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Royds Hall School History

Royds Hall Secondary School opened on 20th September 1921 with Head teacher, Mr. E F Chaney, Senior Mistress, Miss Caroline E Boden and Senior Master, Mr Percy Newton. Together with 69 boys and girls from Huddersfield and the West Riding, they were housed in the mansion formerly known as Royds Wood. The school leaving age had been raised to 14 in 1918 so there was a growing need for secondary education rather than the extended primary schooling provided in the elementary schools.

Mr Chaney, B.A., M,A., was appointed in August, 1921 on a salary scale four times the national average wage (the main body of teachers received twice the average wage) which rose to five times later which indicates the esteem and status that professionals had at that time. His last teaching post had been at the prestigious Manchester Grammar School. He ruled from his office with its roaring fire with fairness and firmness. He often showed a sense of humor – once dealing with a boy who had offended for a second time by threatening to drop him over the balcony railings! However, Joe Sykes respected him and later himself became a schoolteacher. The Head had a house designed by the famous local architect and lecturer Norman Culley – a brick one, by the entrance to the allotments.

In April 1933, Mr. Chaney left the school after over eleven years to become Headmaster of Manchester Central School. The pupils collected to give him a grandmother clock, a filing cabinet and a Waterman’s writing set as he had been so highly regarded. Since he started, the numbers of pupils reached 595 and the staff was 29. This expansion, it was said “would never have taken place if the hand at the helm had not been a very capable one. He had the gift of knowing every past and present scholar personally. This personal touch had been the means of producing and maintaining in the school a friendliness between staff and pupils which made the work of both so much easer and so much more valuable.”

He was replaced by Mr Deniess St. John Cecil Gurney (nicknamed Dan, who was aged 10. He received his secondary schooling in Marseilles, sixth form tutoring at King’s School Canterbury, a History degree and later an M.Ed at Leeds, a French degree at Poitiers University and, in 1938, took a Diploma in Biblical Studies. He was therefore, a widely experienced and educated man. After he was widowed in 1938 he eventually married Miss Winifred Large, a teacher at Royds Hall. He had irons on one leg and walked with a pronounced limp. His approach was always detected by the odd sound his lame leg made.

Mr. Gurney, the Head, left in 1959. It was said “26 years of service to a community. There will be few who have not been proud of the general and academic standard achieved in this school. These have been the direct result of teamwork and leadership. The experience of years was at the disposal of those who cared to profit by it. With his keen sense of humour and sympathetic outlook on personal problems he has on innumerable occasions lightened them with his readiness to understand and give help. If the measure of the success of a Headmaster is efficiency, combined with the happiness of those who serve under him then Mr. Gurney may indeed retire in the knowledge that his was a successful career.” Mrs Shape (Secretary) said he was the best ‘boss’ she ever had.

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For a short while after Mr Gurney left, Mr Don James took over the temporary Headship and served the school with his customary loyalty and devotion.

In 1959 Mr. Waterhouse, the new Head, decided to change the unimaginative names of the houses to some with completely Yorkshire associations geographically – Howard, Malham, Richmond and Wensley. He also called for “a closer cooperation between parent and child and between parent and school” – echoes of the pleas from the previous two Heads. He added, “If success in the education of a child is to be achieved the home and the school need to work together.”

In September, 1963, Mr John McKean, M.A. began his ten years as Headmaster. Coincidentally, Mr. Chaney, the first Head at Royds Hall, taught at the school where this new Head had been a pupil. (In 1986, the new Head, Mr Bradbury was rather similarly a former pupil at Huddersfield New College where the retiring Royd’s Head Mr Clarkson had been a teacher). Mr. McKean inherited a school that was taking in its fifth year of nonselective pupils and so had become a complete Secondary Modern.

Mr McKean retired in 1973 after ten years as Head. Miss Oldroyd records: “He had obtained his first degree at Liverpool University. He taught at two Quaker Schools and was housemaster at Lancaster. Then he was Head of Carlisle Secondary School for seven years. His teaching career was interrupted when he registered as a conscientious objector. He and his wife worked with the Friends Relief Service and later he worked on a farm looking after bullocks.

For over 45 years he had been an active member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). He had made a contribution locally, nationally and on the European scene. He looked for and found good qualities and potential in those whom he was privileged to influence and serve.

Even in retirement he took up mountain climbing, walking, sailing and canoeing and then music, photography, painting, gardening and writing.

He was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy Degree at Bradford University by the Chancellor, Harold Wilson – two ex-Roydsians together. His thesis was on Military Conscription and Conscientious Objection in Western Europe, 1968 – 1978. He died in 1984 and will be remembered for his high standards, his care for each individual, his cheerful determination to succeed, his friendship, his dedication to his work and his love for his family.”


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