St Cyprian's School
St Cyprian's School was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 preparatory school
Preparatory school (UK)
In English language usage in the former British Empire, the present-day Commonwealth, a preparatory school is an independent school preparing children up to the age of eleven or thirteen for entry into fee-paying, secondary independent schools, some of which are known as public schools...

 for boys, which operated in the early 20th century in Eastbourne
Eastbourne is a large town and borough in East Sussex, on the south coast of England between Brighton and Hastings. The town is situated at the eastern end of the chalk South Downs alongside the high cliff at Beachy Head...

, East Sussex
East Sussex
East Sussex is a county in South East England. It is bordered by the counties of Kent, Surrey and West Sussex, and to the south by the English Channel.-History:...

. Like other preparatory schools, its purpose was to train pupils to do well enough in the examinations (usually taken around the age of 13) to gain admission to leading public schools
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

, and to provide an introduction to boarding school life.


St Cyprian's was founded in 1899 by Lewis Vaughan Wilkes and his wife Cicely Comyn, a newly married couple in their twenties. It originally operated in a large house in Carlisle Road, but by 1906 had grown sufficiently to move into new purpose-built facilities with extensive playing fields behind Summerdown Road. The school ran with the prevailing ethos of Muscular Christianity
Muscular Christianity
Muscular Christianity is a term for a movement originating during the Victorian era which stressed the need for energetic Christian activism in combination with an ideal of vigorous masculinity...

 which had typified private education since the time of Arnold of Rugby
Thomas Arnold
Dr Thomas Arnold was a British educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement...

, and placed much emphasis on developing self-reliance and integrity (“Character”). In these and many other respects St Cyprian’s was little different from the other leading prep schools of the time. The school submitted itself annually to an independent academic assessment, conducted by Sir Charles Grant Robertson
Charles Grant Robertson
Sir Charles Grant Robertson CVO , was a British academic historian. He was a Fellow of All Soul's College, Oxford and Vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham.-Biography:...

 fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. The school uniform was a green shirt with a pale blue collar, corduroy breeches and a cap with a Maltese Cross
Maltese cross
The Maltese cross, also known as the Amalfi cross, is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta and through them came to be identified with the Mediterranean island of Malta and is one of the National symbols of Malta...

 for a badge.

The high success rate in achieving scholarships to leading public schools including Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and Harrow
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

 attracted ambitious parents. However, the Wilkes appreciated that such scholarships were really intended for talented children from less well-off families, and provided places at significantly reduced fees for deserving cases, in the hope that they would attain these scholarships. Two further features distinguished St Cyprian's. The first was the proximity to South Downs
South Downs
The South Downs is a range of chalk hills that extends for about across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. It is bounded on its northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose...

, which was fully exploited to give opportunities to the boys for running wild, studying natural history, walking, picnics, riding and even golf on the adjacent links. The second was the overwhelming impact of Mrs Wilkes (known as "Mum"). She was in total control of the school and in the days before female emancipation this made a great impression on her charges. The resulting ambivalence was exacerbated by a fiery temper and by the way her mood flipped between firm discipline and generous indulgence. Mrs Wilkes was a great believer in history teaching and saw the Harrow History Prize
Harrow History Prize
The Harrow History Prize or the Townsend Warner Preparatory Schools History Prize is a prestigious annual history competition for children at British preparatory schools. It currently attracts around 800 entrants each year.-History:...

 as an opportunity to bring it into the classics-dominated curriculum. Mrs Wilkes also taught English, and stimulated generations of writers with her emphasis on clear, high quality writing. In addition to Mrs Wilkes, a major influence was the second master R. L. Sillar, who joined the school staff soon after it opened and stayed for 30 years. With his interest in natural history, his crack skill at shooting, his art teaching and his magic lantern shows he broadened the curriculum considerably and is revered in Old Boy's accounts.

In its fortieth year, the school building was gutted by fire on 14 May 1939, and a housemaid died in a fall from an upper window. Emergency accommodation was arranged at Ascham St. Vincent's School
Ascham St. Vincent's School
Ascham St Vincent's School was an English preparatory school for boys at Eastbourne, East Sussex. Like other preparatory schools, its purpose was to train pupils to do well enough in the examinations to gain admission to leading "public schools" .-History:The school was founded by the Rev...

, the buildings of a preparatory school in Eastbourne which had recently closed. On 20 July 1939, St Cyprian’s moved to Whispers, near Midhurst
Midhurst is a market town and civil parish in the Chichester district of West Sussex, England, with a population of 4,889 in 2001. The town is situated on the River Rother and is home to the ruin of the Tudor Cowdray House and the stately Victorian Cowdray Park...

 in West Sussex
West Sussex
West Sussex is a county in the south of England, bordering onto East Sussex , Hampshire and Surrey. The county of Sussex has been divided into East and West since the 12th century, and obtained separate county councils in 1888, but it remained a single ceremonial county until 1974 and the coming...

. It stayed there for 18 months until the building was requisitioned by the army during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. As a result of this double blow, numbers dwindled and after a brief combination with Rosehill School in Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

  the remaining boys went with the then Headmaster, W. J. V. Tomlinson
William Tomlinson
William James Vincent Tomlinson was an English schoolmaster and cricketer who played first-class cricket for Derbyshire and Cambridge University from 1920 to 1924....

 (Bill), to join the old rival Summer Fields School
Summer Fields School
Summer Fields is a boys' independent preparatory school based in Summertown, Oxford, England.-History:Originally called Summerfield, it became a Boys' Preparatory School in 1864 with seven pupils. Its owner, Archibald Maclaren, was a fencing teacher who ran a gymnasium in Oxford; he himself was...

, in Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

. The school playing fields were sold to Eastbourne College
Eastbourne College
Eastbourne College is a British co-educational independent school for day and boarding pupils aged 13–18, situated on the south coast of England, included in the Tatler list of top public schools. The College's current headmaster is Simon Davies. The College was founded by the Duke of Devonshire...


In April 1997, Eastbourne Civic Society (now The Eastbourne Society), in conjunction with the County Borough of Eastbourne, erected a blue plaque
Blue plaque
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker....

 at the house in Summerdown Road which was connected with the school and Mrs Wilkes' residence in later years.

Former pupils and staff

The school was attended, among others, by:
  • Sir Cecil Beaton
    Cecil Beaton
    Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton, CBE was an English fashion and portrait photographer, diarist, painter, interior designer and an Academy Award-winning stage and costume designer for films and the theatre...

     (1904-1980) - photographer, stage designer
  • Douglas Blackwood (1909-1997) - Battle of Britain
    Battle of Britain
    The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

     fighter pilot, publisher
  • Derwent Hall Caine
    Derwent Hall Caine
    Sir Derwent Hall Caine, 1st Baronet was a British actor, publisher and Labour politician.Caine was born into an Isle of Man family, the son of novelist Hall Caine and his wife Mary Chandler. He was born at Keswick in Cumberland, and so derived his name from the nearby lake of Derwent Water...

     (1891-1971) - actor, publisher and Labour politician
  • Walter John Christie
    Walter John Christie
    Walter Henry John Christie CSI, CIE, OBE was a British colonial civil servant who played a key part in the independence of India and provided administrative continuity after independence....

     (1905-1982) - British India
    Raj and Rajya mean "royalty" or "kingdom" in many Sanskrit and Hindu languages, and may refer to:- Indian history :*British Raj, the British Empire in India...

     civil servant
  • Alan Clark
    Alan Clark
    Alan Kenneth Mackenzie Clark was a British Conservative MP and diarist. He served as a junior minister in Margaret Thatcher's governments at the Departments of Employment, Trade, and Defence, and became a privy counsellor in 1991...

     (1928-1999) - military historian, Conservative politician and diarist
  • Cyril Connolly
    Cyril Connolly
    Cyril Vernon Connolly was an English intellectual, literary critic and writer. He was the editor of the influential literary magazine Horizon and wrote Enemies of Promise , which combined literary criticism with an autobiographical exploration of why he failed to become the successful author of...

     (1903-1974) - literary critic and writer
  • John Edmondson, 2nd Baron Sandford
    John Edmondson, 2nd Baron Sandford
    Commander John Cyril Edmondson, 2nd Baron Sandford, DSC was a decorated Royal Navy officer, Church of England clergyman, conservationist and Conservative politician...

     (1920-2009) - naval commander, clergyman, politician (Sandford Principle
    Sandford Principle
    The Sandford Principle is a concept in the management of protected landscapes in the United Kingdom. It is called the Sandford Principle after Lord Sandford who chaired the National Parks Policy...

  • John D. Eshelby
    John D. Eshelby
    John Douglas Eshelby was a scientist in micromechanics. His work has shaped the fields of defect mechanics and micromechanics of inhomogeneous solids for fifty years and provided the basis for the quantitative analysis of the controlling mechanisms of plastic deformation and fracture.Eshelby was...

     (1916-1981) - scientist in micromechanics ("Eshelby's Inclusion")
  • Henry R B Foote
    Henry Robert Bowreman Foote
    Major General Henry Robert Bowreman Foote VC CB DSO was a British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.-Life and career:Foote was born in Ishapore, India the son of...

    , VC (1904-1993) – Major-General; awarded the Victoria Cross for WWII service in North Africa
    North Africa
    North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

  • Ian Fraser, Baron Fraser of Lonsdale
    Ian Fraser, Baron Fraser of Lonsdale
    William Jocelyn Ian Fraser, Baron Fraser of Lonsdale CH CBE, , known as Ian Fraser, was a British Conservative Party politician, a Governor of the BBC, a successful businessman and the first person to be awarded a life peerage under the Life Peerages Act 1958.Fraser was blinded in World War I and...

     (1897-1974) - WWI veteran, who lost his eyesight at the Somme; Chairman of St Dunstan's Charity; MP; BBC Governor; first Life Peer
  • Dyneley Hussey
    Dyneley Hussey
    Dyneley Hussey was an English war poet, journalist, art critic and music critic.-Life:Hussey was the son of Colonel Charles Edward Hussey and was born in India. He was educated at St Cyprian's School Eastbourne, The King's School Canterbury and Corpus Christi College, Oxford...

     (1893-1972) – war poet, music critic
  • Alan Hyman
    Alan Hyman (writer)
    Alan Maurice Hyman was an English author, journalist and film writer.Hyman was the son of A Hyman, and was educated at St Cyprian's School, Repton School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He became a journalist and worked on the staff of the Daily Sketch and Sunday Graphic from 1929 to 1932...

     (1910- ) – author, journalist and screenwriter
  • Alaric Jacob
    Alaric Jacob
    Harold Alaric Jacob was an English writer and journalist. He was Reuters correspondent in Washington in the 1930s, and a war correspondent during World War II in North Africa, Burma and Moscow.-Early life:...

     (1909-1995) – journalist, writer
  • David Kindersley
    David Kindersley
    David Guy Barnabas Kindersley was a British stone letter-carver and typeface designer, and the founder of the Kindersley Workshop . His carved plaques and inscriptions in stone and slate can be seen on many churches and public buildings in the United Kingdom...

     (1915-1995) - stonecutter, typeface designer
  • Henry Longhurst
    Henry Longhurst
    Henry Carpenter Longhurst was a renowned British golf writer and commentator. During World War II, Longhurst was also a Member of Parliament for Acton in west London, England.-Biography:...

     (1909-1978) – MP, golfer, golf correspondent
  • Rupert Lonsdale
    Rupert Lonsdale
    Rupert Philip Lonsdale was a British submarine commander, prisoner of war and Anglican clergyman. He was forced to surrender his boat in World War II after he had succeeded in rescuing her and her crew from the sea bed after she struck a mine. He was honourably acquitted at the inevitable...

     (1905-1999) - WWII submarine commander/POW, Anglican clergyman
  • Seymour de Lotbiniere
    Seymour de Lotbiniere
    Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere CVO known as ‘Lobby’ was a Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation and pioneer of outside broadcasts. He is recognised as developing the technique of sports commentary on radio and subsequently television, and he masterminded the televising of the 1953...

     (1905-1984) - BBC Director of outside broadcasting who initiated Test Match commentary and masterminded the televising of the 1953 Coronation
  • Patrick de Mare
    Patrick De Mare
    Dr Patrick Baltzar de Maré was a consultant psychotherapist with a special interest in group psychotherapy. He has published several works on psychotherapy....

     (1916-2008) - British Army psychiatrist; consultant psychotherapist who specialized in group pyschotherapy
  • John Marsden
    John Marsden (rower)
    Arthur John Marsden was an English rower, intelligence officer and teacher. He won the Wingfield Sculls, officially the Amateur Sculling Championship of England, in 1956....

     (1915-2004) - British intelligence officer, Eton schoolmaster and sculler
  • Gavin Maxwell
    Gavin Maxwell
    Gavin Maxwell FRSL, FIAL, FZS , FRGS was a Scottish naturalist and author, best known for his work with otters. He wrote the book Ring of Bright Water about how he brought an otter back from Iraq and raised it in Scotland...

     (1914-1969) - naturalist, writer
  • E. H. W. Meyerstein
    E. H. W. Meyerstein
    Edward Harry William Meyerstein was an English writer and scholar. He wrote poetry and short stories, and a Life Of Thomas Chatterton.-Early life and education:...

     (1889-1952) - writer, scholar
  • Anthony Mildmay
    Anthony Bingham Mildmay, 2nd Baron Mildmay of Flete
    Anthony Bingham Mildmay, 2nd Baron Mildmay of Flete was an amateur steeplechaser who raced in the Grand National. He kindled the Queen Mother’s interest in National Hunt racing.-Birth, education and military service:...

     (1909-1950) – amateur steeplechase jockey who rode in the Grand National
  • Russi Mody
    Russi Mody
    Russi Mody was former Chairman and Managing Director of Tata Steel and a leading member of the Tata Group.-Early years:...

     (born 1918) - Indian businessman
  • Cedric Morris
    Cedric Morris
    Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, 9th Baronet was a British artist, art teacher and plantsman. He was born in Swansea but worked mainly in East Anglia...

     (1889-1982) - artist, horticulturalist
  • Jagaddipendra Narayan
    Jagaddipendra Narayan
    Jagaddipendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur was Maharaja of Cooch-Behar, in India. He served in British forces during World War II and ceded full ruling powers to the Government of India in 1949....

     (1915-1970) - Maharaja
    Mahārāja is a Sanskrit title for a "great king" or "high king". The female equivalent title Maharani denotes either the wife of a Maharaja or, in states where that was customary, a woman ruling in her own right. The widow of a Maharaja is known as a Rajamata...

     of Cooch Behar
    Cooch Behar
    Cooch Behar is the district headquarters and the largest city of Cooch Behar District in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is situated in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas and located at . Cooch Behar is the only planned town in North Bengal region with remnants of royal heritage...

  • Sir Hugh Norman-Walker
    Hugh Norman-Walker
    Sir Hugh Selby Norman-Walker, KCMG, KStJ, OBE was a British colonial official. He served in India from 1938 to 1948...

     (1916-1985) - Colonial Office official whose posts included Governor of the Seychelles and Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong
  • Toby O'Brien
    Toby O'Brien
    Edward Donough "Toby" O'Brien was an Anglo-Irish journalist and public relations expert who spearheaded Britain's efforts to counter Nazi Germany propaganda during World War II.-Early life and education:...

     (1909-1979) - public relations expert who led Britain's efforts to counter Nazi Germany's propaganda
  • David Ogilvy (1911-1999) – Advertising executive - known as the "Father of Advertising"
  • Sir David Ormsby-Gore
    David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech
    William David Ormsby-Gore, 5th Baron Harlech KCMG PC , known as David Ormsby-Gore until 1964, was a British diplomat and Conservative Party politician.-Early life:...

    , KCMG (1918-1985) - politician; British Ambassador to the USA
  • George Orwell
    George Orwell
    Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

     (né Eric Blair) (1903-1950) – author, journalist, Spanish Civil War loyalist
  • Kenneth Payne
    Kenneth Payne
    Kenneth Martin Payne was a British rower who competed in the 1932 Summer Olympics.Payne was the son of Dr John Ernest Payne, a surgeon, and his wife psychoanalyst Sylvia Payne. His father had rowed for Cambridge in the Boat Race in 1899 and 1900, and stroked the winning Leander Club four in the...

     (1912-1988) – Olympic rower
  • Alec Pearce
    Alec Pearce
    Thomas Alexander Pearce was an English cricketer who played for Kent, Hong Kong and MCC.Pearce was born at Hong Kong, the son of Thomas Ernest Pearce, a Hong Kong businessman who had also played cricket for the colony...

     (1910-1982) – cricketer for Kent CCC, MCC and Hong Kong
  • Geoffrey Pidcock
    Geoffrey Pidcock
    Air Vice-Marshal Geoffrey Arthur Henzell Pidcock began his career as a World War I flying ace credited with six aerial victories. He remained in the Royal Air Force after World War I and rose in rank....

     (1897-1976) – World War I RAF ace
  • H. Q. A. Reeves
    Hugh Reeves
    Hugh Quentin Alleyne Reeves was a British inventor and engineer. He was one of the most productive and creative engineers attached to Station IX the SOE research station during World War II....

     (1909-1955) – engineer (Welrod
    The Welrod was a British bolt action, magazine fed, suppressed pistol devised during World War II at the Inter-Services Research Bureau , based near Welwyn Garden City, UK, for use by irregular forces and resistance groups...

     secret weapon)
  • Charles Rivett-Carnac
    Charles Rivett-Carnac
    Charles Edward Rivett-Carnac was a Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.-Early life:Rivett-Carnac, was born in Eastbourne, Sussex, England and soon after his birth, was taken by his father to Assam in India. He lived there until he returned to England at the age of six and spent his...

     (1901-1980) – Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
  • Robert de Ropp
    Robert S de Ropp
    Robert Sylvester de Ropp was a biochemist and a researcher and academic in that field. He became a prominent author in the general fields of the realisation of human potential and the search for spiritual enlightenment.-Early life:...

     (1913-1987) – biochemist, cancer research, writer on spiritual enlightenment
  • James Collingwood Tinling
    James Collingwood Tinling
    James Collingwood Burdett Tinling was an ex-RAF officer who joined with Rolf Dudley-Williams and Frank Whittle in 1936 to set up Power Jets Ltd, which manufactured the world's first working jet engine....

     (1900-1983) - RAF Officer, who co-built the first jet engine
  • Sir Charles Hyde Villiers
    Charles Hyde Villiers
    Sir Charles English Hyde Villiers, MC was a British businessman and chairman of British Steel from 1976 till 1980....

     (1912-1992) - Businessman; one-time Chairman of British Steel
    British Steel
    British Steel was a major British steel producer. It originated as a nationalised industry, the British Steel Corporation , formed in 1967. This was converted to a public limited company, British Steel PLC, and privatised in 1988. It was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index...

  • Sir Lashmer Whistler
    Lashmer Whistler
    General Sir Lashmer Gordon Whistler GCB, KBE, DSO & Two Bars, DL , known as Bolo, was a British army officer who served in the First and Second World Wars. In the Second World War he achieved senior ranks serving with Field Marshal Montgomery in North Africa and Europe...

     (1898-1963) - General in British Army at El Alamein, Normandy landings and Operation Market Garden
  • John Vaughan Wilkes
    John Vaughan Wilkes
    John Comyn Vaughan Wilkes was an English educationalist, who was Warden of Radley College and an Anglican priest....

     (1902-1986) - Warden of Radley College and clergyman
  • Richard Wood
    Richard Wood, Baron Holderness
    Richard Frederick Wood, Baron Holderness PC, DL was a British Conservative politician who held numerous ministerial positions from 1955 to 1974...

    , MP (1920-2002) - Conservative politician and minister
  • Philip Ziegler
    Philip Ziegler
    -Background:Born in Ringwood, Ziegler was educated at St Cyprian's School, Eastbourne, and went with the school when it merged with Summer Fields School, Oxford. He was afterwards at Eton College and New College, Oxford...

     (born 1929) - historian
  • Charles Edgar Loseby
    Charles Edgar Loseby
    Charles Edgar Loseby was a captain, lawyer and British politician being Member of Parliament for Bradford East.Before World War I, he was a teacher at St Cyprian's School, Eastbourne. He joined the army in September 1914 and went to serve in France...

     - National Democratic and Labour Party MP

Accounts and recollections

The school's three most prominent writers included accounts of the school in their works. Connolly recalled his time at St Cyprian's in Enemies of Promise
Enemies of Promise
Enemies of Promise is a critical and autobiographical work written by Cyril Connolly and first published in 1938.It comprises three parts, the first dedicated to Connolly's observations about literature and the literary world of his time, the second a listing of adverse elements that affect the...

, published in 1938 with the name of the school disguised as "St. Wulfric's". With wry humour, he mocked the Wilkes and the ethos of "Character building", writing "We called the headmistress Flip and the headmaster Sambo. Flip, around whom the whole system revolved, was able, ambitious, temperamental and energetic." Connolly questioned the practice of British parents sending young children to boarding preparatory schools but concluded “Yet St [Cyprian's] where I now went was a well run and vigorous example which did me a world of good.”

His friend, George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

, disagreed and wrote disparagingly and bitterly of the school in the quasi-autobiographical essay Such, Such Were the Joys
Such, Such Were the Joys
"Such, Such Were the Joys" is a long autobiographical essay by the English writer George Orwell. It was probably composed in the early 1940s, but it was first published by the Partisan Review in 1952, two years after Orwell's death...

, first published in the Partisan Review
Partisan Review
Partisan Review was an American political and literary quarterly published from 1934 to 2003, though it suspended publication between October 1936 and December 1937.-Overview:...

(Sept.- Oct. 1952). By Orwell's own admission this was too libelous to print and he was not prepared to publish it while he was alive. It appeared in print in the United States in 1952 with the name of the school changed to "Crossgates", but not in the United Kingdom until after the death of Mrs. Wilkes. The thrust of Orwell's criticism was directed at the system of boarding school education that sent children away from their homes when they were no more than 7 or 8 years old, and at the unreflective elitism and classism of Britain before the First World War. This is evident from one of the closing passages of Orwell's essay.
"How would St Cyprian's appear to me now, if I could go back, at my present age, and see it as it was in 1915? What should I think of Sambo and Flip, those terrible, all-powerful monsters? I should see them as a couple of silly, shallow, ineffectual people, eagerly clambering up a social ladder which any thinking person could see to be on the point of collapse."

Orwell attacked the presence of "nouveaux riches" and aristocrats at the school, whom he thought received preferential treatment. In contrast, Gavin Maxwell's parents had chosen the school because it was less elitist and aristocratic than older prep schools. Maxwell found the school tough, but left primarily because he felt he was the target of resentment because of his aristocratic parents with their Scottish estates. Longhurst, who had great admiration for the school and for Mrs. Wilkes, described these authors' accounts of the school as unrecognizable, and would frequently defend "a very fine school" in response to reviewers of Orwell's work. His views were shared by W J L Christie, Indian Civil Service, who wrote a riposte to Orwell in defence of the school in Blackwoods Magazine (owned and edited by Douglas Blackwood). Both were particularly incensed by what in their opinion were totally inaccurate accusations against the Wilkeses.

Cecil Beaton, who was at the school with Orwell, had a different reaction, describing the work as "Hilariously funny - but exaggerated" Orwell's essay has been dissected in detail and its reliability questioned by Pearce.

Nearly all accounts of former pupils declare that the school gave them a good start in life but views of Mrs. Wilkes vary. David Ogilvy is critical, but Alaric Jacob praises her teaching, and Foote, Rivett-Carnac, and Wright refer to her with great affection. It was Connolly who, after reading his parents' papers, wrote apologetically: "The Wilkes were true friends and I had caricatured their mannerisms ... and read mercenary motives into much that was just enthusiasm" and he described Mrs. Wilkes as "a warm-hearted and inspired teacher".

Walter Christie's cap and other items are currently displayed at the Chalk Farm Hotel in Willingdon
Willingdon and Jevington
Willingdon and Jevington is one of the civil parishes in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England. The two villages lie one mile south of Polegate. The two parishes, two decades ago, were separate; the merger of the two has produced a parish of over 6,000 people...


External links

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