Birch: Education

Pages 53-54

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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In 1716 the rector of Great Birch was paying towards a small school where several poor children were taught to read. (fn. 1) His successor reported in 1723 that there was no public school but that poor children were taught reading, writing, and 'other necessary knowledge'. (fn. 2) In 1790 there were two or three day schools, and by 1810 one parish school, two or three small schools teaching needlework to poor girls, and a Sunday school for boys. (fn. 3) By 1819 there were two day schools in the parish with c. 70 pupils. They seem to have continued in 1833 when there were five with a total of 88 children. There were still three or four private schools in 1839, but only two small dame schools by 1846. A nonconformist Sunday school with 50 pupils reported in 1818 may have been the free Sunday school for 85 children run by Layer Breton chapel in 1833 in a schoolroom within Birch parish; it was probably the school which stood just inside the parish boundary in 1841. A church Sunday school for 50 children, opened by 1818, had 30 pupils in 1833. (fn. 4) By 1841 there was a church school opposite Great Birch church supported by voluntary subscription. (fn. 5) C. G. Round's wife, Emma, built a National school for c. 130 children on the same site in 1847. (fn. 6) The school, which followed the Pestalozzi teaching method, was paid for by Emma Round assisted by the children's pence and from 1862, by regular government grants. (fn. 7) A new classroom added in 1871 increased the accommodation to 238. (fn. 8) The building was enlarged and altered in 1911 by J. Round, (fn. 9) and in 1931 by C. J. Round with the assistance of the diocese. In 1939 C. J. Round conveyed the school to the Chelmsford Diocesan Board of Finance. (fn. 10) Evening classes were held at the school from 1897. Ploughing classes were held in 1906 and Essex County Council built a Handicraft and Cookery Centre in 1911. (fn. 11)

The school took children from Layer Breton, Layer Marney, Wigborough, and Salcott Virley when the schools in those parishes closed between 1877 and 1937, and in 1931 a senior department was formed. In 1953 there were 232 children from 10 parishes at the school. In 1957 senior pupils were transferred to new secondary schools at Stanway and Tiptree, and Birch school was reorganized as a primary school. (fn. 12) In 1985 the number on the roll was 73. (fn. 13)

The school building of 1847, (fn. 14) of gault brick with lowpitched slate roofs, is singlestoreyed with projecting end bays and large windows with Tudor hoodmoulds. The house for the master and mistress is similar in style but with Gothick windows and doorway. The school was extended in 1985. (fn. 15)


  • 1. S.P.C.K. Letter Bk., Abstracts, vol. 7, 4932; ibid. Annual Rep. 1724.
  • 2. Guildhall MS. 25750/1.
  • 3. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Porteus Papers 24; Randolph Papers 9.
  • 4. Digest Returns Educ. Poor, H.C. 224, p. 247 (1819), ix (1); Educ. Enq. Abstract, p. 266; E.R.O., D/P 30/28/18; ibid. D/CT 34; Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/ACM 12; ibid. D/CT 34.
  • 6. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 116; below, plate 47.
  • 7. Rep. Educ. Cttee. of Council, 1861-2 [3007], p. 510, H.C. (1862), xlii; E.R.O., D/DR O19.
  • 8. E.R.O., D/DLu 81; Return of Public Elementary Schs. 1875-6, p. 66 (1877).
  • 9. E.R.O., E/MM 93, p. 99; Kelly's Dir. Essex, (1912).
  • 10. E.R.O., C/ME 27, p. 406; Nat. Soc. file; H. J. Figg Edginton, Birch School, 20-1.
  • 11. Schs. in Receipt of Parl. Grants, 1897-1901, p. 356; M. E. Sadler, Rep. on Secondary and Higher Educ. in Essex, 1906, 285; E.R.O., E/MM 93.
  • 12. E.R.O., E/Z 36/2; ibid. Acc. C930, Birch School, records and pictures, 1870-1997.
  • 13. E.R.O., Acc. C492 (uncat.).
  • 14. White's Dir. Essex (1848), 116.
  • 15. E.R.O., E/Z 73.