Picture of church


Contents of chapter

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Archdeacon would enquire from time to time about the state of schools in each parish. In 1808, the Rector, Revd.Strahan, replied to Archdeacon Dr.Gretton (who resided at St.Mary Magdelene College, Cambridge):

"Revd Sir-

In answer to the Lord Bishop's enquiry communicated in your circular letter, I beg to acquaint you, for his Lordship's information, that no school for the education of the poor has yet been established in this parish, which is small and contains few inhabitants.

I am, Revd.Sir, your humble and obedient servant"(141).

The use of the term "poor" in this context probably meant those who were unable to pay for their children to board at a school a long way from home. Curiously, Strahan gives his home address as Cranham, Grays, Essex, suggesting that this was the route of the mail of the day. At this time the population of the parish would have numbered about 240 people suggesting that perhaps 40 - 60 children could have been found in the scattered cottages.

A national set of education returns exists for 1839 (143), and notes that a day school had existed at Cranham since 1818. This was the year that Ludbey arrived as Rector, and it is he who receives the credit for this educational initiative. Nonetheless, it was the result of a fund from Miss Boyd. The Rector and the benefactor appointed a Miss Grunwick as the schoolmistress.

At Cranham, in 1839, Miss Grunwick's school was attended by 16 children. The school was known as the "Dames School", was somewhat connected with the church, but met in Miss Grunwick's own cottage. The children went to school from the age of four. The girls attended quite regularly, but it was noted that the boys were frequently absent "especially at seed time and when the corn is shooting" because they worked as bird scarers. In 1839, Miss Grunwick also opened an evening school for adults (efforts to teach adults to read are evidently not a modern invention). The durable Miss Grunwick taught at Cranham well into her old age, and was still active in the parish in 1874 (12, 142).

In 1839, there was also a Sunday school. In those days the Sunday schools provided general types of education, as well as religious studies. Some 47 children went to the Cranham Sunday School, including a few from as far away as North Ockendon and Great Warley. The Sunday School met in "private premises".

There were no endowed funds for these schools. The Sunday School alone cost £6-12-6d per year to run; Miss Grunwick was paid £4 a year in addition to her usual salary to teach on Sundays. The pupils were charged 4 d. per week to attend, but it was noted that:

"this is charged if not too poor; in which case this fee is paid by a Gentleman or by the Rector. Some clothes are distributed at the school."

If 16 children attended school every week of the year, paying 4 d. per week, then about £14 per year would be raised. It is likely that the free clothing was bought with the small surplus that the school may have raised on a month by month basis.

What did these children do after leaving school ? The Rector noted that:

"We endeavour to have the girls into service when they leave the school. The boys generally remain in the parish with their parents."

By 1846, the day school had expanded to 9 boys and 20 girls. It was accommodated now in its own cottage; Miss Grunwick's must have become too small. In 1854 this cottage was demolished and the school moved to a "wooden building", again we do not know where this building stood.

The generosity of the Boyd family allowed a new school to be built in 1870. It stands today and is still called "Boyd Hall". It is of good yellow, Essex stock bricks. The grid reference (6) is TQ573(1)868(1). This was a great advance in parish education. There were two spacious school rooms, a lobby, storage space, an outhouse, and the schoolmistress's cottage. The tiled roof carried a bell-cote, and the bell was chimed by pulling a rope. Above the front windows of the mistress's house was placed, and may be seen today, a plaque commemorating the donors (figure 33).

In 1886, Kelly's Essex Directory (5) noted that the Lord of the Manor (Richard Benyon) contributed to the building fund for the school. Presumably, the building was not paid off when it was constructed. It was also noted that although Miss Boyd was now resident at faraway Wanstead, she continued to provide funds for the school. By this time, some 75 children were attending, and the average daily attendance was 70. Miss Mary Chime was the new teacher, following Miss Grunwick's retirement. In addition, there were evening classes three nights a week, and these were free.

Both Miss Boyd and Mr.Benyon died in 1897, leaving the school without visible means of support. On December 19, the vestry voted a permanent 3 d. in the pound rate for education, the first time at Cranham that education was recognised to be the responsibility of the whole community (61). The school had now grown further: Miss Chime needed two assistants.

Until November 1897, standards in the school were simply those that the Cranham residents could maintain themselves. Annual inspections by county officers then began. The first inspection went very well: all three teachers were awarded £5 per annum increases in their salaries, and the top 20 scholars received prizes. The results of this inspection were published in a local newspaper (61).

In 1898 Mr. F.R. Thorogood was appointed as headmaster of the school. On October 7, he began regular evening school. Thirteen students enrolled in a course of "mensuration, botany and drawing". As a special treat, on the first night of term, there was a lantern lecture by Mr. Thorogood about Queensland (which was then an independent colony within the enormous British Empire). This sounds a rather odd pot pourri for agricultural workers by modern standards, but has an authentic Victorian ring.

By 1899, Benyon's son was making annual donations of £10 per year to the school, even though he was resident in Sussex, Benyon remained very interested in Cranham, and the school was one of the beneficiaries of his concern. The Rector wrote to him regularly about the parishioners, referring to them by name (143). Clearly, the two men were good friends.

The Education Act (1906) established Boards of Governors for all schools. There was some local protest at this because the people of Cranham feared that this would reduce the freedom of the headmaster to set the curriculum and discipline the pupils. In the event, a compromise was reached. The Boyd School received two managers, one appointed by the Parish Council and the other by the Essex County Council. There was probably little practical change in the running of the school, and the protests died down.

The school grew to overflowing. By 1941, classes were being held not only in the Boyd Hall, but also in the vestry hall that had been built at the junction of St.Mary's Lane with Front Lane after the sale of the glebe (Chapter 7).

The Boyd School served the parish again in the late 1950's when Oglethorpe School (see below) overflowed. After that it has served as a private kindergarten, and is now purely a church hall used by Scouts, Guides and various parish organizations. A plane tree stood outside for many years and was protected by the Forestry Commission; but they are now gone. There are also three good evergreen holme oaks within its grounds (see Chapter 12).


After the war, the remedy for chronic overcrowding came with the construction of a brand new school. Ground was broken for Oglethorpe School in 1948, which stands at TQ576866. This was the largest building the parish had ever seen. Oglethorpe opened in 1950 with about 320 juniors and 200 infants. Its first headmaster was Mr.Rowntree, succeeded by Mr.Ellis in 1963, and by Mr.Hudson in 1972. The school was built by the County, and draws pupils from both Cranham and North Ockendon.

Initially the cruciform plan of the school included about 16 classrooms, two large halls, a range of offices, two playgrounds, a cafeteria, boilerhouse, and a playing field of about an acre. The building is divided by a flight of stairs at the centre, with juniors to the east and infants to the west. An optimistic view of its architecture identifies it as a good example of "Bauhaus". A school of similar design in Hampshire has recently been added to the list of historic buildings on this basis. "Bauhaus" was very popular with the Essex Architecture department in the immediate post-war era, and Oglethorpe School is but one of many similar examples in the county.

In 1957-58, the school overflowed back into the Boyd Hall. In 1961 classes were being held in curtained off portions of the halls, and in the front lobby. This did not particularly bother the pupils, but they must have been less than ideal conditions for the teachers. In 1962 an extra permanent classroom was built onto the west end, and several pre-fabricated buildings were added in both playgrounds during the next few years. The number of children in the parish has now declined from these peak years.

Oglethorpe school named its houses with Georgia in mind. The blue house was called Port Royal, red was Frederica, green was Savannah, and yellow was Brunswick. The author recalls that the local history of Upminster was featured in classes when he was about 10 years old, and that this stimulated him to find out about the General. This led to his interest in the parish as a whole. It is possible that if the school been named otherwise then this book would never have been the eventual outcome, thirty years later.


The exponential increase in the parish population after the second world war demanded a second primary school in Cranham. Engayne School was built in conjunction with the big Avon Road estate development, and opened in 1958, taking in 320 infants and 240 juniors. In 1967, Engayne was twice the size of Oglethorpe, and an annex was opened at the junction of Marlborough Gardens and Avon Road to handle the overflow. The original school is at TQ571882, and the annex is at TQ571879. Today the catchment areas of Engayne and Oglethorpe roughly correspond to the boundaries of the two parishes of St.Luke's and All Saints', respectively (see Chapter 8).


Hall Mead School opened in 1960, and was enlarged twice in 1968 and 1973. It was originally a secondary modern school for those who were not selected to go to Grammar School by examination at the age of 11 years. It is now a comprehensive school. Well-equipped, it was one of the first schools to acquire a swimming pool, largely by the fundraising efforts of the pupils and their families.

If they passed their "11-plus" examination, then, in the 1960's, Cranham's secondary school children were strewn between the Cooper's school at Bow and Palmer's School at Grays. Intermediate points included Hornchurch Grammar, Abbs Cross Technical, Royal Liberty, Campion, Ursuline, and the Coburn (London) Schools, which were also popular with their parents. A few, either privately or with County scholarships, might attend the Tudor school at Brentwood.

The comprehensive school system changed all this; at least one positive result was that children wasted fewer hours each day commuting. It is possible, though unproven, that the close catchment areas of comprehensive schools was a social benefit. Whether a comprehensive system or a selective system is more likely to optimise education for each child will probably remain a debate that cannot be resolved.

Three schools of relevance to Cranham, were exceptions to the comprehensive movement. The private, Tudor school, at Brentwood continued much as ever. The Cooper's Company and Coburn schools at Bow and Mile End, respectively, had been direct grant schools with independent boards of governors, with playing fields as far away as Fairlop. In 1967 they decided to amalgamate, and to the great good fortune of the parish, they chose to relocate from the East End to Cranham. Building began in 1969, and the first pupils arrived in 1971. The sixth forms were last to leave London, migrating east in 1973.

A prospectus for the school (144) describes the peculiar method by which the governors of the new combined school are selected (Table 11). The initial teaching staff numbered 65, including, by some strange co-incidence, a certain Mr.Oglethorpe.

The school stands on the very western edge of the parish on the south side of St.Mary's Lane. It is superbly equipped, and is the largest building in the parish. Its indoor swimming pool, and extensive playing fields are the envy of those that attended their predecessor schools in the East End. This school remains selective in its intake.

As in the nineteenth century, the funding of schools remains a central issue in the quality of education. There is no doubt that even now amalgamated into the London Borough of Havering, the largest part of all rates paid are for the support of the education system.

Little more than 170 years has elapsed since education at Cranham began with 16 pupils in Miss Grunwick's cottage. Cranham today, contains ample primary school facilities, and in the Coopers' and Coburn School one of the finest, free secondary schools in the country. These facilities would rival any parish in Essex, indeed in the world. Education is the most precious of all legacies.