Royal Park Primary School

Amongst the rows of late Victorian and Edwardian back-to-back terraces of Hyde Park, the Royal Park Primary School building occupies a central space. Many Leeds-based folk will be familiar with the building’s recent history and the well publicised struggle to save it for community use following its closure in 2004. However, its fascinating past along with the history of this area of Leeds, has been somewhat obscured by its reported declination.

Royal Park School, Leeds

Opened as Queens Road School on the 28th September 1892, as a mixed junior and infants school. A ‘strong Victorian building, built to last’, it helped to define the area as industrial and proud, an effect of the Industrial Revolution which saw Leeds develop into a major centre for industry. This growth was consolidated when in the following year, Leeds became a city by Royal Charter. Although the population was little more than one-third of what it is today, people were housed much closer together, and the resulting built-up nature of the city was definitely experienced in Hyde Park. The demand for housing was so great that it could barely be met . The city’s population had doubled in the second half of the 19th Century and showed no signs of slowing down, growing by 4000 per year in the 1890’s; therefore back-to-back houses were favourable as they could be quickly erected and allowed densities as high as 80-90 houses per acre.

A typical classroom in Queen's Road School, 1929 (image courtesy of School Centenary: The history of Queen's Road/Royal Park)

It was the post-war years  that saw a further population increase which caused the school to grow, as teacher and former pupil at Mr Bill Turner recalled:

I first entered Queen’s Road School in 1950. The school was rapidly expanding to cater for the post-war bulge. An exceptional number of children were conceived during the war, and immediately afterwards. They were now becoming of school age.

By 1949, the school building was too small for the number of pupils and  the nearby All Hallows Institute was allocated for use by two classes. Such a population rise meant that by 1954 Queen’s Road School was the largest primary school in the city. The school went on to serve as a centre of the community and lead in developments to school and education services. In the 1960’s Queen’s Road School became pioneers of  a holiday scheme for children, who would attend on weekdays for a month during the Summer to enjoy leisure pursuits, craft activities and outings. Headteacher Mrs Stella Hirst (1967-72) also remembered:

We were the first school in North-West Leeds to be changed from the normal Schools’ Meal Service to frozen school meals, which were delivered weekly in refrigerated containers, and then freshly cooked each day in newly installed special ovens – a forerunner to today’s microwave ovens.

23rd December 1968. Looking east along Royal Park Road across Queens Road towards Woodhouse Moor. People can be seen getting on a number 56 bus. R.H. Williams newsagent is on the left, and Queen's Road school can be seen on the right (image courtesy of Leodis Photographic Archive)

The school adapted to educational requirements when in 1972 Leeds Education Authority which  decided to introduce the 3 tier system of Primary, Middle and High Schools, this meaning that Queen’s Road Infants’ School would be no more and instead Royal Park Middle School would take its place. Whilst the Government’s Helestine package saw work begin to transform the old Victorian interior into a modern and lighter place in 1983,  the exterior remained iconic and unchanged. In July 1992, it underwent a further reorganisation to become Royal Park Primary School, teaching children from the ages of  5 to 11 instead of 9 to 13.

Although the school celebrated its centenary in 1992, the 1990’s saw increasing change in the environment around the school. The decline of industry in the city with the move to financial and commercial services saw the gradual transformation of the area, no longer being ‘working class’ by label.  As industry declined and adapted, their became fewer industrial workers and families living in the area which was traditionally built with the purpose of housing the surplus of workers. Although already a culturally diverse space, Hyde Park faced an increasing imbalance between demographics, particularly via the impact of ‘studentification’. The back-to-back housing once favoured by the working classes became an increasingly attractive area for landlords looking to let to students of the city’s universities.

With student numbers on the increase, families began to leave the area. Today, Hyde Park is the most crowded area in Leeds, with an average population density of 186 people per hectare, when the average in Leeds over all is 12 people per hectare. Over 80% of the population in Hyde Park is aged 16-29, a quarter of the population leaves the area every year to be replaced with newcomers. Surplus classroom places at Royal Park and two other nearby primary schools became a problem for the local authority, and as early as 1992, there had been discussion of its closure – which was met by strong local opposition.

In 1997, more than 100 Hyde Park parents met governors at the school to organise their campaign:

The meeting unanimously passed a resolution opposing closure, which it said would damage not only the education of the School’s pupils, but also the community spirit of Hyde Park. (Yorkshire Evening Post 10/07/97)

Later that year, a petition calling for the school to remain open was signed by more than 2500 people. As tensions increased in the area, it was reported as “a district which has faced more than its fair share of troubles in recent years, including riots, arson and drug dealing” (Yorkshire Evening Post 1/04/98). Although the closure of the school was evaded by local opposition, the school remained under-subscribed, and as a result, was closed in 2004, with the Council’s promise that the building would be preserved for community use.

However, residents were worried by rumours that the site was to be the location of a new supermarket or used as a space to build student flats,  a feeling which further invoked local pride for the building and the memories which it held for the community.

The Royal Park Community Consortium (RPCC) formed in 2005 as a response to resident’s increasing concerns about the building and its future. Their vision for the Royal Park School building is for it to be a community hub, ” a building with a history, an exemplar for the future.” They have submitted several bids to Leeds City Council  – in 2005, 2007, 2009 and January 2010 – for permission to transform the building into a community centre, and want to foster a sense of local ownership of the project, a catalyst for increased social cohesion.

Royal park clean-up

Members of the community clean-up on the site, October 2010 (image courtesy of Jon Vernon)

After years of tireless campaigning, fundraising and help from so many passionate volunteers and residents within the community, the RPCC were able to announce the success of their bid to redevelop the disused school into a Community Hub for the people of Hyde Park in January 2011. They have been given 9 months to raise £750,000 towards the project and although they have been recently granted a provisional cash boost of £823,000 by The Communitybuilders Fund there is still a long way to go in meeting the £3million target required to fund the project.

image courtesy of RPCC http://www.royalparkschool.org

RPCC business development co-ordinator and campaigner Jake England-Johns told the Guardian Leeds:

The commitment from Communitybuilders to back the project sends a message of hope out to the community in uncertain times. We still have some tough hills to climb and will need the support of Leeds council more than ever if we are going to succeed in our efforts.

Locals can get involved in this exciting community development by attending the RPCC’s meetings which are held every Tuesday at 7pm at the Burley Lodge Centre. For more information on ways to get  involved or to become a patron or sponsor of the new community centre, visit http://www.royalparkschool.org/

Although the building no longer serves the same function as it once did, it still stands today as a landmark within Hyde Park. Upon the school’s centenary in 1992, a statement from Rev Stanley R. Baxter, Chair of the Board of Governors said: “A good school will seek to be part of the community which it serves, enriching and supporting it” and Royal Park was a school that “has launched thousands of children on their lives’ journey and holds a special place of affection in their hearts. Despite the  great changes that the area has experienced in the past century, with the help of the RPCC, Royal Park School will hopefully provide a central service for a vibrant community once again.

Selected bibliography

  • Chartres, John and Katrina Honeyman eds., Leeds City Business 1893-1993: essays marking the centenary of the incorporation (Leeds: Leeds University Press, 1993)
  • A School Centenury: The History of Queen’s Road/Royal Park
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/leeds
  • Yorkshire Evening Post archives – Leeds Local and Family History Library

38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Yosra (head of UGRE conference)
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 15:22:42

    This is really fascinating. I followed this link via Twitter and I had absolutely no idea about Royal Park School, even though it was down the road from my house! You’ve done some really great work and this page has really made the school come alive for me – it’s no longer just an abandoned site I walk past on the way to Sainsburys Local.

    Reply

  2. Koom
    May 21, 2012 @ 23:07:10

    I went to school there in 1985 and 1986 and though I had to leave the school (my family moved to Peru), I have very fond and clear memories of the place and the teachers, the students, the activities we did there.

    Reply

  3. Drain pipe
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 22:02:57

    I went to visit my old school this week – nostagic time for me.
    Have very fond and happy memories of my schooling at Royal Park and annexe. So many changes.
    Left at 13 years of age in 1976.
    Moved to London at 19. First visit back since then. Sad and surprised at it’s closure.

    Reply

    • Jane Kyle
      Oct 08, 2012 @ 09:52:32

      Very happy memories for me too…i left at the age of 13 in 1973 !!!

      Reply

    • Kevin Rickett
      Feb 28, 2013 @ 10:27:41

      Hello Drain pipe’i read your comments with great interest and was just wondering your real name as we may have known each other at the school.I would have been there about the same time as you were there.

      Let me know if you would if you remember me ;-)

      Many thanks

      Kevin Rickett

      Reply

    • liaqat feroze
      Aug 22, 2013 @ 12:16:22

      hi was a pupil from 69 to74 does anyone remember susan whip and henry stuart…..used to play rugby for school..happy days ..saturday morning pictures with my mate henry….was in the captain mallory group…….not many asians at the school in the old days….everyone was nice…no name callling…spent early part at smaller school down the road then moved to middle school…teachers were great …i remember one female teacher,cannot remember name..would split my apple with her hands….school plays on the wooden stage…..free milk with a biscuit…….lived on hyde park road..my dad owned a v.g.store…..groceries etc….i think the school had a slopeing playground…………little sweet shop opposite school on the corner….bowling green on other side where we had rugby practice….

      Reply

  4. Jane Kyle
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 09:55:09

    Mr Hall..our head teacher..was a trogen !!

    Reply

    • Kevin Rickett
      Feb 28, 2013 @ 11:16:06

      You spelt Trogen wrong! it’s correct spelling is (Trojan)

      Reply

  5. Riaz Akhtar
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 00:42:34

    I went to this school from 1958 till 1963. Started as a newly arrived immigrant in 1958 in the Infants School — couldn’t speak a word of English. I may have been one of the very first, if not the first, Pakistani children at this school Teacher was Mrs Goodman and the Head Mistress was Miss Burnley.When I came into the Junior School, the Head Master changed from Mr Smith to Mr Hall. Teachers I remember well are Mrs Perkins, Mrs Thompson, Mr. Sinclair (deputy head), Mr Cole, Miss Holt.Mr Hall used to organise hiking trips (Bolton Abbey, Malham, Ilkley Moors etc.) regularly and I tried to go every time. These trips gave me a deep appreciation of the beauty and love of the countryside. I had a good friend throughout these years, Paul Anderson, with whom I have lost touch. I remember Williams’s across the road beside the bus stop where I would sometimes go at lunch time for a sweet or a chocolate.
    These were wonderful years for me in terms of learning – the formal learning and the informal.

    Reply

  6. Kevin Rickett
    Feb 28, 2013 @ 10:21:27

    What a great and fantastic shool it was in it’s day’well it was for anyway.Many happy memories those school days hold and also the wonderful teachers we had including Mr Cohen our gym teacher/Mrs Spencer french teacher/Mr Hall the headmaster followed by Mr Thornton.

    First went to Royal Park School in 1969 until 1976 then onto Lawnswood School.

    It was the annexe i first went to just a bit further down the road from the school as though you were heading for Cardigan Road (prefab buildings and Mrs Knight was my teacher there) I think it’s a mosque now.

    Does anyone here remember Mr Oliver the math teacher (great guy) oh and not forgetting Mr Robinson (woodwork teacher) he would always throw chalk at someone if they were not paying attention!

    Oh great school days there and never forgotten.

    Just an idea here but if time travel was possible who would in fact go back to those days? i know that i would ;-)

    Great memories and thanks lads n lasses for taking the time out and reading this.

    Kevin R

    Reply

  7. Koom
    Feb 28, 2013 @ 14:50:08

    I had Mr. Oliver as a teacher in the mid 80’s and have great memories of him, not only in Math but hearing him talk about history, etc. Yes, I’d definitely go back in time to be there again, not just there but to be ten years old – ha ha!

    Reply

  8. Kevin Rickett
    Mar 01, 2013 @ 18:56:40

    Yeah thanks Koom for the reply and would anyone else here go back in time?

    Reply

  9. neville sadio
    May 01, 2013 @ 02:58:28

    i went to school here in the 60s the head of the junior school was a mrs femby. left the leeds area in 1970 aged 10. Have fond memories of the area. just doing some checking up as i live in canada. two of my mates were howard quinn and clifford bedford. last time i passed through the area was around 12 years ago. think its gone down hill as an area. lived on harold grove.

    Reply

    • Carol Hills nee Hardaker
      Oct 22, 2013 @ 14:32:59

      Sounds like you were there same time as me I left 1970 aged 10. Don’t remember a Neville. I had glasses and sometimes had to wear a patch over my left eye that made me look like I didn’t have an eye in some school photos.

      Reply

  10. Carol Hills nee Hardaker
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 14:28:50

    I went to this school 1965 to 1970 when we left for Australia. I started in the annex the playground there was great. My best friend was Tina Asquith she lived in one of the “Harolds” The main teacher I remember was Mr Llwellyn – he took us for PE – he used to swear in welsh. We used to make ice slides in the playground in the winter. We also used to go to a different school on busses for our lunch. the mashed potato was awful and the others used to fight over the skin off the custard but I didn’t like it so when it was my turn I used to give it to Tina.

    Reply

    • David Smith
      Feb 21, 2014 @ 14:28:21

      Hi Carol.
      I went to Royal Park 1965 – 70 as well. Great times children I can remember are Neil Bateson, Richard Jackson, Andy Harrison, Sharon Gardner and Amanda Darby ( who I had a crush on )
      Below is a you tube link to a news film from 1968. Which shows children who I think all went to Royal Park playing street games on Brudnel Grove.
      I’m the one in the striped t shirt who gets hit on the head by the ball.
      Regards David Smith

      Reply

      • David Smith
        Feb 21, 2014 @ 20:05:51

        Just posted School Photo on Facebook 1967/68

      • Carol Hills nee Hardaker
        Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:43:15

        Thanks David I don’t remember the names you mention but in the clip I think there was a girl I remember – the African with the tiny sister – if I have the right person she would be called Mercedes. I also think there were some identical twin boys in my class. I also think there was a Michael who possibly had the surname Steadman. If I find any photos I’ll try to post them.

      • Carol Hills nee Hardaker
        Feb 28, 2014 @ 10:33:09

        Hi David I had a look at the photo but I couldn’t see me I think I might have been in a different class. I do remember the dark haired teacher on the right. I thought she was the headmistress or deputy head. I think she was the one I knocked flying when we were playing on ice slides we made one winter in the playground.

  11. Maqsood Rasool
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 22:20:24

    I too have have very fond memories of the school with headmaster Mr Hall giving the children a firm moral compass and was a natural leader. Other notable teacher I can recall are: Mr Coles, Mrs Bateman, her son Mr Bateman.

    Reply

  12. nev sadio
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 11:45:16

    I remember mr llewelyn well white haired gent. He coached the rugby teams.

    Reply

  13. nev sadio
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 11:50:50

    I remember mr llewelyn well white haired gent. He coached the rugby teams. I’m sure my mum still has a school photo from then. I will see if I can get a copy emailed to me and if the site will let me post it

    Reply

  14. nev sadio
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 19:30:13

    i remember mr llewellyn well grey haired gent. he was the coach of the rugby teams. I think my mum still has a school photo from around 1968. i will try and get a copy and post it if this site will let me.

    Reply

  15. Suzie Cichy
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 12:49:52

    Hi,
    I’m a student on the Graphic Arts course at Leeds Met, myself and a couple of other students are doing a project on the Royal Park Primary School. Was wondering if we could talk to anyone about their time at the school or their feelings on the closure and demolition plans for it? We’re trying to find out as much as possible about any ongoing campaigns as well. If anyone would like to get in touch and share thoughts or stories of any kind please email me at suziecichy@aol.com. Thanks!

    Reply

  16. Keith locke
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 00:18:40

    Such happy times here….Keith locke….

    Reply

    • Ged Crefin
      Feb 03, 2014 @ 09:48:42

      Hello Keith, are you the Keith Locke I used to hang out with and listen to music with? Ged here. If so I think of you occasionally and have fond memories. Either way, please don’t feel obliged to get back in touch! Just wanted to say hello. Best wishes, Ged Crefin

      Reply

  17. Bulldozers to move in on Royal Park Primary at beginning of February | the leeds citizen
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 22:55:21

  18. Kevin Rickett
    Feb 28, 2014 @ 10:57:33

    It’s a great shame that my old school Royal Park School is going to be demolished.

    I 100% loved going there and enjoyed every day as all the teachers were fantastic and one teacher in particular was our P.E teacher the late great Mr Cohen.We used to do the high jump in P.E in the top hall and i was elected captain of the team(what an honour it was then)

    Some of the other teachers i remember are..

    Mr Hall:our first headmaster 1966/67 and then proceeded by Mr Thornton

    Mrs Cohen:Class teacher

    Mr Robinson:Woodwork teacher(he would throw chalk at you if you were not paying attention)

    Miss Hall:She was like a special needs teacher within the school regarding pupils with learning difficulties(yep i was in her class ;-)

    Senior headmistress:Miss Hall:I used to see her every Monday morning to get told of regarding my full stops in English class were as big as footballs.

    School dinners were the best ever and one dinner i will always remember is meat crumble pie(loved it and i work as a chef now and often have that dish on the menu)

    Great memories

    Thanks for reading

    Kevin

    Reply

    • carol. king (senior)
      Mar 25, 2014 @ 23:26:21

      Kevin.
      You were in my class!!
      Great school, great teachers and great days.
      Went to see the old school today…
      Almost demolished. Such a shame.
      Very happy memories.

      Reply

  19. Kevin
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 11:49:08

    Hi Carol
    Yes i remember you also and i keep on meaning to go back and see the school as i go back to the Hyde Park area maybe once/twice a year (memories are all still there)

    I now live near to St James Hospital and at times i wish i was still living in Hyde park but left the area in the late 80s.

    Such a shame though that the school had to be demolished and what a brilliant and never forgotten school it will be.(Thats when schools were schools)

    Thanks for contacting Carol and all the best to you ;-)

    Reply

  20. Jayshree Parmar
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 11:39:48

    Really good memories of this school. I can’t believe it’s being demolished!! Some brilliant teachers there. :-)

    Reply

    • Kevin Rickett
      Mar 27, 2014 @ 12:36:36

      Hi Jayshree and yes great memories from Royal Park school and never forgotten.I am just trying to remember your name but there are that many to remember i just can not remember you.

      You may of been younger than myself? or my memorie is fading (old age lol ;-)

      Thanks for making a comment on here and lets hope that more of us “Royal Park Schoolodians get in touch via this brilliant website ;-)

      Reply

  21. Jacqui Kellman
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 07:47:35

    I was reminising about Royal Park very recently with one of my childhood friends Sharon Gaskin. I was at Royal Park school 1970-1978 and have many great memories of my time there. The teachers I can recall were Mr Hardy (terrified me because he was so strict), Mr Henry & Mrs Khan (always in a dark corner together!), Mr Bateson, Mr Cole, Mr Robinson (had a military background), Mr Oliver, Mrs Cohen (saw her recently) Mr Thornton was the head after Mr Hall.

    We were also part of a large group of friends, Sonia Roach, Julie Leyon, Madge Bell, Amita Khan, Maria Hay just to name a few. Brian Rowe, Michael Stuart, Wilbert Walsh, Danny Nisbeth, Harminder Singh & Vijay are some of the boys who were there as well.

    Sharon & I agree that Royal Park is where we would say our best School years were. We played, fell out, went to Bells across the road for sweets, played the teachers up, hated the school dinners, got bored in assembly………….it was fab. The building might be gone, but the memories live on!

    Reply

  22. Pritpal Singh
    May 06, 2014 @ 20:55:58

    Why was Leeds City Council so keen to demolish it that they would spend £0.5 million only on demolition of the school?
    That money could have saved the building for another half a century…

    Reply

  23. Meena Parmar
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 21:59:03

    I went to the Annex first then to Royal Park Middle School. The teachers I remember were Mr. Robinson wood work teacher I loved his lessons cos of the nail and thread art we used to do. Other teachers are Mrs Proctor who was my best teacher, Mr. Henry, Mr Cohen Miss Cohen,Mr Oliver. Some of the children I can name are Marcia, Yvette or Yevon, Bernadette, Misba Butt, Henry Stuart, Raksha Champaneri and Phillip cant remember his surname. I remember the dance classes we used to have waltz ballroom dancing.

    Reply

  24. Nicholas Carter
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 17:45:44

    Got http://www.hydeparksource.org/new-project-survey.html to give your views on what to do with the site. Allotments, Public Garden, Raised Bed Garden?

    Reply

  25. Koom
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 21:08:48

    A bunch of us are celebratıng the retırement of Dee Shaw who was the wonderful senıor art teacher at Royal Park for many years. Dee has done a very good job of carıng about and keepıng ın touch wıth her former students. Those wıllıng to remınısce wıth other Royal Parkers should joın us at Revolutıon (at The Electrıc Press – Mıllenıum Square) on Frıday August 1st after 5:00 p.m. Here ıs the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/305249439635107/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

    Reply

  26. Jayshree Parmar
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 23:49:35

    Hey Koom

    I was going to come to Mrs Shaws retirement but just realised that I am away so can’t make it. Give her a big hug from me. Brilliant teacher!!

    Jayshree xxx

    Reply

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