No it is not just the name of a flower, it is the name of a person, St Edmund Campion, a 16th Century English Jesuit. Campion was a man of great learning but also of great spirit, who was martyred for his work in maintaining the Catholic Church in Elizabethan England.
The school was established in 1962 by the Society of Jesus, so the most famous English Jesuit seemed an appropriate choice as patron.
Although the school was opened in 1962, it was built as a response to the 1944 Education Act which promised a free Secondary education for all. Before 1962 Catholic pupils from our area had to travel to
St Ignatius College, Tottenham where 700 boys were crammed into a school designed for 250. So plans were laid to rebuild in the green fields of Essex. Only one serious mistake was made – the school was built in the wrong green fields. Instead of a healthy well drained field we chose a swampy bed of clay. It was quite an achievement to cultivate a reputation for running Rugby on what was one of the worst mud patches in Essex although significant improvements have been made to drainage in recent years. From early 2005, a new all-weather pitch became available to the school teams.
When the school opened it was still incomplete and the contractors asked for another six months to finish the work. They were told that finished or not it would open in September and the arrival on site of 297 young boys produced such a frantic outburst of work on the part of the terrorised workmen that the job was done within six weeks! Yet within seven weeks of opening the school the school suffered a tragedy – the death through a heart attack of its first Headteacher, Fr Michael Fox SJ.
The Jesuits continued to run the school for three years with Fr Peter Hackett SJ as Headteacher, but plans had changed. It had been decided to rebuild St Ignatius College in North London and the Campion School was offered to and accepted by the Bishop of Brentwood. Since September 1965, the school has been conducted by lay staff with (until 1989) a full time Jesuit chaplain.
In 1965 Mr Philip Moloney was appointed Headteacher and under his leadership the school expanded greatly in terms of numbers, buildings and reputation. A new Sixth Form Block and Swimming Pool were added. In 1978 the school ceased to become a selective Grammar School and became a Comprehensive School catering for boys of all abilities. The school roll expanded by 206 pupils and new workshops were built and the old Jesuit Community House was converted to provide additional classrooms for the first and second years (The Campion House). Phil Moloney retired in 1980 and it was with great sadness that the school mourned his death in 1988.
In 1987 the school celebrated its Silver Jubilee with a number of memorable events. In acknowledgement of this landmark in the school’s history a major building plan was launched to construct a multi-purpose Hall for sport, drama, Masses and public examinations. The Jubilee Hall was opened in November 1992.
Dr John Rowbottom was appointed Headteacherin 1980 and remained in office until his retirement in 1993. Throughout this period, the school underwent many changes and has continued to develop into a fine academic establishment. It is continually oversubscribed and has a flourishing Sixth Form.
In June 1993, the Governors appointed Mr John Johnson to be the new Headteacher. Mr Johnson was an old boy of the school, having joined the first year in 1962 when the school opened. He retired in August 2011.
In September of that year, Mr Keith Williams became Head. It was also the start of a new journey as the school became an Academy at the same time. After 11 years as Headteacher and 40 as a member of staff, Mr Williams retired in August 2022 making way for a new Headteacher, Mr Paul Larner who is another ‘old Campion student’.
Our history is too brief for our past pupils to have reached international fame in their chosen walks of life, but we have produced an MP (David (now Lord) Alton), a Fellow of the Royal Society (Alan Soper), more than one University Fellow, seven priests, two Rugby Internationals (Damian Cronin – Scotland and Tony Diprose (England)), and many in all walks of professional life – consultants, barristers, doctors, businessmen and teachers. One of the school’s greatest sporting achievements occurred in 2001, when the 1st XV became the first state school team to win the U19 Daily Mail National Cup, watched at Twickenham by over 3000 supporters from the school.