Potternewton Mansion School -
A School & College
While under public ownership, the mansion has mainly been used as an educational facility. Initially a school for disabled children, then an annexe of Park Lane College in Leeds.
A school for children with special needs was opened on 7th November 1904 at Clarendon House in Horsforth. The dedication of Mrs. Robert Hudson, a patron of a Disabled Children’s Aid Charity paved the way for the school to grow to accommodate over 97 special needs children from Leeds by 1910. The school moved to Potternewton Mansion in May 1929.
Within a year of the school opening at Potternewton Mansion, it was equipped with four ground-floor classrooms with a nurse’s surgery and physiotherapist also on the ground floor. To the rear of the Mansion a large wooden hut (the cobbler’s shop), enabled boys with hearing or sight disabilities, together with some of the schools own pupils, to be taught shoe repairing. The first floor of the Mansion was occupied by blind women trainees who also had dormitories on the first floor. The head teacher’s room was located on the first floor.
The years after the war saw developments in many directions. The school simply became Potternewton Mansion School, with no reference to the children’s conditions. In 1946, a severely disabled boy was admitted to the College of Commerce and later graduated from the University of Leeds; and in the same year a former pupil took a seat on the city council. Throughout its history, the schools the aim has been to encourage the children to lead as normal a life as possible and the years since the second world war saw considerable progress. The installation of a lift in September, 1952 meant that pupils were no longer restricted to the ground floor and could take part in all the activities of the school. The school library had also developed and became an integral part of the school life as did a useful handicraft room.
In 1949 a scout boy troop was formed at the school and in November, the first six scouts to pass their Tenderfoot Badge were enrolled by the District Commissioner. The new scout troop head-quarters were donated by Messrs. W. W. Leese Ltd. The scouts helped in digging out foundations concreting and building foundation walls at the Scouts’ Field, Bracken Hill. In 1952 several months were largely spent working on their hut and a new floor, lighting and heating were installed with the aid of money raised by the Parents’ Committee, the boys and generous donations from the Soroptomist Club. The troop became well equipped and efficient. Two of the former Potternewton scouts took out warrants to become Assistant Scout Masters.
Park Lane College was established in 1966, to provide commercial, secretarial and general education. In 1992, the College was incorporated and inherited control of the local education authority’s dispersed, community-based provision. Potternewton Mansion was incorporated into the scheme.
Former Park Lane Students, Karen Skeet and Wesley Grant give an account to the interviewer, Hugh Thompson, of their experience of Park Lane College in the late 1980’s.