By Paul Underwood – Head Teacher
St Winefride’s has seen some incredible changes in its 100 years of existence. World Wars, partial destruction, huge increases in the local population and technological advances.
However, it has always sought to provide a sound Catholic education for its pupils. Indeed were rewarded in June 2009 and June 2006 with an ‘outstanding’ grading by Ofsted.
On 23rd August 1909, after anxious years of waiting and saving, the parish school of St Winefride’s opened its doors for the very first time. This was largely due to the indomitable spirit of Canon Palmer. The 250 pupils were taught in just 5 classes with ages ranging from 5 to 14 year olds. Our logbook mentions that some classes housed more than 60 children with two separate lessons often being taught at once.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, many of our children were suffering from lack of nourishment and unsuitable footwear. The Head Teacher wrote – ‘The attendance is very poor, several children are absent due to lack of food.’ Indeed some of the children had to queue outside the Cooperative stores at 6.45am to obtain sufficient rations.
In the 1920s and 30s some normality crept back into the lives of the children and some even had ‘holidays’ working on farms in Essex helping to collect the crops.
Life changed immeasurably in 1939, with the advent of war. The children of St Winefride’s were evacuated to Ingham and Lessingham in Norfolk. However, by April 1940 most of the children had returned as the predicted bombing of London had not materialised. The school log outlines that 2 classrooms were occupied by the Auxiliary Fire Service, which kept a fire engine in the playground.
By 1941, the blitz over London was very heavy and the school log records – ‘On Sunday 11th May at 1am a large bomb (probably 500lb) fell at the boys’ entrance to the school. Room iv and room v collapsed bringing with it part of room x.’ Luckily no child was injured during the raid and the school was only closed for one day!
At the end of the war, the Head Teacher wrote – ‘We have much to thank God for as not one of our children has lost his life, though many have lost their homes. We have endured 5 years of bombs, fly-bombs, rockets and evacuations.’
At this time John Heenan became the parish priest for St Winefride’s. He was later enthroned as RC Bishop of Leeds in 1951, followed by Archbishop of Liverpool in 1957, Archbishop of Westminster in 1963 and Cardinal of all England in 1965. Indeed our new hall was named the Heenan Hall to celebrate his achievements and connection to St Winefride’s.
In 1959 the school celebrated its Golden anniversary and extended the premises by adding a second floor to the building.
By the 1960s immigration was in full swing and many people from African, Caribbean and Asian backgrounds, settled in the area. St Winefride’s saw an influx of Catholics and actually extended to an annexe in Lathom School. The school became home to an intake of multicultural children bringing with them a wealth of experiences and languages. Indeed, during our last survey, we recorded 58 different nationalities represented at the school.
In 2006 the school was officially graded as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, which classed St Winefride’s in the top 5% of schools in the country. School league tables also emphasized St Winefride’s growing stature with record results posted in recent years.
I am delighted to announce that St Winefride’s has once again been graded as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (June 2009). A wonderful birthday present for us in our Centenary Year.