The Pirates of Penzance

It is difficult to imagine the schoolboys of today dressing in ladies' attire as cheerfully as those shown in this 1937 photograph, and it is perhaps as well that King James's is now a mixed-sex establishment. These Gilbert & Sullivan productions were an annual feature of school life from 1922 to 1938, initially being masterminded by Major Hirst and Haydn Sandwell and later by Mrs Sizer and Harry Gledhill. The tradition was revived after the Second World War with productions of The Mikado (1947), The Gondoliers (1948), The Pirates of Penzance (1949) and HMS Pinafore (1953).
‘Big Tree’

The 'Big Tree' was a feature of the school yard for a great many years. In due course, the roots were enclosed within a stone wall with a slatted seat. Sadly, the tree died in recent years although its remains can still be seen at the top of the 'bunk'. The old woodwork room, art room and cycle shed can be seen in the background.

The school yard

This view of the school yard in 1937 shows the famous caretaker Jim Armitage (inset) who joined the School in 1913 and was a familiar figure for the following 25 years. According to Gerald Dobson (1916-1925), he was a somewhat grotesque figure with a huge hump under his right shoulder and a 'round fleshy growth the size of a man's fist' on the left side of his neck. He was never seen to wear an overcoat and seldom a jacket.*
*A History of King James's Grammar School in Almondbury/Gerald Hinchliffe (The Advertiser Press Limited)

The Cloisters

On 12th December 1851, the Headmaster (Rev Alfred Easther), the Vicar of Almondbury (Rev L Jones) and four others met up at the School to set up 'The Chemical Society of King James's Free School in Almondbury'. One of them was John Nowell, a school governor who had formed friendships with such leading figures of the day as Michael Faraday, Humphrey Davy and John Dalton.
It was the first such organisation in the district and a few years later, in 1868, it acquired a home when 'The Cloisters' (a former covered playground) became one of the first chemistry classrooms in the country. It had a chequered history over the years: it later became a general classroom; then a gymnasium; and finally an outside cloakroom.

The building was demolished in 1938, the year after this photograph was taken, during the course of the major School extensions undertaken at that time.

Tennis courts

The two grass courts dominate the foreground of this photograph. A few months later, the bulldozers moved in and demolished the 1900 science laboratories seen in the distance on the left. During the same hectic period of reconstruction, the old 'Cloisters' and the woodwork/artroom were also demolished to make room for new purpose-designed facilities. Fortunately, the Dorms and the 'Big' survived.