The History of the Preparatory School

...continued from Part 2

Today's Pre emerges

The Council finally decided that the best solution would be the acquisition of all the land and buildings lying between Matthews' House and the Downs, bounded by The Avenue and Northcote Road. Durdham Hall and numbers 14, 16 and 18 the Avenue were to be demolished and the the sites grassed over to give as much open space as possible. In May 1930, the Finance Committee reported that they had made arrangements to purchase the four properties for £16,300, with vacant possession by March 1931. Downend House and Cambridge House, at the north-west corner, were acquired soon afterwards.

The decision to build was a bold one, for 1931 was a year of financial crisis and it was difficult to borrow money. In a sermon, Whatley told the boys:

It is your duty to cost your parents as little as you can... You can help your parents by being careful of clothes and books, the school and your House by respecting buildings and property... No one of you now can expect to be free from having to earn his own living without the help of inherited wealth, nor can count of stepping into comfortable 'family' occupations.
Junior School Admission Requirements, 1913

The decision having been made, everything went ahead quickly. E. G. Sharp, working closely with the Bursar and the School Architect, studied every aspect of the building, nothing was too insignificant to be discussed and always the best value in materials and craftsmanship were sought. Sharp also had to re-organise the two schools as one whilst they were operating on their old sites and to create a new tradition.

The present Pre building was formally opened by the Duchess of Atholl on 6 May 1933.

There were 15 classrooms, a large hall, a library and an art room, as well as two large cloakrooms at the east and west ends of the building. A generous member of Council paid for the carving of the heads of Whatley and Sharp on the arch of the doorway over the entrance and of Percival and Wilson over the main entrance of the Hall. The total outlay of the scheme, including the purchase of the properties, the demolition, the new buildings, complete layout of the site and roadways and the alterations to Matthews' House, was £56,539.

However, not everything in the school was new. The boarding houses remained the same and the boys moved from Matthews' to board in Hartnell's or Poole's at the age of 11. Day boys also moved up at 11 to a senior Town House, so the original division between the preparatory and junior parts was preserved.

During the Second World War the boarders from the Preparatory School moved from Butcombe Court, 12 miles from Bristol while the day boys attended lessons in Matthews'. The new school buildings, along with those of the College, were used as the Headquarters of the Allied American Command.

Preparatory School Opening

For some time after the War the boys used the huts on the grass area by the school as dining facilities. Then The Avenue Hotel on the other side of the road was purchased and converted into dining rooms (Merry House). Wethered House was bought in 1976 and converted into a Science School and day rooms for South Town. With increasing numbers new boarding houses – Sharp's (in the old Colchester Lodge Preparatory School, 1955) and Hankey's (in the old High School junior boarding house, 1969) – were added. The house next to Pooles on Guthrie Road was a senior boarding house from 1945 to 1955. This became Butcombe House, and provided the town rooms for North and South Town and later, classrooms for the Lower School.

Although indisputably part of Clifton College, the Pre has its own individuality and character. It is, perhaps, appropriate that in the College's 125th anniversary year the first preparatory school boarding house for girls – Pooles – and a new Art and Craft block – should be opened within yards of the site of Percival's first preparatory school of 1873.

valid xhtml  |  valid css