The History of Birchfields
What's in a name?
The history of the school actually begins 800 years before the school was built when, in the 12th century, the Birch family bought the land on which the school is now and built Birch Hall. The hall stayed there until 1926 when it was knocked down and Manchester Grammar School was built on the site. Birchfields opened in 1930, four years after the hall was demolished. So the school was named after the Birch family, nothing to do with trees - despite what our logo suggests!
Why was a school built here?
Before the school was built, Fallowfield was a quiet area with very few houses. The map below is from 1905, 25 years before the school was built, and shows where the school would have been. As you can see, most of the area was just fields and there are fewer roads than there are today...
...whereas by 1930, the area was a lot more built up as you can see on the map below. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, the Anson Estate was built during the 1920s on the site of an old golf course. This meant that there were more houses and therefore more children in the area. Secondly, trams came to Fallowfield in 1920, which meant people could travel here more easily. The Fallowfield Shopping Centre next to the school was previously the tram depot for the area when the school was first built.
If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the area, you can read more at rusholmearchive.org
As you can see on this plaque, which is still on the wall near the PPA room, Birchfields opened on the 1st September 1930. We were one of 8 new schools that opened on the same day, including Ladybarn and Green End nearby.
Originally, it was a school for children up to the age of 14. The class photos below from 1937 and 1939 show that the school split up into an infant school, junior school and a senior school.
Birchfields became a primary school in 1956, when all the children older than 11 moved to Moseley Road School.
The Second World War began in 1939, just 9 years after the school opened, and this had a big effect on school life. The photograph below shows children at the shool practicing what to do in an air-raid. Some children from the school were evacuated to Blackpool for their safety.
Has the school building changed?
When the school was first built, there were no corridors. The classrooms led straight outside to the quads and the playground, with only a small veranda roof outside of the classrooms, as the photo below shows. Can you tell which part of school it is in the photo below?
The school was originally a 'H' shape with only two corridors; the infant corridor and the junior corridor, joined together by the hall in the middle.
The Year 3 corridor was built in the early 1980s...
... and the Foundation Unit, the office and Miss Offord's office were opened in 2003. Until 2003 the nursery and reception buildings were on what is now the car park.
Up until then, there was another playground where the Foundation Unit is now .
From 1956 until 1995, Birchfields was two separate schools; Birchfields Infant School and Birchfields Junior School. Both schools had a separate office and different headteachers. The only room the two schools shared was the hall. There were big doors that could be closed in the middle of the hall so that there could be an infant and a junior PE lesson at the same time. If you look up to the ceiling in the middle of the hall, you can still see where these enormous doors would have been.
Who was the headteacher before Miss Offord?
As Birchfields was two separate schools up until 1995, there were two separate headteachers. Mrs Rule became headteacher of the Junior School when Mr Caldbeck moved schools in 1988. The head of the Infant School at the time, Mrs Woods, retired in 1995 and it was decided that the two schools should become one primary school, with Mrs Rule as the headteacher. To mark this change, a school uniform was introduced for the first time in 1995.
Another significant event in 1995 was a fire that occured on the 1st July of that year. Vandals started a fire on the building site of the canteen, which was being built at the time. The classroom you can see in the photos below is what is now the music room, and the newspaper report below that, tells the story of the damage.
Copyright - Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum
What significant events have happened more recently?
After 38 years at the school (her whole teaching career), Mrs Rule retired in 2006. This occasion was marked with an assembly where each year group commemorated one of the five decades that Mrs Rule enjoyed at the school. Miss Offord became the headteacher in January 2007.
Even more recently, Birchfields has celebrated big events such as The London Olympics 2012, The Diamond Jubilee, and the Royal Wedding. The film below shows the whole school in the hall having a street party to celebrate the Royal Wedding.
2020 was a year unlike any other at Birchfields. The Coronavirus outbreak early in the year lead to the school closing on 18th March. All pupils were taught at home, using resources made by staff and sent through the school website. Some of our pupils remained in school during this time, with some of Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 then welcomed back on 8th June. On 29th June, all pupils were allowed back to school, with about a third returning, with the rest still continuing with their home-learning.
The film below explains how Birchfields reacted to this unprecedented time.
Thank you to -
Bruce Anderson from rusholmearchive.org,
John Ward, Alan Sutton, Carol Wise and Anne Keating (all former pupils)
Jean Rule, Marilyn Rowley, Miss Coleman, Mrs S Ahmed, Mrs Kemp, Mrs Brady and Mr Bradley.
Bob Bonner from the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum
Year 3 2012-13 for their help with the research as part of their Schools topic.
Abdullah Khan in 4A 2012-13 for inspiring this page to be written in the first place!
Mr Pickering, 2013.
What do you think Birchfields will be like in the future?
If there is anything you would like to add or ask, please leave a comment below.
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