Beaconsfield's first Schools

Saunders, R and Marsden ,D

Older pupils walking between Wattleton Road Secondary Modern School and the Old Church of England School Windsor End
unknown
The Old Church School Windsor End, now the Masonic Centre

Old Church School

Beaconsfield’s first public school opened in 1840, funded by the Misses Du Pre of Wilton Park.  It was situated in the old ribbon factory owned by William Child, a builder, in Factory Yard and continued there for 20 years,  Originally it was just for boys who occupied the ground floor rooms (rented for £18 per year). Later the girls, educated by the Misses Du Pre, moved upstairs in the same building (rented for £9 per year).  The first head of the boys school, appointed in 1841, was James Russell followed by Richard Hedges who was head for most of the 20 years that the school existed in Factory Yard.   Russell was part of a new committee, set up in 1854, which included  prominent church members, to enable the Factory Yard school to become established as a National School.   The headmaster’s salary was paid for by voluntary subscriptions from the town traders, the Diocesan Grant and further funding from parents.  In 1861, a small charge was requested from the better-off pupils – 6p (2½p) per week for first son and 3d (1¼p) per week for male siblings.  In 1863/64 the Misses Du Pre retired, and handed over responsibilities for the girls to the new Church School Committee and a school-mistress.  Initially there was no grant for education as the School Committee wanted to maintain a voluntary school linked to the church.  In any event, to obtain a grant as a voluntary / church school  required an inspection to assess that the facilities were of a good standard but facilities were poor at the Factory Yard schools.

In 1870, the Education Act levied local rates to enable the building of new local schools.  The Church of England recognised that they needed to improve the standard of public schools nationally to gain government funding.  At this time, in 1870, the new rector at St Mary and All Saints church, Beaconsfield, the Reverend Samuel Bowles, decided a new school was required for Beaconsfield pupils.  He had overseen the restoration of  St Mary and All Saints Church and Rectory and now turned his attention to the schools.  To advise him he called upon his brother-in-law, Henry Woodyer, who had worked on similar projects at Eton.  Woodyer designed a new school and the Reverend Bowles, together with John Hargreaves of Hall Barn, agreed a site on in the corner of the churchyard which had been given by Magdalen College, Oxford.  It took 2 years to build the new school at a cost of £1623 and it opened on May 12th 1873.  Part of the costs were covered by a government grant of £355. The conditions of receiving the grant were strict and included good staffing ratios, keeping of a log book of staff, pupil attendance, visitors to the school, timetable changes and examinations.   Poor exam results could reduce the grant provided.  The curriculum, initially, was limited to the 3 ‘R’s but gradually broadened to include other subjects although scripture remained an important subject and was examined annually.

Feargus Warner was the first head of the newly built National School. 45 pupils attended at first but this number soon expanded to 240 pupils (70 boys and 70 girls and 100 infants).  In 1883 Arthur Baker became head and continued through to 1920.  Children were graded by age and ability and moved through the school accordingly. Most left when they reached 10 or 11 years although some occasionally stayed until they were 14.  One pupil, Mary Cordelia Wright, joined as a small child in 1886 and successfully gained qualifications to become a school mistress.  By 1900, the school had grown in size and pupil numbers reached about 400.  It remained a National School until the 1903 Education Act when it became a Church of England primary school.  In 1932 the older pupils, along with Mary Cordelia Wright who still taught at the school, moved to a new secondary school in Aylesbury End and in 1958 a new primary school was built in Maxwell Road.  The building in Windsor End is known The Old Church School and is now the Beaconsfield Masonic Centre.

References:

The History of Beaconsfield,  Beaconsfield & District Historical Society, (Robin Pedlar Ltd., Beaconsfield) 2009 pp.86-89

The History of Beaconsfield, A C Taylor (Ed.)

Beaconsfield A History , Hunt, J. & Thorpe D., (Phillimore & Co. Ltd., Chichester), 2009,pp,131-134

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.