"An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious - just dead wrong".  ~R. Baker

Abbeydale Grange - The Whole Story

Part9

Events proceeded with indecent haste. The Sheffield Star dated Thursday 14 July 2011 carried this report

A FAREWELL picnic marked the impending closure of a famous Sheffield school - and more than 1,000 former pupils, staff and friends came to say goodbye. Abbeydale Grange School shuts for the last time at the end of this term after more than half-a- century of service to its local community. Parents and supporters waged a lengthy but unsuccessful campaign to try to reverse the closure decision, arguing that Abbeydale provided a type of education unique to the city.

Most of the pupils left last summer but the Year 11s stayed on for one final year to complete their GCSE courses. Teachers and pupils from all eras streamed through the doors for the event - from the grammar school days of the early 1960s to 12-year-olds who transferred to new schools last autumn. Old boys and girls enjoyed picnics on the grass, an old-fashioned tuck shop and live music. Photos of staff and students over the last 52 years were on display, with creative artwork and photography by current art, media and textiles students.

As the event drew to a close as darkness fell, Chinese paper lanterns were lit and floated into the sky.

“It was a fantastic event,” said Chris Hill, one of the organisers. “So many people have come back – it’s exceeded all our expectations. “We wanted to give anyone who wanted to come, the chance to see the school for the last time and celebrate its history.” The picnic was organised by FLAGS – Forging Links with Abbeydale Grange School – which is the parents’ and supporters’ group.

I did think they may have been a ceremony of some form when the school was demolished but the first inkling I had was when I received an e-mail

 

An old lag from the class of 65 who I served time with contacted me. He was propping up the bar in the newly re-opened (yet again) Millhouses Hotel when he looked out of the pub window, and thought his dreams had come true at last, albeit 47 years too late.

Where once stood a mighty citadel of academic excellence and/or a blight on the butt of post war education (cross out where applicable) there was only a pile of rubble.

He did not contact me straight away with this great news as he much prefers supping beer (a common failing amongst the 65'ers) but he let me know once he'd come round.

The following day I drove over to Millhouses and saw that the school was indeed a pile of rubble. After taking photos, I sat on a wall in Hastings Road smoking a cigar and started laughing at the madness of it all, (another feature in the 65'ers). I had "visions" which is worrying at my time of life. Surely the mountain of rubble that confronted me should be grassed over and at the summit a sculpture/statue should be commissioned. I could depict for instance a two-faced local government officer closely clutching a meaningless petition or a rotund group of camel-coated property-developers lying prostrate at the feet of an impassive St Margaret of Thatcher. Alternatively an old shabby florid-faced man filling his pipe with a pinch of ready-rub or my preference, a small bewildered schoolboy with a tear running down his face"

But my visions came to nothing, a common enough occurrence. Later that year the Sheffield Star dated 24th November 2012 carried this report

 I could have given them a number of suggestions about the naming of the proposed development that would have genuinely reflected the history of the site. But sadly they did not call me. Instead I just contented myself with the knowledge that I have been right all along. The developers McCarthy and Stone are a national firm of property developers who specialize in retirement properties for the well-heeled middle classes. This is a report that appeared in the Sheffield Star dated Wednesday 14th November 2012

THE first images have been unveiled of a new assisted living scheme being built in the grounds of a former Sheffield school.

The McCarthy and Stone development will stand on the site of the former Abbeydale Grange school on Abbeydale Road. The new development, called Windsor House, is expected to be completed next May and will consist of 64 one- and two-bedroom apartments for residents aged 70 and above. There will also be car parking, a restaurant and a large landscaped garden with seating areas.

A spokeswoman for McCarthy and Stone said: “It’s not warden-aided but there will be an estate management team and there will be somebody around 24 hours a day. Care providers will come in and offer the care that might be needed as and when it is required. Residents will live in their own apartments so they can live completely independent lifestyles but having someone on hand if they need it will give them peace of mind. The complex will also provide housekeeping services such as ironing and grocery shopping and a restaurant will serve three hot meals a day."

The spokeswoman said: “Friends and relatives will be able to eat for a nominal charge and there will also be a guest suite where visitors can stay. “There will be a large landscaped garden with seating areas and residents will be able to get involved in gardening, should they wish.”

She added: “Windsor House has been designed specifically to bridge the gap between conventional retirement developments and residential care.”
 

And so this is the end of the saga, that had its roots back in the 1950's. It has been a long journey but there has been a certain inevitability regarding the outcome. I cannot help thinking that the demise of the school was due to a series of deliberate actions by both local and central government. And of course the losers, once again were the working class children of Sheffield     

In March 2015 I had occasion to pass the site and was expecting to see a load of prosperous pensioners sauntering around the landscaped gardens and ambling towards the staffed restaurant. I was surprised when I found this scene

At least the crocuses were in bloom  

A Sting in the Tale

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