Fifty Years Back

by E. H. Baker

After the opening of the Frith Road school during the 1914-18 war, it was not long before the far-seeing Mr. Whitehouse knew that a larger building on the edge of town would be necessary.

With the assistance of that generous friend of the school, Mr. Hugh Leney, a site was purchased fronting the newly-constructed Astor Avenue and extending to the top of Whinless Down. During the late 1920s and in 1930 much time and thought was devoted by the staff to the layout and equipment needed for specialist rooms, workshops, a modern stage, gymnasium and laboratories.

On 6th March, 1924 the school marched to Astor Avenue for the cutting of the first sod by the chairman of governors, Canon Elnor. The school, built by Claysons of Lyminge, was to be erected on the topmost level with playing fields terraced out of the lower slopes.

On 17th September, 1931 the autumn term began in the new buildings. The term continued with little change in normal school life but all the while Mr. Whitehouse was planning the official opening. With the assistance of Major J. J. Astor, M. P . arrangements were made for H. R. H. Prince George to open the school on 9th December, 1931, the ceremony to be ‘preceded by a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Mary’s Church conducted by the Bishop of Dover. Invitations and programmes were printed. Caterers were engaged to provide a suitable luncheon in the school dining hall, for F. W. would not consider a move to one of the town’s hotels, even for royalty. The number of people at the luncheon was limited to seventy, which included all members of the staff, of whom only Mr. Coulson and Mr. Kendall are still with us.

The day was bright and sunny. After the church service the school walked to the upper field where the cadet corps formed a guard of honour for the arrival of H.R.H. Prince George who opened the door at the foot of the tower, using a golden key. The Prince was then taken on a conducted tour of the buildings by the Headmaster before luncheon was served. After lunch an invited company, including the school, gathered in the Great Hall for the speech-making and unveiling of the plaque.

If we realise that financial stringency was far more severe in 1931 than in 1981, then it may be possible to appreciate the tremendous achievement of Mr. Whitehouse in securing for many generations of boys the school we know and love so well.

On 4th November, 1931 the Old Pharosians held their annual dinner in the new dining hall and the Association has always been welcome in the school buildings as a mark of the continuing relationship between past and present members of the school community.