The History of Commonweal Lodge dates back to 1915, when William Webb, the planner and builder of the Webb Estate, decided he would build a school for girls on the estate. Margery Frances Bray was asked to set up the school which she did with the help of her friend Elsie Bourne. Margery Bray (1895-1962) was a trained Physical Education teacher and a war time nurse. Elsie Bourne (1879-1937) had been her teacher.
The name of the school was carefully chosen. Commonweal, whose members must work for the common good …. and Lodge, because the school is the entrance gate to the wider world beyond. The colours green and brown were chosen to represent nature, spring and growth.
In 1916 the school began in the “Woodcote” Smithy, by the village green and opposite The Lord Roberts Temperance Inn which also acted as a post office and general store. The school had only 8 pupils, one of whom was Mary Webb, daughter of William Webb.
The Smithy (far left in photo above)
The pupils moved to the Woodcote Lane site in January 1917. The new school building was designed by Sidney Tachell.
The original school in early 1917
Plans showing the school grounds
At first, the school was smaller than the present hall. It was divided into three rooms by thick green curtains. There was also a study, a staff room and a kitchen.
The Hall in early 1917
In the Summer of 1917, the hall was extended to its present size and a stage erected. The curtains were replaced by portable divisions to make separate classrooms. In the school’s first years during the War, pupils were taught to scramble beneath the stage during air raid drills.
Below is a view of the building in 1923 showing the extension built to the hall in Summer 1917, the Rec. Room, behind the hall, in 1918, and the new Music Room, built to the side of the hall, in 1923.
In 1925, seven new classrooms were built along with a library, extended cloakrooms, kitchens and a new staffroom. The building now looked like this
Plans for the extension
Sketch by Mrs Lewis showing the school in 1925 after the large two storey addition at the front of the school
The swimming pool was opened in 1931
During the Second World War, air raid shelters were built under the tennis courts. The school moved to Devon between 1941 and 1943 while the army commandeered its buildings. By the Autumn of 1945 Commonweal was in full working order once more, the damage wrought by the soldiers who had occupied the school’s building having been repaired. It now had 70 pupils.
The next major improvements were completed in the 1960’s with the building of the gymnasium in 1966. This was followed shortly afterwards by the demolition of the “Rec” Room and Sixth Form Hut, replaced by a single storey block containing six classrooms between the hall and gym.
The new gym
School hall (late 1960s)
Swimming Pool in late 1960’s
The sketch below shows the school in 1976 with the two storey classrooms (extended from single storey in 1973) and gym beyond the assembly hall
Aerial view (year unknown – between 1966 and 1973)