The present building, and latest location at the top of Fambridge Road (now the Upper Plume Campus), was only established in 1907.
MALDON can rightly be described as a well established seat of learning, as the formation of schools in the town goes back to pre-Reformation days. It is known, for instance, that the Premonstratensian Abbey at nearby Beeleigh, founded in 1180, had at the point of its closure in 1536 a "children's chamber", that had been used for the boarding and education of the more fortunate male students of the area. Amongst their number was young Roger Niger de Beeleigh, a talented individual who went on to become Bishop of London and who, following his death in 1241, was referred to as a ‘Saint’. From as early as 1388 there were also a variety of other schools in Maldon and these survived throughout the Middle Ages. A Chantry Grammar School existed here and was eventually closed as a result of the Dissolution of Chantries in 1548. Quite separate Elizabethan private schools were also in evidence. But from the middle of the sixteenth century there was no broadly accessible Grammar School in Maldon. That is, until an important development took place in 1608 - a development which is key to this story and to the evolution of Maldon's modern day Plume School.
During the nineteenth century, as well as a small church funded Infants School (St Mary's, in Mill Road) both the National and British Primary Schools were established in town. The former eventually became a Church of England Primary (All Saints), opened in London Road in 1847, and the latter a County establishment, formerly on Market Hill but then relocated to Wantz Road from 1911 (Maldon Primary). There were also numerous later private schools - not least a local preparatory school and, as late as 1922, a separate boys' school situated in Lodge Road. A Roman Catholic Primary School (St Francis) was also established by a small convent of Franciscan Sisters in West Chase in 1957. But most relevant to this booklet and from a very early stage, Maldon also had its own Grammar School. Unlike Chelmsford and its well-respected King Edward VI Grammar School, founded in 1551, you will not find a Grammar School in Maldon today. However, the origins and eventual transformation of the Maldon Grammar School are inextricably linked to the continuing operation of Maldon's Plume School. In that respect, the year 2008 marks a very special anniversary for 'The Plume' - 400 years of continuity in teaching and learning. To understand how it all began we must search out various clues and travel back in time to the opening years of the seventeenthcentury; to the beginning of the reign of the Stuarts, a time of Religious Reform, the Gunpowder Plot and the age of our greatest ever writer, William Shakespeare. Our journey will not be an easy one as, unlike some other ancient educational establishments, the Maldon Grammar School as it was had several homes in the town.
The present building, and latest location at the top of Fambridge Road (now the Upper Plume Campus), was only established in 1907. Prior to that date, the penultimate site was in a place described at the time as “a small, damp, cold room” behind a house in London Road. We are not the first to try and search for the roots of Maldon's Grammar and, therefore, The Plume, School. Back in 1958, to mark what was then the 350th anniversary, former 'Old Maldonian' the late and much lamented Dr W J Petchey (1935-2001) produced his important work; 'Maldon Grammar School 1608-1958'. That detailed academic study, by a distinguished former pupil (he was Plume House Captain in 1953) and renowned local historian, included accounts of earlier Grammar Schools in the old Borough dating back, according to Borough Court Rolls, as early as 1409. Dr Petchey then went on to describe how the latest (as it was then) Grammar School came into being in 1608. Nothing can ever replace or better Bill Petchey's work, but history is such that things do move on and this latest publication is an attempt at being, as it were, ‘21st century’ - a less academic, more popular synopsis of the early years and an update on the important developments that have taken place from where he left off in 1958, right up to this latest 400th anniversary of 2008.
By Stephen P Nunn
To read the full history of education in Maldon, please download the PDF document to the right.
To view the full version of the school's history, please download the file below.