North Weald Bassett: Schools

Pages 294-295

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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Simon Thorogood, fishmonger of London, by his will proved in 1635, left £50 to build a schoolroom at North Weald, and endowed it with £10 a year from an estate called Hartsgrove in Barking to pay a schoolmaster to teach children from this and neighbouring parishes. (fn. 1) The school was not actually established until 1678, because of what Morant called 'some bad management'. (fn. 2) It subsequently flourished and seems to have had a continuous existence throughout the 18th century. (fn. 3) By the early 19th century it had apparently declined. In 1818 there were said to be only 6 pupils on the foundation, possibly because two other schools had been established in the parish. (fn. 4) About 1829 the vicar revived the school by increasing the number of pupils and by establishing in conjunction with it a Sunday school which flourished for many years. In 1833 he was receiving, in addition to the trust income of £10, about £12 in local contributions. (fn. 5) He supervised the school and appointed the master, who lived rent free and taught in a cottage situated between the road and the churchyard and thought to be the original 17th-century schoolhouse. The pupils paid 1d. a week to learn to read and a higher fee for writing; the girls were taught plain needle-work, apparently by the master's wife. (fn. 6) In 1838 the school was occupying one of a pair of houses immediately east of the old cottage. (fn. 7)

The population of the parish was almost 900 at this time and the schoolhouse could not accommodate all the children needing education. In 1839 there were 63 attending it; another 40 went to dame schools in the parish. (fn. 8) In 1842 the vicar, Henry Cockerell, collected subscriptions for a new school. The pair of cottages previously mentioned was either rebuilt or incorporated in a new school building of red brick. (fn. 9) Although called a National School throughout the remainder of the century it does not seem to have been in union with the National Society. (fn. 10) The attendance increased rapidly after the building of the new school, reaching 95 in 1846-7. (fn. 11) The master and mistress, who were untrained, were then receiving £42 a year, a salary which the vicar thought insufficient to attract competent teachers. Attendance at the school remained steady for 20 years: in 1867 there were 97 pupils, all children of farm workers, taught by an uncertificated master and mistress. (fn. 12) There was a special class for the free scholars, said to number 40 in 1848. (fn. 13)

After the Education Act of 1870 Churchmen in the parish decided to increase the accommodation, which the official inquiry in 1871 showed to be quite inadequate. (fn. 14) The Education Department pressed for the provision of places for all the 160 children in the parish needing elementary education. (fn. 15) A building committee was therefore established, which collected £334 in voluntary subscriptions and raised a further £256 by means of a voluntary rate of 9d. The school was extended at a total cost of £615 to accommodate about 150. (fn. 16) A government proposal at this time to amalgamate North Weald and Stanford Rivers (q.v.) in a single school district was dropped after strong opposition from North Weald.

The enlarged accommodation and the increasing population of the parish made possible an increase in average attendance, from 59 in 1875 to 81 in 1886 and 122 in 1893; the annual grant to the school increased from £33 to £61 and £93 at the same dates. (fn. 17) In 1894 the accommodation was further increased to 214 places by the addition of an infants' room at a cost of £250, defrayed by local contributions and some grants from church organizations. In 1897 a new teacher's house was built in place of the old cottage in the churchyard. (fn. 18) In 1902 the average attendance was 150 and the annual grant £154. (fn. 19) Further income came from the contributions of local churchmen, 21 of whom gave 2s. 6d. or more in 1900, and from the original endowment of £10 a year. (fn. 20)

By the 1902 Education Act the school passed under the administration of the Essex Education Committee, Epping District, as a non-provided, mixed school. The number of pupils continued to grow for some years. In 1904 there were 176 on the roll, with an average attendance of 160, and the staff comprised 5 teachers and 2 monitresses. (fn. 21) Average attendance fell to 134 in 1910 and 101 in 1929. In 1932 the school was reorganized for mixed juniors and infants and by 1938 the average attendance was only 71. (fn. 22)

In June 1940 the school was closed because of its proximity to North Weald airfield. For several months a system of home tuition was carried on in the village while some children attended the primary school at Chipping Ongar. In March 1941 a temporary school was opened in the parish at Wildingtree Farm, a twostory red-brick house on the west side of the road to Magdalen Laver. In 1953 this building was still in use but a new primary school was in course of construction north of the housing estate at School Green. In May 1952 there were 167 children under 6 teachers. (fn. 23) The school was granted controlled status in 1952. (fn. 24)

The small timber-framed cottage between the road and the churchyard, said to be the original 17thcentury school, still exists. The stairs and partitions are probably later insertions. Adjoining the cottage to the east is the 19th-century school, now used for storage purpose and some village activities. The back of this building is of two stories and probably represents the schoolmaster's house of about 1842. The road frontage appears to be mostly of 1871 with later alterations and additions. The barge-boards of the central gable have the inscription: 'Train up a child in the way he will go and when he is old he will not depart from it.' The teacher's house, on the opposite side of the road, is also of red brick and is dated 1897.


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 559; P.C.C. Year Bks. of Probates, 1635-9, p. 64; E.R.O., D/P 84/1/1.
  • 2. Morant, Essex, i, 151.
  • 3. Ibid.; Colchester Borough Libr. MS. Crisp's Marriage Regs., vol. A-B, p. 39.
  • 4. Retns. Educ. Poor, H.C. 224, p. 275 (1819), ix (1).
  • 5. Educ. Enquiry Abstr. H.C. 62, p. 284 (1835), xli; E.R.O., D/P 30/28/19.
  • 6. Ibid.; V.C.H. Essex, ii, 559.
  • 7. E.R.O., D/CT 387.
  • 8. E.R.O., D/P 30/28/19.
  • 9. Min. of Educ. File 13/284.
  • 10. Ibid.; White's Dir. Essex (1863), p. 736.
  • 11. Nat. Soc. Enquiry into Church Schs. 1846-7, pp. 14-15.
  • 12. V.C.H. Essex, ii, 559.
  • 13. White's Dir. Essex (1848), p. 429; D. W. Coller, People's Hist. Essex, 481.
  • 14. Retns. Elem. Educ. H.C. 201, pp. 110-11 (1871), lv.
  • 15. Min. of Educ. File 13/342.
  • 16. E.R.O., D/P 84/8.
  • 17. Rep. of Educ. Cttee. of Council, 1875 [C. 1513-1], p. 533, H.C. (1876), xxiii; ibid. 1886 [C. 5123], p. 520, H.C. (1887), xxviii; Retn. of Schs. 1893 [C. 7529], p. 715, H.C. (1894), lxv.
  • 18. Ex. Inf. Nat. Soc.
  • 19. Schs. under Bd. of Educ. 1902 [Cd. 1490], p. 73, H.C. (1903), li.
  • 20. Min. of Educ. File 13/284.
  • 21. Essex Educ. Cttee. Handk. 1904, 150.
  • 22. Min. of Educ. File 13/284.
  • 23. Ex Inf. Essex Educ. Cttee.
  • 24. Ibid.