The first pupils at Chancellor's School crossed the threshold in September 1964. In this part of Hertfordshire it marked the end of a long journey started twenty years before with the passing of the 1944 Education Act.
This Act raised the school leaving age to fifteen and divided free, compulsory education into primary and secondary sectors. Previously, elementary schools taught all children of school age in the same building with many having mixed ability and mixed age groups in the same classroom. Only the brightest or most fortunate of children were lucky enough to receive schooling after the age of fourteen by gaining scholarships to grammar schools or by having parents who could afford to pay the fees.
This was certainly the case in the rural village schools surrounding the present Chancellor's School site such as North Mymms Boys in Welham Green, Water End Girls, Essendon. Cuffley, Northaw, Ponsbourne St. Mary in Newgate Street, Westfield and Little Heath.
The 1944 Education Act was visionary in nature, being conceived as it was long before the end of the Second World War. It would need men and women of vision and determination in the Local Education Authorities around the country who were given the statutory obligation to implement it. By itself, the Act would have caused the whole nature of educational provision to be redesigned, particularly in terms of accommodation where a building programme would be needed to provide places for children of secondary school age. But, at the time the Act came into effect, Britain was at one of its lowest ebbs materially and economically.
She had been victorious in the Second World War but found the problems on the home front daunting. The housing stock had been seriously depleted by bombing; there was a shortage of skilled labour and materials: and to cap it all, the birth-rate in the immediate post-war years rocketed. Within five years there would be more children requiring education than ever before. It was against this background that the men and women responsible for the provision of education embarked on the most ambitious scheme of transformation ever in the history of education in Britain.
Hertfordshire County Council, as the Local Education Authority, rose to the challenge early. At a meeting of its Education Committee in October 1944, before the War had ended, a list of priorities was called for to decide where new primary and secondary schools would be needed and where reconstruction of existing primary schools would be required after the War in order to comply with the Act.
A Development Plan for the provision of educational facilities in Hertfordshire was drawn up in 1947 and approved by the new Minister of Education on 30th June 1949. This plan included the provision of a two form entry mixed school for children between the ages of eleven and sixteen in Brookmans Park. It was to cater initially for senior pupils from the reorganised elementary schools in Essendon, North Mymms, and Northaw and for the village of Brookmans Park, which had an anticipated rise in population to 6,000 allowed for in the Plan and was urgently awaiting the building of its own primary school. The plan was designed to be completed in fifteen years. One of the first tasks was to reserve sites for the new schools.
Thus started a long search for a site for a Secondary School in the Brookmans Park area. As early as January 1945 the Managers of the Parochial Schools in the Parish of North Mymms, which includes Welham Green, Little Heath, Brookmans Park, Bell Bar and Water End, stated that they had "no objection to a Secondary School at or near Bell Bar". Accordingly, in June 1946 the Education Committee of the County Council approved the reservation of a school site in the Town Planning Scheme of 12 acres on "land on east side of Great North Road for two form entry Secondary school" in Brookmans Park next to the B.B.C. Transmitter Station. A site for a primary school was approved off George's Wood Road in July 1946. The search appeared to be over.
But by November 1946, Hatfield District Education Committee was informed that a new site for a secondary school would be needed as the site to the east of the Great North Road had been taken over by the Wireless Station. The Committee made a recommendation that the County Education Committee be asked to provide a one-form Secondary Modem School in Brookmans Park. Meanwhile the Hatfield District Education Committee continued the search for a site.
In January its Schools Sub-Committee was asked to consider a site in the Brookmans Park Westfield Area. One member asked if a site in the extreme south of the district could also be considered. In February the Sub-Committee reported that a site near the Middlesex border had been investigated and they made it their second preference. Mr. George Newell, Assistant County Architect, after inspection could not recommend a site in Swanley Bar Lane because of restricted access but looked at two other sites in Kentish Lane.
In 1947 the Hatfield District Education Committee evolved into the Mid Herts Divisional Executive and was responsible for the local administration of education in the old Hatfield Rural District, Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City. In November 1947, its Secondary Sub-Committee was told that Middlesex County Council were proposing to erect a sixth form entry school within yards of the proposed site in the south of the district and an alternative site had been suggested for the Brookmans Park school. This site was considered by the Architect's Department in October 1947. It was on the east side of Bluebridge Road, north of the brook, next to the sewage works. It was part of the Moffats Farm site which was subject to development proposals at this time.
In January 1948 members of the Mid-Herts Divisional Executive visited this site for a two form entry Secondary Modern School and considered it suitable. In November both Hatfield Rural District Council's Plans and Town Planning Sub-Committee and Mid Herts Divisional Executive approved the designated site of eleven to twelve acres in Bluebridge Road. Form SB1 for the Acquisition of Land for Educational Purposes was issued by the Minister of Education on 26th October 1949. The question of where to site the new secondary school seemed to be settled.
Yet concurrent with these investigations there was a change to the siting of the proposed Brookmans Park Primary School. In October 1948, the County Council's Education Finance and General Purposes Sub-Committee were informed that before negotiations for the purchase of 7.23 acres of land off George's Wood Road for a Junior Mixed and Infant School could proceed very far the proposed development of the village of Brookmans Park was to be restricted.
In 1938, the population of Brookmans Park was 2,000. Professor Abercrombie's "Greater London Plan", published in 1944, proposed that the population should be restricted to 2,500 in view of its position inside the Green Belt around London. This figure was much lower than the 7,500 envisaged by Hatfield Rural District Council in 1945 and the 6,000 anticipated in the County's Educational Development Plan. In early March 1947 Hatfield R.D.C. reported that it was awaiting a detailed plan for development for a population of 4,500 as recommended by the Mid-West Herts Joint Planning Committee. Yet by the end of the month the Plans and Town Planning Committee of the Rural District Council resolved to accept the figure of 4,000 recommended by the Clement Davies Report which had, by now, been accepted by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. It further resolved that the ultimate population of Brookmans Park could be accommodated in the existing building frontages and roads, Hence further development for housing was to be restricted.
Consequently an alternative site nearer to the centre of existing development would now be required for a combined primary school rather than the proposed separate junior and infant schools planned for the George's Wood Road site. The site in Bradmore Way where Brookmans Park Primary School was eventually built was chosen.
Meanwhile a hitch had appeared in the plans to proceed on the Bluebridge Road site for a secondary school. Firstly, in November 1949, the Senior Assistant of the Land Commission in Brickendonbury had objected to the site for a school on part of Moffats Farm as it would lead to a reduction in the stock of agricultural land. He added that there was enough derelict land in Brookmans Park and suggested an alternative site between Westland Drive and Bluebridge Road. But this area of Brookmans Park had been the subject of numerous applications to develop for housing during 1949, many of which had already been approved, it would not therefore be available for a secondary school.
Secondly, the impact of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 was being felt. The Development Plan for Brookmans Park based on an ultimate population of 4,000 had caused a major rethink of plans already granted Interim Development Orders, many before the Second World War including some on the land where Chancellor's stands now.
During the course of 1946 and 1947 detailed plans were submitted to Hatfield R.D.C. for approval for development on land already subject to Interim Development Orders. The Council now had to refuse these plans and, at the same time, set about revoking the Interim Development Orders. These included the Moffats Farm Estate; a new road north of the golf course; and roads off Pine Grove. These last two were applied for by a Mr John White.
Mr. John White appealed against the Rural District Council's refusal to grant development rights. The Appeal was heard in August 1947. In October 1949 the result of the Appeal was reported to the District Council's Plans and Town Planning Committee. The Minister of Town and Country Planning expressed the view "that the area, including the land under appeal, which lies between the golf course and Pine Grove, should remain free from future development". John White's Appeal was dismissed.
Now almost the inevitable happened. In April 1950 the Mid Herts Divisional Education Officer wrote to the Architect's Department at County Hall suggesting a site off George's Wood Road for a secondary school. In May 1950 plans were received by the Architect's Department showing a twelve acre site close to the golf club house. By October 1950 the County's Education Committee were asked to approve the reservation in the County Plan and ultimately purchase 12.09 acres of land in Brookmans Park, off Golf Club Road and The Drive, for a two form entry secondary modern school.
Yet, surprisingly, it was to be another five years before the County Planning Officer was able to report to the Education Committee, in April 1955, that approval as far as planning was concerned could be granted, which resulted in the Education Committee giving approval for the acquisition of a 10.05 acre site in Brookmans Park for a two form entry Secondary School.
What caused the delay? Finding a site is not the same as acquiring a site. The land in question had three different owners, Mr. White, a Miss George and a Mr. Ingram, and one of these in particular, Mr White, who owned the largest portion, was still hoping to develop the land for housing.
Mr John White had been one of four members of a syndicate, later known as Brookmans Park (Hatfield) Estate Ltd., which had purchased the Brookmans House Estate from the Gaussen Family in November 1923 for £42,000. The Gaussen Family had owned the land since 1786. The Company's plans to develop Brookmans Park as a commuter estate were slow to take off, despite the opening of the railway station in 1926. Eventually the Company went into voluntary liquidation and Mr J. White together with another former member of the original syndicate, a Mr. J. J. Calder, bought back the property in June 1933 for £55,000, subject to the approval of the Court, with the intention of continuing what the Company had started but as individuals. Mr. White took all the land north of Georges Wood Road and Brookmans Avenue whereas Mr J. J. Calder took all the land to the south of these two roads. It was in this capacity that Mr. White had applied for permission to develop the land for housing. He had an appeal pending in respect of refusal to build four roads off Pine Grove, the entrances to three of which are still visible in Pine Grove today.
Although the Minister had given a decision on the land in 1949 this appeal was important as Mr White stood to benefit far more financially if he could obtain permission to develop the land for housing. He was certainly not going to sell to the Local Education Authority until this crucial point was settled. And so the delay continued.
As late as 1960 Mr. White was still attempting to determine the type of development likely to be permitted on the land. This followed a recent decision of the Minister of Housing and Local Government to dismiss an appeal by Mr. J. J. Calder for refusal to develop land, bordering Mr. White's off George's Wood Road and Golf Club Road. Reasons given by the Minister were that the proposed development was an isolated intrusion of ordinary residential development into the Metropolitan Green Belt and he could see no special circumstances to justify a departure from accepted Green Belt principles.
The County Planning Officer was approached informally for clarification with regard to this point. He was asked what type of development he was likely to find acceptable on the site. His informal view was that the following would be permissible: existing use, agriculture, horticulture or smallholding, recreation or playing field, school or college. It was on the basis of this opinion that Mr. White appeared to give up hope of ever receiving permission to develop the land for housing and negotiations for the sale of the land he owned started in earnest with the County Council. The sale of the land included Golf Club Road and The Drive. The landowners were particularly anxious to avoid responsibility for making-up these two roads and any sale to the County Council would be conditional on this specific issue.
County's attempt to purchase the land from Mr. White received another setback in early 1961 when Mr. White died. The Council now proposed a procedure for acquisition whereby the owners sign an agreement to sell the land at a price subsequently to be agreed on the basis of the Town and Country Planning Acts and failing agreement, by the Land Tribunal. The procedure was similar to a Compulsory Purchase Order. This was a great advantage for the Council as at least it knew the land would be available for building on at the time it was required.
Mr. Neville Moon, Clerk of the County Council, supported this line with the following plea: "As you know, so many of our schools in this rapidly expanding county are already bursting at the seams and as soon as we put up a new school that itself immediately becomes full. Once, therefore, we have got a new school into the Ministry of Education Building Programme it becomes essential to get the building up as soon as possible and a delay of several months on a land transaction can have very serious repercussions on the existing schools in the area of the new school."
In October 1961 a meeting was arranged at Brookmans Park Golf Club with all interested parties being present. One result of this meeting was that the Executors of Mr. John White agreed to sell the land to the County Council. However, it would not be until March 1963 that details of the provisional conditions of sale were reported to the Council's Education Finance and General Purposes Sub-Committee.
The purchase of the freehold interest would be £2,000. The County Council would acquire the land forming the road on the western boundary (Golf Club Road), and would take over all future liability for its maintenance. In addition the council were required to pay to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government a sum estimated at about £10,000 which had already been paid out for loss of development rights. The area of the site purchased from the Executors of Mr. White had been increased to 15.63 acres. This was in addition to 0.37 acres purchased by the County Council from Mr. Ingram in 1962 for £170 plus £537 2s. l0d. to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government under Section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1954.
Rights of Way and shared maintenance arrangements for Golf Club Road were the subject of an Arbitration Agreement between Brookmans Park Golf Club. Mr.J.J. Calder, who owned land bordering the proposed school site, and Mr. White, which the Council would take over after the sale was completed. Rights of Way and maintenance of The Drive were equally complicated but similar.
So, finally, nearly twenty years after the Education Act was passed in 1944 and thirteen years after the site was first designated in 1950 the search and purchase were completed. The sense of the urgent need for the school can be seen from the fact that in less than eighteen months the first pupils would cross the threshold and turn the Plan for a secondary school for the children of the villages in the area into reality.