In 2008 Bishop Gilpin Church of England Primary School celebrated 250 years of educating children, formerly as National School and then as Old Central School.
In 2008 Mrs Elizabeth Broad (former Chair of Governors) wrote, ''On the evening of 26 June 1757, the Vicar of Wimbledon, Revd John Cooksey convened a meeting of the Vestry (local ratepayers and gentlemen of influence) at the Rose and Crown public house to agree upon the design and costs of a Charity School to be built for the poor children of the parish, providing instruction in reading, writing and religion...''.
Initially known as ‘National School’ it was later referred to as ‘Old Central’ in a document in 1893. This was possibly to distinguish it from the new schools that had been set up in Wimbledon since the Education Act of 1870 had extended elementary education to all children.
The first trustees included Revd John Cooksey and Mr William Wilberforce, uncle of the anti-slavery campaigner of the same name. The school was supported by subscription and The Lord of the Manor, the first Earl Spencer, gave 10 guineas a year. The future Prime Minister, the Marquess of Rockingham, gave five guineas while he lived in Wimbledon.
In 1773 Mr Joseph Andrews was appointed schoolmaster at £50 a year to teach 50 boys and 50 girls with the help of his wife, and he continued in this post until his death 15 years later. The curriculum was confined to reading (the Bible was the textbook), writing, and, beginning in 1778, the four rules of arithmetic.
Mr William Wilberforce, nephew of one of the original trustees, was treasurer to the school for a short time while he lived in Wimbledon. Lord Nelson, whose estate extended into Wimbledon, also gave his support to the school. The 1806 accounts include, ''credited Lord Viscount Nelson and Lady Hamilton £4 4s. 0d''. Mr John William Selby was headmaster of the school in 1889 and the first chairman of the Old Central Football Club, which later became Wimbledon FC.
Old Central School closed in the early 1960s when it was taken over by Bishop Gilpin School, which was built, and remains today, on Lake Road. The original octagonal school building in Camp Road, built in 1758, is still standing and is used by the private school, The Study.
To mark the 250th anniversary of our school, Mr John Harvey wrote and published A Firm Foundation – The Story of Old Central and Bishop Gilpin School, Wimbledon 1758–2008. This interesting book tells the story of our school, from its transition from Old Central School to Bishop Gilpin with many interesting stories, including serious illness, air raids and 250th celebrations. It is available to view in our school foyer and copies are on sale in our school office.