Harlow College, then known as St. Mary's College, opened
its doors in Old Harlow, on 29th May 1862. The school was
situated just north of the Church of St John The Baptist,
behind Market Street.
It was founded by the Reverend C. Millar, the vicar of Harlow,
"to provide a superior education for the sons of gentlemen
and (when sufficient amounts have been obtained) to train
at low charge, the sons of missionaries abroad, of clergymen
similarly engaged at home, as well as orphan sons of gentlemen
who have been reduced in circumstances".
A local newspaper reported the time, that the sum of £3,500
had been obtained from a building society, repayable at £440
per year. However the whole school as originally
designed, by architect R.J. Withers (including a chapel),
was estimated at £13,000. The front and chapel were
never built, robbing the architect of his cloistered vision,
graphically illustrated in the original
1862 ground plan.
When the school opened in May 1862, the eastern wing had
been built, together with half the northern annexe. A contemporary
"When completed, the whole will form a
quadrangle, the front being lower by two stories than the
rest. At the eastern end it is intended to erect a chapel,
in similar style and architecture, for the sole use of students."
These later additions were never built, the nearby church
of St Johns, serving as the school's chapel.
For most of it history, there were about 180 boys on the
The main building comprised dining hall, class rooms, library,
sick rooms, dormitories, office and staff rooms.
In addition to the main block, there was an art room, gymnasium,
science lab, common room and two playing fields. (To view
archive photos, click
The school provided a five to six year course in mathematics,
french, science, geography, history and art.
The boys played cricket, tennis and athletics in the summer
term, football in the winter and cross country in the spring.
The 'Great Days' of the Harlow College, may well have been
the period between 1904 and 1935, under the headmastership
of Ernest Percival Horsey. Under his leadership the College.
prospered and became one of the best-known scholastic establishments
in the area, with pupils attending from all over the world.
A pupil in the 1920's remembered...
"It was Mr. Horsey who made the school
what it is."
Another quote from the 1920's, sums up the genuine affection
the pupils had for their Headmaster...
"Those of us who were privileged to
come under his influence, marvelled at the amount of knowledge
he acquired. He had a wonderful way of imparting that knowledge
and at the same time, paying great attention to the formation
With the coming of Harlow New Town, things were set to change
for Harlow College.
In the early 1960's, various development plans were being
made for the Old Harlow area. These included a scheme for
flats on the land between the school and the A.11 - Edinburgh
Way roundabout and the redevelopment of Fore Street and Market
Street on the other side of the school.
In 1964, Harlow College was told that the site occupied by
the school and its playing fields, would be required for housing
and the College was, therefore, due for demolition the following
There was a brief period when the College, under the then
headmaster, Mr. Roy Purgavie, looked into relocating to Hertfordshire.
However, the problems of moving, combined with falling rolls,
proved too large a hurdle to overcome and Harlow College closed
modern housing area of Jocelyns now occupies the site
on land between the church and Station Road.
The church is now St. John's A.R.C., an arts and recreation
centre for the local community. It is where that the Old Boys
of Harlow College, hold their annual reunion
*For a list of headmasters, click