Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 17, 2021
Webpage updated: March 17, 2021




In 1911 the Plymouth Local Education Authority commenced commercial technical classes for boys aged 13 years.  The classes were held in any room that could be commandeered in the Plymouth Technical School/College in Tavistock Road, Plymouth.  Even the teachers were Technical School/College masters who happened to be free at the time from their other duties.

An entrance exam created the first class of thirty pupils and a second class of twenty-five was added the following year.

Although the "school" had no formal name or even official recognition, it grew in numbers and stature with the result that the Borough decided to apply to the Board of Education for it to be officially recognised as a junior technical school.  First, however, they had to meet four conditions: a Head Master had to be appointed; at least one other qualified, full-time Master had to be appointed; a room had to be set aside for assembly; and -- perhaps strangest of all, given this was a technical school -- a playing-field had to be made available.

Mr G W Turpitt was duly appointed as Head, the other conditions were fulfilled, and from August 1st 1914 it officially came into existence as the Plymouth Junior Technical School.  In that year it also acquired a sports field at Efford.

The Great War broke out shortly afterwards, of course, but this did not hamper the School's growth.  In 1915 an additional full-time assistant master was appointed and this was followed in both 1916 and 1917 by two further appointments.  During 1917 the boys were enlisted to help in munitions work and the first issue of the school's magazine was published.  Optional French lessons were started for those boys willing to stay after normal school hours and pay an extra fee.

In 1918 a School Cadet Company was formed, which was affiliated to the Devon (Fortress) Royal Engineer's Electric Light Company.   The use of the playing field at Efford was curtailed that year when it was requisitioned under a Government Emergency Ploughing Order.  A further year was added to the course from August 1918.

By 1919 there were 174 pupils on the roll and the following year the scholars and staff spent Ł200 on the purchase of Housing Bonds to build houses for former service men.

The growing pressure on accommodation was temporarily solved at Whitsuntide in 1921 by transferring the School to the former Durnford Hotel at 46 Durnford Street, East Stonehouse, as a result of which it was sometimes known as the Stonehouse Junior Technical School.  The Plymouth School of Navigation also used part of the same building, which had cost 4,047 to purchase, some 500 to adapt and a further 500 to equip.

Although the premises were not really suitable for technical studies, the pupils and staff soon settled in and converted the multitude of small rooms in to a carpenter's shop, metalwork shop, a library, a refectory, a prefects' room, a photographic dark room, an armoury and a table-tennis room.  In 1922 the School was granted the use of the Marsh Mills Playing Field on Saturday mornings with a cricket or football pitch every alternate Saturday afternoon.  In 1923 an Old Boys Association was formed and the first Annual Athletic Sports was held at Marsh Mills.

Admission to the School was open to boys of 13 years of age who had been in the sixth standard at elementary school for at least six months and had been successful in the competitive entrance examination.  The maximum age of admission was 15.  Parents were required to certify that their sons would remain at the school for two years and that they would 'take up an occupation for which the course has formed a legitimate preparation'.

The School's first success in the School Certificate Examination came in 1925 courtesy of J C Keene while the following year the School secured the top boy, R W Adams, in the Open Competitive Examination for entry as an Aircraft Apprentice.  Further success soon followed, with G W Isaac gaining top boy in the Open Competitive Civil Service examination for entry as an apprentice in the Royal Dockyard in 1928 and A L Pawlby achieving success in the City and Guilds' Handicraft Examination in Woodwork.

In June 1927 the staff consisted of: Mr G W Turpitt BSc (Lond), Headmaster; Mr W J Gillard, Form Master and Mechanics; Mr J J Beckerlegge, Form Master and English; Mr A W Thomas, Form Master and Mathematics; Mr W E Irish, Form Master and English; Mr W A Waterfield, Form Master and Science; Mr A J Pearce, Form Master and Mathematics; Mr H F Burrows MCollH, Craft Master; Mr H B Serridge, Craft Master, Plumbing, City and Guilds, and, with Mr E J Clarke, Machine Drawing.  In Addition Mr F Pedrick taught Art and Mr S W Armstrong, Mr P J Dart and Mr P P Wood taught French.

But the School continued to outgrow its accommodation and, following a full Board of Education inspection in 1934 new premises were acquired to accommodate 50% more pupils.  Architects' plans were drawn up in 1935 and in 1938 the Junior Tech was moved to Block D of the old Military Hospital at Stoke, Devonport, where accommodation for 360 boys had been arranged.  Following some reconstruction work, this, along with the three other schools on the site*, was officially opened by the Right Honourable the Earl De La Warr, president of the Board of Education, on Tuesday February 14th 1939.  At the event, the senior prefect of the Technical school, Mr J B Andrews, presented the Earl with a lamp stand bearing the Earl's coat of arms of those of the City.  The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor G S Scoble, was among those present.

The building work had been carried out by Messrs Pearn Brothers Ltd under the supervision of the City Architect, Mr E G Catchpole ARIBA.  They had created workshops that were equipped to the standards of the day and the large laboratories for the study of physics and chemistry.

Any happiness with their new home was quickly shattered, however, when the Second World War broke out and the School was given just 48 hours to evacuate the premises.  Temporary accommodation was arranged at Public Secondary School and later at Johnston Terrace School at Keyham.  The School also made use, once again, of the facilities at the Plymouth Technical College.

After the Blitz of March and April 1941 many Plymouth schools were evacuated to places of safety elsewhere in Devon and Cornwall.   The Junior Tech boys went to Torquay.

Following the Education Act 1944, the school was re-named the Plymouth Technical Secondary School and further temporary premises were found for it in Armada Street.  Apparently the best that could be said for these premises were that they were close to the Technical College.




* The others were Tamar Central School for Boys (Block A); Stoke Senior School for Boys (Block B); and Valletort Senior School for Boys (Block C).