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News > 300th > History of Churcher's College, 1919-1935

History of Churcher's College, 1919-1935

This month we look at life at Churcher's between the wars...
8 Apr 2022

Article taken from 'The History of Churcher's College' by Donald Brooks and Gillian Clarke.

1919-1935 Between the wars

The Rev. Henry Bernard Tower had experience of both church and school, and made a great contribution to the public school image of Churcher's in the four years he was Headmaster (I think that by this time the rather impressive title of Master had long since been dropped).

Two more staff were appointed (all now paid according to the magic words Burnham Scale) and rugby was developed; a prefectorial system was introduced in 1919 and the Houses, named suitably for a sea-going Founder, were created; cutting across day boy and boarder, this vertical division united as well as divided the school without the traditional rivalry between day-bugs and whatever boarders were called in those days. The Assembly Hall was restored to its original purpose in 1922 and panelled by 1927: it could accommodate the whole school (numbers fluctuated but were rising steadily overall.)

The Rev and Mrs Tower were sadly affected by both Wars: Stella Tower's youngest brother, Lt. William Noel Hodgson, M.C., a pupil of Dulwich College and a highly praised war poet, was killed on the first day of the Somme in 1916. Strangely his parents' address was given by the War Graves Commission as Churcher's College; one can speculate that they were staying with their daughter in 1919 when the Graves Commission was establishing identification, but it is a puzzle. A book of Lt. Hodgson's poems was presented to the Headmaster by Mrs Tower in later years and has been placed in the archives. Mr and Mrs Tower's own son, Sub Lt. William Bernard Tower, R.N., died off Dunkirk in 1940. Although Rev Tower left in 1923, for Hurstpierpoint, he and Mrs Tower had a great affection for Churcher's and returned when possible. Rev Tower was appointed President of the Old Churcherians' Club in 1925, a position he held, highly respected, until 1947.

A layman followed, a practice which has been maintained ever since: a Mr F. E. Woodall, a geographer from Cambridge with varied and useful experience. A keen spoortsman, he initiated the long process of levelling the cricket field, with much use of boy labour which was long remembered; the improvement of the College, physically and academically, continued. The Prep School owes its existence to Mr Woodall: he established it in his private house (within the school), using a classroom in the annexe (the former sanitorium).

Arthur Hoggarth, M.A. (Oxon), an Historian, had joined the staff in 1911, so serving under 3 Headmasters before becoming one himself. Numbers rose steadily under his leadership: in 1920 there were 162 boys, half of them boarders; in 1926 only 49 boarders (perhaps affected by the Depression). In the spring of 1935, there were 235 boys of whom 91 were boarders: a figure that remained fairly stable for some time. The need for boarding space prompted another splendid gift: in 1932, Sir Heath Harrison, a retired Governor, presented his house and grounds, adjoining the playing fields, to the school; it became the home for the Prep School off 44 boys, 15 of them boarders. When the need arose for another boarding house for the Juniors, 'Bill' Hoggarth purchased, in 1935, a large house called 'The Mount' with its 3 acres on the other side of the main road.

Teaching facilities had already been expanded with the building of 3 new classrooms on the south side of the school, and a swimming pool (unheated of course) was created in memory of Mr Bond, opening in July 1929. The Cadet Corps, khaki only, flourished and Churcher's began to get a reputation for its rugby, which had been introduced in 1920, and cricket, played on its magnificent and gradually levelled field. This process was a saga: as late as 1931 things were 'at a standstill  for a lack of 1000 cartloads of earth': an obvious source was in the excavation of the swimming pool, but other loads came from the foundations of Woolworth's and the ITS Rubber Works. The boys involved will not forget.

An adjoining field, over 3 acres, rented initially from Colonel Nicholson but, in 1945, purchased by the school, is still called Nicholson's. A field on the other side of Love Lane, called 'Gammons' (Mr Keith Gammon was Chairman of the Governors in later years), was also used but never acquired by the school. It is interesting to read of the Headmaster's concern that the meadows could one day be built on: in 1929 he wrote to the Governors: 'There is no doubt that the rural beauty of England is being gradually destroyed. This district is unlikely to escape further disfigurement.' For those living in the town today, the playing fields of Churcher's College, in spite of the noise they may generate, have their advantages. Inter House boxing, surprisingly, was enjoyed by some and desperately contested; it was phased out, to most people's relief, in the sixties. Sports Days (College and County) encouraged athletics with records held in the archive.

The athletics team with the Winchester Shield: 1923

Many of the names and events mentioned in the closing pages of Mr Smith's admirable account will be remembered by the oldest of Old Churcherians, who would have their own tales to tell. He pays due tribute to the many Governors and particularly their Chairmen who held the future of the school in their hands. He concludes on a confident note, the rumblings of future problems and potential disasters unheard in 1935. This prelude to later years may help to put things in perspective.

Look out for next month's article, 1936-1946 World War 2.

To read the previous article, 1881-1919 The Move, click here.

You can view Churcher's College online archive here.

To buy 'The History of Churcher's College' visit our online shop here.


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