Styal Open Air School, nr Wilmslow, Cheshire

Styal Open Air School, nr Wilmslow, Cheshire

I am suing over a life left in fear

  • Aug 29, 2007 13:59
  • By Manchester Evening News

A MAN is suing Manchester Council over daily beatings and sexual abuse he claims he suffered at an authority-run residential school almost 40 years ago.

And David Roberts is appealing for other pupils to come forward and break their silence over the abuse he says took place at Styal Open Air School, in Cheshire, where they lived in “paralysing fear”.

He has launched a civil claim against Manchester Council, the authority responsible for running the institution from 1930 until its closure in 1995.

Mr Roberts, 47, originally from Longsight, said: “My mother sent my brother and me to Styal in about 1967. She told me I was sent there because I was underweight. We lived in paralysing fear.

“On my first day I was beaten black and blue because the staff said I had head lice. On the second day I was made to fight another boy with chronic asthma. I was told to hit him really hard and thought he was going to die because he couldn’t breathe.

“His brother begged me not to hit him any more but I was too scared to stop. All that night I could hear him wheezing and coughing and I prayed he wouldn’t die. He survived, but it’s haunted me to this day that I didn’t stop hitting him and I wish I had spoken out.”

Mr Roberts lived in one of the buildings, Beech House, at the institution until about 1970.

He said: “I was usually given a good hiding every day for having dandruff. I was even made to eat my own sick.

“I was also abused sexually. I used to hear footsteps on the stairs at night and knew what was in store for me. To this day I cannot sleep upstairs because I’m afraid that I’ll hear the footsteps again.

“I don’t know if any of the other boys suffered sexual abuse, but we were certainly all subjected to daily beatings and humiliation.”

He said one member of staff carried out the abuse but other carers turned a blind eye.

Mr Roberts, who now lives in Darlington, has received psychiatric treatment and takes tranquillisers and anti- depressants as a result of the abuse.

He said: “It’s ruined my life. I’m not interested in money – I just want those responsible to admit what they have done and for me to escape from the feeling of limbo I have had for 40 years.”

Mr Roberts’ Cheadle-based solicitor Sam Nicholson, who is pursuing the claim, said: “David Roberts suffered appalling abuse in his childhood, which has affected him throughout his life. He is now involved in legal proceedings in the hope that he may obtain justice.

“He would be grateful if anyone who had similar experiences in this school could come forward and speak to me. Any information received would be treated in the strictest confidence.”

A spokesperson from Manchester Council said: “The council has received two allegations of historical abuse at Styal Open Air School.

“No records have been traced for this school. However, it is believed it was renamed Bollin Cross and closed in 1995. As the allegations are the subject of ongoing litigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

The institution may also have been known as Styal Cottage Homes until 1956 before it was a residential school for sickly children in the 1960s. Some of the buildings then became Bollin Cross Special School, which was closed in 1995 after a damning Ofsted report.

Mr Nicholson, of Abney Garsden McDonald solicitors, can be contacted on 0161 482 8822 or by email at

Manchester Evening News 29/08/07

Ex pupils respond to abuse probe at former school

  • Nov 08, 2006 00:00
  • By Macclesfield Express

AN APPEAL for victims and witnesses of abuse at a residential school in Styal 40 years ago has led to further disturbing claims.

Solicitors who made the appeal on behalf of Dave Roberts, 47, who alleged he was abused in the 1960s when he attended Styal Open Air School, said they have received more than 40 responses.

Now the claims will be investigated further by lawyers who were contacted by Mr Roberts earlier this year to progress a civil claim against Manchester City Council which ran the school from 1930 – 1995, before it became known as Bollin Cross School.

The school no longer exists and has since been incorporated into the Styal Prison site.

Mr Roberts who now lives in Darlington, wanted former pupils and staff to come forward to back his claim that there was a climate of “paralysing fear” at the institution.

He was sent to the school in 1967 with his younger brother and lived in Beech House for about three years where he claims the abuse took place.

He says he suffered sexual abuse, daily beatings and was forced to fight other boys.

As a result he now has psychiatric problems and is being treated with tranquillisers and anti depressants. “It’s ruined my life. I’m not interested in the money. I just want those responsible to admit what they’ve done and for me to escape from this feeling of limbo I have had for 40 years,” he said.

Lawyer Sam Nicholson of Abney Garsden, Cheadle, said 40 people had contacted the firm.

He said: “We have had a tremendous response from other former pupils who say they were physically abused on a daily basis at the school.

“Some former staff have even got in touch with vital information.

“Of the 40 people who contacted me there are about 20 who may have a claim.

“But I think it shows that there could potentially be hundreds of people who were affected over the years but who were too frightened to speak out.

“I would encourage those to come forward because it may not be too late even if the abuse took place many years ago.”

He is a leading child abuse expert at the practice, headed by Peter Garsden, which ran a major compensation campaign in the 1990s into cases of child abuse in north west homes.

It is currently campaigning for the Government to introduce Megan’s Law which will give powers to police to notify the public of details about where convicted sex offenders live and work.

A spokesman for Manchester City Council said two allegations of historical abuse at Styal Open Air School had been received.

Macclesfield Express 08/11/06

MORE than 40 people have come forward after allegations of child abuse at a Cheshire residential school. Legal link.


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