Delving into 150 years of local Primary School history

The Gateway to History project has launched its first pilot volunteer led community research project. We’re working with Lord Deramore’s Primary School in Heslington to help them understand their history so it can be interpreted for pupils in the classroom as part of the 2014-15 curriculum.

Selected items from Lord Deramore's School Archive including a local history publication for Heslington
Selected items from Lord Deramore’s School Archive including a local history publication for Heslington

Lord Deramore’s Primary School is the one of the oldest state primary schools in York and opened in 1856. For over 150 years the school have maintained their own archive based in the original grade 2 listed building. Sadly the building is no longer suitable for the school’s requirements and the school is set to be moved to a new building on the same site. Although this move has not taken place yet, building work is underway. The original building will remain in place and its future use is currently being discussed.

The school’s head teacher, Mrs Sheena Powley, got in touch with the City Archives to get some support with the research into the history of the school to help bring it to life for the school children and local community. Gateway to History is all about engaging with all local communities and this project is a chance to work with schools and encourage children to explore their local heritage and engage with their community.

Our three experienced and dedicated volunteers hard at work at the school. From left,  Alan Bollington, Phil Batman and Roger Barham
Our three experienced and dedicated volunteers hard at work at the school. From left, Alan Bollington, Phil Batman and Roger Barham

Myself and our three volunteers went along to an initial meeting at the school in February and we were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm. Since then our volunteers have been meeting every Friday at the school to create a fascinating chronology of the school’s history, packed full of unique stories ready to be transformed into classroom activities!

The volunteers have been discovering some fascinating facts about the school, including how the staff and pupils responded to local, national and international events. Between them they are all working on slightly different aspects of the school’s history and here’s a little taster of how they are getting on!

“The school logbook for 1914-1918 shows that the Great War was clearly much in the minds of the teachers and the children, with references to a Zeppelin air raid, fear of spies, food shortages and the gathering influenza pandemic. The logbook is also a work of art, written in beautiful clear ink handwriting, with delightful grammatical accuracy including the entirely appropriate use of the endangered apostrophe!” – Phil Batman


“I’ve been working on life at Lord Deramore’s during the headship of Mr Percy Bostwick including the Second World War years. Some of the material gives you quite a dramatic insight into the context of the times. For example during the war Mr Bostwick was unable to continue working at the school because he couldn’t find accommodation for his family, which brings home what the national housing shortage meant locally. The little details all combine to make a fascinating picture.” – Roger Barham


“It’s fascinating to see the changes in outlook through the years; earlier times being concerned with absences due to harvests, bad weather and contagious diseases, to more recent entries like in 1962; “Children excited today, American spaceship in orbit” a reference to John Glenn.” – Alan Bollington

The headteacher is thrilled with the results so far and is going to be using the First World War information to inspire her staff at the next school training day. She’s planning to transform one of the school’s classrooms into how it would have looked during the war complete with desks and costumes! The information about the school will help to teach about life during the war, and children will be contacting local people to learn more about how their school has changed through time.

Our volunteers have also been approached by several local people in Heslington who are keen to get involved with the project and share their memories of the school. Over the coming months our volunteers will be recording some of their memories and using the information to supplement the facts they’ve found in the archives. If you have anything you’d like to share with the team we’d love to hear from you!

Everyone is welcome to post their memories as a comment on this blog or feel free to send us an email at

We’ve already had some local press coverage of this project. Read the article here.


3 thoughts on “Delving into 150 years of local Primary School history

  1. We have organised a school reunion for pupils of St Lawrence’s C of E school in York in two weeks time. Pupils are teaching aged 70.
    We are looking for records relating to the period 1955 to 1965 when the school was next to the church.
    Any information on where the archives can be found will be much appreciated.

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