Greenways School

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Coordinates: 51°09′37″N 2°03′26″W / 51.16014°N 2.05715°W / 51.16014; -2.05715

Greenways School
Closed 1969
Type Independent prep school
Location Bognor Regis (Until 1940)
Codford (1940-1969)

Gender Boys
Ages 7–13 or 14

Greenways School, also known as Greenways Preparatory School, was an English prep school, founded at Bognor Regis, Sussex, before the Second World War. In 1940 it moved to Ashton Gifford House, Codford, Wiltshire, where it remained until it was closed in 1969.


The school was a prep school for boys, preparing them for the Common Entrance Examination.[1] Boys were divided into two "houses", called Greens and Blues.[2]

In 1928, the school was already established at Aldwick, Sussex, just to the west of Bognor Regis, under Dugald S. Hancock (1897–1963) and his brother-in-law Anthony Maurice Bell.[3] A modern linguist born in the Transvaal, Hancock had been educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, with Bell, and was a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.[4] In 1929, the school advertised itself in The Times in the following terms:

ALDWICK, SUSSEX, renowned for its bracing climate, possesses a Modern BOYS' PREPARATORY SCHOOL, Greenways; home atmosphere, health, and good food first consideration; sea bathing, riding. — Write Headmaster.[5]

In 1929, Bell left the school on his conversion to Roman Catholicism. He then became Dom Maurice Bell, a Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey and its school Worth Priory, and was headmaster of Worth Preparatory School from 1940 to 1959.[6]

In the 1930s, the school was still operated in Sussex by Dugald and Vivien Hancock (formerly Bell), both schoolteachers, but in 1940 it was evacuated to Wiltshire, because of the danger of German bombing on the south coast.[7]

With her husband away from home on Second World War military service,[4] Vivien Hancock took on the role of school principal for the duration of the War, and, as matters turned out, beyond. The daughter of an Oxfordshire clergyman,[8] she became a friend of the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who lived near Codford, at Heytesbury, and was the father of a boy at the school, George Sassoon.[9] By this point in the school's history many of the boys were the sons of army officers stationed on Salisbury Plain or overseas.[10]

For much of the War the artist Keith Vaughan was stationed at Codford. He painted "The Wall at Ashton Gifford" (1942)[11] "Tree felling at Ashton Gifford" (1942–43), and "The Garden at Ashton Gifford" (1944). He described the school's garden as an "oceanic surging of tangled nettles", with "waist high grass", the wall covered in a "jungle of weed and ivy".[12] For most of the war the future author Adrian Mitchell was a boy at Greenways, which he later described as "a school in Heaven". His first play, The Animals' Brains Trust, was performed there in 1941.[13]

The pond at Sherrington which served as the school's swimming pool.

When Hancock needed money to buy Ashton Gifford House, Siegfried Sassoon lent her £8,000, and he later waived the agreed interest on the loan. In 1944, Sassoon's wife, Hester Sassoon, accused the two of being too close. She also spread such rumours of Mrs Hancock and a local butcher that the headmistress threatened her with a defamation action.[14][15] The Sassoons separated in 1947.[16]

Dugald Hancock was killed in the war, and his widow married again, becoming Mrs Gibbons[10] and taking on the title of Principal.[2] A schoolmaster named Bernard Ince MA (Oxon) became head master. Nicknamed "Funf", he has been described as "a disciplinarian with a black moustache and a volcanic temper."[10] According to an advertisement in the Schools Handbook of 1947, the school then stood in a park of sixty acres and prepared boys for public schools and the Royal Navy.[17] The curriculum is described thus:

A thorough grounding is given in all subjects. The curriculum includes Nature Study, Elementary Science, Handwork and Country Dancing. Special encouragement is given to music throughout the school and in addition to singing classes there are flourishing percussion bands and talks on musical appreciation. Besides swimming, football and cricket, physical and breathing exercises are given daily and gym, once a week. All boys either become Pioneers or Cubs according to age. There is a riding school in the grounds.[17]

The school's classrooms were whitewashed huts standing apart from the main house, and a barn behind them was used as a gymnasium, where the boys were taught to box.[10] Swimming was done in the mill pond at Sherrington,[2] described as "the Bathing Pool", which had a stony bottom but was approached through mud sometimes fouled by the cows who used it to drink from.[10]

In September 1947 Ferdinand Mount arrived at the school as a day boy. He later wrote of it that it had an air of chaos, impermanence, and "something of Llanabbas, the prep school in Decline and Fall, but also something of a gulag in some distant region of the USSR just this side of Siberia."[10]

In 1949 a fire at the school partly destroyed the Victorian service wing of Ashton Gifford House.[18] This was blamed on an electrical fault, but the cause of the fire was disputed.[10]

In 1956, The Spectator said of Greenways that it was "a Prep School where boys work well because they are treated like human beings and are warm, well fed, and happy."[19] In the 1950s, the school had its own nursery department and kindergarten and was still preparing older boys for Common Entrance and for entrance to high schools.[20]

The school was closed in 1969.

Notable former pupils[edit]


  1. ^ The Schools of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, Volume 37 (1948), p. 393
  2. ^ a b c Greenways School, Ashton Gifford House, Codford, at, accessed 8 September 2013
  3. ^ 'A Tsar's Letter To A Friend. DUGALD S. HANCOCK. Greenways Preparatory School, Aldwick, Sussex.' letter to The Times, issue 45045 dated 8 November 1928, p. 17
  4. ^ a b Neil A. Flanagan, ed., Biographical Register 1880-1974 (Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 1988), p. 266: "HANCOCK, Dugald Strangman (1919-21) b Cleveland, Transvaal, S Africa ... HdM, Greenways Sch, Aldwich. Mil ser WW1, 1916-19, Lt, E Kent Regt attd RE Signals; France, N Russia (Arkhangelsk). CCC War Decree 1917; Fail short course Russ 1921. Treasurer, OU Russian Club. FRMetS 1931. HdM, Greenways Sch, Aldwich. Mil ser WW2, Capt."
  5. ^ Classified advertisement in The Times, issue 45182 dated 20 April 1929, p. 1
  6. ^ 2012 Revisiting Worth 60 Years On at, accessed 2 May 2017
  7. ^ You never lose that loving feeling, book review of Nicholas Hancock's novel Daniel and Miriam (2004) at, accessed 8 September 2013
  8. ^ Armorial Families : a Directory of Gentlemen of Coat Armour, vol. 1, p. 220: "Dugald Strangman Hancock, Gentleman, b. 1897; m. Vivian Fearne, d. of Rev. M. Bell, of Wheatley, Oxon, and has issue..."
  9. ^ "Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Adrian Mitchell, Shadow Poet Laureate", in The Independent dated 26 July 2007
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Ferdinand Mount, Cold Cream: My early Life and Other Mistakes (Bloomsbury, 2008), pp. 145-148
  11. ^ Manchester City Galleries
  12. ^ Osborne Samuel (; and Journal 62-63, 7 December 1975
  13. ^ Adrian Mitchell, My Life, archived by on 26 December 2014
  14. ^ Max Egremont, Siegfried Sassoon (2006), p. 434
  15. ^ J. M. Wilson, Siegfried Sassoon: the Journey from the Trenches
  16. ^ a b George Sassoon (obituary) at, accessed 8 September 2013
  17. ^ a b Schools Handbook of 1947, extract at, accessed 2 May 2017
  18. ^ Planning application to reconstruct the service wing, Wiltshire County Council, 1949
  19. ^ The Spectator Vol. 197, Part 1 (1956), p. 160
  20. ^ The Official Guide to the County of Wiltshire (Home Publishing, 1957), p. 23
  21. ^ Adrian Mitchell, Radical poet and playwright (obituary) dated 13 January 2009 at, accessed 8 September 2013