One of Denton's greatest benefactors was the Scott family. The Reverend Lawrence Scott (21 June 1844 - 25 November 1930) was the Minister at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel from 1879 until his death in 1930. Lawrence Scott was born at Brighton, Sussex, and he was the son of Russell Scott (3 Feb 1801 - 18 Apr 1880) and Isabella Civil Scott nee Prestwich (7 July 1813 - 23 August 1894). Lawrence married his wife, Mary Banks, in London on the 29 January 1889. Another son was Charles Prestwich Scott MA Oxon (November 1846 - 1 January 1932), who was born at Bath, Somerset, and he was the Editor of the Manchester Guardian newspaper from 1872 until 1929 and its Proprietor from 1907.
Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel opened on the 24 May 1879 and the Reverend Lawrence Scott was the Minister there for 51 years. Shortly after her husband's death, Isabella Civil Scott was attending a service at the chapel, being given by her son, when she realised that there was a need for a Day School as well as a Sunday School. Consequently, she built the Russell Scott Memorial School in memory of her husband. The foundation stone was laid on the 3 September 1881 by Miss Isabella Scott, Lawrence's sister, of Norcliffe Hall, Styal, Cheshire, and its building was funded by Isabella Civil Scott and Lawrence Scott and certain of his friends. A time capsule was placed in a special cavity in the foundation stone, which contained copies of local newspapers, the Manchester Guardian of the preceding Saturday's date, a number of current coins, a programme and poster of the day's proceedings, a list of teachers, scholars and officers of the Sunday School, a list of Congregation members, officers and Minister of the Chapel and a history of the Unitarian Movement in Denton. The school opened on the 22 July 1882 by Richard Peacock JP of Gorton Hall and partner in Beyer Peacock, steam locomotive manufacturers of Gorton, and it was stipulated that it was to be strictly undenominational, in spite of its close connection with the adjoining Unitarian Chapel. In 1883 Isabella Civil Scott provided new playgrounds by the school and over the next 20 years the Scott family augmented the school's annual income. Besides taking a great interest in the welfare of the pupils, she also provided a cottage at Woodford for the rest and recreation of teachers and later another one at the seaside.
The first headmaster was William Willis, who held this post until 1924. He was known to generations of pupils as 'Bangy' Willis because he was a stern disciplinarian enforced by his prowess with the cane. When Mr Willis was appointed as headmaster in the latter part of 1881, classes were held in the chapel and there were 44 children and one teacher and when he retired in 1924 the school had grown to 515 children and eight teachers. Qualified assistants supplemented the certificated teachers.
William Willis was born at Liverpool in 1861 and he married Anne Maria Lightfoot at Bakewell in 1888. The couple had three children all born at Denton, Frederick William (b. 1890), Florence Mary (b. 1892) and Russell (b. 1894) who was named after Russell Scott.
His sister, Ada Mary Willis, became a pupil teacher at the new school at the age of 14 years and by 1901 she was an assistant teacher there. His son, Second Lieutenant Russell Willis of the 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment was killed in action in France on the 25 October 1914, aged 19 years. He is buried at the Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, France (X.G.3.). Although Russel was born at Denton his home address at the time was given as Dawlish Road, Wallasey, Cheshire. He is commemorated on Denton War Memorial and on the Roll of Honour at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel.
The second longest serving headmaster at the school is Sidney Pitt who was appointed when William Willis retired in 1924. Sidney (aka Sydney) Pitt was born at Mottram in Longdendale on the 4 May 1893 to William Pitt and Jane Garnett who were married at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1885. He married Alice Turner (b. 23 August 1895) at St Lawrence’s Church, Denton, in 1923.
On the 17 July 1886, the Scott family opened a hall opposite to the day school, known as the People's Hall. They had recognised that there was a need in Denton for a public meeting place and decided to do something about it. There were rooms behind the platform that were equipped for the teaching of cookery and the school used the hall as a gymnasium and for drill. Because of this, it was sometimes known as the Drill Hall but more affectionately it was referred to as 'Th' Owd Barn'. Besides the new hall, recreation facilities and lawn tennis courts were also provided on adjacent ground.
Richard Peacock of Gorton Hall performed the opening ceremony in the presence of the Scott family and other dignitaries. Sir Henry Roscoe, the Manchester MP and eminent scientist was to attend but he was called away to London on urgent business. He sent his congratulations and offered to give one or more science lectures should they be needed.
The school and People's Hall were built opposite to each other on Dudley Street, which continued on the other side of Wilton Street where houses had been built. In circa 1920 the half of the street that contained the school and hall was renamed Prestwich Street in honour of Isabella Civil Scott nee Prestwich.
Russell Scott Memorial School closed in 1981 and it was demolished shortly afterward. The original school bell was saved and it is now at the new Russell Scott Memorial School.
The Scott family also had a home at Criccieth in North Wales and Maggie Anne Edwards of nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog moved to Denton to become the companion of Lawrence Scott's wife, Mary Banks. Maggie subsequently married Fred Kenworthy and she ran the shop, a general store, at 60 Wilton Street, which was on the corner of Queen Street. Fred was a lay preacher at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel for many years as well as being its treasurer.
|Russell Scott, in whose memory the Russell Scott Memorial School was built on Prestwich Street, Denton.||Isabella Civil Scott nee Prestwich, wife of Russell Scott, whose idea it was to build the Russell Scott Memorial School in memory of her late husband. She also helped to fund both the school and the People's Hall, which was built opposite to it.|
|The Reverend Lawrence Scott, Denton benefactor, and the Minister at Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel from 1879 until 1930. He died on the 25 November 1930, aged 86 years, and his wife, Mary Banks, died on the 4 March 1931, aged 76 years.||The last known photograph of the Reverend Lawrence Scott taken shortly before his death.|
|Russell Scott Memorial School, Prestwich Street, Denton, 7 May 1978.||The foundation stone for Russell Scott Memorial School, 7 May 1978.
The stone was located to the right of the school entrance on Prestwich Street. It shows that it was laid on the 3 September 1881 and 'IS' is the monogram of Isabella Scott.
|The memorial stone to Russell Scott over the school entrance on Prestwich Street, 7 May 1978.
IN REMEMBRANCE OF RUSSELL SCOTT
AND FOR THE FURTHERANCE OF EDUCATION
IN THIS TOWN. BUILT 1882.
|Norcliffe Hall, Styal, Cheshire, where Isabella Scott was living at the time that she laid the foundation stone of Russell Scott Memorial School.
Norcliffe Hall was built by the Greg family and it was the home of Robert Hyde Greg.
|Peel House, Peel Street, Denton, the former home of the Reverend Lawrence Scott and his family, 7 May 1978.
The house is seen here shortly before it was demolished to make way for the M67 motorway.
|The rear of Peel House, 7 May, 1978.|
|William 'Bangy' Willis, the first headmaster at Russell Scott Memorial School.
He was assisted by Mr 'Greeny' Greenhalgh and other known teachers at the time were Mrs Fidler, Miss Humphries, Miss Mary Mathieson, Miss Wharton and Miss Winterburn.
|Sidney Pitt, the second headmaster at Russell Scott Memorial School.|
|Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel, on the corner of Wilton Street and Prestwich Street, 25 May 1999.
The low building on the right is the Scott Memorial Hall.
|Wilton Street, 25 May 1999.
On the right, Wilton Street Unitarian Chapel, Prestwich Street, Wilde & Booth (Hat Manufacturers), and Denton Club Ltd, 'The Gentlemen's Club'. On the left, Dudley Street, terraced houses formerly occupied mainly by hatters, and Joseph Wilson & Sons (Hat Manufacturers).