A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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In the early 17th century Lee Cotton (d. 1613) offered to endow a free school in the disused St. Andrew's church. (fn. 1) In 1713 a school, linked by 1730 with the S.P.C.K., is said to have been started by subscription. (fn. 2) Using powers to provide benefits for the poor granted by the 1730 decree on the Church lands, (fn. 3) the trustees began in the late 1740s to pay schoolmasters, initially £10 a year, apparently £1 for each child taught free, but from c. 1752 only £6. Such payments for the charity school, so called by 1767, ceased c. 1770, (fn. 4) but a master was licensed in 1777. (fn. 5) Masters again received annual grants of £10 from 1798. Michael Bayly, who served from 1799 to his death in 1838, also acting as parish clerk, kept a school until the 1830s in a house near the village pound. Between 1816 and c. 1825 he and a colleague each received half the £10 allowance. (fn. 6) In 1818 the two schools had 220 pupils. (fn. 7) A church Sunday school, also teaching reading, likewise assisted from the charity, was started c. 1816. (fn. 8)
When £400 of unspent parish funds was discovered in the vicar's hands in 1835-6, Edward Ball demanded that half be used to start a village school in whose management Ball and other dissenters should share. The vicar withdrew his initial agreement to that plan and was sued in 1837, amidst popular agitation about supposed embezzlement led by Ball, for uncollected interest on that money. (fn. 9) The Chancery decree eventually issued in 1855 devoted half the Church lands' net income to support what was effectively to be a church school with a conscience clause, for poor boys aged between four and thirteen, which was to be kept in the guildhall. (fn. 10) Despite its dilapidation, that building housed by the late 1840s the boys' school to whose successive masters the charity had since 1839 usually paid £12-14 yearly, £1 per child taught free, another £14 going from 1839 to the mistresses of a girls' school. (fn. 11) One former master, locally born, kept an Academy on Parsonage Lane until the mid 1870s. (fn. 12)
Meanwhile Edward Ball had in 1845 organized the building, government grants providing a quarter of c. £300 needed, of a British school opened in 1846. Standing off the south end of North Street, it had a long, galleried classroom behind its three-bayed front. Subjects including by 1850 Scriptural history and geography were taught by mistresses, not initially certificated, paid mainly from schoolpence. The school had c. 160 pupils by 1852 and 210 on its roll by 1871. The only British school to survive long in the area, it was largely supported and managed by the Balls and rescued from recurrent financial crises by occasional appeals. (fn. 13)
In 1859 the new vicar, J. W. Cockshott, raised £850, through subscriptions and government grants, to build on the former St. Andrew's churchyard a girls' school in plain Gothic, with a teacher's house to the north. (fn. 14) In 1860 Cockshott had the guildhall demolished as unrepairable and built a new boy's school west of St. Mary's churchyard. In Gothic style, it has the four bays of its long schoolroom symmetrical around a large chimneys. Two other square high-gabled rooms, one for committees, were built at each end. It was opened in 1861. (fn. 15) For the children from North Street, which in 1861 had produced c. 170 out of c. 320 children in all, five eighths girls, then receiving schooling in the village, while only 14 came from Newnham, (fn. 16) Cockshott started in 1864 a National school for 80 labourers' children in the new St. Andrew's church. The desks stood along its nave (fn. 17) until in 1871 a separate school was built on a site, just purchased, adjoining that church to the north; a teacher's house was built next to it. (fn. 18) Of the other church schools the boys' was more than half funded by £60 a year from the Church lands whose trustees, headed by the vicar, named its masters; the girls', like St. Andrew's, was largely maintained by subscriptions and formally styled National. They were under a master and mistress, by the 1860s certificated, between 1888 and 1922 a married couple. (fn. 19) St. Andrew's school on North Street remained a mixed one under its own mistress. (fn. 20) In 1867 Cockshott started in a rented house a Middle school for farmers' sons from the neighbourhood, in 1868 obtaining a commercial headmaster from Manchester for it. Pupils, some boarders, numbered 40 by 1868 and probably 36, taught in the boys' school, in 1872. (fn. 21) From 1867 Cockshott also had night schools held for young farmers and labourers, with up to 70 pupils in 1873. A revived evening school taught 85 in 1895. (fn. 22)
By 1872 'jealousy' between the church and British schools had abated enough for their annual summer festivities to be combined. (fn. 23) In 1880 the parish decided that, its four schools having sufficient places and being adequately supported from endowments and subscriptions, no school board was needed. (fn. 24) The British school, to which a large infants' classroom was added in 1862 and another classroom, to reduce overcrowding, in 1896, (fn. 25) was taken over as a council school after 1904. (fn. 26) It remained probably the most popular, attendance at it, 125 in 1875, usually ranging between 150 and 170 until the 1930s. The church boys' school seldom had over 35 pupils before the 1890s, when numbers briefly rose to 80-100, older boys from the British school being sent there, before falling to c. 70 by 1910. The girls' school had normally c. 80 pupils until c. 1890, as again in 1919, and St. Andrew's c. 60, declining to c. 30 by the 1930s. The boys' school, its numbers reduced by 1919 to 46 (fn. 27) boys over eleven, was closed in 1922, all boys going from 1923 to the council school. (fn. 28) A Scheme of 1924 for the Church Lands Educational Fund, distinct since 1904, after providing that the former boys' school be used for an Anglican Sunday school, physical training of children, and similar social purposes, assigned the remainder of its £35 income to support secondary education for Burwell children. (fn. 29) The church girls' school, which had received a new classroom at its back in 1894 (fn. 30) and took younger boys from 1904, survived, having in 1938, like the council school, 122 pupils, until it was closed in 1961, along with St. Andrew's, (fn. 31) whose buildings were demolished in 1979. The girls' school was sold for a dwelling house in 1989. (fn. 32)
Schooling at Burwell was reorganized in the 1960s. (fn. 33) In 1964 the British school was demolished and ranges of flat-roofed buildings were built at its site to house a village college with 270 places, formally opened in 1965-6. Extra classrooms were added in 1972 and 1976. It took originally pupils aged 11-15, limits lowered from 1973 to 10-13, older ones then going to Soham village college or Newmarket upper school. (fn. 34) Meanwhile a new church primary school for 230 children, opened in 1961, had been built east of North Street on Ness Road, while a council infants' school for 160, built north of Parsonage Lane, was opened in 1967. (fn. 35) In 1981 the village college had only 220 pupils, the expanded church and council junior schools, attendance declining, only 140 and 230. (fn. 36) In 1982 the county council decided to eliminate surplus places by concentrating Burwell junior schooling at the village college site and sending children over eleven from 1983 to Soham or Bottisham village colleges. Burwell's two purpose-built junior schools were closed in 1985 (fn. 37) and their buildings demolished in 1987-8. Sheltered housing was built on the Parsonage Lane site, the other site being sold for development. By 1985 new building was being restricted for lack of primary school places. (fn. 38) The village college, still so styled, nearly full with 346 pupils in 1988, remained open as a primary school in the 1990s. (fn. 39)
From 1965 the county council used Burwell Hall for a further education centre under a warden, partly providing residential courses, by 1975 sometimes for adults. From the 1980s it also accommodated business conferences. (fn. 40)