Wintringham Grammar

This picture shows the main building of Wintringham Grammar school, circa 1940, in Eleanor Street just off the southern end of Grimsby's Freeman Street.  Freeman Street led straight to the docks and was Grimsby's main shopping thoroughfare with a large open-air market.  The Eleanor Street educational complex had opened, newly built, on Thursday, October 24, 1895. It was described as Grimsby Higher Grade School or Grimsby Municipal College and it was the pride of the town's School Board. The school was situated next to the Board's offices, which can be seen at the left of the above photograph.  It was a local response to the 1870 education act that had established universal primary education.  One of Grimsby's first responses to this was the creation of Holme Hill Primary School in 1876, which was a grand towered building in the Gothic Style sited just around the corner from a site that was to contain the Municiple College.  Holme Hill is no longer used as a school but unlike the old Eleanor Street College it is a grade 2 listed building and is legally protected.

Here is Jeff Beedham's desciption of the official opening of the Eleanor Street Academy, a momentous event designed to bring Grimsby into the mainstream of a national state-of-the-art secondary education system.

"The official opening was in the morning with speeches by George Doughty MP, the Mayor and other local 'worthies'. There was a chairman's reception at the Town Hall in the afternoon. According to the Grimsby News there was a grand evening conversazione starting at 9pm in the main hall, which was essentially a teachers' night with representatives from schools all over Grimsby attending an evening of dancing, entertainment and refreshments, that went on to the "early hours of the morning".

"The new school had a playfield, swimming baths, laboratory and a lecture theatre vividly shown in the Grimsby News drawings.

"The new college that opened to its first pupils at 9am on Monday, November 4, 1895, was to quote the advertisements of the time, designed to give 'A sound modern education affording preparation for universities, professional and commercial life'.

"The college had a staff of 30 university graduates and specialists supervised by the principal, Mr Ernest J Stream MA.

"There was also a Kindergarten for junior pupils under eight years of age.

"But all this modern education came at a price; 31 shillings per term for children over 12 years with a generous discount for local rate payers if they had from one to four children attending the college.

"Every year 75 scholarships to the value of £700 were offered to competing scholars".

Edward VI granted licence for the first Free Grammar School in Grimsby in 1547.  Edward's licence led to The Corporation Free Grammar which in was located alongside the new Town hall and Courthouse and Police station. 1861-3 by Bellamy and Hardy of Lincoln and designed to hold 100 students.  More research is needed to establish exactly when the Eleanor Street College was redesignated as a grammar school, but it is likely that the name change came with the passing of the 1944 education act, which required every local authority to have a grammar school to accommodate the academic stream of pupils from its primary schools as a result of the new 11Plus selection tests.  It seems that 'Wintringham' refers to John Wintringham, a local self-made timber merchant and former Mayor of Grimsby, who is defined in the town's public records as follows:

6 August 1880. The Will of John Wintringham late of 6 Pelham Terrace Great Grimsby in the County of Lincoln Timber Merchant who died 12 April 1880 at Great Grimsby was proved at the Principal registry by Phebe Wintringham of 6 Pelham Terrace Widow the Relict William Thomas Wintringham Timber Merchant the Son Henry Smethurst the Younger Smack Owner both of Great Grimsby George Cutts of East Retford in the County of Nottingham Grocer and Thomas Stratten of the Borough of Kingston-upon-Hull Merchant the Executors. Personal Estate under £60,000.

I was enrolled, aged eleven, in the coeducational Wintringham Grammar School in September 1945.  The First, Second and Third Forms were housed in prefabricated barracks-type buildings on the site of a farm called Highfield at the edge of Grimsby's southern suburbs.  The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Forms were situated in the Eleanor Street building, which by the 1930s had become too small to accommodate the local demand for a grammar school education.

Here is the account of the Highfield site seen through the eyes of a London evacuee in 1944 (Vickie Reilly (nee Vickers)), which presents a picture that I can easily recognise.

"Because I had passed the 11Plus exam I went to the local Wintringham grammar school. I studied mostly at Highfield, which I seem to remember was a collection of prefabs in the middle of some fields.

"The children were encouraged to use some of the land as allotments. We all had a patch, and I learned to grow all kinds of salads and vegetables, radishes, lettuces, onions, beetroot, potatoes.

"I've never forgotten the pleasure of growing and eating your own produce. I still love gardening and although I don't have one of my own, I help with the communal gardens where I live.

"Wintringham School published a magazine and I wrote an essay about the allotments which they included. We had a dear teacher called Miss Gaine. As I remember her she was very elegant and feminine and she looked very kindly at my plot.

"She had an idiosyncratic way of repeating part of what she said in a very refined tone and I commented in my essay that she had said 'Those lettuces are very naice, very naice!'.

"I remember my class going to the impressive school in the heart of town for music lessons with a very venerable gentleman whose name I wish I could remember".

This description published in the Grimsby Telegraph prompted Alma Bates to paint a wider picture.

"I also attended the prefabs for the first three years at Highfield.

"The music teacher was Mr Wheeler. Miss Gaine was an art teacher and her nickname was "Earphone Fanny" because of her hairstyle."

Barbara Corden who was a pupil throughout the war years (1939-45)  also got in touch with the newspaper.

She said:

"To begin with I attended classes in a house in Cumberland Avenue, then the prefabs (huts) were ready. At first we were there part-time in a "bedroom" classroom in Highfield farmhouse, next door to the headmaster Mr Walter's room, so we had to be quiet!

"It was a snowy winter in 1939-40. When the snow melted the hut roofs leaked and we went home, which was very nice for us but not good for our education.

We also spent time in the air-raid shelters singing Girl Guide songs. I too had an allotment where Miss Greenfield showed a keen interest (as she also did in the history she taught).

"Miss Gaine was very lovely. She taught us art and called us "people". She had her hair in buns over her ears, which she patted as she talked.

"Miss (not Mrs) Ellis (daughter of a Methodist minister) taught English and loved raw cauliflower. She liked to pinch a floret if anyone brought any in from their allotment.

"Science was taught by Mr Newberry. He was gassed in the First World War. Mr Wheeler (known as Pop) was music master. The music room was at the back of the Education Offices next door to the school.

"Miss Gawthorpe taught us to scrub wood "the way of the grain" and to sweep away from yourself to avoid dust. Two things I have never forgotten and I am 81!

"Miss Burton taught PE and swimming (when we were lucky enough to get a turn, having to share with other schools as the "Orwell Street School Baths" were closed in the war, being too near the dock.

"The school magazine was called "The Grimm" and usually had a dark blue corner.

"The school has had several names. My mother was there in the early 1900s and it was then the Grimsby Higher Grade School or Grimsby Municipal College. It was Wintringham Secondary School in my time there."

To these vivid accounts I can only add that the Highfield huts were each heated by a coke-burning stove that had to be fed by coke-monitors. The space around the huts was occupied by long narrow brick air raid shelters which had targets painted on their walls for the school's army cadet force to practice rifle sighting skills. There was also a rifle range at the far end of the vast playing field beyond the school allotments where one could fire real bullets. 

The cadet force, founded after the first World War, was a dominant influence on the boys through its weekend wireless telegraphy schemes and patrols. Although you could opt out to be with the girls on a Wednesday afternoon, there was great peer pressure to don the uniform and learn how to be a soldier under the leadership of three enthuisiastic teacher-officers Major Wilson, Captain Web and Lieutenant Robson.  I can't think of any boy who opted out.

It is interesting how influential Phyllis Gaine, the art teacher, was to generations of students.  I have memories of her teachng me botanical drawing, particularly how to use a pencil to emphasise the differences between winter buds of trees.  From Miss Greenfield I learned how to pronounce the word celts as 'kelts' not 'selts'!

The unique  impact of moving from Highfield to Eleanor Street was largely through contact with its original purpose-built facilities for teaching a liberal and technical education, with custom-built practical facililties, such as a woodwork studio, metal workshop, music room, gymnasium, swimming baths and the specially designed top-floor laboratories for physics, chemistry and biology.

The traditional grammar school ethos was evident in the house system which was particularly powerful on sports day with the annual creation of a new school Victor Ludorum.  Speech day was a grand affair held in Grimsby's Central Methodist Hall with prize-giving and a speech by a national figure, such as Sir Robert Watson Watt the wartime inventor of radar.

By Jeff Beedham's time the Eleanor Street building had become the Grimsby Technical Secondary Modern School or the 'Tech' as it was known.  The grammar school had transferred to replace the prefabs at Highfield.  But many of the grammar school's academic ways had been taken up by the Tech.

"The pungent chlorinated swimming baths and the upstairs laboratory were virtually unchanged from the 1895 drawings.

"The playing fields were some distance away at Clee Fields where an old wooden pavilion with flaking paintwork served as a very basic changing room smelling of damp that doubled as an untidy storeroom.

"Even in the 1960s school uniform was compulsory and rigorously enforced by the staff. Peaked caps for boys and berets for girls had to be worn to and from school".

"The girls usually pinned their berets on top of the latest beehive hairdos. Ties and blazers were worn by both girls and boys.

"During the summer months ties were abandoned and the girls permitted to wear an approved summer dress.

"The school, as the name suggested, specialised in technical subjects such as engineering and woodwork and commercial subjects such as shorthand and typing and accountancy with Mr Higson for the girls.

"The school pupils were divided among four main Houses, governed by appointed Housemasters, with each pupil sporting a badge of their house colour; Boston (blue), Gainsborough (green) Lincoln (red) and Stamford (yellow).

"There was an annual school magazine named Skalden that featured pupils' reports on speech day, sports and music. There were also numerous poems and stories.


In the throes of educational reform during the 1970s theTechnical School closed and the building became Grimsby Art College. The Art College in turn moved on and it was then envisaged that the building would be converted to apartments, but the remainder of the building together with the empty Education Office were allowed to fall into disrepair.  The following picture shows the derelict site as it was in the second decade of the 21st century.