History and Heritage
The Paxman Academy is being built on the site of the former Alderman Blaxill secondary school. The chosen name both reflects the location of the school as well as celebrating the industrial heritage linked to the engineering company in the town.
The name has been chosen after extensive consultation with local representatives and having listened to a wide range of views. The Alderman Blaxill name will not be lost from the site as the incorporated community facilities will be named the Alderman Blaxill Sports Centre. The history of the previous school will also be recognised in the new building.
Alderman Edwin Alec Blaxill Article
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Article written by Sir Bob Russell, High Steward of Colchester and published in the Colchester Gazette on August 31st 2016
Who was Alderman Blaxill, the man who for 59 years from 1955 was honoured by having a secondary school named after him on Colchester’s Shrub End estate?
In summary, he was one of the greatest Colcestrians of the first half of the 20th century.
A grateful borough council recognised his contribution to the town and, two years after his death, named a school in his honour.
Today, however, Edwin Alec Blaxill is all but forgotten.
The school bearing his name shut in August 2014 – and around this time next year is set to be demolished.
I hope the new school, which is being promised to replace the current building, will continue to recognise a man who did more for education in Colchester than any other person in the town’s history.
While some people will rightly assume Alderman Blaxill was connected to long- established firm Kent Blaxill, I sense that few will be aware of the significant role he played in the public life of Colchester over five decades as well as being chairman of the family firm for 48 years where he began work aged 15.
He was the third generation of the Blaxill family – with the Kent family – to run the business, started in 1837, which throughout his time was located in High Street. I can recall them having two shops towards the eastern end, one on the corner of St Nicholas Street and the main store opposite which was re-built following a huge fire in 1952.
There was also a shop at the western end of High Street, opposite the Essex and Suffolk Fire Office and a yard in Culver Street for building materials, between Holy Trinity Church and Lion Walk.
In 1963 the company left the town centre and opened its current premises on the corner of Layer Road and Gosbecks Road. It is still a family firm, with sixth generation Simon Blaxill as its chairman. Two years ago Kent Blaxill celebrated its 175th anniversary with visits by The Princess Royal and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Alderman E Alec Blaxill (his first name was seldom used) was twice mayor of Colchester in 1909 and 1937 – and was a member of the borough council’s education committee for 48 years, 29 of them as chairman. He was granted the honorary freedom of the borough in 1937 in recognition of his contribution to public life in Colchester, which in addition to education also included being chairman of the committee responsible for building the original bypass from Lexden to Clingoe Hill, collectively known as The Avenue of Remembrance which opened in 1933.
He also played a significant role in the First World War through organising a huge civilian involvement in support of the war effort. This is going to be given prominence in a book about the War by Colchester historian Andrew Phillips which is due to be published shortly.
E Alec Blaxill was born in 1873 and lived in Fitzwalter Road. He was a member of Lion Walk Congregational Church and was educated at the grammar school before the word “Royal” became part of its title.
He was elected to the town council in 1905 as a Liberal and four years later aged 36 he became mayor for the first time. In 1911, his fellow councillors made him an Alderman, a position which he held for the next 42 years (he joined the Conservatives in 1951) until his death aged 80.
At this time the borough council was developing the Shrub End estate with hundreds of council houses, shopping centre, two churches, health clinic, pub plus four schools. Such was the prominent role Alderman Blaxill had played in education in Colchester for nearly half a century, the council felt his name should be commemorated on a permanent basis – so that is how Alderman Blaxill Secondary School was named.
But what of its future? The school closed two years ago.
Since then it has been used for other educational purposes and this is set to happen for a further year. After that, what?
It is astonishing this will be the second secondary school built in my life-time to be demolished because of its condition – the other was Sir Charles Lucas at Greenstead.
What is the explanation for these buildings’ having such a relatively short life?
There are several school buildings considerably older, of greater architectural quality, which were built to last.
Ironically they include one of the first from Blaxill’s time on the education committee – the former secondary school in Hamilton Road (now a primary school) whose pupils on 26th June 1955 (according to the school log) “walked from Hamilton Road carrying their books with them” to Shrub End to the new school named in honour of Alderman Blaxill.