Binley Park History, Part 2

Binley in the making.

This page is based on a series of articles in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and memories of former pupils.. Thanks go to Eva Swap (formerly Stephenson/Cheung) for visiting the CET office and Coventry Central Library Archive.

Construction of what was at first known as Binley Comprehensive School, commenced in March 1958, the first Phase comprised the following buildings. The main Administrative block, which comprised two halls (we all remember the two tier hall) – a main hall and smaller music hall, a dividing partition allowed the two to be joined. A library (any early pupils care to share with us where that was?), a Gymnasium and changing rooms. Two house blocks of two storeys were built, comprising a kitchen, dining-room, common-room and four classrooms. These were Aylward/Sargent and Scott/Spence. There was also a two-storey ‘Specialist’ block, comprising of teaching rooms for homecraft and science. The fifth block was a single storey workshop for heavy crafts. The construction was described as a ‘Rock and Roll building with loose limbs’. As a precaution against subsidence from the local Binley Colliery, the base of each building was constructed in reinforced units. Columns were not sunk deep into the foundation work, but instead ‘plugged’ in to the slab. The framework had pin joints and sprung braces. The Colliery workings did not run directly under the site, so it was thought unlikely that it would be affected anyway. The amount of ‘play’ in the construction was to allow for any ground movement should it occur. Total construction cost was £187,000. What would that buy today!

By way of diversion take a look at this site to see what was around in c.1889. This link should show the School site at the junction of Willenhall lane and Brandon Road, in the top left of the map. There are arrows to navigate to adjacent maps. Binley site. I’m not allowed to display it directly here on the site, but you are allowed to download it for personal use, should you really want to.

The school opened it’s doors to pupils and staff alike for the Autumn term of 1959 with workmen still on site completing the buildings. On day one, only the hall and 2 house blocks were open. Some 430 children were present in that first year. The Gymnasium was yet to open, and the machinery for the workshops was still to be delivered. Staff used the nearby Binley Mixed School, as the Staff room wasn’t planned until phase 2 in 1962. The ‘Old’ School was also used for early lessons such as P.E. and woodwork, until the buildings were ready.1

The blocks of houses were built as pairs (For example Aylward/Sargent). The layout of these can be seen on the next page, along with a site map, although other layouts differed (Whittle/Robson, Cheshire/Constantine).

Each ‘House’ was named after a notable person of the time, the following table shows who they were, and their ‘profession’. It is thought likely they were chosen by staff and parents as role models for the pupils. 

Clicking on a name will open a new browser window with some information on them.

Please click here to go to the Geography/Site Maps page to see plans of the school site.

House NameNamed AfterKnown ForLater became
Phase 1
AylwardGladys AylwardMissionaryLanchester
SargentSir Malcom SargentConductor/Composer
ScottSir Peter ScottOrnithologist/ConservationistPhoenix
SpenceSir Basil SpenceArchitect of the new Coventry Cathedral
Phase 2
BardsleyDr. Cuthbert BardsleyBishop of Coventry CathedralGodiva
HuntSir John HuntExplorer
WhittleSir Frank WhittleInventor of the Jet EngineMercia
RobsonDame Flora RobsonActress

These were later joined by a further two houses, these were initially named ‘New Block’, and were named by staff and pupils. The school was originally designed for a pupil head count of 1,300-1,400, with around 150 per house and varying amounts of sixth form. The new block catered for another 300 or so. At it’s peak, BPCS had 1,656 pupils.

House NameNamed AfterKnown ForLater became
Phase 3
CheshireSir Leonard CheshireFounder of Cheshire HomesDaimler
ConstantineBaron Leonie ConstantineWest Indian Cricketer and Peer