Calling All Old Balshavians!

Balshaw’s extensive school archive is being brought into the light thanks to the marvels of modern technology. Can you fill in the gaps?

The archives of the school are almost complete, certainly unique and definitely fascinating. Now, that archive is being brought into the 21st Century so little, lost stories of monumental times are being prepared for publication on the school’s website. The archive is being digitised and will become one of the most complete, searchable school archives in the district, if not the country. Dr. Naomi Breen came to Balshaw’s as school librarian, but, as her PhD research interests were about the material culture of school buildings in the Twentieth Century, she fell in love with Balshaw’s school building. She is now able to document the human stories of the school for all to access. Dr. Breen has located descendants of Balshavians from as far afield as Australia and Canada, as well as those still located in and around Leyland, gathering their memories, mementoes and personal archives to enhance the collection. For example, Ruth Halls, who now lives in Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia, about 4 hours west of Sydney, spotted her Grandma, Ruth Norris, in photos on the school website in July this year and sent another one (see below) in to add to the school’s archive of the Golden Hill School (Balshaw’s previous home) on Golden Hill Lane, Leyland:



In a cupboard in the Headteacher’s office is an extraordinary collection of documents, photographs and artefacts, along with reels and reels of cine-film with as yet unidentified contents.

This project has been an ambition of Headteacher Mr Steven Haycocks ever since his arrival at the school in 2014, “In my office sits an incredible archive of material including registers going back to 1842.  Its secretion in a cupboard has felt so wrong when it contains such a rich history, not just of Balshaw's, but a social and cultural history of the last century.

I am delighted to say that this is no longer the case.  Over the past weeks, Dr Naomi Breen has been bringing these archives to life as she scans them into searchable pdf files that we aim to share with the world.  It is an immensely exciting project and a considerable digital archive that we are going to be able to publish.”


This collection is largely down to the meticulous record-keeping of the Headteachers: “Pa” Jackson from 1903, whose efforts transformed the Golden Hill School into a Grammar School, to Messrs. Vic Oldland (who oversaw the move to the new building 1931-1960); Fred Bleasdale (1961-73: who oversaw a period of great educational change); and Paul Ingram (1973-1994: who oversaw the school’s bi-centenary in 1982) who all gathered material from their times at the helm; as well as the celebrated Jo Venn, who was a prolific letter writer and her collection of correspondence is extensive. Along with current Head, Steven Haycocks, Jo’s work with the Old Balshavian Association has greatly added to the archive, and given Dr Breen plenty of work to do. The school has invested in a state-of-the-art book scanner and is cataloguing every item for its website so people can search for relatives, view photos and artefacts and research from the comfort of their own computer.