Henry Maynard Junior School fire - in the news
Reported in Walthamstow Guardian - Thursday March 21 1996:
"CROWDS GATHERED TO WATCH IN HORROR ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON AS FIRE SWEPT THROUGH HENRY MAYNARD JUNIOR SCHOOL.
A huge column of pitch black smoke, visible for miles around, rose from the burning buildings in Addison Road, Walthamstow and obscured the spring sunshine. For many it brought back vivid memories of the blaze which totally destroyed the neighbouring St. George's RC Church at Easter three years ago.
Eight pumps were called to the scene at 2.39pm. It took them just under two hours to douse the flames completely.
Police and the fire investigation unit are looking at the theory that an arsonist was responsible."
News of the fire spread quickly and many parents, children and staff gathered in the playground to watch as the firefighters fought the flames. However, some families who hadn't heard the news, arrived at school on the Monday morning, as usual. It was a few days later before an emergency meeting was held in the Maynard Road hall to inform everyone about the plans in place. Initially the council had suggested that the children might be sent to other schools in the borough but fortunately, there were just to many pupils to place (nearly 500). Families were very loyal to the school, and despite the difficulties no family removed their children from the school, unless they were moving out of the area, during the three years the school was sited in the mobiles.
It was believed that the fire started in a home-base in Red unit. The window was broken and some PE bags were set alight. Clearly staff, pupils and parents were all in shock initially, but plans were soon underway to get the school up and running again. The fire took place about a week before the Easter break. During the Easter holidays the nine double mobiles, that were to comprise the classrooms and hall/dining hall, were put into place and water, electrics and other essentials were also quickly organised. A few books and resources were recovered from the building remains and cleaned, whilst various companies also donated stationery, pencils, rulers, etc. All the pupils were donated a PE kit each.
Here are Chris Leach's (G6) thoughts after the fire:
"I Iooked up to see a storm or smoke filling the air. Blue flashes outside my school! Was someone hurt? Or was it a fire? My hands went numb as I looked into the flames. Red and yellow reflection on the pupil of my eye. I felt a hot madness climbing from my very soul! Four year's work was now a pile of ash!
I stood helpless as firefighters killed the flames. Who could change a peaceful school into the Devils' pool of hell? As I walked away, I saw someone crying. The sound of the school sounds like its in pain. I came back later to find a black burned and battered school. But now a new school is born and the soul lives on...."
Jason Ryder was one of the firefighters but was also an ex Maynard pupil:
"It was very strange for me. I attended the fire. I found myself walking around my old blue unit in breathing apparatus. I knew where I was going and it hadn't changed a bit....."
Scenes from the fire
Some parts of the building were unrecognisable. Only the part of the building nearest to Wilson Street survived - Blue unit, the staff and admin area, music room and hall were smoke damaged only.
Moving into the 'new' school
The new school gradually 'rose out of the ashes'. It was built on the 'footprint' of the earlier building and utilised as much of the orginal building as possible, which is why some of it still has a flat roof.
Guidelines for school builds at the time were for classrooms with a shared work space. It was felt that the classrooms would be very small but there was no scope to make them any bigger. In fact, a mobile had to remain, since there were 18 classes in the school intake when the move into the new building took place. Once the building was nearly completed, the move was delayed for approximately three months as some travellers had set up an encampment in the staff car park, but at last the day arrived.
The school was closed for a week before Christmas 1998 and the first week back in January 1999 whilst staff moved furniture and resources across the playground and set up the new classrooms.