Gidea Park school to celebrate 100th birthday

September 20 marks the 100th anniversary of The Royal Liberty School, in Gidea Park. 

September 20 marks the 100th anniversary of The Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park. - Credit: The Royal Liberty School

A secondary school for boys in Gidea Park is set to celebrate its centenary.  

Royal Liberty School will celebrate its 100th birthday with two events in November, but September 20 marks the day it was founded in 1921. 

A former pupil from 1956 to 1963, Ged Martin has researched the history of the school.

He told the Recorder: “The school’s home, Hare Hall, used to be used to train army officers during the First World War.  

“There hadn't been a private owner since 1913. Nobody had bothered to look after the gardens behind the 18th-century mansion.” 

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So in 1921, on the Tuesday the school opened, then headteacher Stephen Hartley “ordered the boys to weed the flowerbeds and prune the roses”, he said, making the school "finally" burst into life. 

It was a bleak first day, Ged claimed, because a late delivery meant the empty mansion lacked even the basic equipment and furniture as well.

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Originally named Romford County High School for Boys, its name was changed by Mr Hartley, Ged explained: “Learning that Havering had once been a Royal Liberty – a kind of unitary authority based on the palace used by the kings of England to go hunting – he  romantically decided to rename the school.” 

At Royal Liberty’s 50th anniversary in 1971, Ged asked Mr Hartley how he got away with changing the name. 

Ged said: “Mr Hartley explained that he replied to official circulars addressed to Romford High School by crossing out the name and writing in Royal Liberty School in his replies.

"Eventually, the bureaucrats got the message.” 

Then minster for education Herbert Fisher formally opened the school in November and announced the name change.  

By summer 1922, Ged says there were 103 boys and eight staff and it was in 1928 that its first ex-student went to university.  

Come 1927, there were 303 boys at the Royal Liberty, and today there are 694 students.  

The school buildings have now undergone total renovation and expansion, ready to welcome 750 students by September 2022. 

Royal Liberty School’s headteacher, April Saunders, said: "We are looking forward to celebrating 100 years of The Royal Liberty School in November. We are planning two very special events which will be advertised on our website.

"Please come along and help us celebrate!”  

The events will be an old Libertian reunion held on November 13 and a Christmas fayre on November 27.  

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