This summer we have said a fond farewell to the iconic building that is Billinge House. We have been preparing to leave for the past few months as part of our new redevelopment programme, and we have enjoyed looking back on its history. Many pupils and staff have passed through the purple doors over the years and we have received many fond memories from former and current staff and students which we will share with you.
Farewell Billinge House
We hope you enjoy watching this film.
In the final week we had to bring in a digger to help us find the two times capsules that were buried at Billinge House in 1998 and 2013.
A special visitor came into School – former pupil Jade Cothliff opened the time capsule with our current Year 2. Her brother, also a former pupil helped to bury it in 1998! The newly packed time capsules will eventually be buried together at the new Infant and Junior School site at Wilmar Lodge, when they relocate there in 2023.
Mrs Dixon led the end of term assembly for the Infant School children in what would be the final assembly held at Billinge House. They talked about the history of Infant School and Mrs Dixon showed the children old photographs, books and uniform and they were absolutely captivated. The children were also presented with their Olympic Games certificates for all of their hard work on their projects.
Please watch our film from the assembly here.
Memories of Old Westholmians
We asked Old Westholmians, both students and staff to send in their reminiscences of Billinge House and it is incredible how many of them have shared memories of their time at Infant School. Here are a few of them for you to read.
Jane Ward-Thompson (Née Harrison)
My memories of Billinge House are dancing round the maypole each year, a sports day where we all came out of our classrooms to the tune of match of the day, the climbing frame in the playground which was lots of fun and having to stand under the clock in the hallway if you had been really naughty – in my case only suffered once for continuing to talk in class 😂😂. I remember Mrs Lucas in the kindergarten class and a nap after lunch, Mrs Campbell and Miss Thompson. I have fond memories of Mrs Harrison too though I wasn’t in her class, if I recall correctly it was chatting to her son Philip (who was in my class) that got me into trouble. It was great seeing him again at Mrs Croston’s retirement party and realising that we hadn’t changed that much.
There is a photograph in the LRC with a presentation to Mr Rouse on his retirement – I think it’s dated 13th July 1976 – the day after my 6th birthday and I’m on that photo lol. I still have the whole school photo from June 1976 – black and white still in those dim and distant days.
Katie Walmsley (Née Thornhill)
Milk bottles in the hall.
Standing on the staircase singing carols with the giant Christmas tree and the smells wafting up- pure Christmas magic!
First nativity on the stage!
Maypole dancing on the back lawn- dressed as a chicken or duck! I’m not sure why?!?
The secret garden we used to play on around the front.
The rocking horse.
I was there from four years 1985 to 1989 I think – Reception with Mrs Martell; then Mrs Wilkinson, Mrs Campbell and Mrs Sharples.
Victoria sent in the photograph below of her and her Reception classmates in 1982, taken outside their classroom at Billinge House. Victoria is third from the left on the front row, holding her satchel.
Our teacher was Mrs Rawlinson and I remember the classroom being opposite the uniform shop. I particularly loved Sports Days and dancing round the maypole where we got to go into the secret garden which was normally out of bounds. Mrs Cook was the Headmistress and Dr Bond the Principal.
I went to Westholme from Reception all the way through to Upper Sixth and left in 1996 to go on to the University of Bath where I studied pharmacy.
I have lots of lovely memories of school.
In the early years of my life, my family lived at the top of Buncer Lane. We had a large garden that extended all the way down to the edge of the lower playground at Billinge House. I remember playing football with my father and regularly kicking the ball over into the school playground by accident. He would lift me up to climb over the wall and I remember feeling like I was a secret agent, stealing my football back in this unknown enemy base. My parents sent me to the school, following in my sister’s footsteps, but I remember being terrified on the first day. I have very vivid memories of the first time my mother left me alone at the school on the first morning; I burst into tears and ran outside after her. Fortunately, Mrs Lancaster, my first teacher, was lovely, and, after calming me down, I never felt upset ever again. I remember playing with my friends in the playground. One of my more confident friends suggested a game of kiss-catch once, which, for me, was terrifying, but it mostly led to running away from the girls out of complete terror and embarrassment rather than trying to catch them. I remember dressing up as both a bee and an elephant on separate occasions for an animal parade; I was very proud of my wings as a bee – the teachers did an excellent job of disguising fairy wings to make them look like a bee, so that we thought we were the coolest kids in school. My most vivid memory came from the school nativity, in which I played the king who brought Frankincense. We performed it twice, once in front of older students (including my sister) and once in front of our parents. In the first performance, I was desperate for the toilet, so walked to the front of the stage mid-performance to tell the teacher, who managed to get me off-stage very professionally without the audience reacting too badly. However, when it came to performing in front of parents, I was so excited to see my mother in the audience, that I went straight up to the edge of the stage, waved, and said hello to her very excitedly when I entered with the other two kings. However, I then decided to take, what can now only be deemed as, blasphemous actions and, when it was my turn to give my gift to baby Jesus, instead of placing it by his side gently, I decide to pitch it through the air from a distance, and it landed straight on the middle of the babies forehead (I must add that it was just a doll, not a real baby, so no harm done except for my mother’s embarrassment). I have only fond memories of Billinge House and feel proud to have attend the school that I now work at and has over the years played such a big role in my life. I am still friends with students from my class and see it as a first step in the path my life would go onto lead. If I hadn’t gone to Westholme at a young age and had connections to it over the years through friends who came here and my sister being a part of the school all the way through, I would not have been so driven to return as a teacher many years later, I would not have been able to be part of this wonderful school community and have memories to now last a lifetime, and I would not have met the most important person in my life, my wife, who I met here as a teacher at Westholme with her own wonderful memories of the school as both student and now teacher. I will be forever grateful for my time at Billinge House, before boys became widespread throughout the school and thank the teachers for giving me such wonderful memories in such a warm, caring environment that was the beginning of my education.
One my favourite memories from Billinge. Loved my Westholme education and so much so it inspired me to become a teacher myself.
Hayley is now a Teacher at St Silas in Blackburn – Teaching History, EY, KS1 Maths
I attended Westholme from January 1993-July 2007 making me a Westholme girl for life. Billinge House is where my journey as a Purple Ribenna berry started. Billinge House was such a happy time. I remember feeling safe and happy in my learning environment and being excited about attending school every day. I used to love Friday assemblies with Mrs Croston and Richmond. There were times when Mrs Croston did not have Richmond in assembly and Mrs Croston told us that Richmond had gone to Blackpool or the dentist. I always loved sharing these stories with my mum. My favourite year at Billinge House was Year 1 and I still have very fond memories of my Year 1 teacher Mrs Ball. Learning with Mrs Ball was fun and exciting and she was very nurturing as a teacher. I always remember Friday sweeties with Mrs Ball. Whilst in Year 1, I remember the whole of Billing House taking part in a Victorian day where both pupils and staff dressed up for the occasion. I was very fortunate to be chosen to be a Victorian maid as part of this celebration. Another fond memory of my time at Billinge House was Mrs Cook’s retirement celebration. I was in Nursery (Mrs Rawlinson’s class) and each year group did something special. Our Nursery class sang Lavender’s Blue and wore lavender and blue for the celebration. Other fond memories include ballet lessons with Miss Bernadette and Music lessons with Mrs Hemingway. I owe my love of Music to Mrs Hemingway as she encouraged me to have singing lessons from a young age.
When I was 25, Billinge House welcomed me back to do some work experience with Reception and Year 1, work at after school club and do my research for my Masters in Education. It was so lovely returning back and seeing the place which I loved so much. In addition, it was lovely to see the current Billinge House children learning and growing in an equally stimulating environment which I had experienced as a child.
Thank you so much for the memories Billinge House. You will be truly missed.
Rachel Payne (Née Garnett)
I remember it [Billinge House] very well. I was there in the late 60’s early 70’s so a long time ago. I remember dancing around the maypole on the grass area to the left of that door you can see there. That the playground was down some steps (although this might be different now). I remember ballet lessons in the hall and many class photos on the stage there.
I’m sorry that you’re leaving this lovely building but am sure the new area at Wilma lodge will be just as nice.
Former pupil Jade visited Billinge House this summer and wound back the clock by opening her Billinge House time Capsule from 1998, with members of our current Year 2 also present.
— Rebecca Barnett (@WestholmeIJHead) June 30, 2020
My memories of Billinge House…
I started my Westholme life at Wilmar Lodge so the only memories I have of Billinge House are….
1) it’s where we used to go to buy our school uniforms. There was an on site shop which was bursting at the seams with stock and you had to try on in a makeshift cubicle with a green velvet curtain for cover.
2) at that time it was the only part of Westholme which was co ed. We used to feel bad for the boys as they were made to take ballet (very un PC times back then)
3) Finally, I still have my Westholme tea towel (see attached pic)which depicts all 3 sites as they looked back in the day. I think the tea towels were a Business enterprise initiative carried out by fifth formers (we had to come up with a business idea and create a product/event to help generate some funds for the school whilst gaining a certification in the process which looked great then on your CV)
Seema Kennedy (OBE)
I was at Billinge House from January 1979 to July 1983. I met people there who are still great friends to this day, including Caroline Warner (nee Sutcliffe), Neela Montgomery (nee Mukherjee), Fergus Slinger and Ben and Felix Duckworth.
I have so many wonderful memories of Billinge House but here are my top three:
– Sitting on the rocking horse in Mrs Rawlinson’s class (this room was later transformed into the school uniform shop). Mrs Rawlinson was the embodiment of the kind, loving reception teacher that everyone dreams of
– Hearing Mrs Campbell’s memories of taking a gas mask to school as a little girl during WW2
– Standing on the stairs in the hall, singing carols and welcoming Father Christmas. However long l live, that Christmas tree will always be the tallest and most beautiful of Christmas trees to me.
Goodbye Billinge House. Thank you for such a good start in life.
Former pupil Emma has kindly shared some photographs that her mother took during her time at Billinge House.
Brian Marsden (Chairman of Governors at Westholme School)
My mother and her two sisters would have been at Westholme in 1923 when Billinge House was acquired. My sister and I attended in the 50s and then my daughter and son in the 90s.
My sister was born in The Cottage at the Billinge traffic lights.
I started at BH in 1953 when the new assembly hall was opened – the Coronation Hall. Still there today and there was much excitement !!
I do remember the slides that we were allowed to make each winter on the site currently occupied by Reception and Pre-school down the slope to the old tennis court – one for the boys and one for the girls. Boys were considered too rough to be allowed on the girls’ slide. However, during their time at BH, most of the boys would then spend time “under the clock” for breaking this rule and leaving the girls in tears.
Punishment for children meant standing under the clock, which was situated in the hall at the bottom of the stairs. I spent many a happy hour under there!!
Teachers I can remember – Mrs Bainbridge, Mrs Barnes, Mrs Jepson and Mrs Hope. Mrs Horner was delighted to welcome Mrs Hope to an event in the LRC with Mr Singleton (nephew of our founder Emily Singleton) who spoke to students – she spoke warmly of her memories of Billinge House and has recently died aged over 100.
I started in reception at 3 years old in Mrs Rawlinsons class in 1990! Loved Billinge house and do have lovely memories! Our school nativity in the hall that felt massive at 3 years old being on the stage, We had a Victoria Day where we had black and white pictures taken in the entrance. How can anyone forget carnival of the animals where we were all fishermen and it was a lovely sunny day also around 1990. Even a May pole on May Day one year! My favourite memory has to be remembering sitting in Mrs Balls in year 2 I think (1993?)The class to the right of the building that used to have a conservatory, she had a piano and we used to all sit around and sing song about Mr Sun!!!
Arjun ( currently in year 4) has many fond memories of Billinge house. There were many things such as seeing Taz the entertainer, celebrating birthdays, playing with friends at the Trim trail etc.
Here are some photos of Arjun during his time at Billinge House below.
We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who sent in and shared their memories of Billinge House!
The History of Billinge House and Westholme School
If you are interested in finding out more about the history of Billinge House and Westholme School, you can read all about it below – Read More