A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
SCHOOLS (fn. 1)
The chief factor influencing the history of popular education in Cambridge has been the existence of the 'Old Schools'. Their foundation in 1704 under the inspiration of William Whiston, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, and their history in the 18th century have been described elsewhere. (fn. 2) Until the early 19th century the Old Schools consisted of between eight and eighteen dame schools which, although originally intended to be each attached to one or two parishes, were open free of charge to all poor children of the Borough. During the 19th century the Old Schools trust adopted the policy of supporting Church of England parish schools of the conventional type instead of maintaining dame schools. (fn. 3) In consequence the number of church schools in Cambridge was large and later in the century they were joined by Church higher-grade schools for the Borough as a whole, also managed by the Old Schools trust. Because of this no school board was formed for Cambridge, and it was not until 1905 that the first council schools were opened in the Borough, which had become responsible for elementary education under the Education Act of 1902. Although the number of Church of England schools in the old Borough—all of which eventually came under the management of the governors of the Old Schools—has declined in the 20th century, the supply of council schools has naturally been restricted by their existence, and a large proportion of the council schools built have been on the outskirts of the town.
The arrangement of this account of the public elementary and secondary schools of Cambridge is as follows: (1) Church of England schools in the Borough as it was constituted before 1912. (2) Other voluntary schools in the old Borough. (3) Voluntary schools outside the old Borough, i.e. in areas added to the Borough in 1912 and after. (4) Council (later county primary) schools. (5) Secondary schools.
Church of England schools in the old Borough.
In 1808, after a public meeting in the town addressed by Joseph Lancaster, a monitorial school was opened in the Friends' meeting-house in Jesus Lane. It was for boys only and had an attendance of 236 at its opening; fees of 1½d. were charged to those who could afford them. In 1810 the school moved to a new building on the corner of Pound Hill and Honey Hill and in 1813 it was united to the National Society. (fn. 4) It later came to be called St. Peter's school, Castle End. In 1813 its managers entered into an arrangement with the governors of the Old Schools by which it received £30 a year from them in return for taking without charge all the boys from the dame schools maintained by the governors. Until the opening of the Barnwell National school in 1836, when this subscription was reduced to £15, this was the only boys' poor school in Cambridge. Fees were reintroduced in 1820. (fn. 5) St. Peter's remained a boys' school, with an attendance of about 150 in 1870 (fn. 6) and 120 in 1911. (fn. 7) From 1918 until it was closed in 1924 it took the girls from St. Giles's as well. (fn. 8)
In 1815 the governors of the Old Schools, who already supported the boys' National school, replaced their scattered dame schools for girls by a National school for girls in King Street. (fn. 9) The building comprised one room. (fn. 10) The school was free until 1820 when fees of 1s. a quarter were imposed. In 1826 the governors of the Old Schools decided to establish infant schools, and one was opened in a new room added to the King Street school. (fn. 11) A boys' department was added in 1856, (fn. 12) and there were about 200 children in the whole school in 1870. (fn. 13) A new infants' department was opened in 1874, (fn. 14) and in 1871 the boys' department became a higher-grade school. (fn. 15) This closed in 1905 and its accommodation was taken over by the girls' and infants' school, (fn. 16) which contained about 150 children in 1911. (fn. 17) The school was closed in 1929.
The governors of the Old Schools opened another infant school in 1826. (fn. 18) This was in Pound Hill and became part of the St. Giles's parish schools. (fn. 19) The next part of the St. Giles's schools to be established was a girls' school held in a former Methodist chapel nearby on the corner of Honey Hill. (fn. 20) It was opened in 1845 (fn. 21) and was being maintained by the curate in 1861. (fn. 22) In 1866 it was enlarged and taken over by the Old Schools. (fn. 23) This school, together with the 1826 school, continued to be for girls and infants only until 1918, when the girls were transferred to the St. Peter's school across the road, which also took the boys of the neighbourhood. (fn. 24) The older children were removed to St. Luke's school in 1921. St. Giles's school closed in 1938. It contained about 230 children in 1870 and 220 in 1911. (fn. 25)
A third infant school was opened in 1826 in New Town. The governors of the Old Schools took it over two years later. (fn. 26) It was in Union Road and by 1844 was being used as a boys' school, while a girls' school for the district was held in St. Paul's chapel, and the infants were taught in cottages. The infants moved back to the original building when the St. Paul's boys' and girls' schools were built in Russell Street in 1845 as part of the Old Schools foundation. (fn. 27) The Union Road school was rebuilt a few years later and the Russell Street school was enlarged about 1867 and 1895. The boys' and infants' schools were very highly praised by H.M. Inspector in 1853. (fn. 28) In 1870 there were about 400 children in the school, and in 1911 about 150 children in the infants' school and 330 in the boys' and girls'. (fn. 29) The Union Road school was closed in 1932, while the Russell Street school had been restricted to a single junior department a few years earlier. It contained about 170 children in 1948. (fn. 30)
In 1836 National schools for boys, girls, and infants were opened in Barnwell by the Old Schools. They comprised the first boys' school actually managed by the Old Schools, since the Castle End school was still independent at this time. The Barnwell schools, in School House Lane, East Road, were enlarged almost immediately to comprise three schoolrooms and three classrooms. This was more than any of the other buildings of the Old Schools. Their establishment exhausted the funded property of the Old Schools trust which was thereafter more dependent upon appeals and subscriptions. (fn. 31) A new boys' school was built about 1869 and the other two departments were rebuilt about twenty years later. (fn. 32) The boys' school was occupied by the army in the First World War but restored to use afterwards. During the twenties the school was gradually changed into a senior one by the removal of the younger children and the transference here of the seniors from other Church schools. Alterations were made to the buildings and practical workrooms were added, while the school's name was changed to St. George's Senior Church of England School. Under the 1944 Education Act it became a secondary modern school. In 1870 there were about 320 children in the school, in 1911 about 640, and in 1948 about 200. (fn. 33)
The Barnwell Abbey National schools were opened in 1859 for girls and infants only. (fn. 34) The original girls' department later took boys too. The school was managed independently of the Old Schools until 1904. (fn. 35) It was enlarged about 1894, but was still overcrowded in the early years of the 20th century, with about 250 children in the school in 1911. (fn. 36) Attendance dropped later, and after being for some years exclusively an infants' school it was closed in 1933. The building is now the Mansfield Hall.
The first school in St. Matthew's parish appears to have been an infants' school in Norfolk Street which was built in 1871 as a Sunday school and was probably opened as a day school in or before 1875. It and the later schools of the parish belonged to the Old Schools trust. (fn. 37) Another school was opened in Sturton Street in 1878, (fn. 38) and a boys' school in York Street was opened about 1885. (fn. 39) The Sturton Street school was then used for infants only. In 1887 the last addition to the parish schools was made when a girls' school was added to the Norfolk Street infants' school. (fn. 40) In 1911 there were about 170 boys at York Street, 110 infants at Sturton Street, and 130 girls and 150 infants at Norfolk Street. (fn. 41) The Sturton Street school was closed in 1922 and in 1933 the Norfolk Street infants' school was converted to a hall and play-centre for the former girls' school, which became the infants' school. The York Street building at the same time became a junior school. There were about 110 children in each of the two remaining schools in 1948. (fn. 42)
A Church of England school in Newnham was opened by the Old Schools in 1872. It comprised a schoolroom with a classroom for infants. (fn. 43) In 1914 the older children, and in 1915 the infants, were removed to the new Newnham Croft council school, (fn. 44) leaving the Newnham Church school for juniors only. It was closed in 1925 when its attendance had dropped to about 50 from about 150 in 1911. (fn. 45)
The Old Schools opened a new Church school in Occupation Road in 1877. It consisted of a schoolroom and classroom and after 1879 was used for infants only. (fn. 48) Until 1896 the older children were taught in a workmen's hall in the same street. The school was overcrowded in 1911 with about 110 children in attendance. It was closed in 1925 after the premises had been severely criticized by the Board of Education for many years. It was thereafter used as a church hall. (fn. 49)
The Old Schools also opened a girls' and infants' school in Park Street in 1877. It had two schoolrooms and a classroom, (fn. 50) and was a higher-grade school (fn. 51) from 1896 to 1928, when the senior children were removed, leaving it as a juniors' and infants' school. There were about 140 children in the school in 1880 and 200 in 1948. (fn. 52)
St. Barnabas Church school in St. Barnabas Road, just off Mill Road, was opened by the Old Schools in 1877, before the church itself was built. It comprised a schoolroom and classroom, and was for girls and infants only. (fn. 53) A hall in Covent Garden was used for the infants from 1908 to 1925 to relieve overcrowding. In 1925 the school was restricted to juniors and infants, and by 1953 was for infants only. (fn. 54) There were about 100 children in the school in 1880, 200 in 1911, and 60 in 1948. (fn. 55)
In 1886 a school in Romsey Town was opened by the Old Schools in connexion with St. Barnabas church. It was in Catharine Street and later became St. Philip's Church school. It was also for girls and infants and originally had only one schoolroom; it was enlarged in 1887, 1888, and 1894. Another school for St. Philip's was opened in 1894 in Ross Street, and this took boys only. It was enlarged in 1898. (fn. 56) The schools became overcrowded and, after some controversy about the adequacy of the voluntary schools, the Romsey council school (fn. 57) was opened in 1904. St. Philip's school remained too full, with about 870 children in 1911, and after further controversy the Catharine Street school was enlarged in 1912–13. In 1937 the senior children were moved to the Coleridge council school, (fn. 58) and in 1948 there were about 430 children at St. Philip's. (fn. 59)
A church industrial school was opened in Victoria Road about 1848. It was apparently unconnected with the Old Schools and was closed in 1893. (fn. 60)
The activity of the Old Schools trust in the 19th century is shown by the fact that it maintained several higher-grade schools, which were more often provided elsewhere only by school boards. Small fees were charged in these schools until 1918. The first was opened in 1871 when the boys' department of the King Street school was made into a highergrade school. (fn. 61) It was apparently enlarged in 1884 and was closed in 1905, when the premises were taken over by the ordinary King Street school. (fn. 62) There were about 130 boys in attendance in 1890. (fn. 63) A girls' higher-grade school was opened in Eden Street in 1875 or 1876. (fn. 64) Neighbouring buildings were used in the early 20th century to relieve the congestion in the school, which closed in 1913 on the opening of the first council higher-grade school. (fn. 65) The building later became a council domestic science and handicrafts centre. There were 100 girls in the school in 1880 and about 250 in 1911. A second boys' higher-grade school was opened about 1884 in a Sunday school building in Paradise Street, which had been built in 1866. (fn. 66) There were about 320 boys there in 1911. This school also closed when the council higher-grade school opened in 1913. (fn. 67) The last higher-grade school opened by the Old Schools trust was a second one for girls, which was opened in 1896 in the former Park Street elementary Church school. (fn. 68) There were 130 girls in the school in 1911. It apparently remained a higher-grade school until 1928. (fn. 69)
Other Voluntary Schools in the old Borough.
Cambridge British school was opened in Fitzroy Street in 1840. (fn. 70) By 1847 it took boys, girls, and infants, and there were about 450 pupils in 1870. (fn. 71) The school was rebuilt for about 700 children in Brunswick Terrace in 1900 and was transferred to the local authority as the first council school in the Borough in 1905. (fn. 72)
The Roman Catholic school in Union Road was opened in 1843. It was held in a building then about 40 years old, and consisted of one schoolroom only 8 ft. high. The school seems to have been in rather a precarious condition for some years, and there were only about 30 pupils in 1863. (fn. 73) It was rebuilt in 1867–8 and the attendance grew steadily from about 50 in 1870 (fn. 74) to about 90 in 1911, and continued to expand in the 20th century. The school was enlarged in 1894–5, and thoroughly reconstructed and enlarged again in 1936, when its name was changed to St. Andrew's R.C. school. (fn. 75) In 1866 it was the only Roman Catholic poor school in the county; there was one other, at Wisbech, in 1956. (fn. 76)
An undenominational ragged school was opened in New Street about 1854. (fn. 77) It comprised two schoolrooms and four classrooms, and, although it was a ragged school, fees of 1d.–2d. were charged. It received government grants from 1886 (fn. 78) and in 1901 was taken over as a practising school by Homerton College, who also built a new infants' school on the site. (fn. 79) The infants' department became a council school in 1912 and the remainder in 1915. There were about 370 children in attendance in 1911. (fn. 80)
A ragged school was being held in the Zion Baptist chapel, East Road, in 1850. (fn. 81)
Voluntary Schools outside the old Borough.
Chesterton, Cherry Hinton, and Trumpington, which have been brought within the Borough in the 20th century, all had voluntary schools before that time. The early history of these schools belongs to the histories of the respective ancient parishes, which are reserved for another volume, but something must be said here about their modern history.
Trumpington school was founded in the late 17th century and became a National school in the 19th. It was enlarged several times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and had about 130 children in attendance in 1911. (fn. 82) The senior children were removed to St. George's in 1934. The school, which then had about 230 places, was overcrowded after the Second World War and room for 60 more children was provided in the Free Church hall. The opening of the Fawcett council school in 1949 left only about 30 children at the old village school, which was closed in 1950. The building was thereafter used for a Sunday school and other purposes.
Chesterton National school, later known as St. Andrew's, was opened in Chesterton High Street in 1844 and enlarged several times later in the century. It contained about 370 children in 1911. (fn. 83) From 1932 it was restricted to juniors only.
St. Luke's Church school in West Chesterton was opened in 1874 in two separate buildings in Victoria Road, one for infants and one for the older children. (fn. 84) A third school, on the other side of the road, was built in 1882. In 1921–2, after Chesterton had been taken into the Borough, the seniors from St. Giles's and St. Peter's schools at Castle End were transferred to St. Luke's, which was in its turn restricted to juniors and infants in 1939. There were about 730 children at St. Luke's in 1911, and 270 in 1948. (fn. 85)
St. Augustine's Church school in Richmond Road was opened in 1898. It was for infants only and consisted of a schoolroom and classroom. It was closed in 1903 but was later reopened as a council school. (fn. 86)
Cherry Hinton National school in the High Street was founded about 1832 and enlarged later in the century. It contained about 200 children in 1911. (fn. 87) The buildings were apparently unsatisfactory for many years until they were reconstructed in 1937–8. The senior children were removed to the new Coleridge council school at about the same time. From 1939 to 1942 part of the building was used as an A.R.P. centre and about 40 children were taught in the parish hall. The school became 'controlled' in 1952.
An infants' school attached to St. John's church, Cherry Hinton, was opened about 1897. It was closed in 1903, when there were about 50 children in attendance. (fn. 88)
The Morley Memorial school in Blinco Grove was opened in 1900 as a practising school for Homerton College. It did not take infants because St. John's infants' school was close by. The Morley school was undenominational; (fn. 89) there were about 210 children in attendance in 1905 when it was transferred to the county council. (fn. 90)
Council Elementary Schools. (fn. 91)
The first council school in Cambridge was the former British school (fn. 92) in Brunswick Terrace, which was transferred to the Borough education committee in May 1905 as the Brunswick council school. (fn. 93) There were about 650 children in attendance in 1911. (fn. 94) By 1922 the building was slipping northwards dangerously and the boys were moved into the old British school building in Fitzroy Street and the girls into the former Paradise Street Church school. (fn. 95)
The infants' department continued to be used, as it was in a safer, single-story building. In 1929 a new building to take about 1,000 children was opened in Walnut Tree Avenue. From 1935 it took only juniors and infants. (fn. 96)
The first newly built council school in Cambridge was opened in 1905 a few months after the Brunswick school was transferred. This was the Romsey council school, (fn. 97) which was designed to relieve the congestion in the St. Philip's schools. (fn. 98) It contained 415 children in 1911. (fn. 99) The infants were removed to the Sedley council school in 1933 and the seniors to the Coleridge council school a few years later.
The infants' department of the New Street undenominational school was transferred to the council in 1912, and the remainder of the school was transferred three years later. The departments were separate schools until reunited as one junior and infant department in 1931; the juniors were removed to the Brunswick school in 1935, and the school was closed altogether in 1938 when only about 50 infants remained there. Part of the building became an infant welfare centre. (fn. 100)
In 1912 the enlargement of the Borough brought three schools opened by the county council under the control of the borough education committee. (fn. 101) One of these was the Morley Memorial council school in Blinco Grove, which had formerly been a voluntary undenominational school. (fn. 102) It contained about 310 children in 1911. (fn. 103) Its buildings were altered in the thirties and the senior children were removed, leaving room for about 520 juniors and infants. Another school which came into the Borough in 1912 was the Richmond Road council school which had been opened in 1909 in the buildings of the former St. Augustine's Church school. (fn. 104) It contained about 35 infants in 1911, and in 1953 was still used for infants only. (fn. 105) The third school was a higher-grade school in Milton Road, Chesterton, which had been opened by the county council in 1908 to provide for children hitherto attending schools inside the Borough. (fn. 106) It had about 440 pupils, including infants, in 1911. It later ceased to be a higher-grade school and after enlargement in 1936–7 was restricted to juniors and infants. (fn. 107)
The Borough Council opened its own highergrade school in 1913 just after the Milton Road school was taken over. This was in Melbourne Place and provided for about 820 boys and girls. Two of the three remaining Church higher-grade schools closed when it was opened. As in other higher-grade schools small fees were charged until 1918: at Melbourne Place these were between 6d. and 9d. a week. It was called the Central council school from 1919 and became a senior elementary school. (fn. 108) By 1953 it was used as the technical central school for girls. (fn. 109)
Newnham Croft council school in Grantchester Street was opened in 1915 to take 120 children. (fn. 110) At first it was for infants only and took all those who had attended the Newnham Church school, but later that school was closed and the council school took juniors as well.
Two infants' schools for about 220 children each were opened in 1932. One of these was the Sedley council school in Malta Road, (fn. 111) which was named after Sedley Taylor, who initiated the dental inspection and treatment of school-children in England at Cambridge in 1907. (fn. 112) The other was the Shirley council school in Green End Road. When they opened, the infants' departments of St. Paul's and Chesterton Church schools were closed. The Shirley school had become overcrowded by 1937 and two more classrooms were added to it. (fn. 113)
Two new senior schools, built in the thirties, are now secondary modern schools. The Chesterton council school in Gilbert Road was opened in 1935. It provided for 640 boys and girls and took the seniors from several schools in that part of the town. The Coleridge senior council school in Radegund Road was slightly larger and was opened in 1937. (fn. 114)
Since the Second World War new housing estates in Trumpington and near the Newmarket Road have made new primary schools necessary. The Fawcett county school in Alpha Terrace was opened in 1949 to relieve the congestion in the Trumpington Church school, which in fact was closed soon after. The new school at first provided for 320 juniors, and places for 190 infants were added in the following year. The Priory county school in Galfrid Road was opened in 1951 and when completed took 520 juniors and infants. (fn. 115)
The principal public secondary school for Cambridge, and the only one until the 20th century, was the Perse School. Its history is described elsewhere. (fn. 116) The higher-grade schools were designed to provide some slightly higher education for poor children than was available in the ordinary elementary schools. The Cambridge and County High Schools were founded by the county council in 1900, and were county grammar schools in 1953. The boys' school building in Hills Road was erected in 1903. The girls' school was built in Collier Road in 1908, and by 1953 had moved to Long Road. (fn. 117)
Under the 1944 Education Act the existing senior elementary schools became secondary modern schools. There were three of these, the Chesterton and Coleridge county schools in the north and southwest, and the St. George's Church of England school in Barnwell. (fn. 118) The technical secondary schools contemplated in the 1944 Act are also represented by the Technical Central Schools for boys and girls in Parkside and Melbourne Place. (fn. 119)