The original St Edward’s School was founded as a Charity School in 1710. The vestry book for St Edward’s Church in Romford records an entry on 5th September 1710:
‘Whereas a Charity School is erecting or setting up with all possible speed to be sett up and opened in this town of Rumford… for the educating of poor children and teaching them to read & write and instructing them in the knowledge and practice of the Christian religion as professed and taught in the Church of England.’
In 1710, the school was in two sections, one for boys with a Master, and one for girls with a Mistress. Today there are two St Edward’s Church of England Schools in Romford – our school in Havering Drive and our sister school, a seven form entry secondary school in London Road. The Schools of today with almost 2000 students from nursery class to sixth form have grown from these small beginnings.
During the 18th century, Charity schools were springing up all over the country. There were thirty-two in Essex, of which the one in Romford was the largest. It was known as the Hornchurch, Romford and Havering Charity School.
Charity Schools were founded by voluntary subscriptions from good people, in order to educate poor children in religion and a virtuous way of life. They taught the three R's. Reading was taught in order that children might be able to read the Bible and follow the Church services in the Prayer Book.
The children were provided with a uniform, which they wore every day for school and for church twice on Sundays.
Discipline was very strict.
It is not certain where the school of 1710 was situated. It is possible that it was above the south porch of the old Church. The first Master was Mr Samuel Hopkinson, the name of the Mistress is not known.
The school opened with 40 boys and 20 girls on the roll. The age range was from 7-14 years. There were no assistant teachers.
In 1728, the school moved to a new building at the top of the Market Place close to where Liberty 2 stands now. The cost of the building was £422. It was double fronted. The boys' room was on one side of the entrance and the girls' room on the other.
A Master's house was built a little later; adjoining the school, there is no mention of a house for the Mistress.
In 1835 the Schools became National Schools. The National Society assisted them financially, a Church of England based organization. The numbers had grown and the school was overcrowded. A new building was erected at the back of the old one to house the boys. The girls now had all the Market Place building. Infants from the age of six were admitted later.
In 1870 an Education Act, which made schooling compulsory, was passed. By now, the Charity children had been phased out. The schools again became overcrowded. In 1917, the girls' and boys' schools were combined.
In 1926, a new building was opened behind the Market Place near to the boys' school. This was built around a quadrangle, and the boys' school was used as a hall. The Market Place buildings became the property of the County council, and the original school became the first Romford Library in 1928.
In the 1920's the Hadow Report stipulated that Junior Schools should be separate from Senior Schools. This meant more buildings would be needed to comply with the report. In 1936 a newly built Junior and Infant School was opened next to the 1926 building where the senior pupils remained.
In 1960, a service of thanksgiving was held in St Paul’s Cathedral. All the children of both schools attended. A fleet of buses conveyed them from the Market Place to St Paul's. It was a memorable event.
In 1965, the Senior School, now St Edward’s Church of England School and Sixth Form College, moved to its present site in London Road. Each year group has 210 students and new Sixth Form facilities are planned.
In 1976, the Primary School moved to Havering Drive. Plaques commemorating the opening of the various schools are preserved at the schools; the statues from the niches of the original school and the old market bell are housed at the Primary School.
In 2010, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, visited the schools to celebrate their three hundredth anniversary. Pupils, staff, parents and governors also attended a commemorative service at Westminster Abbey.