Steeped in History
It was in 1908 that Miss Alice Katherine Atkins established Chinthurst School on the site of the old perfume factory. Two years later a farmer's field was purchased and Chinthurst School was built. This building has been the central part of the school ever since.
The origin of the school's name is not entirely clear. It seems to relate to a beauty spot, Chinthurst Hill, near the village of Shalford, where one can see also Lower Chinthurst Farm and Chinthurst Lane. Equally obscure is the origin of the school's motto and badge, though the message it puts forward is clear enough. We believe it originates from Jesus College where Mr Bradley studied.
Miss Atkin's establishment seems to have been primarily a girls' school, and it accepted a limited number of boarders. A contemporary poster informs us that boys were 'prepared for school', which probably indicates that boys of kindergarten age, and possibly rather older ones, were taught.
There is very little information about how the school fared for the next 25 years, a period of great social upheaval, but we pick up the story in 1934, when the school was purchased and given to Mr and Mrs Bradley as a wedding present by Mr Bradley's father, Major Bradley. It appears to have been reasonably prosperous as a co-educational day and boarding school, and was described as 'liberal for the time'. Over the next few years a number of buildings were added to the original school house: 'Orchards', a boys' boarding house, and two houses in Tower Road - Little Chinthurst, which was used as a Kindergarten, and High Hedges (which no longer exists), which was used for staff accommodation. Westfield was purchased later, and the upper floors were used for girls' boarding accommodation. It now houses the Pre-Preparatory department.
The Second World War had inevitable effects on the School, but Chinthurst kept going throughout. Numbers dropped as some children were evacuated to safer areas; but several of these returned after a few years when the danger seemed less imminent. Mrs Bradley took about six pupils to the relative safety of a house the Bradleys owned in South Wales, but their stay there was brief. In Croydon a school was bombed, and some of the girls were transferred to Chinthurst from Croydon High School. In 1940 Mr Bradley produced the first edition of the 'Chinthurst Chantecleer' - a school magazine which provides numerous vignettes of life in wartime Chinthurst. We learn that the swimming pool was briefly converted into an air-raid shelter, but this arrangement was abandoned, as responding to every air-raid warning proved too distracting in lessons!
After the war, Chinthurst remained a coeducational day and boarding school, until the Bradleys sold out to Mr Ronald Kelley and his wife Joan in 1953. Ronald Kelley remained headmaster of Chinthurst till his retirement in 1977. Chinthurst in the 1950's still had many similarities with the pre-war school, notably in the accommodation: Art was taught in the long top room, now a staff flat, and there were a number of outbuildings: there was a garage which served as a carpentry workshop; there was a large building opposite the front door which was used as a gymnasium, and plays were performed there, Behind the gymnasium there were stables. Horse riding was an optional extra, and remained so until comparatively recently.
Ronald Kelley transformed the school. Boarding was phased out, and girls were no longer catered for. Within a few years of taking over, Mr Kelley had changed Chinthurst into a typical modern boys' Prep School. Due to his generosity and the foresight of the first governors, the School was converted from a proprietary owned business to an Educational Trust in 1976. The next Headmaster, The Rev. Brian Batty, took up the reins in 1976, jointly with Mr Kelley for a year, and then independently until 1982.
Headmaster, Mr Trevor Egan and his wife Heather, were appointed in 1983 and remained in post for 26 years. New accommodation, such as the Morris House and the Art and Music Departments, were built, offering far wider opportunities to the boys than in the past and the school thrived and expanded during this time. Following Mr and Mrs Egan's retirement, Mr Ian Thorpe, formerly the Head of the Junior School at City of London Freemen's School, was then appointed as Chinthurst's Headmaster. Mr David Williams then took over the helm in September 2013 with Mr Tim Button being appointed Headmaster September 2015.
In December 2011, the Board of Governors made the landmark decision to return the School to its former status as a co-educational school. As such, with effect from April 2012, Chinthurst School accepted girls for the first time since the mid-1950s. With the vast majority of Senior School now admitting girls, the move is a decisive response to the changing market within the world of education; in addition the this significant change Chinthurst announced its move from 13+ to 11+ in April 2015. This was a decision born from that of Epsom College and St John's introducing their own bespoke Junior Schools taking entry into Year 7 from September 2016.
Throughout the years of transition, Chinthurst has retained its 'family' ethos and 'all round' approach while achieving successes in the fields of academia, sport, music, art and drama. It has been an eventful century, which has seen us through two World Wars, and we look forward to the century to come