History and Alumni


From Grammar School to Academy

William Hulme's Grammar School was founded in 1887, named after the 17th century Manchester lawyer and landowner whose financial legacy and charitable foundation provided the necessary money both for the initial land purchase and building work, and also for the long-term future sustainability of the school. William Hulme's legacy also funded the establishment around the same time of the Hulme Grammar School in Oldham and Bury Grammar School, as well as contributing significantly to the development of Manchester University.

The city of Manchester was famously forged by technological revolutions in industrial production during the 19th century (especially in the textile industry), creating huge wealth for some individuals (but dreadful poverty for others), and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs, lawyers, bankers, merchants and traders as well as jobs in factories and mills, which attracted many people to move here from elsewhere in the UK and beyond. This was an era when Manchester's rise was largely driven by private money and private initiatives (rather than through the control of a city council or local authority), including in the field of social progress, where wealthy philanthropists often paid for the building of new public amenities such as schools, hospitals, libraries and art galleries. The new school aimed to meet an increasing demand for high quality education in South Manchester in a period when the economic rise of the city, the expansion of the local rail network and various residential property developments were driving the growth of an aspirational middle class population in suburbs like Whalley Range and Chorlton, which until recently had been mostly fields and farms. William Hulme's Grammar School thus helped to open up access to secondary education for the first time to a wider section of the public, even though parents mostly had to pay for this benefit.

Having originally opened as The Hulme Grammar School with places for around 400 boys, the school has subsequently gone through a number of significant developments. In 1939 the name was formally changed to William Hulme's Grammar School in honour of its principal benefactor. With the establishment of a new national framework for UK schools in 1945 (which provided free but compulsory schooling for the first time to all children aged 5 to 15), WHGS was part-funded by central government until 1975, with this money being used to offer free or assisted places at the school to children from poorer families while the majority of pupils continued to pay fees. From 1976 (when central government ended the provision of funding to most UK grammar schools) until 2006, WHGS was a fully independent and self-financing school which had gradually grown in size to accommodate almost 1000 pupils drawn from a wide catchment area which included most of Greater Manchester. In 1986 girls were admitted for the first time.

In 2007, the school announced plans to become an Academy inside the state education sector (in partnership with the United Learning Trust as main sponsor), abolishing all tuition fees and academic selection. It was the first member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference of top independent schools to opt into the state sector. Plans for substantial building work to modernise and enlarge the school were completed within two years. WHGS has subsequently expanded further by opening both Primary and Preparatory departments in recent years. It is now acknowledged as the most “in demand” school in Manchester, with outstanding facilities and all-round education available to all children aged from 3 to 19.

As the last few decades have seen major social changes in the UK and South Manchester, the school has been able to respond by ensuring that it continues to meet the needs and aspirations of local families and young people. With a vibrant and diverse student community which reflects the contemporary dynamic demographics of the city, it represents a very positive future vision for Manchester where all learners are empowered to achieve and to develop themselves to the maximum of their capability in whatever field they choose, within a culture which emphasises the importance of social progress, community building, and “giving something back” by way of individuals making a positive contribution to society. In a very real sense, every pupil to attend WHGS has been a beneficiary of William Hulme's wisdom and generosity. The school maintains a set of values which encourages all pupils to understand and act on their capacity to benefit others throughout their lives by sharing their talents and skills. In this way WHGS continues to acknowledge and honour William Hulme's original wishes.

Those interested in learning about William Hulme and the school's history in more detail (especially its origins) might wish to read The History of William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester, 1887-1980 by KP Thompson, a former Deputy Headteacher at the school.

Old Hulmeians

The Old Hulmeians Association (OHA) was established in 1913 as a means to support social networking for former pupils and staff, and to provide an ongoing link with the school. A centenary dinner was held in 2013 at The Midland Hotel in Manchester. In the 1920s the OHA purchased land near the school in Whalley Range to be held in memory of those former pupils who had died in World War 1. The OHA Memorial Playing Fields are shared nowadays with Whalley Range Cricket Club, but for many decades were used by generations of Old Hulmeians (OHs) for sporting and social activities, especially lacrosse. The school has produced a long list of England internationals in the sport, as well as sufficient talent to field several successful teams every weekend for many years at every level of the national league system. Old Hulmeians were also instrumental in bringing the 2010 Lacrosse World Cup Finals to Manchester. Nowadays the lacrosse legacy lives on at Brooklands Hulmeians Lacrosse Club, who would be delighted to see more Old Hulmeians turning up to watch a game and socialise on a Saturday afternoon.

Over the years the OHA has provided a way for Hulmeians to come together not only for lacrosse but also rugby, cricket, football, golf, hiking, motor mechanics, wine, dinners, travel, holidays, socialising and professional networking. While social media nowadays enables the school's former pupils to keep in touch with most of their peers with unprecedented ease, the small team of OHA volunteers focuses on seeking to deliver the following:


We aim to publish one newsletter each year, currently in A4 or A5 colour-printed hard copy, although a future move to e-newsletters is under consideration chiefly because of printing and postage costs. The Editor always welcomes proposed content for the newsletter from anyone who was a once a pupil or member of staff, about the past or the present, members' personal memories or current news, stories about schooldays or anything else of interest to readers.

The Editor, Ian Case, would be delighted to publish accounts in the Newsletter from Old Hulmeians about their life at school, university, their hobbies and their work. He can be contacted at: ian.case@medical-focus.com.


We aim to organise an annual reunion dinner for Old Hulmeians, generally alternating each year between Manchester (where dinners are sometimes held at the school) and London.

Management and Sharing of WHGS & OHA Archives

We help to collect and look after an expanding amount of archive material relating to the school and the OHA, and are currently investigating how best to share this material with both alumni and the wider public. Some items are on display in the school, including a book which details all staff acts of corporal punishment during the 1920s (the so-called “beatings book”) and an official record of all notifiable “infectious diseases” affecting individual pupils in the early part of the 20th century. We are also working to make archive items available via the school website, so watch this space! This will eventually include various photo galleries and scans of every page of The Hulmeian magazine from the first issue in 1890 through to the last edition in 1990, although clearly it may take us some time to do this work.

Online Communications & Social Media

In line with our archive work, we help provide content for the school website of potential interest to Old Hulmeians and the wider alumni community, and maintain our own Facebook page where former pupils can chat and share memories.

Connect with the OHA on Facebook

Communications and Links with the School

We maintain close relationships with the school, providing a means for former pupils and staff to stay in touch with recent developments.

Financial Support for School Activities

We provide over £1000 a year in funding to meet the costs of certain school-based activities, to extend the breadth of extra-curricular opportunities and to ensure participation and inclusion of pupils from less wealthy families. Recent examples include CCF centenary activities, music & arts activities, and various items of IT-related equipment.

Careers Mentoring

We are working closely with the school to support the provision of information for current pupils about future careers, study paths and universities by drawing on the school's large alumni community, and hope to develop a personal mentoring scheme soon whereby pupils could be guided through routes into certain careers too.

Support for the School to Build and Engage a Larger Alumni Community

While the OHA has only ever brought together a minority of former WHGS pupils in a subscription fee-based membership association, there is now a strong belief that the school should engage more systematically with ALL those who ever entered its doors once they have left, given the ease with which it is now possible to keep in touch and share information. The building of a new and fully inclusive alumni community will take time but will also increase the ways in which former pupils can both keep in touch and support the school going forward.

Membership of the OHA is open to all former pupils and staff of the school, and costs £15 per year. Member subscriptions are used to fund the above activities. The OHA currently has around 1000 members, of whom around 35% are aged under 40.

Join the Old Hulmeians Association

Old Hulmeians War Memorial 

There is a website dedicated to the memory of the Old Boys of William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester, who served in the two World Wars.

Visit the Old Hulmeians War Memorial Website 

  • Andrew Bennett, Labour MP
  • Kim Booth, Politician
  • Peter Butterworth, Actor
  • Leslie Haden-Guest, 1st Baron Haden-Guest, Doctor and Labour MP
  • James Hickman, Swimmer
  • Andy Hinchcliffe, Footballer
  • Derek Leckenby (1943–1994), Lead Guitarist of Herman's Hermits
  • John Lee, Baron Lee of Trafford, Conservative MP and Liberal Democrat Politician
  • Ivan Lewis, Labour MP
  • Michael Lord, Baron Framlingham, Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and Conservative MP
  • Sir Robert Mark, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
  • Colin Touchin, Conductor, Composer and Music Educator
  • Ashley Ward, Footballer
  • Thomas William Warnes, Gastroentorologist
  • Anthony Powell, Costume Designer (born 2 June 1935; died 18 April 2021)

We would really like to hear from former pupils - please send us your stories, memories, news, photos and videos, which we we can add to the archives and share with the wider alumni community.

Email us with your stories, news and photos, etc.

The War Years at WHGS – 1940-1946 Old Boys’ Association

(by W David Cheadle)

This is one boy’s take on a difficult time in his life, as well as in that of our nation. 

My early years of education were at Oswald Road Elementary School, now a Primary School. Teaching was very basic in every way and I was ill-prepared for life in a Grammar School, not there and not at home.

My early life was characterised by ill-health and I was absent consistently. This had a significant effect on my education as I was quite unable to catch up. There was no chance of me gaining a scholarship to the School, so my father was committed to paying eight guineas a term. Probably because there was a vacancy in the ‘A’ stream of 32 places, I was committed to this further difficulty that these were the brightest and best who would achieve eminence in university and beyond, as well as kudos for the School! One of the Masters, who mostly wore black gowns, told me, in class, that he wondered why I bothered to come to school at all! It was hardly encouraging. In every subject I was always 31 or 32. Cribbing (I was caught once) earned me six strokes of the cane. I learned to better cover my tracks!  

It was made clear that school life should be all-absorbing. Six days were filled; with games on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, with classes on Saturday mornings, whilst Friday night’s homework had to be submitted the next morning. 

The School boasted an Army Cadet Corps and, as I was the only boy in the class who did not join, an inconvenience that was shown on parade afternoons! The shooting range for live ammunition was below the central open area. 

The climax of the fifth-form year was sitting the Northern Universities School Certificate, which required passes in six subjects for which we sat ten. There were those in my class who passed with distinction in all ten, whilst I only managed seven passes at the second attempt. 

All the young Masters had gone to war and those who took their place had been called from retirement. It was a hard call for them and not the best for us. A revolution came with the appointment of a Mistress who taught us French. She was tough and resolute and kept order better than any of the Masters without resorting to the cane. There was a habit with some to turn up late and miss Prayers in the Hall. When we had her, she forced the late-comers to sing the whole of that morning’s hymn solo in front of the class! It worked!  Another Mistress was appointed eventually but she was not a strong character and the boys gave her a hard time! Miss French left us to take the Headship of a large Girls School and I was not surprised. 

Really identical twins always escaped punishment – “Oh, that must have been my brother, Sir!”  

Each year the school put on a performance of one of the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas. This was presented on the stage in the school hall for three evenings and the tickets were always sold out! 

In spite of food rationing, hot school dinners were provided. Six portions were put on each table and served by a fifth-former, one of whom was responsible for reciting the grace in Latin. 

Three sports were played competitively – Cricket, Lacrosse and Rugby.

Approaching the age of eighteen, I ‘graduated’ and went into the Surveying and Valuation Profession. But looking back on those formative years, I am grateful now for all that I was taught and gained, more particularly for those skills beyond the curriculum. 

In the summer of 1966, I returned to the school to value it for insurance purposes. I am penning these notes on my eighty-eighth birthday. Are any of my contemporaries still with us – John MacCormack? Tony Hindle died recently.

WHGS Promotional Video 1993

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