St Aubyns School

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Not to be confused with St Aubyn's School.
St. Aubyns School
Established 1895
Closed 2013
Type Preparatory day and boarding
Headmaster Simon Hitchings
Chairman of the Governors The Rt. Hon. Lord Wakeham,PC, DL
Founder C.E.F. Stanford
Location Rottingdean
East Sussex
Local authority Brighton and Hove
DfE URN 114617 Tables
Staff 25
Students 189[1]
Gender Co-educational
Ages 3–13
Publication The Bugle

St. Aubyns School was a co-educational preparatory school in Rottingdean, East Sussex, England, catering for children from the ages of 3 to 13. The school was formally founded in 1895 but has origins in educational establishments founded in the 18th century by the then vicar of Rottingdean, Dr Thomas Hooker.

Although the school was established with an apostrophe in its name, it no longer used it after Spring Term, 1940.

The school was owned and operated by an independent trust until it merged with the larger Cothill Educational Trust in May 2012. Within a year of the merger the Cothill Educational Trust decided to close the school. Despite strenuous efforts by the parents of children at the school to keep it open,[2][3] and an offer made by Hurstpierpoint College to acquire it,[4] it closed on 7 July 2013.[5]

The Cothill Educational Trust's plans for the 11-acre site of the former school have not been published. Its acquisition of the school and its site and its subsequent decision to close it are to be the subject of a formal complaint to the Charity Commission.[6]


St Aubyns was founded by C. E. F. Stanford in 1895 as a boys' boarding prep school. Stanford had been a housemaster of Kingsgate School in Winchester and moved with his wife, his deputy R. C. V. Lang, a maintenance man and six pupils to start a new school.

The premises which Stanford occupied had been a school for much of the 19th century. Thomas Hooker, Vicar of Rottingdean from 1790s to 1830s, was known as an educator of pupils who lodged with him at the vicarage. He then rented rooms in the former Rottingdean Manor House, and employed a second master as an extension to the school. After his death a school continued and changed hands several times. From 1863 a Mr Hewitt ran Field House School on the site; there Ralph Vaughan Williams and the later Earl Jellicoe were educated. The school was bought in 1887 by two brothers called Mason; they gave the name Rottingdean School to their establishment. They vacated the site in 1894 and moved Rottingdean School to another site in the village. Thus Mr Stanford came upon an empty site when he arrived in 1895.

The school remained in essence unchanged for its first 100 years, with numbers between 60 and 100 pupils for most of that time. A chapel was built in 1912 and dedicated the following year. This records the names of 102 old boys who died in the First and Second World Wars.

The school was privately owned by Stanford who passed it on to Lang who succeeded him as Headmaster in 1919. Lang in turn passed the school on to his successor W. H. Gervis in 1940; one of the other masters, E. K. Webber, had a financial share in the business. The school became a limited company and a charitable trust in 1969.

During the Second World War the school was evacuated to North Wales. A family called Wynne Finch made their mansion, Voelas near Pentrefoelas, available to the school in 1940. Here school life continued as if unchanged, including sporting fixtures against other prep schools evacuated to the area. The Voelas Cup is still awarded each year to a pupil who has gained the most section marks.

In 1995 a Pre-Prep Department was opened and with this came an increase in the proportion of day pupils. Girls were first admitted to the school in 1996 (although the first girl was Molly Stanford, daughter of Mr Stanford, in the first decade of the 1900s). In 2002 a Nursery was opened. Full boarding ended in 2003, although weekly- and flexi-boarding continued until the school's closure.

In July 2013, St Aubyns closed.

School name[edit]

Mr Stanford founded the school as St Aubyn's. The reason for the choice of name is not known. The apostrophe was used in the name until 1940. Without any explanation or comment the apostrophe was dropped after the Spring Term 1940. This can be seen in the school magazines for the Spring and Summer Terms of that year. The change coincided with the new Headmaster, Mr Gervis, and with the school's evacuation from Rottingdean at the start of the war. The name St Aubyns has been used consistently by the school ever since.


  • 1895–1919 Mr C.E.F. Stanford
  • 1919–1940 Mr R.C.V. Lang
  • 1940–1974 Mr W.H. Gervis
  • 1974–1998 Mr J.A.L. James
  • 1998–2007 Mr A.G. Gobat
  • 2007–2013 Mr S.L. Hitchings

Notable former pupils[edit]


The Independent Schools Inspectorate[9] highlighted a "stimulating and tolerant atmosphere", "outstanding" pastoral care, and the focus on personalised learning as "an area of outstanding practice". "Achievement in drama, art and sport ... is outstanding for a school of its size", the report stated. The behaviour of the children and the excellent relationship between pupils and staff were also singled out for praise. The Nursery Inspection (Ofsted 2008)[10] emphasised the outstanding nature of the provision at that level. The boarding provision was judged to be outstanding in the Boarding Inspection (Ofsted 2009).[11] A press article described the school as having 'the intoxicating combination of small classes and a big heart".


  1. ^ Edubase statistics
  2. ^ 'Struggling school is given hope by parents', Argus, 26 February 2013 [1]
  3. ^ 'Parents try to save St Aubyns prep school with big-name past', The Times, 18 March 2013 [2]
  4. ^ 'Future of St Aubyns School in Rottingdean is soon to be decided', Argus, 5 April 2013 [3]
  5. ^
  6. ^ 'Bitter fight to save historic prep school', Daily Mail, 25 June 2013 [4]
  7. ^ ‘Terence Patrick Bourke, 10th Earl of Mayo’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 30 April 2012
  8. ^ ‘Major Sir Guy Colin Campbell’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 30 April 2012
  9. ^ ISI Reports on St Aubyns
  10. ^ [5][dead link]
  11. ^ St Aubyns - Ofsted

Coordinates: 50°48′15″N 0°03′27″W / 50.80418°N 0.05738°W / 50.80418; -0.05738