We wish to express our gratitiude to Jane Pateman for her painstaking research into the fallen heroes of St Aubyns and other fascinating pieces of history that she has unearthed.
St Aubyns was founded by Mr CEF Stanford in 1895 as a boys’ boarding prep school. Mr Stanford had been a housemaster of Kingsgate School in Winchester and moved with his wife, his deputy (Mr RCV Lang), a maintenance man and six pupils to start a new school. It was closed in July 2013.
The premises which he occupied had been a school for much of the 19th Century. Revd Thomas Hooker, Vicar of Rottingdean from 1790s to 1830s, was well known as an educator of pupils who lodged with him at the vicarage. He then rented rooms in the former Rottingdean Manor House and employed a second master as an extension to the school. After his death this continued as a school which changed hands several times. From 1863 a Mr Hewitt ran a school on this site called Field House School – here Ralph Vaughan Williams and the later Earl Jellicoe were educated. The school was bought in 1887 by two brothers called Mason; they gave the name Rottingdean School to their establishment. They vacated the site in 1894 and moved Rottingdean School to another site in the village. Thus Mr Stanford came upon an empty site when he arrived in 1895.
The school remained in essence unchanged for its first 100 years, with numbers between 60 and 100 pupils for most of that time. A chapel was built in 1912 and dedicated the following year. This records the names of 102 old boys who died in the First and Second World Wars.
The school was privately owned by Mr Stanford who passed it on to Mr Lang who succeeded him as Headmaster in 1919. Mr Lang in turn passed the school on to his successor Mr WH Gervis in 1940. One of the other masters, Mr EK Webber, had a financial share in the business. The school became a limited company and a charitable trust in 1969.
During the Second World War the school was evacuated to North Wales. A family called Wynne Finch made their mansion, Voelas near Pentrefoelas, available to the school in 1940. Here school life continued as if unchanged, including sporting fixtures against other prep schools evacuated to the area. Until the school closed, the Voelas Cup was still awarded each year to a pupil who has gained the most section marks.
In 1995 a Pre-Prep Department was opened by Grand National winner Party Politics, and with this came an increase in the proportion of day pupils. Girls were first admitted to the school in 1996 (although the first girl was Molly Stanford, daughter of Mr Stanford, in the first decade of the 1900s). In 2002 a Nursery was opened. Full boarding ended in 2003, although weekly- and flexi-boarding continued until the school’s closure.
In 2012 the school was purchased for £1 by the Cothill Educational Trust. In 2013, St Aubyns was closed by the Trust, despite a group of parents demonstrating that the school was still financially viable. The trust is currently seeking to sell the land for millions of pounds, and in December 2014 property developer Linden Homes published a proposal to build approximately 120 homes on the school site.