Wymondham College & Its Fascinating History
This will be a very potted history of Wymondham College as there is just too much history to do it justice.
Almost all this information is curtesy of Wymondham College, Lady Enid Ralphs and researcher Shelli Wright who together compiled the ”Wymondham College, Celebrating 60 Years” journal and “Wymondham College Remembered” website http://www.wcremembered.co.uk/ .
Although the College was created in 1951, its history predates that be some years and centuries.
Prior to World War II the site had been a home to the Mid-Norfolk Golf Course which was started in the 1920s.
In the early 1940s, when food production became a priority, the golf course was acquired be Mr G L Peacock, who levelled the area, and grew one season’s crops to help feed the British people.
In 1943 the site was requisitioned for a military hospital to support the many nearby American Airbases. At its peak there were some 1250 beds, with the majority of patients being just 18 to 30 years of age !!, and most with severe injuries. During the D-Day Landings in 1944, over 2000 patients arrived by train at Wymondham Station, often with two steam engines pulling around 16 to 18 carriages.
Amazingly over 99% of the wounded airmen survived.
In 1947, after the Second World War had left a national shortage of school teachers, the hospital became an Emergency Teacher Training College. By 1950, when the training college closed, it had trained around 1500 people who would become headmasters, heads of departments and teachers around the country.
It was in 1951 that Wymondham College, as we know it today (a State-run boarding school for boys and girls) was first created. The “pilot course”, with 60 pupils, started in April 1951. In June 1951 The Norfolk Education Committee decided that billeted children at Thetford Special Grammar School, would become boarders on the Wymondham College site, but run as a separate school to the College. By the end of 1951 there were 300 students on the site and the classrooms and dormitories for both the “Thetford Special Grammar School” and “Wymondham College”, utilised the Nissen Huts left after the War. In 1956 the two entities merged.
By 1955 there were 600 pupils, from 1st Form up to Upper 6th, as it was then, and with the College needing to develop and expand, so was born “Peel Hall”. This was to be the first of many new buildings.
It was opened in September 1957 and was to be the first girls boarding house. This was closely followed one term later by Lincoln House, also for girls.
In 1958, during the construction of Fry Hall, workmen stumbled across two Romano-British pottery kilns. “This shows that our tiny village of Morley has some rich and varied history possibly dating back to year 43 AD” (more can be read by visiting http://www.wcremembered.co.uk/history.html). A third kiln was excavated in 1962 by a team of amateur archaeologists (students) from Wymondham College. Another rare find that year, by more workmen digging foundations, was a large quantity of Anglo-Saxon coins.
"Personally I can remember driving through Morley, on a holiday to Norfolk in the 1970s and wondered what all the Nissen Huts were. They have all now been superseded by more modern buildings, with one exception, and that is the School Chapel”.
It would be well into the 2000s that the last (except The Chapel) Nissen Hut would be demolished.
In the 1950s and 1960s married teachers were “confined to barracks”, well not really, but they were accommodated in the Officers Huts left after the USAAF Hospital vacated the site.
Wymondham College & Its History Continued
In 1962 the first Wymondham College Army Cadet Force (ACF) was founded, and it is still running today. “I can well remember being in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at my school in 1967 !! – as a boy I remember it being quite an experience.”
The building work continued apace with a new gym, games hall & swimming pool as well as Kett Hall & Edith Cavell Hall all being opened in 1963. By 1967 Wymondham College had changed a lot with many new buildings, though a number of Nissen Huts remained.
The College continued to expand and by 1974 had 1432 pupils of which 680 were borders, both boys & girls. “While my school went co-ed in 1971”, Wymondham College was well ahead of its time, having been co-ed from its start in 1951. In 1971 it took the brave move to introduce mixed boarding houses. The first trial was so successful that more mixed boarding houses were quickly rolled out.
The College’s history hasn’t always been good.
There were various, and serious, flu epidemics in the 1960’ & 70’s (over 500 cases in 1976), a fire in 1972 that destroyed the new Sports Hall, not to mention its near closure in the 1984/85 budget cuts. A Parents Action Group and entry to the final of Hewlett Packard’s competition undoubtedly helped ensure the College’s survival. The Parents Action Group went into action again in 1986 when the new Education Committee announced a further review.
In 1989 construction of the “new” Science Block was started and was opened in September 1990. This left way for the demolition of some more of the old Nissen Huts.
“1st January 1991 was a turning point in the history of the College” commented Ronald Wolsey, Principal at the time. The College became a Grant-Maintained School and left the Norfolk Education Committee, whose inspiration had created the College many years earlier. This really open up the future of Wymondham College and set it on course to be what it is today.
The progressive development of the College gained pace again with the Technology Department opening in 1994, and the College gaining Technology status just two years later. 1998/99 saw the Design & Technology block being further developed, which released 10 more classrooms for teaching.
Also in 1999, the College went from being a Grant-Maintained School to having a Foundation School status and then became an Academy in 2011.
Wymondham College has won may accolades and awards over the years and was given an “outstanding” Ofsted rating in 2007.
2008 was another great year with the opening of the new extended Lincoln Hall for Years 12 & 13 Students, with Year 13 boarders being provided with en-suite accommodation for the first time.
Followed by a new Visitor Reception & Offices in 2013.
The College has continued to be rated as Outstanding by Ofsted in all their inspections (2009, 2012, 2017 & 2019) and is widely regarded as a World Class State Boarding and Day School.
You can view the Ofsted reports here:
Most schools in the UK have issues with traffic during “the school run” and Wymondham College is no exception. Although much has been done over the years to improve car parking and using separate entrances for different parts of the College, traffic continues to be challenging !
In 2021, and to celebrate 70 years since Wymondham College was first established, the last remaining Nissen Hut, The Chapel, will be refurbished and will become a Chapel & Heritage Centre.
After much hard work & planning, 2021 will see the opening of a new Primary School for day & boarder pupils which, the pandemic permitting, will open in September this year (2021). As of February 2021 construction is well under way.