Henry Morris (education)

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Henry Morris (1889 – 14 December 1961) is known primarily as the founder of village colleges. He was the Chief Education Officer for Cambridgeshire for over thirty years, taking up the post in 1922 during a time of depression in the United Kingdom following the First World War.[1]

Early life[edit]

Morris was born in Southport in Lancashire in 1889. At the age of fourteen he began work as an office boy at The Southport Visiter, later becoming a reporter. In 1910 he moved to St David's University College, Lampeter to read for a degree in theology, and in 1912 moved to Exeter College, Oxford. At the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered for army service, and became an officer in the RASC. In 1919 following the end of the war he read philosophy at King's College, Cambridge.[2]


After a year as Assistant Secretary, Henry Morris took up the post of Secretary of Education for Cambridgeshire in 1922. At one point during the Great Depression, Cambridgeshire was the second poorest county in England, despite the relative wealth of the university. Education outside of the City of Cambridge was in a poor state due to lack of funding, with no separate secondary schools in the countryside; all children between the ages of three and fourteen were educated in their village school-house, often in one room and by the same, single teacher for their entire school career. Morris envisioned integrated between secondary and community education accessible by all those living in the villages and small towns around Cambridgeshire: the idea of 'village colleges'. He described this as "raising the school leaving age to ninety", and firmly believed that education, both formal and informal, should be a lifelong process. In the 1930s his visions materialised as the village colleges he had initially only hoped for, and the first four village colleges in Cambridgeshire were opened before the country became heavily involved in the conflicts of the Second World War.[1]

The Old Granary, Silver Street, Cambridge, Morris's home until 1946, where he is commemorated by a blue plaque

Until 1946, Morris lived at The Old Granary in Silver Street, Cambridge, where he was the tenant of Maud Darwin, daughter-in-law of the naturalist Charles Darwin.[3] A blue plaque on the house commemorates Morris.

Henry Morris' idea evolved from what was initially seen by many in the government as a radical, liberal, paternalistic approach to delivering secondary education; to a system of education that was adopted by many other counties within the United Kingdom and abroad, due to its proven success in Cambridgeshire. By the time of his death in 1962, there were many village colleges successfully delivering education to both secondary school students (11- to 16-year-olds), and members of their local communities of all ages.

Today the concept lives on to great success in Cambridgeshire and many other areas of the country. Comberton Village College in South Cambridgeshire has, in several recent years, been at or near the top of the league tables for state comprehensive schools in England.[citation needed] The system of whole community education, as used by Comberton Village College, was complimented by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair - a true reflection of the success of Henry Morris' concept.[citation needed]

He died on 10 December 1961 at Hill End Hospital, St Albans, where he had spent his last months; a simple cremation ceremony at Golders Green Crematorium took place on 14 December 1961.

Village colleges[edit]

The following village colleges were founded by Morris.

Two further colleges were opened by him shortly after his retirement from the post in 1954.

Henry Morris Trust[edit]

In order to commemorate the life works, and achievements of Henry Morris, a group of his friends decided to create a memorial to him that they felt he would be truly proud of. They established a trust fund, with the objective of promoting enjoyment in the form of independent travel and study among the youth of the City of Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire. The trust fund, for several decades now, has annually awarded grants usually ranging from £20-£200 per person for self organised projects involving travel abroad or home based interests. It is possible to receive a grant from the trust if you are aged thirteen to nineteen, are a student or permanent resident of the City of Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire or South Cambridgeshire, and wish to pursue an interest either from home or abroad.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Henry Morris". The Henry Morris Memorial Trust.
  2. ^ "Henry Morris". infed.
  3. ^ Spalding, Frances (30 November 2010). Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections. Random House. p. 387. ISBN 978-1-4090-2941-0.


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