november 2018

Updating and extending history at Chigwell School

Within the bounds of Epping Forrest, on the south west edge of Essex and some 12 miles from central London sits the ancient settlement of Chigwell. While the town is of pre-Domesday Book origins, Chigwell School – now a co-educational independent school with some 880 pupils – is a relative newcomer, having been founded as recently as 1629.

The alma mater of, among others, the Quaker, Sir William Penn, who attended the School from around 1655 to 1658 and went on to found the state of Pennsylvania, Chigwell School currently has some 880 pupils, ranging in age from four to 18 years.

This co-educational, independent school – which attracts international students to its Sixth Form – now occupies a 100 acre site. Over the years, it has grown to incorporate half a mile of buildings from one ancient house and surrounding land. That land was bought, in 1619, by the school’s founder, Archbishop Samuel Harsnett for £16 and ten shillings from John Worth of Luxborough Hall. Harsnett – then the Archbishop of York - had had the cure of souls in Chigwell while also being Chaplain to Bishop Bancroft in 1597.

Over the last 400 years or so, Harsnett’s educational legacy has been nurtured and developed to provide the best possible educational facilities and resources for its pupils. The latest step in this process involves ME Construction in a three-phase project, costing some £770,000 and taking place from July to November 2017.

ME Construction’s project manager, Richard Rudd, explained, “Phases one and two of the project involve refurbishing and then combining the school’s dining room and an adjacent room – known as The Swallow Room. We’re then adding an external extension which will link with both these rooms.”

While the internal work must be completed before the pupils return for the Michaelmas term in September, the external work is scheduled to continue until the middle of November.

Since it’s being carried out in a listed building, the refurbishment presents some challenges for ME Construction.

“For example, all the existing, ancient wall panelling needs to be removed,” said Richard Rudd. “We need to cover the building’s old parquet floor, install a new, higher, parquet floor; remove the existing windows – which reach to the old floor level; alter the windows to fit the new height of the room, and reinstall these along with the original wall panelling.”

Removing the windows also involves removing – and later reinstalling - their patterned, historic glass.

Chigwell School’s motto - Aut viam inveniam aut faciam (I will find a way or make one) – would seem to be apposite not merely for its pupils but, on this occasion, for ME Construction too.