West Watford History Group

History of West Watford

Victoria Schools, Watford and Westfield Academy

A brief history of Victoria Schools 

As the demand for land and houses in Watford grew, parcels of land came up for sale. Beginning in 1897, Messrs. Ashby and Brightman made a series of purchases from the Earl of Essex, which resulted in Watford making even more rapid strides than previously. In 1900, 50 acres of Harwoods Farm Estate was purchased for £26,500 (£350 per acre), starting from Cassio Road and adjoining the West Herts Cricket Ground, one acre of this land already having been sold by the Earl of Essex to the Watford School Board for £1,500 for the purpose of Victoria Schools. In November 1901, Messrs Ashby and Brightman purchased a second portion of the estate of about 52 acres, which extended from Harwoods Road to Hagden Lane and Rickmansworth Road. In 1902, Cassiobridge Farm Estate was in the market, approximately 208 acres, extending from Rickmansworth Main Road to the lower end of the boundaries of Lord Ebury's Estate and the Isolation Hospital.  Such was the demand for building at this time that £12,000 worth in plots was sold in the first sale. Harwoods Road, Park Avenue, Chester Road, Durban Road and Mildred Avenue were formed and sewered at this time and also in 1900, the Watford School Board acquired the site for Chater Schools, with a further three quarters of an acre being purchased for an extension to the Victoria Schools. 

Built in 1897, the school began life as ‘Fearnley Street School’ and was one of the first “board schools” of the period.  Previously all schools were private or church run until boards of elected local representatives were set up in each town to provide publicly-owned education for all.

A letter published in the Watford Observer in February 1903 reads:

“On Saturday afternoon last, the new Victoria Boys’ School, Watford, which has recently been erected to meet the growing scholastic requirements of that part of the town in which the present block of buildings named after the late Queen are situate, and more especially that part known as Harwood’s Estate, were formerly opened by Mr E. M. Chater, the chairman of the School Board.

Mr R. A Thorpe, as chairman of the Works Committee, first gave an official description of the new building, the points enumerated being as follows:-  The school is arranged on the central hall system to satisfy the requirements of the Board of Education for 600 children. The central hall is 73ft long by 33ft wide having a gallery 53ft wide across the south end. The class rooms are ten in number, each arranged on the Board of Education scale to accommodate 60 pupils, being 24ft x 24ft. 8in. are are entered from the central hall. They have six ranges of deal desks. The four back rows are on stepped platforms and a space is provided behind the last row to allow the teacher to pass.”

(A footnote to this adds that the schools had been in use since 1897.)

The map below shows where the school was situated in relation to the town. At that time much of the land surrounding the town was still farmland and open fields, although the town was beginning its rapid expansion.

 

 

In 1959 a decision was taken by the school governors to move the then named Victoria School to a new site.  By 1963 the Addiscombe Road buildings were out of use and the new Tolpits Lane site was found opposite Scammells.  At that time there were two separate buildings for Boys and Girls. When a large part of the school – main hall and library -  burned down in 1973, it became an all-girls school and the boys were moved to Grange Park School in Bushey (although one block on the site was used for boys whose first language was not English).  

Becoming a community school and Technology College administered by Hertfordshire County Council, the school was renamed Westfield Community Technology College, (by now it had become a mixed school again), converted to academy status on 1 September 2013 and was renamed Westfield Academy. However the school continues to coordinate with Hertfordshire County Council for admissions. 

 

References:  Watford Observer,  Bob Nunn's Book of Watford - vol 1, Wikipedia