Old Monovians Association; History of the School

Financial crisis and the County takeover; 1889 - 1927 - 1925 Inspection

In 1925 the Board of Education again inspected the School. This time their report was as full of praise and commendation as that of 1913 had been of condemnation. Its conclusion was that "the school is well organised, and thoroughly efficient . . . there is work of a high order in several of the main subjects . . . and . . . no really weak spots". The sixth form, however, remained small; with only sixteen boys.

The new building plans progressed slowly. There had been a dispute between 1916 and 1919 as to the site of the new school, during which the Board of Education and the Essex County Council had preferred the Chingford Road site, and the Governors had harried them in favour of a plot on the corner of Farnan Avenue and Forest Road, now the site of the County Court
House. The economic situation prevented plans being drawn up before December 1922, when they were approved by the County. Working drawings were ready in October 1924, but at this point the Board caused certain readjustments, notably simpler elevations, to be made. Work started in March 1926, a tender of £42,626 having been accepted the previous September. Then the contractor withdrew and direct labour was substituted. But work had been allowed to start before approval for a loan had been given, and this the Ministry of Health, who gave such authorisation, were loath to do, since Walthamstow (upon which fell all the interest charges in line with County policy) was already heavily in debt. It was not until 31 May 1926 that a letter was sent from the Board of Education to the Ministry of Health setting out the Monoux scheme as an urgent case, upon the personal decision, it is recorded, of the Minister, Lord Eustace Percy. On 10 June 1926 the loan was issued and building began in earnest. The final cost of the land and buildings, including making up the sports field, was £52,138.

Some general observations on the school in its last years in High Street seem appropriate before considering the Chingford Road era. Firstly, the site itself had become more cramped. The temporary buildings erected in 1916, and the additional three classrooms of 1920/21 reduced the playground space virtually to nil. The comforts of the staff were negligible; at one time they had to share the Head's study. High Street between 1890 and 1927 had changed from a semi- rural thoroughfare with large houses, to a busy street market "of roaring costers" as one account had it. Gillard's pickle and pie factory stood across the road, without the barrier of shops erected later. The corner by the baths was the traditional place for revivalists, barrel- organs and performing monkey shows. The Monovian of those days had a multitude of exotic sights, sounds and smells to distract him from his work. The staff-room had "a kind of warm fug . . . conducive to the telling of exceptional stories . . ." according to one former master.  One wonders how long the 28lbs of Rough Shag delivered in November 1923 lasted, for it, no doubt, provided the "warm fug". (Up to the war Headmasters had a licence to sell tobacco to the Assistant Masters).

Other innovations of King's period were a revised prefectoral system, the regular Monovian magazine, the "Bust-up", or masters' and sixth form Social Club, and the naming of the houses after school benefactors (to which Morris was always an inexplicable addition). Between 1916 and 1926, it should also be stated, the Monoux School catered solely for Walthamstow boys. The differential fees charged were abolished in January 1921, but by that time the only non-Walthamstow pupils were those whose parents had moved out of the district since their admission, and the very occasional boy admitted by reciprocal arrangement with the London County Council.

King resigned in May 1925 to take up an appointment at the George Green School with the L.C.C. He was succeeded, after a term, by Harold Midgley, who came from St. Olave's School, where he was a housemaster. Midgley was a linguist, and had written text-books for German teaching. It was thus with a relatively new headmaster that the school took over its new premises, but it was undoubtedly through the solid achievement of the King era that its flourishing state was due.

From October 1926, the title of the school "Monoux Grammar School", then in general use, was officially changed to "Sir George Monoux' Grammar School, but locally the unusually placed apostrophe was almost never used in the official form. The Board of Education continued to use "Sir George Monoux's Grammar School".

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