A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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In 1687 Dr. Anthony Walker, Rector of Fyfield, devised a house and about ½ acre of land in Fyfield and a farm of 56 acres in High Ongar, mainly for the support of a free school for poor children. (fn. 1)For £8 a year and the use of the larger of the two tenements called Bruetts in Fyfield Street, the teacher was to instruct pupils in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the catechism and to supervise them in prayer. (fn. 2)
The history of the school is obscure until 1807 when 15 pupils attended it. They were then being taught according to the founder's direction, the girls learning plain needle-work in addition. Any child might attend whom the rector and churchwardens judged to be poor. (fn. 3)Where the school was held is not clear; it may have been in the master's house. By 1818 the managers were planning to expand the school. The charity income had recently increased and the master, now paid £16 a year, also took paying pupils. (fn. 4)In 1819 a new schoolroom was built for £170 from the accumulated surplus of the charity income. It was behind the master's house in Fyfield Street, had a playground attached, and could accommodate 70 children. (fn. 5)There was no immediate increase in attendance, however; in 1827-8 there were still only 15 free pupils. (fn. 6)
From about 1830 the number of pupils increased. In 1832 there were 21 and in 1833 49, some of whom paid fees. The charity income was then £47, the master's salary £32. The only other school in Fyfield was one with four pupils. (fn. 7)By 1835 there were 30 free pupils at Walker's school, almost all of them children of Fyfield labourers, and 25 paying pupils, of whom 12 were boarders. The curriculum was as in 1807 except that the boys were taught some history and geography. The master, who still received £32, paid two assistants and hired an additional classroom, presumably for his paying pupils. He also supplied pens, ink, and fuel. No poor child was refused a place on denominational grounds, but all the free pupils attended church and were taught the catechism. Trustees were in control, with the rector as treasurer. (fn. 8)The school was united to the Diocesan Board of Education (fn. 9) and, at least between 1807 and 1847, was administered jointly with the Sunday school. (fn. 10) It has subsequently been regarded as a Church school, as it probably had been from its inception, but it appears not to have been in union with the National Society. (fn. 11)
Until the Education Act of 1870 there was little change from the conditions of 1837, except that the boarding establishment was probably discontinued at some point; in 1863 there was another boarding-school in the village. (fn. 12) In 1867 there were 76 pupils under a master and mistress, (fn. 13) but in 1871 there were only about 56. (fn. 14) In 1871 it was reported that the school could provide 57 of the 94 places necessary to ensure universal education in Fyfield. (fn. 15)In 1875 a new school was built near the site of the old. (fn. 16)The estimate of cost was £550. Charity property was mortgaged for £400 and the deficit met by a voluntary rate. (fn. 17)Average attendance increased slightly until 1891, when the building was enlarged to provide 130 places. (fn. 18) The average attendance was 83 in 1893 and 74 in 1905. (fn. 19)
The school had received a government grant of £64 in 1880 and this rose to £110 in 1899. (fn. 20)After the Education Act of 1902 the school passed under the administration of the Essex Education Committee as a non-provided school. After a further fall to 58 in 1910 the average attendance rose to 78 in 1920 and 84 in 1929. In 1926 the annual income was nearly £60. (fn. 21) In 1936 the school was reorganized for mixed juniors and infants. In 1948 the managers applied for aided status. (fn. 22) In May 1952 there were three teachers and 89 children. (fn. 23)
The school is a single-story brick building on a Tshaped plan. The larger of the two tenements called Bruetts is still the schoolmaster's house. This was rebuilt in the late 18th or early 19th century.
West Ham County Borough Council Residential Open Air School was erected at a cost of £8,000 in 1885. (fn. 24) It was certified in May 1885 as an Industrial School for boys, not to exceed 110 in number. (fn. 25) In April 1925 it was converted to a residential open-air school for 80 boys. (fn. 26)In 1931 it was enlarged to take 60 girls in addition. (fn. 27)The school consists of a considerable collection of buildings. The main block is two to three stories high and of gault brick with red-brick dressings.