Spirit of Birkenhead Institute

The History and Heritage of Birkenhead Institute


This page contains contributions and information from former pupils of the B.I., and if you have any items to include, please email them to me at:


                                            [email protected]


Here is an interesting article from Alan Ovenden about an eminent B.I. Old Boy : 




I can find no mention on your site of an eminent Birkenhead Institute old boy, namely A.J. Shakeshaft. I have been researching the 2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia during World War One. A.J. Shakeshaft was a captain in the battalion, and wrote perhaps the most important personal account of the campaign. His transcribed diary is held in the National Archives at Kew.




I have used his diary entries as inspiration for an account of the campaign which culminated in the British capitulation at Kut al Amara on 29th April 1916, following the longest siege in British military history. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of his meticulous record keeping, and I have for the first time on the internet quoted him at length. His daily account helped inform the Mesopotamia Commission report of 1917 which castigated much of the political and military command of one of the greatest, and often overlooked, disasters of the First World War.




If this is of interest to you please consult the Norfolk in World War One blog. The Mesopotamia campaign posts can be found using this tagged url: https://norfolkinworldwar1.org/tag/mesopotamia/




There will be another posting in July as AJS and his commanding office, F.C. Lodge, track the appalling march of the British and Indian force into Turkish captivity, from which few survived. 




AJS was at the B.I. at the same time as Wilfred Owen, although some years different in age - AJS was older - and the short biography posted on March 23, 2016 gives a little more detail of AJS's life. He was a much admired soldier of the Norfolk Regiment and a worthy alumnus of the Birkenhead Institute.







Alan Ovenden


Many thanks to Alan for providing this insight into AJS, who was at the B.I. at the same time as Wilfred Owen. 





Here is an interesting article from Robert Wood about the Ingleborough Road Playing Fields:




The following information is contained within the following publications:


§        School Jubilee 1889-1939

§        A History of Birkenhead Institute 1889-1949

§        Birkenhead Institute Its Foundation and Growth.

§        A History of Birkenhead Institute 1898-1959


A plaque in remembrance of the Old Boys killed in the First World War was presented by Alderman Solly, and unveiled in March 1920 by Major- General Sir Reginald Barnes K.C.B.


In 1925 seven acres were purchased at Ingleborough Road for the Birkenhead Institute playing fields.

Previously the School had played its games in many places  firstly in Wilmer Road. The Old Archery Ground in Birkenhead Park , Port Sunlight, Prenton (where Carlaw Road now stands) Higher Bebington (on the site of The Wiend)

The field was levelled and sown and all that was needed was a pavilion, a want that was to be supplied by the Old Boys? in 1926 , for it was decided that this would be  a fitting Memorial to the Old Boys? who had fallen in the First World War.

At this time there was a great movement nationally by the civil populace to remember the victims of the First World War.


A committee was formed, and a Playing Field Fund established

Various fund raising activities were then undertaken to raise money. These varied from drama presentations to a bazaar.

There were no lottery grants or object one ?quango? funding in those days.

Through the generosity of the Old Boys and the hard work of the Staff the foundation memorial stone was laid by Alderman G Solly on the 17th April 1926 and formally opened on 6th November 1926 by the Mayor of Birkenhead Mr R.P.Fletcher who accepted it on behalf of the Corporation. just in time for Armistice Day.


Mr F Seward in asking the Mayor to accept the Pavilion on behalf of the Corporation , said he felt sure that the boys who laid down their lives would have wished the Memorial to take the form of a sports pavilion and playing fields.

The fields were known as ?The Mount Road Memorial Ground Ingleborough Road.?

The Architect was a Mr Thomas Taliesin Rees who gave his services free.

The ceremony was followed by a football match between the Old Boys? F.C. and Old Holts.

The flag staff was erected in 1930


The eighty eight poplar trees to honour those pupils who lost their lives in the First World War including the world renowned poet Wilfred Owen were planted in 1933 .


A film was made of the event and shown to an audience of parents, friends and Old Boys to raise further money for the Playing Field Fund,

to enable the ornamental entrance archway to be added in 1933, again through the generosity of Old Boys.


The remaining funds were used to set up the Old Boys Memorial Prize awarded every Speech Day.


In 1938 a bell was donated by Mr & Mrs Luton in honour of their son, and a bracket to hang it,  by R.N. Smith.


The playing fields were used by the school and in their early days by the Old Instonians Rugby Club.


From its history the site is rightly listed with the Imperial War Museum as a First World War Memorial along with the eighty eight poplar trees planted on the boundary to honour the former pupils from the Birkenhead Institute who died in the First World War.


After the closure of the School, the playing fields were acquired from Wirral Borough Council  by Tranmere Rovers FC on 30th August 1995  in exchange for some industrial land in Hurrell Road, Bidston, plus a  sum of £25000.00.

When Tranmere Rovers acquired the playing fields they fully undertook to accept the covenants imposed in the Deed of Exchange of 30th August 1995 which amongst other things protected the status of the Memorial Ground as a playing field and the interests of the Residents of The Tranmere Hall Estate.


The memorial gates were removed by Tranmere Rovers in 2001 and have not been replaced.


Tranmere Rovers are in discussions with Wirral B C to see if they can obtain planning permission and sell the site for housing.


In the last published accounts for Tranmere Rovers, the Clubs debt of £5.2 million has been converted into a mortgage against Ingleborough Road Playing Fields on behalf of the owner of the Club.





Darrell was a pupil of the B.I. from 1984 to 1989, and has written to the site, (See below). If anyone has any memorabilia for this period, please contact me and I can add it to the site. Many thanks to Darrell for his positive comments and his offer to help. Any information about the B.I. is welcome!

"I am currently a PE teacher at Rock Ferry high school, enjoying great successs, dominating the Wirral, Merseyside and England the football teams. This should have been the Birkenhead Institute pupils. I attended the school from Sept 1984- June 1989. I went into a teachers degree with the vision of returning to the school to teach. unfortunately that was not to be. I am saddened with the lack of B.I data from the 1980/90's, that is available. I would be prepared to aid you in anyway to try to retrieve any information or memoribilia as I feel it should shared and not forgotten. I would be really interested in promoting a more informal re-union on a large scale which would be a good start point to build information for your site."




Here is some information kindly sent in by Joseen Jones, whose husband, Edward Aled Jones, was a pupil at the B.I. Joseen's photographs to which she refers below are two "Roll-up" photographs from the B.I. around the period 1931/1932: 

"My husband's name was Edward Aled Jones.   I have another photo of him at Rock Ferry Convent dated 1930 when he would have been about six.   I know he went to BI when he was about seven and in the photo which is labelled Birkenhead Institute he is 13th from the right among the little boys in the front row.   There is no date on the photo, but this must have been around 1931/32.   In the other photo, which has no identifying caption, but the Headmaster is unmistakable (!), he is 15th from the right in the second row from the front among the boys sitting with their arms folded.   He is obviously several years older and looks completely different.   He served in WW11 as a glider pilot and after the war joined Prices, Bromborough.   He became their Export Sales Manager and his job meant he travelled all
over the world.   We spent 4 years in South Africa with another Unilever company, and he died in 1996 aged 72."


Please see below some information about former pupils Lord Cohen and Tim Cooke from Professor Alan Elliott, a former pupil of the B.I., who was in the year above me at Birkenhead Institute:

"You might want to add a note about a  man who may have a claim on
being the 2nd most famous ex-pupil. Henry Cohen was the most brilliant
undergraduate in medicine at Liverpool and went on to become professor
of medicine and then Lord Cohen of Birkenhead.

In a similar vein, one of my contemporaries, Tim Cooke, was destined
for similar greatness but was sadly killed last year in a car crash. I
have attached an obituary of him that was published in the BMJ."

Editor: As space restrictions will not permit me to add these here,  please see a link to Lord Cohen's obituary, and also a copy of the Tim Cooke obituary, which are shown on my B.I. pupils' web site,  within the "Your Memories" page:-



I would like to thank Dave especially for providing me with some excellent B.I. items, (Including a BIOB tie and Dave's sport certificates),  and other photographs which I have added below, (See also the Updates page), along with some very interesting copies of "The Visor", which I shall include on the site in due course.
Dave has also asked me to ensure that his years spent at the B.I. are correct, and these are:
                                                              1956 - 1963


Dave Forshaw has kindly let me borrow and make some copies of this Millennium Tea Towel from 2000, with some fascinating drawings from Mr D. S. W. Jones and some pictures from the history of Birkenhead Institute. These include the school playing fields entrance, the corridor at Whetstone Lane, and the "new" building in Tollemache Road.  Here are some of the drawings from the towel:


Gordon Hodgson who was a pupil of the B.I. in the 1940s has very kindly donated some interesting items from his days at the school, including some copies of "The Visor". I hope to add these to the site shortly. I would like to thank Gordon for these items, which are invaluable and provide more information on the B.I. in the post-war years.


Former pupil of Birkenhead Institute, Stephen Abbott, has sent to me some interesting extracts from a Visor from 1967. These are included on my dedicated Visor web site, which can be found at:


 Many thanks to Stephen for providing these, which are of particular interest to me as it was the year I left the Birkenhead Institute.



Here is an interesting letter from John Baker, former pupil of the Birkenhead Institute. Many thanks to John for all your positive comments, and I was pleased that you like the site. I was especially interested to see that Mr D.S.W. Jones was a classmate of yours, and also I was interested in the nicknames for some of the teachers, especially "The Klon". I was unaware of how these names came into being, so many thanks for the information. John has also sent to me the complete roll-up photographs from the school from 1943 and 1946. These can be seen in the "Early Days" page, and also in the B.I. Visor website, at:


 Here is John's letter:

"Not sure where your message has been but I just recently found it in my mailbox. I've since spent several hours on your BI website, thoroughly enjoyed it and wish to congratulate you on your end result which must have taken many hours of tedious work.
Many memories were rekindled when I saw some of your references. For instance DSW Jones was my classmate and close friend. Dave always excelled in 'Art & Architecture" which was taught for a while by Miss Hetty Rosenbloom. In those days L Malcom was head prefect prior to going on to university.
I noticed you did not include any of the names we used when refering to a teacher.
Wynne-Hughes, known as "The Klon" short for "Klondike" because of the gold fillings in his teeth. "Ted" Thacker was our maths and German teacher. "Bummy" Jones taught chemistry, "Johny" Paris taught English literature etc. I'm sure you can recall several more from your time in school.
On the sports scene I noted reference to rugger and cricket but no mention of swimming, a sport close to my heart. In fact on sports day when taking the bus up to the field, at risk of being put in Wednesday afternoon "detention" I would stay on the bus to Byrne Avenue baths. BI used to have an annual swimming gala which was reintroduced in 1946 after the war had ended. The first postwar gala took place at Byrne Avenue and I was fortunate enough to win the Senior Diving championship, the Backstroke championship and led the Freestyle relay to victory on behalf of Westminster house. I stiil have the medals awarded and can send photos of same if you wish to include them in your website memorabilia.
I also have a couple of long roll school photos which I did submit to Friends United website but they are not the best due to the physical size. If you're interested I would be willing to send them in sections for you to include them in your site. An interesting feature in one photo is the brown paper stripping glued on all the windows as a precaution against flying glass in the event of a Nazi bomb coming close. Let me know if you're interested. "


Here is an article from Stephen Saunders, about an excellent teacher at Birkenhead Institute,  Mr L.T. Malcolm:-

Stephen Saunders,  Pupil from 1979-1982

"Most memorable teacher has got to be Mr Malcolm who I owe my current career and good quality of life to. I remember every bit of Physics you ever taught me and went on to get a physics degree. I am now one of HM Nuclear health & Safety Inspectors and regulate the UK nuclear industry. Not bad for someone who you considered lazy and not fulfilling his potential.

I still live on the Wirral and my parents still live a couple of hundred metres from the Tollemache Road site.

My memories:-

Having moved down from a school in Scotland as a 14 year old I was taken to meet the deputy head one Mr Malcolm. I was met by this towering figure in a black gown and grey slick backed hair. (Apologies but you reminded me of the keyboard player from SPARKS).

The conversation went something like this.

so you want to do physics ?

er yes Sir.

What is Newtons 1st Law ?

I nervously responded. Was this a test I had to pass to come to the school or at least do physics

Good. What is his 2nd Law ?

Again I answered.

Now what is his 3rd Law ?

I was now getting cocky and he knew it.

Right then what is Archimede's Principle ?

I had to concede defeat.

Well I'll soon make sure you remember it.

I then had three years of Physics with Mr Malcolm where he pushed me and cajoled me into doing my best, but he knew I could do better and he wasn't shy of letting me know that. He even threw me out of his class for yawning having warned me first.

One of his favourite lines I've never forgotton resulted from his critism of crossword clues:-

"Stress is the cause of strain, they are not the same"

It is a pity that all teachers are not like he was, maybe kids would behave better, respect authority and learn more. I wish I could thank you in person as you certainly had a beneficial influence on me."

Many Thanks for your perserverence.

Stephen Saunders


Here is an article with some memories from Jim Giddins:-

 "Hi, Good to see that the old school is being kept alive..I attended BI from 1975-81 at Tollemache Road. I have some great memories of the now housing estate!.
The teachers I remember had some great personalities, I remember 'Nogger' and his famous slipper in the latin classes. I still remember amo, amas, amat etc..even though I dropped the class!!! Dave Jones and KD - Keith Davis the famous Art duo. We had some great times in the 6th form Art rooms and also Mrs Davis, great teachers who directed myself along the creative path. The metal work teacher, Platty, who got me through my A level metalwork, I still remember the smell of the drilling machine and the blow torches! I still have my beaten copper bowls and etched Rush logo! I am sure I remember he used to bring an old Classic bike in or was fixing one!! Who remember's the sport teachers Jock and Balco, Crocker, and the Welsh teacher whoes name I can't remember, sorry if you read this. I believe Balco passed on a few years back, loved his Rugby at the Instonians. Do you remember Steve WIlko - who terrorised anybody who took Geography and who you could hear, half way across Bidston Hill when you got on his wrong side. I have good memories of him on a Swiss school coach holiday and Pat. Both helped save the life of student, who had had passed out! Do you know who you are! That still sticks in my mind after all these years. I didn't/couldn't participate in any sport until later on I my time at BI for medical reasons!. Played for Wirral county and remember Jock setting up a Liverpool scout to come and see me play! had a nightmare of game and bang went my chance to play with Keegan and Toshack!
The lads I remember I still see..Steve Chan..Tim Mallion, Peter Shil, Kevin and Darren Nixon. Names I will add names to jog your memories - Barry Dixon - Dicko, Billy Bailes, Mark Lilford, Dave Chappel, Lucas, Mark - Chimp, Peter Kolorkortronie - Great rugby player, Glen and Geoff Sutton, Galloway - great footie player as was Phil Nugent..! There is many more faces of teachers as well as friends made, swirling round in my head, that I can't put a name to, I apologies now, but they have embedded themselves in my memory for the reason, that they played a part in my early years.
I hope this is read and it brings back some memories of your own.
Again many thanks to all who galvanised my early years."



Here are some good memories of the B.I.,  courtesy of Dave Lee:-

 Dave Lee : 1945 - 1950 [Tate]:-

Your site has brought fond memories.
The teachers - 'Biddy' Harris-Dept Head
'Spider ' Webb - French / German
'Tiger' Lewis - Rugby
'Bertie' Bloor -Maths
'Froggy' Allen- Form Master
'Jake' Allison- Geography
'Bummey' Jones- Chemistry
'Dickey' Richards - Physics
'Jerry' Hall - English
Happy Days
I have two old boys ties one with visors and one without visors both from about 1950


Here is an excellent article from former pupil BEN JOHNSON, about football and the B.I. :-


BI Memories: Foottee in The Yard


If you were to ask the world’s leading scientists to organise a group of over 100 boys, age from 11 to 18, to play five football matches in parallel in a restricted space, with no demarcation of where the pitches stopped and started, no shirts to show who was playing in what team, no officials to maintain the rules, and groups of non-players scattered around in the same space then I’m sure they would quickly turn to simpler tasks, like developing sustainable supplies of energy. Yet if you just let the boys organise themselves then it all worked perfectly. It’s a bit like running downstairs, if you try to think about what you are doing at the time then disaster will ensue, but if you just run you’ll get down quickly and safely.


Being on Merseyside meant that football was a passion for most of us and that before school began and during the breaks we played foottee in the yard. In the earlier years, yard football was played during the autumn and winter terms, and some cricket in the summer term, but as time went on it was football all year round.


The school yard was slightly longer than the length of the school building, since there was a passage at the eastern end, and, from memory, the yard was about 40 yards wide at the widest point. There was a slight slope from the school building down towards Hollybank Road and on the other side of the road was a row of terraced houses. Those dwelling within must have wished foottee in the yard never existed because, in spite of the additional fencing placed above the normal school railings, the balls frequently landed in their gardens. On one memorable occasion, from nearly everyone’s point of view, a coffin was being respectfully carried out from one of the houses in Hollybank Road when a miscued shot flew over the fencing and bounced off it. The wayward kicker rushed out to recover the ball with no more remorse than if it had bounced off a gatepost, much to the collective horror of those accompanying the deceased…life goes on, and so must the foottee!


Taking a coffin-eye-view (let’s call it that) of the BI yard, the First years’ “pitch” was across on the left-hand side. They had the first opening into the “bikeys” for the goal at the top and the corresponding space between the railing stanchions at the bottom, a width of no more than 10 yards.  The next opening of the bike sheds was the upper goal of the Second years’ “pitch”, the Third years’ being further along. The upper goal of the Fourth years’ was the concrete slab in front of the toilets. These four “pitches” took up about half the overall space in the yard; the rest of the space, all of the right hand side of the yard from the toilets over to the wall, was for the outrageously over-privileged 5th and 6th years.


If we were lucky someone had a decent ball to play with, otherwise we made do with a tennis ball. The balls were all provided by the boys, who would be eagerly awaited at the start of the day. Since everyone knew who was in their own year it was obvious to each “team” who they were playing with and who they were playing against. The matches all ran in parallel, each one ignoring the existence of the others. There were frequent bumps, but remarkably few injuries. Everyone respected the rules, there were free kicks awarded, even penalties, without any intervention by a ref. For the duration of the match, blazers were hung on the railings, often to mark the goal posts. Shoes took a terrible beating. Boys coming along and joining a match in progress, for example after second serving, would ask “Up or Down”, meaning “Which team should I join, the one kicking up the yard, towards the school, or the one kicking down?”. Players were added according to which team was winning at the time they came along, there were no fixed teams, in the morning you’d be in the same team as your best mate, at lunchtime you’d be opponents.


If you asked any of the BI teachers “What do the boys learn in this school?”, I’d bet a large sum that not one of them would have said “They learn to organise themselves to spend about 2 hours a day playing football, even though the official school sport is rugby.” But that is what we did, and we did it very effectively: no teachers, no funding, no refs. We did leave a little time for other subjects, though, but without the yard foottee, we’d have had far too much energy to concentrate on any of them.


Ben Johnson, Aug 9th 2009.


For more of your memories and photographs, please go to the following site via this link:-



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