Opened in October 1933 as Markhams Chase Council School, the school
was renamed Janet Duke in October 1964 in honour of the former headmistress who had served the
school since it opened.
In the early 1930s proposals were put forward to build a new school in the Laindon area to cope
with the high number of children at Laindon High Road, which from its opening in 1928 was admitting
all children of school age. It was intended to provide 400+ places and having secured a site
for the new school in Markhams Chase, in June 1932 Essex County Council's Education Committee
were accepting tenders for its construction.
In February 1933 Miss Janet Duke, head assistant at
the High Road council school, was appointed Headmistress of a temporary school on the High Road
site which transferred to the new building in October 1933.
In 1964 after 31 years in charge Janet Duke retired at
the end of the summer term and from September Mr. R.J.R. Onions took over as the first Headmaster. He remained in charge
until the 1980s. It was during his first term on Wednesday 7th October that the school was renamed Janet Duke in honour of the
former headmistress in a special ceremony held on the playing field. During this time some
classes were temporary accommodated in nearby Nicholas Secondary School as a result of overcrowding.
A new infant
school was built on an adjoining field and the school was separated with Mr. Onions
continuing as the junior head and Mrs M.D. Moon appointed head of the infants. In September 1968
some infants that would have progressed to the junior school were transferred to Bluehouse to
bring up pupil numbers. Demountable classrooms also appeared around the early 1970s for some
of the junior classes.
A feature of the school grounds is a pond that is believed to
be as old as the school. During the 1960s, and while the school was still Markhams Chase, it
was almost filled in after a period of neglect. In October 1963 the Basildon Development Corporation
also expressed concerns that it might cause serious flooding in the vicinity of the then under
construction Lee Chapel North housing estate. In the event the pond remained and now in the
2000s with new landscaping and fencing looks set for a long future.
In September 2010 the infant and junior schools
merged to become Janet Duke Primary School. A new corridor linking the two schools was completed in April 2011. This was
named Willets Walk Way after long serving site manager Chris Willets.
Notes of interest:
(1) Janet Ada Mary Duke (11/04/1904 - /11/1998). 1911 census entry: Jennet Ada Mary Duke, age 6, daughter of William & Mary Jane Duke of Hadleigh, Essex.
(2) The junior school was selected as one
of the local polling stations for the first national UK referendum (United Kingdom European Communities referendum) held on 5th June 1975.