This is certainly an important time for Yateley Manor Preparatory School. It may not be “the very best days of our lives” but they will certainly be memorable.
When I went to a small prep school (for some 48 boarders) near York, it was during the Second World War and we were often hungry because of the strict rationing. It was, however, a mainly happy and interesting time. There were a few signs of bombing near the city, but of course we had the ordinary “plagues” of measles and chicken pox in the sickroom each spring. The greatest “excitement” was a fire in the middle of the night one winter - but our members of staff and senior boys used buckets of water, and the flames were well under control before the first fire-engines arrived 45 minutes later.
Another exciting event was early before “D-Day”. During one morning class we were disturbed by all the din and orchestrated noise and confusion caused by a large-scale army exercise. There was much shouting and firing of blank ammunition and smoke coming from British infantry men and armoured cars as they fought along the length of the single street of Terrington village, and through the grounds of the school. The Headmaster was not exactly pleased, but you can be assured that we boys loved every minute of it from our excellent view in the classroom. Nevertheless, we did a lot of work as well (!), and most of us were able to join our new public schools that summer.
We were always seeking for “imagined” spies, and one night six of us broke through under the floor, searching for a secret radio, for we were already suspicious of our disliked Latin teacher. We believed that he must be a German and Herr Hitler’s secret friend. We didn’t find the radio transmitter, but we did find hundreds of old Ping-Pong balls, which had been lost for years. This was worth almost as much as gold during the long War. Unfortunately we over-sold our booty to our comrades and so there was a glut of them. The Headmaster was getting suspicious, and of course somebody “sneaked” to him. When he found out the names and details of our illegal underground activities; well, let me say he was NOT exactly pleased. I will say no more about this bottom matter.
Most of the seniors were allowed to play with the thousands of military toy-soldiers and aeroplanes that we owned between us and I still have most of mine. On dry summer evenings we were allowed to play around “The Huts” digging around and under an area of rough land until time for our evening cocoa, baths, prayers and bedtime. Those were my best times, playing with my soldiers. Incidentally, the bill for my school (including “extras” of course) was 45 pounds per term. But of course that was over fifty years ago - a full half of 100 years ago - Oh my goodness! I must now stop. But those were happy times for me, and I will never forget; and I hope you all will recall your school days for your happy memories just like mine.
Mr. Devonshire and Mr. Bland have written an excellent booklet and I congratulate them. You should be sure to buy two copies one for reading and one to keep safe until 2050 AD - for this will be about the long and glorious history of your old school.
Dr. David G. Chandler
There is much evidence that the site where Yateley now stands has been inhabited for thousands of years. Stone Age arrowheads together with pottery and other signs of settlement have all been found in the area. The Romans certainly occupied the area; there is a settlement at Bagshot but the village itself is most likely of Saxon origin.
The name Yateley is probably a derivation of the Anglo Saxon Yat (gate) ley (forest clearing) - the gate being one to the Royal Forest of Windsor.
Certainly the village was thriving in 885 when, as part of the Manor of Crondall it was bequeathed by Alfred the Great to his nephew Ethelm. By 940 the lordship had passed to the Priory of St. Swithuns at Winchester. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the presence of a lined well with healing powers which was destroyed in 1098.
During this time it is reasonable to assume that a Saxon official lived in a wooden hall on the site which Yateley Manor School now occupies, the site being known from antiquity until 1828 as Hall Place.
The Domesday Survey values the village at 100s and reports 14 farms, a mill, a church and a hall. The village had the same value as just before the conquest so the area obviously avoided the vigorous subjugation which William dealt out in less fortunate areas.
By 1237 the Hall was held by Juliana de Aula the widow of a wealthy villein. The holding included 106 acres with 16 sub-tenants and the Hall was large enough to house Juliana along with several servants. A holding of this size is the probable start of a sub-manor and certainly Yateley was a large settlement in the thirteenth century. In 1287 there were 53 tenants which would give an estimated total population of 238 including tenants’ families. This figure rises to around 300 when subtenants and landless serfs are added to the equation (by 1801 the population had only reached 470)
In the 1560's the medieval manor house was replaced with an Elizabethan Hall. Henry Bozeley who died in 1899 lived there when he was a boy. He recalled it as being a "low Elizabethan building with many gables and a fine oak staircase large enough to drive a team of horses up". When this house was demolished in 1828 to make way for the present Manor house the oak panelling from the rooms was removed to Manor Farm House but was lost when this house was knocked down in 1972.
From about the time of the building of the Tudor house a tradition persists of a passage from the Manor to the church presumably for the use of Priests eager to escape the religious oppression of the time. Unfortunately there is no evidence to sustain this romantic legend, although in 1794 a large brick drain leading from the church yard collapsed close to the Manor.
In recent years building work has unearthed a length of Tudor guttering from the site of the Fyson Blum Hall and foundation work on the new wing uncovered some oak beams which bore the marks of working with an adze. Those remnants being all that appears to remain of the Tudor Hall.
The first owner (and presumed builder) of the Tudor hall was Richard Allen, who also owned the Mill (which remained part of the property until 1887). He had 21 subtenants and was obviously an important landowner.
The next notable owner was Sir Richard Ryves (d.1671). Ryves was a Spanish merchant knighted in 1663 by Charles II. He was Sheriff and Alderman of London, and a rich influential man. The Ryves family lived at Hall Place for several years after the death of Richard - these were probably nephews as he died childless. The estate continued to be a considerable one as another Richard Ryves paid rates of £1/9/3 in 1700, a large assessment for the time.
In 1724 Thomas Wyndham came to Hall Place. He was a Jacobite supporter who prudently decided to stay at home when the army of the Young Pretender reached Derby in 1745. Had Wyndham joined Bonnie Prince Charlie he would certainly have lost his property and probably his life in the reckoning that followed the Battle of Culloden.
Wyndham appears to have died without children, as in 1791 Hall Place belonged to the Hon. James Everard, the husband of Wyndham's younger sister Anne.
By now the Tudor building was in decline and was no longer suitable as a gentleman's residence. It was described in 1794 thus
"The Manor House is situated near the Church and is an ancient edifice.... It is now let as a farm."
In 1828 the property was bought by Captain George Mason. He changed the name to Yateley Manor as the ancient title of Hall Place was causing confusion with Yateley Hall, which had recently changed its name from Calcott House. Mason demolished the Elizabethan house and had built the present Manor house building, which forms the core of the school.
The Yateley Manor Preparatory School was founded in 1947 by Mrs. Sybil Maud Fyson.
She was born in 1894 and was the daughter of a leading Cheltenham solicitor. In partnership with her husband Major Geoffrey Fyson they had already enjoyed spectacular success in two other schools.
The first of them, Ravensfield College in Hendon was to become the largest private school in England at the time. The second, Halliford House, was sold during Major Fyson's last illness, the dreadful result of service as an infantry officer in trenches.
After a year's retirement Mrs. Fyson poured her vast energies into Yateley Manor. Originally the site was a private residence but it had been occupied by the services during the war.
Mrs S. M. Fyson by M. Chapman
One of the earliest appointments was "Gilbert" who was to be groundsman for many years. He was actually called Robert Giblett but Mrs. Fyson misheard his name so 'Gilbert' he became.
The task was massive. The grounds were swampy and covered with weeds and the whole place was run down. It contained old farm buildings and disused R.A.F huts as well as the main house.
Farm buildings were turned into classrooms and the monumental undertaking of clearing the War debris began. Self help was the order of the day - the pitches sprang up in areas which had previously been marsh and grass - in Mrs. Fyson's words, ''as high as an elephant's eye". A swimming pool was built by Mr. Blum and the boarders. Mr. Adelbert Blum, who had taught at Halliford School in Shepperton with Mrs. Fyson, was recruited to teach under her. His total commitment and vast energy was an invaluable asset.
After opening in 1947, with three pupils, it was predictable that the school would greatly increase in size (Ravensfield had increased from 38 to 600 and Halliford's roll had gone up from 35 to 250 under the Fyson's control). Miss Milson, who had taught Music and also been a Junior Form Mistress at Halliford, was to join later.
By 1951 the school was already flourishing and had grown in size to 93 pupils of whom 11 were boarders. By 1958 the number had grown to 158.
Mr. Fyson died from war wounds in 1948 and Mr. Blum acted as headmaster until Mr. Kenneth Knowles was appointed in April 1955. During this period of course Mrs Fyson remained Principal
In the ten years since its inception, ten new classrooms were added together with a Gymnasium. An extra playing field was added and the swimming pool built.
The Dutch Barn, 1946
In a Ministry of Education report published in 1951, H.M. Inspectors felt that there could be no doubt that creating a school of this type involves much planning, hard work and anxiety. They agreed that the Principal had met her problems with courage and skill, much support had been given by the staff and that the outlook for the school was promising.
Boarding School life during the 50's was interesting. Nearly all pupils were boarders, many of them coming from overseas. There were a few day pupils, including one Francis Howard!
Many of the upstairs rooms in the main house were dormitories. Corduroy shorts were worn in the summer and winter. The grounds were far bigger and included a swimming pool near the present cricket nets, a lake (the outline of which can still be seen in the Primary School next door) and a garden where the present Sports Hall stands.
The Dutch Barn was a great place to play and countless children through the years have learned to roller-skate or play marbles there. Big dogs were around. Mrs. Fyson kept Great Danes and the Howard family had a St Bernard.
Saturday morning trips were made on the No. 4 to Camberley (6d return) and pocket money was often spent at Woolworth’s.
School fees in 1951 were 50 guineas for a boarder in the Preparatory Department while a day pupil was charged 15 Guineas. Swimming was 10/6 (52.5p) per annum!
Queueing for the Coach
In 1957, with the school growing steadily, a Gym and Concert hall were opened in what is now the maintenance workshop. The newly formed Drama Society put on ‘Huckleberry Finn’ with Price and Kerns being memorable as the two leading characters. Also in this year Yateley Manor fielded its first rugby side.
The following year saw a Ministry of Education inspection - passed with flying colours - and lAPS membership for the first time.
A new Science laboratory (not the present one) was opened and Science teaching was initiated. This was six years before the subject appeared at Common Entrance!
1960 saw the school being able to field a 2nd XV - there had never been more than 35 boys playing before! During the winter the school, all boarding at the time, was hit by a flu epidemic which no doubt kept Matron Lena Nolli who now celebrates her 40th year at Yateley Manor busy as usual.
During the early 60’s the school saw some of its original staff leaving as they reached retirement age or went to seek new pastures. Mr. Knowles, headmaster since 1955, left in 1962 to become Director of Education on the Scilly Isles and was replaced by Mr. Chatterton who joined the staff in 1959. Also coming to the school during this period were Mr. Flint, Mrs. Waters, Mrs. Wilson, Miss Mashes and the Reverend J.E. O’Malley as Chaplain. In all there were 12 staff in 1963.
The school entered a phase of modest expansion - the library originally started in 1960 - needed more shelf space, but the two main events which dominated this time were the building of the Chapel - now the Studio - and the appeal to raise £3500 for a new pool “with room to race ... and gleaming tiles, enclosed by glass walls”
Chapel Inauguration, 1962
The Chapel was the first project to be completed and was opened in 1962 by the Rt. Rev. Leslie Lang, Assistant Bishop of Winchester. During the opening ceremony there was an enormous thunderstorm which cut the power supply so a piano had to be used instead of the electric organ!
The pool was to be much more problematic. By 1965 a succession of fetes and fund raising events had raised £819 10s 6d - still far short of the total needed. The decision was taken to go ahead with a less ambitious pool - no glass walls, no gleaming tiles! The pool is still in service but is due to be replaced in the next phase of redevelopment. It was opened on 10th June 1967 costing £1589 9s 3d!
Work on the New Swimming Pool (Photograph by A. Lim)
The 1960’s saw other significant developments: in 1964 there was the first enrolment of the son of an Old Boy, George Spear. The school continued to grow to around 180 pupils and 14 staff. In 1967 another Old Boy rejoined the school. Francis Howard, who had been a pupil in 1950, became joint Headmaster, working with Robert Chatterton. He joined with many aims - extend the Science Lab; build a new library; lay new tennis courts...
However the first problem was a threat to the school’s very existence. Hampshire County Council wanted to compulsorily purchase the whole site, a scheme which was eventually thwarted but at the cost of losing “the stony pitch”, the hockey pitch and part of the main games field. St Peter’s School now occupies this land.
The next major change was much more positive. In 1970 the school became a Charitable Trust and a board of governors was appointed. A Development Fund began which was to quickly provide an enlarged Science Laboratory with new equipment; three new cricket nets; new toilets for the pre-prep and a filter for the swimming pool. Mrs. Fyson retired in 1968 and in 1970 transferred her interests to the Charitable Trust set up to continue her work in the school.
In 1972, Mr. Howard became sole Headmaster and the school rose to over 200 pupils.
During the 1970s and early 1980s the school continued to consolidate as a traditional boarding school with numbers steady around the 200 mark.
However, the coming years were to see unprecedented change and expansion which transformed the school into one of the most successful and forward looking prep schools in the country.
F.G.F. Howard, B.A. Hons (Cantab), Dip Ed (Oxon)
The strong roots that the school had established during the first three decades of its life were to nourish an extraordinary change. The first hints of the revolution to come happened at the start of 1982 when boarding finally ended and the school became a day only school with 234 boys.
This change in emphasis led to a rise in interest in the Junior School (now called Wyndhams) and within three years junior numbers had risen from 36 to 84; two new classrooms for each year group were built and in December 1985 separate Nursery sessions held on two afternoons a week were introduced. This growth also saw the start of an ongoing irritation - the February 1986 edition of INAMOS noted problems of car park congestion causing severe tailbacks on the Reading Road!
The momentum for positive change now led to a fundamental change in the intake of the School. In June 1986 the Governors approved a timetable for the school to become fully co-educational, the first intake of girls to be from September 1988. Plans for a new multi-purpose hall were also set in motion as numbers were now at 266 and accommodation needed to be increased. At the same meeting it was also agreed to double Nursery provision to four afternoons.
In the November of 1986 two bungalows owned by the school were sold and the proceeds used to help finance the construction of the new hall.
The School intake became fully co-educational in September 1988 in accordance with the two-year plan and numbers rose to 316, the first time that there had been more than 300 current Yateley Manor pupils.
1989 saw the building of the new hall which in the October of that year, was named the Fyson-Blum Hall in honour of the Founder Mrs. Sybil Fyson and Mr. Adelbert Blum who had been instrumental in founding the School and who had taught there for 42 years. Unfortunately this happy event was marred by tragedy on 4th November 1989 when Mr. Blum was killed in a traffic accident.
The Fyson-Blum Hall
1990 saw many changes as the old school continued to be transformed; the chapel was converted into The Studio at a cost of £30 000 which included the purchase of the demountable staging as well as sound and lighting facilities. The pond was also excavated and a small ‘Nature Area’ was established. On the sports scene the first ever Netball match took place, this was against Daneshill and resulted in a 19-2 defeat - how times have changed! At the end of the year the Gymnasium was burnt to the ground and was replaced a year later by the present building at a cost in excess of £100 000. 1991 also saw the Senior Library undergo a £10 000 refurbishment and 100% Common Entrance pass rate in consecutive years. Sadly the year also brought the passing of the Founder and first Principal, Mrs Fyson, who died on 27th September.
As the school continued to grow, improvements continued to come thick and fast; 1992-93 brought new hard play areas, £30 000 of new computers (now museum pieces!) and £50 000 was spent on building a prep room for the Science Department and refurbishment of Lab 2. As well as physical changes, many further improvements were made to the organisation, the prefect system was overhauled and in 1993 Ross Hunter became the first Captain of School.
The car park was improved during 1994 to try to alleviate many of he problems of queuing and access. The one way system was introduced, the area was landscaped and drop-off zones introduced to try to increase safety and access.
In 1995 the school underwent an OFSTED inspection which included the remark ‘You are way ahead of the field’. This was further evidenced in the same year as the 100% Common Entrance pass rate was maintained for the sixth year in succession.
1996 saw great upheaval as many of the old buildings were swept away in the first phase of the £1.5 million redevelopment which was to result in Manor Court. Much of the school (which now had 500 pupils) decamped to temporary classrooms situated on the hard play areas. The foundations were completed by May and this work coincided with a large extension to the Library as well as a totally redesigned layout.
Manor Court was officially opened in June 1997 by the artist and television personality, Tony Hart. There was a week of celebrations to mark this latest and most dramatic development.
Manor Court Entrance, 1997
Although sporting achievement had always been highly valued, it became almost common place during these years with amazing achievements in many areas.
1990 brought the first in a remarkable sequence of cricketing triumphs when the Under 11 team became National Champions. In the years that followed the Under 11’s won the Hampshire Championship nine times in eleven years; the Under 13’s were County Champions five times in seven years whilst the Under 12’s have achieved three Championships in three attempts. Other notable cricketing milestones include Pangbourne College being dismissed for one run and in 1998 Richard Evans scoring 200 n.o. in 23.3 overs, and this in a County Championship Quarter Final! Old Boys Ross Hunter and William Evered have both gone on to represent England schoolboys.
Football has also flourished. In 1999 the team competed in the inaugural national Prep Schools Championships and finished fourth. They also won the prestigious Charterhouse Tournament for the second consecutive season.
Girls’ games have gone from strength to strength and from the humble beginnings of 1990 we now see Netball teams which regularly win Regional honours and compete at national level. The same can be said for Rounders where the school has produced six England players in the last four years. Alexandra Danson went on to represent England in Netball and Rounders!
In Athletics eleven pupils have reached National Finals in the last two years and in the summer of 2000 Christina Carding became British U13 record holder in both Discus and Shot.
The Chess teams dominate the local leagues and are making their mark in the national Tournaments. Matthew Elstrop, Sam Williams and Christopher Gee have all played for England and in 2000 every member of the Under 11 chess team was also a county player.
The commitment to purposeful growth was further evidenced in February 1999 with the purchase of Manor Lodge, the large house adjoining the school. The House has been remodelled internally to provide superb accommodation for the Nursery and during 2000 the garden was extensively altered to provide a much larger Nature Area whilst the original area was converted to an Adventure Playground for the older children. The ‘Newton’ science laboratory was totally stripped and underwent a complete refurbishment to provide a learning environment fit for the new century.
As we look into the new millennium we find a thriving school of 520 children making a mark in many fields. The site of Yateley Manor has a history stretching back into antiquity but the School which now occupies this site faces the future with optimism and enthusiasm and nearly fifty years on the words of Her Majesties Inspectors have been proven correct:
“…The outlook for the School is promising.’
In March 2002 work on two major projects began. An extensive development of Wyndhams opened in January 2003, providing entrance and library areas in addition to more classroom space. In May 2003 a new indoor swimming pool opened, on the same site as the old, “with room to race ... and gleaming tiles, enclosed by glass walls”.
1. G.H. STILWELL (Edit S. Louder) The History of Yateley 1974
2. Various documents from the Hampshire Record Office
3. INAMOS (In a Manor of Speaking) - The Schools own newsletter 1985-1999
4. A series of photographs published by Hofthome, Crosbie and Company, Hampton, Middlesex.
5. Yateley Manor Magazines 1961-1971
6. The History of St Peter’s Church - Sydney Loader 1981
7. Yateley - a medieval village Derek Do herty (1982)
Yateley - a medieval village, Yateley Society
(b) Loaders (1981) The History of St Peter’s Church, Yateley Society
Stilwell GH (1974) The History of Yateley, Yateley Society.
The authors appreciate the contribution of the following:
Dr. David Chandler - for his quiet support
Mr Richard Mayes - for his word processing skills
Mr and Mrs Howard - for their support and for making available the early records of the school.
Mr Harry Fish and Miss Peggy Millson for their reminiscences.