived at the small house next door and other Photograph staff. In addition to dealing with the admission of paupers “outdoor relief” was also given to those out of work but still managing to keep their homes. One of the interesting features of the original plans for the quite elaborate building was the ‘Bread store’. Bread and food tokens were often given out as the Guardians were afraid that men would spend money on drink!
In 1914 the term Workhouse was abandoned in favour of Institution and in 1925 Ecclesall Bierlow Union and the Sheffield Union (covering the rest of Sheffield) amalgamated . In 1927 the building became the Nether Edge Grammar School. The school opened on April 26th ‘to the noise of hammers and failing trees’. The playground was still ‘a kind of lawn with some healthy timbers growing thereon and was dotted with builders’ material’. The pupils had to eat and play in the gym as the only space outside was an asphalt path round two sides of the building.
They managed to play cricket on Saturday mornings at Abbeydale Secondary School for Girls and had football teams named Chantry, Furnival, Huntsman and Machon. Discarding the Sheffield theme the school houses were called Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Irish, Colonials, Moors, Welsh and Scots. The school had a total of 400 boys.
The school seems to have had a somewhat shaky start, having three headmasters in two years (see Smith’s account). Eventually the Official Opening took place early in the Easter term in 1930 performed by Alderman H K Stephenson who had been involved with the foundation of Sheffield University. A school concert look place in the large room under the Montgomery Chapel (now Henry Hall Display Fittings Ltd.)(this was not the Montgomery Chapel – E. Y.) and about this time a pupil wrote ‘… very few schools of our type have so good a dinner system’. By now the school had its own playing field at Bents Green (When did the school move to Carter Knowle ? E.Y).
In the December 1938 issue of the school magazine the Editor wrote ‘It was in an atmosphere of growing strain that School opened in the Autumn term; after coming to a climax in late September, the political trouble became less severe, and we are looking forward to, at least, a more or less cheerful Christmas’. Surprisingly, in July 1939 there was no mention of war.
Alas, as we know, the optimism expressed in 1938 was not justified and the December 1940 magazine reported ‘Curious recollections of the curious morning in early September 1939 when, instead of talking to parents about their plans for the coming year … we beheld Khaki pouring steadily into our school halls at 9 a.m. and received polite, but curt, instructions as to quitting them indefinitely’. They were allowed to take some stock with the help of the Royal Engineers but, by 2 p.m. they went home feeling ‘that education in Sheffield had probably finished for the Dark Ages’. Shortly after the Trustees of the Montgomery Chapel allowed the school to use their schoolroom.
In December the school began to share with King Edward VII school and shared their air raid shelter. We do not know what the Royal Engineers did, or meant to do, at Union Road but, by April 1940 the school was able to move back to its own building. There was no air raid shelter but there was a public shelter in the Hospital grounds. (two Air Raid Shelters were built in the School grounds, one in the Main Playground, the other at the side – E.Y)
In December 1946 it was reported that the school was, for the first time since 1941, staffed entirely with masters and in July 1955, that ‘plans for our new school are now complete and very soon extensive building operations will begin in the field adjoining Hastings Road’. Building started in 1956 and when completed the school becameAbbeydale Grammar School for Boys. Since then the building has been used for various purposes by the Education Department.
With acknowledgements to The Torch, the school magazine