COMPULSORY education for children aged between five and ten was introduced in England in 1880 but for many years before that date almost all youngsters received some sort of schooling either through church and charity establishments or private schools.
Independent or private schools thrived in the Victorian era and on into the twentieth century and East Hampshire with its old mansions and country estates were home to many of them – Bedales and Churcher’s College still being among the most prominent.
In market towns, such as Petersfield, larger houses were used to teach primary age, up to 11 years old, and preparatory pupils, up to 13 years old, as an alternative to the state system.
Winton House in High Street, which had been run as a prep school for 23 years, closed in July 1947 on the retirement of its headmistress, Miss GM Williams.
Far longer service, of nearly half a century, had been clocked up by sisters Annie and Beatrice Richardson, who founded Ling Riggs School in Sandringham Road, until Annie’s death in 1951. They had moved to Petersfield from London at the beginning of the 1900s when their father set up a book shop at 8 High Street, where the family lived. In the 1930s the building was demolished and rebuilt for the Woolworth store.
One school which continued in the same premises in the town for six decades was Moreton House School, which opened in Hylton House, the old home of Victoria Cross Royal Navy hero of the First World War Loftus Jones, in The Spain in the early 1950s.
Post reader Geoff Culbertson, whose last job before he retired earlier this year was at the town’s Festival Hall, has found this picture of him and his classmates at the school.
He said: “There is only one person I can identify in the photograph and that’s me – I am fourth from the right in the second row (sitting down).
“There is certainly one in the photograph showing some sartorial elegance, third from right back row, wearing a bow tie.
“I don’t remember much about this time in my life, except going through the door in the ‘enormous’ gates into the playground.”
From 1946 to 1964, Jack le Grice, who had been headmaster of Churcher’s Preparatory School, bought and ran Broadlands Prep School at Ramshill, where he taught boys for entry to grammar and independent schools as well as Churcher’s.
When Broadlands closed, pupils were transferred to Little Abbey School at Langley Court, Rake, until it, too, closed in 1974.
Moreton House continued successfully until 1993 – one of its pupils in the late 1970s being the entertainer Miranda Hart-Dyke – but in that year it was taken over as a junior department for Churcher’s College and quickly grew.
However, in 2003, the school’s lease was due to expire and it moved first to the senior school site at Ramshill then to the former Littlefield School in Liphook.