THE HISTORY OF MARSTON MIDDLE SCHOOL AND IT'S GROUNDS

[from early times to it's closure in 2003]

Marston Middle School has changed its name and indeed its purpose several times in its forty-six year history. Starting as Old Marston Secondary School, the name changed to The Harlow School when city and county authorities amalgamated. Finally, with the closure of Harlow and Northway Schools the buildings housed the current Marston Middle School.

Old Marston Secondary School

When the school opened in September 1957, children from 11 to 14 years attended for secondary level education. These children lived in the new houses built in Sandhills and Risinghurst as well as from the village of Old Marston; areas that were outside the city boundaries. Before the school opened children had been taken by bus to Kidlington or Wheatley for their secondary schooling.

The new school building shared the site with the then equally new St Nicholas Primary School which opened in 1955. Additional land was needed to provide playing fields for the secondary students and this was purchased in the same year with work commencing in the spring of 1956. The Duchess of Marlborough officially opened the new premises on Thursday, 22nd May 1958. Mr D. Smith from Kent was the first headmaster and during his four years at the school (he left in 1962) at the school the number of pupils doubled to 308 with a staff of 12. Mr Cyril Dunsby replaced him and since that time there have been six other head teachers: Mr Brian Mulliner, Roger Pepworth, Bill Arthy, Dereck Gillard, Martin Roberts and Karen Magrath.

Room changes

The school has changed little in size since it opened but there have been many changes in the use of the rooms. The current French and History rooms were originally use for Art while the Computer rooms provided facilities for pottery. New Art and Design and Technology areas were added in the 1970s. The administrative offices have also changed with the bursar’s office originally providing the head teacher’s study and the current head’s office being used by the deputy head. The school boasted its own swimming pool at one time where the staff car park is located. A wooden building known as the Pavilion stood at the edge of the field where the picnic tables are now. The was converted by older boys in the 1960s for use as a classroom for engineering classes and as a store for a car and motor cycle which the school had been given. Later this building was used for storage.

An earlier history of the land

Originally, the land used by the school was farmed and formed part of Sutton Field one of the four very large open fields of arable land that existed in Marston before the village lands were enclosed in 1657. The buildings of both schools stood in a field of about 12 acres called Lower Ground. This field formed part of an estate of one half yardland granted to William Sadler when the village was enclosed. Sadler’s house stood on the south side of Elsfield Road, at the bottom, just above the cemetery. The land stayed in the Sadler family through the seventeenth century and passed to another William Sadler in 1692. This William used the land as surety for a loan from John Woodworth. A loan that he failed to repay and as a result the ownership of the land passed to the Woodworth family. They rented the farm to the Bleay family who also ran the White Hart public house in the village.

In 1803 John Woodworth’s descendents sold their estate and Lower Ground was bought by John Cannon of Cannon’s Farm (now Long Farm House) which is opposite the church in Elsfield Road. The land then stayed with the Cannon family passing through inheritance to the Rippingtons and finally to the Brasnett family who probably sold it to the County Council for the building of St Nicholas School.

Playing field history

The playing fields were part of a field called Sutton Pasture which was about 16 acres and the boundary between Lower Ground and Sutton Pasture was marked, until the middle of the 1980s by a line of elm trees a the near end of the field. These trees were felled when they developed Dutch Elm disease.

Sutton Pasture was part of 33 acres of land granted to Thomas Ficus in the village enclosure in lieu of the yardland that he held. The farm to this land was Colthorns Farm which is now a private house in Oxford Road opposite the allotments. The present house was built about 1830 and was previously known as Coxheads Farm, Calley’s Farm and in the twentieth century as Grange Farm. As for ownership, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, the farm was owned by George Smith who bequeathed it to his granddaughter Mary, the wife of Edward Coxhead in 1749.

The farm stayed with the Coxhead family until 1824 when the owner, Benjamin Lyon Coxhead, a grocer of Canon Street, London was deeply in debt. Part of this debt was a failure to repay the mortgage and the farm and the owner was declared bankrupt. As a result of this, the farm was bought at auction for 2000 by Richard Smith. He later sold the farm to the Calley family who bought the freehold in 1873. The was always rented to tenants who included the Sims, the Haines, the Leake and the Cannon families. The land, other than that used by the school, continued to be farmed until the Marston Ferry Road was built in the mid 1970s.

Whatever its name, the school built on this land in 1957 and closing 46 years later has had an intimate relationship with the community of Marston providing education for over 4500 children during that time.

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