History

History of St. Edmund’s School

The school was founded in 1874 by the Rev. J. Morgan Brown at Glebe House, Hunstanton, Norfolk. His son, Mr. C. Morgan Brown, who was affectionately known to many generations as ‘Mr Cyril’ moved the school to Hindhead in 1900 and renamed it St. Edmund’s after the East Anglian King and Martyr. The original Blencathra House at Hindhead stood in some 30 acres of woodland, and had been let out to George Bernard Shaw for a number of years. ‘Mr. Cyril’ remained as Headmaster until he died in 1929. Ivor Sant, who had been his partner since 1900 automatically, took over as Headmaster but he had no wish to take over the running of the school and a search was made for a successor. Who better to step into the Headmaster’s seat than Ivo Bulley, married to Mr. Cyril’s younger daughter, Rosamira. Mr. and Mrs. Bulley together took control and successfully saw the school through the Second World War.

In 1952 he handed the school over to Peter Weeks, himself an Old Boy of the school from 1928 – 1932 when he moved on to Charterhouse. Badly burned in the R.A.F. following a Hurricane accident, he became one of Archie MacIndoe’s ‘Guinea Pigs’ – the club’s first Treasurer as he was unable to run off with the funds. Released from the R.A.F. in 1944 he joined the staff of the school and was Senior Master for some years before taking over. In 1960 in memory of Ivo Bulley who died in 1956, the Ivo Bulley Memorial Library was opened.

The days of Proprietory Prep Schools were coming to an end and so when Tony Pull came to take over the reins of the school, a Charitable Trust was formed in 1979 with Richard Saunders, a Chartered Surveyor in the City and an Old Boy of the school, as the first Chairman of the Governors. Tony Pull had joined the school from Oxford in September 1960 and shortly after his arrival it was discovered that his Prep School life had been at Glebe House, Hunstanton which has continued to flourish after the departure of the Morgan Brown family to Surrey.

When Geoff Finch retired from his position as Senior Master in 1967 Tony Pull was on the touch line waiting to step into his footsteps. In 1974 the School celebrated its centenary.  The Rev. John Hardwick, who had become Senior Master when Tony Pull became Headmaster retired in July 1986 and Peter Wragge Morley took over in his position. In July 1991, Andrew Sangster from Eton College was appointed Headmaster, but due to the 90’s recession, numbers began to fall in the school and Andrew Sangster took the decision to move on in July 1995 to take the helm of a school based in Battersea, London. The only snag, his successor, Andrew Fowler-Watt, formerly of Cranleigh Senior School, could not start until the Easter term 1996, so a stopgap had to be found for the Michaelmas term. Luckily one was found at hand in Trevor Gibbs, who had succeeded Peter Wragge Morley as Deputy Head in 1992. An acting Headmaster’s role is not normally a rewarding one. However, Trevor had one lucky break during his term of office: a visit to the school by King Hussein of Jordan. The occasion for this was an extremely generous donation by the king (whose sons and nephews were pupils at St. Ed’s in the early 1970’s) which had been used to finance the laying of a proper tarmac drive to the school from the entrance on the Portsmouth Road. The king had now agreed to open the drive in person, accompanied by Queen Noor, his OSE nephew Prince Talal and the latter’s wife, Princess Ghida.

On a cold and damp November afternoon, piloting his own helicopter, he landed on the Top Field – after carefully avoiding the square of grass which had been specially mown for him and which he mistakenly assumed was the school cricket pitch. For days beforehand the grounds had been stiff with security men, who kept popping up from behind trees in the best James Bond tradition. In the event all went smoothly. The royal party admired the smart new drive and the king commented, “I am very proud of my association with St. Edmund’s and I hope to be able to continue to contribute in the future”. The head boy, Robert Hone, then led the boys in three cheers for the royal party before the helicopter, with the king again at the controls, took off into the gathering gloom. A welcome spin off for the school from the visit, was due to a chance remark by Queen Noor to one of the boys as to what was his favourite food. The answer was, ‘I love Chinese, thank you’ – and the result was a Chinese lunch the next day for the school paid for by the queen and dished up by the Chinese restaurant in Grayshott. A tradition still held today as our Boarding Nights frequently welcome Chinese Takeaways from Grayshott, though sadly no longer funded by royalty!

Under Andrew Fowler-Watt, numbers increased dramatically and the school went from strength to strength. In January 1999, Andrew FW introduced a major innovation by setting up a full scale tutorial system based on a similar scheme at Eton. A structure that remains in place today and is equally successful. He also saw the introduction of a Senior Management team as well as the beginnings of what is now called “flexi-boarding”; another two initiatives that are still in place today. After four positive years, Andrew Fowler-Watt moved onto pastures new, paving the way for our current Headmaster, Adam Walliker to join the school. Formerly a House Master at the Dragon School in Oxford, since taking up the helm in September 2000, Adam Walliker and the Board of Governors led by Jackie Alliss have not ceased in ensuring the on-going successful development of the school and its smooth running evolution as time and the local market changed.

In September 2008 St. Ed’s went fully co-ed, and just over six years later, the school is proud to be confident in its 60:40 split ratio between boys and girls – a target most certainly reached prematurely. In addition, such pioneering schemes as Optional Saturday Activities and themed Boarding Nights have been introduced to the school as well as a mass of refurbishments and building developments; the largest of which being the building of the W H Auden Centre – a brand new teaching block housing six classrooms, two state of the art science laboratories and a brand new art suite, prestigiously opened in October 2014 by Sir Bruce Forsyth CBE.  The most recent addition to the chronicles of the school was the opening of St. Ed’s Senior School in September 2014.

The essential ingredient for success is to stick firm to one’s traditions but never be afraid to adapt them to changing circumstances. St. Ed’s has done just this, which is why it has flourished for the past 140 years. It is a very different school from that founded by John Morgan-Brown back in 1874, but, in its ethos, is recognisably the same - ‘a strong wish for all the children at St. Edmund’s to be happy and to ensure that they maximise their full potential and to create a positive and encouraging environment so that this may be achieved’. Long may St. Ed’s continue to go from strength to strength.