Many thousands of the residents of High Wycombe and the surrounding villages will have received their secondary education at either Mill End or Hatter Lane schools. This article describes the early history of Mill End School, the first of these two schools to be built.

Secondary education is reorganised

Between 1923 and 1933 Sir William Hadow, a leading educationalist, chaired a consultative Committee on Education. This produced six reports, the most significant being the 1925 “Education of the Adolescent”. This report recommended that education should be divided into two distinct phases to be called primary and secondary, with a break at the age of 11. Up until then basic education for most children took place at local schools, with only those children whose parents could afford it, or were awarded a scholarship, attending a Grammar school.

The 1926 Hadow report recommended that these new schools for those children having reached the age of 11 should be called secondary modern schools. They should be non-selective, with an emphasis on practical education related to “living interests” and staffing levels should be at least as favourable as those in Grammar schools. The report also recommended that the school-leaving age should be raised to 15+.

Although these recommendations were not incorporated into official government policy until the 1944 Education Act, they influenced the thinking of local authorities long before that.

In Wycombe, in February 1931, the Bucks Free Press reported that the Education Committee of the Borough Council had decided that “the Senior scholars will be accommodated at two Senior Schools only, viz Hatters Lane 640, West End 640, total 1,280 places”. This total was expected to be sufficient for the number of senior scholars expected to be in attendance up to at least 1933. The decision was reached after the committee rejected proposals for the Senior Schools to be created by expanding the existing Spring Gardens and Priory Road schools.

Mill End School

At the February meeting it was also reported that negotiations had been taking place with West Wycombe Estate for the acquisition of 3 acres of land “between the end of Mill End Road as now constructed and the junction of Gilletts Lane and Mill End Rd”, and a sum of £1,500 had been agreed for the purchase.

After a delay of 3 years caused by funding issues, in October 1934 the Education Committee instructed the architects Thurlow & Lucas, in consultation with the County Architect, to prepare the plans for the new school. By now the planned size of the school had been increased to accommodate 480 boys and 480 girls, a total of 960.

In April 1935 further land “was appropriated for use as a playground (no further buildings to be erected thereon) at the western end of Desborough Recreation Ground”. In June 1935 the plans had been finalised and approved by the Board of Education in London. The architects were then instructed to proceed with the preparation of working drawings, specifications and quantities. The tendering process was opened and the tender from the Aylesbury firm of Fleet & Robertson, being the lowest at £44,806, was accepted by the Education Committee. After adding architect’s fees, the salary of the Clerk of Works and the “cost of raising the loan” the total cost was increased to £47,550.

However when this figure was considered by the Borough Council it was rejected by an overwhelming majority as being “absolutely extortionate”. It was referred back to the Education Committee, who managed to reduce the total cost by £1000. This involved removing the sum for contingencies, and the figure of £46,500 was eventually agreed. A loan for this amount was to be raised and repaid over 50 years.

Ultimately the total cost of the school, excluding staff salaries, was nearly £61,000.

In May 1936 the basis for the allocation of children between the two schools Mill End and Hatters Lane was decided. This was to be by east and west of a line drawn down Amersham Road and Hill, Crendon St, Queen Victoria Road, and Marlow Hill. In addition, children at Downley school were to be accommodated at Mill End, and those at Loudwater school at Hatters Lane, “for all of whom Bucks County Council will be financially responsible”.

The building work commences

The Foundation Stone was laid on July 15, 1936. Whilst the construction work was in progress it was decided that a gymnasium should be provided for the Boys School and another for the Girls School at a total cost of £8,220. It was hoped to obtain a special grant of 50% of the cost from the government, even though this had been rejected for the school itself.

In April 1937 it was agreed that the official name for the school would be Mill End Road Senior School. Other major decisions were that the school should have radio installed at a cost of £103 and a BBC sound engineer was asked to advise on the most suitable wiring, and a house called “Oppy Wood” in Mill End Rd would be purchased for £500 to be used by the school caretaker. Not surprisingly there were over 700 applications for this position! It was also agreed that the County Education Committee should be asked to pay £8.15s for each scholar attending the school from the county area (that is, from Downley school)

The school was officially opened at 3.00pm on Tuesday May 25, 1937. Later that day it was open for inspection by members of the public, and also on the following two days. The Headmistress was Miss K Young and the Headmaster Mr H Green. They were to be supported by a total of 120 teachers, many of whom were to transferred from other local schools, particularly Priory Road.

Mill End School begins

Children began attending on May 31 and immediately letters of complaint started to come into the Buck Free Press. One letter claimed that only half the desks had been delivered, a Cook had not yet been appointed, and the canteen was only able to cater for 120 pupils, “and even then many have to sit on the floor to eat their meal”.

On June 14, 1937 Mill End was the first school in High Wycombe to set up a penny savings bank to encourage the children to save. To get the scheme off the ground the mayor announced that each child would be “offered a modest gift of six pence as a start to their bank accounts”. Bearing in mind that there were nearly 1,000 pupils at the school, this represents an out-lay of nearly £60, equivalent to some £3,000 today.

Mill End immediately made its mark at the annual sports meeting for local schools held at Loakes Park on June 16, 1937. A lad named Brion from the school broke the old record in the long jump by one foot and two inches, recording sixteen feet. In the boys quarter mile Cornwell from the school broke the record by one second with a time of 64.8 seconds. Many other competitors from the school came first in their respective events.

The following evening the athletes to represent High Wycombe at the Bucks School Sports to be held at Slough included six boys from the school, with four in the girls’ team.


If you went to Mill End Senior School in the late 1930s and in the 1940s and would like to share your memories please write to me at the Bucks Free Press. Alternatively you can contact me on 01494 755070, or by email

To be continued.