The Opening of BHCHS

JH Taylor, the first Headmaster of BHCHS, describes the first days of the school....

From any direction the first view of the school is striking. I first saw it in April, 1938, when, in complete ignorance of its situation, I was drawn by some intuition down Palmerston Road. As I passed over the railway bridge I gained my first glimpse. There, magnificently situated in open country, rose the extended front elevation, gleaming in the spring sun. It was an inspiring sight, for, in spite of the newness of the buildings, somehow the school seemed to harmonise with the natural background and its lines to be related to the natural contours of its terrain. At that time the new road to Chigwell had not been made; Roding Lane was green with the foliage of hedge and tree, so that one felt that here indeed was the perfect setting for a school. It is well to record this at a time when the new road has been cut; when traffic signs and lamp posts have sprung up in Roding Lane; when the bright line of new houses creeps nearer to the school and when there is rumour of a bus route past its gates.

I paid many visits to the school during the following months, and when the corn was ripening in the fields around, it was clear that the school would not be completed by the day fixed for opening. But at any rate three form rooms would he ready, if little else. Even so, neither the Staff nor I will ever forget the few days before Thursday, September the 15th. Workmen were roaming all over the building; no desks had arrived and equipment of all conceivable variety, from saucepans to pen nibs, had been heaped in the Staff Room as it arrived. There, piled on the floor, lay kitchen equipment, textbooks, stationery, laboratory equipment and chemicals, cleaning materials and sporting goods. Two whole days were taken in checking this rich variety but still came no desks.

Finally, on the eve of the opening, 120 old and battered desks were commandeered from local schools and installed. On that same evening the parents of the new pupils had been invited to meet the Staff and to view the school. As it so happened, the evening was dark with storm and as yet there was no light. Parents were left to survey the school in the shades of night, and I addressed an almost invisible, but not inaudible, body of parents in the Assembly Hall. Even under those trying circumstances, the enthusiasm and loyalty of the parents was most heartening.

On the next day, a bright sunny morning, 89 boys assembled for prayers in the Gymnasium. Alderman Green, Chairman of the County Building Committee, was present to view the entry of the boys into the new school and to give a short address to the original scholars. So the beginning was past history, but history of another, unwanted kind, was upon us. Barely a week of the new term had passed before boys were sent home early after lunch to invite their parents to an emergency Air Raid Evacuation meeting at the school on the same evening. Practically every parent came, listened, and signed forms, although the international news that night was of a reassuring nature. Nevertheless boys arrived the next morning with their kit bags and evacuation lunches. Mercifully, evacuation was never operated, but its unsettling effect upon a new school was deplorable. Then, after much procrastination, the builders evacuated the building, most reluctant to abandon the scene of their triumphs, and at last we were left, Staff and boys, to work.


The following images are taken from the programme issued at the official opening of the school on 23rd November 1938.










The following description of the opening ceremony was written by Mr CW Lloyd, who was the school's first history and geography master.......


For those eighty-nine boys in whom the school had its real beginning, that first Assembly in the gymnasium on the morning of September 15th, 1938, punctuated as it was by the noise of building operations still going on, will be an occasion always to be remembered. There followed days when the newness and grandeur of the surroundings, coupled with anxiety over international affairs and plans for evacuation, made the task of settling down no easy one. With the official opening ceremony on November 25th, however, the school was complete; Munich had lifted the clouds of war, and the boys were able, perhaps for the first time, to take stock of their surroundings, to appreciate what had been done for them and to realise to whom they owed the immeasurable opportunities that had come their way. The ceremony of opening the building was performed by Lt.-Colonel S. S. Mallinson, who, in company with Miss M. E. Tabor, the Chairman of the Essex Education Committee, Dr.B. E. Lawrence, Acting Director of Education, and other distinguished people, entered the main door, which was opened with a silver key. The hall was filled with guests and parents of the first members of the school, and here the proceedings opened with a hymn, "Gracious Spirit, dwell with me," and a dedicatory prayer spoken by the Rev. P. N. Maitland, the Rural Dean of Chigwell. Miss M. E. Tabor, the Chairman, spoke of the need which had long since been felt for a boys' school at Buckhurst Hill, and declared that the unavoidable delay was now justified by the magnificent site which had been secured for the school. She emphasised the desire of the Committee to place higher education within the reach of every child in the County. Miss Tabor addressed a few words to the boys, declaring how great was their responsibility of laying sure foundations for a school that she hoped would be one of the best in the County. Lt.-Colonel S. S. Mallinson spoke next and said how honoured he was to have the chance of opening this new school. Himself a great exponent of physical fitness, he pointed out how admirably suited the building and its playing fields were to the furtherance of this aim. He too stressed the fact that the boys who were already members of the school were creators of a tradition which should be one of fitting oneself for the service of one's country. As a token of the importance he attached to games and sportsmanship, Lt.-Colonel Mallinson declared his wish to present the School with a cup to be awarded annually for some form of sportsmanship. He wishes the cup to be known as the "John Sargent" Cup in appreciation of the Director of Education. Lt. -Colonel Mallinson continued by stressing the need for co-operation between parents and staff in their mutual task, and concluded with the words, "I declare this school open and wish it God Speed in all its ventures."

Mr. T. H. Knight, the Chairman of the Governors, in his address, added further words of praise for the building and its site. He drew the attention of those present to the school crest and its motto, "Donata Reponere Laeti," which he hoped the boys would be ever ready to uphold. A vote of thanks to Lt.-Colonel S. S. Mallinson was proposed by Mr. A. L. Clarke, the Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, and seconded by Mr. J. Hewett, the Chairman of the South West Regional Committee. The vote of thanks to the Chairman was proposed by Mr. J. Ranger, the Vice-Chairman of the Governing Body, and seconded by Mr. F. S. Foster, the Chairman of the Chigwell Urban District Council.

The proceedings concluded with a physical training display by some of the boys, and this, their first effort, was received with such sincere applause that the school must have realised how great would be the encouragement they would receive in the fulfillment of that great task that had been laid upon them that afternoon.



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Buckhurst Hill County High School