Henry Allen Nursery School - new beginnings
The year was 1942 and the American branch of Save the Children (of which Henry J. Allen was President) built a nursery school to provide support and education for the children of local women employed in war work, manufacturing barrage balloons, dinghies and radios in Amersham and the surrounding area.
After the war Buckinghamshire County Council took control of Henry Allen Nursery School and the building continued to nurture, develop and serve thousands of local children for the next 70 years. Eventually the time came when the Local Authority recognised the building needed considerable improvements to support the nursery in providing an outstanding and dedicated start to local children’s education. The decision was made to demolish the old Horsa building in favour of a state of the art, purpose built nursery facility.
Today, children and staff are making full use of the benefits the new building has to offer, from incredible new resources to the exceptional outdoor areas which include; climbing frames; tunnels; soft play area; vegetable patch and a purpose-build roadway for trikes and scooters.
Money raised by the Parent Teacher Association in 2012 has paid for this stunning mosaic which now proudly adorns the entrance to the beautiful new building.
The History of Henry Allen
In the early nineteen forties, with Britain at war, there was a need for the provision of Nursery places for the pre-school age children of Amersham and the surrounding area. Many local women were employed in war work at Amersham Prints in The Maltings, Old Amersham, which had been taken over to manufacture barrage balloons and dinghies. The Cartwheel in London Road made radios.
In 1941, before the bombing of Pearl Harbour which resulted inAmerica entering the Second World War, Californian subscribers to the American Save the Children Federation (equivalent to the Fund) provided the money required to build a Nursery as a way of aiding the British was effort without becoming involved militarily.
The President of the Federation was Governor Henry J Allen of Wichita, Kansas who in 1941 travelled to Amersham to turn the first spadeful of earth that marked the beginnings of the Nursery. The site chosen was a piece of farmland adjoining Mitchell Walk, which at that time was an unmade road (remaining so until 1960) with only one house.
On 9 February 1942 Henry Allen Nursery opened its doors for the first time with places for forty children aged two to five, although occasionally babies as young as eighteen months were admitted if their mothers’ work was essential to the war. The two classrooms were named after the Royal princesses; the old children were in Elizabeth Room and the younger ones in Margaret Room.
Henry J Allen 1868 – 1950
Henry Justin Allen was born on 11 September 1868 in Pennsylvania, USA, one of seven children of a farmer. In 1870 the family moved to Kansas. Henry Allen became a barber when he left school and saved enough money to attend Baker University. While there, he became interested in journalism and got a job on the Salina Republican. When that paper was sold in 1894 he bought the Manhattan Nationalist. A number of newspaper holdings made Henry Allen a man of great wealth. He owned and edited the Wichita Beacon for twenty years and built the first ten-storey office block in the state of Kansas.
Henry Allen was a follower of Theodore Roosevelt and stood unsuccessfully as the Progressive party candidate for Governor in 1914. Two years later he returned to the Republican party and was Governor of Kansas for two terms from 1918 to 1923. He learned of his landslide victory in the 1918 election while in France as organiser of the Home Communication Service of the American Red Cross. He did not seek a third term of office and returned to the Beacon. In 1929 Henry Allen was appointed to the United States Senate where he served for a year. He continued to campaign for Republican presidential candidates for many years after that.
In 1893 Henry Allen married Elsie Nuzman and they had two sons and two daughters. The lived in Wichita in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Henry Allen died on 17 January 1950, aged eighty-one.
Extract from Henry Allen Nursery School Memories
For more information about the history of Amersham please go to www.amersham.org.uk Potted History