Thornes House was a fine Georgian mansion built in 1779-1782 for the James Milnes family by Horbury architect James Carr.
It was arguably the most imposing 18thC building in the city. It was one of only 27 buildings in the British Isles to be included in the 1802 edition of "Vitruvius Brittanica" a regular survey of the world's most important buildings by one George Richardson published 1802-1808.
In 1919 the estate was put up for sale & bought by the Corporation for £18,500. The plans were to use 20 acres and the House for a school and use the remaining 92 acres to build an estate of 750 council houses. The Corporation badly needed the houses and it also needed the work for the considerable numbers of local unemployed.
The Housing Commision, however, would not approve the project so it eventually opened as a park on 2 August 1924. The houses were built at Lupset later. Work was found for some of the unemployed who were used to make the paddling pool, tennis courts & pathway at the Horbury Road end of the park.
Meanwhile, the school was founded in 1921 as separate boys & girls secondary schools which made use of Wakefield Technical College for the first year. The schools then moved to the Thornes House site in 1922.
In 1941 the two schools were united under one headmaster and in 1944 the school became a Grammar School under the new Education Act.
An old pupil recalls "In one sense, because of the distance from home and a site in the centre of a very large park of 112 acres - ten to fifteen minutes walk up either drive - one felt one walked daily into a different world."
The school motto was "In Fellowship", the school song was "O Brother Man", and the colours were blue & gold.
Most of the original house was destroyed by a fire in 1951 thanks possibly to the Wakefield Amateur Theatre Guild which was storing costumes for their Thornes Park production of Midsummer Night's Dream in a room in the school which was the seat of the fire according to the official report. A dropped fag end among the costumes was given as a likely cause. But the present new buildings were soon constructed & came into use in 1956.
Later changes resulted in the school becoming, first, bi-lateral (grammar & technical) & then fully comprehensive in 1972 changing its name to Thornes House High School. It lost its sixth form in 1981 to a Sixth Form College. In 1992 it was proposed to merge it with the Cathedral Middle School to form a Church High School on the Thornes Road site of the former.
The Thornes House site then became part of the Wakefield College which includes the Wakefield Arts Centre. The Wakefield Athletic Centre is built on what used to be the football field & school sports ground.
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