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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. The school was located on its own 15-acre premises in Seaford throughout its existence, apart from a short period during the Second World War when at the height of the German bombing raids on British towns in 1941, the school was temporarily evacuated to Salperton Park, Gloucestershire.
The school was found in 1891 by Alfred Roper, who later passed it onto his son Tony Roper. Tony Roper had no descendants and in the early 1950s, as he became more elderly, he sought a successor as owner and headmaster from among the parents of children at the school. The only parent interested was Michael Feeny who was a descendant of a Birmingham Catholic family and who had one son at the school at the time. As a school teacher and classicist himself, Michael Feeny had experience in the education business and was therefore an appropriate successor, and over the next quarter century in conjunction with long-serving staff members he ran the school successfully and to the satisfaction of a growing body of parents.
Approaching retirement in the early 1970s at a time when private education appeared under threat, Feeny decided not to take the easy option of selling the land to private developers at a considerable profit, but instead to seek ways of keeping the school in operation. Having tried unsuccessfully to relocate the school to a larger inland location and unable to find a suitable successor as buyer and headmaster, he accepted considerable personal loss and set up a trust and handed over the school and land in Seaford and all its assets to this Trust.
The new Board of Governors and the next headmaster Philip Wardale lacked the vital sense of proprietorship and allowed the school to become increasingly rundown. 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 knocked down 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)
- 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
- 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"
- Members of the Vasquez and Mifsud families from Gibraltar: brothers Raymond Charles Vasquez, Charles Francis Vasquez and Francis Xaviour Vasquez and their cousins Alfred J. Vasquez, Robert M. Vasquez Q.C., Peter Vasquez and Alfred A. Vasquez Q.C., and brothers Jules Mifsud, John Mifsud, Paul Mifsud and Michael Mifsud.
- Richard Borghetti-Challoner, Count Palatine of Bertinoro
- 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
- John B H P de Salis 9th Count de Salis
- Andrew Penman, journalist
- 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, and morning cold showers were compulsory in all seasons as was common in private schools at the time. 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, which was a major attraction for its many satisfied parents. 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.
Following their time at Ladycross, many boys earned scholarships or common entrances to public schools such as Downside, Worth, Ampleforth, Stonyhurst, Beaumont or The Oratory, and the school was noted for these academic achievements.
- "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.