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Insight into Lanesborough History

Mr. Bennett has been working hard on researching the in-depth history of Lanesborough.  There is much more to come, but here are some of the brief highlights. Looking out from the back of Lanesborough around 1950 onto what is now the playground and field. Note that today’s playground was at that time a lawn surrounded by flower beds and the field was  a fruit and vegetable garden and orchard. School dinners then were still largely home-grown!

In January 1930, two teachers from Dulwich College Prep acquired the twenty-one-year lease of a former private house called Lanesborough and Lanesborough Preparatory School was born.

Advertising in the Surrey Advertiser, Mr. Inglis and Mr. Walker announced that “Boys will be prepared for Public School and the Royal Navy” and they opened the school with just 14 boys, including several boarders who they had tempted away from Dulwich. Classrooms were downstairs, and the teachers and boarders lived on the first-floor. By the end of the year, the school role had expanded to 55.

The original driveway into Lanesborough with a pupil wearing the former grey and blue uniform including a school cap. The car in the foreground looks like an Austin A30 which dates the picture to the early 1950s, although the other two cars are much older.
 

Lanesborough had originally been built 25 years earlier in 1905 by William Swayne, a well-known local builder and developer, who had been responsible for the construction of many of the fine late Victorian and Edwardian houses on land which until then had been farmland. However Lanesborough was to be different to the other houses: William built it for himself, and he lived there until his death in 1912.

By 1930, when the school opened, the former fields had now been crisscrossed by roads and peppered with buildings. Lanesborough was still owned by the Swayne family, and the family connection was strengthened after the War when Stuart Swayne, William’s grandson, joined the school, first as assistant master in 1946 and then as a partner in 1949.

When Mr. Inglis retired in 1953, followed by Mr. Walker in 1955, Stuart Swayne became the school’s sole owner and headmaster. Boarding had already been phased out soon after the War and in 1951 Mr. Swayne, together with his wife and three children, had moved to Braganza on Aldersey Road (now Pre-Prep) where they lived on the upper floors, leaving the ground floor for teaching the school’s lower forms. A large field, further down Cranley Road and long since built on, was used for Games.

Expansion continued in 1964, when another property in Aldersey Road, called Kitano, became the Head’s house and its grounds were donated as extra school playing fields, allowing all of Braganza to be used for teaching and staff accommodation. The school field was squared off to become its present size when the adjoining Markham House’s gardens were purchased in 1970.

Lanesborough continued to flourish very much as a Swayne family business, with everyone getting involved. Stuart’s wife Molly was responsible for the catering, their two sons had both been pupils, and their daughter Margaret ran the office, worked as school bursar and helped out on many of the adventurous trips the school ran both at home and abroad.

The original Lanesborough school building probably photographed in the 1930s. The gate opened onto the corner of Cranley Road and Maori Road and if you look carefully today when you next walk past,  you can still see one of the original gateposts in the hedge. The front-door was then through what is now Miss Wilson’s  Learning Support Office.
 

When Guildford Cathedral opened in 1961, Lanesborough agreed to provide its boy choristers. Under the direction of its Organist and Master of Choristers Barry Rose, the newly formed Choir sang in front of the Queen and a worldwide television audience at its consecration that summer. Gold discs and top-ten selling albums followed. Over half a century later, Lanesborough remains the choir school for the Cathedral.

By the mid-1970s, Stuart Swayne was thinking of retiring and looking to the school’s future. Fortuitously this was to coincide with Royal Grammar School becoming independent in 1977 and the following year in 1978, the Governors of the RGS, under the far-sighted chairmanship of John Brown, took the decision to acquire Lanesborough as a preparatory department of the school. Mr. Benson, an RGS teacher, was appointed as its new headmaster.

Despite sharing the same board of governors, Lanesborough remained true to its original principals of preparing boys for the senior school of their choice (if not specifically the Royal Navy!) and no special consideration was to be given to boys from Lanesborough wishing to enter the Grammar School – a situation that remains to this day.

However, purchase by the RGS did encourage academic standards to be pushed higher and brought investment in new facilities to meet the rising expectations of the last quarter of the twentieth century. In 1980, a new hall was constructed and for the first time the school had central heating – a far cry from the 1950s when it was the duty teacher’s job to go around lighting all the gas-fires in the classrooms! 1992 saw the opening of a new purpose built classroom block and gym that was opened by Bernard Wetherill, Speaker of the House of Commons, whose sons had attended the school. Markham House itself was then purchased and opened in 2000 to provide yet more purpose built rooms for office staff, teaching, and music.

Since the millennium, Lanesborough has continued to evolve to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world and has more than twice as many teachers than 30 years ago. Digital technology and interactive whiteboards are in place throughout the school. iPads are being increasingly used in classrooms. A breakfast club and after-school care operate to suit the needs of working parents. The School now provides some 50 or so extra-curricular activities that boys can participate in, either at lunchtime or after school; and, most excitingly, a new Sports Hall and Drama Space are in the process of being developed, with the acquisition of the next door property, 12 Maori Road.

As the School’s centenary beckons Lanesborough can look into the future with as much confidence as at any time in the past!

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