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As most of us already know, the school encompasses within itself over 100 years of rich history as an educational institute of an exceedingly high standard. What is less known, though, is the fact that part of what is now the biggest girls’ grammar school in England , in the late 19th century used to be Bowdon Lodge. Set in the County of Cheshire in the midst of spacious grounds at the meeting of Cavendish and Bowdon Road, this was a well known local landmark.
Fast-forward to 1908, and it had become a substantial, but uninhabited and derelict building. In that year, it was acquired by the Cheshire County Education Authority in order for it to be made into a school, a plan that met much opposition, as it was thought that the ‘tone’ of the neighbourhood would suffer as a result. Nevertheless, it was seen through and most of the old building was demolished to be reconstructed as what is now the main building of the school.
Two years later, on Monday the 4th of July, 1910, the school was officially opened by His Honour, Judge J K Bradbury MA., Chairman of the Board of Governors and in the presence of the first Headmistress, Miss Howes Smith MA. and many local dignitaries. On September the 14th, after 27 years of being empty, the building opened its doors to 60 boys and girls under the care of 8 members of staff.
Sports were played on the back lawn and croquet was played in the area that was extended in 1932 to become part of the Main Hall. Until 1931, boys and girls attended the Kindergarten and Prep departments; thereafter, once the Kindergarten was closed in 1923, only girls attended with 42 girls under the age of 10. The 21st anniversary of the school also saw the loss of the Prep. The West Wing was opened 3 years before that owing to an increase in pupil numbers, even though the school had been built to house over 150 students.
Owing to the implications of the Education Act of 1944, the school became a selective school for which girls sat the ‘Eleven Plus’ exam; this resulted in the loss of the Junior department. Thirty years later, owing to a change in the boundaries of Local Authorities, the school passed over to the Borough of Trafford with a change of name from Altrincham County High School to Altrincham Grammar School for Girls.
The School’s Sixth form and Fairlie buildings were added in 1977 and 1993 respectively, the latter being a once derelict building, within which classrooms were developed following its acquisition. In 2003, HRH Prince Charles opened the new Library, which was built on the location of the former Gymnasium, earlier moved to the East Wing. Three years later, new Science laboratories and the new reception were built, along with a Multi-media Language Suite that was formerly an Art Room.
In 2003 the school became a specialist Langauge College and in 2007 a Training School. In 2011 AGGS was one of the first schools to be awarded National Teaching School status. The Breeze Hill house was demolished and the new Breeze Hill opened in 2011 incorporating an ICT suite, more classrooms and a state-of-the-art training facility.
So, it is clear how many transformations the 19th century Bowdon Lodge went through to become Altrincham Grammar School for Girls. We hope that in 2110, when a new batch of pupils celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the school, they will know that they are part of an ever-developing society that has enriched the community and that it will continue to flourish for many years to come!