Ex-scholars and pupils of secondary school Mortimer Wilson and Alfreton Grange Arts College gathered at the new David Nieper Academy to take a stroll down memory lane for the last time before it closes for good.
The original wartime buildings and its many 1960s additions will be demolished as current pupils move into an all new, state-of-the-art David Nieper Academy building.
Alderman Mortimer Wilson first opened a school on the site in 1939, where boys and girls were educated separately. In 1944, it became known as Alfreton Secondary Modern School, later Mortimer Wilson School and then in 2008 Alfreton Grange Arts College. In September 2016, the school started a new chapter opening as David Nieper Academy.
This school which has played an important role in Alfreton’s community since before the Second World War, is being replaced by a new £15 million David Nieper Academy building opening in February this year, and has become the first school in Derbyshire and one of the first in Britain to be sponsored by a private, local family business.
David Nieper Academy, headteacher Kathryn Hobbs said: “We were thrilled to have so much interest in our final assembly. It was fascinating for us to hear our visitors swapping stories and reliving their school memories as they walked along the corridors of the old building. Our students who had volunteered to help as tour guides on Saturday were agog when they heard that the stories from former pupils about air raid shelters and that the girls and boys used to be segregated, I think everyone learned something.”
Beryl Hallam, an Alfreton lady who attended the school between 1952 and 1956, recalled her first two years of her education when the boys and girls were taught separately. Once the schools merged she was one of the first girls to be allowed to do woodwork and metal work.
Beryl said: “The education I received here has stood me in good stead, the encouragement from my teachers has always stayed with me – I have done my A-levels, NVQs since leaving school and today at 76 I am in the University of the Third Age and loving it – you are never too old to learn new things!”
Two local Alfreton men, and life-long school friends Graham Cox and Derek Liddle, visited the school together and recalled their first day. The two also shared their memories of attending school during the war years and having been delighted to miss class when the air raid sirens sounded.
Christopher Nieper, chairman of trustees and founder of the David Nieper Education Trust, added: “This was a wonderful day, filled with memories. We had the privilege of welcoming students from eight decades all gathered together sharing their stories and eagerly tasting hot school puddings once again!
“This school has always been at the very heart of the Alfreton community and in many families multiple generations have attended. This event has shown what an important part of the community the school will always be and how fondly school years are remembered.
“We were delighted by the tremendous enthusiasm and support we received from the community, and are committed to making the school even better for Alfreton’s future generations.”