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The first schools in Chesham were private establishments. The first mention of a school (for boys) was one run by the Revd. Thomas Horwood in 1662. In 1797, the Revd. J. Simpson advertised the opening of a boys’ school and ran it for the duration of his occupancy of the parsonage in Chesham.
In 1827, the British School in Townfield for 120 poor boys was opened. These British schools were non-denominational and followed a model known as the Lancastrian System for Education.
Girls during this era would probably have attended a straw plaiting school. These establishments were supposed to teach reading and writing in addition to straw plaiting, but many of the teachers were illiterate so the pupils learnt little more than the straw plaiting. The National Board School in Church Street was opened by the Church of England in 1845 and this was followed by an infants school in Germain Street in 1851. Townsend Road school started for children of factory workers in Newtown in 1878. By 1883 it could house 390 children. In 1890, White Hill School was built.
The three Devereux sisters ran a boarding school for girls in Church Street in the 1870s & 1880s and Elizabeth Darvell and her daughter Emily ran one at High House in Chesham High Street between the late 1880s and around 1910. A Mrs Sporle was running a girls’ kindergarten at 19 High Street in 1909.
Education was made compulsory for all children up to 12 years old in 1870. By 1902 most schools had passed into control of the local authority who built Newtown School in 1932 and the situation then remained fairly static until the 1950s/60s when a baby boom just after the 2nd World War led to a number of additional schools being built. A famous local private school was started in 1938 and was named Chesham Preparatory School. It still exists today.