12 January 2016

Hove's Old Schools Index P - W

Listed below:- Parents National Education Union, St Teresa's School, St Winifred School, Wick Prep School.

Parents National Education Union (P.N.E.U.)
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2013

The above initials stand for Parents National Educational Union and Charlotte Mason founded the movement. Although considered somewhat avant-garde in its early days, the P.N.E.U. had the laudable object of providing a child with a three-fold education – that of body, mind and spirit. It was also felt that a girl had as much right to a decent education as a boy.
One of the best-known P.N.E.U. schools in Sussex was the one in Burgess Hill founded in 1906 and still going strong today under the title of the Burgess Hill High School for Girls.
 copyright © J. Middleton.
A PNEU School was run at 24 Wilbury Crescent from 1913 to 1916.
But the movement never really took off in Hove, perhaps there was just too much competition. Miss VA Parker made the first attempt and she ran a P.N.E.U school called Rothay at 24 Wilbury Crescent from 1913 to 1916. Miss Parker was a 1st class certificated teacher whose previous employment had been at Cottesmore.

Miss Burland was responsible for the second attempt and her school called Winchester House was located at 20 The Drive. The house is an impressive structure and in 2012 it is undergoing an extensive renovation.

Miss EFS Andrews made the third P.N.E.U. school attempt at Hove and her establishment lasted from 1933 until Easter 1954. It is the latter school that concerns us here.

The school was situated at 185 New Church Road and there were around 40 pupils, both boys and girls. Miss Andrews, an imposing figure of ample proportions, did most of the teaching herself, assisted by Miss Bettridge. Miss Vigo was responsible for teaching music and Miss Robinson taught the younger children. Also on the staff was Miss Martin who was young and pretty and taught Art amongst other things. Then there was a busy lady universally known as Cissie who took the children for walks in the park. She also performed the useful chore of collecting children from various homes and returning them in the afternoon.

Such a small number of pupils meant there was plenty of individual attention. Far from being pleased at the situation, one pupil found all the attention somewhat daunting. Thelma was a shy child and finding herself so often caught in Miss Andrews’ gimlet gaze was almost too much for her sensitive soul. She was much happier when she moved on to Brighton and Hove High School where she could sink gratefully in to a large class of girls.

But Miss Andrews had a kind heart. Thelma remembered the time she had the misfortune to leave Bingo behind at school by mistake. Bingo was a black doll with a red body that went everywhere with Thelma. When it came to bedtime and Thelma realised Bingo was missing, pandemonium broke out. Eventually her exasperated father had to go to the school and inform Miss Andrews about the situation. Miss Andrews quite understood and soon Thelma and Bingo were tucked in bed.
copyright © J.Middleton
These PNEU pupils were photographed in around 1935. Pamela Faulkard is sitting on the grass on the right.
In the first row behind her Thelma Clark is on the extreme left and Hilary Davis is 4th from the left.
Thelma stayed to lunch every day. The food was quite good but there was one menu that remained vividly in her mind, particularly as it was dished up once a week, usually on Thursdays. It was baked potatoes and herrings. Such was her disgust that she has never been able to eat either food since. Food also left an indelible impression on Mary Philpott. ‘Lunches were sometimes a problem as they included milk puddings such as rice, semolina, tapioca and figs, which I hated and still do, and you had to stay in your seat until you finished all your food’. But she enjoyed her years at the school and the wide education she received.

School uniform for the girls was a brown pleated skirt, a brown beret with badge, a fawn pullover and fawn socks. The school colours of turquoise, cream and brown appeared around the neck and cuffs of the pullover, around the tops of socks and of course in the tie. In summertime girls wore blue dresses with white collar and cuffs.

There were two girls with famous grandfathers at the school. They were Anne Baden-Powell, grand-daughter of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts; and Anthea Gordon, grand-daughter of General Gordon of Khartoum.

Every year the school fete was held in the grounds of the Lady Chichester Hospital in New Church Road. There were the usual stalls and amusements. One fete in particular provided a moment of glory for young Edna. Miss Andrews chose her to wear the coveted rabbit costume and she was instructed to hop about to a piano accompaniment. At a given signal Edna was supposed to stop and sit by the Brownies’ toadstool. But she was so carried away by being the centre of attention that she went hopping blithely on, ignoring frantic signals from Miss Andrews. Needless to say the incident caused much amusement to the spectators.

Recollections of Thelma Clarke, Edna Collins and Mary Philpott.

Copyright © J.Middleton 2013

St Teresa's School
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991 revised 2014)

When the Anderson sisters decided to run their own school, they purchased one that had been running since 1900. Mr and Mrs Morris were the owners, it was called Hawthorndean and situated in Wilbury Villas, Hove.
copyright © J.Middleton
The school was located at 31 Wilbury Villas, Hove.
The Andersons bought the property in 1931 as a going concern, changed the name to St Teresa’s and started off with nine pupils. The number hovered between fifteen to 30 boys and girls and never rose beyond 45 during the life span of the school. This part of Wilbury Villas was quite an educational hotspot and near neighbours included a music teacher and a tutor preparing young men for university, the Army or Civil Service.

Mildred and Muriel Anderson were educated at Brighton and Hove High School for Girls where the fees were eight guineas a term. After leaving school, and before starting their own establishment, Mildred taught at a French school in Tisbury Road run by two Mademoiselles, while Muriel was a Froebel mistress at a boys’ preparatory school in Epsom.

Their interests were many and varied. Mildred was a bronze medallist singer who often performed at the Regent Ballroom in Friday Night is Music Night. At home her hobby was weaving and she had her own weaving loom on which she enjoyed producing a length of cloth to be made into a suit for Muriel.
copyright © J.Middleton
This group of Sussex tennis players were photographed at Hove in the late 1920s / early 1930s. 
Left to right, Mary Arno, Cathy Evans, unknown, Muriel Anderson, ‘Baby’ Riley, unknown, Nigel Sharp, 
Lawrence, Friend-James, unknown, and Colonel Riley
As for Muriel, she was an all round sportswoman – an original Joan Hunter Dunn, if you like. For ten years she was in the Sussex County Badminton team and she was a doubles champion with Nancy Pigott of Hove. Muriel also loved playing tennis and she kept it up until she was in her early seventies, playing at the Grasshoppers Tennis Club in The Drive, of which she was a member for over 60 years. She won a bronze medal for ice-skating and was a strong swimmer too, regularly taking a dip from the end of the West Pier. As if all that was not enough to keep her in excellent trim, she also owned a rowing boat. For years she was a large-than-life figure in the town, bowling along on an old-fashioned boneshaker complete with wicker basket attached to the handlebars; she kept on pedalling until she was in her eighties.

At St Teresa’s the Anderson teaching methods were considered progressive because girls could play football or cricket if they were so minded, while boys could try their hand at needlework. As well as the usual subjects, there was an emphasis on all types of dancing, elocution and various crafts such as pewter work and basket making.

The pupils were also encouraged to take an interest in the outside world and were taken on educational trips to factories and to the theatre. Most pupils will remember visiting Holes & Davigdor’s Dairy in Cromwell Road and watching in fascination as the glass milk bottles trundled along the conveyor belt. In the 1930s Muriel Anderson used to take some of her pupils to Withdean Stadium to watch tennis matches being played for the Davis Cup. Muriel enjoyed these excursions as much as her charges and they saw such famous players as Bunny Austin and Helen Wills-Moody.
copyright © V.Ross
These pupils were photographed in 1933. Back row, left to right, Anne Mathews, Pamela Morgan, John Lahaise,
Patricia Reilly, Robin Whalen, Doreen Morgan, Anne Dupont and Jean Graves.
Centre row, Elizabeth Ann Lodge, Brinley Barker, Hugh Meikle, Tony Pearce, Bernadette Matthews,
 Veronica Ross (née Harrison), Heather Milton. Front row, Diana Balding and Michael Cook.
Many of the pupils arrived at school in the morning in chauffeur-driven cars but one girl opted for a more dramatic mode of transport. Her family owned a dairy and she would turn up on a horse-drawn milk float. The Anderson sisters’ mother provided a homely touch by cooking an ample lunch for the children.

During World War II at least one pupil of tender age had a father serving in the Army and a mother struggling to keep the family business ticking over in London, which meant a daily and often difficult commute by train. The pupil was obliged to stay on at school, long after all the other children had gone home, waiting to be collected. It was rather eerie having a swing in the deserted garden.

There was a Morrison shelter in one of the rooms and if the air-raid warning sounded, the children had to cram themselves inside it. In May 1943 Muriel Anderson found herself caught up in a daytime raid. She had just finished giving fifteen children a sports lesson in Hove Recreation Ground when there was the sound of approaching aircraft. The group was at the foot of Shirley Drive and so they quickly scrambled into a nearby pillbox. As they sheltered inside they could hear bullets rattling on the roof.

On a more humorous note, one weekend during the war, Muriel went raspberry picking on part of the Downs that was strictly out-of-bounds because it was a military training ground. But the soldier, who discovered her, instead of sending her packing with a stern reprimand, helped her to pick raspberries instead.

St Teresa’s closed its doors in 1970 when the sisters felt that nearly 40 years of running a school was quite enough. Mildred died in 1980. On 17th June 1990 the last school reunion took place at Wilbury Villas to coincide with Muriel’s 85th birthday. Inside the house the old schoolroom had stayed just the same with its wooden desks, blackboard and alphabet on the walls. Muriel died in the 1990s.

Muriel liked to think that many of the influential people of Hove had passed though her school and she kept in touch with some of them.

Former pupil Veronica Ross (née Harrison) returned to St Teresa’s in her teens and taught there for two years. She kept up a lifelong friendship with Muriel Anderson after she left the school and they went on trips to Wimbledon and on cruises together. As Muriel grew older, Veronica helped her with day-to-day needs. When Muriel died in March 1992, she left the contents of her house, still virtually untouched since its school days, to Veronica. For old times’ sake, Veronica retrieved her original school desk and the long oak bench where pupils sat on their first day at St Teresa’s, installing them in her own home.

Meanwhile, Veronica had her own busy life looking after husband and children and helping out in her husband’s architectural business. Her hobbies included antiques, photography and poetry writing. But she also bred basset hounds, many destined for the show ring. Indeed, she bred twenty champions and some them went overseas. Veronica became President of the Basset Hound Club.

Old Boys and Girls

John Edwards, teacher at Mowden School.
Michael Head, Wing Commander RAF.
Michael Horton-Ledger, champion Sussex shot and estate agent.
Veronica Ross (nee Harrison) London fashion model, Basset hound breeder and international judge.
Nicholas Treadwell, owner of a well-known Art Gallery in the north.
John Vokins, whose family owned the store on the corner of North Street and Ship Street, Brighton. The firm now operates from the Sackville Trading Estate, Hove.

School colours blue, yellow and white

Recollections of Muriel Anderson and Veronica Ross 

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

St Winifred School
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2021

Notable Former Pupils John and Jennifer Nicks, skating stars and world champions

St Winifred’s was an unusual school because it existed on two different sites at the same time. There was the smaller one at Portslade and the larger one at Hove located at 330 Portland Road from 1931 to 1969.
copyright © D.Sharp
Hove location of St Winifred's 1931-1969
In August 1988 it became known that St Andrew’s Church Hall, Portslade, popularly known as the Scout Hut, had come to the end of its useful life. For a temporary building it had done remarkably well, having been erected at the end of the Boer War. The Great Storm of October 1987 was really the last straw. Although it was still standing afterwards, the structure had shifted and a surveyor’s report labelled the building unsafe.

The news the hall was to be demolished caused Lilian Hale to write to the Brighton and Hove Gazette about her memories. It came as a great surprise to many people that the hall had once played host to a small private school called St Winifred’s.
copyright © J.Middleton
This building with the innovative shape was erected on the site of the old Scout Hut that once housed St Winifred’s School. The new structure was home first of all to a car salesroom, then it became a furniture showroom and lately it has been converted into a dental centre.
As a result of newspaper publicity, a re-union of ex-pupils took place on 1st October 1988. Miss Maria Ross aged 81 and a former teacher at the school was guest of honour.

Lilian Hale started at St Winifred’s in 1924 at the age of five and there she remained until she reached the school-leaving age of fourteen. Her schooling cost her parents 1/6d a week and the money had to be produced first thing on Monday mornings. Miss Herbert was the headmistress and she was also involved in teaching along with Miss Vine and Miss Ross. Lilian Hale remembered the school uniform as consisting of a navy gymslip with a white blouse and green tie. There was a green velour hat for winter wear and a panama hat for the summer. Games were played on a stretch of grass outside; this was before St Richard’s Flats were built and sheep used to be kept in the field.
copyright © J.Middleton
This group from St Winifred’s School, Portslade was photographed in around 1924. In the background Portslade Fire Station can be seen on the left and St Andrew’s Church on the right. Back row, left to right, Joyce Hopper, Marion Barber and Nancy Charman; front row, Mavis Short, Rhona Dickens and Betty Johnson.
St Winifred’s was a mixed school. Two boy pupils were Fred Smith, who started there in 1937, and his best friend Bob Smith (no relation) who joined in 1938. Fred Smith recalled there were two classes inside the hall, one senior and one junior, with around 30 pupils in each class. The classes were sub-divided into three sections A, B and C. Miss Ross and Miss Mounson were the two teachers while Miss Herbert came to teach French.

Fred Smith stayed at St Winifred’s for the whole of his schooling and amazingly the fees were still only 1/6d a week but his parents had to pay for any books or other necessary equipment.  His uniform, purchased at Cobley’s in Church Road, Hove consisted of grey trousers, white shirt, green blazer, tie and cap. There was no emblem or motto on the cap, merely a badge with a monogram of SWS. A complete syllabus was taught and pupils sat for their school certificate. Fred Smith remembered that Friday afternoons were devoted to sport and music. He played cricket in Victoria Recreation Ground and stoolball in Marine Park (now Aldrington Recreation Ground but popularly called Wish Park). But Fred’s favourite subject was drawing and he went on to Brighton Technical College and a career in graphic art. His friend Bob Smith became a French polisher at Colman’s of Hove.

Dorothy Millard’s (nee Rich) first memories were of the art class. She recalled being taught how to draw a single petal, then several to make a flower, and finally the colouring in. She once painted a picture of one of her Christmas presents; a torch resplendent in the colours of red and pink. Miss Mounson was unimpressed with her work and told her red and pink NEVER went together. Dorothy’s protest about the accuracy of her portrayal was brushed aside.

At the outbreak of World War II the school remained in the hall for a while although the children were obliged to dive under the stage during air raid alerts. Then it was decided the hall was not safe enough being so close to the canal and a possible enemy target. It moved not that far away to the Southern Cross Mission Hall in Trafalgar Road where it stayed for two years.

Then it moved again to the hall next door to the George Inn in Portslade Old Village. This old building had once possessed a thatched roof and was known by two nicknames – the Hook and Eye or the Buffalo Hall. The latter was because the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (a fraternal organisation) used to hold meetings there.
copyright © J.Middleton
The Location of St Winifred's School next to the George Inn in Portslade Old Village
It was said that Miss Lilian Herbert started her school career at Hove first of all, where lessons were taught in a large tin hut in Marmion Road. In 1929 Pat Goddard (nee Page) and Margaret Adams (nee Deering) arrived at this establishment. Pat Goddard cannot remember having to bring money with her on Monday mornings and thought instead her parents paid 2 guineas a term. According to Margaret Adams the fees for Hove St Winifred’s was 2/6d a week. If your parents wished you to take elocution lessons (from Miss Steele) or dancing lessons (from Miss Palmer) that would cost an extra £1-10s a term each.

A new school building was erected for St Winifred’s at 330 Portland Road, Hove and it became operational in 1931. The old site at Marmion Road was covered by a new brick-built YMCA building and some of the St Winifred’s pupils donated £1 to buy a brick to be inscribed with their name and used on the site.

The Hove St Winifred accepted girls from five to fourteen and boys from five to seven. Pat Goddard and Margaret Adams remembered the teachers during their time at the school as being Miss Herbert, Miss Ross, Miss Vine and Miss Waller. Miss Waller had the task of collecting the younger pupils and escorting them to school in the mornings; the collection point being outside the Granada Cinema. No doubt parents thought their children would be safe under the supervision of a teacher but on one occasion there was an unfortunate accident. It happened that the route to school lay along the south side of Portland Road where workmen were building some shops. As the children walked along the pavement in pairs, they passed a ladder, and some bricks fell out of the bricklayer’s hod, injuring several of them.

Later on, when these shops were opened, the children spent some of their pocket money in them. For instance, you could buy a bag of sweets for one penny, or if you were being frugal, a halfpenny could purchase a bag of broken toffee. Toffee apples cost one penny each. On the subject of food, no school dinners were provided and so there was a two-hour break from school from noon to 2pm and then it was back for the afternoon session lasting until 4pm.

The new school building was very spacious when compared to their previous quarters. The infants, juniors and seniors had separate classrooms. But the seniors had the best room because there were French windows overlooking the garden.

Discipline was quite strict. Fridays must have been the most unpopular day of the week because the children were given tests to ascertain if they had absorbed that week’s work. In addition there were exams to be sat at the end of every term with certificates awarded to children with the three highest marks.

Handwriting was taught and in 1936 Miss Herbert considered her pupils good enough to enter a competition organised by a national newspaper. Her optimism was well founded and the school won a set of Shakespeare’s Works. Shakespeare was an important part of the curriculum and a play was selected for reading out loud in class each year. For the remaining two terms, children were allowed to choose a classical book to be read in class.

School uniforms were purchased at Dorkins, Western Road, Brighton. They kept a stock of the necessary blazers, green velour hats, panama hats and shantung blouses. They also sold that detested item – enormous green knickers reaching almost to the knees with elastic around the legs.

It is worth noting that a Mayoress and a Mayor of Hove were former pupils of Hove St Winifred’s. They are Mrs BB Funnell, whose husband was Mayor of Hove in 1961, and Mrs Margaret Adams who was Mayor of Hove from 1989-1990. Mrs Adams was also Registrar at Hove from 1960 to 1988. Notable former pupils are John and Jennifer Nicks, skating stars and world champions.


1920s-1969 Miss Lilian Herbert

School colours green

Recollections of Margaret Adams, Pat Goddard, Lilian Smith, Dorothy Millard, Bob Smith, Fred Smith

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012 

Wick Prep School
Judy Middleton
Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2014

Famous Old Boys

C. Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960) composer.
Evelyn Baring, 1st Baron Howick of Glendale (1903-1973)
Richard Austen ‘Rab’ Butler Baron Butler of Saffron Walden (1902-1986)
Lord David Cecil (1902-1986)
Robert Speaight (1904-1976) actor

One of the most interesting of Hove’s private schools was located in Wick House, Furze Hill. The house was a venerable two-storied building erected in the late 18th century for Thomas Scutt, owner of the Wick Estate. It seems fitting for a boys’ school that the house should have echoes of Waterloo, and Sir Edward Kerrison, a Waterloo veteran lived there from 1818 to 1825.
copyright © J.Middleton
The Revd Edward Everard was the proprietor and first perpetual curate of St Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street.
He was also the founder of an academy for young gentlemen at the Wick in 1829.
The house’s scholastic record began in 1829 with the advent of the Revd Edward Everard, proprietor of St Andrew’s Chapel (later church) Waterloo Street, Hove. Charles Barry designed it and it was intended for the rich folk who patronised Brunswick Town. As a sideline the Revd Edward Everard ran an academy for young gentlemen at Wick House, which soon earned the nickname of the young House of Lords. The school lasted until 1838 when the clerical schoolmaster moved on to pastures new.

It is interesting to note that Lewis Melville in his book on Brighton published in 1909, asserts Charles Dickens parodied the school as Dr Blimber’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dombey & Son. Not surprisingly there is a contender for this dubious distinction and Harrison Ainsworth was of the opinion that Dickens used a school in Chichester House in Brighton as his model. There was a school there from 1832 to 1846 and the Revd Dr George Proctor was in charge.

The ‘Brighton’ school thought that because of Dickens’ description ‘The doctor’s house was a mighty fine house, fronting the sea’ that seals the case. On the other hand Dickens could have heard stories about the Wick from his friends at Hove and it is on record that Dickens stayed at Hove as well as Brighton.

Most probably Dr Blimber’s Academy was a composite picture of what contemporary young gentlemen’s academies were like and the portrait was not flattering. Dr Blimber ran a scholastic hot house where unfortunate youths were force-fed liberal quantities of Greek and Latin, lightened with arithmetical problems. Paul Dombey, the hero of the book, was despatched there at the tender age of six. The regime was too much for his delicate health and later in the book there is a touching death-bed scene. No doubt this did wonders for the circulation figures since Dombey and Son was published in monthly parts from October 1846 until April 1848.

However, at least Dr Blimber kept a good table and there was a variety of meat and vegetables with the scholars using silver cutlery. There was also a splendid butler dressed in a blue coat with bright buttons who poured out the table beer for the young gentlemen.

But the overall impression of the building is bleak and the following description aptly sums it up. ‘Not a joyful style of house within, but quite the contrary. Sad-coloured curtains, whose proportions were sparse and lean, hid themselves despondently behind the windows, the tables and chairs were put away in rows, like figures in a sum; fires were so rarely lighted in the rooms of ceremony, that they felt like wells, and a visitor represented a bucket’.

Wick House was without a school for a period of 44 years until Mr S Creak arrived on the scene (and what a Dickensian-sounding name that is). He became headmaster in 1883 but the following year Mrs Creak is listed as head of the school. Perhaps Mr Creak was indisposed – at any rate he was back in his post by 1885 and remained another couple of years. He did not look far for an appropriate name and the school became simply the Wick.

The school really came to prominence under the headship of Laurence Thomas Thring, who was related to the famous Thring, headmaster of Uppingham. To anybody with an interest in education in those days, Thring was one of the foremost names in the field. The head of the Wick was a figure to strike terror into any trembling prep schoolboy and his appearance was further dramatised by having lost an eye to a cricket injury. He did not allow the accident to affect his lifestyle, enjoying a game of golf twice a week with a spot of fishing now and again. His sister Mary assisted in the running of the school and these years could be called the golden years of Wick.

Although there were only around 50 boys, there was a remarkable amount of talent. Contemporaries were Evelyn Baring, Rab Butler, Lord David Cecil and the actor Robert Speaight.

Evelyn Baring arrived at the Wick in 1912 when he was eight years old. His nickname was Clydesdale or Bill because he was large for his age. He spent a happy time at the school and finished up as head boy. Thring wrote on his report ‘as head of the school he has been a distinct success’. However, his scholastic achievements were not so marked. In 1914 he wrote home apologising for being bottom again. Indeed Thring did not put him in for a scholarship to Winchester because he felt his Greek was a little weak. But to Winchester he went in any case in September 1914. Later, Baring enjoyed a successful career as an administrator, becoming Governor of Southern Rhodesia in 1942 and Governor of Kenya in 1952.

Rab Butler was born in India in 1902 but he came home with his mother in 1911 in order to attend an English school. There was none of the quick dumping and off again, as had happened with young Rudyard Kipling, for instance. Instead, Mrs Butler took a house in Hove to be near Rab and help him settle in. After all, his education was now much more formal than anything he had been used to in India. Soon Ann Butler became a personal friend of the Thrings and she was often to be found helping out at school theatricals. She must have thought the school a good one because her second son went there some years later.

A legacy of Rab’s time in India was a damaged right arm. He fell off his horse at Simla when he was six years old, breaking his arm in three places. Although it was set in a military hospital, it never mended properly and he did not enjoy full use of his hand. Despite this, Rab played rugby and football at the Wick.

Mary Thring made more impression on Rab than her brother the head. He remembered she was very stern and ensured the boys finished up all the food on their plates. If she caught sight of some left food, her favourite dictum was ‘Captain Scott would have given his eyes for that’. Captain Scott was the great hero of the time, having just perished in the Antarctic in 1912 but the boys grew fed up with hearing his name so often.

Rab left the Wick in July 1916 and went on to Marlborough and to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he obtained a First in French. In 1941 Butler was appointed President of the Board of Education and it is instructive to note he had a lasting effect on education when the Education Act of 1944 was passed – indeed it is often called the Butler Education Act.

Lord David Cecil was also born in 1902, the youngest child of the 4th Marquess of Salisbury, and was at the Wick at the same time as Rab Butler. Although he became a professor of English Literature at Oxford and was well known as a biographer, he does not seem to have left any reminiscences of his time at Hove. Perhaps that is because as a delicate child he probably did not join in the rough and tumble of ordinary school life. At the age of eight he developed a tubercular gland in his neck and was operated upon. He was obliged to spend a great deal of time in bed but the compensation was he developed a great love of books. People still remember him as one of the regular participants in TV’s Brain’s Trust in the 1950s.

Robert Speaight was at the Wick when Evelyn Baring was head boy and Rab Butler was a year or two senior to him. Speaight particularly remembered the matron Miss Rackstraw whom he called irreplaceable. There was also Tom Pattenden who lived in the porter’s lodge and wore white tie and tails to preside over the young gentlemen’s school meals. Shades of Dr Blimber’s indeed!

According to Speaight the headmaster’s garden adjoined St Ann’s Well Gardens while the gate from the asphalt playground led out into Somerhill Road with the playing fields situated on the other side of the road. The formal approach to the school was up a driveway, past the porter’s lodge. Speaight described the regime as a ‘heavy dose of classics and character building’. In fact the Wick was a prep school whose ideal was Winchester and most of the boys went on there – very few venturing to Eton or Harrow. Lord David Cecil did go on to Eton but at a later age than usual because of his health.

Speaight was keen on reading the novels of Sir Walter Scott and nothing put him off, even a fever. On one occasion he was ill in bed when the school physician Dr Uthoff was summoned to examine him. The doctor threatened to prescribe leeches but so deep was Speaight in The Fair Maid of Perth he scarcely bothered to listen. Mary Thring had lent it to him and it was one of those small print editions. The next day Dr Uthoff delivered his diagnosis – excessive reading of Scott. His remedy was ‘Put the boy on Conan Doyle’.

Speaight went on to Haileybury. Later he became an actor and in 1935 he played the part of Becket in the first performance of TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. He also played most of the major Shakespearian roles at the Old Vic. He wrote a number of books including biographies of Hilaire Belloc and Eric Gill. Gill was a personal friend who went to school at Arnold House, Hove.


The Wick enjoyed putting on theatrical performances for the benefit of visiting parents and there was one production that deserves a special mention of its own. It took place on Parents’ Day in June 1919. Perhaps the declaration of peace inspired the headmaster to consider staging something out of the ordinary. He thus presented C. Armstrong Gibbs, a former pupil at the school and now a master, with the princely sum of £100 in September 1918 to spend on an innovative production. Gibbs was allowed a free reign in his choice and he envisaged a play with incidental music. He had already set several of Walter de la Mare’s poems to music and they had one or two friends in common. Greatly daring he wrote to the great man and asked him to write the play they needed. He quite expected to be told off for his presumption but instead ‘that kindest of men agreed to my plan and Crossings was the result.’ Walter de la Mare even came down to the school to see how the production was going and joined in enthusiastically.

The boys took to the play like ducks to water. Gibbs feared he would have difficulty in finding boys to take female parts but it was no problem at all. The music was scored for flute, strings and piano. Professor Dent asked Gibbs to conduct the orchestra but he declined because he wanted to play the piano. Professor Dent later introduced Gibbs to a tall, thin, young man named Adrian Boult who would conduct the orchestra.

The performance took place in the large schoolroom. Adrian Boult took up his baton and the orchestra began to play the overture when two oil lamp standards lighting them, began to dim ominously. Somebody had forgotten to fill them up. Apparently, a memorable sight was the figure of the headmaster leaning ‘precariously over the players with a long-spouted oil-can in his hand, replenishing the supply as the moment for curtain-up approached.’ The performance was a success and persuaded Amrstrong Gibbs to pursue music as a career, rather than remaining at the school long-term.

These reminiscences were printed in Radio Times (15 December 1950) when Crossings was broadcast on Children’s Hour. Liz Jarmy alerted me to this article, which she discovered when sorting out her late father’s belongings; the Radio Times having been used as wrapping paper. Her father, John Hancox of Hastings, was a veteran of Dunkirk and El Alamein. But he also loved local history and would have been amused by this story.

Laurence Thring decided to call it a day after 21 years as head of the school. He sold the establishment for a profit and he and Mary Thring went off to live at Lyme Regis. He lived until his nineties.
copyright © J.Middleton
Furze Croft was built in the 1930s on the site of the Wick.
As for Wick House, it lasted until 1935. Then the historic house was demolished and thus joins the sad catalogue of other treasures in Hove demolished in the 1930s including the Well House at St Ann’s Well Gardens, Hove Manor and Cliff House. A block of flats called Furze Croft was built on the site.


1883-1886 – S Creak
1887-1897 – Charles Gilbert Allum
1898-1900 – CG Allum & LT Thring
1901-1919 – Laurence Thomas Thring
1920-1935 – GS Leach


Butler (Lord) The Art of the Possible (1871)
Dale (A) Fashionable Brighton 1820-1860 (1947)
Dickens (Charles) Dombey and Son (published in weekly parts 1846-1848)
Howard (A) The Life of RA Butler (1987)
Melville (L) Brighton, its History, its Follies and its Fashions (1909)
Porter (H) History of Hove (1897)
Speaight (Robert) The Property Basket (1970)
Radio Times (15 December 1950) 

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