KBGS Old Boys' Forum

A place to discuss Keighley Boys' Grammar School. 

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KBGS Old Boys' Forum
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From the fire to the exodus

Have got to wondering about what effects the fire of 1962 had on the daily life of the School. Were there parts of the School which were unusable (or had ceased to exist)? I am now very hazy on the geography of the School building, but at the end of the 'thirties' corridor, and of the 'D' corridor, weren't there doors that led up to the art room on the 'cardboard' corridor, and if so was it the same 'forbidden' staircase that led upwards from the 'B' corridor just beyond my first form room(B2)? And was it forbidden because it passed through parts of the Keighley School of Art, and incidentally, how much of that end of the building did that School occupy? Did it cease to exist as an institution overnight or had it already moved elsewhere or simply shut down? Was our art room lost in the fire? And finally (with the incidentals), did the 'B' corridor lead to the Music Room?

But the main question remains that of how the School managed/rearranged itself in the aftermath of the fire. I was in Italy for the year '62-'63 and as far as I can remember was never made aware of the fire, even though my parents and brother (actually at the School then) were still living in Keighley. I was certainly greatly surprised to 'learn' about the fire when I started using this website! So, particularly our younger contributors, could you get your thinking-caps on and provide me with some answers, please - so that I can sleep o' nights!


Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1951-58

Current location (optional) Keswick, Cumbria

Re: From the fire to the exodus

I was one of the unfortunate ones who didnt get a week off as we were 4X GCE form, our form room was up on D corridor. quite a bit of water damage on books we had left in our desks, and some window glass was broken - it would have been one of the nearest form rooms to the fire. I do remember having some lessons for a while in Alice St , but I cant remeber what we did for a form room. I think we did get back in that room after it had been cleaned , tidied up and reglazed. There are others from that form who post on here, they may have better memories than me eh Allan Jones, Brian Craven ?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 58-64

Current location (optional) Wirral

Re: From the fire to the exodus

I learnt of the fire in deepest Middlesex on the 9 p.m. (wireless) news of the BBC on the day following the event. At that distance I did not expect to be further informed, although I felt sympathy for the kids whose education could have been so interrupted. The news I heard spoke only of damage to the "municipal" building and its clock.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1952-60

Current location (optional) Nirvana

Re: From the fire to the exodus

My memory of this, Brian, was that we were decanted to a temporary form room in the Alice Street annexe, at least for the week the school was closed, and maybe even for longer than that (it felt longer)! We returned to the old school after the fire, and the smell of charred wood pervaded. I remember having Latin lessons on one of the top corridors, and looking down on the charred remains of the municipal hall. The hall had been used for school dinners, so I don't know where they were served up after the fire. Anyone remember? After the fire, the new school build must have been accelerated.

Re: From the fire to the exodus

To answer Allan's question concerning where school dinners were held in the aftermath of the fire,I can confirm that this was in the Alice Street assembly hall. I think 2 "sittings" must have been arranged,as the capacity was much lower than that of the burnt-out Municipal Hall. I remember Mr.Malcolm Slater on almost daily dinner duty at Alice Street(perhaps as volunteer?) - he certainly did more than adequate justice to the food!

Allan's poignant reference to the smokey odour pervading the old school stirs memories from over half a century,as does Brian's mention of water-damaged books,although I'd forgotten our 4X "privilege" of uninterrupted tuition during the recovery period. I think the attic art room plus former music room (at the end of the long corridor running parallel to North Street - past what was previously the prefects'room) were rendered unuseable so those subjects relocated in the main building. Weren't the "new" music room walls lined with some sound absorbing material, or is my memory playing tricks here? I'm hazy about which staircases were closed off or shortened but believe most of the building, beyond those areas mentioned by earlier contributors, was fairly quickly restored to use.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958 - 65

Current location (optional) Dudley

Re: From the fire to the exodus

I learned about the fire during the Sunday Service at St. John's Ingrow; where I was a chorister, with Neil and Paul Cuthbert as well as David Clarkson, amongst others; the vicar was George Spellar, also had a son called George, who founded 'The Mouldywarp' group. 'Young George' played the organ; - quite appropriate when you come to think about it.

More later if anyone remembers them and a memorable night at St Johns Youth Club Dance, when George had devised a 'Smoke Bomb' which I agreed to ignite during one of their numbers as I flashed the lights on the stage! Does anyone remember it and the 'evacuation' that followed? 'Elf and Safety': What?

Back to 'The Fire':

I remember having the week off, along with my mates; George Clarkson, Neil and Paul Cuthbert, Tony Greaves and Geoff Pickles.

Again, more later ....

As for 'The School'; when we returned after a week of total mayhem, it still reeked of smoke from the fire.

The 'School Organ', which was on the left-hand side of the stage in the Assembly Hall, had been damaged (beyond repair?) by the efforts of the local fire brigade when they finally extinguished the fire.

There were festoons of 60 Watt light bulbs strung around the strip-light fittings in the Assembly Hall, which remained there until we moved-up to 'Oakbank'. Did me mind? No! We simply got on with our day-to-day routine.

As for the rooms on the corridors adjacent to the former Mechanics Institute (is that how it was known?); apart from the paint being burned-off the window frames (an obvious result of the fire) and the broken glass (single-glazed of course, there was slight smoke discolouration of the ceilings in both the '30' and 'D' corridors. How were the windows repaired, bearing in mind that Oakbank would be ready in slightly more than two years? POLYTHENE! Just like glass but flexible, stretched-over and nailed onto the external surfaces of the fire-damaged frames through slating laths.

Over the next two years, the change in wind pressure, on a regular basis, did cause some slight problems (especially during lessons) with the polythene 'glass' being sucked-out and blown-in) but we managed to live with and through it without any problems.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1959 - 1966

Current location (optional) Shoreham-by-Sea

Re: From the fire to the exodus

Wasn't the son Peter Speller?

Current location (optional) Australia

Re: From the fire to the exodus

Ooops - Spellar.

Current location (optional) Australia

Re: From the fire to the exodus

Yes I remember him as Peter Spellar, quite a rebel I think. Played the guitar quite well.

David mentions George Clarkson, who lived near us. Sadly died so young at age 28.

Re: From the fire to the exodus

My form room at the time was the Bio room on the D corridor. The floor was well wavy and the little crocodile was no more. Enoch was my form master and I remember at the time we all wished he should have gone up in smoke .Evil personified!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1959-66

Current location (optional) HAWORTH

Re: From the fire to the exodus

George Spellar was his name. Taught me how to tune a guitar, at St Mark's Youth Club in 1964. Think he might've been expelled from KBGS. Anyway, if he was, it didn't do him any harm. He wound up working for the BBC in Leeds I think. As far as I can tell, he still lives in Keighley and is involved with the Flagcrackers Morris Dancers.

Re: From the fire to the exodus

Oh, and on reflection, I think it was Speller not Spellar....

Re: From the fire to the exodus

I believe the lad's name was Peter George, but he went as "George" among the peer group at school. No idea which is the correct spelling (no pun intended!) of the surname, but he was indeed a clergyman's son.

I remember his guitar playing and unconventional approach to authority, but expelled......?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958 - 65

Current location (optional) Dudley, West Midlands

Re: From the fire to the exodus

Hasn't changed much over the years:http://www.handsoffourpacks.com/about/supporters/

Re: From the fire to the exodus


Perfect description of 'Enoch'. Hated the man, still do !!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1960-1965

Current location (optional) Bradford