Crossley and Porter School History

The Crossley Heath school building owes its existence to the philanthropy of the Crossley brothers , Francis, John and Joseph. In 1857, they formulated a scheme for the establishment of a ‘superior College for the district’. Building work began the same year but by 1861 the brothers had decided to establish an ‘Orphan Home and School for Boys and Girls’. With the building work complete, the first six orphans, all boys, arrived in June 1864, although there was no official opening ceremony and much internal furnishing work remained to be completed. The first boy to be admitted was James Labron Plint.

The Orphanage was built on John Crossley’s land, ‘eight acres, two roods and eight perches’ at the top (west) end of Skircoat Moor, later Savile Park. The architect was John Hogg of Halifax and construction cost around £56,000. A ‘quadrilateral stone structure of the architecture of the reign of King James I with a mixture of the Italian style’, it had a planned capacity for 400 orphans with classrooms and dormitories, together with dining and washing facilities etc. Behind the main building were separate playrooms and swimming baths for boys and girls, as well as ancillary buildings such as the laundry. Around 1883, a two-storey extension was built for the girls’ Headmistress. Further land, on the southwest side, was purchased for £1381 in 1892, in order to provide an uninterrupted view across the Calder valley to the moors beyond.

The Deed of Foundation was granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation in September 1868. Its 53 ‘articles’ stipulated precisely how the Orphanage was to be run by a governing body consisting of three Crossley family governors and 15 elected governors. Halifax Borough Council elected three of the latter, while various independent non-conformist churches throughout the former West Riding of Yorkshire elected the other 12. A large endowment fund provided an annual income, which financed the running costs of the Orphanage. The size of the fund effectively determined the number of orphans who could be admitted. Donations and subscriptions, including £100 per annum from the industrialist Sir Titus Salt, swelled the endowment fund. By 1874, there were around 250 orphans from all parts of the country, with only 20% from Halifax itself. Many paid fees, up to a maximum of £10 per annum. In summer, Annual Meetings were held to discuss Orphanage business, published in an official report.

The school year, consisting of two long terms, ran from January to December, with four weeks of vacation in summer and two at Christmas, an Easter break being introduced later. Orphans could be visited for two (later three) hours on the first Tuesday of each month. There was a small resident teaching staff, headed by the Principal. Between late 1864 and early 1910, there were only two Principals, Mr.Oliver and Mr.Barber. A much larger domestic staff, numbered over 30 by 1900. The traditional subjects of scripture, reading, writing and arithmetic were emphasised, although all orphans were also taught geography, drawing, basic natural science and singing. More capable boys were additionally taught Latin, one modern language and more advanced arithmetic, algebra and geometry. At first, girls’ education concentrated on needlework and ‘useful departments of household service’.

Prior to 1870, education in Britain had been entrusted largely to family and church. That year’s Elementary Education Act introduced limited state influence and in 1871, Mr.J.C.Curtis, Principal of the Training College, Borough Road, London, began annual inspections of the school, stimulating a marked improvement in educational standards within the Orphanage. Cambridge Local examinations were introduced in December 1876. In 1877, with more academic subjects available to them, the girls got their own headmistress. There were now effectively two separate schools in one building, the girls’ school occupying the southwest side of the building, facing Skircoat Moor Road, and the boys’ school the other half.

Departing orphans made their way to all parts of the country, and eventually the world. Such was their fondness for their alma mater that when the Governors first invited old scholars to attend their Annual Meeting in 1874, no fewer than 90 responded, starting a tradition of regular reunions which continues today. Sixteen reunions had taken place when, in 1900, the Old Boys’ Association was formed, followed some years later by an old girls’ equivalent, a merger in 1920 creating the Old Scholars’ Association, which remains active today.

In 1887, Thomas Porter, a Manchester yarn merchant, made an endowment of £50,007, on condition that the institution be renamed ‘The Crossley and Porter Orphan Home and School’, as approved by supplemental Royal Charter. The extra funding allowed orphan numbers to remain between 240 and 265 until the First World War and also facilitated the purchase of land opposite the southwest façade and a nearby site, where a sanatorium was built. Scholarships to Bradford Grammar School were introduced, academic standards contining to improve into the twentieth century.

In 1899, the Board of Education was established and in February 1903 it recognised the combined school as an ‘efficient secondary school’. However, annual deficits were incurred from 1901 to 1904, partly because of the higher salaries of better-qualified teachers. General subscriptions fell over 85% between 1881 and 1901 and the Governors were under pressure to make improvements at the Board’s request. Staff cuts restored the financial situation temporarily but the monetary pressures of the next two decades would threaten the very existence of the Orphanage. Its golden jubilee was, nevertheless, celebrated in a spirit of optimism over three days at Whitsuntide 1914, coinciding with the twenty-second old scholars’ reunion.

At the Golden Jubilee celebrations in June 1914, the schools were looking forward optimistically, with new classrooms being opened and science laboratories planned. The Old Boys’ Association had donated new playing fields at Broomfield. In the summer, extensive improvements to the heating, lighting and sanitation delayed the start of term until October. However, with the onset of war everyday costs escalated, subscriptions dropped again and annual deficits of around £1,000 became the norm. The Governors decided neither to decrease numbers nor to increase fees, to spare orphans and their families further hardship, and Francis Crossley’s son, Sir Savile Brinton Crossley, Lord Somerleyton from 1916, pledged an extra £650 per annum from the Crossley family.

Following the 1918 Education Act, the schools became recognised grant-earning schools, renamed the ‘Crossley and Porter Schools, Halifax’, as approved by the Board of Education and confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1919. The governing body now comprised four Foundation Governors and 15 Representative Governors, the latter including five elected by Halifax Council and several more elected by Yorkshire municipal councils. The 1918 Act had raised school leaving age to 14 and the Governors planned to provide education up to age 18. Fee-paying day pupils were admitted for the first time, 175 attending daily by 1925, the number of boarders having declined to just 105.

Nevertheless, the deficit exceeded £16,000 in 1922, despite an increase in boarders’ fees to £40. A Diamond Jubilee Festival was planned, with the sole objective of clearing the debt. All connected with the schools, staff, pupils, old scholars, local businesses and individuals, rose magnificently to the appeal for funds. Saleof the sanatorium realised £3010, planned improvements were postponed and the four-day Festival in July/August 1924 brought the appeal to a successful close, the debt being cleared by the year’s end. In response to this, Mr John William Standeven gave an endowment of £10,000, in memory of his late wife, Mary Ann. Income from the endowment was used to lower boarders’ fees.

Ironically, as the country headed toward industrial strife and the Depression, the schools entered a relatively prosperous period. Two new wings were constructed, along with fives courts and a manual workshop. The girls began cookery, laundry, pottery and gardening. Mr Newport and Miss Dale had divided both schools into Houses and inter-House sporting competitions flourished. By 1930, both schools had small sixth forms, studying for the Higher School Certificate. A growing number of school societies catered for extra-curricular interests. Scout, cub, guide and brownie groups were formed. Overall physical fitness was improved by the introduction of twice-weekly compulsory games for all boys. A doctor oversaw general health and a dentist visited every fortnight. By summer 1939, 3036 boarders, 1975 boys and 1061 girls, had been admitted since 1864.

The Second World War again disrupted school life. As during the Great War, male staff joined the armed forces and boarders were evacuated to local families. Remaining male staff became air wardens and special constables and a school cadet force was established. As with many schools and colleges throughout the country, Crossleys shared its premises. Whitelands Training College for Elementary School Teachers took over the top two floors of the school as as a hostel for its first year students. The 1944 Act abolished the Board of Education, designated a Minister of Education to oversee local education authorities (LEA) and made secondary education compulsory. The schools became voluntary controlled secondary (grammar) schools, with a governing body consisting of five Foundation Governors and 10 Representative Governors, the latter appointed by the LEA. This arrangement abolished junior sections and fees, the junior section duly closing in 1947, with boarding in the main school building being officially discontinued. The Parents’ Association had been formed in the uncertain climate of 1945 and over subsequent decades it provided a valuable social and fund-raising support for the school.

In 1948, with the family’s agreement, the Standeven endowment was used to purchase two new hostels for boarders near Broomfield. The former ‘Ravenswood’ was renamed ‘Standeven House’ in memory of Mrs Standeven. It could accommodate 16 boys and nearby Crossley House (formerly ‘The Gleddings’) had room for 16 girls. The hostels never reached full capacity and closed in 1961, when the last boarders left. ‘The Gleddings’ was sold and Standeven House was converted for use as a pavilion by the Old Scholars’ Association, whose members had extended and developed the adjacent playing fields.

Still with separate Heads, the boys’ and girls’ schools celebrated their centenary together in 1964 and, with everyday co-operation increasing, they were officially merged, under one Head, on 1 January 1968. Changes in society in general and education in particular affected the grammar school, although it survived the move toward comprehensive education. However, falling school rolls and limits on public finance highlighted an over provision of grammar school places in Calderdale. Accordingly, in 1985 the Crossley and Porter School was merged with Heath to form the Crossley Heath School.

The Crossley Brothers: Joseph, Francis and John

The brothers who founded the Crossley Orphan Home and School in 1864 were Joseph, Francis and John Crossley. They were the youngest three of six sons of John and Martha Crossley who founded the Dean Clough mills in Halifax, famous for manufacturing carpets. There is much local evidence in Halifax of the benevolence of the Crossley family.

Joseph Crossley (1813 – 1868) had a considerable knowledge of the business side of the Crossley carpet firm. He and his brothers expanded the company from a small mill employing around 300 people to a huge complex employing thousands and which claimed to be the largest carpet factory in the world. He became a magistrate and founded the Joseph Crossley Alms Houses. He lived at Broomfield, Savile Park.

Francis Crossley (1817 – 1872) was the most flamboyant of the three brothers. He attended Heath Grammar School and enjoyed putting his practical knowledge to use in developing the sales and patents for the carpet firm. Francis Crossley became MP for Halifax in 1852 and was created Sir Francis Crossley in 1853. He presented People’s Park to the town of Halifax and lived at Belle Vue, later buying the Somerleyton Estate in Suffolk. In 1845 he married Martha Brinton, daughter to the Kidderminster carpet dynasty.

John Crossley II (1812 – 1879) attended Heath Grammar School. He played an important role in the life of Halifax, being elected Mayor on four occasions. He was also MP for Halifax from 1874 to 1877. He was instrumental in building Halifax Town Hall. For 25 years he lived at Manor Heath.

In common with several other prominent Victorian industrialists, the Crossley brothers gave generously of their wealth for the common good. Francis built and endowed 24 almshouses on Margaret Street near Belle Vue and Joseph built another 48 on Arden Road. Francis gave People’s Park to Halifax in 1857. The brothers were also major contributors to the construction of Square and Park Congregational churches but the construction and annual endowment of the Orphanage is considered by many to be their finest act of charity. Francis bought the Somerleyton estate, near Lowestoft, from Samuel Morton Peto in 1862 and his only son, Sir Savile Brinton Crossley became Lord Somerleyton in 1916. The first orphan, James Labron Plint regularly saw the three brothers on their visits to the Orphanage. He describes John as ‘tall, straight and very dignified’, Joseph as ‘rather short and stern looking’, and Francis as ‘handsome, genial and always kind of jolly’.

James Labron Plint

James Labron Plint was the first boy admitted to the Orphanage, in late June 1864. He left in summer 1870, became a seaman and, as Third Officer, he was twice decorated for bravery, for the rescue of a French ship crew in 1879 and for saving a drowning boy at Antwerp the following year. Eventually settling in Liverpool, he visited the Orphanage in 1912 and then became intimately associated with all subsequent old scholars’ activities.

John Hogg, Architect

Modelled on architecture of the reign of King James1, ‘with a mixture of the Italian style’, the Orphan Home was built on ‘eight acres, two roods and eight perches’, on Skircoat Moor.

The school buildings are situated at the north east corner of Savile Park between Skircoat Moor Road and Free School Lane, with commanding views across the moor. The main blocks have two main storeys with gable windows to the third storey. The higher corner pavilions have steeply sloping blue slate roofs with inset windows and decorative iron rail and finial detailing. The elaborate entrance tower to the centre of the east front rises to a clock, cupola and weather vane.

The gardens were laid out by Charles Kershaw, a Brighouse gardener.

Thomas Porter

Little is known of Thomas Porter and there are no photographs. The following is taken from the school’s Annual Reports of 1887 and 1893.


For many years the name of Thomas Porter Esq., of Manchester, has had a place in the subscription list, but his larger gifts by far have been anonymous. A long-cherished purpose to render still more substantial aid has now been realised, and he has handed to the Treasurer the munificent sum of £50007 as an addition to the Endowment Fund. To the condition on which the gift was made – that the donor’s name be joined with that of the founders in the style and title of the Charity – the family of the founders gave their willing assent….a royal charter sanctioned the legal designation of the charity to “The Crossley and Porter Orphan Home and School.”


Mr Porter died in 1893. His good deeds can never be forgotten as long as the orphanage exists. Not only were the governors enabled, by the additional means at their disposal, to take a larger number of children into the Home, but they were able to carry out several long-needed improvements. For many years before his crowning gift, Mr Porter took a generous interest in the orphanage but he would never allow his name to appear amongst the list of benefactors for the full amount of his contributions. His interest in their children has been shown in various ways. Since his death, his sister, Miss Porter of Southport, has sent many valuable books, pictures, coins and other things which he had requested should be forwarded. The Governors therefore deeply feel the loss of one who has done so much for the Orphanage.


Various boarders have recalled their memories of dormitory and bedtime routines over time. An early orphan, W.H. Webster (124), describes the drill and discipline system under Mr Barber, Head 1874-1910, “When ‘one’ was shouted, we all knelt at our bedsides, and in this devout attitude we remained until ‘two’ rang out, when we immediately rose to place our little wire baskets on our beds. At ‘three’ we folded our coats neatly into our baskets, and as number followed number we slowly disrobed until ‘eleven’ found us facing a basketful of neatly folded articles, waiting patiently for ‘twelve’ to permit us to clamber into our bed and warm our chilled bodies”.  At a similar time, Bertha Smith (nee Whiteley 414) recalled being wakened at six am. In readiness for a study period downstairs beginning at seven. Washing was in cold water at one of twelve washbasins provided for two dormitaries of 45 girls each.

Mrs Barbara Ingham, (nee Mallinson), who was a boarder from 1934-37 recalls that youngsters started off in the Nursery Dormitory, progressing through a series of dormitories. The first had a guardian or carer on duty at night whilst older girls were looked after by two prefects who had their own cubicles within the dorm. Bedtime and getting up were both 7 o’clock and school uniform included a voluminous nightdress.

Swimming Pools

From the 1860s, boys and girls had separate pools. The pools were renowned for the coolness of the water despite being heated by Lancashire Steam Boilers fed with Welsh steam coal by hand shoveling. It is the 15000-gallon boys’ pool that is still in use today although since the swimming pool boiler blew up in 1988 it has had its own gas-fired boiler. The girls’ pool was converted into music rooms after the First World War.

Shown here is the boys’ pool which also had a small diving stand, installed in 1911. That year the school managed a Swimming Gala when besides the usual swimming strokes, there was a race with lighted candles, a blindfold race and ‘writing in the water.’ As a finale, Mrs Milner, the Swimming Instructress gave an exhibition which included ‘Swimming in walking attire’, and ‘Undressing on the surface of the water’! Although the girls held competitive events at Woodside from the 1920s, the boys held swimming finals and displays in this small bath until 1952. However, the main purpose of the pool has always been to teach swimming skills. In the 1870s, older boys took this upon themselves, by simply throwing the younger ones in at the deep end and leaving them to get out as best they could!

The swimming pool book ‘Great Lengths’ published in January 2009, lists the pool at Crossley Heath as the oldest non-municipal swimming pool in the country.

As of September 2017 the swimming pool has been closed.


The Orphan Home necessarily produced a lot of laundry all of which was washed in house, together with that generated from the Sanatorium whilst that was in operation. Hot water and power for the laundry was created by a steam engine situated on a stone slab at a height of about fifteen feet at the rear of the building. The engine ran a series of belts which drove the various machines and presses, with steam irons connected directly to the steam source.
Mention must be made of the rumour of a tunnel, alleged to exist between the school laundry and the sanatorium. Some say it was built to transport wicker laundry baskets along rails and whilst this is feasible, no evidence has actually ever been found, despite recent housing development on the sanatorium land. Halifax Fire Brigade recall training firemen in the basement of the sanatorium because it was pitch dark down there but they too never found a tunnel.

Crossley and Porter Heads

School Heads 1864-1985


Mr Bithell
Mr Arthur Oliver
Mr William Cambridge Barber
Mr George Bernard Newport
Mr John Stanley Bolton
Mr John Whitaker Lucas
Mr Brian Evans
Mr Paul Barker

Girls’ School Headmistresses 1877-1967


Miss Bowen
Miss Larritt
Miss Angela Louisa Collins
Miss Wayte
Miss Dora Knight
Miss Mary Elizabeth Dale
Miss Richardson
Miss Joan Lightwood
Miss Evelyn Goodman