The Old School



Storrington Old School Celebrates Heritage Lottery Funding

Community volunteers supported by the Storrington and District Museum are pleased to announce that in January 2013 it was awarded £9,300 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help lead the community to explore the fascinating past of the Old School.

This funding enabled the history group to preserve the history of the “Old School”, Storrington and its surrounding villages.

The project led by Stuart Duncan, and the team of volunteers researched the Old School, the building, its teachers and worked within the local community to capture memories of former pupils, teachers and village life. The funding enhanced the skills of these volunteers which has inspired others to become involved in learning more about our past.

If you were a pupil of the Old School we would like to hear from you, please contact Stuart Duncan on 01903 741106 or email

Can you name the pupils?

The Old School was the focus of village life. It helped make Storrington what it is today. The importance of education in village life cannot be overlooked. As the village grows and develops we want to keep and enhance the village and community spirit. One way of doing that is working together on a project that links us together and The Old School Project is just that. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund we now have the means to capture the past and use it to help Storrington thrive in the 21st century.

  Meet the Team

Old School History – In 1763, Mrs Jane Downer left money to be vested in five trustees, for the teaching of twenty poor children. Mr John Hooper and his wife Mary bequeathed £15 a year in 1806 to be added to the school master’s pay.

In 1821 the post of Parish Clerk was held by John Battcock, who was also the village schoolmaster. It is unlikely that the school building of those days is still standing, but there is some evidence to support the theory that it was opposite St Mary’s church in Church Street.

For the next forty years the school was run by a succession of schoolmasters assisted by their wives. Mr and Mrs Nutley, followed Mr Alfred Manley (1852 to 1858) and were succeeded by Mr and Mrs Lashmar. In 1868, a new school was built on land which had been called Bell Acre, opposite the church tower.

The school was enlarged in 1873 and soon afterwards Mr and Mrs Moore were appointed. From 1879 until 1899 Mr and Mrs Andrews had charge of the school, they were followed by Mr and Mrs Caldwell. In 1901, Mr Rhoden was appointed Head Master, a post which he held until his retirement thirty years later.

In 1932, Mr Waller became Head Master and steered the school through the vicissitudes of the Second World War and the opening of the school canteen in the village hall.

When the primary school was opened at Spierbridge in 1964, the old building ceased to be used as a school, although some infants’ classes still met in the prefabricated classrooms in School Lane until accommodation was provided for them at Spierbridge.

1964 marked the end of an era, because the closing of the old school was linked with the retirement of Mr Waller after more than thirty years’ service.

The Story of Schooling

We do not know much about Jane Downer herself, but we think she must have been a very generous and inspirational lady because in 1763 she left £500 in her will to be invested for the education of 20 poor children, both girls and boys in Storrington.

                              Benefactors board in St Mary’s church, Storrington

The school was for children between 6 years of age and 13.  She laid down strict rules about how her school was to be run, but we do not know where it was located.

In 1806 another beneficiary, John Hooper, added a further £15 per year to Mrs Downer’s bequest, so that 10 more children would be able to receive an education.  At this time very few children would have had access to schooling, although there were several other establishments in Storrington where children were taught.

                              Mrs Gibson’s sketch of the school in Church Street

A school is shown in Church Street on the 1841 Tithe map so it is possible that the school endowed by Mrs Downer and Mr Hooper was on the site of the present Abbey Lodge.

The school was sold for £180 and, together with gifts and donations from the church authorities and parishioners of Storrington, and grants from government and the National Society, a new school was funded and built in School Lane in 1868.

                                                              Building Plans

The original stone building was quite small.  There was one large schoolroom with windows facing north, where the Museum is now located.  Behind this was a smaller square room.  Attached was the Schoolmaster’s house which is still next door.  Facilities were very basic, a cloakroom in which to hang coats, a stove to provide heating, a well for water and two earth closets and a urinal in the backyard.

Mr and Mrs Lashmar were the first teachers at the school and there were 50 pupils at this time.

Because Mrs Downer had stipulated in her will that the Rector of Storrington was to be a Trustee of her school, successive incumbents of the Parish have overseen the development of the educational provision in the building which belonged to the Hooper Downer Trust.

The Rev George Faithfull was the Rector between 1871 and 1900.  He wrote a letter to the parents of the schoolchildren urging them to attend school on a regular basis.  Infections spread very quickly and children were often kept at home to help their parents or to work in the fields.

Very quickly the school became too small for the number of pupils expected to attend, because the government had passed legislation in 1870 requiring that elementary education for children up to the age of 10 should be provided.

In 1875 therefore the school was extended and became much the same shape and size as the building today.  A new entrance at the front was added, together with a cloakroom for the girls and infants.  The main classroom was what is now known as the Norman Hall.  There was apparently an Infants’ Gallery which the HMI reported as inconvenient and unsuitable in 1899, and which has long since disappeared.

Despite considerable effort by the Rev Faithfull to maintain the school’s religious status and ethos, the school became a Public Elementary School in 1900.   West Sussex County Council rented the building for use as Storrington Board School between 9.45 am and 4 pm for 1/- (5p) a year on a 50 year lease.

Mr William Rhoden was Headmaster between 1901 and 1932.  He tells us that when he came “the school had no lighting save a hurricane lamp with which the cleaner was able to see to perform his evening duties.  Most rooms had windows on only half of the outside walls and the only sanitation consisted of open buckets which were carried across the playground twice a week to be emptied into the horse-drawn vehicle supplied by the sanitary department of the Rural District Council.”

William Rhoden – Headmaster 1901 – 1932 

Improvements to the building were made in 1907, 1911 and 1932.  Over this period, new windows were added and windows were enlarged to let in more light, and to offer better ventilation.  Mains water was supplied and new lavatories were built, one block for the boys, another for the girls and infants.  They were still outside and unheated.  A boiler house was added and radiators fitted although these were not entirely satisfactory and had to be upgraded at a later date.

In 1920 a hut from the First World War was erected in the playground to provide more teaching accommodation since pupil numbers had reached 200.

In 1932 Mr Cecil R Waller became Headmaster.  An office with glazed screen was built beside the front entrance and a sliding partition made it possible to divide the main classroom into two distinct teaching areas.  Mr Waller was able to make use of an adjacent field for school sports and under his jurisdiction the playground was resurfaced and the drainage was connected to the main sewer.  Mrs Waller was responsible for starting the school canteen in the Village Hall and many of the past pupils remember dashing across the field to get their school dinners.

  Cecil Waller – Headmaster 1932 – 1965 

Mr Waller coped valiantly during the war years with the influx of over 300 evacuees which he endeavoured to dovetail into his organisation, bringing the total number of children in the area to nearly 700.  He says “Every available building had to be brought into operation and in all I was using 8 separate premises spread over a distance of nearly 3 miles.”

Plans for a new junior school in Spierbridge Road were drawn up in 1939 but the building was postponed until after the 2nd World War. In the meantime, three additional temporary classrooms were built on the land to the east of the school.  These were used by the youngest children and had a new suite of lavatories nearby as well as their own playground.

Unfortunately, the school buildings were largely in a sorry state of disrepair.  The old army hut was condemned in 1959 and there were still problems with the heating and lighting, and water freezing in the lavatories.

(Jean Waller next to her father)

Most of the children had transferred to the new Primary School by 1965 when Mr Waller retired.  Mr John Carter, his Deputy, became Headmaster of the new school in Spierbridge Road.

John Carter (Deputy Head)

The Old School building still belongs to the Hooper Downer Trust and has been used for a variety of purposes ever since as a valuable asset to the community.

Members of the Project Team:

Heather Epps, Stuart Duncan, Terry Fraser, Art Hutchins, Sue Setford,

Margaret Taylor, Cindy Waters, Mary Wilson, David Wise

Written by Margaret Taylor 2/10/13

Staff Groups

Ella Hutt (infant teacher) with some of her pupils

Model of the Old School by Cliff Wilks

Eric Hues

The one and only school I ever went to was the school opposite the church – Storrington Church of England School. I started there at 5 and left at 14. It was quite a happy school. The first headmaster I had there was Mr Roden – he was there my first year, then Mr Waller took over and it was him all the way through till I left. It wasdifferent then, there were just the first and second class infants, and then there was Standard 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Mr Waller himself took standard 6 and there was standard 7 and  X7 – there weren’t many of us in X7.

The headmaster had a lot to do himself as well as teach so he could not put the time in to sport he would have liked. I was captain of the school team at 10 and carried on till I was 14.

While I was captain we won the cup 2 years out of 4 and were presented with real silver medals each. I eventually got to be Head Boy – I had to get there at a quarter to 9 to ring the bell   After that I had to go all round the playground to make sure there was no rubbish left, walk around the school perimeter outside in the roads making sure there was no apple cores or orange peel because if there was, somebody could report that the children had been throwing rubbish over the walls.


Storrington’s big project nears its completion

A village will be celebrating the completion of its most ambitious project in an exhibition later this year.

A small band of volunteers working with the Storrington and District Museum have been busy researching the ‘Old School’ building where the museum is housed today.

The ambitious project was made a reality when the museum was awarded £9,300 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to explore the building’s fascinating past.

Project leader Stuart Duncan has announced that an exhibition with the volunteers’ fascinating findings will take place on November 2 and 3.

Mr Duncan said: “The award granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the hard work of Heather Epps and Shaaron Collet has gone towards the research of the Old School from 1868 to 1964 and the training of the volunteers.”

The funding has enhanced the skills of the volunteers to undertake the research, deliver talks and workshops so that they can engage with and inspire others to become involved in learning more about the community’s past.

Ex-pupils of the school, which closed its doors almost 50 years ago, dropped by the museum to talk about their memories.

Mr Duncan continued: “The walk across the meadow to the village hall for school dinners where Mrs Waller cooked for the children, the games children played, the friendships made and in many cases have continued to flourish, have all helped in building a picture of school and just as important our village life.

“Education is a common thread in all our lives and this project has proved a trigger of memories and an interest of our past.”

Ms Ella Hutt, a former infant school teacher, has produced photographs and names of the children of her classes from the 1950s.

The original plans of the building have also been discovered, as have been the amendments to the building during the 1930s.

“Part of our research included the Education Acts before and after 1880 when school attendance became compulsory.

“Admission registers of the pupils from 1868 to 1912, vital for those exploring their family history, have been sourced from the West Sussex County Record Office in Chichester, as have a whole host of other material including details on the many private schools that were once in the village.”

The Horsham Museum and Worthing Library, which hold a host of local history books and photographs on Sussex, have also pitched in.

“Through family history societies, interest and help has come from Canada and Australia which confirms our project has gone global.”

Storrington First School is also busy creating its own school project covering village and family life.

The museum plans to have local history days hosted at the Old School next year with talks of a school reunion.

Having experienced the enthusiasm of the team and ex-pupils with the project, the volunteers intend to put all their research and memories towards creating a book. (copies of the book can be purchased at the Storrington and District Museum)

All the material and artefacts will be on show at the exhibition weekend in the Old School, Storrington, on November 2 and 3, 10am to 4pm. (2013)

If you were an ex-pupil, or have school pictures or memories please contact Stuart Duncan on 01903 741106 or email

Webpage details courtesy of the Storrington Local History Group