When Thomas Eaton died in 1714, it was his wish that a free school be built in Wimblington.
From property and land left by Thomas Eaton, enough money was raised to start building the school and a schoolhouse for the headmaster. The building work began in 1815 and was completed by the end of 1817. The total cost was about £800.
The first master, Mr Benjamin Ward was appointed in 1818, with a salary of £60 per year to teach 20 boys and 20 girls.
Some of the rules which accompanied the school included:
- The schoolmaster should be capable of teaching children reading, writing and arithmetic. He must be married and of good character and a member of the Church of England.
- The children should attend regularly divine service at Doddington Church.
- The children admitted to the School should not be under the age of six years – boys to continue to the age of 14 years and girls not to remain after the age of 13 years.
In 1821, the master resigned and the school closed. It re-opened with a new master, Mr John Wright, in 1824, also paid a salary of £60 per year.
In 1877, the school’s name was changed to The Eaton’s Endowed School and was run by 8 governors. The buildings were improved to accommodate 150 boys and girls, but the governors ran into financial difficulties and in 1885 the school was handed over and run by the School Board.
Some entries from the school log books give a real picture of life at the School back in the early days :
- 13th November1885 – The lower classes are making good progress in Mental Arithmetic but are still backward in Slate Arithmetic.
- 18th April 1889 – Object lessons given in the Infant Department during the past month : Elephant ; Pocket knife ; A piece of cork ; Swimming birds.
- 6th May 1889 – This morning one of the infants had ring worm on her forehead. Her school pence were returned and she was at once sent home.
- 6th December 1889 – Measles Epidemic – 2 deaths – school closed for 5 weeks by order of the Medical Officer of Health.
- 10th February 1891 – The master gave a magic lantern entertainment to the scholars this evening when about 150 pupils were present. About 250 views were shown, many of which were beast and birds, thus giving the children a lesson in Natural History.
- 30th April 1891 – Owing to a serious outbreak of scarlet fever the school was closed today by order of the Medical Officer of Health.
- 22nd June 1891 – The school premises having been disinfected, duties are resumed today after an absence of 7 weeks.
- 14th December 1891 – The infant mistress, Miss Gibson, the master and his wife and daughter all taken ill with “drainfever” due to the bad drains.
On 1st July 1903, the school came under the control of the County Council.
By 1908 the school was very overcrowded, consisting of 3 rooms with 4 teachers. Only 2 rooms were used, one (36 feet by 15 feet) was occupied by about 80 infant children. The inspector said “they could enjoy no free movement and could do little but sit still and scribble upon slates.”
The largest room (51 feet by 15 feet) was used by the older children. The school building was “black listed” by the Education Board but with the Great War taking place, the school continued to be used until 1924.
Eventually, it was decided to build a new school behind the old one. The land between the playground of the old school and the railway was sold for £20, for this purpose. On the afternoon of February 4th 1924, the new school was opened. Its cost was approximately £3000.
The school continued as an all age school until December 1938, when the seniors went to Cromwell School in Chatteris.
With the outbreak of World War ll, the school had to face new problems. First there was the accommodation of the evacuee children from Tottenham in London, and in 1940, due to the difficulty of transport, the senior children returned to the village school. Staff shortages during the war and in the years following made it a difficult period. In 1946 the school returned to a mixed infant & junior school. In 1947 the school at Stonea was closed and the children were brought by bus to Wimblington.
In May 1949 the school kitchen and dining room was opened, sited at the back of the school. Before this there are records of cocoa (hot chocolate) and ovaltine being served for dinner children at 2d per week. For the first time hot meals were available with an average of between 90-100 children staying each day.
In January 1959, work on a new extension began, consisting of an assembly hall, 2 new classrooms (now the dining room & kitchen), a headmaster’s room (now the old office) and children’s indoor toilets ( now the girls’ front toilet and stock room ). The playground was large enlarged and the entrance re-sited. For the first time the playground was large enough for a netball court. At the beginning of 1960, the name of the school was changed to the Thomas Eaton School, to commemorate its original founder.
In 1992, a further extension was added to the front of the school, housing a staffroom and offices.
In 1999, a new extension was added to the back of the school, housing 3 new classrooms, toilets, a boiler room and a computer suite.
In April 2011, Thomas Eaton saw yet more changes to its building, with all the mobile classrooms replaced with a purpose built modern extension, housing : the ICT suite, our Foundation stage classrooms (including the Playgroup), a Y1 classroom and a Community room.
Within the school’s 189 year history, it has had 20 headteachers, including Mrs Pam Jones, the first female headteacher.