The History of Henshaws College

As we approach our 50th anniversary, we’ve delved into the archives to find out a bit more about the history of Henshaws College.

The grand opening

The college was formally opened by the Duchess of Kent on the 23rd November 1971. A newspaper clipping from the Harrogate Advertiser which was published about the event tells us how the school for the blind had been opened in Harrogate to accommodate pupils moving across from previous buildings in Manchester. The Duchess reportedly commented that “She was sure Yorkshire people would take the school to their hearts”.

To mark the opening of the school, the Duchess unveiled a plaque which is still in our college reception today. She was then taken on a tour of the school where she first visited the kitchens followed by the music room where a 16-strong school band gave a special performance from Handel’s Royal Firework Music. Following that, she looked round one of the residential houses before signing the visitor’s book in the library.

Student life 50 years ago

The article from the Harrogate Advertiser mentions how “There is a special emphasis at the school on homecraft subjects and boys as well as girls learn household management. During school days at Henshaws every pupil builds up a file of well-tried and liked recipes so, on leaving school, each boy and girl has a personalised recipe book in braille.”

Articles list, informing students what they needed to bring with them to college

Residential students stayed in one of four buildings with each bedroom being equipped with a single bed, wardrobe, locker, table and chair. When first joining the college, students were provided with a very detailed list of what they needed to bring with them, which included two bonnets for women and girls, and six handkerchiefs for men and boys.

Old images of the college grounds

How does it compare to present day?

There is a lot that has changed over the 50 years. For one, we now welcome students with a broad range of special educational needs and disabilities. And our staff teams have certainly grown. Although technology has moved on so much, it’s clear that the college has been striving for new solutions to help its students from the very beginning. Reportedly, at the time of the grand opening staff member Mrs Audrey Joyce had invented new weighing scales to be used in the kitchen where a bell or buzzer would sound when the correct weight was reached.

The ambition of the college that was described 50 years ago is not all that different to today, as the Duchess of Kent is quoted saying “Your ultimate aim is to give these children a degree of proficiency which will enable them to accept the further education or training they will require to take their place in the world as useful and happy citizens.”

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