Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tunstall Girls’ High School – Pioneering girls’ education in The Potteries

In the early 1920s, Stoke-on-Trent councillors accepted the view of leading educationalists that selected entry grammar schools would give academically gifted working-class children an opportunity to make their way in the world.

Hanley and Longton already had grammar schools and the council made plans to build two girls’ grammar schools, when it had the money.

As a temporary measure, Tunstall High School for Girls was opened on January 1st, 1922. Housed in the Jubilee Buildings in Station Road (The Boulevard), the school had 90 pupils whose parents had to pay for their education.

The fees charged were three guineas a year for a girl living in Stoke-on-Trent and five guineas for one residing outside the area.

Many working-class parents in The Potteries could not afford to pay for their children’s education or to keep them at school when they could be going to work earning money.

Poverty was frustrating the local authority’s scheme.

In June 1922, the council introduced exhibitions which enabled it to pay the school fees of elementary school pupils who had been awarded grammar school places and give them maintenance grants and travelling expenses.

Financial help was given to 45 children attending local grammar schools – 23 of whom were girls attending Tunstall High.

Girls wore a uniform consisting of a brown pleated tunic, a shantung silk blouse, a brown blazer and a brown hat with a metal badge illustrating the tree of knowledge below which was printed the school’s motto, “I serve”.

The school hymn “Pioneers” showed that the headmistress, Miss Wilmott, and her staff believed they were embarking on an educational experiment – an experiment that would challenge accepted ideas and enable working-class girls to go to university or teacher training college.

From 1925 onwards, pupils were entered for external examinations.

Tunstall High School’s pass rate was much higher than the national average. It quickly became recognised as a centre of excellence. Betty Johnson was the first pupil to obtain a degree. She read English at Manchester University and graduated in 1929.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

John Lloyd and Reginald Mitchell – two aircraft designers from The Potteries

John Lloyd’s AW52 – The Flying Wing

Two of the 20th century’s leading aircraft designers, Reginald Mitchell and John Lloyd, grew up in Stoke-on-Trent.

Both were educated at Hanley High School and served apprenticeships in The Potteries before going to work in the aviation industry.

Made in 1942, the film The First of the Few, starring Leslie Howard and David Niven, told the world how Mitchell raced against time to create the Spitfire while dying of cancer.

Already “a living legend” when the film was released, the Spitfire symbolised Britain’s determination to destroy Nazi Germany.

The film made Mitchell a Potteries’ folk hero. Hanley High School was renamed Mitchell High, the Mitchell Memorial Theatre was built to commemorate his life and a by-pass, Reginald Mitchell Way, was named after him.

John Lloyd’s contribution to aviation history was forgotten.

Between 1942 and 1949, John was at the cutting edge of aviation research working on the flying wing, an experimental tailless jet aircraft. Hoping these experiments would enable him to design an airliner, he constructed a two-seater tailless glider which flew successfully.

Impressed by the glider’s performance, the government allowed him to build two jet-powered flying wings. One crashed while being flown by a test pilot and the other was taken to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where it was used in tests which helped to develop the V Bomber force and Concorde.

You can find out more about John’s life and the aircraft he designed by reading “John Lloyd – North Staffordshire’s Forgotten Aircraft Designer” at