Markhams Chase Story

A brief history of the early days and its dedicated first Headmistress

Markhams Chase School
Ann & John Rugg
Miss Duke - 1940s
Ann & John Rugg
Miss Duke - 1964
Ann & John Rugg
Basildon Standard Friday October 2nd 1964

In 1933 High Road School, Laindon was re-organised as a senior school only and the parents of junior and infant children were given the choice of sending them to either Langdon Hills, St Nicholas Lane (Donaldsons) or Dunton Schools or alternatively to the newly built school in Markhams Chase which was opened on 2nd October 1933.

The staff consisted of Miss Janet Duke (headmistress) who at the age of 29 was the youngest headmistress ever appointed, and had already been serving firstly as a teacher and then as acting head for the infants and juniors attending Laindon High Road School, Mr. Gorham and Mr. Wilson Miss. A.French, Miss. B.French, Miss. G.French, Miss. Wright, Miss. Snowling, Miss. Dowey and Miss. Mears.

There were initially 406 children on the roll, which means that there were over 40 children in each class.

A visit by the School managers on 1st November 1933 reported that the Headmistress and staff were working hard and in perfect harmony and everything was very satisfactory.

On 1st January 1934 Mrs. Dabbs was appointed as school cook and dinners were cooked in the original staff room and initially served to 59 children in the main school assembly hall.

By 1937 the school numbers had increased so the staffroom had to be used as a classroom.

On 4th September 1939 the school was closed by order of the Government following the outbreak of war. The staff continued to attend, namely Miss. J.Duke, Mrs. Arthy, Mrs. Cole, Mrs. McMillan and Miss. Finch, Miss. Odell, Miss. Willcocks, Miss. Morgan, Miss. Cock, Miss. Well and Miss. Mears. Also Mrs. Dabbs (cook) and Mr. Pegrum (caretaker).

The school re-opened on 23rd October 1939 with 451 children on roll in 2 shifts A & B. Air raid and gas mask drills were held daily and later these became live evacuations to the school shelters as more air raid warnings were declared. The shelters were regularly used until Summer 1944 and in May 1945 the school was closed for 3 days V.E.Holiday when various areas of Laindon held quite large parties in the open air to celebrate V.E.Day.

The school was involved in the development of the Essex Agility Apparatus from June 1944 and in April 1945 47 children were taken to London by coach to demonstrate the apparatus. This event led to the school being given the P.T clothing that the children wore on the day for the future use of the school. They had taken delivery of the first set of apparatus in 1944 and were among the pioneers of this sort of activity for children attending school. Physical training had become part of the school curriculum.

By 1951 the number of children at school totalled 521 and the school meals were now cooked and served in a newly erected purpose built canteen and dining room. Real school dinners had arrived and semolina was here to stay.

Miss. Duke retired in July 1964 and Mr. R.Onions became headmaster of the junior school and Mrs. M.Moon became headmistress of the infant school which by now had been built alongside the original school.

The school was re-named Janet Duke School in October 1964 as a tribute to Janet Duke for her sterling contribution to the school and its pupils since it was opened back in 1933.

In February 1974 the school was broken into and a fire was started. Total damage took several months to repair and cost several thousand pounds and unfortunately the school log books between 1955 and 1963 were destroyed.

Mr. R.Onions retired as headmaster in July 1983 and Mr.D.Pulham appointed in his place.

John and Ann Rugg contributed this article with acknowledgements to Brian Richardson, Eve and Tony Scott and Wendy Eagling for producing the Souvenir Booklet “50 years on” from which some of this material was extracted.

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  • I lived at No 20 Holst Avenue, and remember walking up Church Hill and down the chase to get to school. The school sat out on its own with no other buildings apart from the sweet shop on the other side of the road. I think it had Teas painted in large white letters on the roof.
    One of my many memories was getting the chance to ring the school hand bell, also washing up the teachers plates in the staff room (pocket money when I had none).
    Many, many happy memories.

    By Dennis Pullen (16/09/2023)
  • I attended Janet Duke Primary and Juniors from about 1961 (I was born in 1956) I think my first teacher was Miss Arthur and we used to have an afternoon story while we laid our head on our hands on our desks to rest – I hated being separated from my mum and younger sister so the mornings were upsetting for me but once at school, I was very happy. I remember Mr Onions becoming the headmaster and in the upper school I remember being taught by Mrs Gilmour who used to eat ‘clove’ boiled sweets – she was lovely and I still remember learning our times tables in that class. I won a red and yellow plastic watering can in a race on sports day one year. There was a huge oak tree in the playing fields which we used to sit under in the summer and we used to play ‘french skipping’ with elastic round our legs and two balls, which I loved. In the later years in upper school I remember often being told off for talking in the line at the end of playtime. We used to get a coach to Laindon High School for swimming lessons. I left in 1967 aged 11 to move to New Zealand. We came back in 1970 and have been here ever since. Very happy school memories.

    By Sue Prentice nee Spry (22/07/2021)
  • I was there 1963-68. Remember Miss Attenborough as a bit of a saint. I also remember being smacked on the back of the legs for misspellings – not sure if Mr Wright or Mr Wallace was our form teacher. We were placed out into a portacabin at one point. Generally, happy days.

    By Keith Jordan (20/06/2020)
  • I was a pupil at Markham’s Chase from 1939-1945. I remember the VE Day party in the playground. We were given iced buns! What a treat. I’ve no idea how they were sourced. I would love to see a photo of the event if anyone has one. Sheila Nicholson (nee Pigram).

    By Sheila Nicholson (01/05/2020)
  • I started at Markham’s Chase in 1959. My first teacher was Mrs Attenborough, lovely teacher, my best friend was Linda Byles from Basildon, we used to play two balls up the wall all break times. I remember Miss Pike who married Mr Osbourne, who was deputy head. Miss pike was very pretty and always wore bright red lipstick. I also remember at the edge of the playing field there was an old pond, all fenced in.
    I loved my days there and it was a lovely school.
    We moved from Laindon High Road into Holst Avenue when the houses were first built. After school I used to walk with my brother up the steep hill to the church and down the other side to Kathleen Ferrier Crescent, and then home. I remember The Healy brothers. I also remember going to the dentist near Laindon station and having a gas mask put over my mouth, it was awful. In Laindon High Road there was a timber merchant where you could smell the wood being cut, and a rag place to take your old clothes. We used to go to the cinema on Saturday morning at the cost of sixpence and then walk back to the Fortune of War and play behind the shops there making camps. Fond memories.
    I would like to add that Mrs Aldis was my most favourite teacher, from 1959- 1969. I was in her class for 2 years.

    By Helen Consantinou. nee scammell (24/04/2019)
  • Both my sister, Beryl, and I went to ‘Markham’s Chase’ school during the 1950s. She is 5 years older than me and went to the school in 1950, followed by me from 1954. We lived in Tyler Avenue and had to walk through Blue House Farm (chased by the dogs there every day!) and then down the lane passing Lawrence’s sweet shop. I remember the strict discipline of lunchtime when Mr Wallace hovered over anybody who hadn’t cleared their plate! I also remember a competition we had to make a crossbow and we had to see how far it could fire a bolt in the playground at the back of the school. My dad helped me build one with a shotgun style stock, and a bow that was so powerful it reached the other end of the playgound with ease. It was a bit of a lethal weapon actually! I also remember a cricket match we had on the sports ground where I bowled and took 6 wickets for 5 runs – which was mentioned in the local paper! I also remember the Abbott & Costello (I think?) films we watched in the hall when it was too wet to go outside at break times, and the shows we put on. One in particular featured Robert Young as a fishmonger where his advertising sign had to have words removed one at a time as it was an inaccurate description. I had to walk across the stage when it just said ‘fish’, holding my nose saying “everybody knows what he sells!” Many years ago I met up with Geoffrey Doye and Colin Turbard, but remember Anne Pope, Gillean Porter, Donald Woodley, Robert Young, Lynn Atkins (and her friend Joan?). I went from there to Woodlands School after being a ‘border line’ 11+ case who just failed to get into Barstable Grammer School. I will be 70 next month (May 14th) but still have fond memories of my time there. Now live in Taunton, Somerset after 30 plus years living in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Happy to hear from anybody who remembers me (good or bad!)

    By Geoff Hope (22/04/2019)
  • I was a “yank” who attended Mr. Wallace’s third year class at Janet Duke School in 1979-80. Mr. Onions was headmaster. Mr. Stanley was also there. Skydivers were the preferred tuck. Great school. Great memories.

    By B. Brower (22/09/2017)
  • I left Markhams Chase in 1947. I remember Lawrence’s shop had a device for making fizzy drinks. I was allowed to buy 2oz of sweets with a ration coupon once a week. I remember Miss Duke, Miss Wells my first teacher in 1941. The only friends I remember are Tony Dovaston and Alan Davis.

    By Alan Rich Wood (19/01/2016)
  • Hi.  Yes I remember Lawrence’s, he used to have a big white dog.  I also bought a pet rabbit from him, great times.  I also attended Janet Duke School, Mr Onions was headmaster, also Mr Wallis, Mr Stanley and Mrs Gilmore.

    By Barbara Edwards (18/01/2016)
  • I started at ‘Markham’s Chase school’ as it was known then in 1945.  Our teacher’s name was Miss Arnold.  Our cooked lunches were taken at our desks in our classroom and we were served by older children.  I remember the canteen being built.  There were two dining rooms and one of them became my classroom in 1949/50.  My teacher then was my Uncle Richard Devine.

    By Anne Burton (30/01/2015)
  • Does anyone remember Lawrence’s – the sweet shop near to the school?

    By Sue Tripp (Nee Moore) (29/01/2015)
  • Yes definitely.  It was originally the home of farm workers from Blue House Farm.  It was called ‘The Lodge’ and when the Lawrence family moved in, they turned it into the shop which became the tuck shop for Markhams Chase School.  I bought a wagon wheel in there every morning before school to eat at break time.  That’s when wagon wheels cost 2d (in old money).  

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (29/01/2015)
  • I was a student at Markham’s Chase and graduated in 1955.  I went on to Chelmsford Tech before my family moved to the U.S. in 1957.

    Sadly, the only classmate’s name I recall is Christine Collins.  I do, however, remember Miss Pike, Mr. Stanley and of course, Miss Duke.  If there is anyone on this site from those days please get in touch.

    By Michael Davies (20/09/2014)

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