About us test
In 1874, the year Disraeli succeeded Gladstone as Prime Minister, Thomas Hardy published ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, the term ‘Impressionism’ was coined and when Winston Churchill was born, a less notable, but for us, no less significant event took place. In the rapidly expanding Victorian seaside resort of Hove, Mrs Sophia Lombe White opened a small school for boys and the ancestor of today’s Marlborough House School was born.
Then a boarding school for boys aged 8-13, the school remained on the site of 60 and 61 The Drive, Hove, for the next 56 years. Mrs White, a ‘stern Victorian lady who really had a heart of gold’* and who claimed relationship to Cardinal Wolsey, herself remained as proprietor until 1912.
We get a glimpse of the gentile, turn-of-century world the school inhabited from novelist and author Richard Strachey, who related in his 1979 volume ‘A Strachey Child’ the method employed by his mother in choosing a school for him: “she haunted the promenade at Hove where multi-coloured crocodiles of tiny boys paraded under the supervision of junior masters. ...one of them ... of manly appearance, of upright bearing ... marched at the end of his troops who advanced two by two in perfect order and in decorous silence; and she could see, at a glance, that he and his platoon were well turned out – and above all clean. It was this that decided it. She accosted the young man, discovered the name of the school and the Headmaster, and wrote immediately on the subject of a vacancy.” Richard duly started at Marlborough House School in the summer term 1910. Also a pupil in these early days was David Joel who was to become a pioneer for modern British furniture design.
Mrs White’s daughters Edith and Gertrude took over the school when their mother stepped down, with Gertrude dominating. Her approach was clearly of another age “‘I am disgusted with you" she blasted [one boy] in front of the entire school. "I am still more disgusted with your parents’”. Facilities were basic: buildings were ‘severe, functional, without trimmings’, a small garden had ‘grass but no flowers’ and the routine was ‘vigorous, competitive, harsh, common-sensical, stolid’. Pre-church preparation comprised; ‘the scrubbing of the necks and ears, the hoeing of the finger-nails, the soaping of the frayed edges of the Eton collars, the brushing of the shiny blue suits’ and the donning of bowler hats to walk to church.
This world was about to be rocked by the outbreak of war in 1914. Its impact was felt early on at Marlborough House when during the first months of the war, Gertrude received an unexpected parcel from India containing a letter from the father of two of the boys along with a loaded pistol. The letter asked that, if the Germans landed in Britain, would she please shoot his sons? Gertrude’s response was not recorded.
26 former Marlborough House pupils lost their lives in the Great War. In 1919 a memorial was unveiled in Hove’s parish church to commemorate them. Colonel Michael H Egan, who had been the very first boy on the school’s roll in 1874 unveiled a memorial board, a copy of which stands in our school chapel.
Although no evidence has been found to confirm the story that our four house names; Awdry, Dunbar, Egan and Hawkings, were chosen to commemorate the first four boys on the school roll, what we can say with certainty is that Marlborough House’s connections with each of these families went back to the early days of the school and that each family lost a son in the Great War. The names of Charles Edward Francis Egan, Carol Edward Vere Awdry , Claude Ernest Vincent Hawkings and Arbuthnot John Dunbar resonate amongst the many on the memorial. A small but poignant postscript to this period is the story of the school bell, still in daily use, which was presented to the school by Colonel Egan.