ON THE morning of April 1, 1908, an assembly of 41 girls, ranging from the age of eight to 18 years, were herded into a large three-storey building on the north side of Brook Street, in Basingstoke, to start lessons in their various classes in the new High School for Girls.

Standing near the main entrance was the headmistress, Miss D L Hinton, in her white blouse and black skirt, which was topped with a stiff white collar.

Her straight black hair was pulled back from her forehead in a bun, which gave her the appearance of a strict woman who would not put up with any nonsense.

READ MORE: Scents of history in Basingstoke's Church Square

This school was to provide a secondary education on modern lines, with special attention to domestic subjects and the physical wellbeing of the pupils.

The school was under the inspection of the Board of Education, with a governing body of 12 members, and Mr W C Lefroy, of Goldings Park, the school governor.

It was his claim to fame that he wrote the school song, which was sung at assembly and on other occasions.

The school was placed in this building for a short period while the county council acquired land on the Crossborough Estate, off London Road, for a more suitable type of institute for the education of children.

Basingstoke Gazette: The Girls High School, in Crossborough Hill, Basingstoke, in 1920.The Girls High School, in Crossborough Hill, Basingstoke, in 1920.

Five acres of ground on the east side of Crossborough Hill was bought for £2,000 from a Mrs Simpson in February 1909, where a school was built to hold 160 girls.

It was opened on September 24, 1912, and the Brook Street pupils were transferred to their new premises, while the old school was closed down.

Basingstoke Gazette: The first Basingstoke High School building, Brook House, in Brook.The first Basingstoke High School building, Brook House, in Brook.

The new school cost £7,000 to be built and the equipment inside £1,000.

Over the following years, the amount of pupils increased from 80 to double that figure, so more buildings were erected.

However, these were constructed from wood and were affectionately called the “Black Huts”. They were assembled in 1920, with more being built in 1928.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, it was decided not to hold lessons in the Black Huts because of the danger of fire, so they were used as staff rooms.

This led to a remark from one of the teachers, who wondered “are we less volatile and more blast-proof than our pupils?”.

The only attack on that area by the German bombers was by incendiaries, one of which fell into the headmistress’ room and another in a classroom, where a few books were burned.

More extensions were built in later years, and in 1964, after the Black Huts were pulled down, further buildings were erected.

By this time, Crossborough House, next to the school, had been purchased in 1959 to increase the accommodation of teaching facilities.

The trouble with taking this land for buildings meant less grounds for leisure, so games, such as hockey, were played at the War Memorial Park annexe, at the top of the road.

But there was one almighty problem – when it rained, there was a tremendous amount of mud.

Not only was the road unmade in those post-war days, but coming off the field after a period of running around on rather wet soil meant rather muddy shoes, so the task of getting it off their footwear was not always complete.

The result was mud all over the floors of the school.

Another pleasure of leisure was spoilt by the short stay at the West Ham swimming pool on the other side of town.

The girls were taken by bus, accompanied by their teacher, for a short swim in the water.

If the bus was held up in traffic though, the time was even shorter, so it was usually a quick dip and then, clutching their wet towels, back on the bus to school.

Several years of contributions by pupils and other people led to the construction of a swimming pool on the school’s land.

This was opened in July 1961, on one of the wettest days of that year, with the result that the people watching the ceremony got as wet as those in the pool.

In later years, the construction of a sports hall allowed pupils to enjoy their leisure under cover.

In 1972, the name of the school was changed from Basingstoke High School for Girls to Harriet Costello School, in memory of the headmistress between 1915 and 1935, who died in 1954.

Basingstoke Gazette: The Harriet Costello orchestraThe Harriet Costello orchestra

Also in 1972, the school became a co-educational comprehensive and the first male pupils were accepted into classes.

In 2000, the name became the Costello Technology College, upon the school acquiring a new status.

(The school was converted to academy status on 1 July 2012 and was renamed The Costello School.)

Basingstoke Gazette: The Costello School today.The Costello School today.

School life is mostly associated with lessons but the High School also had other sections of interest, such as the dramatic society, the Girl Guides, a chess club, a literary society and a computer club.

SEE ALSO: Photos from Brighton Hill leavers’ ball in 2005

This long-thriving school has seen several fires destroy its fabric in recent years, but the heart of it is still working strongly and will continue to do so for many more years to come.

This feature was first published on Thursday, July 24, 2008.

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