Westwood County Modern School / Municipal School

Theatre in the Round at Westwood (later the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round) was the company's second home and was based on the ground floor of the former Westwood County Modern School. It was only ever intended to be a temporary home for the company whilst Scarborough Town Council constructed a purpose-built theatre-in-the-round on the former Vernon Road car park. Sadly, this plan never came to fruition and, instead, the company was based at Westwood, later renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, from 26 October 1976 to 3 February 1976.

In April 1896, Scarborough Town Council purchased the Westwood site from North Eastern Railways to build a municipal school. Construction of the building took place between 1897 and 1900 by E T Hall [Sir Edwin] Cooper and Davis before the first pupils entered on 26 November 1900; apparently it was not officially opened until 23 February 1901. It was listed as a Grade II building on 8 June 1973.

As the extract from the Historic England website below shows, it was architecturally significant for several reasons. Apparently the initial plans for the building including a swimming pool, which was never built.

"The former Westwood School was built as a secondary school for both boys and girls by Scarborough Borough Council from 1897, opening in November 1900. The school was technically outside the legal powers of the council as the school was not for elementary education and it pre-dated the 1902 Education Act which prompted the construction of council funded secondary schools elsewhere nationally. Consequently maintenance of the school was taken on by Scarborough Town Council which could legally fund it as an 'organised science school' under the Technical Instruction Act of 1889. It thus opened as a Municipal School, known locally as the 'Muni', and continued to be managed by the town council for many years, even after the 1902 Act which established county based education authorities. It subsequently became a Sixth Form College, then a County Modern Comprehensive School. Later it was used as an annex for Scarborough Technical College.

"The building was the first major work by the Scarborough architect Edwin Cooper (1874-1942) who was then working in the practice of the local architect John Hall. Cooper went on to become a distinguished architect, said to have designed more buildings in the City of London than any architect since Wren. He was knighted in 1923 for his services to architecture, and has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The six carved relief panels on the south elevation are attributed to the well known monumental and architectural sculptor Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940)."
(Historic England website)

The Municipal School closed in 1922 with the female pupils moving to the new Girls' High School. The Westwood site became the High School For Boys and catered for approximately 800 pupils.

In 1959, the High School For Boys moved to a new site at what is now Graham School near Scarborough Hospital. It now became the Westwood County Modern School - a secondary school - which it remained until its closure

The building was known by several names locally, most commonly the 'Muni', the 'old boys' school' and - more commonly - 'Westwood'.

When Theatre in the Round at Westwood moved into the premises in 1976, it shared the building with the technical college which was situated on the floor beneath the theatre. This caused numerous issues initially as the metal-working department was directly beneath the auditorium and matinee performances were frequently interrupted by the sound of the classes.

On 1 April 1978, Theatre in the Round at Westwood was renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round in honour of its founder and to also mark the fact the intended temporary home was to become permanent.

After the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round left the building in 1996, Westwood was taken over by Yorkshire Coast College, where its arts and humanities campus were based until 2017. The theatre in the round space was altered but kept as a performance and lecture space with performing arts students performing in-the-round.

As of 2023, Westwood is being converted into residential flats with only the exterior of the building being kept intact.


Historic England
British Listed Buildings
Old Scarborough Photo Archive


Stacks Image 160
Stacks Image 155
An architectural drawing of the Municipal School published in The Building News in 1898, two years before the school was completed.

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Stacks Image 148
Stacks Image 143
A photo of the Municipal School, possibly circa 1930s, from the valley side of the building.

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Stacks Image 136
Stacks Image 131
A photo from 1946 of the exterior of the High School For Boys.

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All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.