Newells Preparatory School

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Letter from Liam McKeown 14.11.2017

Posted by newells on November 15, 2017 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (1)
I was at Newells; Newells and Desmoor and Handcross park in the 1960's. I was in the fire at Newells which I remember vividly: I can remember : Crawling along the wooden floor under the smoke, going through the fire doors and descending the outside iron fire escape ladders. Watching suitcases and trunks being thrown out of the dormitory windows by firemen, some of which opened in mid flight. The roll call in the car park, when one boy's name was repeatedly called out with no response. I think his name was Parker and he had reputedly gone back into the building to retrieve his watch, from what I can recall. Spending the night in, what I think was, the school cinema/theatre and the matron belting me with a torch for being too boisterous ! The torch broke and we ended up struggling for light. Wearing ill fitting clothes issued to us by the WI, I think, the following morning as we were all in our pyjamas ! When I was collected to go back home I was disappointed to find that my father had enrolled me in the local comprehensive, at or near, Lee-on-Solent. My farther was a serving officer in the Royal Navy. My lasting memory of Handcross Park, was the first moon landing ('69), which we watched on a black and white TV on a high wooden stand. Liam McKeown

Mini reunion July 2016 & September 2017

Posted by newells on July 22, 2016 at 6:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Jeremy Varcoe and I , Tony Potts ,(Both Seafield Park at Endsleigh and Newells) met up at Endsleigh on Monday 4th July 2016.

Had a great day wandering down memory lane .   We were well received by the Staff and , as ex pupils of Endsleigh, were given a 20% rebate on an excellent lunch.   On Sunday 10th September 2017 we both met up again at Endsleigh, this time accompanied by Nigel Osborn (Endsleigh & Newells) who had travelled all the way from Australia. The staff very kindly gave us a guided tour and we were able to recognise the dormitories and classrooms etc. We had an excellent lunch ( No rebate this time). I have added some photos both of Endsleigh and us from both occasions in the relevant sections.

A continued good summer to all.   Best wishes Tony Potts.


Posted by newells on May 23, 2015 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)
I have had several direct contacts with Old Newellians in the years since I put the site out. 

It has been especially pleasing to be able to have contact with the present Headmaster of Handcross Park school resulting in a successful reunion for Old Newellians held at Handcross Park school on the 23rd of May 2012. After the meeting at Handcross Park some participants were able to visit the grounds of Newells farm. 

I have also had contact with the present owner of the house standing on the Newells site. 

A special 'Thank you' to Chris Mathews for his piece on Alexander Parker and the tragic fire. In reference to the fire, it was also interesting to read the 'Blog' by John Harrison and his memories of it,  not as a pupil but a neighbour to Newells. 

To those who wish to contribute any of their memories of Newells or Seafield Park please add your comments to this blog, open your own blog or add photos to the relevant section . You can contact me direct at [email protected] , send me your contribution and I will put it on the site for you. 

Michael French has commented on the Swimming Pool situated at the far end of the Sports pitch. I recall it was a converted concrete Fire Service water tank. Before this conversion took place Mr Lang had acquired for use as a swimming pool a canvas affair filled with water . I found out later that it was called an ' S tank' and was originally designed for use by the Military to temporarily store fresh water. I would actually call it a rather small pond and it was situated by the Sand pit. 

The freedom we had playing in the woods, climbing trees, building dams, sploshing about in the stream, cycling and creating roads on the terrace banks for Dinky toys, all bring back very happy memories. 

I would like to conclude by saying that I originally started work on and published this site in order that people who attended Newells and Seafield Park would have a forum where they could refresh memories, add comments to the blog section or publish photos of their time at the school. However,  although I am delighted to be contacted by them, I did not mean that ex pupils who only attended the school at Handcross Park should add their photos and comments . To include their input would take up much more space than I have available. These ex-pupils have the excellent Handcross Park school website to cater for their needs. http/  

 I have recently moved this blog to the top and amended it slightly. There were several comments added to the original and they are still available to be read in the original position at the end. 

My thanks to all for your help and contributions .

Tony Kendal

(Updated 10th August 2016)


The 1968 Fire

Posted by newells on August 22, 2013 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)


I've just been looking at Ad Perpetuam Memorium regarding the tragic death of Alex Parker.

My name is John Harrison and I thought,  you would be interested to learn that I have a very clear memory of that dreadful night in January 1968.

At that time, I was seven years old - living with my parents and grandparents in a very grand house called Cisswood (virtually opposite Newells school).

I was woken up by my parents who told me they were going to see if they could help out in any way by offering our home as a sanctuary for all the boys and staff. Of course, I had to stay in bed - but I distinctly recall blue lights flashing around my bedroom ( I thought this was rather exciting !)

In the event, it would seem that alternative accommodation arrangements had been made - and my family's help wasn't required.

The final outcome had a dramatic effect on my childhood. I'd grown up at Cisswood - and even at the tender age of seven - had formed a very strong attachment to the place. However - my mother was horrified that the ashes from the blaze had blown across our grounds and (because of the tragic death)refused to live in the house any more. It was subsequently sold in April 1968.

Since then it has become a rather tawdry Hotel / Spa. To this day - I resolutely refuse to set foot inside it - so tarnished has my memory become.

I have never forgotten the tragedy of that night - and I'm sure that those who were close to poor Alex will have even more poignant memories than my own.


John S Harrison.


Nader Salour

Posted by Nader Salour on January 28, 2013 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (5)

I was at the school from 1968 to 1972. I have read the blogs with great interest. I am amazed by your vivid and accurate memories. Reading your comments have brought all the memories back to me. I only have good memories of the school. The photos on the site were a surprise. Actually saw myself in a few of them! Thank you to the people who posted them. I know I have some photos somewhere, I will dig them up and post them.
When I arrived at the school I was 9 and came from Iran and could not speak a word of English! Everything was very strange to me. I remember when I got there the other boys were not interested in who I was or where I was from. They really wanted to know which football team I supported! Hence my life long addiction to Man Utd!
Would love to hear from anyone who was there at the same time as I was.

The Handcross Generation

Posted by Ralph Tuckwell on January 2, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Just found this site and it brings back a number of memories. I started at Handcross in 1968, and the fire was something of legend. I realise now that many who were there at the time would probably not want to talk about it. In my memory, the story was that it was started by a cigarette that fell down the back of a table?

Some of the people who have commented must have been at Handcross when I was there ... they say old age brings memories back, but I have to admit that I don't remember any of the names! There again, what would a 7 year old take in when they are placed in a boarding school in a foreign country :)

Handcross - or Newells and Desmoor as it was known then - was obviously re-building itself when I joined, but it seemed like a settled place. The classroom block must have been very new, and I see from Google maps that it has long gone, while the kitchen garden (one of our favourite haunts for midnight walks) is now built up. I'm not sure that the Annex is still there, the dormitories for the older boys and the Chapel. With windows on most sides, it was easy to climb out in the middle of the night (or probably 7am on Sunday mornings) and hope that "Drofer" wouldn't catch you.

Most of the strong characters from the teachers seem to be Newells - Mr Lazo with his incredible knowledge of words, Mrs Vellacott with her map of the world cut in turf, Mr Robertson ("Beefy Chunks" for some reason) who only had half a thumb (and used it to pop someone's bubble blown in illegal bubble gum), Mr Bean and his music, Colonel Reford ("Drofer") and Captain Hope-Laing who tragically passed away soon after I started. Mr McNeill (?), the former Desmoor headmaster, took over for the rest of my time there.

Life was fairly simple and straightforward then - no mobile phones, computers, games, or even much TV. Free time was spent outside (weds afternoons, saturday afternoons and much of Sunday) in the woods with no supervision: I still have the scar on my wrist from the deep glass cut sustained in the woods from a broken bottle, and the times we fell off trees or piled into deep undergrowth with no fear of the consequences. Or we raced round the woods on bikes.

I must dig out some photos and see if I can upload them ... and it would be great to hear from anyone else who remembers Handcross in the early 70s.

Newells today

Posted by newells on November 14, 2012 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (0)

From Webmaster. Wednesday, 14th November 2012.

I have recently been in contact with the owner of Newells - Mr Roy Goddard,.

I attach his latest E mail, which no doubt will be of interest to the members of the site.

Any information regarding the two Wells that he is trying to find will be welcome. Just send your ideas to me and I will forward them to him. I seem to vaguely remember that there was a water source in the kitchen gardens, but was it a Well ?

Mr. Goddard has very kindly forwarded two photos of the house and gardens which I have added to the photo gallery in the PG1 Section.


I saw the post and the picture of the fallen beech. It wasn’t a storm that blew it down, just old age. The night it happened was quite still, we heard this almighty thud. Next morning taking the dogs for a walk we realised what had happened. At the time the tree was in full leaf and unbalanced, the trunk was rotten and the sheer weight on one side caused it to topple. It was estimated to be over 400 years old by several tree surgeons after my son in law posted pictures on the internet.

Sadly in our garden we have lost a very large Cedar of Lebanon and a big pine to lightening strikes. One of the other very old trees was also struck by lightning but has survived even though a big branch was blown out at the top and the trunk split. I have had tree surgeons brace it up with ratchet straps used to hold down loads on lorries.

Many of the old oaks, beeches and cherries that you remember in the woods below the property (Newells Rough, classified as ‘ancient woodlands’;) were blown down in the ‘97 and ‘81 storms. Although replanted with small hardwoods by the Forestry Commission after a major clean up, they were not managed and rhododendrons and birch took over and it is like a jungle down there now. The upside is the wild life that now live there!

Over the years, but not recently, I have had several ‘old boys’ with their siblings visit to view the site, but there is very little left to see that reminds them of the school and its grounds

The site, after the fire, was acquired by an architect who broke it up and sold parts of the estate to finance the building of what is now my home, Newells. He bulldozed the old building and removed rubble filling in the vaults and cellars from the old building in the process. The swimming pool in the field above the property had holes punched in the bottom at the time and has been left for nature to take over. I would welcome any information as to location of the 2 wells that I was informed existed in the ‘olden days’ near the old house.



Saturday -  12.07.2014

I have just received this from Daniel Harewood which will no doubt throw some light onto the whereabouts of at least one of the wells.

I've visited your Newells School website a few times now because for the first twenty years of my life I grew up in the old theatre building after it had been converted into what became known as Woodland Cottage. I am very grateful to you for providing a glimpse into the past of where I spent a very happy childhood, walking dogs past your old pool and wondering who built the tree houses. My mother only recently told me that when they moved in in 1974 (my parents were the first occupants after it had been converted and I was born a year later), there were still some old theatre light fixtures in the beams in the loft. I spent many long days playing in the woods and loved the wildlife and was devasted when the storm of 1987 blew down so many trees, although I did sleep through it!.
I live in London now but I pop by once a year for a walk to remind myself of a very rural and happy upbringing.
I'm not sure when Roy (the owner of Newells) wrote to you but please feel free to pass on my email as I certainly know where one of the wells is and would be more than happy to let him know when I'm next down to show him.
And if they're of interest, do let me know if you'd like any pictures of my old home and garden and i'll have a rummage to see what I can find, although it may take a while as I don't have a scanner and am not the most technically-minded of people.
I hope Norway is treating you well. There is a hotchpotch of Scandinavian heritage in our family so I've been to the region many times over the years.
Thank you very much again.

David Rosemont. 1953-1958

Posted by newells on October 18, 2012 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I was at Newells from 1953 to 1958. Munro-Wilson, Osborne and I all left to go to the same house at Lancing. After Lancing I went to the Architectural Association in London and had a career as an architect mainly with my own firm. We undertook many hundreds of projects throughout the UK and a few abroad. We received a number of design awards. Between times I was in the Royal Naval Reserve, a school governor twice, and on the boards of a large number of public bodies including the elected Chairmanship for ten years of a large urban regeneration quango in London. I received a Civic Award for services to a London Borough. I was quite heavily involved in politics locally, regionally and, almost, nationally! Divorced once, a widower once and now happliy married for the third time and living in the Monts d'Arree in Brittany. I have two sons over thirty from my first marriage and a daughter aged only three from my third. I am now pretty fully retired but on two local french committees Newells seems a very long time ago. The last old boy I saw was Brod Munro-Wilson where else other than at Ascot?! If any old boys are ever in Brittany you can find me easily enough on the internet via Mr Google. My best memories of Newells were the woods and the theatre where I seem to remember a play I wrote called "Theseus and the Minotaur" was even performed! I have also dined out on the tale of the occasion on which twenty of us were beaten because nobody owned up to leaving I think three broad beans. How times have changed! I do wonder what happened to that flag from Lucknow and the glass case with all those canes in it! Maybe they went in the fire which was a very sad event. My memories of Newells are faint but Lancing made a huge impression and I think inspired my career. I am getting to grips with the French educational system which is Oh so different!

Morning run, sports day and fun in the woods

Posted by Andrew Miller on June 27, 2012 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Good to see that Chris Matthews and Edward Trewhella have now been added to the members. I have little memory of buying my school uniform but do remember going to Harrods for it. My tuck box served me well for many years but eventually gave up the ghost. I do, however, still have my tuck tin, cream with a pillar box red lid and my Miller Ma 23 label glued to the corner.

Early morning runs in heavy winter frosts remain a vivid memory. The worst bit was standing outside shivering as one’s legs turned blue before setting off. There were several fixed routes all of which had long forgotten names but a number of which took us in to St Leonards forest and alongside firebreak tracks or over huge dead trees. For little boys one of the great things was not having to bath or shower afterwards but simply to get dressed again – horrid thought now I am an adult.

I think everyone did this four days a week except for the choir who went into the lovely blue, white and yellow chapel with it’s old church pews and plasterwork panels. This sat in the South West corner and had views over the tennis courts, woods and putting green. On Wednesday mornings we all escaped the run as we had hymn practice in the chapel.

I too did a little shooting and can even remember Chris Matthews being left handed although the names of the guns escapes me. I also continued shooting at Hurst but only made the Reserve VIII for Bisley.

I remember the sports days very well – with a lovely big wide cup for the Victor Ludorum ( wonderful latin title ) which always seemed to be won by an obvious all round sportsman such as Murray Lewis, Simon LeVaillant or J Richford.

I was very friendly with Robert Utting and one year his father Bernard, who drove a smart Jaguar, offered me a dish of strawberries and cream which I accepted gratefully. Later that evening I was given a severe ticking off by matron Maud Madigan for this and the following year on Sports day she made a point of telling me that I was not to go near Uttings dad or eat their strawberries again ! Talk about elephantine memory.

However, Uttings dad again offered me strawberries so I had decline citing MM that morning. He was blessed with a roundish physique and determined that I should have them regardless of her instructions so just told me to stand close behind him and tuck in while his ample girth hid me from her sight as I enjoyed them. She never did find out.

Wednesday afternoon activities centred around the woodlands and certainly two bands of boys were specifically named as Forest Rangers and Sweepers. Sweeping was a pretty tedious job especially if one was given one of the problem brooms. These were every inch a witches broom to look at, I thought them to be made of hazel although it could have been birch, but some of them did not seem as securely fastened to the handle as they should and so would keep coming apart as one tried to sweep the paths.

Even then I used to wonder why so many little boys were dispatched into the woods, East, West or Central ( the latter otherwise being the sole preserve of the HM and Mrs Hope Lang ) charged with sweeping clear of all leaves all the footpaths in a forest full of trees knowing full well that the wind would put them right back the next day.

I never did make it to be a ranger which involved more exciting work such as chopping or sawing up dead trees. But I do remember the time I was sweeping and we all heard a piercing shriek of pain from Central Wood where a boy called Adams had nearly severed his thumb with an axe or machete. It was hanging on by the skin and he was quickly whisked away for treatment, reappearing with his arm in a sling.

On most Wednesdays and Saturdays ( probably Sunday as well but I cannot remember clearly ) the late afternoon was free time and after tea there would be a stream of boys in blue boiler suits heading towards the woods. These were a wonderful place to explore, climb trees, build camps and tree houses with broken branches and rhododendron leaves ( to keep the rain out ) and some of the corrugated iron sheets that seem to have found their way into the bushes there. Some camps had several rooms where we could sit and eat tuck or else had to defend ourselves other boys looking for corrugated sheets to add to their own sites.

Sensibly the headmaster used to allocate all of the junior boys to, for example, East Wood, while the seniors took command of West Wood and then the following time this would be reversed. This meant that every trip into the woods would begin with a frenzy of ripping down someone else’s camp from the previous visit and starting again in a new location with a new design.

Another favourite past-time, and a particularly muddy one, was building dams along the length of the stream which flowed downhill in West wood. There would usually be half a dozen under construction with one or perhaps two boys at the higher point building a small dam of wet clay and then as one progressed down the length there would be bigger dams and more boys using wet clay, branches, twigs and bricks which had also conveniently found their way into the woods. Once ready the uppermost dam would be breeched so the water flowed into a second larger dam and this would be repeated until all the water had flowed to the last and biggest dam where boys would be struggling to plug leaks and hold it all in until it was ready to be smashed at which point we would all run alongside what seemed to us a raging torrent.

Gangs of cowboys and Indians or mediaeval foot soldiers ( I had forgotten about the Spartans ) used to roam the woods too, using sticks as swords and bracken, shorn of it’s upper leaves, as spears. Occasionally even makeshift bows and arrows would find their way into the armoury and many lively pitched battles would take place in the swathes of bracken or amongst the rhododendrons as we ambushed each other or crept up on makeshift forts.

As for climbing trees, well I was never one to go much above about 15 feet but I can clearly remember Kenneth Oag climbing to the very top of the oak or chestnut which faced the south side of the school and waving to us all from the top. I never knew how he managed to do this. All of these activities would come to an end when the big bell on the south side of the house would toll and first juniors, then a little later seniors would return and try to clean themselves up a bit – unless one’s name was John Ramsden in which case the timing was usually late and the mud less inclined to come off.

Looking back at all these activities and thinking of modern children and their parents and the preoccupation with Health & Safety I can’t imagine what they would make of our activities.

More anon.

Jumbled Memories of Newells

Posted by Chris Matthews on May 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

My earliest memories of Newells was going to Harrods to purchase my uniform which included a bespoke suit and a tuck box (which I still have) and being somewhat bewildered for the first couple of terms, as my parents were far away posted to Kuwait and I was somewhat homesick.

The boys already mentioned in previous blogs open the floodgates of memories, mostly good. Many of them went to Hurstpierpoint and I formed particular close friendships which included Andrew Miller, Steve Cearns and Robert Utting. I was also close to Stephen Palmer and Edward Trewella but there were many more and it seemed like an extended family, toiling to adjust to this foreign life.

I enjoyed sports and was quite good at some, but hated cross country running! On occasions we had to go on runs, always in the freezing cold in plimsolls, vest and shorts. I always thought what a pointless pursuit, but then again running around for a football or rugby ball (which I enjoyed) could be viewed the same!

Here I joined the shooting club and we were taken to a small hut nestling in the woods. There we would be greeted by a paraffin fire to heat the hut and we would dutifully take the 3 shutters down to reveal the firing positions. I recall that all the guns had names. I can only think of Savage which was a heavy bolt actioned .22 rifle. Being left handed there were a few that had “martini “actions, which I favoured, as it was easier to load.

(I continued shooting at Hurst and went to Bisley on a number of occasions and also fired 303’s on outdoor ranges.)

I remember well Sports Day, especially the tug of war competition between houses. The house masters would wear silly face masks and encouraged you to heave and hold.

One day a week we would do forestry duties where we would line up outside Charlie’s shed and be handed a broom made from birch and would go off, similar to the seven dwarfs and sweep paths in the forest. Occasionally the older boys were given machetes to cut bracken etc. Can’t recall any injuries and was way before H & S was invented! On returning the tools to Charlie we would wipe old engine oil on the blades, (I can still smell the oil!) Charlie was a thick set man; (similar to Oddjob in the James bond movie) He had been in the artillery during the war (perhaps that’s where he met Capt Lang?) He would let boys swing from his extended arms as he was that strong, but very gentle.

The woods for us were a real treasure trove of enjoyment. I cannot recall ever being allowed to go to the centre wood as it was rumoured to have an adders den there! Sunday’s after it had been announced which woods we could go to; we would build large dams using broken bottles as the gates. At the end of the day, which seemed to go on forever, we would release the water and chase it down as it enveloped everything.

If we weren’t doing that we would be fighting with makeshift swords and spears made from green bracken. Everybody wanted to be in the Spartans but there were a few tribes that fought, although not historically accurate!

As commented by others, the freedom we were allowed at times was a great joy.

Swimming was interesting in the round pool. Capt Lang would post the temperature on a small blackboard outside and you would assemble naked inside! (What was all that about!) New boys had to jump off the diving board and swim across and back before being allowed to enter

I learnt to ride; Mrs. Gammon, a small weather beaten woman took charge. Her horse was called Trigger which was huge to us. One of the boys (Bennett?) lent his pony, a chestnut which was a joy to ride. There was a tall grey called Hecate, that  Overbury usually rode and a bad tempered welsh pony called Buttons which I rode. When I was experienced enough we would go for treks, part woods, part road. Every time we would canter Buttons would buck and I would sail over his head. At the third time this happened Mrs Gamon became quite cross, no concern if I was injured, just the fact that I had stopped the trek!!

At morning break we would gather the ponies from the field, ride them bareback to the stables and groom them. Mrs Gamon would then judge the efforts by sliding a white glove over the pony. The chestnut usually won, Buttons always had faults! There was a sheltland pony, not sure why, anyway when I held out my hand with a nut on it , it went straight for me finger and only whacking it on the noise did it release its vice like grip!

 When we moved to Handcross she would collect us in a Citroen DS, marvellous!

Others have touched on Matron and the 2 nurses. Nurse Marion I think, was the most attractive one there and in the evening when it was bath night we longed to be sent upstairs to be rubbed down with a loffah by her!

When I moved to Hurst we (Steve Cearns, Andrew Miller and pos some others?)  visited matron who lived in Hurst. She had an old thatched cottage with no electricity, just oil lamps I seem to recall.

Although not very academic I did win top of form 2 in Dec 66 and received a book about the French Revolution,( which I still have to this day!) Once in a while we would assemble for the stationary cupboard that was in the basement down a flight of stairs of the passage leading from the Hall to the stairs and dining room. There we could get ink nibs and rulers (Again I still have my wooden one!) and Capt Lang would total the amount to go on your account.

At the beginning of each term I would look forward to seeing which films were going to be shown. Every 2 weeks there would be a classic wartime film that Capt Lang would run from the little projection room in the theatre.

On occasions we would have visiting acts, one I recall being spellbound was a puppet show about Aladdin. We also did school plays. There was one I was in, (something to do with the Orinoco River?) with a minor part when I forgot my lines, I looked at the boy who was prompting and all he did was hold up a copy of the Beano!

I recall playing snooker on the full size table on the landing in the evening and adjacent to the Lang’s quarters. I remember being enthralled with Mrs Lang’s glass statue from France which would change colour with barometer changes

I recall the whole school being allowed to watch the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. The large black and white television was placed outside to be viewed by us from inside.

More about Handcross Park at a later date