Fen Ditton: Education

Page 129

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



A schoolmaster was licensed to teach grammar to boys in 1579, and in the late 16th and early 17th century some of the curates also served as schoolmasters. (fn. 1) A charity school founded under the will of Elizabeth March (d. 1722) was endowed with a fifth of the income from her estate at Oakington. The school was associated with the S.P.C.K., (fn. 2) and every poor family in the parish had the right to send a child to learn to read. (fn. 3) The school was held in an aisle of the parish church in 1745. (fn. 4) In 1786 the endowment income was nearly £11 a year. (fn. 5) In 1806 the rector left £200 for writing materials and books. The master appointed in 1816 received £20 a year to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. By 1837 the parish had built a schoolroom and master's house, but attendance, especially of boys, who also worked in the fields, was irregular and the master was neglectful. Most parishioners preferred to pay to send their children elsewhere, and in 1847 the school was amalgamated with the National school. (fn. 6)

Established in 1844 in a building on the High Street paid for by subscription, the National School replaced a school said to have been held in the rectory barn. (fn. 7) By 1850, when it was experiencing difficulties in funding, it had c. 100 pupils, rising to 112 by 1932. (fn. 8) The school was transferred to the county council in 1927, and in 1936 rehoused in a new building on Horningsea Road, comprising two classrooms. (fn. 9) Pupils of secondary-school age went to Bottisham village college from 1937. (fn. 10)

The primary school, which continued in the parish, received a new building in 1969. (fn. 11) Thereafter the number of its pupils gradually increased from c. 40 to 103 in 1983. Numbers then declined, but by 1999, when two new classrooms were built, they had risen to 133 infants and juniors, with a staff of five-and-a-half fulltime equivalent teachers, and a non-teaching headmaster. In the mid 1990s the school had links with a number of schools abroad, including the Buddha Academy Boarding School in Katmandu (Nepal). (fn. 12)

In the area of the parish transferred to Cambridge in 1934 two new schools were founded during and after the Second World War. (fn. 13) Ditton Fields County Nursery school, opened on Wadloes Road in 1942 and taken over by the Local Education Authority in 1946, could take 60 children. The Priory County Infants and Junior School, located on Galfrid Road, was opened in 1953, with a capacity for 220 infants and 300 juniors.


  • 1. Proc. C.A.S. lxx. 154.
  • 2. V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 334, 343 n.; cf. ibid. iv. 148; vi. 149; ix. 107.
  • 3. B.L. Add. MS. 9412, f. 195v.
  • 4. Proc. C.A.S. lxx. 154.
  • 5. Rest of para. based on Char. Don. i. 90-1; Blomefield, Collect. Cantab. 42; Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1848), 61; Char. Digest Cambs. 1863-4, 20-1; Char. Com. files.
  • 6. Nat. Soc. Inquiry 1846-7 (1849) Cambs. 4-5.
  • 7. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1847 and later edns.).
  • 8. Minutes of Educ. Cttee. of Council, 1850-1 (1858); Rep. of Educ. Cttee. of Cl. 1865-6, p. 681; Schs. in Receipt of Parl. Grants, 1895-6, p. 22; Bd. of Educ. List 21, 1910, p. 24; 1919, p. 15; 1932, p. 16.
  • 9. Black, Cambs. Educ. Rec. 55; Survey of Fen Ditton, 12.
  • 10. Black, Cambs. Educ. Rec. 55.
  • 11. Inf. from the staff of Fen Ditton primary school.
  • 12. Camb. Evening News, 8 Dec. 1994; 3 Jan. 1995; 19 May 1996.
  • 13. Para. based on inf. from Mr. W.E. Gage, Cambs. County Council Educ. Dept.