140 Years of Educating Girls

In 1864 the School Enquiry Commission, The Taunton Commission, was set up to investigate secondary schools, in particular secondary education for girls.

The Commission recommended that some endowments which have been previously used exclusively for boys’ education should be allotted to girls.

This became law in 1869 when the Endowed Schools Act was passed and the way was now open for girls’ schools to be founded.

In 1869 there was no thought of admitting girls to old established boys’ grammar schools and the citizens of Wakefield were not eager to be pioneers. In 1875 Wakefield Grammar School Foundation was founded by the governors of the existing boys’ grammar school - Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) which was founded in 1591.

The Foundation aimed to provide a school for one hundred girls providing education up to university entrance. The Governors bought Wentworth House from Elias Holt, a woollen manufacturer and then set about turning it into a school. Wakefield Girls’ High School opened its doors to 58 girls aged 8-17 years on September 16th 1878. Miss Allen was appointed as Headmistress supported by three other female members of staff. Miss Allen and her staff lived on the second and third floors of Wentworth House.

The Wakefield Express supported the opening describing the school as “a seminary for young ladies.. the ultimate success of the establishment is looked forward to with great confidence”.Entry was by examination and fees were fixed at £10 per year. Most of the lessons took place in the morning with afternoons devoted to music, drawing and sewing.

In August 1914 WWI broke out. Miss McCroben decreed that all school expeditions and functions were foregone, in turn raising £40 for an ambulance which went to the front and served the Belgian Army with ‘Presented by Wakefield Girls’ High School’ painted on its side.

Following the retirement of Mrs Kingswell in 1949, Miss Knott became Headmistress, remaining appointed until 1973. In 1978 the school celebrated its Centenary under the leadership of Headmistress Miss Hand who retired in 1987.

In 1987 Mrs Langham was appointed as Headmistress, where she spent over 22 years at the helm. Whilst in post, she was appointed President of the Girls' School Association and was awarded a CBE for her services to education.

Mrs Wallwork joined WGHS in 2009. During her time at the school the Main Building and Jubilee Hall were totally refurbished. Mrs Wallwork's girls achieved consistently high results and she retired in August 2015.

From September 2015 until July 2018, Mrs Gunson led the happy and successful WGHS Senior School community. She oversaw the major refurbishment of what is now known as 'The Langham Library' and also The Sixth Form Centre.

Throughout the history of Wakefield Girls’ there have been many developments in the buildings around the school. The original school building, Wentworth House, was expanded upon with the addition of a new block, being built at the corner of Wentworth Terrace and Newstead Road.

Jubilee Hall was opened; and Princess Mary laid the foundation stone, which the plaque on the wall commemorates. Due to the dire economic situation during and after the Second World War, there were no building developments. However, land on the other side of Margaret Street was purchased; which became the science block.

Sotterley House now houses the Sixth-Form Centre. Though the building has enjoyed modern make-overs through the years, this impressive building’s ornate cornicing and colourful tiled entrance hall has been beautifully preserved. Steeped in history, though it seems especially poignant today as we note the contribution of the NHS, that the building offered advice and assistance, as it housed another arm of the Welfare State in the form of the National Assistance Board and established under the auspices of Atlee government. The post-World War Two society ushered in an egalitarian spirit, and the walls and ornate staircases of Sotterley House bore witness to this.

Our Junior School

The Junior School opened in 1881 for pupils from 5 years of age. In 1967 the Junior School moved to a large Georgian House - St John’s House - where the school is located today adjacent to the Senior School campus and to the Nursery and Pre Prep Department in Mulberry House.  St John's House was part of the Georgian development of St John's Square, promoted by the solicitor John Lee. It was completed soon after 1800 and It's architecture is typical of the Georgian period, designed using rigid symmetry and including entrance embellishments. The people involved in the early history of the building, whether they owned the land it was built on, built it or lived in it themselves, are remembered in the Junior School's four houses: Newstead, Lee, Barff and Mackie. 

The house became part of the school in 1967, and has since taught girls aged seven to eleven. The most recent renovation of it's interior was completed in 2017, making it more suitable to house modern facilities, without losing it's historic exterior. 

Our Nursery

Mulberry House was officially opened in February 2002, with its characteristic pencil fences and light and airy interior creating a safe and stimulating learning environment for younger girls.

Today

Today, under the leadership of Ms Boyes, Wakefield Girls' is an outward-looking school, producing confident and inspirational young women determined to make a positive contribution to society.

The Junior School, under the leadership of Mrs Edwards, very much values the traditions of the past whilst embracing the future and specific strategies of girls’ education.

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