A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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In 1734 Sir John Fortescue-Aland of Knolls Hill (fn. 1) built a school at Bournebridge, on waste land belonging to the capital manor, (fn. 2) and charged his estate with £25 a year for the support of a schoolmaster who should teach reading and writing to 20 boys of Stapleford Abbots and 20 of Lambourne. (fn. 3) The school seems to have had a continuous existence (fn. 4) but by 1807 it was in poor condition. Owing to parents' reluctance to send their children, the master was teaching elementary subjects to only 15 or 16 boys. (fn. 5) By 1818, however, 30 free pupils were attending and 16 paying pupils as well. The master lived at the schoolhouse rent-free and was paid the £25 from the endowment. (fn. 6) In 1833 there were 50 pupils, presumably including those paying fees. (fn. 7) In 1835 there were 55 pupils. Of these 40 were free pupils, the children of Anglicans, who entered at 7 years of age and left at fourteen. The hours of attendance were 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the curriculum elementary. (fn. 8) In 1846-7 the school was united to the Diocesan Board of Education and the teacher, now a mistress, was paid £35 a year, though the fee-paying pupils seem then to have been very few. (fn. 9) In 1863 the teacher was again a master. (fn. 10) In 1872 the Education Department urged that the school should be repaired and enlarged to accommodate 40 boys, as a contribution towards the provision of elementary education for all children in the parish. (fn. 11) No steps were taken, however, to enlarge this or other schools in Stapleford Abbots and Lambourne, with the result that a school board was formed for the two parishes. (fn. 12) In 1878 a board school was opened. (fn. 13) There seem to be no references to the existence of the Knolls Hill school after that date, except in about 1907 when it was stated to be still in existence as an elementary school. (fn. 14) The Knolls Hill farm estate is now charged with the annual sum of £30 12s. which goes towards the secondary education of a pupil from Stapleford Abbots primary school. (fn. 15)
The original Knolls Hill school building still stands, being now occupied as a cottage. It is of red brick with some burnt headers. The symmetrical front is of two stories and has a central doorway with a flat hood on moulded brackets. The building originally consisted of one large room to each floor, but these are now subdivided. The master's house, which is attached to the back of the school, may be a later addition.
The parochial school had its origins in the early years of the 19th century. Presumably because girls were not admitted to Knolls Hill Free School, private schools for girls existed in the parish both in 1807 and 1818. In 1818 there was also a school in which 14 girls had their fees paid and some clothes given them by Mrs. Abdy of Albyns. (fn. 16) This girls' school seems to have accepted boys as pupils at some time before 1839, when the Abdy family was still its sole supporter. (fn. 17) In 1846-7, when the school was situated on land owned by the Abdys, a little to the north of the church, (fn. 18) widow Williams was being paid £37 a year to teach 15 boys and 43 girls, including some from Navestock and Stapleford Tawney. (fn. 19) The school continued for at least another 28 years, evidently under the patronage of the Abdy family. In 1872 the Education Department urged that certain alterations and re-equipment should be carried out so that its accommodation might be used to help provide universal elementary education in the parish, (fn. 20) but this was not done (fn. 21) and the school seems to have been closed on the establishment of the board school. (fn. 22)
In 1878 the school board of Stapleford Abbots and Lambourne opened a new school on a freehold site at the top of the hill leading to Passingford Bridge. The cost was defrayed by a loan. (fn. 23) The accommodation was for 99. The average attendance rose from 49 in 1886 to 73 in 1902, and its annual grant from £35 to £101. (fn. 24) In 1904 there were 80 children at the school and 3 teachers, 2 of whom were certificated. (fn. 25) By the Education Act of 1902 the school passed under the administration of the Essex Education Committee as a provided mixed school. Its average attendance fell to 54 in 1909 and 32 in 1930. In 1936 it was reorganized for mixed juniors and infants, (fn. 26) the seniors being sent to Chipping Ongar. In May 1952 there were 3 teachers and 74 pupils. The school is a singlestory, red-brick building, and it has a teacher's house attached.