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Ladycross was a Catholic preparatory school based in Seaford, East Sussex, overlooking the downs with trenches which led up to the cliffs. Founded in 1891, more than 2,000 pupils attended it before its closure in 1977. Among its notable schoolmasters was children's book author George Mills, who taught during the summer of 1956.
At the height of the German bombing raids on British towns in 1941, the school was temporarily evacuated to Salperton Park, Gloucestershire. After the sale of the school by its founding family the Ropers in the 1950s, the school was owned and run by a Birmingham stockbroker and classicist named Michael Feeny over the next quarter century with a complement of long-serving staff members. Feeny had little experience of education and tended to substitute brutal bullying for spiritual counselling and guidance. Numbers and reputation fell dramatically under his watch.
Approaching retirement, it was therefore little surprise that Feeny was unable to find a suitable buyer to continue the school operations. Instead of selling up to developers and collecting a considerable amount, as most other Head Masters of the privately owned preparatory schools in Seaford had been doing for years, Feeny set up a trust to take the school over. He handed over the school and all his assets to the Trust, which under its new governors allowed the school to be increasingly rundown. Feeny was left destitute and in considerable financial difficulties in his later years.
The Trust had tried to make a financial turn out of the mid-70s property boom by selling the site and buying a cheaper one inland. However, the deal went sour, leaving the school with insurmountable debts. For the last two years, the stewardship of the school was passed on to John Wardale and his wife Maureen, overseen by a board of governors.
The financial issues escalated, making the sale of the site to a property developer and the closure of the school inevitable, despite the last-minute desperate attempt to raise funds from old boys. In 1978, the school buildings were razed to make way for a housing estate.
Notable former pupils
Aside from British boys, a handful of foreign pupils also attended Ladycross. They were mostly French, Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, Filipino, Nigerian, and American in nationality.
- David Auldjo Jamieson, who won the Victoria Cross.
- Vice Admiral Sir Peter William Gretton, KCB, OBE, DSO**, DSC
- Damian, Jared and Jamie Harris, sons of actor Richard Harris
- Charles Sturridge (film director/producer)
- Timothy, Stephen Taylor (Yachting Park, France)
- Children of the German-Dutch Brenninkmeijer or Brenninkmeier family (who founded the C&A retail empire)
- Children of the Wates family, owners of the construction company Wates Group
- Simon, Dominick and Richard Elwes
- John Addington-Sidmouth
- Tremayne Rodd-Rennell
- Francis French, 7th Baron de Freyne
- Carlos Gereda y de Borbón, Marques de Almazan
- Michael Reid, son of Pat Reid the author of "The Colditz Story"
- Peter Acton
- James MacEwen
- Jonathan Vernon-Hunt
- William and Edward Fitzgerald
- Members of the Monckton family
- Members of the Dormeuil family
- John Count De Salis
- Members of the prominent Soriano and Zobel families from the Philippines: brothers Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Fernando Zobel de Ayala and their cousins Iñigo Zobel, Andres Soriano, Eduardo Soriano, and Carlos Soriano.
- Half-brothers Nick Crean and Bill Keeling, proprietors of the chocolate company Prestat
- Albert (Bertie) and Alexander Gelardi Sons of Arthur Gelardi Cavaliere Ufficiale of The Republic of Italy and Grandsons of Giulio Gelardi Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana and Hotelier
- Richard Borghetti-Challoner, Count Palitine of Bertinoro
- Members of the Montalembert family from France
- James Courtney, the last headboy
- Andrew Penman, journalist
- Monsignor Valentine Elwes, RC Cleric and Chaplain of Oxford University.
- Group Captain Joseph Ruscombe Wadham Smyth-Piggott, DSO, DSM.
- Lt.Col Francis Longueville DSO, MC
- George Posford, composer and conductor
The school motto was Vox vocis sonat, vox exempli tonat (also a school anthem which roughly translates as "The voice of the voice sounds, the voice of example thunders"). A yearbook called The Red Book provided a summary of annual sports and academic achievements, photos, stories and news, from and for parents and old boys.
About 150 pupils were divided into four “houses” for termly competition purposes in academics and sports: Athenians (red) Spartans (green), Ropers (yellow), and Herberts (blue). The winning House each term had a house feast much to the envy of the rest of the school. Younger boys, those of 8 years old and under, were housed at the Whipsnade, a separate building on the grounds. Discipline was strict but well accepted, by most. Morning cold showers were compulsory in all seasons. A system of conduct marks was in force which could lead up to corporal punishment. A pupil recalls that in his time all the boys over 9 years old had been beaten at least once, except one who was singled out. Bullying was occasional but masters averted it chiefly. In June, a Sports Day was a grand event organised for an extended weekend sometimes with parental participation. Regular marching exercises infused the boys with the basics of military drill.
Boys were provided a pupil number on admission with name and number tags sewn into every item of clothing. The uniform in winter was brown tweed and in summer became a combination of tan shorts and airtex shirt for daily wear and for formal weekend wear, a bright red blazer, white shirt and red tie, with grey flannel shorts. Prefects were allowed to wear long trousers. The cap was red and school badge embossed in front. The heraldic description of the badge is “a field argent bearing a cross Moline within a border of gules.” For sporting events such as football, rugby, and cricket the boys won colours - a special tie and, in the summer, a striped blazer.
A wide range of artistic, entertainment, and sporting activities were offered at Ladycross. There was a popular art or hobby room, as well as regular educational films on Saturday night for the older boys and the occasional Sunday feature films. From gardening to photography, handicraft, theatre and piano, pantomime and carpentry, the selection for extra-curricular activities even included archery and shooting, the latter being practiced in the Dell – a woody depression complete with an abandoned air raid shelter – using army surplus .22 calibre rifles. Swimming and diving contests, billiards, grass court tennis, classic association football, rugby and cricket games, boxing (eventually abandoned for judo), horse-riding, and even roller skating were among the sports the boys could participate in. Cops and robbers with dinky toys on the rink was also a pastime, as were stamp collecting, modelling and GI Joes.
- "Maj David Jamieson VC CVO". Retrieved 20 February 2008.
Ladycross Blue Book 1959, Local History Museum Seaford
- Leinster-Mackay, Donald (1984). The Rise of the English Prep School. Taylor & Francis. p. 297. ISBN 0-905273-74-5.
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Ladycross Blue Book 1959, Local History Museum, Seaford.