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The Final Speech Day

from John S. Smith

Evening Argus, May 22nd 1969

"The school that didn't quite make it"

Lewes Boys' Grammar School, whose first pupils in 1930 used to sing the Harrow song "Forty Years On" on special occasions because one of the earliest governors was an Old Harrovian, loses its separate identity this year after 39 years.

The Final Speech Day At the school's final speech day yesterday, Mr Edward Wynter, one of the 140 founder pupils and now headmaster of Haywards Heath Grammar School, told a packed hall of boys, staff and parents: "We sang 'Forty Years On' at every occasion like this. It seems sad, really, that we shall not quite reach those 40 years."

"Those who were present when the school opened on September 29th 1930, did not think the life of the school would be 39 years. We were made aware that we were in at the beginning of an institution which would have the same signifigance for Lewes as the great old grammar schools had to their own towns. But changes occur and this was not to be" added Mr Wynter. The school is to merge with the Girls' Grammar School and Lewes Secondary Modern School to form the Lewes Priory School on comprehensive lines.

Yesterday's program was nostalgic. A school photograph of the 1931 boys stood in the school entrance side by side with a picture of today's pupils taken last Wednesday. Mr Wynter looked at the 38-year-old photo and was able to name all but a few of the boys.

Dr. Paget Davies, a consultant physician, who was at the school from 1939 to 1947, talked about the Bec School from London, which was moved to Lewes during the war. "When France fell in 1940, we ventured to suggest that our French lessons were no longer necessary, but we were over-ruled" he said.

He remembered the school's air-raid shelters and learning "Macbeth" in them, pieces of aeroplanes, both British and German, being taken to school and sold, and buses taking pupils onto the Downs with pop and sandwiches to learn farming.

At the end of the war a fund was launched to build a chapel to the memory of Old Lewesians who died in action. Mr John Davey, an Old Lewesian who teaches chemistry at the school, took up the tale of the 1949-1957 period and spoke of the fervour for building the chapel. Mr Peter Waight, a Swindon journalist, told of the completion and dedication in 1960.


Mr. H. Hoggins, 39 years at Lewes and headmaster since Mr. D. W. Usherwood went to be the headmaster designate of the new Lewes system in December, said of Lewes Boys' Grammar School: "It is hardly to be expected that I should do other than regret its passing. One of the worst mistakes is trying to make out that an academic education is of itself and in itself bad. Grammar schools have been daily attacked for doing well what they set out to do: to maintain standards of excellence in acedemic education. The honour boards around this room are an eloquent testimony to how well this has been done here."

But, he said, the new system might bring some compensations. He mentioned raw materials, co-operation with the girls' school and the impressiveness of some of the pupils at the modern school. "There is one paramount object and we are determined to secure it: the maximum benefit from the new scheme for all the pupils."

In his report on the first term of the current school year, Mr Usherwood said the school placed 49 students in universities or colleges of further education, 42 achieving three A levels, and eight gaining entrance to Oxford or Cambridge.

I P Bullock receives Osborn Award The rest of the programme proceeded like a normal speech day. A last line of boys mounted the platform for a last set of form prizes and special awards, and house trophies, from Sir Fredrick Bourne, chairman of the governors.

The spirit of this era-bridging speech day can be summed up in the final words of Mr. Waight: "The school is dead. Long live the school!"

Floreat Lewesia!