Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Local Headmaster's Family Present Library With Historic Photographs

On Friday 17 October, 65 years to the day since its opening, family members of the headmaster of Tudor Grange Special School attended an official handover of documents and photographs at Solihull Central Library.
The school was opened in 1949 and took in children from ages six to sixteen, often from deprived backgrounds and with physically disabling conditions such as polio and cerebral palsy. The Headmaster was Robert Idwal Evans, who lived in the house along with his family and as many as forty boarding students.
Mr Evans’s sons, Robert and Allan, with Robert’s daughter Elizabeth, came to Solihull Central Library’s Heritage and Local Studies section to deliver the photograph albums and scrapbooks their father had collected throughout his time as Headmaster.
Included amongst the many photographs of staff, students and the house is correspondence from various public figures, including J.B. Priestly, Princesses Margaret and Alexandra (who both visited the school in person) and the chimpanzees from the PG Tips advertising campaign.
Allan Evans said of the collection of memorabilia: “I think my father had a sense of posterity. Today is the 65th Anniversary of the school opening, so we thought the time had come to hand this over. It belongs to Solihull; it’s part of the town’s social history.”
The site of the school is at Tudor Grange House, a Grade II listed building off Blossomfield Road and built in 1887. The house has an interesting history: it was Alfred Bird, MP for Wolverhampton West and son of the inventor of Bird’s Custard, who bought the house in 1901. Believed to have been used as a Red Cross auxiliary hospital during the Second World War, it was bought by Warwickshire County Council (which at the time had responsibility for education in Solihull) in 1946.
The bronze Prancing Horse and Man statue which now stands in Malvern Park was once a feature of Tudor Grange House’s gardens under the Bird family, before it was donated to the Council in 1953. For nearly thirty years the house remained a school for children with special educational needs, until 1976, when the building became a part of Solihull College and the school was relocated to a purpose-built building.
For more information about the school, Tudor Grange House, or Solihull local history, the albums donated by the Evans family can be viewed in Solihull Central Library’s Heritage and Local Studies section.

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