Following the Education Act of 1870, which provided for free schooling for all primary aged children, a new scheme was formed for the Coborn School under the Endowed Schools Act. Initially, the Coborn Governors sold some property in Essex to provide the funds to purchase and renovate the Stepney Grammar School in Tredegar Square; however, the Governors had overstretched themselves financially and the new school did not prosper. The girls’ department was eventually closed down and the school was taken over by the Coopers’ Company to re-house their Grammar School. The picture shows girls sitting under the mulberry tree that was planted in the 1700s by the French Huguenots. The headmistress, Miss Sarah Chell, was a real Victorian who imposed strict rules of conduct. Girls were expected always to wear gloves, never to go upstairs on buses or trams, and never to talk to the Coopers’ boys.
The Coopers’ Company’s School in Tredegar Square, Bow. At this time Mr George Frederick Perrot had just taken over as Headmaster from Rev. Henry Pinder. The school’s motto was ‘Aut Disce Aut Discede, Manet Sors Tertia Caedi’, roughly translated as ‘ Either Learn or Leave; there remains a third fate – being beaten’. ‘Love as Brethren’ it seems came later!
Originally the drill costumes, as described by one pupil, “were navy blue coats nearly down to our ankles with buttons all down the front and braid girdles: whatever we did we must not show our drill knickers, so the drill was mostly arm and trunk movements”. These old-fashioned tunics were later replaced by more modern garments called gymslips, and the girls climbed ropes and used vaulting horses and parallel bars. Gymslips eventually became de rigueur for all girls’ grammar school uniforms, often with a posture girdle worn around the waist in house colours.
In the early years girls would be involved in drill exercises, and eventually these became therapeutic exercises designed to improve posture and fitness. Physical training took over with the introduction of gymnastics and dance, which were held in the school hall, and latterly team games. Coborn Girls played netball but competitiveness was discouraged, as was getting ‘too hot and sweaty’!
In the 1900s the school was recognised by the Board of Education and the number of free scholars gradually increased. Lesson provision included English and Maths, Humanities and Religious Education. Science and Domestic Science lessons only became widespread once purpose-built facilities were developed. A purpose-built gymnasium was planned in 1913, but not built until 1930 due to the deprivations caused by the First World War. There were at this time senior and junior literary societies, a ramblers’ club, a new sketching club as well as a flourishing school magazine – copies of this are held in the school archives.
The Coopers’ Cadet Corps was formed in Autumn 1911, and within one term numbers had already reached 130 cadets. The cadets met on Saturdays under the instruction of Sergeant-Major James, and Saturday morning parades took place at regular intervals. With the advent of the Great War the importance of the Cadet Corps was highlighted with the numbers of Coopers’ boys who took up arms. 379 old boys and one master of the school enlisted in all three services: 118 were killed or died of their wounds. Only 38 of these young men have a known grave, and the remaining 80 names are recorded on the memorials across Europe and beyond. Their average age was 20. There were two recipients of the Military Cross, and one recipient of the Military Medal. The roll of honour was moved from The Coopers’ Company’s School in Tredegar Square to the current building, where it enjoys pride of place. The school has a comprehensive book written on “Coopers’ Boys & Coborn Girls: Their part in the Great War” – copies are held in the school archives.
School uniform became compulsory with navy blue tunics, red blouses in winter and white ones in summer. A plain straw or navy velour hat was worn according to the season. The photo shows a group of girls with the cherub relief, which can be found in the school archive room.
Prowess in Sport was encouraged and all boys took part in a range of activities. Sports Day was (and still is) an annual event where boys gain points for their House, and the Barrel is awarded to the winning House. This photo shows one of the stranger events: the Slow Bike Race. The winner was the person who took the longest time to travel 100 yards. Strict rules were enforced: participants had to stay in their lane and not put any part of their body on the ground. The school has recently re-introduced this race as part of Sports Day activities.
Miss Philpot, Headmistress, retired in 1956. Her 27 years of service to the school had seen vast changes. Under her successor, Miss Edwin, the school continued to forge ahead. The new Science wing was completed and with three splendid new laboratories the teaching of the sciences expanded throughout the school.
Coborn School – Visit by Her Majesty The Queen (latterly the Queen Mother)
To mark Coborn School’s 250th Anniversary the school was honoured by a visit from Her Majesty. A Commemoration Service was held at St Dunstan’s Church and the Coborn Chronicle Play compiled by the staff was produced.
Mr James Bell, the last Headmaster of Coopers’ School, wrote “This issue of ‘The Cooperian’ “ (the school magazine) “marks the end of an era; when the next magazine is produced, our school will have left the premises in Bow, the two stage amalgamation with the Coborn School will have been completed and the new Coopers’ Company and Coborn School will be in full session in Upminster”. The photo shows the new school in its early stages of development, with Mr John French becoming its first Headteacher.
To mark its 450th Anniversary Princess Anne visited the school and opened the new Computer Science block, named after the Chair of Governors, Mr Len McEwen. The photo also shows the Anniversary Plate designed by student, Kelly Merritt.
Service of Thanksgiving – 450th Anniversary at St Paul’s
To celebrate its 450th Anniversay the entire school community (students, staff, governing body), many parents and members of the Worshipful Company of Coopers, attended a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. It was impressive to see over 2500 people filling the Cathedral, enjoying the outstanding music provided by the school orchestra and choir.
To commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War this soldier silhouette was engraved with the names of all those Coopers’ men who gave their lives for their country – ordinary people who did extraordinary things
Following a generous donation by the OCCA, the school’s Archive Room was refurbished to allow for greater capacity and more accessible storage for the many historic documents. The new display area enables visitors to view the great collection of artefacts dating back to the 1700s. The Dorothy Gorsuch Archive Room was opened in July 2018 in the presence of the Lady Mayoress of London, Samantha Bowman. Visitors are welcome – please contact the school office.