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Foundation and History
John Cross of Myerscough realised that he was not long for this world. On the second day of July 1718, he made his last will and testament.
John Cross, in his will provided for a school to be founded 'for the education of the poor children of Myerscough and Bilsborrow in reading, writing and the principles of the Christian Religion according to the doctrine of the Church of England....... My desire being to promote religion and sobriety especially in young people. And to give them an early sense of their duty to God and man, begging of God Almighty to succeed it to his honour.'
So begins the history of John Cross School.
We can not tell for sure when the school first opened its doors but it is believed it was between 1722-23. The site was very near the present school-approximately where the former canteen building stood. It was reached from the main road by a wide avenue, and there was a side entrance from what is now called 'Church Lane'.
No doubt life at school went on in a quiet country way. Just occasionally there must have been times of excitement. Past the school gates in 1745 marched the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie on its unsuccessful attempt to capture London. Other invasions would have included those of the navvies who dug the canal; and later, those who constructed the railway line.
By 1824 the school was regarded as flourishing - there were 80 children on roll. The school was open to boys and girls alike and no charge was made for their education.
The school was described in 1870 as 'At the western end of Bilsborrow there is a dim and somewhat sad looking free school, decorated with ancient shutters.' A photograph of the original
school suggests this description is a little harsh - it is a plain Georgian building; but the shutters do lend a certain period charm. Well over 100 scholars attended at this time.
An Education Act of 1870 made school attendance compulsory (but not free). Buildings had to reach the proper standard and qualified teachers employed. An inspection of the school in 1871 regarded the educational efficiency of the school as most satisfactory but stated that 'no alterations could make the present premises efficient, and that they are not large enough for the requirements of the township.' Something fairly drastic would have to be done about the school.
A public meeting was held on 29th December 1871 and it was resolved that a re-built Endowed School would be the best solution.
The Trustees decided to launch a public appeal for donations towards this end. The original estimate for a new school building was £800; but in the end it was considerably more - £1400. At length, the building was completed, the new master and his family installed into the School House and all concerned could say to the children 'Come for all things are ready.' Alas they were not quite ready. The opening was announced for 6th October 1873. However the school books that had been ordered did not arrive in time. So the children were sent home: and it was not until the following week (13th October) that the school opened the doors, and the present John Cross School came to life.
The School became Voluntary Aided in 1958 but the interior of the school was by then beginning to show the long term effects of about 80 years of intensive usage. Moreover the accommodation - which consisted of a large room with a folding screen occupied by the junior children and a much smaller and rather cramped room for the infant children - fell well below the recommended specifications. In March 1961 a plan was outlined to build a new school on a site further up the hill from the present building which would be of three classes but able to be expanded to four. But it was subject to a number of criticisms. By April 1963 the managers decided to explore more fully the alternative idea of extending the present buildings.
It was decided to remove the School House and build a two classroom unit at the south end of the school. The work on the project was negotiated on a tender of just over £19000. Work began during the summer holiday of 1969, and for a variety of reasons took considerably longer to complete than anyone had contemplated. This led to considerable disruption of school life and meant that for most of the winter of 1969/70 the children were being taught under difficult conditions in the canteen and the Church Rooms. The work was finalised at the beginning of 1972.
Recent transformations have seen a school field provided in 1989, the demolition of the school canteen with the subsequent building of an extension to the school hall to house a scullery in 1992 and conversion of loft space to create a staff room in the summer of 1993.
The Christian concern and care for the children of Myerscough and Bilsborrow which motivated the School's founder, continues. His pupils are, and will always remain, the God-children of John Cross.
(extracts from John Cross and his God Children by Owen Vigeon)