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Hilden School 1912 Photograph

Researching the story of Hilden School

In a previous blog, I mentioned that I had been avidly reading books and articles that mentioned Hilden, and in particular Hilden School. I have now moved on to examining old newspapers for information about the school and surrounding area.

Old newspapers are a wonderful source of information though searching for articles can be a slow process. It can involve repeat visits to archives, carefully opening bound volumes of old and often fragile newspapers and glancing at them, page by page, in the hope that a word or picture about the topic being studied will catch the eye.

However, fortunately, today many are available online and you simply enter one of more search words, adding if you like a particular year and maybe the name of a particular newspaper, and press ‘Search’. Within seconds you have results! So, how are online newspaper searches helping to uncover the heritage of Hilden?


Old newspapers offer some tantalising glimpses into the story of Hilden. For example, in January 1878 the Belfast Weekly News reported that Mrs Barbour had provided Christmas entertainment for the children of Hilden School, which at this time was based at a building in the mill complex. The article went on to explain that 160 children had undertaken an examination and that ‘their general proficiency was found most credible, more especially as most of the pupils are half-timers.’

Half-timers were children who worked part time in mills and part time in school. The idea of children only attending school on alternate days and working long hours in a mill full of dangerous machinery seems unbelievable to us now. However, this was the reality of life for many youngsters in Hilden up until the 1920s.

The new school

The school building on Bridge Street in Hilden dates from 1912, and when the opening ceremony took place in October of this year, the event was covered in the local papers. The Lisburn Standard had an extensive article entitled ‘A work worthy of the Barbour family.’ In addition to reporting the speeches, some interesting facts were given about the building.

The school had six classrooms, each described as being ‘large and airy’ and having ‘ample space for 50 pupils’. Two sets of classrooms had folding partitions to enable four rooms to be formed into two large spaces. The playgrounds were spacious and gravelled, ‘the boys and girls being separated by a dividing wall.’

The report of the opening also mentioned some features of the new school building that must have been seen as novel and innovative. For example, there was a domestic economy room for cooking and science, the building was heated by radiators and pipes, and an electric bell outside the building could be rung automatically at any time.

In addition to these and other snippets of information, we are fortunate to also have two wonderful photographs of the children and their teachers in front of the building, taken in 1912, the year the new school opened in Bridge Street, Hilden.

Can you help us uncover heritage?

This is a legacy project which means we want future generations to have access to images and stories of Hilden School. These need to come from the local community.  If you have any old photographs, school reports or documents about the school, we would love to hear from you! Please join us in helping to make Hilden School thrive again.

Ben Simon, Heritage Development Officer

028 9244 7671

HLF Shared History Fund
Hilden School 1912 Photograph
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