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Boys' School's Silver Anniversary

September 1955

Extracts from the Sussex Expess & County Herald

NRB 1955 When Mr N.R.J.Bradshaw, headmaster of Lewes County Grammar School for Boys, goes to school on Monday he can look back on the past quarter of a century with pride. It will be 25 years to the day and the hour since Mr Bradshaw first walked into his neat study just inside the main arched doorway and took control of a school which has since made a name for itself far beyond the county borders. From those first hectic days when there were only 140 boys compared with the present 513, the school, under his guidance, has gone from strength to strength.

The school got off to a bad start. Workmen were were still in the building on Sepember 26, 1930, at 9 a.m. when 140 boys assembled. A large percentage of the boys were strangers to Lewes. Uckfield Grammar School supplied a hard core of 40 due to the closing of their own school. There were only 100 desks for 140 boys. No text or writing books had arrived and the strength of the various age groups demanded seven forms. There were only five form masters. Outside the school was a large playing field - but no footballs or goal posts.


Mr Bradshaw had come from Taunton School, a large public school where he had been house-master and senior history master for five years. Prior to that he was at Collegiate School, Liverpool, as an assistant master - his first appointment after leaving Oxford.

Another handicap was that he was a stranger to Sussex. He had never lived in the county. His first hand knowledge of it was limited to Newhaven Harbour when travelling to the Continent. In those days, said Mr Bradshaw, many people were strangely ignorant of what constituted a county grammar school. He was asked on many occasions the difference between a county school and a council school.

After the first few weeks of improvisation, the difficult start was forgotten and the response of both pupils and parents helped the school on its triumphant path. "I have found that for loyalty and cooperation you could not find better material than the local boys", said Mr Bradshaw. " I have found parents co-operative and very tolerant. We have their full support. This is instanced by the very few boys leaving before reaching 16." Everybody had a stake in the school. In its early days the school wanted to produce a school play, so a fete was organised to purchase curtains and equipment. Camping funds were provided from fetes.

All Young Together

Everything about the school was young. Mr Bradshaw was 34 when the school opened and all his staff, except a visiting woodwork master, were in their twenties. In 1933 the idea of a swimming bath was conceived. By 1935 at a cost of just over £500 the bath was completed. The inevitable fete, subscriptions and some hard steady digging by the boys made the bath a reality. The same year the first pupil went to Oxford.

How different from the present. In 1954, 23 boys from the school obtained university places, including 12 at Oxford and Cambridge and three at medical schools. Since 1947 there have ben seven cadetships at Sandhurst and the same number have entered Anglican orders since 1945.

The list of sucesses grew steadily up to the war and then came a truly hectic period. Mr Bradshaw arrived one morning to be informed that a London school [ Bec School ] was to be evacuated to the County Grammar School. This meant chaos to start with, but hard work and lots of overtime by staff soon put matters right. Every possible space was used as a classroom, and within a year nearly 700 boys were receiving five full days' education in a school designed to hold 300. A remarkable achievement.

Still Too Small

Overcrowding has been one of the school's headaches in recent years. The school was originally built for 200 scholars at a cost of £33,000. The number was increased to 300 by the extension of four classrooms and two laboratories. Today 513 boys are being taught in the same space. A big extension is planned and work should commence shortly. Extra classrooms, laboratoriesand cloakroom accommodation will be added at a cost of £60,000 - nearly double the original cost of the school. Later a new assembly hall will probably be added.

Another extension may also be added. It is Mr Bradshaw's ambition to see a school chapel built before he retires. The idea was conceived in 1941, when it was estimated that a building with 500 seats would cost £10,000. Now £12,000 has been raised but the school is still a long way from the target. The estimated cost is now in the region of £30,000. The boys are already working on the scheme digging out the footings in their spare time, but more capital is urgently needed.

Greatst Thrill

Outstanding experiences during the past 25 years? One of the greatest thrills he ever had, said Mr Bradshaw,was when he saw the first Lewes County Grammar School former pupil come out of the tunnel at Twickenham - an Oxford blue.

The war, too, had its moments. The first siren came at a time when the school was crowded with evacuees and all the mothers and young children were packed into the boiler room, the only place below ground. Tommy Handley [ a famous radio comedian ] and Gilbert Harding [ a famous TV panellist ] have both helped the school with their attendance at fetes.

If Mr Bradshaw were to retire tomorrow he could look back on a record of which he might well be proud. Assisted by a wonderful staff - now totalling 27 full-time masters - the school is represented throughout the globe. It can boast an Air Attache at an embassy in the Far East, a commanderof a destroyer in the Mediterranean, a member of the Diplomatic Service, an Oxford and a Cambridge don and a DFC in Koreato name but a few. And the oldest Old Boy is not yet 40.