George Monoux (the Sir was a contemporary courtesy title) was born about 1465, probably the son of Richard Monoux, salter and merchant of London. But it was in Bristol that he first came to note - in 1490 as Bailiff, and in 1501 as Mayor.
It is not particularly strange to find Monoux migrating and re-migrating between London and Bristol - he was probably following trade contacts or relations. In 1503 he had returned to London and was living in Crooked Lane, off Cannon Street. In 1506 he was a Warden of the Drapers' Company, Master in 1506, 1516, 1520, 1526, 1532 and 1539. He was Sheriff of London in 1509, Mayor in 1514 and 1523 and was also elected to Parliament as a Burgess for the City in 1523. There is no doubt that he was exceedingly rich, for he owned land in at least ten counties, besides London.
For the endowment of the school, Monoux left to trustees on his death (which occurred on 9 February 1544) property off Fenchurch Street in the City, which was let at rents of about £50 per annum. All the school received from that was the master's ten marks, and two marks (26s. 8d.) for the clerk of the Parish, should he assist the master. Monoux appointed several friends and kinsfolk as his trustees. This, again, was rather open to dispute and the trustees, over the years, obviously took little heed of the needs of the foundation. This is hardly surprising, for their duty had been thrust upon them by accident, and in all probability they had no connection with the parish. As the years went by they had less and less connection with the founder or with his purposes.
The first account we have of the school functioning is that of 1548, when chantries - that is, arrangements by persons for priests to pray for them after their deaths - were abolished by Henry VIII. In the course of this the Essex chantries, including the Monoux school-almshouse-chantry charity, were recorded. Like virtually every other place in Essex that was visited, Walthamstow is described as a "grate town". The number of its communicants was stated to be about 360, indicating a total population of 450-550. John Hogeson, a man in holy orders, 40 years old, "of goode usage ande conversacion, litterate and teachithe a scole . . ." was Master.
Henry Maynard is one of the school's benefactors whose name is all but forgotten in its annals. Maynard's will provided also that his executors and their heirs be empowered to nominate eight children to the school at any one
In the seventeenth century, as we have seen, the charity was often openly denied its legitimate funds and, for this reason, records relating to it have survived. In the eighteenth century we have no such records, which may indicate that the situation improved somewhat. But we cannot say so for certain. There are no records at all of the school between the 1699 inquisition and 1781, from which fact the most probable deduction is that the school maintained a quiet and unspectacular existence.
On 1 July 1781 the Vestry appointed a committee to negotiate with the Monoux trustees with a view to purchasing their property in the Church, control over which they needed to carry out vital repairs. The trustees were evidently willing to sell only if at the same time they were able to dispossess themselves of the liability of the school and almshouses - they saw no doubt, that they had a bargaining hold over the parish. Accordingly, an agreement was concluded that September, which entered into force in 1782, whereby the trustees conveyed all the church and charity property to the Vestry in return for a reduction of the payment under the endowment to £21 per annum. This agreement was quite illegal - the Vestry had no right whatever to conclude it. They also had to compensate the almspriest-schoolmaster, Rev. Griffith Lloyd. He was granted an annuity for life of £20 and was to be allowed to retain his house in the foundation building. Lloyd took boarders, whom he lodged in the almshouse, and ran his school as a classical grammar school for them. The free school of eight boys was under a separate master employed by Lloyd. This master took no Latin, but lessons in it were arranged, if desired for the free scholars, either by Lloyd or a visiting master at extra cost. This resembled the arrangements used at the time in Chigwell School, and doubtless, elsewhere.
Lloyd, however, died before the transfer took effect; he was buried on 2 March 1782. Thus the school came completely under the control of the parish, or technically, its nominated trustees. The senior churchwarden, Joel Johnson, was instructed to provide for lessons as best he could until a new master was appointed.
The parish then reviewed Monoux's ordinances. Most were re-enacted, but the requirements for prayers for Monoux's soul and the provisions for obits, as well as certain requirements for the alms-people, were repealed.
As far as the school was concerned, the parish put into effect many changes almost at once. It augmented the endowment and increased the numbers in the school to about fifty - thirty boys and twenty girls. A mistress was employed directly by the parish for the girls. Clothing was provided by Joel Johnson, churchwarden, such that he might spot truants in the street. It was of a standard pattern and from its design the foundation became known as the Blue School, as opposed to the Green School, a name applied to the Marsh Street British School, set up in 1789 by dissenters, when the Monoux master is reputed to have made derogatory remarks about nonconformists in his charge. In 1815, the number of girls on the foundation was increased to thirty. The subjects taught were by then not classical, although they must have been in 1792 when one William Parson matriculated at Cambridge, "from the Walthamstow Grammar School". Education was not entirely free, for 17s. 6d. to £1 a year was charged for pens, ink, copy books and fuel.
In 1815, to make new clothes for the children, four pieces of white kersey (a coarse narrow cloth woven from long wool) were purchased from Leach & Broadbent of 38 Throgmorton Street, London, at 98s. a piece. These were then dyed dark blue (for £7) and set (8s.) by Charles Green & Company of' London, twice pressed (6s.) locally by Elizabeth Mayhew and made up into thirty boys' suits at a cost of £18, half by John Hicks and half by William York, both of Marsh Street. Each suit therefore cost just over 30s. For the girls there were purchased six pieces of "Superfine Long Ells" at 52s. per piece from Walfords & Green of London. The same firm carried out the dyeing in blue, the setting, pressing, burling, etc. for £2 11s. 6d. A month later Ann Maynard submitted a bill for £8 5s. "For making the Blue Girls Cloths thirty Gowns and thirty Peticoats including Linings and Trimmings at five shillings and six pence each suit". Each girl's uniform therefore cost about 17s. 6d. plus the cost of material for the petticoats, which was not recorded. In July each year, the children of the School apparently enjoyed buns and wine. The quantities are not given, but the price was 5s. for buns and 10s. 6d. for wine.
In 1818, the return made by George Hughes, the curate, to the Commons Select Committee on the Education of the Poor stated that there were sixty in the school, the master's salary being £37 per annum and that of the mistress was £20 per annum.
A meeting of the Vestry on 3 September 1818 received a report of the school committee "that very general and serious complaints have been made of the great disorder and want of discipline which prevails in the Girls Blue School". The girls' teacher at this time was a Mrs.Abbott. It was found that "the present Mistress has not sufficient authority to restrain the ill-conduct of the Children". A resolution was passed that the mistress's resignation be accepted and the school suspended.
On 10 September, Anne Maynard was appointed mistress "until the commencement of the school on the plan of the National Education Society". Part of the trouble seems to have been the overcrowding of the children, and after having thought about enlarging the schoolroom, it was decided to put up a new building (cost to be met by voluntary subscription) and to combine in it the Girls Blue School, the Sunday School, and some of the girls from the workhouse. Apparently, it was decided later to accommodate boys as well.
On 2 April 1819 the Vestry met to consider an application for the grant of a piece of land belonging to the parish, tenanted by John Humphreys, in the yard adjoining the Poor House, to be used for the erection of a school for a hundred boys and a hundred girls "to be Raised and Maintained by Voluntary Contributions". This was agreed and the new school was in use by the autumn of 1819. The site mentioned was at the eastern side of the workhouse acre, with the pathway across the Common (now Vestry Road) running between the workhouse and the school. The building (which still stands though no longer used as a school) contained accommodation for the master and mistress and was enlarged in 1825. So the Blue School was separated from the Monoux foundation and both continued independently, the former as the National School.
It is noteworthy, incidentally, that neither the Monoux nor Maynard endowments, nor any subsequent ruling, discriminated between boys and girls receiving the benefits of the school. The fact that education for girls was provided at all by the post-1782 re-organisation indicated the demand; but perhaps the lack of provision after 1819, when a higher course was re-instituted, demonstrates the lack of demand for anything but elementary education. Nevertheless, the intention of the Founder to provide for girls was recognised, even in 1884, when the Charity Commissioners' scheme made specific reference to the setting up of a Monoux Girls' School when funds became available. When the charity income was commuted to provide grants for further education, girls became eligible again for its benefits.