Late 16th Century
In Handsworth there were eight bridges crossing the river Tame. Three were wooden footbridges and five were wooden carriage bridges. These bridges were Church Bridge, Grove Lane Footbridge, Oscott Bridge, Paper Mill Footbridge, Rector’s Meadow Bridge, Barr Brook Bridge, Perry Barr and Hamstead Hill Bridge. John Hogetts, who owned “The Grove” in Grove Lane, decided that income from 50 acres of land he owned should be used to maintain and repair the bridges in the parish. Any excess money was to be used for charitable purposes within the parish of Handsworth. Thus the Bridge Trust was set up in 1612.
The responsibility for the repair of the bridges was transferred to the County of Stafford and so a considerable surplus of money was available.
The Trustees gave £800 to build a school near the Parish Church of St. Mary’s. This building is now the Church hall.
Once the Primary school was established, the Bridge Trust considered building a Grammar School. £1000 was paid for a piece of land (2 acres, 6 perches in area) off Grove Lane from Major-General Studd. The building cost £2,300 and comprised the Big Schoolroom (65 by 30 feet) with a small gallery at one end, a cloak room and two smaller class rooms. Big School was lit by gas and had two open fires. The school lodge was built for the school porter to live in. The entrance to the school was on Grove Lane which was a narrow lane winding through farmland between tall banks and hedges. Dawson Road did not exist at this time.
The new headmaster, Mr Guest, opened the Bridge Trust School on 5th August. 63 boys came to be examined in reading, writing and mathematics by the Head. The examination took place in Big School in the presence of their parents and trustees. 59 boys passed the test and were admitted to the school.
The boys were taught in four classes from 9am until 12noon, including Saturday. Afternoon school (2 – 4pm) was on Mondays and Thursdays. Most boys went home for dinner but for a few lunch was provided at a house in the village. One of the original school rules was that each boy should wear his school cap at all times when in Handsworth or the immediate neighbourhood. Each year annual examinations were held in July. School fees were charges at ten shillings per quarter for boys under 10, and fifteen shillings per quarter for boys over ten. Boys had to provide their own books and stationery. Some free scholarships were available.
The first school cricket match was played on some open ground in Stamford Road near Heathfield Road against a team from the local area. Both the school bowlers delivered under-arm. The school won its first match.