The Old Almondburians' Society
OAS News Society
A short history of King James’s School

There has been a school in Almondbury since 1547, the date on which it is recorded in Mr John Kay ’s ‘Commonplace Book’ that the family ‘dyd translate [the former chapel] into the Schole howsse that now is . . . and dyd p ’cure one Mr Smyth a good scolar to com and teach Here.’ Subsequently, to safeguard its future, a party went off to London and, in 1608, obtained an official Charter from James I. It is this that is being commemorated throughout 2008.

The charter actually disappeared for many years and was thought lost for ever. Only a chance school visit to an exhibition in Leeds in 1952 led to it being reunited with the school.

In the past 400 years, the school has suffered many vicissitudes and has nearly become extinct on many occasions. It has also featured in some unusual episodes. Rev Francis Marshall, who was headmaster from 1878-1895, was a fanatic rugby union fan who made such a nuisance of himself in opposing the professionalisation of the game that his frustrated opponents set up the 'new' game of Rugby League in the George Hotel in Huddersfield.

A boading school until 1922, the school then passed into the stewardship of Huddersfield Corporation. Unfortunately, the Corporation failed to take proper charge of the many ancient financial endowments received by the school over the centuries, leading to a court case and an out-of-course settlement (recorded extensively by the press at the time) reached in the George Hotel (again!) of many hundreds of thousands of pounds. The school trust still owns extensive properties locally which provide the school was a handsome private annual income.

Margaret Thatcher became personally involved in the school as secretary of state for education when there were plans to convert it into a sixth form college in the 1970s. Harold Wilson always wanted to go to the school but didn't quite make the grade and ended up at Royds Hall Grammar School.

Eminent names from the school's history include the four minute miler Derek Ibbotson, the footballer and singer Jeff Taylor, Gorden Kaye from 'Allo, 'Allo, Stephen Coward who was involved as QC in the Soham murder trial, and Ryan Sidebottom the England cricketer.

Today the school is a coeducational 11-16 comprehensive with nearly 750 pupils. Its success is such that it is currently the most over-subscribed school in Huddersfield.

The Old Almondburians' Society has some 800 members all over the world. It is believed to be the biggest such school society in the country outside the public school system. A dinner is held each November to commemorate the granting of the charter, followed by an annual Founders ’ Day service at Almondbury Parish Church.

There are two school histories, both of which can be purchased online: