Spirit of Birkenhead Institute

The History and Heritage of Birkenhead Institute



This page is intended to include any updates and feedback I have received from former pupils or staff. Also, if anyone wishes to find out more information about a former pupil or staff member, I will add the requests here, and I will endeavour to pass on the information if it is received. Please send requests to the following email:

                                                  [email protected]

Please don't forget to look at the sister site, dedicated to the school magazine "The Visor", where there are many more interesting pictures and articles about the Birkenhead Institute. It can be found at:-


Mr A.E. Townsend

Firstly, if anyone remembers Mr Townsend, (Chemistry), (Either Mr Townsend senior or Mr Towsend junior),  from their days at the B.I., please send your memories to the site as above.                                          

I have an email from a relative who would like any memories or information about Mr Townsend, especially Mr A.E. Townsend, whom I believe left the B.I. around 1963. I do remember Mr Townsend senior very well, as I was in his class for A-Level Chemistry.

Mr E.C. Townsend, (Senior), can be seen on the extreme left below, in this photograph of the Birkenhead Institute's "The Torchbearers".

Dr. Christopher M. Lee

Secondly, if anyone remembers Christopher M. Lee from the Birkenhead Institute, I would be pleased to hear from you. Christopher sadly died in 2002, following a battle with cancer.  Christopher was related to me, as his mother, (Mabel Lee), and my mother, (Olive Elma Price), were cousins.  His father, Francis Norman Lee, was well-known locally as the proprietor of the bespoke Tailors "Hope and Lee" at 88, Grange Road, in Birkenhead. (See picture below). The site of the shop for "Hope and Lee" used to be immediately to the left of where Beattie's Department Store is now. As a child, I often visited the store, which had at least two floors accessed by steep steps. The shop was an up-market gentleman's outfitters, and clients were made to feel very welcome when they came in to the shop.

 A wonderful book has also been published about Elizabeth May Lee, (Pictured above), who was the daughter of John and Margaret Lee, who originally owned the Hope and Lee shop in Grange  Road. It was run as a family business, so that Francis Norman Lee took over the running of the business later on. The family lived in a Victorian Villa which used to stand at the top of Woodchurch Lane in Prenton, called "Wharfedale". The book is pictured below, and is titled "The Diary of Elizabeth Lee".

 Christopher was a pupil of the Birkenhead Institute from 1953 to 1960, and in 1960 he was awarded the prestigious Victor Ludorum. Here is part of an article about him, courtesy of the International Copper Association, U.S.A., where Christopher worked at the time of his death:

"Christopher Lee was born in Birkenhead, England, the son of the late Francis Norman Lee and Mabel Emily Walton Lee. After graduating from the University of London, U.K., with honors in a double major of zoology and botany and a minor in chemistry, he went on to achieve a doctorate in marine science from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. As a senior scientific officer at the Institute for Marine Environmental Research, his accomplishments included sailing as scientist-in-charge aboard National Environmental Research Council research vessels.

   Dr. Christopher Michael Lee

His move to Unilever Research occurred at a time when many first-generation environmental issues were coming to the forefront, and Lee left his mark leading defining research on the environmental effects of detergent surfactants - at the time a high-profile environmental issue. As his responsibilities for worldwide hazard evaluation programs grew at Unilever, Lee operated with the belief that actions are truly meaningful only when they are followed with effective accomplishments, a belief that remained with him and his staff through his career."

I am extremely grateful for the following memories of Christopher, which fellow B.I. pupil Robert Byrne has sent to me:

"Reading through the various pages I  noted that you were seeking information on Christopher M Lee. As a contemporary of Chris ,I was saddened to hear of his passing. We joined BI together and were in the same Form and House, Stitt. Chris was a talented pupil and I recall he was particularly good at Art .  I was pleased (and not in any way surprised) to hear of his career achievements. His other strength was athletics - he was one of those folk to whom it came easily."

WEB SITE :    http://hopeandlee.webs.com/


One of the pupils in my class was Robert Johnson from the Birkenhead Institute from the period 1963 to 1965, who has now contacted me, and many thanks to Robert for providing some great memories of the B.I. and Mr Malcolm's  physics books!

Many thanks to Ben Johnson, (See Visitors' Book), for contacting me and helping to put me in touch with Robert Johnson. Ben and Robert are brothers, and Ben was also a Birkenhead Institute pupil.  Ben has kindly offered to write some memories of his time at the B.I.,  and I hope to add these to the site shortly, along with some interesting photographs of a 6th Form trip to Snowden, which Robert has sent to me.


I have included below some interesting feedback from Janet Edge, whose late father, Edward Noel Edge, attended the Birkenhead Institute from circa 1933 to 1940 :-

" I came across this site yesterday March 25th and I was delighted to see the memories and photos of this old school. My late father Edward Noel Edge attended B I from around 1933 or 1934 (after attending Mersey Park) until 1940 (according to his school certificate) because he went down to Oswestry when most of Birkenhead schools evacuated in 1939 and mentioned this to me when we often dorve through this town. When I looked on his school record a couple of years ago I found out that his father also briefly taught at the school because the appointment was noted down. His name was Frederick Joseph Edge who was a Housecraft teacher, which I think is a posh name for woodwork because he had previously taught at technical schools and the college in Liverpool and Birkenhead. I don't have all the details with me at the moment but I think he entered the school aroounf 1944 but I also think that he had serious health problems towards the end of the war with his heart so he may not have been there for long and he died in 1948.

Edward was known as Ted to the family and I presume friends and he and his sister Marjorie lived with his Uncle George and Aunty Nancy (Rogerson) after their mother died. Another family connection is William Henry Heaps also known as Harry who attended B I between 1929 to 1940 as he was a little bit older than my dad. Unfortunately he also died a few years ago but I wonder if there are ex-pupils from this era who may remember them and the famous Norman Thelwell who attended B I during this period of the 1930's. I also would like to know the exact date of the second lot of pupil photos donated by Mrs Jones because as far as I can tell I cannot see Dad on them but we do not have any photos of him when he was young so it does not help. However if these photos were taken say around 1934 or 1935 he may not be on them because I do not know if it of the whole school. Hope you can help and thanks for creating this site keep updating if you can."

Many thanks to Janet for the above information. Can anyone please provide the information above about the photographs from Joseen Jones, and I shall continue to update the site with information on a regular basis. (Editor).



 Here is a comment from John Riding, and thanks to John for his positive comments about the site. Does anyone know the whereabouts of Mr Phipps, whom, I recall, used to teach French?

" It is great to see that some of the memories are being preserved here. I was only at BI from 1961 to 1963/4 but what a steep learning curve I encountered! I recognise some old mates from the published photos but I wonder if anyone has any from '61 thorugh to '64? The school had some great teachers and without doubt my favourite was Dave Jones....Art was the only subject I excelled in! "Jackie"Phipps was the most feared. His usual line was "Sit down and shut up!"whilst deftly shutting the door with his foot. If you did not bring in your homework or did not write legibly you got the ruler across the hand!!.....does anyone know where Mr Phipps is now?"


Here is a positive comment from Dave Gregory, and many thanks to Dave for letting me know about the pen and ink drawings by Dave Jones. I hope to be able to contact Dave again to find out if he can provide any more interesting items for the site:

" A great site, and a great idea Phil. Well done! Memories flooding back. Some good, some bad. I was at B.I. from 1963 to 1970. That was the final year of Whetstone Lane. I heard nothing at the time, of plans to demolish the old school, and I was devastated when I saw it was no longer there. I thought it would have been a listed building. I'm sure it should have been. I agree totally with previous posters that Dave Jones was , by a distance, the best teacher, acheiving success by way of encouragement rather than punishment. Dave, who still lives in Prenton, did some marvellous pen and ink drawings of the old school, and the playing field entrance, at Ingleborough Road. It might be worth you contacting him for contributions to this site. "


Here is an item from Hal Darlington about Dave Jones, former Art Teacher at the Birkenhead Institute. This is a very accurate and well-deserved comment about Dave Jones, who was an excellent teacher at the B.I. :-

" I remember walking into B.I. for the first time in 1961 with trepidation. It seemed such a large and daunting building after my modern junior school. I would like to say that out of all of the staff I remember Dave Jones (Art teacher) as the best teacher there. He always had good things to say about your work and it was from his love of Art that I still paint and draw."


Dave Forshaw has asked me to mention the School Number, which was given to pupils to put in exercise books, and Mr  Hall would check it was there when a new book was requested. From memory, it was a daunting experience asking for a new exercise book! 
Dave has also asked me to ensure that his years spent at the B.I. are correct, and these are:
                                                              1956 - 1963
I would also like to thank Dave especially for providing me with some excellent B.I. photographs which I have added below, along with some very interesting copies of "The Visor", which I shall include on the site in due course.  Please also see the Pupils page, where I have added some items which Dave has provided.
Please see Dave's comments below:
      "Just revisited the site again to view updates and noticed many more comments about the old school. It obviously has fond memories for those who attended. Just wonder whether you could action the correction below to keep the records straight as it where.
       The number in brackets was my school number, and we had to put this on all our exercise books and in particular to make certain it was there when we went for a new one from Mr Hall (Jerry)."
Here are the items which Dave has provided, starting with the 1964 Programme for Prizes, Certificates and Trophies, and followed by some photographs from the period 1956 - 1963, including one of Form 1B with Mr Hughes. There are also copies of two of Dave's sporting achievement certificates, (See Pupils page),  and a copy of the Programme for the 80th Anniversary Dinner of the B.I. on 15th November, 1969. I also note that the 1964 Prizes and Certificates Programme contains all the words for "Men of England", which I remember rehearsing several times before the night!


Alan Jones, who was a pupil and left the Birkenhead Institute in 1955, has provided me with some fascinating photographs for the school and its pupils and staff from the early 1950s, including a roll-up photograph from the B.I. from 1953.  Many thanks again to Alan for the loan of these photographs, which I am sure will be of great interest to former pupils and staff.


I have a request for information about George Leeming Bird, who was a pupil at the Birkenhead Institute from 1927.

If anoyne remembers him, or knows any more information about his days at the B.I., please contact me via the site email address and I shall pass on the information.