Woodford County High School for Girls
- Original design
- William Newton, 1768
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
A substantial detached house sited on the estate of the Walthamstow manor house of Higham Bensted, (listed in the Domesday Book), Highams Manor was built in 1768 for Anthony Bacon MP by William Newton with grounds later laid out by Humphrey Repton.
"Highams" was an elegant Georgian manor house containing: kitchens connected to the room above by a dumb-waiter, food being taken to the dining-room through an adjoining door (later blocked); a ballroom (below which was the library); chapel; living-rooms; bedrooms on the first floor; and, at the top of the house, servants' quarters.
The house was converted into a military hospital during the Great War with ground and first floor rooms used as operating theatres and wards.
In 1919 the building was rented from the Warner family by Essex County Council for the purpose of establishing a new school for girls. Building renovation was needed to turn wards used by soldiers into classrooms to be used by girls. This was done by Messrs Wallace & Wallace, but the project over-ran so the School could not open until 29th September 1919.
There was a stable-block and yard, vegetable garden, orchard, rose garden, tennis court and a park sloping down towards the lake. (The lake had been sold to the Corporation of London in 1891.) The grounds covered 16 acres, and included where the roads between Highams Park Lake and Chingford Lane are now: Charter Avenue, Henry's Avenue, Crealock Road and Nesta Road (built in the early 1930s).
In 1919 the front lawn was surrounded by trees and bushes, and at the back a tree was cut down when the field was levelled for sports. The tree was incorporated into the school badge.
In 1929 the School was bought by the County Council and a commemorative inscription was put over the fireplace in the front entrance. The kitchen yard became the gymnasium; the greenhouse area became the hall; the kitchen garden became tennis courts.
The School, which is 211' above sea level, is in two parishes. Currently the buildings are in Waltham Forest and the lawn, wall and gates in Redbridge.
The North Wing, added in 1927, had 7 classrooms, cloakrooms, gym and dining-room. Access was made easier by the provision of a new pedestrian gate on Chingford Lane corner.
1929: The annexe was demolished and the Assembly Hall built.
1938: A crush hall and gallery were added.
1926: Fund-raising was started for swimming-baths in the grounds.
1928: The old stables were demolished, the site to be used for the baths. There were drainage problems, so fund-raising ceased; then in 1931 it was re-started.
1939: The baths were finished.
1981: The pool was covered over after constant leaks and was used for storage and drama.
The drama centre in the old swimming baths had a fire in 1988 and the pool was condemned as dangerous. The 70th birthday donations were expected to go towards the £250,000 needed for a new Sixth Form suite there. The plans were shelved in 1991 in favour of an Art and Technology Centre (National Curriculum).
1938: The old laboratories were demolished and the South Wing was built to match the North Wing, where the stable yard was. It housed new labs, cloakrooms, rooms for art and domestic science and four classrooms.
During the War the building was used as an Education Office and Red Cross depot, while the school was evacuated to Bedford.
Early in the war the building was painted brown and green as camouflage. Most of the windows got broken and were replaced with cloth. Blast walls were built in the long corridors, from floor to ceiling. Walls were reinforced with sandbags. Girls sat in the corridor during air-raids. There was an air-raid shelter near the Greek Theatre for use by those having games. The wooden ionic half-columns on the main staircase were destroyed during the bombing.
1941: School returned to the South Wing and main building. The North Wing housed Woodford Green Primary School.
1944: A V1 rocket blew windows out & exams had to continue in pencil in the twisty passage.
1945: The blast walls were removed by the Royal Engineers. Essex County Council repainted the walls after the camouflage of the war years.
1950s: The top floor was occupied by the Upper VIth and a teacher (Dr Smith) lived in the flat.
1958-1960 Five new science labs were built.
1962: A new Physics laboratory was completed . It was the first new building for 20 years.
1974: The one-storey building on the tennis court (now the Sixth Form Block) was completed as a Lower Sixth / Art Room.
1988: New lab and new technology room.
1995: A Maths / Science extension added. There were now 9 labs.
1993: The Sixth Form Block refurbished.
2007: The Sports Hall was opened by Iain Duncan Smith (MP for Chingford & Woodford Green) and Stephen Dunmore (Chief Executive of The Big Lottery Fund).
2010: Old Gym / Changing rooms converted to a Conference room and computer suite.
2012: Two further computer suites added.
2013: Greek Theatre restored.
2017: The Centenary Block was opened on 29 September in anticipation of the School's 100th birthday on the same day in 2019. The new facility (a result of school expansion) provides 13 science laboratories, 11 classrooms, a (roof-top) outdoor classroom and three Open Learning spaces for Sixth Form students. Refurbishment of vacated labs in the old building provided new Food Technology and Computing facilities and an 'Innovation Lab'. Two netball / tennis courts were built on the school field. The school site was further enhanced by the installation of a wrought iron fence along the school's front border and by the landscaping of the ground around the Centenary Centre.