Dewhurst St Mary JMI School

A Short History

By Jane Ruffell

A Short History and Some Childhood Memories of the Dewhurst St Mary JMI School, Churchgate, Cheshunt

In 1640 local lawyer Robert Dewhurst opened his school in Churchgate so that the poor boys of the parish of Cheshunt could receive an education in reading, writing and arithmetic.

In an Indenture date 31st December 1642 the school was handed over to a board of 12 trustees.  The Dewhurst family have long-standing connections in the area and were a prominent family.  Robert’s father, Barnard was secretary to William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, who also owned Theobalds Palace and Hatfield House.  Robert himself was born in Wormley and followed a legal career, at his death he was the Keeper of the Brief’s in the King’s Bench, a distinguished role.  He had 3 wives, but no heirs.

The main building, built in 1640 was originally one large school hall (now the Dining Hall) with a Trustees Room and Headmasters quarters upstairs – these areas underwent re-development in the mid-80s and were turned into residential properties.

In 1873 St Mary’s School for Girls (named after the local St Mary’s’ Church) was built adjacent to the 1640 building and was extended in 1913.  The schools were merged into the now Dewhurst St Mary’s JMI School in 1958.

Having taken a keen interest in local history whilst a pupil at the school in the late 70s/early 80s, my friend and I were privileged enough to be given a special guided tour of these areas prior to their re-development by the then Headmaster, Reginald Brandling.  Un-lived in since the 50s, they were at the time somewhat derelict and I remember the floors were lined with newspapers from the 1940s and 50s.  As a 9 year old obsessed with history, these were things I considered to be real treasures and I grabbed myself a souvenir or two!

This page was added on 26/11/2010.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.

  • Tully! It was Miss Tully!

    By Tina Stevens (nee Blackaller) (16/10/2023)
  • I went to Dewhurst St Marys from 1960 to 1965. The headmaster was Mr Grey. Other teachers were Mrs Nestle, Miss Jones, Mr Evans, Mr Huggett. There was another female teacher but her name escapes me. I remember the coal fires in the classrooms (no central heating back then) and I remember the kids sliding on the ice in the playground in winter (no health and safety back then either!) I remember the nurse and the visiting dentist!

    By Tina Stevens (nee Blackaller) (16/10/2023)
  • I also went to dewhurst & I was a milk monitor

    By Linda spicer (29/01/2018)
  • I remember Sally Cakebread and Brian Adams, does anyone remember the nurse, dressed in brown, who did the nit check each year? I also remember doing the coffee for the teachers, pale green cups and saucers. Thinking back, who recalls the taste of the milk that was put on the radiators to warm up in the winter, I stll hate milk over 60 years on. Happy memories.

    By Janice Sharpe (12/01/2018)
  • just read message from sally cakebread i was also there from 1955 to 1961 then went to dewhurst st mary senior
    i remember stephen
    brian adams

    By brian adams (26/07/2017)
  • My twin brother Stephen and l both attended. I remember my first day falling over the milk crate in the front entrance and cutting my leg badly. l was a school monitor and remember making the teachers’ coffee with Camp coffee. I suppose it has changed so much now, but l loved it at school. School was much better than these days – too much bullying. Kids don’t seem too have fun like we did. By the way l was there from ’55-’61 x


    By sally cakebread (27/03/2016)
  • I was at the school in 1982.  I had Mr Sturgess as my teacher and I recall the ghost stories!  I went back to relive old memories in 1996 when I passed through the area (I live in LA now).

    By Kevin (28/03/2015)
  • I was at dewhurst st. Marys in 1958. I remamber Mr. Grey, and Mrs Critchley. I also remember the Headmistress Miss Margrets, who died in a car crash.

    By janice sharpe (01/09/2013)
  • I attended Robert Dewhurst school in the fifties but before Mr Brandling, Mr Grey being head then. Before this I was at St. Mary’s infants, next door and Mrs Critchley was at the helm. VERY strict! I was left-handed and was rapped on the knuckles with a ruler when picked up a pencil.

    By David Notman (08/11/2012)
  • I attended this school late 70’s early 80’s and have extremely fond memories of it. Mr Brandling was my headmaster too and a lovely man. I too remember the derelict areas of the school and also the newspaper ! There were a few ghost stories circulating regarding the old buildings ! I went back a few years later to do a placement for secondary school, I had moved onto St Marys, and most of the original teachers were still there, including Mrs Garrett who at aged 5 I found scarey but at 13 found her to be a lovely lady !! Very fond memories…

    By Angela Barr (07/04/2012)