Our History

Our present Academy building is relatively new dating back to the late 1960’s. The history of our Academy goes back much further to Medieval times. The first records of a school in Standish are in 1553 when some money was left in a local person’s will to fund the upkeep of the school run by the Chantry Priest, Peter Bower. Chantry Priest’s were very poor and supplemented their income by running small schools in their church – probably only for boys. From then on Standish boys relied on several small private schools for their education until 1604 when the first boys Grammar school opened.

It wasn’t until 1797 that a girls school was established. This was known as the ‘School of Pious Learning ‘ and the 20 young ladies, aged between 5 and 10, who were lucky enough to attend were taught all the important things in life, at that time, Religious Education, needlework, spinning and knitting. The girls were known as ‘Dolly’s Chickens’ after their teacher and were a regular sight in 18th century Standish dressed in their uniform of dark brown dresses and bonnets.

Over the years both schools grew considerably. In a report of 1862 the average attendance for the Boys Grammar school was 121 and at the girls school, which by then was known as the Female School of Industry, it was 146. In the early 19th Century the schools were incorporated into the National Schools system. In 1906 the girls school became Standish with Langtree Girls and Infants school with a Junior girls school appearing in 1959. In 1951 the Boys Grammar became Standish C of E Boys Primary. Finally in 1963 they were amalgamated to become the Standish C o f E Junior Mixed School.

In 1825 the ground floor of the girls school in Rectory Lane had been extended to 4 classrooms to house the Infant section. The building was now old and in need of repair so it was decided to build a completely new school on land further down Rectory Lane. Building commenced in 1968 and the school was finally opened in 1969, although the official opening did not take place until February 26th 1970. At that time it had just 3 classrooms, the hall, a staff room , the Head teacher’s room and a kitchen. Over the years the Infant school has grown to accommodate the children of the area. In recent years due to an influx of new housing the school population has grown considerably leading to the need for another new classroom which was finished in time for the summer term 2000.

Florrie Pilkington was born in 1914 and lived all her life in Standish. She attended St Wilfrid’s from the age of 4.

“I was 4 years old when I first started at St Wilfrid’s. At that time the building was opposite the church on Rectory Lane. Downstairs was the infants section known as the ‘bottom’ school. You stayed here until you were 7 and then you moved upstairs to the ‘top’ school. Rector Hutton was in charge of both of the schools. The ‘bottom’ school was boys and girls but at 7 we were separated. The girls went upstairs and the boys left to go to Standish Grammar School.

The ‘bottom’ school had three teachers – Miss Mort, Miss Harrison and Mrs Barlow. We had an assembly every morning when we would say a prayer and sing a hymn. We then went to our lessons which were reading, writing and arithmetic. Our school days started at 9am each weekday. We had a 15 minute playtime and then lunch was 11/2 hours in the summer and just 1 hour in the winter. We finished at 4pm in the summer and 3.30pm in the winter so that we could all get home before it got dark. Every one went home for their lunch – there was no such thing as school dinners. Standish was only a small village then so no one had too far to walk. We didn’t wear a uniform – just our ordinary clothes. At playtime we played rounders and hopscotch. The girls used to bring their skipping ropes and the boys would all have marbles. During the marble season the boys would all meet after school on the ‘rec’ to have marble tournaments.

One of my earliest memories of school involved me standing on a chair with my hands on my head. I can’t remember what exactly I had done but it must have been something bad! I also remember being made to apologise to the class for saying I was glad it had rained on ‘Walking Day’. I hadn’t said this at all but I still have a good idea who had got me into trouble. One of the teachers was a real tartar who didn’t have much time for me as my family attended the local Wesleyan Chapel. I was as glad to leave her class as she was for me to go.

During the First World War the building which now houses the Beeches restaurant was a nursing home for injured soldiers. I remember we had to bring in seasonal vegetables from home, usually potatoes and cabbages, and then we would all march up to the home to give them to the soldiers. At Harvest festival, which was always the last Sunday in September, we took them fruit and vegetables. My Uncle married a Red Cross nurse who worked there. She originally came from Whitehaven but met and married my Uncle in Standish. She then went to teach the boys at the Grammar School. She was once sent to teach at my school whilst one of the other teachers was absent. At the boys school everyone was known by their surnames so she addressed us all in the same way. It was a very aggressive way of speaking and we were all upset. None of us were used to being spoken to in that manner. Boys and girls schooling was very different.

When I reached 7 I moved upstairs to the top school. This was girls only. The lessons were much the same. We also had singing lessons, sewing, knitting and painting. We used to paint empty jam jars so that our Mother’s could use them at home. A lot of people at this time were very poor and the school had no money for arts and crafts. We bought the empty jam jars from home and then took them back painted and decorated to be used for storage. Our headmistress was Mrs Edwardson who lived in a cottage next door to the church gravedigger. There were 6 other teachers and also 3 student teachers.

Mrs Reece taught the last class, Standard 7. We were all frightened of going into her class but her bark was much worse than her bite and once we were used to her everyone liked her. Her class was really special as we had our first cookery lessons. We used to have an old stove in the classroom for us all to cook on. We weren’t taught lessons to help us to find a job we were taught things to help us look after our future houses and families. We didn’t do P.E. or any sort of sports. I used to have music lessons once a week. I had to leave school at 11.30 to meet my teacher who worked down the mine. The times would vary depending on his shifts.

Miss Davies was the school singing teacher and she was also my choir teacher at the Wesleyan Church. We sang hymns all the time. We had to know the words by heart as there were no papers to read from. We were not allowed into Church with bare heads so we were known as the ‘cap’ girls. We each had small caps made to cover our heads for Church Anniversaries. We practised extra hard for these Anniversaries and also Walking day. I had to practise for both my school and my Church. One day my voice just disappeared and Miss Davies was not pleased. She stopped me and some others from singing with the school so our voices would stay good for the Church. We had to sit and do extra lessons whilst our school friends sang. This didn’t make us happy! We also practised walking for the annual Walking Day. We used to walk from our school down to the Rectory (which is now the Owls Restaurant) and back over and over again until we got it right.

We had much shorter holidays than now. In the summer we had 4 weeks. At Christmas and Easter we had 3-4 days. We also had half days on Ascension Day and Ash Wednesday. We would all attend Church in the morning and then the afternoon would be free. Once you had left school and started to work you were lucky to get 12 days holiday so really we did very well.

During the 1921/26 General Strikes some of the poorer children were given vouchers for clothing. Once my Father, who was a Union man who worked down the pits, was sent 100 pairs of clogs to be distributed amongst the children. I also remember going with my father to collect soup from the soup kitchen set up during the strikes. He took his water container from the mine and it would be filled with a nourishing soup for us all to eat.

I vividly remember taking 1d into school each week to be used for a new school. This went on for many years. I left in 1928 and the new school didn’t open until the late 1960’s. My nephew Andrew was one of the first children to enter the school that I had helped to pay for. I finally left school in 1928 aged 14. Everyone left at that age although the year I left two girls remained at the school. I wondered about this for many years until I eventually got around to asking one of them why. I thought there was some great mystery there but it turned out that they were just unable to get a job. I still think it was because they were the teacher’s pets….”


Pat Ryding attended St Wilfrid’s in the early 1960’s.

“I live in Sheffield now, but I lived in Standish until I left to go to college I lived in Smalley Street until the age of 7 (1960) and then I moved to Ashfield Cottage, which was at the end of Ashfield Park Drive. My Dad was the caretaker of Ashfield House from 1960 until he retired in 1983. I used to go to the old ‘St Wilf’s’ which is on Rectory Lane. When it closed we all had to go to the old Grammar School, where Woodfold School is now. The teachers I can remember are: Mrs Carson, Mrs Fairhurst, Mrs Peat, Mrs Woosey (my favourite!), Miss Hart and Mrs Darbyshire. This was way back in the early 1960’s. Mrs Carson was VERY strict!! I can remember her doing unspeakable things to the backs of my legs with a long wooden ruler! She taught us well though! Mrs Woosey used to let me mark the other children’s books (that was a sign of things to come – I’m a teacher myself now). Mrs Fairhurst (who died not all that long ago) used to turn off the lights on cold winter’s afternoons and read ‘The Highwayman’ to us. She would read the poem in a strange spooky voice. We loved it!! I still love that poem today and I read it to my own class whenever possible. On the first day at the old infant school on Rectory Lane, I can remember Mrs Peat standing me on a table and announcing to the other children ” This is Pat. Doesn’t she have some lovely freckles” I’ve hated them ever since! I adored Mrs Peat. She was kind and caring. Miss Hart taught me to write with my left hand, after I broke my right arm when I was five, so now I’m ambidextrous. I think she went on to teach at Mere Oaks.

One of the fondest memories that I have of my time at St Wilfrid’s (the junior school) is going into a little room and making the coffee for the staff. The coffee had its own peculiar smell and the coffee always floated around on top of the milk, even after it had been stirred!! We had a little tuck shop and we could buy Smith’s crisps and Jammie Dodgers. The school meals were excellent. My Auntie Dorothy was a dinner lady and on Thursdays we had stew. It had LOADS of vegetables in it and thanks to Auntie Dot, I always had a second helping! In those days, there was a Heinz factory not far away, and we could smell what was being made in the factory while we were walking to school. Tuesdays were ‘salad cream’ days and Wednesdays were ‘tomato soup’ days. It was such a happy time! There’s a row of terraced houses near the old infant school and the end one was owned by a gentleman called Mr Taylor. He sold ‘Vimto’ lollies for a penny. Rev. Bramley used to come into school to take RE lessons occasionally. He was a lovely man and his daughter Tizzy went to the same grammar school as I did – Upholland Grammar. My Mum lives in Grove Lane now and I visit her as often as can. I drive past the school when I do visit. Its a lovely place. My sister Janet was a pupil at the school. She left in 1971.”

Pat Ryding


“This brought back so many memories. I now live in Australia but reading this article I was instantly transported back to Miss Hart’s class. I think we had a wonderful group of teachers in those days and such a sense of community.”

Sheila Rod  – Australia

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St Wilfrid's Church of England Primary Academy
Rectory Lane, Standish, Wigan, WN6 0XB

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